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From the earliest records that humanity has left in writing we see a concern about overpopulation and the fear of resources, so costly to produce or obtain, not reaching everyone. But is it really the increasing of the number of inhabitants what threatens us? Perhaps there is more threat in not knowing how to prepare for the future than in the number of people with whom we must coexist.
The Sumerian civilization is the oldest of which we have records, thanks to its famous clay tables full of detailed cuneiform script. Not only did they transmit information about their organization, their beliefs and daily life, but they also captured an exquisite narrative work in a set of poems. One of these narratives is the Epic of Ziusudra (the Akkadian Atrahasis and the Babylonian Utnapishtim) that narrates from the origin of the cosmos to the creation of humanity.
These texts tell how humans would have been designed and created after the Igigi, minor gods, got tired of working for the 7 sanctioning gods and started a revolt. 7 men and 7 women were created and began to work for the Igigi. One of these early humans was known as Ziusudra.
The men and women multiplied and after 1200 years the noises of humans began to annoy Enlil, one of the sanctioning gods, who ordered that plagues spread over humanity, decimating the population. After another 1200 years, Enlil sends droughts to reduce the amount of humans. After another 1200 years, Enlil already tired, sends a universal deluge to end humanity. Enki, another of the sanctioning gods, manages to suggest Ziusudra, who enjoyed the longevity of the gods, to build a boat and save as much life as possible.
As a product of the Judeo-Christian tradition, we know this story as that of Noah and the ark, but the Sumerian tradition, which precedes it, gives us a context related to the control of the population.
The text in the Sumerian tablets ends with an agreement between Enki and Nintu, the goddess of the matrix, to avoid the cycles of destruction of Enlil, causing one in three women not to give birth satisfactorily, thus generating a method to control the birth rate.
Regardless of the reasons that inspired the Sumerians to write the Epic of Ziusudra, we can see the concern that humanity has always had on the growth of its population.
Aristotle himself advocated the use of abortion and infanticide to avoid “poverty among the citizens” of Greece.
Towards the end of the eighteenth century, Thomas Robert Malthus postulated something that hitherto resounds in those who see a latent threat in population growth, when he wrote that “when population is not controlled, it grows in geometric reason. Food supplies will always grow arithmetically.”
A few decades ago a monument was erected in the United States that became known as the Georgia Guidestones. The huge monument was financed by an anonymous group and has an inscription in 8 languages with a decalogue “guide” to enter the “age of reason.” The first commandment says “Keep humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.”
At the time of the Sumerians there were about 30 million humans in the world and there was already concern about overpopulation. More than 3,600 years later and with a world inhabited by 4 billion people, the United States would come to define, in 1974, a strategy to include control of the world population in its internal and external policies, through an ultra-secret document that would come to be known as the “Kissinger Report,” in reference to Henry Kissinger, author of the book “World Order” and the main promoter of world population control.
In this document declassified in 1990 (called NSSM-200 after National Security Study Memorandum 200), the United States details the “Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for U.S. Security and Overseas Interests” and was jointly prepared by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Departments of State, Defense and Agriculture. There is a strong correlation of facts leading to the belief that its main precepts remain in force as the basis of US population control efforts until the present day. In fact, the official USAID website maintains the original text available for consultation.
But are there real reasons to control the birth rate and the human population? How is it possible that the promoters to control the population come announcing the chaos since humanity counted only tens of millions?
The motifs are easy to express. Since the natural and mineral resources we use for our subsistence are limited, it is reasonable to show concern about the shortage that can occur if demand exceeds capacity. It is what T. R. Malthus tried to illustrate with his phrase about population increasing at a faster rate than resources.
Except that Malthus has been proven wrong.
Malthus published his famous book “An Essay on the Principle of Population” in the year 1798 when the number of people in the world was about to reach 1 billion. Only 123 years later humans would double that figure and in just 47 years more they would double it again to reach 4 billion. With this enormous growth in less than two centuries, supplies not only grew at par, but even faster than the population. Food consumption, at around 2,200 kilo-calories per capita in the England of Malthus, rose to almost 3,200 kilo-calories per capita in 1950. While world energy consumption went from 20 Gigajoules per capita in 1820 to twice as much in 1950.
Malthus also argued that any abundance of resources led to an increase in population that prevented the use of excesses to improve the quality of life. But this is also questionable if we consider quality attributes ranging from life expectancy to literacy, and also urbanization and access to consumer goods and technologies.
Malthus left two variables out of his analysis: first, the technological advance. For example, when a limited resource such as arable land is transformed into a much more efficient good, as it is today, generating undoubtedly greater benefits per hectare than in any previous period. Second, the incidence of leaders capable of moving forward the scientific and social knowledge. For example, considering the Intellectual Coefficient (IC), the Mensa group proposes that 2% of the population fit with its description of “brilliant mind” or genius. Of course, within this group only a percentage has other elements such as constancy, training, dedication and vocation to carry out transformations of global reach. Plus, outside of this 2% there are also leaders who help humanity to achieve important advances. But even so, to more human beings, more leaders capable of radical changes in scientific and technological progress.
