In this post, I argue that overpopulation is a complex problem that has to do with human choices at the level of single families. It is not impossible that such choices will eventually lead to a stabilization of the population at a sustainable level as it has happened in some historical cases, such as in Japan during the Edo period.
The population question arises strong feelings everytime it is mentioned and some people seem to think that, unless something drastic is done to curb population growth, people will reproduce like rabbits, destroying everything else. This position goes often in parallel with criticism to religious leaders and to religions in general, accused of encouraging people to reproduce like rabbits. Or, at least, to hide the fact that people reproduce like rabbits if not prevented to do so in a way or another.
But is it true that people tend to reproduce like rabbits? And would they stop if someone, let’s say the pope, were to tell them to stop? Maybe, but things cannot be so simple. Let me show you an example: Japan during the Edo period.
The population of Japan during the Edo Period (uncorrected data as reported by the bBafuku government). It shows how it is perfectly possible to attain a stable population in an agricultural society, even without “top-down” rules and laws. (data source, see also this link)
Note how the population has remained relatively constant for at least 150 years. It is a fascinating story, discussed in detail in the book “Mabiki: Infanticide and Population Growth in Eastern Japan, 1660–1950” by Fabian Drixler. Here is an illustration from the book:
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