The article on population, “Doomsayers of Overpopulation Sound a New Jeremiad” (June 7), seems to imply that if the developed countries, such as the United States, would reduce their overconsumption, the world could accommodate a much larger population. What wasn’t mentioned is that the developing countries all want to emulate our lifestyle and are working hard to get it.
What all of this means is that we are giving ourselves false comfort if we think that we can solve the world’s population problems by simply reducing our consumption. Even if we did succeed in passing more and more restrictive laws to control consumption, we will have lost some more of our freedoms and likely will have suffered a lowering of our quality of life besides.
In the very important U.N. Conference on Population and Development to be held in Cairo in September, I hope our delegates emphasize that:
* They have to plan for a world of at least 9 billion to 10 billion people, not the current 5.6 billion people, since it will be almost impossible to stop population growth before then.
* International migration is less and less a solution for overpopulation since more countries, like the U.S., are resisting immigration.
* The focus for population stabilization discussions should be around optimum population country by country, not the maximum that the world might be able to feed.
* The more prosperous the world becomes, the fewer people the Earth can sustain. Technology can help reduce the impact of prosperity to a certain extent, but some things technology can’t solve, like the overcrowding of the natural scenic wonders.
* Only by stabilizing and cooperatively reducing the number of people in the world over time will the poor of the world have a chance to achieve their aspirations.
Our current and future overpopulation will be solved, either by planning and cooperation or by war, pestilence and starvation. The choice is up to us.
CHARLES T. ROTH
* Fortunately, overall U.N. data gives a very different picture than the population article of June 7.
Population growth? This year, the rate of population growth, 1.6%, has fallen to the lowest level in modern history. It will drop to about 1.0% within about 25 years, then drop to zero, then be replaced by world population decline. Why? This year there will be fewer births in areas such as Latin America and East Asia than in 1993. The average fertility rate in developed countries such as the U.S. fell below replacement level 20 years ago and has continually dropped since. The Asian and African fertility rates are expected to be cut nearly in half in a generation. Why? There are about 25 factors that are known to decrease the fertility rate and all 25 are acting to decrease the fertility rate.
Food? Since 1947, developing countries have improved their diet by more than 40%. Since 1960, they have increased the number of calories in an average diet by more than 500 per day. The average diet in each of the 20 most populous countries in the world exceeds U.S. government recommendations for a healthy diet. The world is using less than 25% of its potential cropland.
Resources? The reserves of every important resource increase as time goes on and the price adjusted for inflation decreases. Energy reserves such as oil and natural gas are at record high levels.
Quality of life? The U.N. measures quality of life more than 40 ways, and quality of life is improving and is better in more crowded countries and areas in all 40 ways.
ROBERT L. SASSONE