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Overpopulation Awareness is the website of The Ten Million Club Foundation

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The world is too small for us

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Crowded, isn’t it?

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Improving environment starts with tackling overpopulation

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Do not replenish the earth

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Limits to Growth

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The more men, the more jam

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Couples wanting children are doubly responsible for the future

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Overpopulation = overconsumption

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Stop the exhaustion and pollution of the earth

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Too little prosperity for too many people

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We love people, but not their number

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We cannot let humanity happen

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Wednesday, 01 September 2010 18:54

Shrink now for the sake of the future

1.         Awareness

According to studies, 60% of the Dutch population thinks the country is too full. When people say that the Netherlands is chock full of people, concrete and asphalt, they are expressing their feelings.
What we are lacking, though, are criteria which can be used to clearly determine at what point a country can be considered to be full. Without such criteria the government can continue to confine itself to combating the symptoms of overpopulation, such as traffic congestion and the lack of parking space. The issue of overpopulation itself remains beyond the scope of discussion. In the mean time, we are heading towards a population size of 17 million. According to a recent prognosis by the CBS (Central Statistical Office), we can expect the 17 millionth inhabitant by as soon as 2014.
 
From a demographic perspective, this puts the Netherlands in a hopeless position. Many nature lovers would probably find the Netherlands overpopulated with as little as 7 million inhabitants, whereas the average project developer or producer of diapers might hold the opinion that the country can never be too full. We think the Netherlands should, in the long term, return to a maximum population of 10 million.
There is little evidence of any awareness or acknowledgement of the seriousness of the situation on the part of the government. This makes it all the more important to raise awareness, to break through the taboo surrounding overpopulation and to lay a sound basis in society for a population policy.
 
Number of inhabitants of the Netherlands
1500
ca   1 million
1800
ca   2 million
1900
ca   5 million
1950
ca 10 million
2002
ca 16 million
2014
ca 17 million
 
2.         Indifference and taboo          
The less room a person has for himself, in a literal as well as a metaphorical sense, the more he will try to claim room for himself. In the post-war years the Dutch government supported emigration to, for instance, Australia and Canada. The state commission (under the chairman) Muntendam brought out its report * in 1977 and proposed extensive measures for tackling the issue of overpopulation. By now, the concern expressed by the Muntendam report has made way for resignation, tolerance and indifference on the part of citizens, even though the population has swollen from 13 to more than 16 million people in the mean time. The subject of overpopulation has even come to be surrounded by a taboo. Politicians remain silent.
In order to protect the quality of life in the Netherlands and to survive, ecologically speaking, the inhabitants of the Netherlands must, however, reconsider their reproductive habits. This can only be effective if we also have the right to close our borders to those who want to settle here, without intending to leave again. Dutch people need to be able to openly say that they think the country is too full without immediately being called politically incorrect.
 
* Bevolking en welzijn in Nederland: rapport van de Staatscommissie bevolkingsvraagstuk, vastgesteld te Leidschendam, december 1976 (voorz. P. Muntendam). - 's-Gravenhage : Staatsuitgeverij, 1977. – ill. : XVIII, 292 p. ISBN: 90-12-01583-9.
 
3.         NO DISCRIMINATION
At the moment, the Netherlands has more than 16 million inhabitants. They are all, no doubt, friendly people with a wide variety of backgrounds, colours, religions and languages. Thankfully, there is little or no discrimination in the Netherlands. Every legal inhabitant, whether he has an immigrant background or not, belongs here. However, due to the situation of crisis in which the Netherlands finds itself and of which few people are as yet aware, a decrease in population size is an urgent cause. In aiming for this necessary fall, a drop in birth numbers will only make a difference if limits are also set to the continuing immigration. This must only happen in an ethically responsible and democratic way, though, without any vestige of racism.
 
 
4.         Population policy
If mistakes are made in policy concerning, for instance, pension provisions or livestock, then the harm that has been done can at least be repaired in the course of years or decades, when society has come to see the error of its ways. As a result of current policy, which encourages births and immigration, population pressure and the resulting social disruption will be much more difficult to remedy. A proactive population policy could start a process of limiting both birth numbers and immigration. Within the framework of such a population policy certain measures are called for.
 
