1 BYU Law Review Volume 1999 Issue 2 Article The International Convention on Population Development: The Fallacies and Hazards of Population "Control" Rod N. Andreason Follow this and additional works at: Part of the Demography, Population, and Ecology Commons, and the Law Commons Recommended Citation Rod N. Andreason, The International Convention on Population Development: The Fallacies and Hazards of Population "Control", 1999 BYU L. Rev. 769 (1999). Available at: This Note is brought to you for free and open access by the Brigham Young University Law Review at BYU Law Digital Commons. It has been accepted for inclusion in BYU Law Review by an authorized editor of BYU Law Digital Commons. For more information, please contact
2 The International Convention on Population Developmen t: Th e F alla cies a nd H aza rds of Population Control * I. INTRODUCTION The In ter nation al Con fer en ce on Population Development (ICPD) 1 ha s man y admir able goals: it strives to reduce maternal mortality rates; 2 it aims to enhance the lives of low-in come residents of both residential and urban areas; 3 and it seeks to eradicate poverty, perhaps its most important objective. 4 Unfortunately, however, the theme of population developmen t for many part icipan ts in t he Conference is merely a subt le euphemism for population reduction or control. While a sser tin g that [p]eople are the most importa nt and valua ble resource of any nation, 5 the Conference s Progra m m e of A ction is replete with policy proposals and declar at ions wh ich at tem pt to diss i- pate that most important resource. A number of just ifica tion s have been advanced for su ch an approach, but none appear to validate th e ser ious har ms th at population redu ction program s cause. Ultimately, those programs seeking to diminish or discourage the existence of people the so-called an ti-nat alist agenda simply do n ot en hance people s lives. De legates to the ICPD conference in Cairo assumed that people were essen- * The author wishes to thank his three precious children Monterey Laska, Lon Alle n, an d J ose ph Kn igh t An drea son. All three are sweet and wonderful, and ha ve th e pot en tia l to b e a ny th ing th ey d esi re. Th ey h ave give n t he au th or m uch joy and a gr eat er love of life, and h e will alwa ys love th em d ear ly. 1. The In te rn at ion al Con fer en ce on Populat ion and Developmen t (ICPD) was held in Cairo, Egypt, from 5 September t o 13 September 1994, under the a uspices of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Delegations from 179 stat es t ook part in negotia tion s t o fina lize a Pr ogr am me of Action on p opu lat ion a nd dev elop me nt for the next twenty years. 2. See Progr am m e of Act ion, Un ite d N at ions In te rn at iona l Con fer en ce on Pop ula tion Development, 8.20, U.N. Doc. A/CONF.171/13 (1994) [hereina fter Programm e]. 3. See id See id. at Ch. I I, Pr inc. 7. See also id (stating that [w]idespread poverty re ma in s t he ma jor cha lle ng e t o de vel opm en t e ffort s ). 5. Id. at Ch. II, Prin c
3 770 BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [1999 tia lly a problem ra th er th an a r esource. 6 Wit h so m any challenges facing populations worldwide, our task should be to eliminate problems, not people. This Comment attempts to show the fallacies and hazards involved in pop ula tion control. P art II exa min es the m ajor just ifica tion s advan ced by populat ion reductionist s, briefly responding to each in turn. Part III provides a substan tive analysis of pop ula tion red uction, examin in g it s n ega tive effects and rein forcing res ponses to issues intr oduced in Part II. Part IV outlines several recomm endat ions for the ICPD, encour agin g the Conven tion to pu rsu e bet ter aven ues of servin g popu la tion s than simply reducing them. II. J USTIFICATIONS ADVANCED IN SUPPORT OF POPULATION REDUCTION PROGRAMS Variou s justifications ha ve been advanced for promoting populat ion reductions. 7 Th ey r ange fr om a simple fea r of th e unknown to seriou s ques tion s a bou t en vir onmen tal dep let ion. Many of the ju st ifica tions are founded on inaccurate information, illogica l a ss umpt ion s, or fea r in du ced by t he s care tactics commonly used by population control advocates. Ult ima tely, all of t he reasons given ar e ina dequ at e in comparison with the harms they create. A. Fear of th e Un known The first reason can be understood simp ly as a fear of the unknown. Many commentators point out that we have never had this many people on the earth before, and that our rate of growth is distu rbing. 8 Most commonly, writers point to the time it took for the world s popu lation to rea ch one billion, t hen how 6. George Weigel, The Ca ir o C on fe re n ce o n Po pu la tio n an d De vel op m en t: A Fla wed Concept, 1995 ST. LOUIS-WARSAW TRANSATLANTIC L.J. 65, The ICPD Progr am m e of Act ion im plie s t ha t r edu ction s in popu lat ion a re necessary to meet educational needs of the popu lat ion. See Programm e, supra note 2, See Pa ul R. E hr lich & Ann e H. E hr lich, The Population Explosion: Why We Sh ould Care and What We Should Do About It, 27 ENVTL. L , (199 7); Terrence J. Sorg, Global Hun ger, a Doubling Population, and Environm ental Degradation: J us tif yin g R ad ical Ch an ges i n U.S. Fa rm Poli cy, IND. INT L & COMP. L. REV. 679, (199 6).
