I guess it’s kind of appropriate — the official announcement that world population has reached 7 billion comes one day before NaNoWriMo starts and I begin my science fiction novel. While the world celebrates the birth of the seven billionth baby, an event that should be mourned, I’ll be examining a near-future world in which sheer desperation has driven more than one government to institute compulsory sterilization programs.
Some form of population control is in our future, even though it will be too little and too late. What form it will take is unpredictable. Will it be China’s unsuccessful ban on more than one child in a family, or something more draconian? And just how desperate do we have to become before people understand that the right to have as many children as you want can’t continue?
Discussions of population concentrate on the reduction in family size over the last few decades, even in some nations that have historically encouraged large families. That’s supposed to be good news. But it ignores the reality that the reduction isn’t enough to stop the increase in world population, and that population will continue to increase, even if the rate of increase slows down.
A factor that’s seldom taken into account and certainly never mentioned by mainstream media is the coming impact of global climate change. Disease vectors are changing, some of them spreading to new areas of the world. The eventual flood of climate refugees will overload some areas, bringing people into ever closer contact and making serious epidemics far more common. Food shortages will place more people under the threat of malnutrition and susceptibility to disease. In short, we have created a world in which we have returned to Nature the power to control population.
Some day, we might understand that the personal and political concerns that have made real population control impossible were the cause of the worldwide suffering that is bound to come.