Global population reduction: confronting the inevitable

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John K

Posted by Jerry West:

quote:

Being a net exporter of food does not mean that a country is not starving its people. In fact it could be a sign that a country is purposefully starving its people.

According to 2005 FAO data, India had food exports of $51.1 billion US and food imports of $39.3 billion US. That positive trade balance of $10.8 billion raises the incomes of the hundreds of millions who live in rural India. The main reason 20% of Indians are under-nourished is because they are poor. By raising living standards, economic security (including food security) is improved. Families no longer feel compelled to have large numbers of children due to economic insecurity. Population stabilizes.

quote:

Germany is consuming about 4 times its bio-capacity and the Netherlands over 5 times. Neither is sustainable.

According to 2005 FAO data, the Netherlands had food exports of $32.4 billion and food imports of $21.1 billion, for a net food trade balance of $11.3 billion US. The Netherlands is setting 12% of its area aside as ecological reserves and wilderness. It is also setting aside additional lands as commercial forests. There is an indefinite moratorium on any further large scale land reclamations from the sea. In some places, the sea is being allowed to re-flood land previously reclaimed. This isn't the picture of a country that is consuming 5 times its bio-capacity, whatever the heck that means.

Fidel

quote:


Originally posted by John K:
[b]According to 2005 FAO data, India had food exports of $51.1 billion US and food imports of $39.3 billion US. That positive trade balance of $10.8 billion raises the incomes of the hundreds of millions who live in rural India.[/b]

And Ireland exported corn and pork from 13 sea ports in 1847 as millions starved to death. Cash crop capitalists would have willfully and merrily murdered millions more had there been more people for the invisible hand to deny food to.

quote:

[b]The main reason 20% of Indians are under-nourished is because they are poor.[/b]

That's a coincidence. Because that's the same reason 80 percent of chronically hungry nations suffer widespread malnutrition: a shortage of prosperity to go around in order to prop up big business' bottom lines. It's a pattern of planned and enforced genocide developed over more than 150 years of capitalism.

quote:

[b]By raising living standards, economic security (including food security) is improved. Families no longer feel compelled to have large numbers of children due to economic insecurity. Population stabilizes.[/b]

UNICEF says 6000 children die from the capitalist economic long run each and every day in India like clockwork. That's over two million children per year in India alone. More than half the world's malnourished children live in democratic capitalist India,iow's, more than 55 million. Infants and children are falling over like bowling pins around the democratic capitalist third world while cash crops are exported to "the market" as it was in 1847 Ireland. Capitalism is the kiss of death, a conveyer belt of human misery with no off button.

[url=http://tinyurl.com/3xbxbd][b]320 million[/b](pdf)[/url] Indians go to bed hungry every night. - Centre for Environment and Food Security, New Delhi, 2005

[ 30 July 2007: Message edited by: Fidel ]

Jerry West

quote:


JK:
According to 2005 FAO data, India had food exports of $51.1 billion US and food imports of $39.3 billion US. That positive trade balance of $10.8 billion....

Measuring in monetary units is irrelevant. What counts is actual amounts of material and energy. In the case of food the more relevant measure would be calories.

To make a solid argument on the status of food available in India we need to know how many calories (kcal) it raises, how many it exports and how many it imports. From that we then know how many calories it actually has to feed its people. Divide the number of calories by the population and we get the average amount of food available per Indian.

We also know then whether it is really food surplus or not and at what level each Indian could expect to be nourished if it were divided equally. If it is much under 2200 calories per capita per day there isn't enough food.

quote:

According to 2005 FAO data, the Netherlands had food exports of $32.4 billion and food imports of $21.1 billion, for a net food trade balance of $11.3

Yet, again, that does not tell us whether they are sustainably food sufficient or just eating up their bio-capacity, or what kind of calorie exchange the $$ measure represents.

quote:

The Netherlands is.... This isn't the picture of a country that is consuming 5 times its bio-capacity,....

It certainly could be.

quote:

whatever the heck that means

Which illustrates the flaw in your arguments. You can not understand the environmental issues facing us until you understand what bio-capacity is.

[url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_hectare]Global hectare and biocapacity[/url]

Think of an isolated island with limited water, vegetation and animals, including humans. The bio-capacity of that island is its ability to support its population sustainably for infinity. It is possible for a period of time to exceed that capacity by consuming the capital, such as eating all of the eggs instead of using some to hatch new chickens, or milling grain to the point that each year there are fewer seeds to plant, thus smaller crops, and so on, including reproducing some populations, such as people or other animals, that require eating up the capital in order to survive.

In the case of the Netherlands, in terms of material and energy, not fiat currency, they are consuming 5 times more than they can produce sustainably.

Currently this planet, with a bio-capacity of 1.8gha per capita and an average consumption rate of 2.2gha, is eating up its bio-capacity. The argument that this can be fixed merely by changing consumption habits in the developed world is a fantasy given that totally eliminating the populations of North America and Europe would only stabilize the rest of the world at a sustainable level of around 2.+gha, think Turkey.

Obviously, I hope, no one is advocating exterminating the populations of North America and Europe, so the choice then becomes reducing the living standards in the developed world down to that of Uzebekistan, while raising much of the Third World slightly, starving off the poorer countries, or starting down the path of world wide population reduction through controls on reproduction along with reduced consumption in the highest consuming societies.

Erik Redburn

quote:


Originally posted by Farmpunk:
[b]I guess what I'm left with on the de-population issue is how to start the process.

