The great red herring of overpopulation

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M. Spector M. Spector's picture
The great red herring of overpopulation

[url=http://rabble.ca/babble/environmental-justice/great-question-over-popula... from this thread-chunk[/url]. (Thanks, oldgoat, for the buzzkill on a very important discussion topic.)

Here is a repeat of my last post in the other thread:

It doesn't matter that humans can't live in "balance" with nature (in a strict physical sense). All life forms "use up" resources to some degree. In the long run, the heat death of the universe will mean that all life forms will cease to be, and entropy will prevail.

The question for us today is how do we organize ourselves so that we can survive comfortably in the meantime. We will obviously use up some non-renewable resources, but we can work to minimize that once we get rid of the profit imperative that drives capitalism; as a society we could make choices about how we will consume resources based on considerations other than private accumulation of wealth. We can choose to rely on renewable resources and renewable energies (i.e., those that are ultimately replenished by energy from the Sun, or gravity, or from the Earth's core as it continues to cool). That's not going to happen, however, in any society other than one organized on socialist principles.

The Earth receives enormous amounts of energy from the Sun. Only a fraction of it gets used up by humans; there is plenty of solar energy if we figure out how to use it. Ironically, it is energy from the Sun, trapped on the biosphere, that is powering global warming, which will in the long run kill us from an excess of such energy, if we don't find ways to put the Sun's bountiful energy into life-giving, rather than life-destroying uses.

Fidel

And what a fine post it is, M Spector. As Vernadsky said years before, we are part of the natural order of things , like the flora and fauna, animals, and the various atmospheric layers that comprise a relatively thin layer of protection from the suns rays, which can either be extremely harmful to life in general or supportive of living things. And our collective human brain power is to be included in the full accounting of the biosphere, or the dynamic underpinnings of noosphere, according to Vernadsky.

Unionist

Yes, fine post, M. Spector. The devil is in the details, of course, but it is important to dispel that red herring. We don't have "too many people". We have not enough ways of treating them with justice and dignity, in compliance with the needs of both humanity and nature.

Transplant

M. Spector wrote:
Ironically, it is energy from the Sun, trapped on the biosphere, that is powering global warming

Even more ironic, fossil-carbon fuels themselves are fossle sun energy, while wind energy is a result of temperature differentials caused by uneven solar insolation and heat distribution. The sun provides 99.9% of Earth's energy budget, and the sun's gravity even plays a role in the .1% provided by geothermal activity.

George Victor

But the herring, white and blue as well as the great red, are on the endangered species list because there are too many people eating them.Wink

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

No, to the extent that herring are endangered, it is because of overfishing and other bad resource management, plus the degradation of the ocean environment caused by our concern with private profit rather than sound stewardship of the planet.

Fidel

"...From capitalism's point of view, communal cultures that do not separate human beings from one another or from nature are enemy cultures..." Eduardo Galeano, 1988

Unionist

George Victor wrote:
But the herring, white and blue as well as the great red, are on the endangered species list because there are too many people eating them.Wink

Not sure about white and blue, but the red herring is daily produced and reproduced on this very discussion board at exponential growth rates, so I wouldn't shed many tears over its future.

George Victor

Laughing

Sven Sven's picture

M. Spector wrote:

(Thanks, oldgoat, for the buzzkill on a very important discussion topic.)

That ("buzzkill") is a perfect description of an untimely (and unnecessary) end to an active thread.

_______________________________________

Eleutherophobics of the World...Unite!!!

Jerry West

Unionist wrote:

We don't have "too many people". We have not enough ways of treating them with justice and dignity, in compliance with the needs of both humanity and nature.

The problem is actually both, too many people and bad treatment.  Fixing only one will not fix our problems.

George Victor

And discussing them both without having to go on anti-depressant meds is another problem.  Hence the lame attempt at humour.

Frustrated Mess Frustrated Mess's picture

Well, let's see, we are at 7 billion how many more can the old girl hold? To argue that population is a red herring is denial beyond belief.

