A recent article in New Scientist got the attention of Elon Musk on Twitter this week, prompting him to tweet out the link.
— New Scientist (@newscientist) 6 July 2017
The article argues that decreasing fertility rates are indicative of the world’s population slowly imploding rather than exponentially rising — a trend that will continue until we reach some form of crisis point. As it stands, half of the world’s countries have fallen below the replacement rate for developed nations (which is, on average, 2 children per woman). If this trend continues on, countries like Germany and Italy will see their populations decrease by half over the next 60 years.
This is not the first time Elon Musk has discussed overpopulation: in March he warned that we face a “demographic implosion,” because in many countries “you have a very high dependency ratio, where the number of people who are retired is very high relative to the number of people who are net producers.”
The Overpopulation Problem
The world is facing an overpopulation crisis that is only set to become more severe: the UN has predicted the global population will reach 9.7 billion by 2050. In recent years there have been a number of somewhat apocalyptic predictions and statements made by high profile members of the scientific community: David Attenborough issued a warning in a 2013 Radio Times interview, saying that “either we limit our population growth, or the natural world will do it for us.”
Population affects every resource imaginable: from our planet’s stores of energy and environment to the financial sector, to the amount of food we need to produce, and issues like geographical overcrowding. As for the issue of limiting population, it’s proven to be a knotty ethical problem. So far, none of the proposed answers to it — such as introducing a limited child policy, moving to new planets, or introducing a child tax — have been particularly attractive or easily executable.