Wednesday, August 24, 2005


Mistaken Population Growth Assumptions

The Population Reference Bureau has released its 2005 World Population Data Sheet, which predicts that population will continue growing significantly throughout much of the world. According to the FAQ, their calculations are based on “assumptions about current and future fertility, mortality, and migration.” But nowhere do I find anything about oil availability.

It appears that the PRB people have overlooked the most important factor, which is the availability of oil. In other words, unstated in their assumptions is that oil will continue to be available in its present quantities and prices. World population in both the developed and developing parts of the world has outstripped the Earth’s ecological capability to produce enough food because we are all eating oil. But as the price of oil climbs, we are already seeing shortages develop in the poor countries because they are unable to buy as much oil as before. As oil gets more expensive, poor countries will also be less able to import food, and food exporting nations will be less able (and probably less willing) to export it, especially at prices low enough for poor countries to afford, or even as food aid.

Consequently, unless oil becomes cheap and widely available even to poor countries — which is highly unlikely — less oil will mean less food, and instead of the population growth predicted by PRB, we will see mass starvation affecting the poor countries first, and later even the rich ones.

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