Those scary, reproducing brown billions: a primer on population boom alarmism

The panic is coming, y’all.

In the past few weeks, there’s been a resurgence of population boom alarmism and photo journalism of lots of brown folk taking over the planet. All this comes on the heels of revisions to the population projections by the UN Development Program. Which, if one READS them, say that in fact there is a decline in fertility rates in many countries and that there is in fact a complicated picture being painted here. According to Hania Zlotnik, director of the UN Population Division, “the population as a whole is on a path toward nonexplosion—which is good news.”

Now, that’s not to say that over-consumption and environmental sustainability aren’t problems. But there are major problems with laying the blame of overpopulation on the shoulders of women and men of childbearing years who live in the global south. What happens when we do that, you ask? Well, population control programs emerge and they try to drive down birth rates as quickly and cheaply as possible. They do this through aggressively promoting sterilization or long-acting, provider-controlled contraceptives without acknowledging that education and access to basic health care, as well as birth control and abortion are vital for public health. Seriously, if you want to have a host of brilliant responses the next time you’re at a dinner party and someone says something uninformed about the population boom, read this.

Or you could say what I say (only somewhat tongue-in-cheek): the main problem our planet is facing is not, in fact, more poor babies in the global south, but is rather the collusion of unsustainable wars, uncritical capitalism, a disregard for human rights and most reality-tv programming. But that’s just me.

Join the Conversation