Someone may rightly ask why if we have 4 times the human population of 1905, the year that Einstein published his Special Theory of Relativity, we do not have 4 “Einsteins” doing the same thing. But the truth is that it is not that there are no more geniuses leading the scientific advance, but a lack of personalism like the ones of Galileo, Newton, Edison, Tesla, Einstein, Schrödinger and Bohr. A science whiz has no longer the figuration of yesteryear and the advance is more impersonal, being attributed, for example, to CERN or to different corporations that recruit the talents. But that is the subject of another analysis.
What’s Yours Is Mine
So, if humanity has proved that it has a mechanism of sustainability that matches the population increase with an advance in knowledge which makes progress and survival possible, what do those who advocate for birth control really support?
At this point we can return to the Kissinger Report from the United States.
The main purpose of population control efforts set forth in the NSSM-200 document is to maintain US access to the natural resources of less developed countries. A controlled number of inhabitants in these countries would be in line with maintaining the supply and economic and social stability within such nations, 13 of them named directly in the document:
“Assistance for population moderation should give primary emphasis to the largest and fastest growing developing countries where there is special U.S. political and strategic interest. Those countries are: India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Mexico, Indonesia, Brazil, the Philippines, Thailand, Egypt, Turkey, Ethiopia and Columbia [sic]. At the same time, the U.S. will look to the multilateral agencies, especially the U.N. Fund for Population Activities which already has projects in over 80 countries to increase population assistance on a broader basis with increased U.S. contributions. This is desirable in terms of U.S. interests and necessary in political terms in the United Nations.”
While the definitions of the Kissinger Report date back to the 1970s, all we need to do is look for information on pro-control campaigns and we can find an ominous chronology.
Between 1995 and 1997, nearly 500,000 women were forcibly sterilized in Peru under the then president Alberto Fujimori. Many of these women were extorted with the losing of social benefits if they did not agree to enter the government’s “program.” In recent years, there have been reports of similar events in Bolivia.
The United Nations Population Fund, which the United States continues to fund, has allocated many of the resources it collects to the Government of the People’s Republic of China’s birth control campaign, protecting and concealing major human rights violations, mainly on women and girls.
Likewise, in 2014 the forced sterilization program promoted by the Indian government was exposed when dozens of women died in the “sterilization camps” to which they were lured in exchange for social benefits in a program funded by, among others, The United Nations Population Fund, the governments of Germany, Norway, United Kingdom and various US organizations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
These practices, which we can find to date, are proposed in detail in the Kissinger Report and can be summarized in three main points:
- Promote the legalization of abortion and financial incentives for countries that increase their rates of abortion, sterilization and use of contraceptive methods.
- Facilitate the indoctrination of children and increase the labor participation of women.
- Exercise coercion in developing countries to implement birth control programs (for example, conditioning humanitarian aid in cases of natural disasters).
Of course, these points may not be questionable in themselves, such as the greater participation of women in working scenario, but the context of these points might be. NSSM-200 makes clear that the United States actively promotes birth control and population control to secure the supply chain of natural resources from developing countries. It states that countries that control their population have less risk of agitation and less ‘need’ of such resources to meet domestic demand, conditions that favor US and other Western powers.
This is perhaps the real reason behind birth control policies and demographic engineering promoted by certain sectors.
It does not mean that if a country, such as China or India, should control its population to ensure sustainable growth can not resort to regulations, but it can not be accepted that in addition to regulations in line with human rights, governments undertake a parallel agenda of exploitation, forced sterilization and blackmail with the people themselves.
Every practice in line with the control of population – though commonly accepted – should be a matter of a debate about how we want humanity to progress.
By Reason Or By Force
The anti-population growth campaign has created an unexpected problem.
A number of developed countries are dangerously raising the average age of their population by a declining birth rate per woman. What is more eloquent is that population control policies can make the average birth rate per woman drop incredibly fast.
Iran, China, Korea, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Morocco, Botswana, Colombia, Brazil, Costa Rica and Turkey, all reduced the average of more than 6 children per woman to less than 3 children per woman in just one generation.
It should be noted that population control policies include direct actions, which we might call ‘by force’, in which governments establish policies and programs to control birth rates. But, in addition, there are indirect actions, which we could say are ‘by reason’, where the population itself performs birth control for economic, cultural and social issues, in order to access a better quality of life. Both actions lead to a decrease in birth rates and, as a consequence, an increase in the average age in general.