I still think there are sustainable biological ways to grow enough food to feed everyone right now. Now, feeding an ever-expanding population...? Gets tricky. And more difficult every day. [/b]


No worries, noone's advocating infinite growth forever outside the loony right, and population growth is slowing more than once projected, albiet not as much as we might like, with a peak of perhaps eight not ten or twelve billion. The left had better learn to stop fighting battles already lost and start watching the balls still in play, like we used to. There are still things that can be done to encourage smaller families without resorting to authoritarian hypocracy and inviting more international resistence as a result.

quote:

[b]
On the farmland issue. I was at a wedding on the weekend and drove around south of Hamilton. Prime ag land. Lots of sod farms. Gallows farmer humour. Soon to be everyone else's problem, too.[/b]

That maybe one key to surviving the coming crunch, the Chinese and other societies willing to learn have traditionally built upwards on only the most marginal land, and used everything they could for food and soil fertility. Further ahead than we are still, wasteful North Americans in particular. Our recent colonial history no doubt.
They've also traditionally invested in farming to a greater extent than we have, holding farmers in higher esteem than the merchant class -at least in theory. That last part is probably more in the past. Problems mostly began with more successful farmers turning landlords and too many resources redirected towards imperial pretensions or the illusions of easy and endless profits. Sound familiar?

[ 31 July 2007: Message edited by: EriKtheHalfaRed ]

Erik Redburn

Now to the costs of poverty, especially that imposed from outside. First of all, one major reason for large families in the so-called "third world" being ignored here, is that the very poverty of their societies means no state structure to provide pensions for aging family members, welfare for the truly desparate, or other supports for coming generations which we're so used to we don't even notice them anymore. Perhaps there is some time lag in adjusting to lower death rates elsewhere (except among tribals and more vulnerable minorities) but lack of adequate secular education, limited access to birth control (yes, it's still a real barrier for many women) and opportunties for the young probably do more to aggravate this already well known catch-twenty two. Refuse more civil society and the fundies, fakkirs and warlords come in to fill the gaps. Deal with the underlying causes of vastly unequal distribution of resources and much of that "catch twenty two" fades. Even now.

Second, the vast majority of people flowing into vanishing tropical rainforests are dirt poor and landless. Other causes too of course but most of them linked to our own first world interests and ideologies. Noones going to move into the frontier unless there's nothing there at home, same as with exploding shanty towns everywhere beyond our over-privileged horizons. So the question again is should the left also deny them the same prospects we now take for granted, based on false Malthusean (or its Cornucopean alter-ego) thinking, or should we again deal with them on the level they Can be dealt with? Brazil is the most familiar example now but how many are aware that this ex-slaver colony has the highest concentration of land held by the fewest owners? The obvious opportunities there are of course ignored and denied still, even by supposed Social Democrats like Lula, as the Amazon "frontier" to their old world view is cheaper and easier route. The massive illegal logging (usually supported by corrupt officials and international cartels etc) move right along with these unnecessary diasporas. Not so different in Indonesia or the Congo basin.

Third, the truly poor, as any left leaner should know, are more vulnerable to exploitation; remove meaningful choices and most people take what they can just to survive another week, rather than rebel as the old Trotskyists imagined. Alot of the land being squandered now is also lost directly to Western interests and their colonial clients. Borneo for example is being converted into one giant palm oil plantation, not subsistence agriculture. So that too is something that [i]our[/i] particular greed, rather than their universal needs, are most responsible for.

Fourth, much of the arable land being lost is being lost to desertification caused mostly by our own irresponsible economic policies and activities. Poorly thought out interest-based "development" programs still being dictated by the IMF and World Bank only make things worse; refuse and you lose all your credit and aid. Keynes would roll over in his grave if his knew what Western technocrats turned his babies into. The Sudan is drying up because of us, not the locals who have lived there for millenia. Noone argues that one directly, but apparently it still scarecely factors into our planning. And ya, under all the "free market" bull everything but the consequences are still planned from the top down.

Jerry West mentioned Haiti as an inevitable example of his doomsday scenarios but look right next door; the Dominican republic's a country almost as poor and almost as populated but their natural ecology is in much better shape still, why? Because better more far sighted choices and sacrifices were made by leaders who were a little less influenced by the worst most short sighted elements in our own societies. Their better environment ironically means somewhat better living conditions too. So maybe it means we have to look at the actual Reasons for circumstances and deal with them on that level instead, rather than transposing our hopelessly ideological assumptions on others, as Westerners have been doing for too many centuries already. Time we learned from our own mistakes before presuming to dictate to others again.

[ 31 July 2007: Message edited by: EriKtheHalfaRed ]

Fidel

Dominican Republic is green for sure. But the leaders are corrupt, and the people aren't poor by choice. We don't want to emulate that political economy.

Jerry West

quote:


ETHR:
That maybe one key to surviving the coming crunch, the Chinese and other societies willing to learn have traditionally built upwards on only the most marginal land, and used everything they could for food and soil fertility.

Or maybe that is path to making matters worse. What needs to be considered is the effect on the system of further changing the ecological balance, and what happens to and what were the benefits of the flora, fauna, watershed dynamics and so on of the altered land.

Also, as species have a tendency to expand to the limit of their food supply, we have to ask if increasing the food supply isn't self defeating in the long run.

China, in fact, has an average per capita consumption of 1.6gha and a per capita bio-capacity of .8gha. China is consuming twice as much as it can sustainably produce which means that unless half of what it consumes is coming from somewhere else it is eating up its ability to produce.

