Population, Resources and Ecology:
A Bibliographical Essay
The earliest study available to this reviewer which sought to dispel the present fog of Malthusian propaganda is a scholarly work by British agronomist Cohn Clark, Starvation or Plenty? (Taplinger Publishing Co., New York, 1970, hard cover, 180 pp. incI. recommended book list and index, 1970 price $4.95). Dr. Clark was formerly Director of Agricultural Economics at the Research Institute of Oxford, and at the time of publication was a Fellow of the Econometrics Society. Dr. Clark served as consultant to the governments of India and other underdeveloped nations, and to the Vatican and the United Nations. The book is filled with important basic facts about nutrition, agricultural production, the role of transportation and economics in feeding a population, and with various statistical tables concentrating upon the developing countries. Perhaps the most important fact shown by Dr. Clark is the increase in agricultural production possible with the use of present maximum efficiency. Dr. Clark writes:
The potential agricultural area of the world . . . could provide for the consumption. . of 31.1 billion people. . This. . is on the assumption of the general use of agricultural methods already practiced by the average farmer in the Netherlands or similar countries, without allowing for any further improvements in agricultural technology, for any provision of food from the sea, or for any extension of present systems of irrigation. (pp.159-160)
This book is in no sense visionary or even palpably optimistic but soberly factual. It is just for this reason that it deserves to be taken seriously. Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer's thoughtful little book, Pollution and the Death of Man: The Christian View of Ecology (Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, IL 1970, pb., 125 pp.i presents a balanced view of Christian stewardship over the rest of nature. Dr. Schaeffer, founder of L'Abri Fellowship and author of such groundbreaking works of Biblical creation philosophy as How Shall We Then Live? and Whatever Happened to the Human Race?, needs no special introduction to most of our readers. What is surprising to some in retrospect, perhaps, is that Dr. Schaeffer based his view of ecology squarely upon biblical creation before the contemporary CreationiSt movement had as yet taken wide hold among the public. Here is how he begins the pivotal chapter of his book on ecology, appropriately named "The Christian View; Creation;"
The beginning of the Christian view of nature is the concept of creation; that God was there before the beginning and God created everything out of nothing. From this, we must understand that creation is not an extension of the essence of God. Created things have an existence in themselves. They are really there.
Whitehead, Oppenheimer, and others have pointed out that modern science was only born out of a surrounding consensus of historic Christianity. Why? Because, as Whitehead has emphasized, Christianity believes that God has created an external world that is really there and because He is a reasonable God, one can expect to be able to find the order of the universe by reason he understands that there would never have been modern science without the biblical view of Christianity. (p.47)
From this belief in biblical creation and the God of biblical creation out of nothing follows not only the birth of modern science but also rejection of pantheism and pantheist-monist notions about nature, and loving respect for all created things as the precious, wonderful, and really valuable handiwork of the personal-infinite God. We have pollution and contempt for our environment today because today "(t)he wonder is all gone. Man Sits in his autonomous, 'decreated' world, where there are no universals and no wonder in nature. Indeed, in an arrogant and egoistic way, nature has been reduced to a 'thing' for man to use and exploit." (p.89)
Schaeffer adds a warning;
But I must be clear that lam not loving the tree or whatever is standing in front of me, for a pragmatic reason. It will have a pragmatic result, the very pragmatic results that the men involved in ecology are looking for. But as a Christian I do not do it for the practical or pragmatic results; I do it because it is right and because God is the Maker; and then suddenly things drop into place. (p.90)
The book contains an appendix with articles by Lynn White, Jr. and by Richard L. Means. These articles are explicitly blaming supposed arrogance and a mechanistic view of nature claimed to be inherent in orthodox Christianity for the abuse of nature in Western societies, Schaeffer, of course, attempts to persuade the authors and those sharing their misconceptions about Christianity that truly Biblical creation-based Christianity is neither arrogant nor mechanistic about God's creation.
Perhaps the first book directly and unequivocally tackling the false prophets of doom by excessive population from the Biblical creation perspective was Rousas John Rushdoony's The Myth of Over-Population (The Craig Press, Nutley, NJ 1971, probably still available through Chalcedon, P.O. Box 158, Vallecito, CA 95251; pb., 58 pp. mcI. an important Appendix "Biblical References to Fertility and Population," and another Appendix on "The Cultural Drop-Outs"). It contains a most informative and concise partial summary of the past history of "over-population" relative to local food supplies. The American Indians suffered from "over-population" in this sense before the coming of the white man although "they had the wealth of the Americas at their disposal" (p.2) due to their total dependence upon hunting, a very unstable source for food. Fourteen famine crises struck England during the 13th century (p.3-4), one of which lasted for no less than 23 years.