4 769] FALLACIES OF POPULATION CONTROL 771 quickly it rose to th e near ly six billion p eople today. 9 Population alarmists invoke images of children being born with the speed of a machine gun, 10 adding a new Germany each year. 11 Scare tactics are the common technique employed in such statements, attempting to ala rm people a t the r apid r ate of popu la tion growth. 12 Media, celebrities, and academia alike 13 have assumed that unprecedented population increase can only mean that there will be countless billion s of p eople w it hout food, leeching the planet of scarce resour ces before falling prey to famine, war, and other cataclysmic events. Amazingly, this argument ha s little t o do with soun d logic or economic rea lit y. By it self, the fact that we have no record of larger world populat ions only m ean s tha t our experience is incomplete in understanding how to thrive with larger numbers of people. Declar ing t ha t h avin g much larger populations than ever before will be a catastr ophe is somet hin g akin t o the worldwide fear of only 500 years ago that travel too far overseas would cause one to fall off the edge of the earth. 14 Moreover, there is abundant evidence that our planet is capable of sustaining a popula tion nea rly seven times our current amount at least forty billion people. 15 By itse lf, t he fa ct t hat we ha ve never support ed so man y people does n ot necessa rily mean that we are incapable of doing so in the future. B. People are S ta rv in g, a nd Few er Peopl e Mean s Fewer S tarvin g A related economic argument is that people are starving, and fewer people would mean fewer sta rvin g. 16 Proponents of 9. See Eh rlich & Eh rlich, supra not e 8, at 1187; Sor g, supra note 8, at Robert M. Ha rda way, Env ironmen tal Malthusia ni sm : Int egrat in g Pop ul ati on and En vir onm ent al P olicy, 27 ENVTL. L , (199 7). 11. Eh rl ich & Ehrlich, supra note 8, at See infra Par t III.B. 13. S ee, e.g., J eff Ja coby, Th e Worl d I sn t Ov erpop ul ated, an d t he P opu lat ion Ex plos ion is O ver, MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIB., Ma y 20, 19 98, at 23A. 14. See id. (not in g t ha t [i]t won t b e lon g be fore th e m isa nt hr opic p reachin gs of Paul Eh rlich and the P opulation Institute a re shelved where t hey belon g: with t he gibberish of the flat-earthers and the bunkum of the alchemists ). 15. See Weigel, supra note 6, at 66 (citing COLIN CLARK, POPULATION GROWTH: THE ADVANTAGES 44, 48 (1975), a nd R oger Re velle, Th e Res our ces Av ail abl e for Agriculture, 3 SCI. AM. 164, 17 7 (19 76)). 16. See generally THO MAS MALTHUS, AN ESSAY ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POPULATION (Ph illip Apple ma n e d., 1 976); P AUL EHRLICH, THE POPULATION BOMB
5 772 BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [1999 this viewpoint assu me that not limiting population will force us to be lim it ed by fa mine, causing a lar ge die-off in t he population. It is true that hundreds of millions of people are sta rving by some est ima tes, one-tenth of our total world population. 17 As such, with m ore people living on the earth, more do star ve, especially in t he poorest ar eas of the world. However, proponents of this argument mista ke corr elat ion for causation. While food supply is not unlimited, it clear ly exceeds the needs of the world populat ion. In fact, ther e is almost a u niversal consensus tha t t here is more t ha n en ough food in t he world t o feed all the people on the planet. 18 Farmers in the United Sta tes find it difficult to sell all the food they grow. 19 Former Harvard Center for Population Studies Director Roger Revelle est ima ted th at th e agr icultu ral resources of the world were capable of providing an adequate diet (2,500 kilocalories per day) for forty billion people, an d tha t it would require the use of less than twenty-five percent of the Earth s ice-free land area. 20 Revelle also estimated that the lessdeveloped contin en ts w er e ca pa ble of feeding eigh teen billion people, and that Africa alon e was ca pa ble of feeding t en billion people, or nearly twice the cur rent world population. 21 These predictions were based on 1984 technology; there is justifiable optimism that agricultural tech niques will mak e possible subst antially better crop yields now and in th e future. In reality, [t]he problem is not production or over pop ula tion ; it is poverty a nd accessibility. 22 The ma jority of those who have died from famine starved due to deliberate governmental policy, official mis ma na gement, or war, a nd not to serious crop failure. 23 Starvation once occurred in the spa rsely sett led Native American populations of North (197 2). 17. See Ha rda way, supra not e 10, a t See JACQUELINE KASUN, THE WAR AGAINST POPULATION: THE ECONOMICS AND IDEOLOGY OF POPULATION CONTROL (19 88). 19. See Education and S ocietal Changes Suggest Population Bomb Was a Dud, TAMPA TRIB., Ja n. 6, 1998, at See Revelle, supra note 15, at See id. 22. Sorg, supra note 8, at Id. at 679 (quoting DENNIS T. AVERY, SAVING THE PLANET WITH PESTICIDES AND PLASTIC 146 (199 5)).
6 769] FALLACIES OF POPULATION CONTROL 773 Amer ica, until European sett lers cultivat ed the land. 24 To t hose who compet ed for sca rce r es ources, a n over pop ula tion appeared to exist at that time. But although the population of the United States is now thousands of times larger, proper use of lan d and better farm ing t echniqu es have m ade food continually more abundant than people. In addition, higher birthrates and population density have no direct correla tion wit h gros s e conomic depr ivation due to overpopula tion. 25 The densely populated areas of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, a nd S outh Kor ea fare well in compa rison with many of their much less densely populated neighbors. 26 In fact, Singapore s population is over 100 times a s dense as Ethiopia s. 27 Changes in United States farm policy could induce yet greater production, as well as industrialization and trade, as opposed to simply sending food and aid. 28 Fu rt her more, if count ries of the world lear ned to us e th eir la nd p roperly for the development of crops, hunger would be unthinkable for a populat ion many times the size of eve n the h ea dies t pr ed ict ion s for the next 300 years. Undoubt edly, developed na tions sh ould continu e to help, especially emphasizing proportionately more training and technology than simple shipments of provisions. 29 But clear ly, the fact that people are starving is not due to any worldwide la ck of food. The problem contin ues to stem from government mismanagement and lack of free trade and excha nge opportunities. Truly, popu la tion gr owt h is not the ca use of developmen t problems in the Third World but rather a symptom of those problems. 30 Universal reductions in the numbers of people should not be the agenda of the ICPD simply 24. See Robert W. Lee, A World of Plenty (visited N ov. 13, 1998) <ht tp:// w.com/~dea gle/pr0 21.ht m> (citing ROUS AS J. RUSHDOONY, THE MYTH OF OVERPOPULATION X (196 9)). 25. Weigel, supra note 6, at See id. 27. See Th e My th of Pla net ary Over popu lat ion (visited Nov. 13, 1998) <htt p:// ts/pop.ht ml>. 28. See generally Sorg, supra note See id. at Dina Sha piro, Book An not at ion, 28 N.Y.U. J. INT L L. & POL. 859, 860 (1996) (summarizing BETSY HARTMANN, REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS AND WRONGS: THE GLOBAL POLITICS OF CONTROL AND CONTRACEPTIVE CHOICE (199 5)).