Providing information, abolishing provisions for (large) families and no longer putting single people at a fiscal disadvantage in relation to married people are some of the measures we have put forward in our brochure “Policy Proposals”. In this brochure 24 concrete measures are proposed, collected under seven separate headings. Some other examples: giving off the signal that the responsibility that comes with having and raising children lies primarily with the parents and not with the government; incorporating the topic of overpopulation in an existing subject in both the primary and secondary school curriculum; limiting guest labour to temporary contracts; creating employment in developing countries.
 
We will list a number of simple suggestions for possible criteria, with examples, below, for the benefit of developing a population policy. We do not aim to provide any ready-made solutions.
 
5.         Food
The total land area of the Netherlands is around 3.5 million hectares. Around two million hectares is owned or worked by farmers (agriculture, livestock, horticulture), this amounting to roughly 60% of the total land surface. The other 40% is occupied by housing, infrastructure, premises of business and commerce, woods, areas of natural beauty and recreational areas. One internationally applied rule states that, per person, there is a continual need of, on average, 0.5 hectares of fertile land to produce a varied diet. Even if all the fertile land in the Netherlands was used to produce food it would still only produce enough to feed four million, based on the necessary 0.5 hectares of farmland per person. The available farmland could be increased, to some extent, through the process of impoldering (reclaiming land from the sea), or by reducing the areas set aside for nature or recreational purposes. This would result in an even greater pressure on nature and the environment, though, while the actual effect would be relatively small, if we take into account the great gulf between the current population of 16 million and the 4 million who could be fed on the basis of the amount of farmland currently available.
 
In the mean time, people’s need for farmland is increasing, just as the available farmland is decreasing around the world. The main causes of this loss are erosion, the steady increase in the number of people, the building of more and larger houses, a greater individual use of space and the construction of motorways and commercial premises.
 
6.         Supplementary use of land
In order to satisfy the demand of the Dutch population, large amounts of food are imported. Fertile areas in other parts of the world are used to supply these imports. Furthermore, extended areas are dedicated to the production of fibres (such as cotton and jute) and of timber, in order to meet our demand for building materials and paper.
 
The Netherlands is (in financial terms) an important exporter of agricultural products, especially in horticulture and livestock. This may give people the impression that there is no lack of farmland in the Netherlands; on closer consideration, however, the situation seems somewhat less favourable. In the first place, all use of land for the purpose of export will have to be compensated by extra imports of food, and thus by supplementary use of land in other parts of the world.
Secondly, it is the sector, of agricultural production for export, in particular, which has a strongly industrial character, which is to say that large amounts of energy and purchased base materials are consumed in the production process. A high percentage of horticultural products, for instance, are grown in heated greenhouses whereby huge amounts of gas are consumed (for which the sector pays at a special reduced rate!).
The pig and poultry industries in the Netherlands (ca. 13 million and ca. 100 million animals respectively) are highly dependent on imported feed (on corn from America and cassava meal from Thailand, to name a couple of examples). This also takes up large areas of land in other countries. In the Netherlands little surface area is used for this form of livestock farming, these days; the animals are packed together in huge stable complexes for the whole of their miserable lives. It is no wonder that it is called the “bio-industry”! It saddles us, here in the Netherlands, with the huge environmental problem of a manure surplus.
 
In order to meet all our needs, we, the Dutch population, lay claim to a total surface area, spread over different parts of the world, which is about 5 times the size of our own country (roughly the same size as Germany). This area is also taken to constitute our “ecological footprint”. You could say, then, that we are living beyond are means, and our footprint is many sizes too large. The preceding facts also illustrate the absurdity of the frequent claim that the Netherlands is not full at all. The argument that underlies this claim is that we are able to maintain a reasonable standard of living despite our 465 inhabitants per square meter.
We could compare our country to a large city: a city like Amsterdam has a population density of around 5000 people per square meter within her city limits. At the same time, these inhabitants enjoy a pretty good standard of life. It is, however, absolutely clear that life in the city is completely dependent on a continuous stream of food and other products “from outside”. A clear illustration of this phenomenon is a beleaguered city in a time of war: once the stores and supplies have been consumed, then it is usually all over where people’s chances of survival are concerned.
 