It could also be noted that China has a long history of famine, partly because transporting surpluses from one area to the other were so difficult. And some of the famine problems were abated by the introduction on foreign food plants by the Europeans that could grow in the drier areas.

quote:

....wasteful North Americans in particular. Our recent colonial history no doubt.

Wasteful probably because colonial developments allowed for plenty so that waste could be possible. Basically you are arguing that colonization brought prosperity. Are you then arguing against prosperity?

quote:

Now to the costs of poverty,....

There is little disagreement with most of your argument here. However, it does not make a case against population reduction as one of the necessary prerequisites for a global society sustainable at a more comfortable level than what is the current low average.

One should also note that a lot of the destruction in the underdeveloped would not be possible if the developed world was not providing a market for the fruits of ecological destruction, such as tropical hardwoods.

quote:

Borneo for example....

Indonesia has a bio-capacity of 1 and a consumption rate of 1.1, it could sustain itself at its present low standard of living if left alone. Devoting land to crops for export will make it worse. Reducing its population would raise the average standard of living.

quote:

Jerry West mentioned Haiti as an inevitable example of his doomsday scenarios but look right next door; the Dominican republic's a country almost as poor....

Haiti: bio-capacity .3, consumption rate .6
DR: bio-capacity .8, consumption rate 1.6

Both countries are in a downward spiral, Haiti is just closer to the drain pipe than the DR.

Aspiring to be a sinking ship like the DR probably isn't the most wise choice a society could make.

If the DR halved its population it would be sustainable at 1.6, not a very high standard of living, however. If they cut their population by 75% they could have a pretty decent standard, not quite European, but better than Turkey or Malaysia.

quote:

So maybe it means we have to look at the actual Reasons for circumstances and deal with them on that level instead, rather than transposing our hopelessly ideological assumptions on others,....

The circumstance is that there are too many people for the planet to support equally at a consumption rate greater than that currently in Uzbekistan. There are a number of reasons for that, but the answer, if we aspire to a universal standard of living that requires a per capita consumption greater than current Uzbekistan then by necessity we must bring the population level down significantly. This is a straight forward math problem, though some may consider math to be ideological and 2+2=4 to be an ideological assumption.

Approaching this problem from an anthropocentric view point would be a mistake and lead to erroneous conclusions. Humans are but one part of a very complicated equation.

[ 31 July 2007: Message edited by: Jerry West ]

Erik Redburn

quote:


Originally posted by Fidel:
[b]Dominican Republic is green for sure. But the leaders are corrupt, and the people aren't poor by choice. We don't want to emulate that political economy.[/b]

I never said we should emulate anyone, was just an illustration of the fact that what nations do or don't do still has more relevance than mere body counts.

Erik Redburn

"The world produces enough food to feed everyone. World agriculture produces 17 percent more calories per person today than it did 30 years ago, despite a 70 percent population increase. This is enough to provide everyone in the world with at least 2,720 kilocalories (kcal) per person per day (Food and Agriculture Organization 2002, FAO 1998. The principal problem is that many people in the world do not have sufficient land to grow, or income to purchase, enough food. Poverty is the principal cause of hunger. The causes of poverty include poor people's lack of resources, an extremely unequal income distribution in the world and within specific countries, conflict, and hunger itself."

[url=http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/Learn/world%20hunger%20facts%202002....

And for those who think that only environmentally unsustyainable methods can feed us:.

[url=http://news.mongabay.com/2007/0712-organic.html]http://news.mongabay.com...

[url=http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070711134523.htm]http://www...

Problem is too many farmers under globalization are encouraged to grow cash crops over food crops, but we can't blame the poor farmers, its the trans-national trading structure thats grown up around us all that needs to be tackled. Tough challenge for sure, but still easier than telling others their very existence is the problem. It's at least possible.

Jerry West

quote:


ETHR:
"The world produces enough food to feed everyone....

Irrelevant.

My body produces enough cells to feed what cancer I may have. At the point that cancer eats more than my body is producing I am still producing enough cells for awhile to feed all of the cancer. Eventually the cancer cancels my ability to produce cells and we both die.

The fact that the planet is producing enough food to feed everyone at the moment does not mean that it is not destroying its ability to produce food by doing so. Our consumption is not sustainable at its present rate. Producing more and consuming more only makes the situation worse.

World per capita sustainable bio-capacity in 2003: 1.8gha
World per capita consumption: 2.2gha

The only way to significantly improve those numbers is by reducing demand which for all practical purposes includes, but is not limited to, reducing the population.

quote:

The principal problem is that many people in the world do not have sufficient land to grow,....

Then the logical solution is to reduce populations in those areas to the level that the land base is sufficient.

quote:

Poverty is the principal cause of hunger.

Yes, and so what? Poverty and hunger today are symptoms of a diseased economic model, but they aren't the main problem. Destroying the eco-system's ability to sustain human life is the problem, and that is a result of over consumption.

The overall global average consumption can not be sustained at its present rate, never mind increasing consumption in some segments by reducing poverty without massive reductions in the consumption of all of the world that consumes more per capita than Uzbekistan.

This is not a case of merely curbing the demon capitalists and forcing the wealthy nations into impoverishment. As bad as these are, totally wiping them out will not raise the average sustainable rate more than 25% to half of what Europe now enjoys, never mind North America.

We face a big problem and the poor as well as the rich contribute to it.

