Global Ethics Corner: The Challenge of Population Growth

July 15, 2011

Headlines proclaim, "World population forecast to surge."

Any response may plunge us into polar debates between pro-life and pro-choice forces. These shouting matches mask a fundamental question: are population concerns a matter of public policy or personal choice?

Countries like Italy, Japan, and Taiwan have population growth rates well below replacement numbers, and have passed policies promoting larger families.

Policies can also be implemented which try to restrain population growth.

Of course, population decisions are also highly individual decisions about procreation and family.

Justin Gillis and Celia Dugger report in the International Herald Tribune, "The population of the world, long expected to stabilize at just more than nine billion in the middle of the century, will instead keep growing and may hit 10.1 billion by the year 2100..."

More people and improved living standards put immense strains on resources. Regional conflicts occur. Social inequality intensifies between and within countries.

Even assuming enough food, water, energy, and raw materials to sustain ten billion people, what is the likely quality of life for the poorest billions?
The control of population by some ethical means might be a matter of public policy for international organizations, donors, and countries facing population explosions. But Gillis and Dugger point out that population policy often stagnates in ideological debate.

What do you think? Are population issues fundamental concerns of public policy? How aggressively should policy intervene?

By William Vocke

For more information see:

Justin Gillis and Celia W. Dugger, "World population forecast to surge," International Herald Tribune, May 5, 2011, p. 4.

Photo Credits in order of Appearance:

Ahron de Leeuw
Dave Herholz
Yakiim Sem
Yoshikazu TSUNO
Devon Holllahan
Emmanuel DYAN
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