The Overpopulation FAQ joins the ‘brownlash’

Reading a recent newsletter at the Zero Population Growth web site, I realized this site is solidly part of the “brownlash.” For those unaware, “brownlash” is the term used by Paul and Anne Ehrlich to describe “a body of anti-science — a twisting of the findings of empirical science — to bolster a predetermined worldview and to support a political agenda.”

I know, I know — it sounds like a description of Ehrlich’s books, but Peter H. Kostmayer, Executive Director of ZPG, thinks Ehrlich has a point and as an example of the “brownlash” cites Michael Sanera and Jane Shaw’s book Facts Not Fear: A Parents Guide to Teaching Children about the Environment. For those like me who haven’t read Sanera and Shaw’s book, Kostmayer describes the chapter on population “particularly distressing” and provides the following quote from page 67 of the book as an example:

With this background, you can readily answer questions that your children may ask about food and population. For example:

Are there too many people? No. The Earth’s ‘carrying capacity’ is enormous. Human ingenuity is more than equal to the challenge of meeting the demands of a growing population.

Does population growth cause starvation? No. Food production has increased faster than world population, and this trend is likely to continue.

Is the claim that “food production has increased faster than world population” a distortion of scientific truth for political gain? In their book The World Food Outlook Donald O. Mitchell, Merlinda D. Ingco and Ronald C. Duncan provide the following chart illustrating the growth of world cereals production and population based on data from the United Nations and the United States Department of Agriculture.


World cereals consumption and population growth, 1960 to 1990 (per cent increases)

1960-1970

1970-80

1980-90

Industrial economies
Total cereals consumption

30.8

17.1

9.5

Population

11.0

8.4

6.1

Developing economies

Total cereals consumption

42.9

46.6

26.8

Population

27.7

25.0

23.3


Mitchell, et al, along with numerous other experts on world agriculture argue world food production will continue to outpace population growth and food prices will continue to fall.

So somebody remind me — who here is twisting science to further political agendas?

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