Keep in mind that an equal distribution of resources in the world with the present population would turn the whole world into Uzbekistan as far as consumption goes. Is this the kind of future we should be aspiring towards?

The fact that unequal distribution is a cause of poverty goes without saying. It is also irrelevant to the issue.

Achieving equal distribution without population reduction would increase poverty, depending of course where one draws the poverty line.

quote:

Tough challenge for sure, but still easier than telling others their very existence is the problem.

But the total size of the population is a problem. Why avoid the truth and build remedies built on false premises? The long term solution to our environmental crisis is to reduce the birth rate significantly below the replacement level until we reach a population level that can be supported at whatever ideal consumption level we decide on without degrading the ability of the eco-system to remain perpetually sustainable.

If that is not possible then nature will deal with the issue and probably in a harsher way than we could if we set ourselves to it. The poor would be the first to go.

Frustrated Mess Frustrated Mess's picture

quote:


Keep in mind that an equal distribution of resources in the world with the present population would turn the whole world into Uzbekistan as far as consumption goes. Is this the kind of future we should be aspiring towards?

Fortunately or unfortunately, it is the future we are racing toward if we remain optimistic.

Reading over your last post I find I am in agreement with much of what you are saying. The question is what can we do about it and the answer, as far as I am concerned, is nothing.

In a world where gross inequalities are not only tolerated but championed, there can be little hope that the average major consumer can be persuaded to change behaviour in any substantive way.

I heard a CBC report this morning where a coalition of environmental groups got together and did some polling to demonstrate that 20 per cent of Ontarians rate the environment as the number one election issue. So what? There is a huge disconnect between what humans say and what they do. And beyond that, environmentalists exhibit less solidarity than any other bloc of voters.

The fact is humans will not change behaviour until catastrophe strikes and then only by necessity not by choice.

Essentially we have arrived at the historical moment where the globe's wealthiest are being asked to surrender the trappings of that wealth and live much more modest lifestyles.

I had a conversation with a young woman from India once who came from a well-to-do family and she was university educated. We spoke about India and the poverty there and the limits of the planet. She acknowledged the issue and even the solution but then she said, "the rich will never give up what they have."

She was right. Absolutely right.

On global terms we are the rich. And we will not give up what many consider to be our entitlement and privilege by birthright.

Erik Redburn

You're all too fatalistic, though I do find JW's dismissal of our ability to feed ourselves as "irrelevant" now mildly amusing. More so than his comparison of people to cancer. Enough.

Erik Redburn

FM: "Essentially we have arrived at the historical moment where the globe's wealthiest are being asked to surrender the trappings of that wealth and live much more modest lifestyles."

I will add that the trick will be in not asking them but imposing it on them, and do so by organizing the not-so rich. The rich are one minority everywhere which can afford a few more limits. It's them or us.

Frustrated Mess Frustrated Mess's picture

quote:


I will add that the trick will be in not asking them but imposing it on them, and do so by organizing the not-so rich. The rich are one minority everywhere which can afford a few more limits. It's them or us.

But on a global scale we, all of us in Western society, are the rich. And we are really, really, really well armed and not afraid to use them. Not even WMDs.

Jerry West

quote:


ETHR:
I do find JW's dismissal of our ability to feed ourselves as "irrelevant" now mildly amusing.

Which, to be generous, is simply because you fail to understand the issue that is facing us. And maybe the meaning of the term sustainability?

You focus on poverty, yet poverty is a symptom of other problems, not the root of the problem. Alleviating all poverty in the world won't solve the problem. Although by this point rather than alleviating poverty it is more likely that by equalizing consumption we would more or less impoverish everyone by any standard greater than that of Uzbekistan.

Our ability to feed ourselves (and consume resources in general) must be limited to the ability to do so without upsetting the ecological balance that gives us that ability in a sustainable manner.

Please provide us with the logic that proves that one can continually consume beyond the capacity of a system to provide consumables and not eventually run out of them.

quote:

I will add that the trick will be in not asking them but imposing it on them,....

So it is OK to force people to adhere to certain consumption levels, but not reproduction levels?

Reproduction beyond replacement is a form of increased consumption. In this case suicide in a world that is already consuming more than it can sustainably provide.

quote:

The rich are one minority everywhere which can afford a few more limits.

That is true, but even if you executed every rich person on the planet you would hardly make a dent in the problem.

I am all for redistributing wealth, but it is not the solution to the global over consumption problem.

Now if you are saying that the rich should consume less and no one else pick up the difference so that the poor do not get any more and total consumption levels actually drop, that would make a bit more of a difference.

If the rich are to consume less, and the poor more, then a higher consumption level than that of Uzbekistan can only be achieved by reducing the number of consumers.

One may wish that it were not so, but all of the wishing in the world and all of the denial in the world won't change the math.

quote:

I will add that the trick will be in not asking them but imposing it on them,....

One could say the same for population control with equal validity. The difference is you can not offer an improved standard of living to those that you impose consumption controls on like you can with reproductive controls.

quote:

It's them or us.

The them includes people who consume too much, and people who refuse to cut back on reproduction. It is no longer simply and issue wealth distribution.

quote:

FM:
Essentially we have arrived at the historical moment where the globe's wealthiest are being asked to surrender the trappings of that wealth and live much more modest lifestyles.

And what that modest lifestyle will be, if consumption is equalized throughout the population, will depend upon how big that population is. The smaller the population the more one can safely consume, and the better the entire environment is.

quote:

She acknowledged the issue and even the solution but then she said, "the rich will never give up what they have."

