January 23, 2020
Author: Ralph Berry
The global warming debate ignores population growth. Yet the rapidly growing numbers of human beings in Africa and Asia, all with demands for food, energy, resources, and sheer space must have a serious and lasting effect on the planet. There is a clear and present link between those numbers and the planet’s chances which gets no kind of informed discussion. The latest assessment of the global population offers no guidance on the matter: it is The Human Tide: How Population shaped the Modern World, by Paul Morland (London, 2019).
This is Whig history. Morland tells a story that in broad cannot be gainsaid, that population became a supreme force in history over the last two centuries. The population boom in Britain drove the emigration to the USA, followed by other Europeans, and also the nineteenth-century imperial move into Africa and Asia. The picture is now changing rapidly, with declining birthrates in the West and soaring birthrates in the developing countries. Population size affects the economies of nations, and thus their economic and military power. This is not solely a matter of relations between nation-states; demography matters within states, too. Morland notes that in 2008 Obama won only 43% of white votes to John McCain’s 55%, but he won an overwhelming majority of non-white votes. He points, without seeming pleasure, to Donald Trump, “who purports to champion white, blue-collar America.” Such a candidate “will find it almost impossible to win, despite America’s electoral college system giving disproportionate [a word loaded with distaste] weight to smaller, rural and predominantly white states such as Wyoming and North Dakota, both of which are around 90% white.” This is a brusque dismissal of the clear and reasoned intentions of the Founders.
The Human Tide is a serviceable grammar of population. It examines fertility rates, birth and death rates in regions and nations, child mortality rates, and the number of children women have. There is, however, a narrative subtext that must be treated with great caution. Morland looks to a benign future in which Third World practices will come to resemble those of the First World, and the “demographic momentum” will slow to a stable halt by the end of the century.
I am astonished that there is no mention in the index or bibliography of Douglas Murray’s The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam which was clearly the book of the year. Published in May 2018, it remained in the top ten non-fiction books in the London Sunday Times best-seller list for almost 20 weeks, with a paperback second edition coming out in the following year with a 16-page Afterword. Coverage of the book was closed down in the end-of year round-ups; The Economist, that guide to moral rectitude, having published a disapproving review and placed it on the index of banned books. Murray deals with the outcome of the global population explosion, while Morland looks on with bland approval of the huge and continuing Third World surge. ‘There is reason to hope that when the Middle East’s demography comes to resemble that of Europe—a prospect which seems remarkably closer now than it did a few decades ago—it might be as peaceful as Europe is today.’ (p.254) Or not, as events are likely to prove. He does however admit that the danger area is sub-Saharan Africa. ‘With Africa still poor and young, the pressure of migration to Europe will be strong.’ Indeed: and what factors might mitigate this pressure? The wholesale conversion of sub-Saharan women to the worship of Dr Marie Stopes? The enlightened usage of contraceptives by African men? Meantime, the population growth of Africa is set to continue at least until the mid-century. And there is a huge difference between the population movements of the past and today. The indigenous peoples of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were in no position to resist the expansion of the white, imperial powers. Those same nations have no intention of committing suicide to accommodate the overspill of Africa today.
Readers can do Matthew Arnold’s ‘Dover Beach’ poem for themselves. The actual inhabitants of Dover now find that their beach is receiving a steady flow of illegal migrants in small boats. The number attempting to cross from France quadrupled in 2019 over the previous year (and is now moving to Belgium). Some of these cockleshell heroes make it to Dover’s beach on their own; they are said to have been ‘intercepted’, an abuse of language. In fact they have been escorted in by Border Control vessels. The latest claim to be Iranians but carry no documents; they (and their descendants) have made it to England and will never be expelled to their native land. Pangloss, the tutelary deity of liberals, is undisturbed by the small numbers of Dover Beach landings; others are less so. The British Government gapes upon this scene, pretending to control the uncontrolled.