Conservationists understand the culling of a population is sometimes necessary, particularly when the habitat can no longer sustain the species. Nature steps in, sometimes man, and helps the species by killing some of its members.
And even if local populations sometimes need culling, biologists measure the success of a species by its growth and argue that population decline can be a sign of danger and even cause for alarm.
For some time experts have asserted that the global population of mankind will peak in the coming century and then begin to decline. The UN has been saying this for going on 20 years. In a new report issued to the clients of Deutsche Bank, noted economist Sanjeev Sanyal says this is going to happen a lot faster than the UN thinks.
Sanyal says the global fertility rate will fall to replacement level in the next 15 years and even though the population will continue to grow, “reproductively speaking, our species will no longer be expanding.” Let that sink in.
The UN projects that global population will rise from current levels of 7.2 billion to 9.6 billion by mid-century and to 10.9 billion by 2100. Sanyal says these outcomes are “very unlikely” and that the country projections are even more unbelievable.
The UN argues that Nigeria, for instance, will grow from 159 million today to 913 million by 2100. Sanyal believes that Nigeria will not be able to maintain its current high fertility rates upon which these numbers are based. Even now, Nigeria’s high numbers have begun to decline.
The UN also projects that the US population will grow from the current 312 million to 462 million in the coming century even though the US fertility rate is at or slightly below replacement. Sanyal calls such a prediction “truly remarkable.”
The Deutsche Bank economist thinks such projections are doubly odd since the UN also projects urbanization will increase from 52% to 67% by 2050. Sanyal calls urbanization “the strongest contraceptive known to man.”
Total fertility rate is the number of children expected to be born in the lifetime of a woman. Replacement fertility in advanced societies is considered to be 2.1. Poorer societies need a higher number due to infant deaths and other factors. The replacement level globally, according to Sanyal, would be 2.3 children per woman.
Total fertility rates within countries have simply fallen off a cliff in roughly the past 60 years. Brazil went from 6.15 to 1.82, and this in the largest Catholic country in the world. Mexico fell from 6.7 to 2.2. South Korea went from 5.05 to 1.32. Russia already had a miniscule rate of 2.85 in the mid-50’s and has fallen even further to 1.53. The Muslims have not escaped either. Turkey went from 6.62 children per woman in 1955 to 2.05 today, and Iran went from 6.91 to 1.93.
Sanyal looks at China and India and sees only bleakness. As the world’s two largest countries, they also have an outsized effect on the global demographic picture. China went from 6.1 in 1955 to 2.69 in 1985 to 1.66 today. Given the demographic picture in China’s Asian neighbors, it is certain China would still be below replacement even without the one-child policy. India is in much the same boat as China. India fell from a fertility rate of 5.9 sixty years ago to 2.5 today.
For all these reasons, Sanyal, who calls himself a “rogue demographer,” believes the global fertility rate will fall below replacement by 2025. He predicts that global population will peak in 2050 at 8.7 billion and decline to 8 billion a mere fifty years later. This is half a century earlier than what the UN predicts and fully 2.8 billion people below UN projections.
Sanyal calls this a turning point in history. You bet it is. No species has ever consciously determined not to reproduce itself. Only Man could make such a bone-headed decision.
The magic makers at the UN thought mankind could float softly down to replacement levels and stay there, that there would be an ideal number of total population we could all arrive at and stay there happily forever after.
But this is tricky business, far trickier than theorists at Turtle Bay could imagine. Indeed, there was an expert group meeting at the UN fifteen years ago that pondered the question “how low can fertility go?” Ominously this group of experts answered that they did not know.
The theory is that we will reach a magical equilibrium where overpopulation ends and a new era of peace and prosperity begins.
And on our way to this utopia, the bodies pile up like they always do with utopian schemes, this time in the hundreds of millions. It is a breathtaking hubris to sit in quiet and carpeted rooms in New York, Brussels and other capitals and cook up schemes directing the lives of every man, woman and child on the earth and not just them, their descendants, too. No authoritarian or totalitarian in Berlin or Moscow ever cooked up such a scheme.
No one knows what will happen when we peak. No one knows what happens when we begin to slide backward. We will reach nirvana when we hit 1960 levels again? That would be 3 billion. Or how about 1800 levels? That would be 1 billion. Would there be no more war then? No more disease, or hunger on those far depopulated shores? Or would something far worse await us there?
I don’t know about those things and neither do you and neither does Sanjeev Sanyal.
What I do know is that babies are a wondrous thing to have around the house. They are remarkable just to watch. I know why people keep having them, smart people anyway. And I know this, too: it is a monstrous thing, whether they know it or not, for a married couple to consciously decide not to have any children, or even to have only one or two. Their happiness counts on something far more generous than that and so does the world’s.
Editor’s note: Pictured above is noted Deutsche Bank economist Sanjeev Sanyal.