Our habit of importing all the products we need from all over the world results in a huge network of goods exchange and a corresponding expenditure of energy.
 
All of this is only possible because energy prices are kept at a level that is, in fact, absurdly low. These prices do not reflect the finiteness of the supplies of fossil fuels on the planet, let alone the continuing rise in the degree of CO2 in the atmosphere and the related effect of “global warming”. At the end of the last century, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere was 280 ppmv (parts per million by volume); currently, around 360 ppmv of this greenhouse gas is present in the air.
 
Only with a population of around 5 million would the Netherlands be able to maintain the natural capital of the earth, and to live on the yearly interest of this capital, instead of exploiting and depleting it. In other words: only then would a durable society, based on a balance between the consumption and the production of food and sources of energy, be possible.
 
7.         Drinking water
It may seem strange that, in a country such as the Netherlands, which is usually known for its “wetness”, there is a scarcity of drinking water, which will continue to grow if current developments are not halted. The pumping of ground water has been the main source of drinking water of old. This source was topped up sufficiently by the natural surplus of rainwater, trickling down to the groundwater. Thanks to the filtering function of the soil, the water that was pumped up was generally of good quality and needed little processing. This natural balance has been disrupted due to the huge rise in consumption, which has led to groundwater levels falling over large areas. One consequence of this development is that areas of natural beauty are deprived of moisture and sustain irrevocable damage to their quality, in the sense of biological diversity.
 
Apart from the fact that groundwater supplies are insufficient, the quality of the water is also deteriorating. We can expect an even more drastic decline in quality in the future. This deterioration is caused by all manner of pollutants that are applied onto and into the soil. The most important factor in this process is probably the notorious manure-surplus, which is a by-product of the livestock industry (the bio-industry). What we are dealing with here is a slow process, which develops over the long-term. Even if we were to stop over-fertilizing today, the deterioration of groundwater quality would still continue, thanks to the contamination of the soil which has already been inflicted and which is “on its way down” to the groundwater. This deterioration may well be an irreversible process.
 
Due to the shortage in groundwater supplies, an increasingly important source of drinking water is surface water, i.e. water taken from rivers and lakes. Almost all of this surface water has, ultimately, come into the country via the Maas and Rhine rivers. These rivers absorb effluent as they pass through densely populated and strongly industrialized zones in Switzerland, Germany, France and Belgium. The quality of this water is less than ideal, to put it mildly. Purifying it is an expensive process. One purification method is dune infiltration: water is pumped through a pipeline from the rivers to specially designated ponds in the dunes. The water is then left to filter through the dunes to the groundwater level, from whence it is pumped up as “dune water” by the water companies of some of the larger cities.
 
Increasingly, purification in sanitation plants is needed in the case of river water. This is making the cost of water rise. If we add up current, more or less directly available water supplies and the water provided through sanitation plants, then there is still only enough drinking water for ten million people. It is only possible to produce more drinking water at an extremely high cost. Apart from the cost, the question remains whether we people should continue to exploit nature in this way, or whether should learn to adapt our needs and wishes to the capacity of our environment.
 
8.         High building density
Housing and business premises take up too much land. Over the past decades, the growth of the population demanded a rapid rise in available housing. Between 1962 and 1992 the number of homes doubled, from three to six million. Building high-rise housing was seen as a solution at that time. This strategy soon proved to be inadequate, when general dilapidation set in on the estates. High-rise building is a symptom of overpopulation, which increases population density in certain concentrated areas. The 70’s and 80’s saw the construction of neighbourhoods that were cheerless and densely populated, consisting of narrow houses and tiny gardens. The limited amount of public space there is in those neighbourhoods is now taken up by traffic and parked cars. We feel sorry for the children who are growing up in this kind of environment.
 