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People who believe that a stable population can live in balance with the productive capacity of the environment may see a slowdown in the growth of population and energy consumption as evidence of approaching equilibrium. But when one understands the process that has been responsible for population growth, it becomes clear that an end to growth is the beginning of collapse. Human population has grown exponentially by exhausting limited resources, like yeast in a vat or reindeer on St. Matthew Island, and is destined for a similar fate.

http://www.greatchange.org/ov-price,energy_and_human_evolution.html

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COUPLES who have more than two children are being “irresponsible” by creating an unbearable burden on the environment, the government’s green adviser has warned. 

http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/families/article...

 

 

E.P.Houle

Here in Canada we fall far short of replacement population. The first nations among us, isolated from us, don't seem to have that problem. Here on the wet coast we have too few houses and are deeply short of wit. Standing on the backs of genius we can just barely watch our bright bright future slip away with just barely not enough people to fill the gap. I can blame monopolists and  newspapers that only make you dumber but I'm not looking for blame. I'm looking for actionable plans. I want more, smarter, tougher visionaries. Maybe I'll go to South America and take lessons from Evo M. and the other people I don't understand. Maybe Quebec or maybe UBC.

Fidel

Muriel Mirak-Weissbach said last spring:

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It is well-known that if Egypt and Sudan were to cooperate in agricultural priduction, the two could produce enough food to feed the entire continent of Africa, and then some, for export. This happy perspective has been systemically sabotaged by the Malthusian and financier factions, who are committed to the idea that feeding Africa would be a mistake (Africa is "overpopulated"), and that the solution to the world economic crisis lay in reducing the world's population. In 1974, Henry Kissinger, then National Security Director, issued a National Security Study Memorandum NSSM 200, entitled, "Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for U.S. Security and Overseas Interests." The paper, which remained classified for 15 years, outlined Kissinger's strategic doctrine that, since population growth in resource-rich less developed countries (LDCs) would tend to push governments to protect their resources, develop their economies, and secure their sovereignty, this would constitute a stategic threat to U.S. security, in that continued looting of resources might be stymied. . .

A new Bretton Woods is needed - major reforms for international monetary management, and a serious re-think on globalisation of capitalism

Ghislaine

Jerry West wrote:
Unionist wrote:

We don't have "too many people". We have not enough ways of treating them with justice and dignity, in compliance with the needs of both humanity and nature.

The problem is actually both, too many people and bad treatment.  Fixing only one will not fix our problems.

Unionist's point is dead-on. How do you propose to "fix" what you say is the problem of over-population? The quote that FM posted from a British government official is Orwellian and scary. I plan on having 3-4 children and would fight tooth and nail against any Chinese-type enforcement of a law that is a violation of fundamental human rights.

 The only solution to over-population is women's rights. The countries with the highest birthrates are countries where women have the least rights, the least access to birth control, the least choice in partner, etc, etc.  Countries with women's rights, access to birth control etc. all have fertility rates well below replacement level.

 Constraining women's rights (via limits on the number of children they are allowed to have and effectively removing the right to choose as has already occured in China) is a draconian "solution" that should be opposed.

Fidel

And they are thirdworld capitalist hellholes with some of the highest birth rates, too.

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Old-age security and pensions

What do pensions have to do with population control? A lot, actually. As several economists have shown, the establishment of public pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) pension schemes is among the main reasons for the rapid decline in birth rates during the 20th century. Cultural reasons played a role in that development, but public pensions sealed the coffin.

What a public PAYGO scheme does is to transfer money from current workers to current grannies. This is something that families and extended families have done for millennia. In the modern welfare state, the government has quite simply replaced the traditional family. The family is no longer necessary. Besides, compulsory pension payments penalise those who have more children, because they must finance the contributory base of future pensions. Having few or no children gives a cheaper free ride.

People in desperately poor thirdworld capitalist countries have children ... drumroll ... in large part because children represent security for them into old age. No children and being old in India or Africa is a pretty sad situation for the elderly. The prospect of ending up homeless and starving to death slowly is not a real good inducement for desperately poor people to have fewer children. The spark of life is a lot stronger impulse than any market inducement will confer on the masses.

Reduce population growth in thirdworld capitalist hellholes with socialism.

Socialism could save the world.

Take all the Chicago and Warshington consensus boys out to a cement wall at dawn.

Disaster kapitalism debunked right here on babble

Jingles

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I plan on having 3-4 children and would fight tooth and nail against any Chinese-type enforcement of a law that is a violation of fundamental human rights.