7 774 BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [1999 because a few governments need to change th eir economic policies. C. Having Fewer People Raises the Quality of Life for the Rest of Us A social argum ent a dvanced by population reductionists is that we sh ould be concerned with th e qualit y of life of all pe ople on ea rth, a nd t hat the qualit y of ea ch life is enhanced by having fewer lives to have to share Earth with. Principle Five of the Programme of Action stat es tha t [p]opulat ion-rela ted goals and policies ar e int egra l part s of cultura l, economic and social development, the principal aim of which is to improve the quality of life of all people. 31 It is difficult t o be sure what quality of life mea ns in t he Programme of Action. At tim es, it seems to in dicate merely adequate health car e for all people. 32 At other times, it almost gives the impression that Western consumption should be reduced so that all m ay en joy a high standard of living. 33 In all, the term qua lity of life is used in the document t wenty-seven tim es. P romoting a u niversal h igh standard of livin g con flict s w it h the ICP D s more bala nced goa l of m eet[ing] the needs of present gen erat ions a nd improv[ing] th eir qu alit y of life wit hout compromising t he a bilit y of future genera tion s to meet th eir own n eeds. 34 As discussed below, 35 the drastic population reductions being created by curr ent policy will se ver ely compr omise the resources and real qualit y of life of th e n ext se ver al gener ation s. Certa inly, food a nd healt h care should be available to all. But, as h as been discu ss ed, food sh ortages in poor areas owe not to population excesses, but rather to domest ic policies which prevent achieving an adequat e food supply. 36 For the rest of the world, reductions in population are not only unn ecessar y, but often harmful. In fact, havin g fewer children in a family ha s a ten dency to reduce the qua lity of life for all people. While a family with four children may not have as many possessions as a family with one or two children, all m embers ten d to benefit 31. Programm e, supra note 2, at Ch. II, Pr inc See id. 8.3 (b). 33. See id. at P rinc. 6 and 3.9, Programm e, supra not e 2, See infra Part III. 36. See supra note s an d accompa nyin g text.
8 769] FALLACIES OF POPULATION CONTROL 775 from th e addit ional support a nd relat ionsh ips t hey deve lop. 37 This is often difficu lt to develop w hen child ren gr ow up alone in the home. Qua lity of life is enhanced by havin g a fam ily that is not limited, or encouraged to be limited, in exchange for richer lifestyles. If the ultimate goal is the improvement of the quality of life of present and future generations, 38 people will work to make h app y fa milies. In contrast, con side rable loss t o quality of life occurs under populat ion reduction programs, as discussed below. 39 D. Our Environm ent is Being Eroded and Depleted, and More People Would Do More Dam age Perhaps the m ost convin cin g a rgu men t for population reduction is that our population, even at its current size, is seriously eroding and depleting the environment. 40 The Programme speak s of environment al degradat ion [due to]... unprecedent ed growth in people. 41 Since each person has an effect on the consumption and u se of res ources, ea ch add it ion al body on the planet is an environmental liability. 42 Again resorting to the s care t actic, t hes e people insist th at th e world ship is sin king un der the weight of hu manity, and that only elimin atin g ot her s on the s hip will k eep u s a ll a floa t. 43 Wit hout question, humans are misusing and depleting t he environment on many fronts, a problem which must be attacked on a global basis. Ma ny ot her in ter nation al conven tion s focus specifically on environmental issues. 44 Surely, 37. See Nichola s Eb ers ta dt, Wor ld Popu lat ion Im plos ion?, 126 PUB. INTEREST 3, (199 7). 38. Programm e, supra note 2, See infra Part III. 40. See generally Reed Boland, The Environm ent, Population, and Women s Hum an Rights, 27 ENVTL. L (19 97). 41. Programm e, supra note 2, See Ehrlich & Eh rlich, supra not e 8, at (pos it in g a n e qu at ion wh ich calculates envir onme nt al im pact (I) by m ult iplying the num ber of people (P) by per capita affluen ce (A) an d th e envir onme nt al im pact d ue t o techn ologies produ cing th e cons um pt ion (T)). 43. See Ha rda way, supra note 10, at The United Nations Environment Pr ogramme alone has sponsored at least ten different environmental conven tions, includin g The Con vent ion on Clim at e Chan ge, Th e Vien na Con ven tion on t he Pr ote ction of the Ozone Layer, The Con ven tion on Trade in Dangerous Chemi cals an d P est icide s, T he Con ven tion to Combat Desertification, The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone
9 776 BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [1999 environmental preservat ion is a valid goal, but not a valid just ifica tion for ridding the world of people in the en vironment. Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Explosion, has said, By assaulting the earth s ecosystems, humanity is, in essence, sawing off th e limb on wh ich it per ches. 45 Ir onica lly, h owever, Ehrlich wou ld en cour age h umanit y t o sa w off part s of itself instead. A population which attempts to dramatically slow its growth takes child ren from pa ren ts a nd s iblin gs from children, and removes members of society in lieu of solving societal problems. There is some reason for opt imism, t hough not giddy enthusiasm, regarding the manner in which technology has made en vir onmen tal dep let ion les s n ecess ary, a nd r es toration possible. 46 Human ingenuity has not only found more reserves of nonrenewable resources than has ever been imagined, it also has alter native technologies awaiting further development when petroleum an d nat ur al gas are gone, including solar, wind, water, and other forms of energy. History has shown that necessity truly is the m other of inven tion; and the industrial revolution, th e Green Revolut ion in farmin g, 47 and a met eoric rise in tech nological expe rtise give a t lea st conside rable hope for adjust ing to a world with out oil. 48 One must not use the catch phra se susta ina ble developm ent for sup posing th at only by dimin ishin g people ca n the envir onmen t be su fficiently suited to human use. III. ARGUMENTS AGAINST PROMOTING POPULATION REDUCTION Preaching population reduction holds many dangers. Evidence and assessments by populat ion redu ctionis ts ha ve repea tedly proven in accur at e. The scare ta ctics em ployed by Layer, Th e Ba sel Con ven tion on Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and th eir Dis posa l, Th e Con ven tion on P er sis te nt Or gan ic Pol lutants, The Bonn Con ven tion on Migratory Species, The Convention on Biological Diversity, and Th e Con ven tion on the International Trade in Endan gere d Spe cies. See United Nations Environment Programm e, (visited Fe b. 3, 1999) <htt p:// ep/conv.htm >. 45. Eh rl ich & Eh rlich, supra note 8, at See Bolan d, supra note 40, at 1139 ( Human in gen ui ty an d t ech nol ogica l progress ha ve so far m an aged t o outpa ce the na tu ra l forces conspiring to b ring about... the despoliation of the environment. Ways have been found to solve even the mo st se em in gly i ns ur mo un ta ble pr oble ms. ) (footn ote om it te d). 47. See Ha rda way, supra note 10, at See id.
