POPULATION: The Numbers Game

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(See Cover) From the doorway of a tumble-down Singapore tenement one morning last week, the wife of a Chinese stevedore watched her five naked children scrambling in the teeming street and prayed that the baby she was soon to bear would be a boy. In a camp for Palestinian refugees outside the Jordanian city of Jericho, Mrs. Shamma Mohamed Sammour complacently accepted congratulations on the birth of her ninth child—a girl whom the Sammours decided to name Sariah, which in Arabic means rich. On his Brazilian ranch, lean, energetic Berlino de Andrade, 67, confided to friends that he had decided to have no more children, but was unworried by the problem of supporting the 36 he had already sired. Said Berlino: "If I can't do anything better for them, I can always raise them as God raises potatoes."

Regardless of faith, color or condition, humans all around the earth last week were busily demonstrating the truth of the proposition that everybody loves a baby. In Washington's Commerce Department Building, a light atop the "U.S. population clock" flashed every eleven seconds to mark the birth of another American. If a "world population clock" existed, it would have been flashing three times a second. Enough little Indians were being born to add the equivalent of another New York City to the world's population every year, and enough little Chinese to add another Canada. As 1960 began, the world's population stood at 2.8 billion; within 40 years, predicted U.N. experts, it would be somewhere between 6 and 7 billion.

Long a hot topic among pundits, whose jargon phrase for it is "the population explosion," the startling 20th century surge in humanity's rate of reproduction may be as fateful to history as the H-bomb and the Sputnik, but it gets less public attention. Today two-thirds of the human race does not get enough to eat. And it is among the hungry peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America that the population explosion is most violent. In 1900 there was one European for every two Asians; by 2000 there will probably be four Asians for every European, and perhaps twice as many Americans living south of the Rio Grande as north of it. If, by then, all that faces the growing masses of what is euphemistically called "the underdeveloped nations" is endless, grinding poverty, their fury may well shake the earth.

The Doctor's Discovery. As much as nuclear energy, the population explosion is a product of the Western scientific revolution. In 1798—the year that the Rev. Thomas Malthus "proved" that the earth's capacity to produce food was no match for man's capacity to reproduce —Britain's Dr. Edward Jenner discovered that smallpox could be prevented by vaccination, and thereby opened the road to modern medicine's many techniques of "death control." This knowledge, when transferred from the industrial nations of the West to Latin America, Africa and Asia—where a medical investment of 14¢ a citizen has been known to cut a country's death rate by 50%—sent rates of population increase soaring even when birth rates stayed steady. In Ceylon after World War II, the spraying of once malarial areas with DDT produced a 33% population increase (from 6.8 million to 9.1 million) within little more than a decade.

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