‘We should be much more worried about population collapse’: Is Elon Musk right about birth rate decline?
- Elon Musk is a South-African-born American entrepreneur who founded SpaceX in 2002 and became a prime funder of Tesla Motors in 2004.
- On January 18, 2022, Musk tweeted “We should be much more worried about population collapse” referencing the global birth rate drop. Responding to the United Nations’ 2019 projection that the world population will “increase by 2 billion persons in the next 30 years,” he tweeted, “UN projections are utter nonsense. Just multiply last year’s births by life expectancy. Given downward trend in birth rate, that is best case unless reversed.”
- The United States Census Bureau reported the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the number of births at an “unusually low” rate, even with the expected seasonal birth pattern. However, the birth rate has been declining in the US since 2008, except for 2014.
- The idea of overpopulation originated in the 1800s under Thomas Malthus, called Malthusianism, introducing the concept that increased human population was a net-negative on the world’s sustainability. Malthus’s overpopulation scenario has “influenced policy makers to embrace social Darwinism and eugenics,” which has historically resulted in governments taking coercive policy measures such as restricting family size, forcing sterilizations and abortions.
- According to Worldometers, the world population is 7.9 billion as of January 19, 2022, with 7.1 million births and 2.9 million deaths this year.
Space X and Tesla CEO's recent tweet is spot on; 'We should be much more worried about population collapse.' Musk is rightfully concerned with the worldwide national underpopulation of people.
Firstly, there is a downward trend in birth rate not only in the US but in many western nations, including Japan, which means fewer families and workers. With a growing number of young people deciding not to have children due to financial issues, perceived inequality, or fears of climate change, there will be a drastic drop in the global population overall. Musk sees the trajectory of a birth rate not growing enough to replace itself. In several generations, there won't be enough children to uphold social programs, vital industries such as farming, medicine, or transportation, or those who can look after seniors.
The US has seen a very low rate of population growth even before the pandemic. And COVID itself has resulted in over 5 million deaths worldwide as of January 2022, taking a toll on the global population overall. A decline in the population inevitably results in fewer workers and families, but also fewer tax returns, which the government depends on to support the many social policies and spending priorities of its citizens. Immigration is not also the answer to population growth as the nation only has a limited number of jobs, and it also risks increasing unemployment. The problem is the drastically declining birth rate due to the messages being purported by the rising anti-natal movement and climate fear-mongers. Finally, with reduced births, nations worldwide will have fever innovators with new ideas, which are crucial in sustaining large populations.
Elon Musk's alarmist apprehensions regarding a potential human population collapse are entirely unwarranted. Despite the pandemic and environmental concerns, the population dwindling is not a threatening matter.
Despite Musk's worries, studies show the human population is set to increase, expected to go up from 7.9 to 9.3 billion in the next two decades. In 1990, the average person lived to 64 years old; now, the average person lives to 73. This number is expected to keep growing, causing the population to shoot up significantly. As technological advancements lead to new findings in medicine, diseases that previously have had no cure may be treatable.
The death rate from the pandemic has affected the world short term clearly, but by 2056 the population growth is expected to return to the previous rate. In the long run, the pandemic has not spanned for a long enough time to affect the population centuries from now. Also, it is estimated that nearly seven million unplanned pregnancies will occur as a result of the pandemic. India is soon emerging as the most populous country and is expected to surpass China with a population of 1.5 billion. Although India's growth is expected to have already reached its peak, the nation will most likely surpass China in 2025. As the population within the world continues to evolve, there will be more ways to elongate our time on Earth. Environmental, medical, and social advancements will continue to rise over time, only expanding the human life span and all our potential no matter our total numbers.