Population Growth Means Democracies Fail; Only 2 Solutions Will Work

By Donald A. Collins | 6 February 2019
Church and State

Aerial view of a town in Nigeria. (Credit: International Institute of Tropical Agriculture / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0)

Much has been written by many writers far more effectively than me about the aptly named “population explosion”, which has taken the Earth’s human numbers from 2 billion when I was born in 1931 to nearly 8 billion today. And every day another net 230,000 humans are added to that number.

Recently in conversation at lunch with a well respected population expert, he reminded me of the well known fact that Nigeria, the most populated nation in Africa with a present population of 175 million, is likely to double that number in the next several decades. Many other countries have a similar possibility.

While those of us who have long regarded such growth as the most important problem our planet must solve if human life is to continue to thrive, we are constantly aware of the indifference shown to this issue by world leaders.

Lip service gets given often by many, but real resources and smarter strategies are not nearly adequate to finding and accelerating the urgent real solutions needed.

My main point of this present piece was only implied by an earlier piece I did on this site which you can read here.

Let me be very specific! For those, and there are many, who take little or no cognizance of the effect of the growth of human numbers, the bottom line is clear. Rapid growth equals the destruction of the ability of democracies to govern.

Let’s get back to the Nigerian numbers offered in the above paragraph to reemphasize the point that conservative forces including religious sects whose power to affect public policy have long impeded more effective action.

As the Wall Street Journal reported on its front page headline on February 4th, “Islamic State, Seeking Next Chapter, Makes Inroads Through West Africa”,

In Nigeria, an affiliate of the terrorist group has seized hundreds of square miles of territory and could disrupt a presidential election this month. Nigerian troops, shown on patrol in northeast Nigeria, say they are often outgunned by an affiliate of Islamic State.

You can read the whole sad history here.

While the private and public sectors of many developed countries have been strongly involved for decades in offering birth control and development programs worldwide, the growing failure of democracies around the world can be readily documented.

We know that as the inequities suffered by citizens increase then governance is too often provided by dictators as it has in so many countries. Only in the successful democratic countries can there be hope to find constantly improving lives for the majority of their citizens.

Now to my second major point. Controlling human numbers can only occur when women have complete control of their reproduction and are elevated to equal status in every aspect of life now dominated by males. Ok, maybe not linemen on pro football teams! However, even in many of the world’s most liberal democracies including the USA, this broad equality is still far from the case.

Just as dictatorships deter broad equity for those they govern, the treatment of women in vast portions of the world is still controlled by the dictatorships. These are not only secular dictatorships, but also, perhaps more so, by the religious dictatorships of the major religions. Are the Pope’s pronouncements on his current visit to the Middle East calling for such liberality for women?

Thus, while the optimistic research of Steven Pinker of Harvard argues that world violence has declined, nowhere in his references to population growth in his 802 page book “The Better Angels of Our Nature” does he talk about rising population hitting limits and what will be the effect on established democracies if it does not.

While this question surely deserves a fuller treatment, let me suggest that the seminal work of Roy Beck on immigration deserves your attention. Anyone who wonders how in future even established democracies will manage to deal with human growth and the crises such numbers have caused should watch the presentation by Roy Beck at his NumbersUSA.com web site.

As we look at Brexit in the UK or the disruptions all over Europe and the seemingly intractable division between our own political parties in the US, we must at least ponder what failing to understand limits will bring in the future for governance in all of the world’s democracies, even our own.

So to summarize what should have long ago been seen as obvious. There are limits to growth on a finite planet and in the view of experts such as my recent luncheon guest those limits, not only in Nigeria but many places, are rapidly being approached.

As human numbers proliferate and women do not control their bodies but also gain their full potential to govern as equals, less opportunity arrives for democracies to thrive! And in failing to address these two “must happens” (population limitation and female equality) promptly, the future could well be as predicted by George Orwell’s allegory “1984” or Aldous Huxley in “Brave New World”.

Former US Navy officer, banker and venture capitalist, Donald A. Collins, a free lance writer living in Washington, DC., has spent over 40 years working for women’s reproductive health as a board member and/or officer of numerous family planning organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Guttmacher Institute, Family Health International and Ipas. Yale under graduate, NYU MBA. He is the author of From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013.

From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013

By Donald A. Collins
Publisher: Church and State Press (July 30, 2014)
Kindle Store

Immigration, World Poverty and Gumballs – NumbersUSA.com

How the world went from 170 million people to 7.3 billion, in one map

Vatican control of World Health Organization population policy: An interview with Milton P. Siegel

Catholic Church – Unethical Obstruction of Family Planning

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  1. Don Collins brilliantly and cogently brings reality to the world with this commentary. He's spot on the money. He's deadly serious with his understandings. Those videos illustrate our predicament. It's time for world leaders, religious leaders of all religions, environmentalists–to all get together in world conference and talk about birth control for all women. We need it if the human race and all life hope to survive the 21st century. Frosty Wooldridge, 6 continent world bicycle traveler who has seen what's coming.

  2. Hard to get activism for population decrease. Barry Commoner beat out Paul Ehrlich, Mass action is downhill since ZPG's membership peaked in the early 1970's. Put hope on technology ? — but to get morning-after pills to the world needs a world "Marshall Plan" and population activism seems often anti-global isolationist in attitudes. and perhaps instinctively a slow-breeding creature dislikes limiting ts numbers. My wild-eyed panacea is to add some extra mercy into day-to-day civilization by upgrading the stodgy Scandinavia system called "ombudsman" into a mighty "Fourth Branch" of government acting with First Responder speed 24/7 like police, fire. ambulance (and news media, too!). Even the rich need First Responders. Frail theory that gentling the world could open up population sanity !? Who knows ? Meanwhile. we get ISIS and Trump — and the irrascible micro-tribalism that rages against a Charlie Rose or Garrison Keillor — as if world could discard such mediator-type voices — and heating climate and aging demography makes human irrascibility meaner. My 74-year-old body won't serve on any mean barricades. anyway. Words like this. are my maximum now. If this makes you mean, just forget it and have a good day.


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