This is probably true with some limited exceptions, but it is no reason not to honestly recognize the problem, at least among those who either do not have significant wealth to protect, or who put the welfare of society ahead of their personal gain. Pretending that we can fix the problem by increasing consumption, alleviating poverty and so on avoids the problem and plays into the hands of the very rich.

Frustrated Mess Frustrated Mess's picture

Not that I want to keep repeating myself, Jerry, but [i]we are the rich[/i]. Look, we could reduce our energy consumption dramatically overnight if we all parked our cars and rode transit. But when these pathetic municipal "walk to work" programs are held every year, only the organizers and a few perennial "team players" participate.

People won't do the bare minimum. It isn't because people are bad or evil but because we are entirely disconnected from everything that matters.

For example, we are heading into a global food shortage. But people go to the grocery store, see the aisles and the shelves and remain oblivious. Same goes for energy. They see the price go up and blame the oil companies or government but they have no connection to the oil in the ground or the reality that oil output is barely matching oil demand.

The trick is to tell them. But the MSM prefers them ignorant and shopping, consuming, because our entire economy, our entire lifestyle, is built on endless, conspicuous consumption.

We are in a Chinese finger trap; damned if we do and damned if don't. If we try to seriously curb consumption our economies collapse. If we don't our ecology collapses. And, interestingly, if you give people a choice, they would prefer their economy over their ecology. If they did a poll, how many people would choose to give up their homes and keep their cars than vice-versa?

I think the results would be interesting.

[ 31 July 2007: Message edited by: Frustrated Mess ]

Jerry West

quote:


FM:
Not that I want to keep repeating myself, Jerry, but we are the rich.

Certainly we are, and some are richer than others. However, even if all of us were vaporized there would still be a problem. It is not just the rich anymore that are contributing.

Had we held the world population stable at the end of WWII with a birthrate at the replacement level there would be enough resources available per capita now for the whole world to be equalized at a standard of living between that of the UK and Japan.

Global warming would still be an issue, but probably not as bad, and easier to deal with.

I agree that many people are either oblivious, ignorant or in denial and that anything that we attempt aside from ineffective tinkering will more than likely meet stiff resistance.

Merely changing our consumption patterns and redistributing resources, however, will not solve the problem.

Whether we have the communal will to do what it takes to solve the problem before it becomes much worse is another question. It may well be that we do not.

Anyone who runs on a platform of population control or wealth reduction is not going to have a good time of it.

Fidel

quote:


Originally posted by Frustrated Mess:
[b]
People won't do the bare minimum. It isn't because people are bad or evil but because we are entirely disconnected from everything that matters. [/b]

There are Canadians all around me doing their part to reduce consumption and conserve energy. And there are no government-funded 12 step programs to do this. People are grabbing anything to read about global warming and following Reader's Digest and whoever sounds like an authority on the matter.

The NDP says there are millions of drafty leakey buildings in Ontario that could be rennovated with existing building technology. We could save the need for another Darlington nuclear power plant if California's energy conservation achievements are anything to go by.

Most of those low footprint EU countries Jerry mentioned have had federally-funded programs for conservation and reduction of footprint in-place for several years. Counries like Germany and Britain are way ahead of us in terms of being committed to funding home rennovations for energy conservation and regulating gas guzzlers and subsidizing home solar and ground heating systems. We've got nothing in Canada's largest province besides a lot of confusion and high-priced products on the market. And yes, there are some Canadians who couldn't care less. Well I think somebody has to make them care, because I don't think let the market rein free, stick their heads in the sand attitudes are going to accomplish a whole lot.

ceti ceti's picture

All this is all very good (well not everything...), but it's like putting the cart before the horse. Where will the political will come from? Our political leadership is not thinking long-term on these issues. And despite all the concern over climate change most of the actions that been proposed have been little more than hot air.

Population has been a major international concern for 30 years, however we have not had the political will globally to tackle it, beyond the draconian attempts in India which elicited a backlash, or in China whose one-child policy is can only be enforced with a strong regime.

Moreover, our political-economic system is locked into a growth paradigm. Unless something cataclysmic happens like a new depression, it will be very hard if not impossible to dislodge it. However we can look at what happened to Russia in the 1990s for what this might look like. Not pleasant, but the decline in gas emissions and population was quite startling.

The concept of "contract and converge", is perhaps our best hope, but even this gentle incremental plan is a long shot. I expect far more turbulence and not in a planned manner, even if we do survive.

Rather, given the entire field of both Republican and Democratic candidates for President, leadership won't be coming from the US anytime soon. The same is true from India or China. What little we as individual citizens won't have much of a chance unless the global political and economic system changes dramatically.

Hegemony or Survival indeed!

ceti ceti's picture

Two Possible Scenarios:

Les Cowboys Fringants "Plus rien"

Il ne reste que quelques minutes а ma vie
Tout au plus quelques heures
je sens que je faiblis
Mon frиre est mort hier au milieu du dйsert
Je suis maintenant le dernier humain de la terre

On m'a dйcrit jadis, quand j'йtais un enfant
Ce qu'avait l'air le monde il y a trиs trиs longtemps
Quand vivaient les parents de mon arriиre
grand-pиre
Et qu'il tombait encore de la neige en hiver

En ces temps on vivait au rythme des saisons
Et la fin des йtйs apportait la moisson
Une eau pure et limpide coulait dans les ruisseaux
Oщ venaient s'abreuver chevreuils et orignaux

Mais moi je n'ai vu qu'une planиte dйsolante
Paysages lunaires et chaleur suffocante
Et tous mes amis mourir par la soif ou la faim
Comme tombent les mouches...
Jusqu'a c'qu'il n'y ait plus rien...
Plus rien...
Plus rien...