If you are okay with your 3-4 children starving or fighting wars over water, fill your boots.

Uncontrolled breeding is not a human right. People who have more than one child are just speeding up the inevitable collapse into disease, malnutrition, and war over scarce resources.

We can dream on about abandoning the capitalist model of resource depletion to feed ever increasing throngs of humanity, but the fact is that as populations grow, increasing competition for dwindling resources will lead to even faster rates of depletion, no matter the economic model. Throughout human history, before anyone named Adam Smith existed, populations have been soiling their nests and depleting their limited resources to feed burgeoning populations. And those societies end up collapsing.  Humans are human, and as such, we are an animal that is hardwired to consume everything around us.

One way or another, either natural or through societal action, limits on reproduction will happen.

Ghislaine

Jingles wrote:

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I plan on having 3-4 children and would fight tooth and nail against any Chinese-type enforcement of a law that is a violation of fundamental human rights.

One way or another, either natural or through societal action, limits on reproduction will happen.

 Well such limits would inevitably be a violation of human rights. How would one limit this - other than taking away a woman's right to choose? Forced sterilization? This was advocated and practiced on certain populations in Canada and it is a shameful part of our history. The right to have children (ie to not be sterilized against one's will, the right to choose and the right not to have your children stolen without due cause - like in the 60s scoop of FN kids) is in fact a human right.

Fidel

Perhaps women only should vote on abortion rights. I think we would need advanced democracy before that would ever happen though. They dont trust Canadians with referendums very often.

Jerry West

Ghislaine, I would argue that humans have no right to engage in activities that harm other humans and society.  I would also argue that the right to reproduction is not merely a woman's right, but a fundamental biological right of the species.  And like other rights, it comes with responsibilities and limits.  The right to have children is limited by the effect that those children will have on society.

 Jingles is correct.

 

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It is well-known that if Egypt and Sudan were to cooperate in agricultural priduction, the two could produce enough food to feed the entire continent of Africa, and then some, for export.

At what environmental cost?  The world already is producing too much food for humans.  And humans are making too many other demands on the environment.  Currently consumption is well beyond the limits of sustainibility, and even if we wiped out all of the wealthy nations, about 1/6 of the world population, the remaining consumption level would still be over the limit.

We don't need more food production, we need better distribution and a reduction in consumption.

As Fidel says, we need to have a world-wide socialist model.

 

Fidel

Agreed, Jerry. They shouldnt be exporting food if there is a shortage at home or simply not distributed properly

Ghislaine

Jerry West wrote:

Ghislaine, I would argue that humans have no right to engage in activities that harm other humans and society.  I would also argue that the right to reproduction is not merely a woman's right, but a fundamental biological right of the species.  And like other rights, it comes with responsibilities and limits.  The right to have children is limited by the effect that those children will have on society.

 

 

Well, let me hear your ideas about how you would enforce this? Surely such actions would cause harm to other humans? The only mechanisms available involve serious violations of human rights. These include forced steralization, forced abortion and one-child policies. In China, women are given birth control pills at their workplace and monitored to ensure they take them.  Please illuminate me as to how you would enforce this? You can practice on me by pretending it is a few years down the road and I am (hopefully) expecting my third child.

 And yes it is a woman's right what goes on with her own body.  I am assuming that you are referring only to preventative measures, as after reproduction is done involving a woman's body you move to a discussion of outright culling, ie murder.

 Men and society have no right or say in what a woman does with her own body.  This must include the right to bear children and keep them.

 Now, in terms of the Earth's limited resources, a more equitable and reasonable lifestyle is what is required. An only child of a pampered rich family could rival an entire town in other parts of the world for use of resources. A childless couple doing international travel would surely outconsume a family of 6 that lives off the land, off the grid and organically. 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Jingles wrote:

We can dream on about abandoning the capitalist model of resource depletion to feed ever increasing throngs of humanity, but the fact is that as populations grow, increasing competition for dwindling resources will lead to even faster rates of depletion, no matter the economic model.

Nonsense. Get rid of capitalist exploitation of people and pillaging of the earth's resources and populations will control themselves.

When people no longer feel the need to have large families on order to ensure their own survival, when people - especially women - are empowered to take control of their own lives, they will control their own population. This is not speculation - it is the modern experience of all societies where giving birth to children is no longer a necessity for personal survival - like Canada, f'rinstance.