From an economic point of view, high-rise construction is necessary because of the sheer numbers of people living in cities today. From a human point of view, it is ill advised and irresponsible to put so many people together in such small areas. The problem area the “Bijlmer”, a huge high-rise estate to the South East of Amsterdam, is an example of how not to go about things. The Netherlands’ major cities are concentrated in a kind of urban agglomeration in western Holland, known as the “randstad”. This relatively small area has around 10 million inhabitants and contains many newly arisen, soulless, dormitory towns and suburbs, in between the major cities. There is a clear lack of space in this area. An architect, who volunteers the opinion that the Netherlands easily has room for 20 million houses, probably lives in some idyllic area himself - in the Belgian Ardennes, perhaps. Man is not suited to living en masse. Being a part of the crowd can be fun, but only if there is a possibility to escape from it as well. Sydney is a good example: once you leave the city limits, you are in the middle of nowhere. If you try to leave Amsterdam or Rotterdam behind, though, you are in another city before you know it. Everywhere you go you encounter the familiar effects of this kind of concentrated urban planning: not just the nuisance of football matches and pop concerts which have got out of hand, but also the ever-present, “normal” annoyances, such as noise, dirt and aggression.
 
9.         Births
From 1900 onwards, the size of the Dutch population has risen steeply, from 5 million people to 16 million in 2001. This number is primarily a reflection of the reproductive habits of the native Dutch population through the years. The growth has been especially strong over the last four generations. A growth of over 11 million people over less than a century is a huge amount for such a small country.
 
Between 1950 and 1970, the Netherlands had a high birth rate in comparison with surrounding countries. Around 250,000 children were born each year. A change in this trend started to occur towards the end of the 60s. Over a relatively short period, between 1970 and 1975, the number of births dropped by 30%. Population projections were adjusted accordingly. It was calculated in 1975 that the Netherlands would have a population of 14.3 million inhabitants by January 1st, 2000. After that, population growth was expected to come to a halt and develop into a decline. This prognosis soon had the effect of people losing all interest in or concern for the issue of population growth; it would, after all, run its course in the end. Today, at the start of the new millennium, the number of children per woman is still 1.7, due to the fact that almost a quarter of Dutch women do not have children. The expectations are that this will, in the long run, lead to a fall in the population. Nothing could be further from the truth.
 
As a consequence of the high numbers of births during the period up to 1970, there is still a sizable birth surplus. Around 206,500 children were born in the Netherlands in 2000. After deducting the number of deaths for that year (around 140,500) we are left with a birth surplus of 66,000. This surplus could, hypothetically, fall in the long term and turn into a surplus of deaths. In reality the situation is very different. After 1985 the number of births started to increase once more; the large family came back into fashion. This development, in combination with an unanticipated rise in immigration, resulted in the population projections having to be revised upwards almost every year.
 
10.       Immigration
Another highly influential factor is the development of the migration surplus (the difference between emigration and immigration). The contribution of the migration surplus to population growth as a whole is growing rapidly. Many western European countries have known a birth surplus for some years, because of a slower population growth in earlier decades. It was because of this that the contribution of the migration surplus within population growth increased rapidly. In many western European countries population growth is now exclusively due to the migration surplus.
 
The number of immigrants who are either “guest workers” or refugees has risen over the last thirty years, to 133,000 people a year (CBS 2000). The immigration surplus is around 54,000 people annually (CBS 2000). During the course of history, many people have come to settle here permanently. Examples of such immigrant groups are the Huguenots, Jews, Catholics and people from the East Indies, Flanders and the Walloon provinces. These people came from all walks of life; some were educated, others not. They were taken into Dutch society, which had room for them. Thanks to their own attitudes and to their small numbers, their integration was not problematic and happened relatively quickly. The Netherlands has, in the mean time, grown much fuller. The population has grown beyond the limits of what is acceptable. Under these circumstances, birth control measures have very little effect. There is definitely a lack of space, but still streams of people come into the country every year. There is also some emigration, but there is a serious imbalance between immigration and emigration. It is fortunate that there has never been much evidence of serious racial tensions in the country, and we hope it stays that way. We should avoid, however, putting too much pressure this general attitude of tolerance by letting in too many people.
 