10 769] FALLACIES OF POPULATION CONTROL 777 reductionists not only use t he wrong type of motivat ion, they inevitably lead to coercive policies in subtle or blatant forms. In particular, education is a term used in the Programme to denote family planning pressure on couples to use contracep tion or otherwise limit their birthrates. 49 The results of such policies are dangerous, making both the ends and the means of populat ion reduction harmful to the populations educated by them. A. Popula tion Theory Has Failed to S how An y Pred ictiv e Value Population reduction theorists have provided no help in formin g a cred ible policy. Th is is so beca use they have been far from accurate pred ict ors of the fut ur e. For decades they ha ve been predicting a pocalyps e; for decades th eir predictions h ave failed. Fa iled u tt erly, in every detail. 50 The Meadows computer models predicted t ha t gold would r un out by 1981, and oil would be gone by Of course, th e classic example is Thomas Malthus, wh o in 1798 ass umed that food would gr ow arithmetically as popu la tion gr ew geom et rica lly, th us eventu ating in worldwide starvation in h is near future. 52 In the last 200 years since Malthus s prophecy, food has out paced population, yet t he world h as sever al t imes th e populat ion it had when that prophecy was uttered. Paul Ehrlich, perhaps the most notorious catastrophist of our tim es, declar ed in his best -seller, T he Population Bomb, that [i]n the 1970s, th e world will undergo famines hundr eds of millions of people a re goin g t o st arve t o death in sp it e of a ny crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date, nothing can prevent a subst an tia l increase in th e world dea th ra te. 53 He furth er predicted dra stic drops in life exp ect ancy, food riot s in th e Un ited Stat es, and ecological death in Lakes Erie and 49. See infra note s an d accompa nyin g text. 50. Ja coby, supra note See DONNELLA H. MEADO WS E T AL., THE LIMITS TO GROWTH: A REPORT FOR THE CLUB OF ROME S PROJECT ON THE PREDICAMENT OF MANKIND (197 2); DONNELLA H. MEADOWS & DENNIS L. MEADOWS, BEYOND THE LIMITS (1992) (the now-we re-really-serious no vel ). 52. See generally MALTHUS, supra note 16, at EHRLICH, supra note 16, at Pr ologue.
11 778 BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [1999 Michiga n. 54 The Great Die-Off, as he called it, of course never happened. He th en persua ded m an y th at it would occur in t he 80s. Th en he r es ched uled it for the 90s. 55 Amazingly, there are still many people who listen to and believe Ehrlich s statements. Since none of the predictions of populat ion reductionists have been accurate, it is amazing that many still base governmental programs on them. Even the United Nations and several governm ental agencies have had only limited success in pr ed ict in g t ren ds in pop ula tion numbers. The notion of a population science has been roundly criticized. 56 The Cair o Conferen ce could neit her predict with accuracy t he gr owt h rates in human pop ula tion s, nor tell policy makers wh en (much les s h ow) fertility r ates wou ld decline. 57 Perhaps un willing to fully accept the current and serious decline in world fertility rates, the UN has present ed three scena rios at high, medium, and low variants. 58 The low variant seems consistent with current trends (and thus presents some worrisome prospects, as discussed below). The high varia nt is so far above th e low varian t t ha t t he r an ge between th eir respective sets of predictions is fantast ic. The UN proposes that in 150 years, the world population could be twenty-seven billion... or it could be thr ee billion people, 59 depending on a number of demographic factors. B. Popula tion Reductionists Rely on S car e Tact ics to Prom ote T heir Policies As noted above, popu la tion reduction theorists and programs have a lm ost always relied on sca re t actics 60 to acquire adherents to an other wise unnatural faith. It is natural for 54. See id. at See Ja coby, supra note See Weigel, supra note 6, at Id. 58. See Eberstadt, supra note 37, at 3-4 (citing UNITED NATIONS POPULATION DIVISION, WORLD POPULATION PROSPECTS, THE 1996 REVISION (199 6)). 59. See id. 60. See Bolan d, supra note 40, at 1139 (disagreeing wit h embracing the doomsday approach,... [which] has led to major excesses and mistakes in the planning an d im ple me nt at ion of p opu lat ion p olicies an d pr ograms ); Ja coby, supra note 13 (decryin g th e influ ence of th e fearm onger s ); Ben J. Wat ten ber g, The Popu lat ion Ex plos ion Is O ver, N.Y. TIMES, Nov. 23, 1997, 6, at 60 (pointing to [t]hir ty yea rs of pe rs ist en t a la rm ).
