Posted by: chrismaser | October 4, 2009


The world’s human population will only be controlled within viable parameters when women are granted gender equality, control over their bodies, and the right to choose the number of children they have and the age at which to have them. Population control, in comparison to birth control, is a relatively recent concept in our contemporary thinking. This said, Thomas Malthus, the political economist addressed this subject in 1798 because he was concerned about the yawning abyss between the rich and the poor in the British Isles. Although Malthus wrote that the human population would at some point begin to overtake its available supply of food, he decried the use of contraceptives and was condemned as an alarmist. Nevertheless, he understood that if humanity did not control its own population, Nature would—and in ways most unpleasant. Consider that we humans added three times our number to the Earth’s surface in the 20th century and in doing so put more human pressure on the its life support systems then had existed in all prior recorded time.1 Was Malthus right after all?


In 1900, the population of the United States was 75 million. Today, depending upon whether one has an accurate counting of the immigrants, legal and illegal, the population has swelled to somewhere between 281 million and 283 million people. It increased by 32.7 million during the last decade of the 20th century because of a large wave of young immigrants and a rate of birth that has overtaken the rate of death. This was the largest increase ever experienced in the population in a single decade. Extrapolations indicate this number may increase to around 400 million by 2050 and 571 million in 2100. Immigrants and their offspring, who come here after the year 2000, will supply two thirds of that growth.

Nevertheless, there are people who still think the United States is so large that it has endless open space available for development—and thus more people. Indeed, when I fly across the country and survey the land from the window of an airplane, the uninhabited areas do seem to stretch forever into the distance. But how much of that land is arable and hospitable to farming or human habitation? How much of it has potable water readily available in a sustainable supply?

Looking at the global human population, through statistics produced by the United Nations, does indeed give me pause—1.6 billion people worldwide in the year 1900, 6.1 billion in 2002, 8.9 billion by 2050, and perhaps around 10 billion people inhabiting the globe in 2100. Of course, no one is able to accurately estimate the number, but this seems like an acceptable prediction.

The population in the non-industrialized countries is increasing by 75 million people each year, and is predicted to rise about 73% in the next 40 years. This would add up to 87% of the global population by 2050. How is society going to manage such growth? What will it do to human migration patterns throughout the world? If wars continue to plague society, where will the refugees go? With wars depleting natural resources, how will nations, overwhelmed by refugees, care for them?

On top of this, the aging population of the non-industrialized nations will increase almost twice as fast as those of the industrialized nations, in part because people are living longer. By 2020, people over age 80 will increase by 22 million in the industrialized part of the world, whereas people over age 80 will increase by nearly 52 million in the non-industrialized part of the world during the same time.

Since the 1960s, the longevity of women in western Asia and Africa has increased by 7 to 10 years, and by the year 2020, that longevity may increase by another 5 to 8 years. The number of women over age 60 was estimated to be 208 million in 1985. By 2020, it is projected to be 604 million, with 70 percent of them living in poor, non-industrialized countries, where most will be daily worrying about where their next meal will come from.2


Clearly, growth in the human population is confronting all of us with dilemmas of the most profound nature. We face such problems as the destruction of forests, degradation of the land, rivalries over access to water, depletion of an increasing number of natural resources, inability to maintain levels of production, and outbreaks of disease. Burundi, in Africa, for instance, has a population of 6 million, one third of which is suffering from malaria. In Botswana and South Africa, a large percentage of the population has AIDS but no access to medicines because of the exceedingly high cost of pharmaceuticals.

In the United States alone, without these medicines and improved knowledge about maintaining good health, people would have died much younger and the population would be around 140 million, rather than the 281 to 283 million it is today. When these improvements spread worldwide, the high rate of death in such places as Africa and the Indian subcontinent declined significantly, and the population boomed. Despite the extant problems of disease in many African nations, the population as a whole is expected to increase from 800 million to 2 billion by 2050. If poor countries develop tastes for and can afford some of the industrialized nation’s lifestyles, humanity is going to outstrip the available supply of goods and resources in a very short time, such as: (1) potable water, the competition for which will become the cause of wars, (2) food and the arable land on which to grow it because the acreage per individual shrinks each time one more person is born than dies, and (3) energy, such as wood from forest and fossil fuels. With respect to forests, they are being summarily cut down for short-term monetary gains in countries that can least afford to lose them and the free ecological serviced they perform. With respect to fossil fuels, the question becomes one of how much pollution the environment can tolerate before it begins an irreversible downward spiral of degradation that humanity cannot well survive.3


We humans are born without fear. Our parents teach us fear, first and foremost, when they themselves face life with a constant knot of fear in their hearts, minds, and bellies, thus constantly attempting to move away from what they don’t want—thus teaching their children to focus on the negative aspects of life. This is not to say that our parents are bad people; it is to say that they can teach us only what they themselves know—what their parents taught them, and if fear predominates in their lives, that is what they teach because that is all they know how to teach. Fear is not, however, a subject of open discourse, but rather fleeting suggestions and furtive behaviors that originate in the shadowlands of the mind. This murky place of the human psyche harbors a pessimistic Russian proverb about the supposed unchangeability of human thinking: If men could foresee the future, they would still behave as they do now.