Rushdoony quotes the following factors cited by Cornelius Waltord as particularly significant in causing famine:
1 The prevention of cultivation or the willful destruction of crops;
2. Defective agriculture caused by communistic control of land;
3. Governmental interference by regulation or taxation;
4. Currency restrictions, including debasing the coin. (p.5)
The continued dependence of such countries as the Soviet Union upon foreign grain production bears this out; "(socialism decreases production and. . is a means of population control with respect to the productive middle classes socialism increases population among the lower classes by means of its welfare subsidies A third impact of socialism on population then becomes its effort to control and limit population." (p.11)
Rushdoony gives representative quotes from the dire warnings about future scarcity, pollution and over-population rampant in the news media in the 1960s, as well as samples of suggested remedies appalling in scope and ruthlessness. All this was going on while the birthrate in the developed countries was already declining and while rural areas were emptying into the large metropolitan areas, and while per capita food supply in the developing countries was in fact steadily rising.
In addition to the four statist causes for famine cited above Rushdoony lists a fifth aspect of population control which
is the necessary pre-condition to the other four modes of control. This is the destruction of Christian orthodoxy, the attack on Biblical faith. The elite scientific planners, as the new gods of creation, are increasingly entrusted with more and more religious authority over man. In the new morality, man is the prime experimental animal and is to be used, bred, and moved as the elite planners determine. (pp.37-38)
A final chapter deals with the supposedly mechanical growth of population as though people's underlying values and beliefs were totally irrelevant to fertility, productivity and physical well-being.
In the appendices Rushdoony emphasizes God's creation and law-word as the foundation of God's ownership of the earth entailing a "blessed fertility" for God's people and a "cursed fertility" for all who reject Him and His law-word. He refers to the "cultural drop-out" movements of our day assigns of the decline of modern secular humanism.
As legalized abortion became part of official United States population policy, dissemination of factual information about population trends became yet more difficult. Thus Dr. Cohn Clark's book Population Growth: The Advantages (1972), and Robert L. Sassone's Handbook on Population (1973) were both published by Mr. Sassone (900 North Broadway, Santa Ana, CA 92701). In the first, Dr. Clark points out the many glaring. factual errors in Paul Ehrlich's bestseller The Population Bomb. and also in the prestigious Club of Rome's widely quoted publication The Limits of Growth. Clark and Sassone emphasize the wealth of world material resources, buttressed by many statistical data.
Both also remind the reader of the many advantages and indeed essential long-run social need for an increasing and largely young population. Both books devote considerable space to a thorough discussion of pollution and the ecological environment; numerous examples of pollution cleanup are given, and population density is shown to be clearly irrelevant to the much touted but all too vague concept of the "quality of life." The chapter "Population Growth and Economic Prosperity" in Clark's book is particularly well reasoned and substantiated. The strength of Sassone's book is the arrangement of subject matter for the convenience of a speaker or debater with relatively little preparation time, and the book is a veritable gold mine of easily accessible food and industrial resource statistics.
James A. Weber's Grow or Die ! (Arlington House Publishers, New Rochelle, NY 1977, hardcover, 255 pp. mcI. excellent Notes and Indexi is a far more comprehensive work than those discussed before, and it draws upon the author's thorough research of six years. There is an interesting footnote (Chapter 1, 2, p.21 7) which cites calculations about population increase since the advent of man both for supposed evolutionist assumptions of one million years of human history, and for the approximate Biblical creation date of human life beginning "with only two people 10,000 years ago," The author shows that only 0.13 percent average annual growth rate would have been needed to arrive at our present (1977) world population of 4 billion. On the one-million-year evolutionist basis the rate of growth would have been only 0.0015 percent (fifteen per million), or "exceedingly small." Creationists and others should compare this note to the population statistics calculated by Dr. Henry Morris in the standard creationist handbook, Scientific Creationism (1974 hardback edition, pp.167-169). Here Dr. Morris shows that
the creation model of human chronology fits the facts very well and is, in fact, quite conservative. There is more than enough room in the model to allow long periods of time when, because of war or pestilence, the population growth rates were far below the required averages.
The evolution model, on the other hand, with its million-year history of man, has to be strained to the breaking point. It is essentially incredible that there could have been 25,000 generations of men with a resulting population of only 3,5 billion..
