Much has been said about over-population in the 1970’s. All of it has turned out to be wrong.
Today, there still people that cling to those failed notions. They probably have sideburns and wear tie-dye with bell bottoms too.
The people who claim overpopulation is a problem tend to break things down into math. They write out formulas that look something like this:
(Amount of food produced each year) / (number of people in the year 2100) = (too little food to sustain life)
Certainly, if we were producing food at the rate we did in 1970, we would all be starving to death. But we’re not. So what happened? Quite simply: food production increased.
So you might see an equation like this:
(Amount of arable land) x (production per acre of arable land) = (amount of food produced)
And then the naysayers point out that if you keep the amount of arable land constant, and the production per acre constant, we’re all going to starve.
Except there’s a problem with those assumptions. First, the amount of arable land changes over time, and second, the production of food per acre changes as well.
What increases crop production, or creates new arable land? Why, humans of course. Really, the formula should break down into something like this:
(number of farmers) x (crop production per farmer) = (amount of food produced)
Even if farmers didn’t increase their productivity, you could see how the amount of food would always be enough for a population, as long as one farmer could produce enough to feed at least himself. After all, if we do have food shortages, then more people would decide that farming is the life for them, and abandon their career which wouldn’t feed themselves anyway, and do something closer to food production.
If you think about it even more, technology and advances in the agricultural arts have made it so that one person is able to produce more and more food each year. Just think of what is happening as the third world transitions into first world status through wealth. Farmers that used to use basic tools and techniques now have available to them more modern tools and techniques, including the luxury of education and access to information. Now, even poor farmers in the heart of Africa are able to out-produce their ancestors by several orders of magnitude.
You may think that land area or some resource such as clean water or oil or something would limit the amount of food that can be produced. You’d be wrong, because some humans are much smarter than you are. If there is a shortage of clean water, then we will figure out how to produce more clean water, or figure out how to farm with less pure water. If there is a shortage of oil, we’ll figure out how to get the energy and fertilizer some other way, or learn how to do without.
Well, what about land to live on? Don’t we need a certain amount of land? The answer is, no. We can pack people in as tightly as we need to. Of course, we are nowhere near that point, since there is plenty of dry land available to the world’s population. Not all the land is ideal, but modern technologies are changing what we consider ideal so that more and more land becomes livable and usable. Of course, if we do run out of land, we can start building up, down, or settling the seas, both the surface, underwater, or even the sea floor. If the price of land becomes so high, then we’ll see an economic incentive to settle the Moon or Mars or even space stations orbiting the earth.
There is no limit to human ingenuity, except the limits we artificially place on ourselves with unjust laws. Yes, if we do imagine a world where the government controls our lives, then we will always have shortages no matter what we do.