Such an outcome is not necessary, of course, but to avoid it, we men must raise the level of our consciousness with respect to the way in which they treat of women, such as:

• giving women the choice of how many children to have and when, as well as valuing them beyond their abilities to satisfy a male’s sexual urges and to bear children—especially sons

• providing women with safe access to legal abortions and adequate counseling about birth control

• ending genital mutilation

• see that gender equality is given—and is taught—throughout the entire educational cycle

• instilling the fact that, while men and women different biologically in some ways, they are equally human, which means women deserve equality with men in all aspects of social life, including education, social, political, and economic

• giving women positions of political authority because women focus on relationships beyond violence and power mongering

Many changes are required in restructuring society as a whole so that women are an equal partner in the human experiment of cohabitation. We the people, and men in particular, ignore the equality of women at our collective peril.

The future of humanity’s place on the globe rests in our collective human willingness to make commitments and being committed to keeping them, such as achieving a state of dynamic equilibrium with nature and a state of mind in which social-environmental sustainability is first and foremost in our social consciousness. Clearly, this has not yet happened. In fact, considering how we abuse one another and our environment, it seems patently obvious that we are a species at war against itself.

A primary reason humanity is at war against itself has to do with men, because our attitude toward—and our apparent fear of—women is, perhaps, the world’s major problem. To rectify this problem, we must make women coauthors of—not objects of—policies dealing with population by insisting they occupy at least half of all managerial and policy positions in the area of family health and planning, as well as human population dynamics and stabilization, the environment, and national governance as a whole. It is critical to the current population crisis that women have the necessary authority to:

• correct the inadequacies of women’s health, including reproductive health

• address the inequitable distribution of food, water, and shelter

• ensure access to safe, legal abortion services

• end genital mutilation

• stop the slave trade in girls and women as sex objects to satisfy the dalliances of men

• men accede to and actively honor demands for gender equality

• empower women in the ecological, economic, social, and political arenas.

Another part of the answer resides in the earliest grades in school, where girls and boys must to be taught the importance of gender equality and the shared responsibility for limiting the size of the world’s human population.

A third part of the answer will demand change in the attitudes of most men—worldwide—toward girls and women. If we men are at all serious about curbing the world’s looming overpopulation, we, in both secular and religious life, must openly and honestly give women equality in all opportunities to be valued for things other than as slave labor, sex objects, and bearing children. We will stop telling them what they can and cannot do with their bodies, which, after all, are entrusted to their consciencesnot ours. We will allow women to choose when to have children and how many to have. And we will find the courage to accept and do our part in controlling the human population by having vasectomies. Until we are willing to do that, we have no right to speak!

This said, I emphasize that all of the above measures are necessary to lower birth rates and bring the world to a manageable human population within the global ecosystem’s capacity of provide a dignified lifestyle as opposed to mere existence. It remains to be seen whether the world’s men are up to the task—especially those who control the world’s organized religions with such dogmatic male attitudes. There is much riding on a positive outcome.

Related Posts:

• A Woman’s Melody

• Commandeering Language

• A Matter Of Gender Equality

• The Abuse of Women

• Who Has The Right To A Woman’s Body?


1. Niles Eldredge. 1999. Will Malthus Be Right? Time Magazine, November 8:l02-103.

2. The discussion of population numbers is based on: (1) Jean H. Lee. World population boom expected. The Associated Press. In: Corvallis Gazette Times, Corvallis, OR. February 28, 2001; (2) Eric Schmitt. U.S. Population Has Biggest 10-Year Rise Ever. The New York Times. April 3, 2001; (3) Robert Weller. Western states no longer dependent on California for growth. Corvallis Gazette-Times, Corvallis, OR. July 10, 1999; (4) Carol Savonen. 2001. Population Growth: A Blessing or a Curse? In: Looking for Oregon’s Future. Oregon State University Extension Service, Covallis, OR. page 5; and (5) Jim Rydingsword. Longevity, for its own sake, is not enough. Corvallis Gazette-Times, Corvallis, OR. March 25, 2002.

3. The foregoing discussion is based on: (1) Jean H. Lee. Huge population boom expected in developing world. (February 28, 2001) and (2) World Population.; (3) Michael Ruane. Fickle water controls all of us. The Washington Post. In: Albany (OR) Democrat-Herald, Corvallis (OR) Gazette-Times. August 15, 1999; (4) Fred Bridgland. Looming Water Wars. Sunday Herald. Glasgow, Scotland. In: World Press Review. September 19, 1999; (5) Chris Maser. 1994. Sustainable Forestry: Philosophy, Science, and Economics. St. Lucie Press. Delray Beach, FL. 373pp. (6) Janet N. Abramovitz. Learning to Value Nature’s Free Services. The Futurist 31(1997):39-42; (7) Chris Maser. Our Forest Legacy: Today’s Decisions, Tomorrow’s Consequences. 2005. Maisonneuve Press, Washington, D.C. 255 pp; and (8) Chris Maser. Earth In Our Care: Ecology, Economy, and Sustainability. 2009. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, NJ. 304 pp.

Text © by Chris Maser 2012. All rights reserved.

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This blog is excerpted from my 2004 book THE PERPETUAL CONSEQUENCES OF FEAR AND VIOLENCE: RETHINKING THE FUTURE. Maisonneuve Press, Washington, D.C. 373 pp.

If you want more information about this book, want to purchase it, or want to contact me—visit mywebsite.

If you wish, you can also read an article about what is important to me and/or you can listen to me give a presentation.

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