Friday, December 10, 2010

Is Ted Turner right on global one-child policy?

Ted Turner says that, to save the planet, the whole world needs a one-child policy. The human population is predicted to reach 10 billion by 2050—that’s pretty soon—and Ted doesn’t think the planet can take it. I did do a little slogging around on Google, and it seems the current expert consensus is on that number for Earth’s maximum occupancy. So is Ted right? Let’s look into it…

First, let’s consider the world fertility rate. The fertility rate is basically an estimate of how many children each woman will have in her lifetime. The replacement rate is two (2), meaning if every woman had just two kids in her lifetime, the population would remain unchanged. A tiny bit of math tells you that a one-child policy is half the replacement rate, and would reduce population.

So, I found some data on the fertility rates from the United Nations Population Division (graph mine).

Total world fertility (children per woman) Actual and projected, 1950-2050

The world’s fertility rate is dropping toward the replacement rate, and is scheduled to meet it by 2050. Incidentally, the U.S. is already just a tick above replacement (fertility has nothing to do with immigration) and is projected to fall below it in the next five years. Assuming Ted doesn’t become world dictator first, it would probably take well over 40 years to convince people to formally adopt a one-child policy, and by then, the human race will have turned the corner toward population reduction anyway. Problem solved. That was easy.

But I’m not done with Ted, yet. You see, Ted isn’t talking about imposing this on anyone. No, he advocates a voluntary one-child policy like they have in China. Clearly, he is very informed (see the 2:00 mark).

So Ted—founder of CNN—doesn’t know squat about China’s one-child policy. So what? Ted’s vision is of blue-eyed, rosy-cheeked European and American women cheerily lining up to have their tubes tied for the sake of the world. And those who don’t can just pay a few extra taxes. No biggie!

Well, there’s that pesky little problem called reality. And that can be a biggie. Here is a look at fertility rates by country (map from Wikipedia).
Countries by Fertility Rate, 2005-2010

The green countries are areas of the world where the fertility rate is hovering around replacement. The indigo countries are where the population is declining. As you can see, the developing and developed world (and China) is already green and blue.

It is mostly the under-developed nations of Africa—in bright orange and red and magenta—that haven’t gotten their rampant breeding under control. So, does Ted plan to tax away what little wealth those poor nations have? Or would it be better to sterilize young African women and abort black babies? The eco-imperialist behind Captain Planet may believe that it is all just a small price to pay to save the planet. But for all the lack of modernization, it would require ignorance on the scale Ted has displayed to believe that Africa is presently an ecological wonderland.

Clearly, Ted has not thought any of this through, so I’ll spell out the lesson to take from all of this. Development—economic, technological, political—is what will solve, nay, is already solving population and environmental problems.


Solomon Kleinsmith said...

The real issue is WHERE these children are being born. Europe's population is actually going down, while some countries are actually going down pretty fast... like Italy, Russia and Japan.

The U.S. is only going up as fast as it is because of immigration. Its really South America, Central America, the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia & India that are skyrocketing. If they leveled off, they would both be better off themselves, and it would be a boon for the world.

But they'd have to choose to do it themselves.. and most of those cultures would never accept a one child policy like China did. It would require some game changing events for them to accept something like that.

tryanmax said...

Just reviewing some of my old content.

I believe China should be regarded as an outlier, as the people who live under the OCP did not exactly choose the policy, either. The real game-changer is whatever can bring the third world up to speed with the rest of the world. It looks to me as though the best population control is modernization.

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