11.       Remigration
The figure of 16 million inhabitants signifies a disaster for our country. In the post war years, when the Netherlands had around 10 million inhabitants, the government actively encouraged emigration. In 1977 the report by the state commission Muntendam was presented, which also proposed an active emigration policy. Now that the Netherlands has over 16 million inhabitants, however, the word overpopulation has become taboo. We consider emigration could be stimulated by the allocation of benefits, as a way of bridging differences in prosperity.
 
Something that also needs to be acknowledges is the fact that an immigration surplus also results in a higher birth number. Many migrants are young adults, who will generally go on to start large families once they have settled in the Netherlands, as is the custom in their countries of origin.
These issues, of the birth and migration surpluses, remain uncontrollable because of our attitude towards them here in the Netherlands.
 
12.       Transport
The increasing demand for mobility of a growing number of inhabitants will, ultimately, make traffic, be it for work or recreational purposes, more and more difficult. If the number of people does not begin to fall, then neither will there come an end to the building of new roads. Any attempt made at finding solutions to traffic problems, such as congestion, amounts to no more than the combating of symptoms. It is, moreover, a selective measure: those who can afford to will continue to drive as much as they like. Another possible measure, one that has been implemented in Venezuela, is banning people whose registration starts with a particular letter from driving on Mondays. We have even got to the point that, in some places, the hard shoulder is being used as an extra lane during rush hours, even though these are meant to ensure safety. This is just another case of combating the symptom, not the cause.
 
13.       Employment
Full employment is important, that is without doubt. The more people there are, the more jobs are needed. Increased employment does, however, have a number of negative consequences, such as a further encroachment on the little space that remains; pollution and a greater risk of lasting damage to the environment; a greater consumption of water, and the disappearance of even more of the nature we have left. The size of the population needs to be limited, if we want to continue to hold on to the principle of full employment. Our aim here in the Netherlands is, in fact, to push back unemployment. This is at odds with our policy of allowing immigrants, foreign workers (and Dutch people who choose to live just across the border, in order to evade taxes) free access.
 
In other words, our economy should be geared at providing us with a good quality of life and allowing us to help poorer societies financially, but not at putting our society at a disadvantage. Employment is not going to improve much in other parts of the world if we continue to provide people with work here.
 
14.       Recreation and stress
A growing population with a lot of spare time naturally has a need for recreational areas. This demand is made even bigger by the possibilities presented by modern day mobility. Nobody wants to take this away from people. It is important to realize, however, that much of the space that could have provided recreation and relaxation in natural surroundings has already been lost. The few areas we are left with, are used too intensively. We need to make a choice between either having a smaller population, on the one hand, or a smaller amount of space for recreation and nature, on the other hand. More and more land is, after all, needed for the construction of roads, housing, offices, of industrial estates and viaducts and for agriculture and livestock. At the same time, we want to keep some areas of natural beauty in their original state. Space is rapidly running out in the Netherlands. We live so tightly packed together and the lack of space is so pressing that constructing more roads and cycle lanes and deploying more trains have ceased to be viable solutions some time ago.
 
15.       Unspoilt nature
Over the past few centuries, man has been the cause of the disappearance of wild and unspoilt areas and of a large number of animal and plant species in the Netherlands. The primary factor in this disappearance has been the destruction of suitable environments, or habitats, usually because these areas were taken up by man and developed to suit their purposes. What is very important is natural diversity, i.e. the existence of many different species in many different ecosystems, which regulate natural processes such as the pollination of plants and protection against illnesses.
 
