The Challenge of Population Growth


By Richard Kieninger


The problems of runaway population growth in the rest of the world are not remote from the inhabitants of the United States of America. The claims by increasing hordes upon the limited supplies of the planet’s resources will surely limit our country’s present rate of consumption of them. The United States alone consumes almost half of all the raw materials available every year, and the United States imports vast tonnages of food from other countries—particularly the high-priced, protein-rich items of which the malnourished inhabitants of those exporting nations have dire need. When famine inevitably comes upon the world’s less privileged countries, and their pressing competition for food and fuels and raw materials becomes more urgent, continued export of these vital commodities to the United States may well be legislated against by foreign gov­ernments. Economic competition for the world’s resources is already producing a lag between demand and what can be supplied, and higher prices result.


The population increase in the United States itself demands more and more technically competent people to supply the services and commodities nec­essary to sustain our present standard of living, but we are not training the necessary technicians fast enough. Medical care is already falling into danger­ously short supply, and we cannot even produce doctors fast enough to replace those who are dying and retiring. Competent technical tradesmen are not re­placing their numbers as they are retiring—let alone developing even greater numbers to match population growth. We need more housing, more roads, better transportation facilities, better anti-pollution measures, better teachers; but young people are turning away from such “unglamorous” occupations. The fact is that the precise knowledge required of the technically competent persons who keep the machinery of civilization running is difficult to acquire and entails long study, meticulous attention to details and hard-earned knowledge through expe­rience—in essence, training and education. However, increasing numbers of young men and women are having difficulty just learning to read, and too large a proportion of pupils are merely attending school without acquiring an educa­tion or even completing high school.


Some young people who manage to progress into college work are drop­ping out, and indeed some go as far as to refuse to contribute to the sustenance of a system they regard as too corrupt and decadent to be allowed to continue. They are, of course, helping to doom the burgeoning population to an inability to care for its vitally basic needs. The lack of a sense of responsibility toward others which is exhibited by only doing one’s own thing is a self-defeating course to follow. It takes training and experience to effectually help others: to teach the ignorant, to heal the sick, to create employment, to develop alternate materials for the world’s resources as they become unavailable to us, to devise food sources to feed hungry and malnourished children, to eliminate slums. However, if a significant number of young people do not accept their responsi­bility toward preserving society, then this nation is literally doomed to increas­ing poverty, despair and famine. We are in a race against time, and technical excellence is the key to staving off disaster. The drop­outs, the poor and the bemused will be the first to succumb. As food (and other essential commodities like warmth and shelter) become scarce, only the well-to-do will be able to pay the skyrocketing prices.


The arguments for revolutionary overthrow of the existing order will gain increased acceptance as personal affluence spells the difference between one’s survival or one’s death by famine. The man who is well-fed will be ascribed the image of an enemy of the masses, and become a target for the hatred of the man whose belly never stops aching from abject hunger. The most able persons who are best fitted to survive will be mowed down by the hateful inept ones, just as the Congolese army massacred tens of thousands of the Colonialist-trained Black civil servants who were the only ones who could hope to run the newly independent nation. The South American communists promise the uneducated, starving peasants that elimination of all the persons who maintain the machinery of capitalism will allow the peasants to partake of the wealth which landlords, politicians and the technical elite gather to themselves. Once this revolution is accomplished, of course, there will be only incompetents left who cannot keep the economic and distributive machinery running. The slaughter of millions of Chinese landlords, industrialists and intellectuals by their neighbors is dear enough evidence that men will do such things to their fellows out of hateful envy.


If out of selfishness, sloth or irresponsibility the younger generation does not rise to the challenge of the galloping population explosion by providing the gargantuan logistical requirements of technical and educational competence, then they will have allowed famine and deprivation to bring upon themselves and others the added tyrannies of revolution and chaos.