JANUARY 2, 1959
NEW YORK—There is an organization in Washington, D.C., that will celebrate next month its thirtieth year of work, and yet I think very few people are conscious of the importance of what this particular organization has been doing. It is called the Population Reference Bureau and it publishes the "Population Bulletin," which is used by many newspapers, magazines and colleges as reference material on this all-important question of population.
This organization is trying to tell the public that a crisis really threatens us. It is finally getting recognition and support from some small foundation grants, but it needs much more understanding on the part of the public to really get across to the people the message of the world situation on population today.
The Bureau of the Census recently released population projections that indicate that there could be 100,000,000 more people in this country by 1980. This is approximately half again as many people as there are now in the United States—and this increase would come about in the short period of 22 years.
In 1929, when the Population Reference Bureau was founded, the world population was increasing by about 56,000 each day. By 1945 world population was increasing by about 70,000 each day, and today, every single day, the rate of increase is up to 137,000.
More and more organizations are beginning to see the danger signals. Where is the food coming from? True, we are making new discoveries, and new sources of food will become known in the next few years.
But perhaps the most important thing in the world is a wise and sane approach to the constantly increasing birthrate.
If we read back to the early days of American history, we will be impressed by the fact that out of families that consisted sometimes of 10 to 15 children, only perhaps three or four lived to old age and many more never lived beyond their early twenties. Many women died in childbirth. You can find in many New England cemeteries the names of three wives, each of whom bore their husbands a certain number of children. And frequently the death of the mother and the baby was recorded together on the tombstone.
Science has helped us wipe out these tragedies, but we are still expected to meet the problem that our greater knowledge has created. Fewer people die in other parts of the world through famine and epidemics. And if we are fortunate enough to wipe out war and even eventually to teach people to drive their automobiles more safely, we will gradually eliminate two major causes of death.
It is a challenge to our intelligence to meet this situation on a worldwide basis and find a sane method which will not outrage the religious or physical needs of human beings.