Due to rapidly accelerating technological developments during the last few centuries, man has strongly expanded his means of existence. These developments were to the detriment of the other life forms (animals and plants) though, with whom we have to share the planet. Nature is under a particularly high pressure in the Netherlands. The acquisition of nature reserves and protected areas is a good policy, which should be continued. Conservationists such as Greenpeace, the Dutch organization Natuurmomenten and many others are fighting a losing battle, though, if man, as a species, is not prepared to take a big step backwards in favour of nature as a whole, which he himself is a part of and which he needs in order to survive. There is no charter concerning animal rights. From the point of view of animal welfare, it would have been better if the population of the Netherlands had stopped growing in 1800, at the level of two million. Of old, wild animals such as foxes, wolves, horses, deer, boars and beavers used to be common here. The fact that these animals still exist at all on this planet is thanks to there still being some areas, outside the Netherlands, where the pressures of human life on the environment are not so heavy, even though the inhabitants of these places are often much less prosperous than we are. This is yet another illustration of the fact that we have a degree of population density which is irresponsibly or even a-socially high.
 
It should be clear by now that, on the small surface of this country, there is only reasonably room for a small number of people, living in one metropolis and, for the rest, in small towns and villages, incorporated into the landscape, as is the case in Denmark. Only if half of the total territory of the Netherlands consisted of protected areas of natural beauty, with an ecological, biological, aesthetic, historical and recreational value, would we achieve a situation that would be ideal in all aspects. Such a situation was perhaps still a reality in 1800, when the population was no larger than two million. Perhaps it was even a reality in 1900, although to a lesser extent, when there was a population of six million.
 
16.       Energy
Nature provides man with fossil fuels such as oil and gas. These are finite substances, however. Moreover, their consumption/combustion is causing global environmental problems, global warming being the most notorious example. Using solar energy is an alternative but it needs a lot of land surface: about 20% of the total European land surface would have to be used to derive all the necessary energy form the sun. In the Netherlands, which is overcrowded and has relatively few hours of sunlight, there is simply not enough room for this.
Another downside to generating durable energy from solar panels, wood, vegetable oils, and methanol from crops, is that it would be at the expense of food production. Turning food into energy would be quite an impressive feat, by the way, seeing as huge amounts of fossil fuels are expended in modern methods of farming. Wind turbines also take up a lot of space, and, more importantly, many locations are not suitable because they catch too little wind or because a row of turbines would spoil the view of the horizon. The pressure is on because fossil fuels will soon cease to be an energy source, and the global supply of timber, another source of fuel, is also shrinking fast. 
 
17.       Population density
The foundation promotes the cause of a less densely populated country, a less populated Europe and a less populated world. The Netherlands and Belgium (which have 16 and 10 million inhabitants on 491 and 341 square kilometres respectively) could take it upon themselves to reduce their populations, thereby setting a crucial example to other countries. In the brochure “A Complete Occupation” the foundation shows the way in which the population of the Netherlands has increased during the course of centuries. The figures below show how the degree of population density in the Netherlands compares with other countries.
 
Population Density per km2
Canada
3
China
139
 Russia
9
Germany
230
 United States
32
India
355
 Mexico
57
Japan
341
 Ireland
60
Belgium
341
 France
99
The Netherlands*
491
 Nigeria
161
Taiwan
638
 Denmark
127
Bangladesh
1083
 Luxemburg
190
 
 
*Not including the bodies of water (in connection with the sea) that lie within the boundaries of the Netherlands.
 
Comparing the population density of the Netherlands with its neighbouring countries Denmark, Germany, France and Luxembourg proves quite enlightening. Anybody who is familiar with any of these countries realizes to what extent we, here in the Netherlands, are missing out on certain aspects of immaterial prosperity, as a direct result of overpopulation. If you were to compare the Netherlands at the beginning of the 20th century with the state of the country today, you would arrive at a similar realization.
 
An excessive population density can have the effect of limiting the freedom of individuals. In this situation, more freedom for one person, whether granted to him by others or appropriated by himself, may well mean less freedom for others. The construction of a road, for example, might represent more freedom of movement to some people, but an impingement on others’ freedom to be able to experience an area of natural beauty. In this way, all manner of freedoms might, increasingly, come to threaten other, fundamental, freedoms in future.
 
