Has the Population Growth Rate Passed the Economic Potential for Job Growth?

Are the chickens of the population explosion coming home to roost?  An Associated Press article today covered the employment situation in the United States, where the addition of 150,000 jobs in the last month barely matched the increase in the population.  It occurred to me that these new people in the population will themselves have children someday, and that in the near future we may see the population growth consistently exceeding the addition of jobs by higher and higher margins.  This suggests large and increasing numbers of people will be unemployed, and the middle class will be driven into poverty by the simple mathematics of the population explosion.  In addition, conservative attacks on unions and public schools means the middle class will be less well educated and increasingly powerless before corporations larger and more powerful than most countries.

Politicians won’t speak of it, and billionaires and corporations are only interested in next year’s profits.  It is frightening that neither the media nor government or corporate leaders will discuss this problem, since the longer we wait to deal with the population explosion the worse things will become.  In addition, if this is already happening in the United States, what might be happening in the smaller and poorer countries with much higher rates of population growth? 

The powerful have no sensitivity to the most critical problem of our time.  The naturally greedy, short-sighted corporations and billionaires living in extreme, carefree luxury have nothing to make them think about this huge problem, apparently, even as we cross one threshold after another on a course that will mean global disaster of epic proportions unless we start working against it immediately.  Conservatives, too, are immersed in relatively petty endeavors aimed at increasing their political power at the expense of everyone else, or forcing their primitive and unthinking religious beliefs down everyone else’s throats, against the US constitution, in fact (though they have no compunctions about “wrapping themselves in it”).

Was Sir Thomas Malthus right?  The original Malthusian notion of the apocalypse hinged on population growing exponentially while farmland grew in a linear way, leading to eventual famine as available farmland fell farther and farther behind the population.  Today we are seeing parallels in a number of areas: the steady increase in new highways and other infrastructure even as parts such as 50,000 bridges are failing or getting ready to fail is one.  Conservatives undermining the public education system works against the changes we need to make to save billions – yes, I said billions – of lives in the next century.  Another is the increasing dependence on the use of long transportation routes to bring us the goods we use and food we eat, even as fossil-based energy sources become more scarce and expensive and transportation systems are threatened by terrorists and political opponents.  The increasingly desparate search for new energy sources is clearly seen in the pursuit of oil deposits in shale and sand that was, until recently, considered too expensive and too dirty to be worth mining.

We can expect to pass more, similar thresholds and see average incomes declining first, followed by declining average physical and mental health, and eventually rising poverty and hunger, if current trends aren’t reversed.  The urgency of the need to raise the consciousness of politicians and the electorate about this critical problem continues to increase, but we may not see open recognition of the problem, let alone any serious action, until the situation gets much worse and repeated major disasters get the attention of the masses.   Saying that makes me very sad, as it means a great many will die premature deaths, and a great many more will live in poverty and ignorance in the next few decades.  I fear for my children and grandchildren as well as everyone else, and I have to ask the question I’ve been asking for years: Are we smart enough as a species to face and deal with the greatest problem in our history?  If not, I shudder to think of what is to come.

As always, I welcome your comments.  — Tim


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