Everyone’s favorite obscenely rich guy, Elon Musk, is back in the news sounding the alarm bells on a looming problem facing humanity. This time around, it’s not the rise of artificial intelligence or climate change, but the mounting trend of people not having children.
Speaking at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council session this week, Musk dismissed the concern of overpopulation, arguing that declining birth rates could contribute to societal collapse.
“I think one of the biggest risks to civilization is the low birthrate and the rapidly declining birthrate,” he said on Monday night.
“And yet, so many people, including smart people, think that there are too many people in the world and think that the population is growing out of control. It’s completely the opposite,” he added.
“Please look at the numbers — if people don’t have more children, civilization is going to crumble, mark my words.”
Father of seven children, it looks like the Telsa and SpaceX CEO practices what he preaches. He has commented on this topic before, tweeting back in July 2021: “Population collapse is a much bigger problem than people realize and that’s just for Earth. Mars has a great need for people, seeing as population is currently zero.”
At the start of the 19th century, the human population stood at less than 1 billion. By the mid-20th century, this figure rose to over 2.5 billion. The following 70 years saw a sharp rise, reaching approximately 7.8 billion people by 2021. Overpopulation is the idea that the global human population could become too large to be sustained by our environment and its natural resources. The concept has been around since the Industrial Revolution when advances in medical sciences and industry saw this rocketing rise in a global population, but it was injected into the public imagination by the best-selling 1968 book, The Population Bomb written by Stanford Professor Paul Ehrlich.
However, it’s a hugely controversial idea. Many scholars believe it’s a total myth, arguing the predicted "population catastrophe" never materialized and, in fact, the global population is stabilizing. One recent study found that the global population is set to steadily rise and peak in 2064 at around 9.7 billion people, before falling to 8.8 billion by 2100. This will be the first time the global population has declined since the Black Death plague pandemic in the 14th century.
Many others argue the concept of overpopulation is tainted with racism and misogyny, and even contend that governments concerned with overpopulation have been responsible for human rights abuses, such as forced sterilization and single child policies.