Even if the population were assumed to grow so slowly that it would only reach 3,5 billion in a million years, it is still true that at least a total of 3,000 billion people would have lived and died on the earth in the past million years. Therefore, it is incredible that today there would be so little fossil or cultural evidence of ancient man preserved as is actually the case, (pp.168-169)
This point is important when assessing the supposed present "population explosion" because standard Malthusian-oriented discussions usually begin with a Supposed world population growth curve assuming man's long evolutionary history.
Weber begins with a good summary and discussion or refutation of the book which is the fountainhead of so much error about population trends today, Thomas Robert Malthus's Essay on the Principle of Population (first edition published 1798). "Malthus," Weber writes, "viewed population growth from the wrong end of the telescope. He believed that population growth is not a cause but a result of human betterment It was (the) subsistence level that held back and, in effect, determined the population level." (p. 16) "However," Weber continues,
the history of the past few centuries constitutes a complete refutation of Malthus' views. There is no way that Malthusian dogma can be used to explain the rapid population growth and even more rapid rise in living standards that have occurred throughout the world during the past several centuries, especially in advanced countries such as the United States. (p.17)
In fact Maithus used the United States as a principal example to substantiate his theory, for here, during Malthus' lifetime, the population was growing at a rate of 3 percent per year and doubling every twenty-five years. Therefore Malthus assumed the United States would meet with economic doom. Yet the United States not only survived but greatly prospered, although multiplying from 4 million two centuries ago to 210 million today.
Weber points out that Malthus tempered his views in subsequent editions of his book, writing in its fifth edition published in 1817: "From a review of the state of society in former periods, Compared with the present, I should certainly say that the evils resulting from the principle of population have rather diminished than increased." (p. 17) Neventheless, the Malthusian simplistic and mechanistic formula, asserting that the "unchecked" human sex drive always operates like an instinctive biological force and multiplies people at a geometrical rate while subsistence increases only at an arithmetical ratio, is essentially still the rationale underlying population explosion propaganda. (p.161)
What Weber does not say is that the Malthusian formula is part and parcel of simplistic and mechanistic Deism and also of impersonal monistic evolutionism (the two are closely related, one leading to the other), and this is why Malthusianism still is intuitively acceptable to our own opinion leaders today.
The Biblical creation perspective on the other hand begins with the personal Creator-God Who created man in His own image and likeness as a person, not as an instinct or environment-driven machine, and proclaims that this God made man vice-regent, and not subject, of the rest of His creation. This view, and this view alone, accounts for man's mastery of the rest of nature. a mastery always evident in recorded history but never more so than with the development of modern science which was itself the product of biblical creation thought (see discussion of Francis Schaeffer's book above). This view, and this view alone, does justice to man's uniqueness and mode of action.
Weber's book concentrates on U.S. population growth as he seeks primarily to counter the Zero Population Growth propaganda so predominant in the United States in the 1970s. All chapters are well written and relevant, but probably Chapter 2 on population growth and economic progress, and Chapter 8 on the ideology of population control are most important. In Chapter 2, Weber lists the beneficial results of increasing population as (1) population redistribution and thus opening up of frontier areas; (2) creation of new knowledge and technology such that while population over the last 250 to 300 years has grown at rates up to 2 percent annually, international growth of new scientific knowledge grew at an annual, exponential rate of 7 percent (p.23); (3) an absolutely larger number of talented people is produced; (4) interdependence of knowledge produces a "snowballing effect" of new knowledge; (5) creative effort flourishes best in the presence of numerous groups with frequent and intensive contact and greater specialization; (6) increasing population means a younger population, and this means there is greater openness and awareness to potential technological application of new knowledge; (7) population growth encourages entrepreneurship bV creating expanding markets and discouraging stagnation; (8) investment errors are minimized; (9) greater savings are encouraged by the arrival of children, and thus there is greater investment capital; (10) reduced per capita capital requirements (such as for transport Systems or schools) are due to increasing population; (11) economic flexibility is increased, which also increases worker mobility within a country and within the world (and a largely young population is able and willing to be mobile); (12) there is increased division of labor or "increased economies of scale;" (131 there is a labor force of higher economic quality and productivity; (14) there is not only increased consumer demand, but greater responsiveness to new goods.
