The two wisdoms: contrasting views on human population growth
The US Department of State is policing the population policy lockstep
This week's BMJ is a theme issue devoted to debating the implications of an ever growing world population, which is set to break the six billion mark on 12 October. Commentators advocate two opposing views on what the future will hold for demographics. Some deny that the population increase is a cause for alarm, say Professor Anthony McMichael and Professor John Guillebaud in their editorial. This line of thinking argues that, among other things, education, particularly among women, combined with economic development will bring fertility levels down; there will be increased agricultural productivity, boosted by genetically modified foods and global warming will be adapted to.
The opposing view, they say, is based on the belief that the population problem needs to be brought under control with interventionary measures. It is not so confident in science's ability to double grain production sustainably. It argues that fertility will not reduce fast enough and some argue that for a transitional period there must even be a "one child" policy worldwide. It also advocates that if the developing world is to constrain its fertility then the developed world must moderate its resource consumption.
This second view is shared by Dr Maurice King from the University of Leeds who also argues controversially that the US Department of State is deliberately supressing dialogue about the demographic implications of population growth in a bid not to have to reduce US resource consumption.
King writes in his 'education and debate' article that to tackle the world population problem demographers and the United Nations must confront the taboo of demographic entrapment (where a population exceeds its environment, physically and economically). He also believes that the world's population should not
Contact: Jill Shepherd
BMJ-British Medical Journal