A demographic spectre is haunting authoritative and influential circles in both the United States and the international community. This spectre is the supposed imperative to "stabilise human population."
The quest to "stabilise human population" (or to "stabilise world population," or sometimes just "stabilise population") was formally launched on the global stage in 1994 by the United Nations at its Cairo Conference on Population and Development, whose "Programme of Action" intoned that "intensified efforts" to this end were "crucial" given the "contribution that early stabilisation of the world population would make towards the achievement of sustainable development." That objective is today embraced by a panoply of subsidiary institutions within the "UN family," including the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which explicitly declared its mission in 2002 to be the promotion of the "universally accepted
aim of stabilising world population."
Closer to home, the goal of "stabilising human population" is championed by a broad network of population and environmental advocacy groups, including most prominently Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club (the latter of which has established "stabilising world population" as goal #4 of its "21st Century agenda." The objective, however, is not merely proclaimed by an activist fringe; to the contrary, it is broadly shared by many elements of what might be called the American establishment." "Stabilising world population," for example, is now a programmatic effort for most of the prestigious multi-billion dollar American philanthropic organisations that commit their resources to "international population activities." This list includes--but is not limited to--the Ford Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Packard Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation.
Further, "stabilising world population" is a prospect that has been welcomed and financially supported by many of America’s most prominent and successful captains of industry: among them, self-made multi-billionaires Ted Turner, Warren Buffet, and Bill Gates. The propriety--or necessity--of "stabilising global population" has been expounded by a wide array of respected writers, spokespersons, and commentators in the US media. Politically, the goal of "stabilising world population" is officially approved by USAID (America’s foreign aid apparatus). And the quest to "stabilise world population" is championed in the United States by political figures who are both influential and widely popular: one of America’s most passionate and outspoken exponents of "world population stabilisation," former Vice President Al Gore, very nearly won the presidency in the closely contested 2000 election.
What, exactly, does "stabilising human population" actually mean? Though the objective is widely championed today, the banner itself is somewhat misleading, for advocates of "stabilising population" are in fact not concerned with stabilising human numbers. . . .
Nicholas Eberstadt is the Henry Wendt Scholar in Political Economy at AEI.