“In a world brought up on the idea of a ‘population explosion’ this is a radical notion… the next crisis is depopulation.”
            —Ben J. Wittenberg
Current Problem

74 million people are added to world’s population year.
Preferred State/What the World Wants

A stable world population
The world's human population has more than doubled since 1960—from 3 billion to over 6 billion.  High rates of population growth can exacerbate almost all of the problems of developed and developing nations by overburdening systems designed to meet the needs of much smaller populations.
The old litany was that the world was going to over populate itself to death.  Well intentioned people projected current population growth rates and assumed they would continue until human beings reproduced themselves to absurd levels and covered the world with human protoplasm—dying of course considerably before this end from starvation, poverty, war and/or pollution.  Besides showing a lack of respect for collective and individual human intelligence, these “population bomb” theories are a good example of the misleading and even dangerous results that can come from simplistic trend extrapolation in a world where everything is interconnected. They also illustrate the dangers that befall the extrapolator who has an agenda that he or she wants the “facts” to fit into.  The future is often a Rorschach inkblot test that we fill in with our own fears or hopes.  So-called population “experts” are no exception.
The latest report from UN demographers has not only lowered these early doom saying projections—the world will not have a human population of 16 billion, or 12 billion, or even 10 billion—it has blown them out of the water.  Current reckoning by professional demographers is that we may not even reach 9 billion —world population will reach 8.9 to 9.1 billion around 2050 and then slowly decline.[1] Population growth in 2002 was 1.18%, the lowest on record.[2]

In the 1960s, developing countries had an average fertility rate of 6 children per woman.  In 2003 this rate had plummeted to 2.9, and it is still going down.  Developed countries have seen their fertility rate go down to levels that will result in their populations decreasing.  Every developed country is now below the level needed to maintain their current population, unless they admit immigrants to their country (as does the U.S).  A fertility rate of 2.1 is needed to keep a country’s population stable. Europe’s rate is 1.4; Japan’s is 1.3.  The implication of this is that Europe is expected to lose 100 million people in the next 50 years.[3]
8.9 to 9.1 billion people are still 2.4 to 2.6 billion more than the world had in 2007.[4]  It is no insignificant increase, and will pose a considerable challenge for humanity to meet the needs of this size population.  Nevertheless, it is a long way from 10 to 16 billion people. In addition, the notion that population might or will decline has serious implications.  For example, the present and future decline in population in every developed country that does not admit immigrants, and the consequences to a country’s economy of a shrinking population, makes it important to “increase the orderly, legal migration of labor from poorer to richer countries in the next few decades… those who oppose this trend will be embracing long-term economic suicide.”[5]
Most of the growth in the world’s population— over 90% of it—is projected to occur in the world’s poorest regions, whose fragile infrastructures and ecosystems are already overburdened.[6]  Although world population is projected to level off within fifty years, there are a number of things that can be done to accelerate this trend.
“Equality between women and men is a matter of human rights and a condition for social justice and is also a necessary and fundamental prerequisite for equality, development and peace.”
—Fourth World Conference on Women


Stabilizing World Population Strategy 1: Empowering Women

Much of the progress of the lowering of birth rates around the world is due to the increase availability of family planning. In the 1960s less than 10% of married women had access to family planning.  By 2003, this had risen to about 60%.[7] Surveys in developing countries indicate that most women of childbearing age would like to increase the spacing between their pregnancies or stop having children altogether.  There are 300 million couples in the developing world who do not want any more children but who are not using any effective means of limiting family size.[8]  If women who do not want to become pregnant are empowered to exercise that choice, population growth rates in the developing world fall by about 30%.[9]  By making family planning services universally available, providing financial incentives to allow women to realize their goal of a smaller family, and improving prenatal and infant health care and the education of women, the world’s population can be stabilized even quicker than current trends indicate.   This information and services would be provided through the health care system outlined in Health Care for All.
“The flight of humanity’s spirit cannot be supported by a single wing.”
—   Helena Roerich
Such a program would cost $10.5 billion per year for ten years.[10]  An investment of this magnitude would increase national and world population stability and help to insure rapid progress in all of the other initiatives described here.  There would be a large reduction in the more than 50 million abortions performed worldwide each year, 20 million of which are unsafe or illegal—and in the attendant 80,000 deaths and the hundreds of thousands of disabilities of young women per year as a result of bungled abortions.[11]  In addition, infant and maternal death rates would decline substantially as improvements in female educational opportunities steadily raise the literacy rate for women.  Family incomes in developing nations would also grow under the plan, as a result of higher rates of education and better health.  The experiences of developed nations make clear that the population stabilization program would become self-sustaining when combined with the successes of the other strategies listed at the Price of Peace site. 
The $10.5 billion per year for ten years cost of this program is 1.2% of the world's annual military expenditures.  Assuming that the population stabilization program saves 80,000 lives per year, the amount the world would save by implementing the program would be over $80 billion.[12]
Our potential collective wealth increases with each life saved, and with each productive life added to the global economy. As population stabilizes we may also increase the wealth of the world through the decrease of the needs that the global population places on nature’s life support systems. 
Meeting our needs for food, water, sanitation, health, shelter, education, and energy— and adding to this a stable population, leaves little doubt that the wealth of our species is both unprecedented and unlimited. 
[1] World Population Prospects: The 2002 Revision, Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat 2003 (UN, New York, 2003).
[2] Vital Signs 2003, (Washington DC, Worldwatch Institute, 2003).
[3] World Population Prospects: The 2002 Revision, Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat 2003 (UN, New York, 2003).
[4] 2.5 billion was also the total population of the world in 1950.
[5] New York Times, “Humanity’s Slowing Growth” March 17, 2003.
[6] 2002 World Population Data Sheet, (Washington, D.C.: Population Reference Bureau, 2002).
[7] Transition in World Population, (Washington D.C.,Population Reference Bureau, March 2004).
[8] C. Wahren, “Population and Development—the Burgeoning Billions,” The OECD Observer, 155, (Dec. 1988-Jan. 1989)
[9] State of the World’s Children 2001, UNICEF
[10]  Population Action International, 1990 Report on Progress Towards Population Stabilization, (Washington D.C.).  Also: P. J. Hilts, "Plan is Offered for Stable Birth Rate", New York Times, February 26,  1990, p. B9. 
[11] Abortion: A Tabulation of Available Information, 3rd edition. (World Health Organization, Geneva, 1997. Also:  N. Sadik, The State of World Population 1989—Investing in Women: The Focus of the Nineties,  (New York: United Nations Population Fund)
[12] Valuing the life of a human being at $1 million; valuing the life at $100,000 results in a savings to the world of $8 billion; valuing a life at $10,000 saves the world $800 million.

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