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Population Growth Is
Caused by Renaissances
by Paul Gallagher

Fidelio, Vol. II ,No, 4. Winter 1993

This article is reprinted from the Winter 1993 issue of FIDELIO Magazine.

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Population Growth is Caused by Renaissances

by Paul Gallagher

The most fundamental fact of the science of economics, is the history of the growth of the population of the human race, in numbers and power over nature. But it is almost always presented as shown in Figure 1,

as if we have been a species of rabbits breeding according to a mathematical function, which is now rapidly approaching its limit.

This is a hoax, created visually by the absurd choice of scale, and made believable by constant propaganda about a “population bomb.”

The truth is shown in Figure 2:

The actual growth of the population and population density of the human race, of which only the past 3,000 years is graphed here, is expressed by distinct impulses—one of which is clearly of a different quantity and quality than the preceeding impulses—surrounded by periods of stagnation or even decline which may last hundreds of years. But because of these impulses of sustained and rapid increase in population density, the general progress is upward, and the truly long-lasting, powerful and successful growth in human population and population density is shown by the last impulse. Upon these impulses, and above all upon the last one, depend the existence of 5.3 or 5.4 billion people alive today.

These impulses are the scientific renaissances of human knowledge, creating both growth in the quantity and density of population of the human species, and higher quality of the individual human being and his or her life—which are therefore not opposed but directly connected.

In the past 3,000 years, the first such impulse was the Greek Classical period, in part revival and in part advancement of the knowledge of the preceding Egyptian civilization. This is the origin of what we call the later Renaissance, by which we mean the revival of the Platonic scientific ideas and progress of this Greek Classical period. This is the Classical Age spanning from Homer, through the time of Solon of Athens, of Aeschylus, of Pythagoras; the Age upon which Socrates and Plato reflected.

The second impulse begins with the Islamic Renaissance starting in the eighth century A.C.E. It becomes much stronger through the neo-Confucian Renaissance centered in China in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, which brought China’s population to one-quarter of the entire human race [SEE Michael O. Billington, “Toward the Ecumenical Unity of East and West: The Renaissances of Confucian China and Christian Europe,” Fidelio, Vol. II, No. 2, Summer 1993]. It is a period in which human population growth was primarily in Asia and Africa. But at its end, it overlaps the first European period of building of great cathedrals and scientific improvements in agriculture.

These renaissance impulses to population growth appear very gradual in Figure 2, owing to their comparison to the much larger, third impulse; but if you compare them to the periods in between—long centuries of stagnation or decline in human population—you see very definite and substantial impulses of growth.

The third impulse is the Golden Renaissance of Europe, beginning at the Council of Florence after the devastation of the Black Plague. Since then, in 550 years, the human population has grown nearly thirteen times greater.

And within this 550 years, there is a further upward impulse in the eighteenth century, and change in the upward slope of growth in population and population density. This is the worldwide effect, including prominently the cultural effect of the American War of Independence, Declaration of Independence, and triumph of republican Constitutional government.

Clearly these are the periods in human history characterized by the greatest improvements in the human condition, in culture, and in standards of life; and they were all directly connected to great and sustained increases in human population.

A Detailed View

Figure 3 shows the population history of Italy and the Balkans, which combined form the

majority of the area most directly colonized by Greek Classical civilization. This small area came to include nearly ten percent of the entire human population by the end of an almost thousand-year impulse, because the population density of this area had tripled in the six hundred years from 1,000 B.C.E. to 400 B.C.E. —at that time an extraordinary and completely unprecedented growth. By 400 B.C.E. , Classical Greece had achieved a population density of almost twenty-five people per square kilometer, and that is almost equal to the United States today, 2,500 years later. This density of human population was completely unique and unapproached by anywhere else at that time. This was a seafaring and city-building civilization; anyone who has read the history of Greece knows the absolutely extraordinary number of towns and cities which were built by colonization in this region of the world in a short time. Even Greek farmers lived in towns and cities, and went to their outlying fields each day, as many European farmers do today.

It is clear that this impulse was broken in 400 B.C.E. , despite some continued growth, such that 1,600 years later—in A.C.E.  1200—the population and population density of this region had only just come back to the same level. What stopped this renaissance was slavery—helotry, as it was called in Greece—the spread of which caused the Peloponnesian Wars starting c.400 B.C.E. , the onset of plague, and the collapse of the population density. The Greek Isles, which had established a new level of potential population density for the entire world, then collapsed and did not recover the same level of population for more than two thousand years.

Figure 4 shows the impact of the Islamic Renaissance—which was the transmission belt into

Europe for advances in the ancient sciences of mathematics and music—especially upon the area it affected most, the Middle East and North Africa. Again, this upward surge appears gradual compared to the power of the Golden Renaissance of Europe which followed it; yet the population and population density of this region nearly doubled, where both before and after, there was stagnation or decline.

In Figure 5 we see a graph for Asia as a whole, which shows very clear and—compared to

what came before and after—very sudden growth of population and population density from A.C.E.  800 to A.C.E.  1200, an increase of seventy percent. The impact of the Islamic Renaissance upon this region was followed by the Neo-Confucian Chinese Renaissance of the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

Now, each graph, no matter of what region, shows nearly the same pattern of dramatic increase, dwarfing whatever came before, starting in the period A.C.E.  1450-1500. This is the impact on the entire human species of the Golden Renaissance of civilization in Europe. Here again, you see its responsibility for transforming a human population of about 400 million people worldwide, to a population of 5.3 billion people. Those 5.3 billion people’s lives exist as a result of the scientific and technological progress unleashed by that renaissance.

