Without birth control, won’t the world become overpopulated?

Contraceptives are not needed to plan family size. In Calcutta, NFP has proven to be a practical alternative that works effectively. The British Medical Journal reported, “Indeed, a study of 19,843 poor women in India [practicing NFP to delay pregnancy] had a pregnancy rate approaching zero.”[1]

But is there an overpopulation problem? Especially in the 1960s and 1970s, people feared that the world’s population would soon outstrip its resources. Books predicted that the earth would run out of natural resources, such as gas, lead, and petroleum. Widespread catastrophes were feared, and some predicted that hundreds of millions of Americans would starve to death. Indeed, the world saw an exponential growth in population in the 1900s. However, much of this was a result of advances in medicine. Because the average life expectancy was lengthened, there were more people alive than ever before.

Now life expectancies have begun to level out, and although the population continues to increase, the 1970s doomsday predictions have faded away. In fact, many countries are now facing economic difficulties as a result of underpopulation.[2] Global fertility and birth rates have been rapidly decreasing for more than twenty-five years.[3] Almost every developed country in the world has a below-replacement fertility rate.[4] The fertility rate of developing nations tends to be higher, but according to the United Nations Population Division, between 2005 and 2050 the worldwide number of children (persons under fifteen) will decline.[5]

While some people predicted that there would be too many children, others feared that humans would run out of space. However, humans occupy only 1 to 3 percent of the Earth’s surface. If you gathered every human being on Earth, we would all fit in Jacksonville, Florida. If everyone moved to Texas, each person would have more than a thousand square feet in which to live.[6] This provides more living space than people have in San Francisco and only slightly less than they have in the Bronx.[7]

The problem is not a lack of space but an unjust distribution of resources. One researcher noted that “according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, world food supplies exceed requirements in all world areas.”[8] Besides, farmers use less than half of the land that can be used for agriculture. Human poverty is the result of bad economic policy, war, and corrupt governments, not overpopulation. (For more on this, visit the Population Research Institute, or browse our articles on overpopulation in the Research tab above.)

[1]. R. E. J. Ryder, “‘Natural Family Planning’ Effective Birth Control Supported by the Catholic Church,” British Medical Journal 307 (September 18, 1993), 723.
[2]. Joseph D’Agostino, “Vatican Officials Discuss Solutions for European Underpopulation,” National Catholic Register (July 15, 2006).
[3]. Wetzel, Sexual Wisdom (Ann Arbor, Michigan: Proctor Publications, L.L.C., 1998), 273.
[4]. Wetzel, Sexual Wisdom, 274; “The Fizzling Population Bomb,” Zenit News Agency, March 13, 2005.
[5]. United Nations Department of Public Information, “World Population Will Increase by 2.5 Billion by 2050; People Over 60 to Increase by More Than 1 Billion,” Press Release 952 (March 13, 2007).
[6]. Mercedes Arzú Wilson, Love & Fertility (Dunkirk, Maryland: Family of the Americas Foundation, 1986), 192–193.
[7]. Jacqueline Kasun, “Too Many People?” Envoy, May–June 1998, 34.
[8]. Kasun, “Too Many People?” 36.

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