Those of us who are in our nineties will remember that period from the late 1940s to the early 1970s when population increase was, in the words of Pope Paul VI, “A problem which everyone talks about”.(The Times 24 June 1964)
In 1967 Pope Paul expressed his own view about this in his Encyclical Populorum Progressio paragraph 37: “There is no denying that the accelerated rate of population growth brings many added difficulties to the problems of development where the size of the population grows more rapidly than the quantity of available resources…” “There is no doubt public authorities can intervene in this matter, within the bounds of their competence. They can instruct citizens on this subject and adopt appropriate measures”…. “Finally, it is for parents to take a thorough look at the matter and decide upon the number of their children. This is an obligation they take upon themselves, before their children already born, and before the community to which they belong…”
(Pope Paul adds various provisos, which we all know about, to this summary, but the need to control population growth remains the most important message.)
Unfortunately, this insight has been lost and in the Middle East and Africa dozens of countries double their populations every 25 -30 years. Using United Nations 2015 revision figures and projections we find that the approximate increase in a sample of these countries is as follows:
Iraq 1952 6 million; 1976 12 million; 2001 24 million; 2025 48 million.
Yemen 1950 4 million; 1980 8 million; 1996 16 million; 2023 32 million.
DR Congo 1950 12 million; 1977 24 million; 2000 48 million; 2023 96 million.
Nigeria 1953 40 million; 1983 80 million; 2010 160 million; 2039 320 million.
Malawi 1951 3 million; 1979 6 million; 2003 12 million; 2028 24 million.
Uganda 1950 5 million; 1972 10 million; 1994 20 million; 2016 40 million.
Zambia 1959 3 million; 1980 6 million; 2005 12 million; 2029 24 million.
This population growth will bring such extreme poverty, hunger, water shortage, and conflict that reports will come to us from Africa and the Middle East that will make us wish that Pope Paul’s teaching in Populorum Progressio had been publicised more effectively across the world.