18.       Demographic ageing
Demographic ageing is often used as an argument against taking action against overpopulation. It is reasoned that, in an ageing society, there would be too few people to do the necessary work. The care of the elderly, in particular, would be liable to suffer. The foundation has published a brochure on this subject, under the title “Ageing Society”, which shows, through clear reasoning, that this argument is an unsound one. One important fact is that there is a large group of people in the 20 to 64 year age group, who are stranded outside the labour market (in 1997, for example, 35% of people between 20 and 64 were unemployed, of whom 25% received benefits). There is such a large labour reserve that it should not prove a problem to absorb any possible effects of demographic ageing. (See our two brochures: “An Ageing Population” and “Ageing Society”).
 
19.       Asylum seekers
The Netherlands has experienced both a high number of births and a high rate of immigration. In pursuing the necessary decrease in the number of inhabitants it is no use, as we have already pointed out, striving for a drop in births if no corresponding limitations are set on the continuing immigration. It is not possible to pursue a balanced and responsible population policy without a clear view of both birth and migration numbers. Only by looking at these figures can we hold a reasonable debate on what our asylum policy should be. As long as these two issues are not connected, all talk about halting or limiting the entry of asylum seekers seems rather arbitrary. (See our brochure “A Complete Occupation: The Netherlands and Immigration”).
 
20.       Illegality
There are estimated to be more than 100.000 illegal aliens in the Netherlands. “Illegal” is meant in the usual sense, of acting contrary to the law: it refers to people who have come into the country without a passport and who are living here without a residence permit. The Dutch government and the European commission spend many millions of euros on passports and border surveillance respectively, which indicates that they consider these matters to be of vital importance. Illegal residence must be recognized for what it is: a serious offence. Any Dutch citizen, who tries to evade the law, no matter which law in particular, is liable to punishment. Should it not be the aim to apply the law to everyone? It also applies to people smugglers and to people who provide asylum to those who have been denied residency, after all. The phenomenon of illegality is undermining our legal system and standing in the way of any effective population policy.
 
21.       Refugees and persecuted persons
There are currently more than 50 million people roaming across the world in search of safety and better circumstances for living. Their number is growing. Clearly, the majority consists of people whose economic circumstances are far from ideal. Measured by our Western standards, large parts of the populations of Asia, Africa and South America have reason to flee their countries. The point is to define what it means to flee. As we understand it, fleeing is something distinct from attempting to start an existence elsewhere from economic or familial motives.
 
There are at least two billion people who are in very difficult circumstances. It is very easy to say these people are welcome in principle, just because we cannot stop them anyway. It is also an easy option to periodically legalise refugees after the event, as has happened quite often in Europe. This should not be seen as an expression of, belated, solidarity, but rather as a gesture of powerlessness, impotence and a lack of vision.
 
The convention on refugees was drafted in Geneva in 1951. In those days the numbers of refugees were small compared to today and the convention was concerned with persecuted individuals who were offered refuge in the “free West”. Most refugees came from behind the iron curtain. It was never the aim, however, to bring large numbers of people from, for instance, Poland or East Germany, to the West. Receiving certain refugees served, instead, as a kind of political signal to those regimes and, at the same time, strengthened our own sense of self-worth. These were not economic refugees, but persecuted individuals from the Soviet concentration camps and the football stadiums in Chile. This group included dissident writers, other political refugees and victims of war, from Vietnam, for example. The convention should continue to apply to this group of refugees, no matter how many. If, today, we limited our amnesty to individual victims of unsavoury regimes, and if we replaced the term refugees with the term “persecuted persons”, then we would find that we are only dealing with a relatively small group of people, who are already imprisoned in prisons and camps. Why don’t we actively look for those who are persecuted around the world? Of course, not everyone who calls himself a refugee actually is one. This is illustrated by the high numbers of people that are turned down during the asylum procedure.
 
Finally, it would be good to, at the least, pay attention to a number of issues that support the argument for pursuing an active population policy:
The fact that an ever growing economic need for more manpower from abroad is proclaimed, even though only 40% of the population in the Netherlands (64% of the age group 20-64) is not in paid employment.
The pressing need to save the environment from complete collapse under the pressure of an ever-growing population.
The fact that opening the borders of a country such as the Netherlands, in the current circumstances, will result in absurd and untenable situations.
The fact that a policy of foreign developing aid, when linked to a broad programme aimed at halting the rise in birth numbers in the third world, in particular, would do more to improve people’s circumstances than stimulating mass migration ever can.
 
