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"To survive, Africa must reduce its birth rates" by Alex Gerber

Link: http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20050707/news_lz1e7gerber.html

This is an opinion piece in the Thursday, July 7 San Diego Union-Tribune by Alex Gerber. It may have been picked up by other papers, but I'm not finding it yet.

It was important for me to read because of the case it makes for China's current imposing world presence being due partly to limitation of family size to one child by means of contraceptive programs and forced abortions.

Before reading this opinion, I would too quickly brush off people (very often Ishmael readers) who were concerned with population overshoot. I would say the problem is not population, which, in fact is declining or stable in all developed countries (I think) when not counting immigration, but the amount of resources a given population consumes.

Other things I have read support the concept of "Cities as population sinks" - that is, the people who live in cities don't have many children, and that percentage of people is growing.

However, at the same time, in the back of my head I knew that the people who criticise Paul Ehrlich, The Club of Rome's Limit's to Growth, and the basic thesis in the Ishmael books were wrong. There are massive famines and dieoffs occurring right now among both humans and other species, and this has been true for some time.

So, what now? I don't know. Here's the portion of Alex Gerber's essay that focuses on China:

In the real world, we should turn to the China experience. Throughout its history, China has been plagued by periodic famines due to crop failures. From 1958 to 1961, China experienced the worst famine in world history – 30 million (the combined population of our 10 larges cities) starved to death. Chairman Mao, advised that China's fertility rate would result in a population increase from 1.2 billion to 4.2 billion in the next century, realized that future famines would be measured in billions rather than millions. Think of it! A country with one-sixth the arable land of the United States would be faced with a quadrupled population almost equal to the total population of the rest of the world.

China's choice was between wall-to-wall people with an animal subsistence level, and intensive population control. The choice was influenced by an old Chinese proverb, "If we don't change our direction, we'll end up where we're heading."

A 10-year trial of voluntary family-size restriction was unsuccessful, and in 1970 Mao decreed the limitation of family size to one child. This was accomplished by the world's most comprehensive contraception program and enforced abortions for contraceptive failures – a program theoretically reducing China's population to 370 million by 2080 and more in harmony with her resources.

A 1989 editorial in The New York Times described China's policy of enforced abortions as an "act of official inhumanity – that violates one of the most basic human rights." Fortunately, China's leaders were more aware than her critics of the threatened civil disintegration of Chinese society. An incubating catastrophe was averted by the scientific method, rather than by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, as in an earlier era.

History speaks for itself. In only two generations, China emerged from a Third World country to an economic powerhouse closing in on the living standards of Western industrial societies. It all started with population control measures.


Gerber, a clinical professor of surgery emeritus at the University of Southern California, was formerly a White House health care consultant and chairman of the Medical Advisory Committee of Pasadena Planned Parenthood.

Added by colin #442 on 2005-07-09. Last modified 2005-07-09 03:48. F0 License: Attribution
Location: World
Topics: policy development, population control

Colin Leath <>    

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