Does the World Really Need More Babies?

Commentary By Dr. Ben Zuckerman
Professor of Astronomy at the University of California

The current issue of Science Magazine has published the following letter from Dr. Ben Zuckerman. It is in Science 29 September 27 Vol. 313. no. 5795, pp. 1885 - 1886
DOI: 10.1126/science.313.5795.1885c


Does the World Really Need More Babies?

To see an article like "The baby deficit" (M. Balter, Special Section: Life Cycles, News, 30 June, p.1894 in a magazine such as Business Week, or The Economist, or Sociology Today would not be surprising, but how could Science publish such an article?

The thrust of this four-page article is captured in the sentence "Population losses could bring a raft of negative economic consequences in the industrialized world, as well as greater stresses on social security and health care systems as the proportion of older citizens increases."

The word "environment" never once appears in the article. With the biosphere on the brink of multiple disasters or even catastrophe, how can Science - the publisher of numerous reports on energy, climate change, and species extinction - write so extensively about "baby deficits" without mentioning overpopulation in an environmental context?

Our species is presently responsible for the worst mass extinction event of the past 65 million years. If recent reports of imminent and rapid destruction of the entire Amazon rainforest - due to activities like logging, burning, and agriculture accompanied by prolonged drought from anthropogenically induced climate change - turn out to be accurate, then our species may ultimately become responsible for the worst mass extinction in the entire history of life on Earth. Viewed in this light, a rapid and massive decline in human numbers due to a "baby deficit," although perhaps accompanied by some short-term economic and social pain for some people, would be a blessing for millions of species on Earth, including our own.

Dr. Ben Zuckerman

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The Baby Deficit