Weber refers to the experience of France, a country with very slow or stagnant population growth for well over a century. The French sociologist Alfred Sauvy commented that a "population without children does not believe in the future and can hardly be expected to have the pioneering spirit. . . The fewer children the Frenchman had, the less inclined he was to capital venture. Peguy called the father of several children the adventurer of modern times, and this was no joke." (p.26) It is no exaggeration to add that fathers and mothers of several children in America today are not only adventurers but unsung heroes, defying the ugly pressure of misled public opinion every day. At the root of their courage and perseverance one usually finds the desire to "let God be true, but every man a liar" in that God's creation mandate to be fruitful and multiply and have dominion over the earth is still fully valid today, in that the fruit of the womb is His reward (Psalm 127:3), and in that we should unreservedly and literally offer our bodies to our Lord, "which is our reasonable service" (Romans 12:1). (As a godly pastor from a family of seventeen children put it to this reviewer: "If we persevere, and if our enemies persevere in their limitation of children, we shall inherit the earth by sheer numbers!" It was meant partially in humor, but think it over.)
Chapter 8 goes into the ideology of Zero Population Growth advocates. Weber makes an excellent case for his view that "the ideology of population control is concerned not so much with population as with controL" (p190) After reading his data which supplement similar material cited by Rushdoony (see above), one cannot help but agree with Weber that "(w)hat population control boils down to is a blatant and brutal attempt to solve problems not by alleviating the conditions that cause them, but by eliminating the people who have the problems.. . . But where the State promotes contraception, sterilization, abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia on demand or command, we find not only fewer people but the depravity of a Nazi Germany or the dissolution of society such as in the latter stages of the Roman Empire. For these population control 'tools of the trade' are not a medium for increasing human happiness but a method of committing national suicide." (p. 191)
Lastly, let us turn to the most recently published book on population and resources, Julian L. Simon's The Ultimate Resource (Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ 1980. hardcover. 415 pp. including excellent Notes, Source Notes for Figures, ample bibliography, and an excellent Index). Because this book is the most recent one, is published by a "prestige" publisher, and is undoubtedly the most thoroughly researched to date, it will serve as a fine reference for anyone attempting to write on population and resources in a balanced manner, and especially for those who already hold to the author's explicit optimism (based on the facts) about population and resources. Simon's work repeats and vastly enlarges upon almost every point made by all the books we have discussed earlier, and it does so with an unbelievable wealth of quotes, tables and statistics from original sources. We will therefore not quote much from this book, despite the fact that we consider it absolute "must" reading for informed students of the issues. It is worth, however, to quote the following Section from Simon's introduction:
You may look skeptically at some of the data I give such as Statistics showing that world per capita food production and consumption are going up, even in poor countries, year by year. You may ask, "But what about the evidence that supports what everyone 'knows' that the world is headed toward Starvation and famine?" In this case, the simple fact is that there are no other data. The data presented here on food are UN and U.S. government data, the only data there are. If UN and U.S. officials often make statements inconsistent with these data, it is because they have not looked at them, or because they are purposely disregarding them. (pp.8-9)
Two points perhaps only hinted at in earlier books are that (1) immigration does not harm a country; "on balance, immigrants contribute more to the economy than they take, in the U.S. and most other places" (p.8), and (2) both foreign and domestic campaigns to reduce fertility and birthrates are heavily financed by U.S. taxpayers' funds, supposedly because this is in the economic self-interest of our country. "But," Simon points out, "no solid economic data or analyses underlie this assertion" and "it has not been proven... that this policy . . will keep additional poor people off the welfare rolls" (p.7). Simon's Chapter 21 "The Politics and Finances of Population Control" presents incontrovertible and copious data showing U.S. tax money financing of such MalthuSian propagandists as Planned Parenthood, AID, and United Nations agencies promoting similar goals.
It is interesting that Simon holds to his views apparently primarily because he believes in full individual freedom (to have, or not to have children), as evidenced by his explicit belief in "pro-abortion-freedom" (p. 301), and because he views "the relevant part of the physical and social universe as open for most purposes" (p.347) whatever that may mean to him. To Christian creation believers it would mean that there is our God/Creator/Sustainer outside and above the created universe which is in this sense "open." However Simon may understand his "open" universe ultimately (he uses "number of variations ultimately produced by biological evolution" as an example of the "unlimited resource system" in which he believes), his optimism based on his belief may with much greater validity apply to Biblical creationists. For our "ultimate resource" is the personal-infinite God Who created all things and Who cares for and sustains each and every one of His creatures (and primarily us whom He made in His own image) moment by moment.