How comforting are Wattenberg's positive assurances that he population explosion is a fizzle. Now we can all relax and stop trying to diffuse the bomb.
Wattenberg seems to be telling us that birthrates somehow are stabilizing themselves through Malthusian magic. He fails to mention that what underlies any population-control progress being made is the concerted effort of family planning agencies that refuse to be complacent about the catastrophe of over-population. By citing China's radical family policies, he implies that all such efforts are unnecessary or malevolent.
Can we afford to be deceived into apathy? World population is now at 5 billion and growing by a billion per decade. By the middle of the 21st Century, by Wattenberg's rose-colored projections, there will be twice the number of people as today, consuming the Earth's dwindling resources at an escalating rate. Today's population pressures are stifling the economic potentials of the Third World, depleting soils and driving farmers off the land, bringing starvation and malnutrition to billions, decimating forests and defiling the Earth's environment. Conditions when the population doubles (which is likely to be a lot sooner than Wattenberg believes)will be absolutely horrific.
Yes, there is good news in the drop of fertility rates among women in some Third World countries. And seeing the benefits of smaller families, the majority of women everywhere are seeking help in avoiding unplanned, unwanted pregnancies. When given the information, counseling and materials they need, they benefit, their countries benefit, we all benefit.
That's why we are obligated to redouble our support of family planning, not reduce it. Only if we act on the present crises will the future take care of itself.
J. HUGH ANWYL
Anwyl is executive director of Planned Parenthood-World Population of Los Angeles.