"Overpopulation" is a symptom of a much bigger disease. You don't cure the disease by treating the symptoms.

It's like giving cough syrup to a smoker who has emphysema, because that horrible cough is "definitely a problem". Get the guy to stop smoking and give him a lung transplant and guess what? the coughing will disappear.

George Victor

It's in the "getting rid of" ,"capitalist exploitation" or biological urges or appeals to human rights by Homo sapiens who aren't particularly hurting at the moment - there lies the rub, MS. 

And gently.

Jerry West

Ghislaine wrote:

Well, let me hear your ideas about how you would enforce this? Surely such actions would cause harm to other humans?

 

Ideally how to accomplish this would be a collective decision by society.  And whether or not any given method would cause harm might depend upon your definition of harm.  It also might involve a choice between two harms and choosing the lesser, considering that overpopulation is a harm.

 

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The only mechanisms available involve serious violations of human rights.

Rights are not absolute.  The ultimate right is for society to survive, no other right trumps that.

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These include forced steralization, forced abortion and one-child policies.

But they don't have to include that.

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And yes it is a woman's right what goes on with her own body.

Yes, but it is a limited right, like all other rights.

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 I am assuming that you are referring only to preventative measures,

Of course, and if we don't take them nature will employ the culling ones.

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Men and society have no right or say in what a woman does with her own body.

Society has the right to protect itself, this limits individual rights.  A woman does not have the right to use her body to harm others.

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Now, in terms of the Earth's limited resources, a more equitable and reasonable lifestyle is what is required.

Of course, but beyond that you have to consider that even after eliminating the consumption of the richest societies on the planet, the other 5/6, whose average individual consumption is about 25-30% of the average Canadian, are still consuming more than the system can sustainably support.  We have gone way beyond "the rich are the problem."  They are part of the problem, but even without them we would still have the problem.

MS wrote:

Get rid of capitalist exploitation of people and pillaging of the earth's resources and populations will control themselves. 

Getting rid of capitalist exploitation will help, but other systems can also be exploitive.  Getting rid of pillaging will certainly help, and having more children than can be sustainably supported is a form of pillaging.

 

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When people no longer feel the need to have large families on order to ensure their own survival, when people - especially women - are empowered to take control of their own lives, they will control their own population.

Some will, some have other reasons for large families.

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This is not speculation - it is the modern experience of all societies where giving birth to children is no longer a necessity for personal survival - like Canada, f'rinstance.

Yet populations in many developed countries keeps rising.

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"Overpopulation" is a symptom of a much bigger disease. You don't cure the disease by treating the symptoms.

It is a multi-facted disease with more than one cause.  If it is to be cured all causes have to be addressed.

 

 

Jingles

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Men and society have no right or say in what a woman does with her own body.  This must include the right to bear children and keep them.

Does that include unchecked reproduction? In another thread, we discuss a woman who had octuplets, on top of six already born. That's fourteen children from one woman, and she has no means to support them. Not only is the shear amount of children irresponsible, the additional burden of medical care for the premature octuplets will be born by the rest of society. Is it her right to breed like a prize farm animal, or does the burden placed on society at large outweigh her need to spread her DNA far and wide?

There are religious cults that demand a woman be constantly pregnant from her early teens until menopause. Is that her reproductive right, or is it her husbands

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Getting rid of pillaging will certainly help, and having more children than can be sustainably supported is a form of pillaging.

Hear, hear.

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Get rid of capitalist exploitation of people and pillaging of the earth's resources and populations will control themselves.

On what evidence can you support that conclusion? Societies have existed, believe it or not, long before capitalist exploitation and people still managed to pillage the earth's resources and extinguish themselves. Populations grew because of societies newfound abilities to exploit on ever larger scales, which in turn fed more population growth. If it's just our bad consumer habits and global capitalism that are the problem, how can the disappearance of past societies be explained? Find me a cedar in Lebanon. Find me a tree on Easter Island. Check out the dried canals across Iraq. Find me a maize crop in the Arizona desert. These places were denuded, exploited, and destroyed by the need to provide for ever increasing populations, and FTAA didn't even exist.

