MOYERS: What about the subject you’ve written so much about – the population explosion? Right now, the population of the globe is over five billion. You’ve warned us about what will happen if it continues at its two percent growth rate per year.
ASIMOV: Actually, the growth rate is down to one-point-six percent, but with the higher population, it’s the same amount in actual numbers: eighty million a year. By the year 2000, it’s going to be perhaps six-point-five billion.
MOYERS: That’s just twelve years from now. How many people do you think the earth is able to sustain?
ASIMOV: I don’t think it’s able to sustain the five billion in the long run. Right now most of the world is living under appalling conditions. We can’t possibly improve the conditions of everyone. We can’t raise the entire world to the average standard of living in the United States because we don’t have the resources and the ability to distribute well enough for that. So right now as it is, we have condemned most of the world to a miserable, starvation level of existence. And it will just get worse as the population continues to go up.
MOYERS: But you can’t just say to a woman, “Don’t have children.”
ASIMOV: That’s not the problem; it’s that so many people are saying, “Have children.” There is such a pro-natalist attitude in the world. We celebrate Mother’s Day so enthusiastically, we say, “May all your troubles be little ones,” we celebrate additional children. I feel sometimes that if we’d only stop pushing for children, somehow there would be fewer of them.
MOYERS: Why did you say that the price of survival is the equality of women?
ASIMOV: Because if women are allowed to enter into all facets of the human condition, if they can enter business, if they can enter religion, science, government on an equal basis with men, they will be so busy they won’t feel it necessary to have a great many children. As long as you have women under conditions where they don’t feel any sense of value or self-worth except as mothers, they’ll have a lot of children because that’s the only way they can prove they’re worth something. In general, if you look through the world, the lower the status of women, the higher the birth rate, and the higher the birth rate, the lower the status of women. If you could raise the status of women, I am certain the birth rate would fall drastically through the choice of the women themselves. We’re always saying that there’s no fulfillment like having children, but I notice mostly it’s men who say that. You know, men get along without giving birth to children. They do that by finding other things to do. If women could find other things to do, too, they would have fewer children.