Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment

By Paul R. Ehrlich; Anne H. Ehrlich et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 13
Population Policies

Of all things people are the most precious.

-- Mao Tse Tung

Any set of programs that is to be successful in alleviating the set of problems described in the foregoing chapters must include measures to control the growth of the human population. The potential goals of such measures in order of possible achievement are:
Reduce the rate of growth of the population, although not necessarily to zero.
Stabilize the size of the population; that is, achieve a zero rate of growth.
Achieve a negative rate of growth in order to reduce the size of the population.

Presumably, most people would agree that the only humane means of achieving any of these goals on a global basis is by reducing the birth rate. The alternative is to permit the death rate to increase, which, of course, will inevitably occur by the agonizing "natural" processes already described if mankind does not rationally reduce its birth rate in time.

Even given a consensus that curbing population growth is necessary and that limiting births is the best approach, however, there is much less agreement as to how far and how fast population limitation should proceed. Acceptance of the first goal listed above requires only that one recognize the obvious adverse consequences of rapid population growth -- for example, dilution of economic progress in less developed countries, and aggravation of environmental and social problems in both developed and less developed countries. Economists and demographers, many of whom will not accept

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