12 769] FALLACIES OF POPULATION CONTROL 779 people to want to have ch ild ren ; pr ocrea tion is crucia l t o the survival of the s pe cies, a nd s trong popu la tion s a re ess en tia l for strong countries. In add it ion, people w ant to tea ch, train, love, and live with new people they help raise. Ha ving children allows parents to live on through their posterity. In order to shake off this natural (and positive) tendency, writers like Ehrlich use phrases such as population bomb, talk about explosions, and use oth er such em otiona lly charged langu age 61 to create a fear of having children. H ysterical wa rn ings ha ve been cha racter istic of the popu la tion red uction movem en t from the days of Malt hus to Ehrlich and the other neo-malthusians of our day. 62 There is something inher ently wrong with using fear t o promote a social program; such tactics are commonly associated with terrorism and oppression. In addition, the use of scare tactics can cause pa nic. Wh en convin ced of the da nger ous problem, fearful believer s begin advocating drastic policies in an attempt to save their world. 63 As is noted below, t his type of panic often motiva tes coercive progr ams a nd clea r abu se s of human rights. 64 Fin ally, wh en fully convin ced of t he n eed for popu lat ion reduction, adherents even begin to ign ore s trong eviden ce t o the contrary. 65 Even the fear that food supply is about to fall behind th e growt h of world popula tion ha s been persistently aired, despite the cont inu al increase in the amount of food per capita in th e world as a whole and in th e major undeveloped regions. 66 C. Coercion is th e Com m on Tool of Popula tion Reduction Programs Wor se yet, the common result of fear-induced populat ion reduction activis m has been mass ive, st ate-r un coercion. While Ehrlich may feel tha t repression has been seen in a rela tively 61. See Wat ten ber g, supra note See Weigel, supra note 6, at See Amar tya Sen, Fert ilit y an d C oercion, 63 U. CHI. L. REV. 1035, (199 6). 64. See infra Par t III.C. 65. See Weigel, supra n ot e 6, a t ( n ot in g i n po pu la t io n r ed u ct io n is t s a n imperviousness (eve n h ost ilit y) t o em pir ica l ev ide nce ). 66. Sen, supra note 63, at 1050.
13 780 BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [1999 few insta nces, 67 the record is replete with both blatant and subtle uses of governm ent pow er to force paren ts t o lim it or completely avoid having children. 1. Bla ta nt form s of coercion Blatant uses of force h ave ca use d t he m ost obvious human rights abuses. China s populat ion control program s based around it s one-ch ild policy ha ve received th e most focus in this area. Not all informa tion on Chinese enforcemen t is available, but sever al m eth ods are well document ed, including threats of force, r equir ed contracep tion or abor tion, and mass steriliza tion campaigns. 68 There ha ve also been denia ls of social benefits, dem otions at work, fines, and psychological pressures not to have childr en, as family and co-workers are asked to influ en ce wom en to use IU Ds, be st er ilized, or get abor tion s. 69 Family-planning officials once blew up th e home of a family with three children and threatened their neighbors that they would do th e sa me to them if they did not comply with government populat ion contr ol policies. 70 Another prime exam ple has been the use of forced ster ilization camps in India S ubtle form s of coercion More subtle, but nonetheless coercive, techniques abound. Indonesia s nation al gove rnmen t requir es it s villages to su bject couples contemplating more children to intense group peer pressur e. 72 Throughout the world, there is widespread misuse of technology such as giving long-lasting ant ifertility vaccines to those who don t underst and t he lon g-ter m result s of t he treatment. 73 Many family plann ing units operate under a set of incentives to population and health workers designed to motivate them to in du ce ot her in divid uals to adop t va riou s 67. Eh rl ich & Eh rlich, supra note 8, at See Bolan d, supra note 40, at See id. at See Sen, supra note 63, at See Bolan d, supra note 40, at See id. at See id. at
14 769] FALLACIES OF POPULATION CONTROL 781 forms of fam ily plann ing. 74 Despite the inn ocent approach to such pr ogr ams, many protes t that aggres sively r ecr uit in g for contraception or sterilizat ion pr ograms [is] inheren tly coercive. 75 Some have even advocated allowing abortion in any situa tion in which it is requested, under the theory that the absence of pr ohibition s, coupled wit h r igorous family plann ing, will result in a natural decrease in the total number of abortions. 76 Unfortunately, this does not always occur. This is not to say that people who want contraception should not be able to use it. But promoting contraceptive use as a mean s of solving the world s difficulties avoids confronting many real problems, and exacerbat es others. Moreover, campaigns to promote contraceptive use often come at the expense of programs which could support development and distribution of food and basic medical supplies N ew opinion s on coercion for pop ula tion control To its credit, th e ICPD in Ca iro explicitly r ejected coer cion in populat ion pla nn ing program s. 78 It concluded tha t coercive programs ha ve caused serious violations of human rights. The Programme of Action includes sever al sta tement s opposing t he use of coer cion. 79 The Conference delegates are to be commended for stating opposition to at least the more blat ant forms of coer cion ; however, subt le for ms a re n ot as likely to be eradicated. 74. Id. at Pa ula Abra ms, Population Con trol and S ustain ability: It s the S am e Old Song but w ith a Different Meanin g, 27 ENVTL. L , (199 7). 76. See Ha rda way, supra note 10, at Non-Western del ega te s t o th e IC PD ha ve p oin te d ou t t he considera ble incongr uit y. A Kenyan pediatricia n compla ined, We are r un ning out of vaccine. We ha ve no syr inges, no n eedles, no su lfa dr ugs, no pen icillin, yet our Family Welfare Centers never la ck birth -contr ol supplies. Sara h A. Rumage, Resisting the West: The Clin ton Ad m in ist rat ion s Pr om otion of Ab orti on a t the 1994 Cairo Conference and the S trength of the Islamic Response, 27 CAL. W. INT L L.J. 1, (1996). Another delegate decried Honduras ter rible sh orta ge of basic medicin es th ings lik e pen icillin and antibiotics but you can find the cabinets full of condoms, pills an d IU Ds. See id. 78. See Programm e, supra note 2, at Ch. II, Princ. 8 (stating th at [r]eproduct ive health-care pr ogr am me s s ho ul d p ro vid e t he wid es t r an ge of services wit hou t a ny form of coer cion ); see also id. 7.3, See id.