Il ne reste que quelques minutes а ma vie
Tout au plus quelques heures,
je sens que je faiblis
Mon frиre est mort hier au milieu du dйsert
Je suis maintenant le dernier humain de la terre

Tout зa a commencй il y a plusieurs annйes
Alors que mes ancкtres йtaient obnubilйs
Par des bouts de papier que l'on appelait argent
Qui rendaient certains hommes
vraiment riches et puissants

Et ces nouveaux dieux ne reculant devant rien
Йtaient prкts а tout pour arriver а leurs fins
Pour s'enrichir encore ils ont rasй la terre
Polluй l'air ambiant et tari les riviиres

Mais au bout de cent ans des gens se sont levйs
Et les ont avertis qu'il fallait tout stopper
Mais ils n'ont pas compris cette sage prophйtie
Ces hommes-lа ne parlaient qu'en termes de profits

C'est des annйes plus tard qu'ils ont vu le non-sens
Dans la panique ont dйclarй l'йtat d'urgence
Quand tous les ocйans ont englouti les оles
Et que les inondations ont frappй les grandes villes

Et par la suite pendant toute une dйcennie
Ce fut les ouragans et puis les incendies
Les tremblements de terre et la grande sйcheresse
Partout sur les visages on lisait la dйtresse

Les gens ont dы se battre contre les pandйmies
Dйcimйs par millions par d'atroces maladies
Puis les autres sont morts par la soif ou la faim
Comme tombent les mouches...
Jusqu'а c'qu'il n'y ait plus rien...
Plus rien...
Plus rien...

Mon frиre est mort hier au milieu du dйsert
Je suis maintenant le dernier le humain de la terre
Au fond l'intelligence qu'on nous avait donnйe
N'aura йtй qu'un beau cadeau
empoisonnй

Car il ne reste que quelques
minutes а la vie
Tout au plus quelques heures,
je sens que je faiblis
Je ne peux plus marcher, j'ai peine а respirer
Adieu l'humanitй...
Adieu l'humanitй...

ceti ceti's picture

Ursula K Leguin's Dispossessed:

Ambassador Keng of Earth:

"My world, my Earth, is a ruin. A planet spoiled by the human species. We multiplied and gobbled and fought until there was nothing left, and then we died. We controlled neither appetite nor violence; we did not adapt. We destroyed ourselves. But we destroyed the world first. There are no forests left on my Earth. The air is grey, the sky is grey, it is always hot. It is habitable, still habitable, but not as this world is. This is a living world, a harmony. Mine is a discord. You Odonians chose a desert; we Terrans made a desert... We survive there as you do. People are tough! There are nearly half billion of us now. Once there were nine billion. You can see the old cities everywhere. The bones and the bricks go to dust, but the little pieces of plastic never do -- they never adapt either. We failed as a species, as a social species. We are here now, dealing as equals with other human societies on other worlds, only because of the charity of the Hainish. They came, they brought us help. They built ships and gave them to us, so we could leave our ruined world. They treat us gently, charitably as the strong man treats the sick one. They are a very strange people, the Hainish; older than any of us; infinitely generous. They are altruists. They are moved by a guilt we don't even understand, despite all our crimes. They are moved in all they do, I think, by the past, their endless past.

Well we had saved what could be saved, and made a life in the ruins, on Terra, in the only way it could be done: by total centralization. Total control over the use of every acre of land, every scrap of metal, every ounce of fuel. Total rationing, birth control, euthanasia, conscription into the labor force. The absolute regimentation of each life toward the goal of racial survival. We had achieved that much, when the Hainish. They brought us ... a little more hope."

Frustrated Mess Frustrated Mess's picture

WITH MAN GONE
WILL THERE
BE HOPE
FOR GORILLA?

WITH GORILLA GONE
WILL THERE
BE HOPE
FOR MAN?

[i]Ismael[/i]
by Daniel Quinn.

Michelle

quote:


Originally posted by Frustrated Mess:
[b]I am sympathetic to the population argument. But I think by and of itself it misses the mark. Let's say we find a way to reduce the earth's population to 2-3 billion. If that 2-3 billion continues to consume and waste as the 2-3 billion that comprise the western world currently do, then a reduced population would not have the desired effect of achieving any sort of equilibrium between earth's resources and consumption nevermind sustainability.[/b]

Exactly. In fact, it seems to me that if we focused on global population reduction instead of on reduced consumption, then it is likely that, with our current MORE MORE MORE mentality, those 2-3 billion people would assume that they are entitled to an even higher standard of consumption than now.

NDPP

World Over-Population? Hold On Buddy!  -  by F William Engdahl

http://nsnbc.me/2015/01/01/world-over-population-hold-on-buddy/

"The real story about our global population is radically different from the picture the mainstream media would lead us to believe..."

lagatta

I'm always a bit dubious about that kind of website. I'm not surprised that Margaret Sanger shared the eugenic outlook of many in her era - and NOT only the right wing or advocates of genocide - but women's right to contraception and the ability to plan when (and if...) to have children was a hard battle to win and one of the most important single victories in the fight for women's rights. Sanger was marked by the hard life of her Irish mother who endured 18 pregnancies and died at 49. 

