A Benedictine Assessment in 1969

24 March 2006

Population and poverty: How it looked to a Catholic in 1969

Fr Edmund Flood – Poverty and Population Pamphlet – World Poverty: the future 1/-
Dated 1969
Inside front page: “Nihil Obstat MW Ashdowne.
Imprimatur + Patrick Casey Vic Gen Westminster 6 x 69”

The Population Explosion and Development

There is one major cause of poverty and lack of development which until recently has not been given its full importance. Even now, in some Catholic and Marxist circles, the subject is deliberately avoided or treated superficially with ideological bias rather than attention to the facts. I refer to the population explosion…..

…..During this century one of the most important facts for the future of mankind has been man’s increasing ability to control famine and disease, the two things that limit population increase……This worldwide reduction in mortality took place first in the developed countries and has been matched in them by very considerable declines in the birth rate, mainly by artificial means, since the 1920’s…..

…. The cause of the present population explosion is that, since 1940, in most of the developing countries (over half the world population) two things have happened. First, death rates have been lowered. And, second, birth rates remain as high as they were when high mortality rates prevented a considerable population increase……

…..Goran Ohlin in his book Population Control and Economic Development, sums up the opinions of most experts on the question of economic growth and development when he says that excessive population growth will make futile the efforts to wipe out the growing inequality between rich and poor countries, and make any substantial improvement impossible.

So we see that rapid population growth causes very grave problems. It endangers the food supply. It slows down economic progress. And it poses other serious problems with regard to education, employment opportunities, housing, the quality of family life and the quality of human life itself.

Above edited by Gerry Danaher, who is responsible for the rest of this page. More at www.gerrydanaher.com

How it looks in 2006

(Source of statistics: United Nations Secretariat, at http://esa.un.org/unpp)

  • Uganda 5 million in 1950; 24 million in 2000; over 80 million in 2050, and increasing rapidly. (Uganda is the same size as the United Kingdom. One third of Ugandans are Catholic)
  • The wider picture: Africa and Middle East to Pakistan had a population of 300 million in 1950.

This has now increased by almost one billion (1000 million) to 1,200 million, and it is expected to increase by more than another billion to about 2,400 million in 2050.

Because of this rapid population increase extreme poverty is certain and conflict almost certain, both in Uganda and in many other parts of Africa and the Middle East. (And this will happen even if all debt is forgiven and all trade is fair.) Catholic attempts to deal with rapid population increase have not been spectacular. From now on, to prevent extreme poverty, we should try to persuade all agencies working in developing countries to provide effective family planning to all who need it.