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The opinions in this article are the personal ones of Steve Challis.

There are nearly 7 Billion people in the world.  The number is increasing very quickly.

How many people can the Earth support?

The answer to this question depends on how much resources each person uses.  If everyone used as much as the average American or Australian, then as a long term thing the Earth could support about 1.5 Billion.  If everyone only used as much as the average Indian or Rwandan, then it could support about twice the present population.

However, most people would rather be well fed and have a nice house and clean drinking water.

Countries with poor populations like India and China are attempting the raise the standard of living of their people.  An obvious long term requirement is for the population to stop growing.

China is more totalitarian and introduced the one child family policy.  I consider this policy to be totally abhorant.  There

are very many undesirable consequences, but basically the policy is working; I strongly dislike the policy, and think they should have found another solution. 
If the right conditions are set up, people will choose to have less children. The population of China has slowed down its increase.  Eventually it will start to decline if the policy is continued, but I would like to see it replaced with a more humane solution.

India is more democratic and could not do the same thing.  When Indira Gandhi was prime minister a scheme was in place to reduce the population growth by large numbers of vasectomies.  This was mostly ineffective, and abuses were perpetrated.  In one of the rooms for post graduate students at the Waite Institute, an Indian student had written:

“Indira Gandhi sterilized ten million Hindi,

When Elections came

She said ‘Forgive my game’,

But they voted her into obscurity,

A nonentity”

This was not great poetry, but shows that her policy was not universally popular in India. 

Of course she actually got back into power after this.


In the Indian State of Kerala education is important.  Both boys and girls are well educated, and the literacy rate of the whole population is over 90 per cent.  This is the highest in India and one of the highest in the world.

The population density of this state is about three times as high as in the whole country; in the coastal areas of the state are they are even higher.  But unlike most of India, the population is not increasing.  Most families choose to have only one or two children.  The children are well fed and have proper clothes.

The land is very productive and can support the population. 

Of course this is not the whole story.  This state has significant amounts of money coming in from overseas.  This is not so much in the form of foreign aid, but more from family members who are working in other countries, especially the Middle East.

It is also considered to be the least corrupt of all the Indian states and despite the mix of religions and races there is little religious or racial tension. 

Sir David Attenborough showed some scenes of the well fed, well clothed and well educated children of Kerala, as well as some of the less successful attempts at population control.


While the governments of many countries are making real attempts to slow down their population growth, what is Australia doing?

The population growth of Australia was slowing naturally.  But the Australia Government introduced deliberate incentives to encourage people to have more children.  The Coalition Government in 2004 introduced a baby bonus.  The Treasurer at the time also said things to try to encourage people to have more children.  Following these things Australia’s birth rate went up. 

The current Labour Government is continuing these basic policies.  Most of the political parties of Australia have policies of either actively increasing our population, or of accepting that it will increase. 

Links to the policies of several parties are at the end of this article.  In my view, we should actively aim for a stable population of roughly what it is at present.

I wonder what people in other countries thought about the Australian Government’s measures.

Not Alone

Australia is not completely alone in being concerned about its declining birth rate.  Part of the perceived problem is that if fewer children are being born, the proportion of older people is increasing.  Instead of dealing with the problem governments seem to prefer to defer it until another generation by encouraging people to have more children now.  In fifty years or so, the problem will be back, but much, much worse.  We should solve it now, not leave it in multiplied form for our grandchildren to solve.

Part of the problem is the assumption that old people are helpless.  I was born in 1951, so I am certainly getting old.  However, I definitely do not consider myself useless.  In fact I do as much as I ever did.  Most old people are the same as me.  Sir David Attenborough is even older than me, but his activity is amazing; not amazing for his age, but amazing for any Human.

Human and Animal Populations

Humans and animals are capable of producing a lot of babies.  In nature animals on average produce enough to replace the ones that die.  So, for example, Daphnia can breed at quite astonishingly high rates, but most of these are eaten or die from other causes, so the Earth has not been overrun by Daphnia, but on the other hand, Daphnia are not in immediate danger of extinction.

If an animal is put into a new environment that is suitable; it will quickly fill that environment.  This happened with Rabbits in Australia.

In 1798, a book called "An Essay on the Principle of Population" was published.  The author was the Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus.

In this he pointed out that the Human population can increase exponentially.  He also suggested that food supply can only increase arithmetically.  That is, as the population increases, there will be an inevitable decrease in standard of living.  He also applied this in economic terms.