Indeed overconsumption, and overly large families among the wealthy (think Matt Romney) are far more dangerous to the planet than sheer numbers, but unlike Ian Angus, I do think one can favour limits to population without being a racist or imperialist - simply because where women have (physical and cultural) access to contraception and abortion, family size has always fallen, and it falls more as girls and women attain higher educational levels and have better work prospects.

Family size has fallen dramatically in many parts of the Global South. Empowering women is the way forward.

Doug Woodard

Global population set to hit 9.7 billion by 2050:

http://gu.com/p/4b3j4/sbl

 

Doug Woodard

Letter from Africa: What Ghana can learn from Norway:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-34710175

 

lagatta

Interesting, but I would have preferred an example from another country in the global South that has limited its population growth, ideally through education and the empowerment of women (and of course, availability of birth control), rather than a first-world country that has always had strong educational and health institutions and good public health infrastructure. This one area in which Cuba has been remarkably successful, but I'm sure there are other examples.

Doug Woodard

Slow down population growth for human development:

http://www.nature.com/news/development-slow-down-population-growth-1.19415

 

http://www.populationmedia.org/

 see "about us", "news and publications", "daily email recap", "Feb. 25th"

Pondering

Women in more developed countries have fewer children so that would have to be included in projections as well as scientific advancements in green technology. 

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Quote:
Global population reduction: confronting the inevitable

You would think that the mere suggestion that we'll be forced to cull the weak and sick from our herd would be an odious and undesirable tragedy on a scale never seen before.

So why do the "overpopulation" shills always have such an overwhelming whiff of glee at the idea?

voice of the damned

Mr. Magoo wrote:

Quote:
Global population reduction: confronting the inevitable

You would think that the mere suggestion that we'll be forced to cull the weak and sick from our herd would be an odious and undesirable tragedy on a scale never seen before.

So why do the "overpopulation" shills always have such an overwhelming whiff of glee at the idea?

Well, they do sometimes make a token attempt at a tone of harsh sadness...

Quote:
The Paddocks were aware that their policy of abandoning food aid to the "hopeless countries" (India and Egypt for example) would lead to an immediate worsening of the situation there, but they wrote "to send food is to throw sand in the ocean." Using the triage system they hoped to avoid a broader catastrophe and stabilize the global population.

And I love the title of that book. I realize what they meant was America has all the food, so America can decide where it gets to go, but one wonders how or if they managed to avoid anticipating the image of Uncle Sam standing imperiously in the global coliseum and giving the thumbs-down to the weakest gladiators.

http://tinyurl.com/goqrffz

lagatta

It is so offensive, when there is another way; namely empowering women and ordinary people in general through an emphasis on education and the right to contraception. The birthrate has greatly decreased in many parts of the world; look at the success stories and see how they can be an inspiration. I have (had) two aunts who had 12 and 14; one of my first serious partners was also from a family of 13.

Just for example, with the great expansion of education for girls and young women in Iran, the birthrate has plummeted. Some of the old religious hardliners want to block contraception rights, but the aspirations of young people, including young couples, have been transformed.

 

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

It's an amazing thing - education, the ability to work and access to birth control has seen terrific success even in the developing countries where such strategies are tried. The vast majority of women do not want a huge family or to spend the larger part of their adult lives pregnant or nursing an infant.

Educate the girls and you've got the solution.

Doug Woodard

Mr. Magoo wrote:

Quote:
Global population reduction: confronting the inevitable

You would think that the mere suggestion that we'll be forced to cull the weak and sick from our herd would be an odious and undesirable tragedy on a scale never seen before.

So why do the "overpopulation" shills always have such an overwhelming whiff of glee at the idea?

Magoo, you are implying that

1. There is no other way to reduce human population other than "culling the weak and sick" in ways constituting "odious and undesirable tragedy."

2. People concerned about the negative consequences of high human populations are "shills" i. e. dishonest peddlers of misinformation.

3. These people take pleasure in the prospect of human misery.

Can you present any evidence for your claims, or are you merely indulging in the most vicious and contemptible kind of ideological propaganda?

Doug Woodard

lagatta wrote:

It is so offensive, when there is another way; namely empowering women and ordinary people in general through an emphasis on education and the right to contraception. The birthrate has greatly decreased in many parts of the world; look at the success stories and see how they can be an inspiration. I have (had) two aunts who had 12 and 14; one of my first serious partners was also from a family of 13.

Just for example, with the great expansion of education for girls and young women in Iran, the birthrate has plummeted. Some of the old religious hardliners want to block contraception rights, but the aspirations of young people, including young couples, have been transformed.

It's interesting that until very recently the Islamic Republic of Iran has had a more advanced population policy than the United States.

Another example is the Indian state of Kerala, which has had for some time a fertility rate below replacement. Some relevant factors are that a substantial fraction of Keralans have long been matrilineal, although the system has been weakened by legal changes of recent decades; the educational level is very high and largely gender-equal, and Kerala has been a part of international trading networks for thousands of years, thus it has been well-informed. This has been accomplished with a level of resource consumption far below that of Western Europe and North America, although the Keralan level of "human development" by conventional measures is almost equal.

lagatta

Yes, Kerala is another inspirational example.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Quote:
Magoo, you are implying that

1. There is no other way to reduce human population other than "culling the weak and sick" in ways constituting "odious and undesirable tragedy."

