The founder of Tesla and SpaceX declared Friday that the world needs more people, not less, which contradicts established concepts.
During a podcast with famous pranksters Nelk Boys, Musk said he believes “the biggest threat right now is population collapse,” after adding that “we have to get rid of this nonsense that we’re having an overpopulation issue.”
“Don’t we have an overpopulation problem?” they asked. “No, we have an underpopulation,” Musk shot back.
Biologist, natural historian and author Sir David Attenborough believes the exact opposite.
“All our environmental problems become easier to solve with fewer people, and harder — and ultimately impossible — to solve with ever more people,” said Attenborough.
Of course, the issue is more nuanced than deciding whether Musk or Attenborough is correct because perception and location matter.
The birthrate in industrialized first-world nations like the U.S. is well below the natural replacement rate of 2.1 births per woman needed to maintain America’s population. Were it not for yearly surges of illegal aliens sneaking across the southern border, the U.S. population would have declined over the last few decades.
The U.S. birthrate is only .63 percent, according to WorldData numbers, which means not enough babies are born in the country to replace the citizens who die each year.
Yet, the birthrates in African, Asian and Middle Eastern countries are well above the replacement birthrate. Egypt, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan have annual birthrates between 2 and 3 percent. Zambia, Kuwait, Chad, Angolia and Niger have birthrates between 3 and 4 percent. Oman’s annual birthrate is 4.87 percent, according to WorldData.
People in those countries would probably tend to disagree with Musk, asking if he would be willing to take a million home with him because they have too many.
Businesses and government officials tend to want more population, because the more people a country has the bigger the economy can grow. More people equates to more customers and, for governments, more taxpayers. Business owners, like Musk, want an ever-growing customer base to ensure a steady stream of workers to make their products and — more importantly — a large base of consumers to buy what they are selling.
A CNBC report quotes a Wellesley college economics professor as correlating drops in the birthrate with drops in employment numbers. So, the steep drop in economic activity during COVID-19 lockdowns should translate into a sharp drop in the U.S. birthrate for a while if the theory is correct.
Environmentalists and climate change activists contend that mankind’s best hope for survival is reducing the number of people burdening the planet.
“Human population has grown beyond Earth’s sustainable means,” argues a report from PopulationMatters. “We are consuming more resources than our planet can regenerate, with devastating consequences.”
Fewer people would ease housing shortages, which would lower rent and home prices. A smaller population would require fewer services such as schools and garbage collection, which could help lower taxes. Fewer people buying fewer products would lower the amount of mining and manufacturing needed to meet decreased consumer demand.
Reduced consumer purchases would reduce the amount of cargo vessels and tractor trailers needed to get goods from factories to homes, which would lower carbon footprints of entire countries without any extra effort.