Published December 1978 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd Defusing a Global Time Bomb Only ten years ago, many experts predicted that the world's growing population was a time bomb that could explode into mass starvation, world chaos, and even world war by the year 2,000. The latest U.S. Census Bureau figures indicate that the time bomb may have been defused by family- planning efforts in the most populous countries. The Census Bureau reports that for the first time in the history of population statistics, world population growth has slowed. Since 1970, the global population has increased 1.9 percent annually, while in the previous 15 years, it had been rising at 2 percent each year. While the decline of a tenth of a percentage point does not seem substantial, demographers are encouraged by the change in direction the figures represent. World population growth has been accelerating rapidly in recent years. Global population was estimated at 1 billion in 1830, at 2 billion in 1930, at 3 billion in 1960, and at 4 billion in 1975. Predictions of the world's population by the year 2,000 range from 5.8 billion to 6.3 billion. According to the new statistics, some of the most populated countries that were viewed as seedbeds for population explosion, such as China, India, Indonesia, and Egypt, are showing evidence of major and continuing birth-rate declines. The declines are attributed to the success of family planning programs. As of 1976, 63 countries had launched such programs. Many experts believe that excessive population growth diminishes the quality of life. The problem is particularly grave in developing nations, which exist at substandard levels and already suffer for want of enough food, education, employment, and housing. Overpopulation also has the potential to stimulate political unrest and conflict within and among nations. Moreover, allocation and availability of food resources could become a critical factor in world stability. Over the years, the United States government has affirmed its support in solving population problems, and has contributed substantially to assistance programs and research. The heartening news that world population growth may no longer be a crisis, is evidence that our efforts have been rewarded.