15 782 BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [1999 Unfortu nately, some voices oppose the ICPD s more humane stance and still push for more coercive programs. One ICPD critic declared that, [T]o the extent that this agenda aim s at totally non-coercive solu tion s to overpopulation, it is doomed from the start to som e de gr ee of failu re. We hav e sim ply wa ite d t oo long in that we do not ha ve en ough le ad -tim e left to m ak e tota lly volu nt ar y means work There can be litt le d oubt th at re du ction s of twent y-five to e igh ty pe rce nt w ill requ ire som e for m of coercion. 80 Fortunately, such voices appear to be in the minority. If there were indisput able evidence that specific disast ers would occur un less populat ion growth ra tes wer e dr astically an d imm ediately curbed, st rong mea sures might be warranted. But there is no such eviden ce. 81 The Cairo Conference members took a significant step in the right direction. The results of dramatic drops in birth ra tes sh ould cause them t o take t he next step: not promotin g popula tion reduction at all. D. Reductionist Policies Have Created New Dangers for the Near Future 1. Turning to depopulation Current population tren ds pose new da ngers. Evidence put forth by the U.N. s own World Population Prospects, The 1996 Revision, and updated by the 1998 Revi sion, suggests that the world s populat ion will pea k in our lifetimes, and then commen ce an indefinite decline. 82 As one writer notes, birthrates have fallen so far, so low, around the world that avoiding depopulation may be the next major concern. 83 The 1998 Revi sion reports: In pr act ically a ll countr ies of th e m ore de velop ed re gion s fert ility is significan tly below th e level n ecessary for the replacement of generations (TFR of approximat ely 2.1). In Christine E. Gu dorf, Gender and Culture in th e Glob ali za tion of B ioeth ics, 15 ST. LOUIS U. PUB. L. REV. 331, 340, 34 2 (19 96). 81. Boland, supra note 40, at See Eber sta dt, supra note 37, at See Wat ten ber g, supra note 60.
16 769] FALLACIES OF POPULATION CONTROL 783 of the m ore developed countries the TFR h as stayed at below-replacement level for at le ast tw o de cades. In the 1980s-1990s fer til ity has d ecr eased t o levels below replacement in s evera l countries from the less developed regions, includin g all countr ies in th e p opu lou s r egion of Eastern Asia (except Mon golia ). Ra pid fert ility t ra ns ition in South-eastern Asia and Latin America an d the Ca ribbean brings an incr ea sin g n um ber of deve lopin g countries close to that th re sh old: cur re nt ly the TFR is below 3 (but higher than 2.1) and decreasing in 34 countries with a combined population of 930 million people. 84 Only forty year s ago, the total fert ility r at e (or average number of child ren bor n per woman, per lifetime) was five. Birthrates in the United Sta tes have been below replacemen t level for twenty-five straight years. 85 Most of the n at ions of Europe are alrea dy in decline, with Italy dying off the fastest with only 1.2 children per couple. 86 Why should dr ops in world birth rates concern people? Baby busts, like ba by b ooms, ar e geomet ric. 87 Based on the current drops in bir th ra tes worldwide, th e next gener ation would be 30% smaller than ours. 88 While it is true that for a few more years, absolute increments 89 will increase the world population, 90 curr ent tr ends sh ow that depopu lat ion will begin by th e year 2040, and world population will shrink by at least 25% wit h ea ch succes sive gen er ation. 91 True, many in the more congested areas of the world might pr efer an emptier planet. But less than 3% of the earth s ice-free land is occupied by humans. 92 The Progra m m e of A ction, while recognizing th at populat ion rate is on the decline, 93 continues to emphasize the 84. United Nations 1998 Revision of the World Population Estimates and Project ion s, (visited J an. 22, 1999) <ht tp:// /1998.htm l>. 85. See Wat ten ber g, supra note See id. 87. See id. 88. See Eber sta dt, supra note 37, at This phrase is synonymous with population infusions on an an nual basis. 90. See Programm e, supra note 2, See Eber sta dt, supra note 37, at See KASUN, supra note 18, at See Programm e, supra note 2, 1.3.
17 784 BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [1999 short term population bulge, 94 and r ep ea ts t he n eed for continuing with population reduction policies. 95 The pos sibilit y of dep opu la tion sh ould con cern us. Losing population volunta rily i.e., before war, famine, disease and other causes t ak e th eir t oll work s again st the maintenance (and even su rviva l) of a sp ecies. Moreover, it brin gs with it a host of new problems for populat ions of the future. 2. Dram at ica lly agein g popu la tions One of the most obvious pr oblems caused by steep birthrate declines will be a dram at ic popula tion agein g. 96 Ageing populations will st ra in m edical syst ems in ma ny deve loping countries, which are still struggling to protect the health of younger age groups. 97 The Progra m m e of A ction itself recognizes recor d increa se s in pr opor tion and n umber of elder ly per sons. 98 The median a ge of the world s population in 1995 was estimated at twenty-five yea rs. According t o the U N s low variant model, t he m edia n age fifty years fr om now could be over forty-two. Ja pan s median a ge would be fifty-three; Germa ny s fifty-five; an d It aly s fifty-eigh t. 99 Cu rren tly, [t]he oldest count ry in th e world in 1998 is Ita ly, wit h 1.6 person s aged 60 or above for ea ch person below 15 years of age, followed by Greece, Japan, Spa in a nd Germa ny. 100 This tr end will weaken th e work force supportin g populations of the futur e. In 2050, it is likely that over half of a nation s workers will be over fifty. 101 With significan t in creases in elderly populat ions, the U N is now beginn ing to measure t he r apid growt h of octogenar ian s, nonagenarians and centenarians. In a r eport issu ed October 27, 1998, the report concluded: 94. See id See id See Th e State of the World Population 1998, The N ew Generations: Extending Life and Health (visited on Feb. 9, 1999) <htt p:// ary6. htm >. 97. Id. 98. Programm e, supra note 2, See Eber sta dt, supra note 37, at United Nations 1998 Revision of the World Population Estimates and Project ion s, supra note See Eber sta dt, supra note 37, at 16.
