The Population Bomb Paul R. Ehrlich's 1968 best-selling book that warned of mass starvation in the 1970s and '80s, was wrong, but only on its time prediction. His famous bomb has already detonated! Only instead of being one bomb, the rise of population has caused multiple detonations that will continue now and in the years ahead.
Adding 2 billion to 4 billion more humans to our current 6.7 billion won't help, but the real impact of population growth is the main story, a dire situation that we must treat urgently. Human numbers remain the elephant in the living room—consistently and dangerously ignored by most leaders of both developed and undeveloped nations.
Family planning programs remain well underfunded. We spend billions on disease control, but far less on birth control. Why is there more urgency now than ever? There are many reasons, including the powerful fact of dangerous environmental degradation, but two reasons are often unaddressed: the average age of many developing countries' populations and the sex of babies being born.
Age: In Senegal, for example, where I have been several times, the population's average age is 18. How will these kids turn out? Many will be unmentored. Remember the 1954 allegorical novel "Lord of the Flies" by Nobelist William Golding, which shows how unsupervised U.K. schoolboys stuck on a deserted island try to govern themselves—with disastrous results.
Ethiopia, where I traveled widely last fall, grew from 35 million to 85 million in just 25 years, making it Africa's second most populous country. The view from my window in the luxurious Addis Ababa Sheraton disclosed the same crowded slums I have seen all over the world. These impoverished people are not going to remain satisfied and docile as conditions worsen. Will Ethiopia's leaders, for example, be willing to implement urgently needed contraception services? Again, it takes political will and much more money.
And how about people worldwide living much, much longer? Plenty of active, productive octogenarians' knowledge and skills could be better employed. o Sex: Selection of boys over girls using ultrasound and abortions illegally in China and India creates an excess of untutored young males with no marriage or job prospects. In their landmark 2005 book, "Bare Branches," Valerie Hudson and Andrea Den Boer reported on many millions of such youths causing great trouble in China. Recruitable by outside terrorists, such young men in the Middle East surface as suicide bombers.
Of course in the U.S., where both parents frequently hold jobs and TV becomes a primary baby sitter, we can expect more Columbine massacres. Our flagrant importing of cheap foreign labor in massive numbers keeps young U.S. kids from doing the kind of part-time and summer jobs that were standard in earlier generations, making shopping malls all too often the recreation centers for idle teens.
While much more money could help provide adequate family planning overseas, the U.S.A. is bankrupt. Carrying out all the promises already legislated for our own citizens will likely lead to constant shortfalls; perhaps even the new health reform law will be unable to be properly implemented. And when will China and others stop buying our debt, realizing that it is now out of control? Ehrlich's bomb, now multiple human detonations, threatens our continued existence!
Reprinted with permission from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Donald A. Collins [email him], is a freelance writer living in Washington DC and a former long time member of the board of FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. His views are his own.