Letter to a Newborn Child
Welcome, little child, to the four billion! That's how many there are of us on this planet—four billion.
We haven't always been four billion. Only fifty years ago or so, when I was born, there were only two billion people on earth. The population has doubled since then and it is increasing even faster now.
About one hundred twenty million people were born this year, and you were one of them. Of course about forty million people died this year, but that still means that the world's population went up by eighty million. And it will go up another eighty million next year, and eighty million more the year after. In fact, the additional number of people will itself go up from year to year.
By the time you are thirty-five years old there will be eight billion people in the world—unless something happens to prevent the increase.
One thing that could happen is that the rate at which people die will go up. That may very well happen, for mankind, in order to support his vastly increasing numbers, has been destroying his environment. He has been ransacking the earth for food, destroying the wilderness, and killing off the wildlife to make room for his herds and crops. He has been rifling the earth of its resources in order to obtain energy, metals, fertilizers, and material of all sorts to support his expanding number.
We have managed to keep pace with the population up to this point. Indeed, the four billion today are better off on the average than were the two billion who were here when I was born—but it isn't going to be possible to keep pace anymore. We have only been able to do it so far by continuing to destroy the very environment that supports us.
Now there is an energy crisis. It is difficult to get enough energy to keep everything going faster and faster and faster. It has become difficult to