The European Renaissance was all the more remarkable because, in Europe itself, it followed the devastating effects of the spread of usury in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries (See: Figure 6)—collapse of banks, destruction of cities, massive spread of plague, and collapse

of the population itself by fifty percent or more. Its leaders understood they were fighting for a new progress of Classical culture and knowledge, in order to bring the human population back from the edge of extinction. For example, Thomas More, the leader of the networks of Erasmus and of the Renaissance in England, wrote to a friend in Germany: “Congratulations most of all, my dear Mullein, on the increase once again of your family. Your own happiness, but even more the work of revival of your country, need before all the increase of your people and those young educated according to the best method.”

The Coming ‘Depopulation Bomb’

Which type of period of human history are we facing today: one of increasing growth, or of decline and collapse of human population? Over the past twenty-five years, this tremendous scientific and cultural impulse for growth of the human population has been reversed; today, Europe itself is pointing the way toward a global collapse and decline of population in the twenty-first century. This will happen unless the paradigm shift to cultural pessimism and anti-humanism is reversed; unless the ongoing worldwide economic collapse and spread of war are reversed.

Here are the facts, from the United Nations’ own global population conference held in Geneva in May—and also from the statistics and reports of many nations.

Consider that, during the 1950’s, the general forecast of human population called for 8 billion human beings to be alive by the year 2000. (This 1950’s view came not only from the U.N., but from many private and government statistical agencies with no interest in scaring anyone about “overpopulation.”) Today, with only a few years to go in the century, the actual population is estimated to be only 5.4 billion. This low figure would have shocked those who believed the forecasts of the 1950’s.

As of today, almost all the countries of Europe—West, East, and Russian—have either suffered absolute declines in their populations since the 1970’s (most of Western Europe); or are undergoing such declines now (Russia, Ukraine, the Baltics); or are about to enter upon population decline, according to official statistics (Georgia, Belarus, etc.). Virtually all the countries of this large area—fifteen percent of the human race—have fertility rates far below the generation-to-generation zero-growth replacement level. Many of them already have death rates higher than birth rates. “The collapse in fertility corresponds to nothing known in peacetime,” says the U.N. It has been going on since the middle 1960’s, and without an immediate increase in fertility of nearly twenty-five percent throughout Europe and the former Soviet Union, population levels will fall more and more rapidly decade by decade—even if there were to be “peace.”

But, there are now six wars raging simultaneously in Eurasia, and several “population wars” in Africa, Cambodia, and elsewhere. In the war in the Balkans alone, 300,000 people have died in two years. And not only do these wars bring casualties; for they collapse the birthrates in the affected countries as well.

This collapse in fertility in the industrial countries long preceded the current worldwide economic depression; it derived from the spread of cultural pessimism (“counterculture”), and from labor policies which fostered the destruction of the nuclear family.

Japan’s population will be falling in absolute numbers within about a decade; China’s fertility rate is now well below the generational zero-growth rate. While in the Third World as a whole, human fertility has fallen by more than one-third in a little over twenty years.

The U.N.’s official population agency can be proven to be overestimating the population of some of the largest Third World countries by fifteen to twenty percent. For example, the Nigerian government census just counted 20 million fewer Nigerians than are claimed by the U.N., which nonetheless refuses to change its figure. A similar gross overcounting can be shown for Brazil, and for smaller countries.

The percentage of children eighteen years old and under in the world’s population, which was nearly forty percent at the end of the 1960’s, has now fallen to thirty-two percent. The shrinking of the youthful portion of industrial countries’ populations is already greater than that caused by the drop in births as a result of two World Wars. In most nations of the world, the percentage of elderly people has expanded greatly; the exception is sub-Saharan Africa, and there only because life-expectancy is not much over fifty years.

Meanwhile, throughout Africa and now Southeast Asia, AIDS is decimating young adults of childbearing age and their children, laying the basis for further future or even current drops in population.

The Immediate Future

Because of the aging of populations, “the Western countries should expect a steady rise in their death rates” (as stated by the U.N. itself), outstripping their birth rates and causing their populations to shrink still more. This will reverse centuries of declining death rates. In Italy today, there are more retired pensioners than employed workers, and a fertility rate only about half of zero-growth.

Because sterilization “is the most widely used method of birth control in the world as a whole” (says Johns Hopkins University, which ought to know), a significant part of the worldwide decline in fertility has become permanent and irreversible.

The United Nations population agencies are in fact aware of the possible coming “depopulation bomb,” but they regard population decline as a favorable development and claim it will cause economic progress! Long-term population forecasts by the U.N. Fund for Population Activities show, in fact, a “low” scenario in which the human population falls during the course of the next century; and that scenario is the most credible outcome of what has already happened to world population potential.

The real problem is that the U.N. clearly regards this scenario as the desired objective. The latest report of its Population Division says: “The perception that slower population growth, and even no growth, is associated with faster development, is not now seriously challenged. Between 1950 and 1990, the industrialized countries almost tripled their income per head. On the other hand, developing countries that have been successful economically have also made the most determined efforts to slow population growth.”

But, as we have seen, the entirety of human history proves the opposite. Rather than being irreconcilable enemies, population growth and human development have always been inextricably linked. It remains for a new Renaissance of our making to demonstrate this once again.

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