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Essay Paper on No Population Problem

There are certainly a lot of people on the planet. And the numbers are increasing all the time. It took the world population millions of years to reach the first billion, then 123 years to get to the second, 33 years to the third, 14 years to the fourth, 13 years to the fifth billion, with a sixth billion to come, according to one UN projection, in another 11 years. But is this too many?

But what about food, the ecologist/demographer might reasonably reply? Surely population growth is now outstripping increases in food output. Well, no, in fact, it isn’t. “Not only over the two centuries since Malthus’s time, but also during recent decades, the rise in food output has been significantly and consistently outpacing the expansion of world population.” But is this merely because of excess production in the less populated areas of Europe and the U.S.? No, just the opposite. “The largest increases in the production of food–not just in the aggregate but also per person–are actually taking place in the third world, particularly in the region that is having the largest absolute increases in the world population, that is, in Asia.” World population has more than tripled since 1900, rising from 1.6 billion to 5.3 billion today. Global life expectancy more than doubled this century from 30 to 64 years, while global infant mortality fell from 170 infant deaths per 1,000 births in 1950 to just 60 in 1990. Rapid population growth has occurred not because human beings suddenly started breeding like rabbits but because they finally stopped dropping like flies. Despite a tripling of the world’s population in this century, global health and productivity have exploded. Today human beings eat better, produce more, and consume more than ever before in the past. The current rate of annual worldwide population growth is down to 1.6 percent and continues to fall from its 1960s peak of 2.0 percent. The average annual growth rate is 0.4 percent for developed countries and 1.9 percent for developing regions. “Overpopulation” is a problem that has been misidentified and misdefmed. The term has no scientific definition or clear meaning. The problems typically associated with overpopulation, (hungry families, squalid and overcrowded living conditions) are more properly understood as issues of poverty. The total fertility rate for the world as a whole dropped by nearly two-fifths between 1950/55 and 1990/95—from about 5 children per woman down to about 3.1 children per woman. Average fertility in die more developed regions fell from 2.8 to 1.7 children per woman, well below biological replacement. Meanwhile total fertility rates in less developed regions fell by 40 percent, falling from 6.2 to3.5 children per woman.

In her study, Trudy Govier presents her view as to the future of the population and her own approach to the problem of the people of the future.

First, it makes intelligible the moral requirement that people pay some attention to the needs of future generations. Second, it is compatible with an asymmetrical view about reproductive morality: it is wrong to have a child who would likely be miserable if born, but not wrong to refrain from having a child who would be happy if born. And third, though it gives prospective people some moral status, it does not entail that their interests should weigh equally in our moral calculations with those of already existent people. In some contexts where we must consider the interests of prospective people, we are making a decision which is not a reproductive one. We are making a decision about some non-reproductive activity—say damming a river or using an insecticide. And the problem is that pursuing the activity is likely to change those who are likely to exist in the future. In this kind of context, there is a high probability that there will be people to be affected by our action and this probability is relatively independent of the performance of the action…

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