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Population, Populationism, and Populationists
June 21, 2020
by William P. Meyers

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As I write the world resembles Hell for at least 1 billion and probably 2 billion people. The exact number depends on exactly how one defines Hellish conditions. That is more people than the entire human population in 1800, around the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. On the other hand, if means between 5 billion and 6 billion people, of the world's currently over 7 billion people, are not living in hellish conditions.

I must begin this essay with some definitions, because I will use at least one word differently that it has been used in the past. It is not a common word. I believe adopting my usage will make things clearer, which is the purpose of language.

Populationism will be used for the system of thought arguing that growing the global human population is a good, positive thing.

Anti-populationism means the system of thought arguing that growing the global human population is a bad, negative thing, and may be extended to those who believe the global population is too large and should be reduced.

A populationist is someone who believes in or promotes populationism. An anti-populationist is someone who believes in or promotes anti-populationism.

Causes of Population Growth

Population in Billions, milestones
Population 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Year 1804 1927 1960 1974 1987 1999 2012 2027

If you look at the above table, and know some history, you can understand the reasons for the population for the earth growing from 1 billion around 1800 to nearly 8 billion now. In 1800 the industrial revolution was still at an early stage. China was the richest, most economically developed country in the world. While farmers had built up considerable knowledge over the centuries, all farm work was done by hand or with animal power. Medicine was primitive. During the 1800s farming began to be mechanized. Previously forested lands were cut down and converted to farms, while new irrigation systems also allowed for increased food production. Doctors discovered cleanliness and some disease vectors. Steam engines came into widespread use, and by the end of the century electricity was in use. Still, infant and adult mortality kept the human population somewhat in check. That ended with the introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s, leading to the population hitting 3 billion around 1960. The Green Revolution, with widespread use of industrially produced fertilizers, allowed this population to be fed.

By 1960 there were very clear results of overpopulation showing up in the world, but those who wanted to obfuscate had plenty to work with. Famines were nothing new, and could be blamed on unfair or inefficient food distribution systems. Dying birds could be blamed on DDT. Pollution of water and air could be cleaned up by new industries. Anti-populationist arguments became popular in the 1960s, but there was no immediate global catastrophe for humans, so they lost prioritization in most human cultural bubbles over time.

Populationism: Who Benefits

Who benefits from an increased population? Benefits come in a variety of forms. Cultures may place importance on the number of descendants in a family. But the big drivers are probably economic. The real estate industry obviously benefits as the price of land is driven up by increasing population. Any industry that wants to sell more, and that is about every industry, will want more people to sell their goods and services to. At the pinnacle the stock market is highly dependent on growing profits for its value. Political leaders too tend to like growth. Historically states with fast growing populations have been able to conquer or absorb states with small, flat or declining populations. The history of the United States, for instance, is largely the history of people of European descent breeding very rapidly, allowing continuing encroachment on native American peoples whose populations could not grow quickly. Religious leaders may prefer to try to grow their cults by encouraging large families when they are failures at conversion.

Given that there are specific people, groups of people, and businesses that benefit from populationism, there is reason to believe that they would put some energy into promoting a populationist agenda. This could include technological promises, like saying that food and energy production can continue to increase, despite known problems. But it also has come to include measures meant to infiltrate and confuse people who might otherwise become active anti-populationists.

Derailing Anti-Populationism

While single issue groups exist, most political, cultural and religious groups have beliefs on a multitude of issues. Here I will present a examples of groups that should be in the anti-populationist camp, but that have been (at least significant sections of them) maneuvered by corporate operatives into being populationist or at least quiet on the issue.

Animal Rights and Vegetarianism. The number of wild animals in the world has plummeted since 1800, and continues to plummet. Most non-human animals alive today are food animals for humans, focussed on a few species: chickens, cows, pigs, and sheep. The main cause of animal extinction and population reduction is human population growth. But rather than address the real problem, most animal rights advocates have adopted an anti-animal husbandry, pro-vegetarian or vegan agenda. Their leaders, many of them secretly in the pay of populationist organizations, claim that, by eliminating meat from human diets, enough food (grains & beans)will be freed up to allow billions more people to live on the earth.

Women's Rights groups have helped to slow human population expansion, but populationists have found leverage, saying the right to not reproduce (using birth control or abortion) implies the right to reproduce, no matter what the consequences. On the whole pro-choice groups are helping, but they hinder anti-populationist progress when they do not speak out on what really needs to be done about global (and U.S.) overpopulation.

Environmentalists have tended to be in the anti-populationist camp, but of course there are many environmentalist groups and some leaders are easily bought off with corporate money (laundered mainly through foundations) to minimize the critique of human population. This comes out most clearly in specific sectors like energy. The energy industrialists are not so much in love with oil or coal as with profits. They are happy to profit from solar and wind energy, but they cannot if energy demand goes down, making all new energy sources uneconomical. While energy demand can be increased per person, it is difficult to keep energy demand rising if the human population is falling. Environmentalist are herded by industrialists into focusing on wind and solar plants, rather than on reducing both energy demand per person and the number of persons making those demands.

Socialists have proven to be self-factioning and easy to manipulate. Capitalists have had no problem getting socialists to adopt populationist stances. Socialist leaders tend to be about power, and they know the more people under their thumb, the more power they can wield.

Unions are good for their members, but often are willing to sacrifice the environment or the general good of society to favor their own well-being. Thus, for instance, union workers at nuclear facilities seldom oppose nuclear power. Nor do construction worker unions think that reversing population growth, and limiting the construction industry to repairing old buildings, is good for their members. Generally if a union takes a populationist stand it is a reflection of the stand the capitalists of its industry work with.

Anti-racist groups. Almost everyone who has argued for an anti-populationist position in any of the groups of this discussion has likely been told that is a racist position. This is the most brilliant tactic the industrial populationists could have come up with. Liberals, progressives, and environmentalists all hate to be labeled as racist. It is the sit down and shut up argument of the movement. Of course racists could be anti-populationists, and hope to promote their own racial (or ethnic or other) group by minimizing the population of their perceived enemies. But anti-populationism is a response to the limits of the Earth, and it should be possible to apply it equitably. I am going to start calling out the people who cry racism to shut up discussion about population planning for what they are: corporate shills. I expect things to get ugly, but we need to be clear on the issues in order to have any chance of saving the earth.


If you are fact-based, you are an anti-populationist. If you are an anti-populationist, you know government planning is needed to stop population growth and deal with the economic consequences. The specifics of how to stop population growth and get it on a path towards a sustainable level is, and should be, open to debate.

On the positive side, it helps to have a positive vision of the future. For that see the Wonderful World of One Billion.

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