18 769] FALLACIES OF POPULATION CONTROL 785 In 199 8, 66 m illion persons in th e w orld we re ag ed 80 or over.... This nu m ber is exp ecte d t o increase almost 6 fold by t o re ach 370 m illion pe rs ons [J]u st 1.1 per cent of th e wor ld s pop ula tion are 80 years or old er, yet it is th e fa st est g row ing popu lation segment. 102 While the ability of the labor ma rket to provide for society undergoes a r elat ive decrease, th e costs of carin g for a geria tr ic population significantly rise. There will be litt le money t o support th is grayby boom. 103 First, [a]s the ratio of employees to retirees falls, a universal pa y-a s-you-go ret ir em en t syst em has on ly t hree opt ion s for preventing bankrupt cy: reduce pension benefits; raise taxes; or restrict eligibility. 104 Second, the cost of health car e will place a lar ge burden on governments and their already overtaxed workforce. The practical costs will become extr emely difficult to bear, es pe cia lly for developing n ation s w ho attem pt to provide Western -style health car e. 105 But population ageing will be a worldwide phenomenon, resultin g in an in ter na tional bidding war for scarce la bor res ources. As has happened throughout the world s history, p eople w ill migr ate t o the n ation s w it h the m ost favorable living and w orkin g con dition s. Th ir d, the n umber of children being born th at will su pport t ha t gr oup is in r elative decline. The proportion of children, less than 15 years old, declined from 34 per cent in 1950 to 30 per cent in 1998 while the proportion of older persons, aged 60 or over, increased from 8 to 10 per cent over the same period. By 2050, it is expected, accordin g to the medium variant projection, that the proportion of childr en will ha ve d eclined b y one-th ird of its 1998 level, to 20 per cent, and that the propor tion of older 102. United Nations 1998 Revision of the World Population Estimates and Project ion s, supra note Wat ten berg, supra note Eberstadt, supra note 37, at UNFPA Press Releas e, Ex pert W arn s Dev elopin g Cou nt ries on Cost of Western-style Social Security S ystems, as T echnical Meeting Enters Final Day, Oct. 9, ( v i s i t e d o n F e b. 9, ) <htt p:// essr oom/1988/agerel4.ht m>.
19 786 BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [1999 persons will h ave m ore th an dou bled, to 22 per cent, ex ceed ing the pr oportion of children Wor ld pop ula tion distributions Both migrant movement and the un even gr owth patt ern s in the world pop ula tion s w ill cause a sign ifica nt red istribu tion of world population. 107 In 1995, t he ratio of population between less developed an d mor e developed region s s tood a t abou t four to one; in 2050, by these projections, it would be seven to one. 108 As noted above, these populations will not only increase in their own spheres; labor vacuums in the developed world will also require E ur ope an d oth er Western nations to assume increasingly larger numbers of migrant populat ions. A shift in global power will occu r, 109 as na tions not bent on reduction will increase their numbers both domestically and in expatriate populations abroad. Many Western nations, convinced that they must rid th ems elves of their popu lat ion, will find t heir people becoming increasingly more scarce, u ntil th ere ar e relat ively few of th em left S on preference A problem found largely (but not exclusively) in China is the predominance of son preferen ce. 111 Parents in many societies who wan t only one ch ild are a ttem pt in g t o opt exclusively for boys, in order to both protect the family and carry on the family name. While the worst abuses of this are clearly in Chin a including the neglect of female children 112 or outright in fanticid e t he tech nological a bilit y t o deter min e t he ge nde r of the fet us is becom in g in crea singly ava ila ble through out the world. Coupled wit h authorizations by some governments for 106. United Nat ions 1998 Revision of the World Population Estimates and Project ion s, supra not e See Eber sta dt, supra note 37, at Id See id. at See Eber sta dt, supra note 37, at 10 (depicting the change in t he wor ld s most pop ul ou s cou nt ri es from to 2 050, in clu din g pr ed ict ion s t ha t h al f of th e cities in 2050 will be new and that Nigeria will have a gre at er population than the United States) See Bolan d, supra note 40, at See id. at 1149.
