OCT. 12 was the Day of Six Billion - the day that the world's six-billionth child was born. The United Nations, among others, has been hyping this day as a call to action. The day marks, in their mind, a time to redouble efforts - and spending - to limit fertility and population growth in Third-World countries.
The plan to use international funds to provide family planning is uncalled-for. The possibility that the population will mushroom out of control has begun to seem unlikely under the United Nations' own calculations in its "Long-Range World Population Projections: Based on the 1998 Revision." Fertility rates have been falling everywhere. Already, in 61 countries the fertility rate is at or below the 2.1 births per mother necessary to maintain a steady size; 44 percent of the global population lives in these 61 countries.
The United Nations also predicts that the population will hover around 9.7 billion people in 2150; in contrast to the 10.8 billion predicted under the U.N. 1996 Revision, a downward correction of 1.1 billion people in just two years. When one considers that the statistic in question is the basis for the United Nations' alarmist stance on population control, the significance of the discrepancy is large.
One suggestion is that "statistics were scrambled as global birth rates and fertility rates fell faster than expected, in both the Less Developed Countries (LDCs) and the modern industrialized nations. Thus, from 1965 to 1970, women in the LDCs bore an average of 6 children each. Today the comparable number is about 2.9, and the downward trend is powerful." ("A Billion People Have Vanished!" The New York Post, Sept. 18)
It is more rational to expect a population implosion. The United Nations' medium scenario "assumes that fertility in all major areas will stabilize at replacement level [2.1 children per mother]" by 2050. The number of countries, however, experiencing birth-rates at or lower than replacement level has been growing.
The United Nations' calculations depend on countries maintaining similar fertility rates; but there is no reason to expect that will happen. The world's birth rate has been dropping as fertility in countries (developed and undeveloped) have dropped. U.N. calculations fail to compensate for the occasion that some lesser-developed countries' fertility rates will drop to replacement level or below.
In the United Nations' low scenario, the population would fall to only 3.2 billion people by 2150. This figure is based on the fertility rate dropping below replacement level in all major areas. While this may be unlikely, so is the possibility that fertility levels will stabilize at replacement level in all major areas. As mentioned before, the fertility rate in developed countries has been maintained below replacement levels, and there is no indication that this trend will change, or that some lesser-developed countries will not experience similar trends.
A doomsday scenario characterizing population explosion is unwarranted. Current trends indicate that the population will increase at acceptable and moderate rates. The increase in population from five to six billion took only 12 years, but the population is only supposed to reach 9.7 billion by 2150. That is only an increase of 3.7 billion, spaced over a 150-year period - hardly exponential growth.
The United Nations' plan is a waste of money for a problem that doesn't exist. Currently, the United Nations Population Fund estimates a yearly need of $17 billion - $5.7 billion from donor countries like the United States and the remainder from the developing countries.
The money is the real issue here and "the beauty of the population issue is that the [United Nations'] solution - fewer non-white babies - requires a massive transfer of funds from the developed to the undeveloped world. Guess who gets to administer it?" ("The More the Merrier," The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 12) The United Nations, like all other bureaucracies, will take any chance it can get to increase its control and power.
Sending substantial aid to underdeveloped countries for the cause of population control is unnecessary. As countries develop, their fertility rates fall. The U.N. would better serve developing countries by allowing them to devote time and money to improving their quality of life - improved farming, decreased corruption, etc. Then fertility rates will fall naturally.
(Nick Lawler's column appears Wednesdays in The Cavalier Daily.)