 

Fidel

Jingles wrote:

Quote:
Men and society have no right or say in what a woman does with her own body.  This must include the right to bear children and keep them.

Does that include unchecked reproduction? In another thread, we discuss a woman who had octuplets, on top of six already born. That's fourteen children from one woman, and she has no means to support them.

This was a conservative myth dispelled in the U.S. - that welfare mothers are baby factories. The reality is that women on welfare in that country have no higher birth rates than those with higher incomes. And Canada is well below replacement rate.  Welfare rates in North America are certainly not an incentive for women to have more children. Even the more generous social welfare in Sweden isnt an incentive for women to have more babies.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Jingles wrote:

M. Spector wrote:
Get rid of capitalist exploitation of people and pillaging of the earth's resources and populations will control themselves.

On what evidence can you support that conclusion?

There is abundant evidence, as I indicated above, that improvements in social well-being (health, literacy, education, women's rights, etc.) are accompanied by declines in birth rates. One example taken at random: [url=Costa">http://www.iussp.org/Brazil2001/s30/S39_02_PerezBrignoli.pdf][u]Costa Rica[/url]. Conversely, there is abundant evidence that higher birth rates are found in the most poverty-stricken, over-exploited countries in the world; [url=see">http://www.scalloway.org.uk/popu6.htm][u]see here, for example.[/url] And they are not over-exploited because the people who live there have too many babies; they are over-exploited by neoliberal imperialism.

Jingles wrote:
Societies have existed, believe it or not, long before capitalist exploitation and people still managed to pillage the earth's resources and extinguish themselves.

Some were extinguished and others weren't - that's why we're here today. Are you claiming (a) that some societies extinguished themselves because they pillaged the earth's resources, and (b) that the societies that survived did so because they did not pillage the earth's resources?

Jingles wrote:
Populations grew because of societies newfound abilities to exploit on ever larger scales, which in turn fed more population growth.

Population growth is not merely a direct function of a society's ability to exploit earth's resources. It that were the case, then the advanced capitalist countries of the global North would have the highest birth rates. They don't.

Jingles wrote:
If it's just our bad consumer habits and global capitalism that are the problem, how can the disappearance of past societies be explained?

Um, I dunno. How about climate change? War? Disease?

Anyway, it certainly wasn't overpopulation, but the reverse!

Jingles wrote:
Find me a cedar in Lebanon. Find me a tree on Easter Island. Check out the dried canals across Iraq. Find me a maize crop in the Arizona desert. These places were denuded, exploited, and destroyed by the need to provide for ever increasing populations, and FTAA didn't even exist.

For the vast majority of human history, people lived in subsistence economies, with very low levels of productivity, often on the verge of starvation and death. The societies that survived learned to live in harmony with the land, not killing the goose to get the golden egg. We can do the same, but capitalism cannot survive such a change.

For a good critique of Jared Diamond, by the way, I recommend [url=THIS.[/url]">http://climateandcapitalism.com/?p=21][=mediumblue]THIS.[/co...

Jingles

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For the vast majority of human history, people lived in subsistence economies, with very low levels of productivity, often on the verge of starvation and death.

No, for the vast majority of human history, people lived as hunter-gathers in small groups. It wasn't until agriculture that humans began subsistence economies and populations began to explode.

People can exist just fine in hunter gatherer societies. Six and a half billion people cannot. If you want to feed that many, you end up with what we have. 

I'm not sure what kind of planetary society you envision that can take care of billions without running into wars over resources. Is it a picture of the pre-contact Americas and Africa? Is it a vast collective? I'm not sure. What is the model you see for a sustainable, capitalist-free, non-exploitive global society that shares resources, resists the need for violent takings of territory, and can continue to increase in numbers?

Most areas of the earth are unsuitable for subsistence of vast numbers of people. Those areas that are suitable are already in production. Can you imagine any scenario where those with the best land, best climate, and best access to other resources would willingly give some of that up to those that do not? I don't. I just see exactly what we have now: rich nations consolidating their monopolies.

Incidentally, how many people would be too many? Ten billion? Twenty? At what point would you say "Whoa. I think we have a problem".

Jerry West

MS wrote:

they are over-exploited by neoliberal imperialism.

I wouldn't limit it to neoliberal imperialism. :)

People have been exploited since the beginning of history.

