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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries
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Letters: Patrick McKay

In response to Angus Sibley (Letters, Jan/Feb 2008), anyone who ever had a biology lesson should know that the human female is among the most infertile of mammals. She is fertile for only about 4% of her lifetime. Some experts argue there is only a 12-hour ‘window’ in the monthly cycle when conception is possible and even then the probability is in the order of 40% (a wonder any of us made it here at all).
Logic has it, therefore, that conception may be avoided if the fertile times can be identified and the ‘marriage act’ is abstained from during those times. To coin a phrase from an old TV show, ‘we have the technology’. It is known as natural fertility regulation (NFR) and is in fact the most effective family planning method of all (the term ‘rhythm method’ is old hat).
NFR has no associated health risks, abortifacients or unpleasant side effects and certainly isn’t ‘rocket science’ — the late Mother Teresa used to teach it to illiterate women in the slums of Calcutta. With regard to ‘overpopulation’, we need to ignore the spin-meisters and concentrate instead on facts.
Like many other ‘baby boomers’, I lived through the unprecedented doubling of the global population in the second half of the 20th century. Never before in human history had our numbers increased so far, so fast: from three billion in 1960 to six billion in 2000. But our numbers didn’t double because we suddenly started breeding like rabbits. They doubled because we were no longer dying like flies. Fertility was falling throughout this era, from an average of six children per female in 1960 to only 2.6 by 2002.
On the fantasy island of overpopulation, human numbers are always exploding, but a closer look reveals a different picture.The unprecedented fall in fertility rates that began in post-war Europe has, in the decades since, spread to every corner of the globe, including Latin America. Recent UN forecasts indicate that the world’s human population will continue to creep up until about the year 2040, peaking at around 7.6 billion people. It will then begin to shrink.
Many nations, especially in Europe, are already in a death spiral, losing a significant number of people each year. Persistently low birth-rates have serious economic, social and political consequences.
The only future a nation has is its children and any nation where the indigenous people are not having children will, inevitably, become populated by people and races that are.
Patrick McKay
1 February 2008