The aging of the population entails not a few problems of public policies. To begin with, life expectancy is now approaching to 90 years-old in Asian developed countries and the rest of the world is closing the gap in leaps and bounds. This increases the proportion of inactive and retired people, increasing, in turn, the burden of pension systems, which depends on a smaller group of active workers. On the other hand, the elderly population is the one with the highest incidence of chronic and expensive diseases, which increases the costs of medical benefits and insurance, but there is also a shortage of caregivers, both paid and unpaid, available to assist an older population.
A 2015 study, co-authored by the Harvard School of Public Health, WHO, Rand Corporation and various UK institutions, explores the additional burden of aging populations by establishing that the pension, health and labor systems are not prepared for the unprecedented change towards an older population. Over the past 60 years, the proportion of older adults has only risen from 8% to 10%, but this age bracket is expected to reach a staggering 22% over the next four decades.
China, the world’s most populous country, found itself forced to relax its policy of one child per couple in 2015 by changing it to two children per couple to reverse the loss of 5 million working people each year. The introduction of the policy of one child per couple in 1979 to ensure economic growth turned out to have the opposite effect 30 years later and the relaxation of the law will not prevent China from continuing to lose its labor force for decades.
But beyond the explicit prohibitions of governments, the development of nations is accompanied by a drop in birth rates. The modern rhythm of life implies that to maintain a house and a family, both parents must work and the cost per child increases almost at the same speed in which the leisure time is lost. In addition, women postpone maternity to consolidate their professional career and stable relationships start later and come less frequently.
Result? In the United States, adults are having less sex than ever before, going from 62 times a year to less than 53 times per year. In addition to this, several studies indicate that the Millennial generation (born since 1980) is the one that shows less interest in sex, when compared to previous generations.
The matter takes an absurd and delicate shape in Japan. Disinterest in sex is dramatically manifested in the fact that half of young people between the ages of 18 and 34 declare themselves to be virgins and 64% of the population is not in a relationship. This led the country to lose 300,000 inhabitants in 2016 and is expected to lose 900,000 inhabitants per year by 2045. Authorities are devising policies to avoid a catastrophe, one of which is to relax the complex immigration requirements that the land of the setting sun has in place.
Such trends have slowed the growth of the world’s population.
Thanks to the birth rate close to 2% in the late 60s and 70s, the pinnacle of growth was reached in our times, adding one billion people every 12 years. However, it is expected that the 9 billion mark will be reached 14 years after the 8 billion mark, whereas the 10 billion mark will be reached 18 years after the 9 billion mark.
Granted, what happens in Japan is an extreme case, but the trend is clear worldwide. Nations must prepare for a scenario where overpopulation is not the big problem, but the age distribution of our population.
Do Not Say Overpopulation, Say Overconsumption
Although this report shows that overpopulation has yet to be materialized globally (another thing is in specific regions, such as some cities in India), it is true that in the last century humanity has been on the verge of its own collapse, but not so much by the population growth as by the misuse of natural resources.
Overexploitation, the poor distribution of resources, the hoarding of the wealthiest countries, and pollution, are all matters that prevent resources to grow in line with the number of inhabitants of the world and in the last 50 years all these variables have appear in the formula.
As reported by the Global Footprint Network in 2017, the world’s current population consumes 1.6 times the amount of renewable resources available. To illustrate, in the year 2000 humans had consumed the resources of a full year in early October, while by 2017 we had exhausted the resources of a whole year as early as August 2.
Another way of looking at the magnitude of the scarcity and maldistribution of resources is to realize that if the 7.5 billion people of the world could have access to a European standard of living, resources would only reach 2 billion people.
If the level of consumption were that of the US, the resources would only reach one billion people.
We will never know what kind of world we would have in these moments if it were not for the policies of the great powers, the UN and the third world governments that complied with them, but history has shown that humanity has a mechanism of self-sustainability inherent in its growth.
Unfortunately, what is not sustainable is the excessive hunger for an inequitably consumption of resources.
It is necessary to appeal to the former. The way in which technologies and renewable energies are being used in an increasingly efficient and less costly manner for the population can result in greater democratization of access to energy. In the same way that various innovations in the food industry aim to draw an auspicious picture for the world.
An example of this can be seen in Chile, a developing country known for being a good barometer for the commercial success of new products and technologies. The Latin American country is a leader in renewable energy investments in 2017 according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), with an astonishing 15% of the national energy consumption obtained from solar and wind energy, thanks to well-defined public policies. The goal of the country is to reach 70% of energy consumption coming from renewable sources by 2050.
That is what will make humanity sustainable, making use of people’s creative and social capacities to, in turn, make a fair and efficient use of resources.
Targeting darts at reducing the number of inhabitants is a suicidal practice for the ability to produce and create, the same ability that is humanity’ secret to self-sustainability and growth.