20 769] FALLACIES OF POPULATION CONTROL 787 abortion at will, there is a serious danger of creating a society with a large disproportion of boys to girls. 113 Such would not be mer ely a dating dilemm a; the number of possible mothers is directly rela ted to the n umber of child ren that may be bor n. Thus, ther e is the poten tia l for eve n more drast ic r ed uction s in population. 5. Wa rs, fa m in es, a nd epidem ics Perhaps most alarming (and least discussed among academics) is the fact that the U.N. predictions don t consider that catastrophes such as wars, famines or new epidemics will take place during the next hundred years. 114 The decisionmakers of the world ar e incr easingly th e post-war baby boomers, individua ls in th eir m id- to late-forties. One ma y suppose that many of these leader s are un accustomed t o large wars, which incur su bs tantia l h uman casu alt ies, sin ce few of them were alive to see the last world war. But the fact that a gen er ation ha s largely gone without war does not mean that future populations could not be reduced, even decimated, by regional or global wars. Unfortunately, such fighting usually kills the young, working-age population more th an any other demographic gr oup, thus e xa cer ba tin g t he proble m of supporting societ y s infrast ructure an d legions of the elderly with a reduced workforce. In addition, wh ile world wide fa min es m ay seem un likely, it is danger ous in long-range p la nnin g t o ass ume t hey w ill not occur. Mor eove r, t he poss ibilit y of n atural disast er s s hould not be taken lightly. The recurrence of earthquakes, hurricanes, and floodin g seems t o increase ever y year. Thousands have been wiped out in single events, and the number of people that will be harmed in future earthquakes has been estima ted in the million s. 115 Su rely ass er tin g t hat su ch will n ot happen again in populat ion projections is walking a very thin line. Even proposing th at na tu ra l disa sters in the future will not be worse than th ose we h ave alr eady experienced is a dangerous assumption See id. at Eberstadt, supra note 37, at 4 (quotin g UNITED NATIONS POPULATION DIVISION, WORLD POPULATION PROSPECTS, THE 1996 REVISION (199 6)) See Rick DelVecchio, R ead y or N ot, S.F. CHRON., Ja n. 10, 1999, at 1/Z1.
21 788 BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [1999 Finally, it is naive to suppose that no new epidemics will occur. Adm it ted ly, one ca n place con fiden ce in med ica l technology in solving such pr oblems. But solut ions are not always immediate. The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 that killed more th an twent y million people has yet t o be deciphered. 116 According to researchers, outbreaks of future viruses are not only as inevitable as an other California earthquake... [but] world health officials would not have the capacity to make the vaccine fast en ough to sa ve m illion s of lives if another deadly in flu en za vir us is u nlea sh ed upon a populat ion without immunity against it. 117 In contrast, populat ion in crea se s a re r ela tively s low, takin g years or decades to develop. So much for the principle of creatin g an enhanced quality of life for future genera tions. If popula tion decline continues to be purposeful and unabated, the chance increases that if natura l disa ster, disease, or serious war did hit, th e hu ma n r ace would be less equipped to su rvive it. A prime example of a real threat is an epidemic we are already familiar with AIDS. The 1998 Revision dem ons tr at es a dev as ta tin g m ort alit y toll from HIV/AID S. F or in stan ce, in t he 29 h ar des t-h it Afr ican countr ies, th e aver age life expectancy at birth is curr ent ly 7 years less th an it w ould ha ve be en in the absence of AIDS. The highest pr eva len ce of HI V in t he wor ld is currently in Botswana, wh er e on e of e very 4 adu lts is in fect ed. Life exp ect an cy at birth in Botswana is anticipated t o fall from 61 years in t o 41 y ea rs by Bas ed on th e Un ited Nations projections, Botswana s population by 2025 may be 23 per cent smaller than it would have been in the absence of AIDS. 118 AIDS is becoming a more serious pr oble m in area s ou tside of Africa. 119 At the very least, the AIDS epidemic illustr ates the need to consider current and potential disasters in deciding wh et her we sh ould further red uce t he s izes of ou r pop ula tion s See William Ha th awa y, Flu s Cl ues ; Sci ent ist s in Mer id en Racin g to Cra ck Cod e of a K ill er, H ARTFORD COURANT, Dec. 6, 1998, at A Id United Nations 1998 Revision of the World Population Estimates and Project ion s, supra note See id.
22 769] FALLACIES OF POPULATION CONTROL 789 Population reductionists may argue that decreases in populat ion will minim ize the incidence of war s, fam ines, and ep idem ics in th e future. Such disast ers m ay indeed harm larger numbers of people in the m ore den sely popu la ted area s of t he world. Nevertheless, cutt ing population num bers in the hopes that fewer catastr ophes will result is a dangerous gam e. Under that theory, the world would need to avoid significant catast rophes for nea rly t hir ty yea rs, since t he popula tion will continue to in crea se app roxim ately that lon g; if a catast roph e does occur, it could wip e ou t a vast number of the already scarce working and reproducin g sect ion of the popu la tion, leading to furth er depopula tion dangers. While it ma y ta ke twenty years to produce a viable parent, a large number of th em ma y be wiped out in a single day. 6. Lack of simple recovery from population decline Some have dism issed populat ion shrinkage, saying that [s]hould population decline become excessive in the next 50 years, promotion of childbirt h could be accomplished rela tively easily. 120 But there is really no theory that exp la in s h ow belowreplacement fertility rates will go back up. 121 In addition, some countr ies notably Sweden which are att empting t o encourage birth s by monetary incentives a nd tim e off, ar e finding th at [t]he ent icemen ts ar en t working... individua ls simply don t want the bother of caring for children. 122 Fin ally, in a time wher e people are prospering more than at any other time in history, many ar e sa ying t ha t t hey do not ha ve enough money to have children. 123 Teaching people that children cost too much to allow us to have the quality of life we want may have damaging results that are difficult to overcome. E. The Anti-natalist Devaluation of Life 120. G. Mack enzie Gordon, Edit oria l, The Popu lat ion Ex plos ion is O ver, N. Y. TIMES, Dec. 14, 1997, 6, a t 20 (r espon ding t o Wat ten ber g, supra no te 60) See Wat ten ber g, supra note Birth Dearth, RICHMOND TIMES DISPATCH, Aug. 3, 1998, at A See Wat ten ber g, supra not e 60 ; see also Justice Geor g Fr. Rieber -Mohn, The Dis solu tion of Cor e Va lu es: Devel opm ent of Cr im e an d S ociety in Postwar S candina via with an Em phasis on Norwegian Circumstances, BYU L. REV. 1629, (1998) (noting h igh consu mpt ion levels in Norwa y, coupled wit h increasing parental detachment fro m c hi ldr en ).