 

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Um, I dunno. How about climate change? War? Disease?

Anyway, it certainly wasn't overpopulation, but the reverse!

It could be either one depending on the situation.  In the case of climate change, such as prolonged drought, in cases of exhausted soils it is a case of the population being larger than the current environment can support.  Although I guess one could argue that wanting to eat is a bad consumer habit. ;)

 

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The societies that survived learned to live in harmony with the land, not killing the goose to get the golden egg. We can do the same, but capitalism cannot survive such a change.

You are right about capitalism and living in harmony, but are you suggesting a return to subsistence society?  The current population level can support little more than that if sustainability is to be achieved.

 

 

 

 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

We have a disagreement over the meaning of "subsistence" economy. In my lexicon, that means barely surviving, or subsisting, and not producing any surplus accumulation of wealth. A hunter-gatherer economy would be a good example. Even agricultural societies have often been barely able to produce above subsistence level.

I don't say that if we get rid of capitalism we can have unlimited population growth.  I do maintain that our current population growth is driven by economics and that we can create a society in which population levels will not be pressured to increase for economic reasons.

I also maintain that, just as capitalism is incapable of sustaining zero or negative economic growth, it is also incapable of reducing population growth.

I'd say more, but I have to run and watch House. 

Jerry West

MS wrote:

We have a disagreement over the meaning of "subsistence" economy. In my lexicon, that means barely surviving, or subsisting, and not producing any surplus accumulation of wealth. A hunter-gatherer economy would be a good example.

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Doesn't sound like a disagreement.  I would add that even hunter-gathers can accumulate things beyond immediate need.

 

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I don't say that if we get rid of capitalism we can have unlimited population growth.  I do maintain that our current population growth is driven by economics and that we can create a society in which population levels will not be pressured to increase for economic reasons.

I also maintain that, just as capitalism is incapable of sustaining zero or negative economic growth, it is also incapable of reducing population growth.

Well said.

 

Frustrated Mess Frustrated Mess's picture

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"Overpopulation" is a symptom of a much bigger disease. You don't cure the disease by treating the symptoms.

If by disease you mean the exploiting of fossil fuels, you are right. We are already in overshoot and already many nations are on the brink of collapse. We came very close to going over the edge this summer when oil shot up to $145 dollar a barrel.  It is only because of the economic collapse and the flight from commodities that the price dropped but the fundamental issue remains unchanged.

 

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The only mechanisms available involve serious violations of human rights.

Is starvation a violation of human rights? 

 

Fidel

Jingles wrote:

People can exist just fine in hunter gatherer societies. Six and a half billion people cannot. If you want to feed that many, you end up with what we have. 

And I think what we have is part of the problem. Mechanized farming is depleting soil around the world, and making desert. Since 1980, about a third of the High Plains region of the US was desertified. And Ogalala acquifer has dropped several feet a year in times of drought and overuse. There needs to be real commitments to conservation in the country that has known no limits on consumption for too long.

David Suzuki said in 2006 that organic farming methods in Cuba have proven to yield as much or more produce than by mechanized farming. Although labour intensive, organic farming in Cuba is sustainable agriculture and uses far fewer fertilizers, fewer insecticides, and much less fossil fuel all around.

Frustrated Mess Frustrated Mess's picture

Even organic farming is not sustainable if it is mono-culture. We had the dust bowl before we had what we now call conventional agriculture.

Fidel

I guess sugar cane was a monoculture cash crop in Cuba for a long time.

Frustrated Mess Frustrated Mess's picture

Yes, and what has been the impact on the top soil? The trick of chemical agriculture was to treat the soil as growing medium rather than as a critical resource that can be exhausted. Keep in mind that the Cuban food revolution took place, in large part, in urban soils that had not been farmed in generations.

Jingles

As far as I can see, there is only one way out of the world's present situation, and won't have anything to do with capitalism, socialism, home reno rebates or a new Prius.

It involves a mass culling of human populations. Whether climate, starvation, disease, or war, the unsustainable mass of people will be brought down to a sustainable level whether we want it or not.

Ironically, I think the poorest nations on earth will make out the best. They already have the skills to survive. But up here, without A&W, we'll all be dead in a week.

