“It’s the Economy, Stupid …”
How do population growth, the Earth’s life support system, the economy and the growing gap between the super rich and everyone else fit together? That is the question we examine in this edition of the Population Press.
Pundits generally agree that the economy will drive the national conversation this 2012 election year, but only rarely do we hear anyone mention the population dimension. If one listens carefully, there has been some reporting. In passing, The Wall Street Journal noted, “According to most estimates, employers need to add 125,000 jobs per month just to keep up with population growth.” (October 2011). And CBS News stated that the US would have to create 250 thousand jobs each month for the next year just to lower the presently unemployed, not even taking into account new young job seekers. (March 2012). This is a big deal—involving big numbers! The pressures of a growing population ought to be a major part of the conversation. Instead we are treated to national radio and television voices loudly debating whether to deny American women the right to modern contraception.
From an economic and quality-of-life point of view, it appears that everyone has an urgent need for family planning, in order to assure jobs for all who need one, and prosperous and happy families.
Bill Moyers stated recently, “The growth of inequality in this country is the biggest story of our time. The ‘have-nots’ now have less than they ever did. The ‘have-it-alls’ now have more than they ever did. Since 1979, 40% of the growth of income has gone to 1% of the population. Even more of this shift, in relative terms, has gone to the top 0.1%. This is changing us radically.” But can anyone honestly argue that adding more people is going to solve this problem?
Central in the jobs/wealth/equality conversation should be an examination of population stabilization as a vital means of ‘Progress’. Redefining our definition of ‘Progress’ may be one of the most important steps required for creating a sustainable economy that works for all people, not just the wealthy few. Progress tied to family planning issues is especially needed in this era of uncommon sense and campaign-financed vendettas against women, the poor, and the middle class.
So in this issue of the Population Press, we focus on the interplay between population, the economy, inequality, climate disruption, and our hopes for the future. Realizing our hopes means that we must do a better job of conquering our fears, and the starting place for that is to think carefully about the number of people we can sustainably support on a finite planet.
In 2008, the director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, Gen. Michael Hayden, said that the most troublesome threat facing the US and the world today is not terrorism or global warming, but overpopulation, especially in the poorest parts of the planet.
The rapid growth of the world’s population, according to Hayden, will lead to further instability and extremism, along with exacerbating climate change, and making fuel, food and water much more expensive. Population, Hayden argued, is the prime multiplier for all types of human ills.