Integral ecology

From alarm about overpopulation to advancing depopulation

The anti-natalist measures of the "Kissinger Report" (1974), which at the time may have seemed reasonable to some, due to the first great oil crisis, coupled with the decline in food production, and a warning of alleged overpopulation, have now given way to a demographic winter that is the focus of the October print issue of Omnes magazine, available to subscribers. Here are some arguments about demographic developments.

Francisco Otamendi-October 25, 2023-Reading time: 6 minutes

The action plan of the document designed by Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State of the United States in the 1970s, was aimed at controlling and reducing the birth rate in the least developed countries, and was based on the following alarms: 1) explosive population growth in much of the world, especially in Africa; 2) the first major oil crisis, which caused crude oil prices to quadruple (1973-1974); 3) a year of adverse weather (1972) in much of the globe with a sharp decline in food production; and 4) implications of these factors on national security and U.S. interests abroad.

The report, initially secret, then declassified in 1980, and made available to the public in 1989, had effects that are difficult to measure precisely. But the following, among others, can be noted: - a sharp drop in the birth rate in Latin America and Asia, but not in Africa, although it has also fallen in Africa in recent decades; and a specific reduction in the birth rate in countries such as Russia, China, Cuba, Iran and Korea. The steep slope still lasts, due to various cumulative factors analyzed by the magazine Omnes, under the title reversing the demographic winter

In addition, the U.S. anti-natalist program contemplated "the provision of means and contraceptive methods (pills, condoms, sterilization, techniques to avoid pregnancy).". And on abortion, the report noted "that the U.S. government is prohibited from promoting it abroad."However, "the plan that prompted this report is abortionist, albeit underhandedly, not up front"engineer Alejandro Macarrón, the coordinator of the Demographic Observatory of the CEU San Pablo University. 

The plan also included improvements in health and nutrition to prevent infant mortality, the fight against illiteracy, and initiatives in women's employment and social security for the elderly to reduce the need to have children to care for the elderly.

"Unfortunately, with its anti-birth policies in the world, the U.S. government has contributed, probably quite a lot, and perhaps a lot, to the fact that the current population risks in a large part of the world are just the opposite."the demographer has pointed out in his book 'Democratic suicide in the West and half the world'.

Malthusian alarmist theses

Before focusing on the United Nations (UN), it is perhaps worth recalling that concern about population growth has its origins in the theses of the British economist Thomas Malthus (1766-1834). In short, Malthus said that the rate of population growth is a geometric progression, while resources increase in arithmetic progression, so that too many inhabitants could lead to the extinction of the human species. With him, the dramatisms probably began.

 What does the UN say about it today? The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which is chaired by Natalia Kanem (Panama), considers "demographic doomsayers" to those who claim that "the world is full of people and there is hardly room for a pin".and judges that "this narrative oversimplifies complex issues.".

The Fund goes so far as to state that "some politicians, media commentators and even intellectuals argue that the problems we are experiencing on an international scale (such as economic instability, climate change and wars for the control of resources), have their origin in overpopulation: in excess demand versus lack of supply.".

Do not link CO2 emissions to population

These people, UNFPA adds, "describe a scenario in which birth rates have spiraled out of control and are impossible to curb," and "typically target poor and marginalized communities, who have long been characterized as reproducing too much and irresponsibly, despite the fact that they contribute the least to environmental degradation, among other problems.". These arguments and the position of the UN Fund are available at

In addition, according to the data available to it, "the richest 10 percent of the population generates half of the total emissions: therefore, it is a mistake to link the increase in (greenhouse) emissions to population growth".

In short, the Fund believes that the discourse on this point should be changed. For example, there should be talk of "how climate change hurts the most vulnerable people on the planet".of which "inclusiveness is the key to the demographic resilience of societies." and not that the arrival of migrants endangers the national identity; and that "companies have to reduce their emissions immediately."not that climate change can be slowed down with "fewer children".

But family planning is recommended

Once these theses have been exposed, it is convenient to give the complete information, or at least a synthesis of it. Because the same Fund which denies overpopulation and criticizes the "demographic doomsayers"recommends "family planning"with insistence.

On the one hand, the United Nations agency insists on the terminology of "reproductive sexual health". For example, the Population Fund "calls for the fulfillment of reproductive rights for all and supports access to a full range of sexual and reproductive health services, including voluntary family planning, maternal health care, and comprehensive sexuality education.".

At the same time, he recalls that the organization was created in 1969, the same year in which the UN General Assembly declared that "parents have an exclusive right to freely and responsibly determine the number of children and the spacing between them."

"Rather than seeking to bring population numbers down, this position focuses on moving toward gender equality and investments in education, health care, and clean, affordable energy." he adds.

On July 5, at the Fund's statement made on the occasion of the World Population Day 2023UNFPA noted, among other things, the following: "The universalization of sexual and reproductive health and rights is the foundation of gender equality, dignity and opportunity. Yet more than 40 % of the world's women are unable to exercise their right to make such momentous decisions as whether or not to have children. Empowering women and girls through education and access to modern contraceptive methods helps support their aspirations and enables them to choose the lifestyle they want.".

Elsewhere in the statement, the Fund affirmed that promoting gender equality is a cross-cutting solution to many demographic problems. It added: "In countries that have been experiencing rapid population growth, empowering women through training and family planning can bring enormous benefits through human capital and inclusive economic growth.".

Decrease in fertility rate

This is another question being asked by the UN Fund, in line with the current warning in many countries: the fertility rate is falling below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman. Two-thirds of the world's population live in countries where fertility is below or close to this threshold, and alarm bells are beginning to ring, as the Omnes dossier has pointed out.

According to UNFPA, the only region of the world where a global population decline is expected in the short term (between 2022 and 2050) is Europe, with a negative growth of -7 percent. The population of other parts of the world - Central, Southeast and South Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and North America - is expected to continue to increase until about 2100. The Fund asserts that, in the coming decades, population growth is expected to continue until about 2100, "migration will become the only factor driving population growth in high-income countries.".

However, at the beginning of the pandemic, the medical journal The Lancet predicted in an ambitious study that by the end of the 21st century, the world will have a smaller population than the UN indicated of 11 billion inhabitants, and that depopulation will be lower than the Wittgenstein Center has already advanced. 

Contraceptive use and delayed marriage

One of the main reasons shown by the research for the slowdown in population growth of The Lancet is that it has led to a dramatic decline in fertility, as people of different age ranges have gained access to education and contraceptive use, and as young people have decided to wait until they are older to marry.

The medical journal predicts, for example, that more than 20 countries, including Japan, Spain, Italy and Poland, will lose half of their populations by 2100. China will also see its population drop from the current 1.4 billion to 730 million.

Among other forecasts of interest, The Lancet also points out that the life expectancy for 2,100 years will be less than 75 years in at least ten countries in the region. Africa The population of Spain will be 22.9 million, i.e., around 50 % less than at present (47 million), while Peru, for example, is expected to reach 51.8 million citizens (an increase of 34 %), due to its larger working-age population.

The authorFrancisco Otamendi

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