This principle can be applied to the whole world.  Although many people have correctly pointed out that the good reverend did not predict improvements in technology, these do not make any real difference to his basic ideas.  Eventually, our whole planet will run out of food and other resources.

Checks on Population

Animals tend not to have things that will prevent them from over populating except things that kill them like predators and starvation.

           This raises the question of whether or not Humans have built in things to prevent over breeding.

If you think about it, we do have.  Perhaps the most important one is our intelligence, especially the ability to plan for the future.  We can decide on a good population level and plan to stabilise our numbers at that level.

Unfortunately some governments are slow to do this, and even seem to assume that Human population can increase indefinitely.

Reverend Malthus also touched on another check on population.  This was one he considered completely illogical.  He observed that the rich people had a lot less children than the poor people because they could not afford to support many children.

The reverend was not the first person to observe this effect.  The Emperor Augustus Caesar also observed that the rich ruling class of Rome was not even producing enough children to replace itself.

What the Reverend Malthus had not apparently considered is the possibility that whole societies might become richer than the nobles of his day.  This is what is happening in some of the developed countries.

Without necessarily planning for a reduced population, some countries have actually experienced a decline in population.
Chris Darwin
Charles Darwin had several very talented children.  He has over 100 direct decendants alive today.  One of them is Chris Darwin, one of Charles Darwin's  great great grandsons.  He lives in Australia.
As Mr. Darwin said on television, (on the Australian program 60 Minutes) there have been five great extinction events identified from the fossil record.  We are currently in the sixth.  In fact we as a species are the cause of the sixth great extinction event.  There have already been a huge number of species become extinct and it appears absolutely certain that many more will become extinct
Human Extinction
This raises the obvious question of whether or not Humans will be one of the species that will become extinct soon because of our own actions.
Professor Frank Fenner is an extemely well respected scientist. He said to a reporter of the newspaper, "The Australian" that he thought that our species, Home Sapiens, will probably be extinct within 100 years.
I am more optimistic, but his view is one that can only be ignored at our peril.  The dangers of over population and things related to over population are real and extemely dangerous.  Either we learn to control our population, or we will vanish from the Earth.
Although I am more optimistic than Professor Fenner, and expect there to be some Humans alive in a hundred years I regard the policy of deliberately trying to increase the birth rate as being suicidally stupid.


An Essay on the Principles of Population

How many people can live on Planet Earth? (Sir David Attenborough).

How Many People Can Live on Planet Earth?

Population media Centre

Liberal Party of Australia Population Policy

Stable Population Party of Australia

Population policy of the Australian Greens:

Labour Party of Australia:

Family First

Humans will be extinct in 100 years says eminent scientist

“Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, ‘til there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the Earth!” Isaiah 5:8 KJV
“Therefore thus saith the Lord God; ‘Because ye multiplied more than the nations that are round about you... Behold, I, even I, am against thee, and will execute judgements in the midst of thee in the sight of the nations.’” Ezekiel 5:7-8 KJV

To Comply with  South Australian law:
This was written and authorised by Steve Challis 5250
Population Index
I have written about other peoples' population policies, so I should state my own:

My Population Policy

Australia’s population should be stabilised at the present level.  The deliberate incentives to increase the birth rate should be removed and the money saved be spent of making sure all our children are well looked after and well educated.  Based on previous experience this will cause the birth rate to drop to a little below the death rate.

The net immigration should be set so that the people coming in should be enough to keep our population stable.

We should encourage all countries to attempt to reduce their birth rate to below the death rate.

A long term World Population Target should be set.  I suggest about 1 Billion as being an optimal population.  This would probably take about 2000 years to achieve. 
David Suzuki:
 I was shocked to find that you have got a Minister in the Federal Cabinet here (Treasurer Peter Costello) who is encouraging Australians to have more and more children. Why? Because everybody thinks that in order to keep the economy growing forever you have got to have a growing population to keep that economy growing. And so no one ever asks what is the cost of adding more people to Australia, a country as far as I am concerned that is already overpopulated because the demand of each Australian is so great?
Journalist: So you are saying Australia is overpopulated?
Suzuki: You bet.-
David Suzuki - Interview with radio station 6PR, 22 Sept 2006
“I believe most Australians will benefit from a small population,”
He also said that he could not think of any challenge that gets better with more people.
Sir David Attenborough:
"maybe it is time that instead of controlling the environment for the benefit of the population, we should control the population to ensure the survival of the environment.” Sir David Attenborough
If we don't halt population growth with justice and compassion, it will be done for us by nature, brutally and without pity - and will leave a ravaged world.
Nobel Laureate Dr. Henry W. Kendall 023934