I don't think I've ever seen a discussion of population control that didn't eventually arrive at the topic of who would or wouldn't be allowed to survive, if it came to it.  And yes, one would expect the mere idea of loss of life on the necessary scale to be an undesirable thing.

Quote:
2. People concerned about the negative consequences of high human populations are "shills" i. e. dishonest peddlers of misinformation.

I'm not accusing them of dishonesty.  But to me, obsession with the idea is on par with obsessing about the next Ice Age.

Quote:
3. These people take pleasure in the prospect of human misery.

I don't think that at all.  I think they -- and the "Peak Oil" obsessives, and those who say "it's too late" and "we've already destroyed the planet" -- are the secular equivalent of "End Times" Christians.  It's not the misery that gets them all energized and excited, it's the comeuppance.

And whether we do or don't end up culling the herd, they seem just as excited at the prospect that we'll all have to downgrade our standard of living -- no more cars, no more lawns, no more hot showers!  Hey, maybe we will, but why would that be a happy thing?

But would it help, Doug, if I said I wasn't referring to you?

lagatta

I'd like to see far fewer cars, but it has nothing to do with downgrading our standard of living.

I don't see why slowing population growth requires culling anyone. It requires educating people, in particular women, providing access to contraception and reducing religious meddling. (And no, I don't mean an Albanian-type ban on religion).

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Quote:
I don't see why slowing population growth requires culling anyone. It requires educating people, in particular women, providing access to contraception and reducing religious meddling. (And no, I don't mean an Albanian-type ban on religion).

FWIW, I don't disagree.  And I'm down with educating women, providing birth control and reducing religious influence just for their own sakes, so it's not the solution is even a bitter pill to swallow.

But unless we acheive a worldwide "negative" birth rate, that's not actually going to REDUCE the population as the thread title seems to believe we must.  It'll just mean that we're INCREASING it slower.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

To some degree, but if the end game is an eventual negative replacement birth rate, there will be reduction. Japan is experiencing negative replacement rates. So is China, but for a different reason. Without immigration, Canada is at or below replacement.

quizzical

white people discussing the lowering the world's population ratios is disquieting to me. i ask myself all sorts of questions.

is this how it sounded when it was decided to lower the population ratios of North America, and all other countries and continents with non-white First Peoples already there?

are white people worried because their numbers are declining while others are growing?

why can't white people let non-whites make their own decisions?

or

does any of it matter as there are areas of the world extremely over populated?

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Only countries that are signatories to the 2002 Babble World Stewardship Accord are legally required to do whatever babblers think is right.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

I think the whole point of what lagatta and I have been saying is for women - regardless their colour, although I will acknowledge that the developing world is largely brown - choosing what they want to do. Being able to choose how many children and when has lead to lower birth rates, whether we're talking about Kerala or Sweden. I emphatically reject the notion that stating that trend, backed up in fact, if you're white means you're necessarily scared of brown people and plotting genocide.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Im definitely out of line to wish that women everywhere should have the privilege of choice I have. I clearly have a nefarious ulterior motive.

lagatta

Well, you are at replacement (or actually a bit below, as unfortunately all children don't live to adulthood) and I'm absolutely below, having had no "successful" pregnancies. I'm RHnegative, the only times I was pregnant ended in miscarriages even though I would have (probably) terminated them anyway, as I was in no position to have a baby).

quizzical

Timebandit wrote:
Im definitely out of line to wish that women everywhere should have the privilege of choice I have. I clearly have a nefarious ulterior motive.

grrr had long post stating these were actual questions running though my mind. i have no answers as the ethics in any of the scenarios changes depending on how you look at it. the reality is the planet is over populated and something needs to change but what and how?

wasn't asking closed questions.

i accompany those questions with others too.

should we support fundamentalist Christians on the African continent educating peoples? should we support moderate Christians educating on the Asian continent?

should i support no children or one child rules?

should i support time and events forcing people to get educated or should we just insist?

should i not want FN peoples across Canada to rebuild their populations?

truthfully i like how wide open spaces Canada is and i don't want it to become like other over populated countries.  some countries will soon not be able to feed their populations, what do they do? what do we do? come here or feed them there, it's going to be catastrophic.

i've got no anwers only questions and i'm disquieted on many levels about it.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Personally, I don't support any form of religiously based initiative because they tend to be coercive. Reproductive rights are human rights. The one child policy in China "worked" but at a tremendous cost - girl children murdered and abandoned and some 33 million more men than women today. So no, I don't think forcing people to limit their reproduction is a good thing. On the other hand, making access to contraception difficult or impossible is the other side of the coin. So if you really want to birth 10 kids, I won't understand it, but I shouldn't have the means to stop you any more than to prevent someone else from aborting if she doesn't want to birth a child. The fact is, though, most women will limit their families if they are given the means. Ideas about expanding one particular group of people via birthrate falls behind the individual choices, which is as it should be.

quizzical

i'm wish i wouldn't have lost my first post to sketchy internet signals it was better.

i feel the same way usually too about religious based initiatives. this little community sends thousands to Zimbabwe and others are trying to send to South Africa now too.

but the reality is would there be anything going on at all education wise if they weren't there?

http://zimbabwegecko.com/

http://zimbabwegecko.com/about-us/

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Yes, actually, there are a number of secular NGOs doing work in that field. Plan (formerly Foster Parents Plan) has been active for decades, and Oxfam as well. UNICEF, too. The more money diverted from religious groups to secular, the faster that changes.

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