26 January 2007
SIR – You write (Editorial Jan 19) that the population control movement of the 1960’s, which had the backing of eminent scientists, has been “completely discredited”. A more accurate description would be “totally vindicated” – vindicated both by the prosperity of the countries which controlled their population, and the poverty of the countries which did not.
All the capitalist countries that took population control seriously from 1950 or before are now prosperous. (eg. Japan, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, EU, Canada and USA).
And almost all countries that, a generation later, followed the example of this first group, and started to control their populations, are now coming out of poverty.
(eg China, Malaysia, Thailand, Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Iran, Turkey, Tunisia, and many others).
On the other hand, all countries – with the exception of oil-rich Saudi Arabia – that did little to control their populations are now poor or extremely poor. Most cluster in that crescent of high human fertility stretching from Africa and the Middle East to Pakistan.
The population of this region was 306 million in 1950, 1,151 million in 2000, and is expected to be 2,320 million in 2050. (The figures are from the United Nations at http://esa.un.org/unpp).
This population increase in Africa and the Middle East of a billion (1000 million) every 50 to 60 years has ensured the continuation of great poverty, coupled with high unemployment, area wide frustration, conflict, and the unstoppable migration of huge populations. All these misfortunes will become worse in the decades to come.
In 1948, William Vogt in his book, Road to Survival, warned us that the Four Freedoms (freedom from want and fear, and freedom of speech and religion) depended on a Fifth Freedom – freedom from excessive numbers of children. In Europe, we took this warning seriously for ourselves. It is unfortunate that – despite several Vatican documents encouraging responsible parenting – we failed to hand on this warning to the poor in Africa and the Middle East.
Dr Gerald Danaher
This is the letter as sent, except that I have added two words – ‘human’ in paragraph four, and ‘conflict’ in paragraph six. The Editor deleted the words in italics, otherwise it was published word for word.