Closing the borders is the opposite extreme to keeping an open door policy. The Netherlands should only to a very limited extent, take in refugees, but it should actively seek out persecuted individuals. This policy was pursued in the case of Kosovo. The country should not receive economic refugees any longer, only people who have indeed been persecuted personally and victims of war. The aim should always be to repatriate these people within a reasonable period of time: within five years, for instance. We should give these people the opportunity to find employment here, in the mean time, so that they can save up money for their return, as and when this becomes possible.
 
Many western governments simply cannot be sure about people’s underlying motives for leaving their countries. There is only way of ascertaining whether someone is truly in danger or not. That is to have representatives of the Red Cross and Amnesty International and government officials take stock of the situation in situ and visit places such as prisons. That is where the decisions about temporary asylum should be made, not here. This would rule out any form of simulation and force wily people traffickers to give up their trade.
 
22.       Regional relief
If more relief for refugees could be provided on a regional basis, then the growing phenomenon of people migrating half way around the world could be halted. In offering temporary relief or asylum to victims of war and persecuted persons, the aim should always be to guarantee the return to the country of origin, as soon as the threat of war or political persecution is no longer active. Sending people back into a war zone is unthinkable. If people cannot return to their home country, however, relief and asylum within the region should always be the preferred option. This was, in fact, the policy pursued by the Dutch government under Prime-minister Drees in the 1950’s.
 
It is understandable that someone who has experienced the prosperity of our society would want to partake of that prosperity. Clearly, this can be a motive for people to remain in the Netherlands and, if no other option is open to them, to go underground. This would be less of an issue in the case of regional asylum.
 
23.       Organisations
There is a body of professionals, including lawyers, aid workers and social workers, who earn an honest living from dealing with refugees and their problems. Then there are the traffickers, who grow rich by exploiting other people’s misery. We do not wish to question the good faith and idealism of the first group.
People need to realize that there is now a huge immigration service industry, which is worth billions. Thousands of people are employed in this sector, in the immigration service, for instance, or in care agencies. The procedures that refugees need to go through in seeking asylum, and the social support they receive after they arrive are also aspects of this sector that demand manpower. If immigration decreases, this industry will be hit with growing unemployment among social workers.
For these social workers, as for any employee in any sector, guarantees of employment can become unrealistic and untenable as the circumstances change. They may find they need to retrain to find alternative employment.
 
In immigration were to decrease or even disappear, the many subsidies which are now granted to care agencies could be directly employed in the repatriation process and in helping people in their own countries. There are quite a number of people living in the Netherlands who once came here as refugees and who have successfully integrated into Dutch society. There are people in this group who also feel that we have passed beyond an acceptable limit in admitting more and more people. They advocate a stop to immigration, as we do.
The earth can can only feed three billion people in the long term
CONCLUSION
It seems almost incomprehensible that the attitude of so many people and organisations within Dutch society to the issue of overpopulation seems to be one of indifference. A continuation of the current state of affairs is in interest of those who are in actual positions of power - in politics, business and religious organisations. They are concerned with the pursuit of economic growth, and are thus motivated by a desire for higher returns on investments, fear of unemployment, fear of recession and of not being able to afford the cost of pensions in the future. Apart from this, people are, in general, afraid of losing their individual freedoms, such as the right to have as many children as you want. By now it has become clear that these individual freedoms, in combination with ever growing economic interests, are paralysing people’s common sense and reason, as well as feeding the taboo surrounding the issue of overpopulation.
We welcome critical response to this brochure, because our aim is to encourage reflection on the statement that “overpopulation demands an active population policy”.
If you agree with our position or are intrigued and want to know more, please apply to our address below for more information, free of charge. You can also support us by becoming a contributor.
 
Revised edition: April 2009

World population