Fidel

Frustrated Mess wrote:

Yes, and what has been the impact on the top soil?

It looks like they are making soil from vermicompost.

 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Frustrated Mess wrote:

M. Spector wrote:
"Overpopulation" is a symptom of a much bigger disease. You don't cure the disease by treating the symptoms.

If by disease you mean the exploiting of fossil fuels, you are right.

No, the disease I am referring to is the capitalist mode of production, which has enslaved and impoverished the majority of the world's people and ravaged its environment. The survival of this disease depends on having unhindered access to the world's resources and the world's labour markets.

Its objective is to harness the world's labour power and natural resources in order to enrich the owners of capital. An oversupply of labour power allows wages to be kept to a minimum and thereby profits to be maximized. It is thus in the interests of world capitalism that populations of low-paid workers increase.

At the same time, capitalism creates the conditions that motivate people to increase the birth rate. It devalues women, thereby making male children more desirable than female; women who give birth to girls will keep giving birth until they have boys. It devalues the elderly, who need to have children to support them. It exploits child labour, giving parents an economic incentive to increase family income by having more children.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Jingles wrote:

As far as I can see, there is only one way out of the world's present situation, and won't have anything to do with capitalism, socialism, home reno rebates or a new Prius.

It involves a mass culling of human populations. Whether climate, starvation, disease, or war, the unsustainable mass of people will be brought down to a sustainable level whether we want it or not.

 

If the world's population were "culled" down to a mere million people it would still be an unsustainable population if capitalism were to continue.

It is capitalism itself that is unsustainable, regardless of the level of population.

Population levels are directly related to economic activity. Uncontrolled and unplanned economic activity is incompatible with having planned and controlled population levels.

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The overpopulation argument...ignores the fact that environmental damage is caused not in meeting human needs, but in maximising profits. Under capitalism, production is based upon profit, not the needs of humanity. As a result, corporations often ignore the environmental impact of their actions - and the competitive nature of capitalism forces them to do just this, or to be undercut by less scrupulous competitors.

Even as early as the 1800s, obvious environmental damage was being caused by unsustainable farming methods used to squeeze every possible dollar out of the land. To quote Marx's collaborator Frederick Engels:

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"What cared the Spanish planters in Cuba who burned down forests on the slopes of the mountains and obtained from the ashes sufficient fertiliser for one generation of very highly profitable coffee trees - what cared they that the heavy tropical rainfall afterwards washed away the unprotected upper stratum of the soil, leaving behind only bare rock!"

During the 20th century, this drive for profit at any cost led to car companies (famously General Motors in America) purchasing public transport systems and running them into the ground - to boost car sales and profits. The same logic leads today to oil and coal power being used instead of clean, but less profitable alternatives like solar and wind power. And in the recent war in Lebanon - a war caused by the logic of capitalism - Israeli bombs caused the biggest oil slick since the Exxon Valdez disaster of 1989.

The world isn't dying, it's being killed. Not by people like you and me, but by a mad economic system that puts the relentless quest for profits above everything else. As long as the quest for short-term profit is the most important driving force in society - as long as we live under capitalism - the environment will suffer. And arguments about overpopulation merely serve to defend this system, by telling ordinary people to blame ourselves and each other, rather than fighting back against the system that is destroying our planet and our future.

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Jerry West

MS wrote:

It devalues women, thereby making male children more desirable than female....

Really?  Historically the value of male children over female children in various societies predates capitalism.  Although capitalism may contribute to increased birth rates in certain places, I would be wary of overstating the case.  One would think that capitalism wouldn't particularly care about gender as much as about a cheap labour pool.  I would look elsewhere for the causes of gender preference.

 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

So now you're denying that capitalism devalues women?

Fidel

According to ACTU, women do two-thirds of the world's work!

200 million child labourers.

Old Queen Victoria was a bit upset at first, but working hours for English children were reduced to something like 10 hours a day. I think it was Lord Shaftsbury, but he had a fight on his hands at the time. Kids were having their arms ripped off by weaving machines. No workman's comp in those days.

Jerry West

MS wrote:

If the world's population were "culled" down to a mere million people it would still be an unsustainable population if capitalism were to continue.

I think it is the other way around.  Capitalism may not be viable if there were only a million people in the world.  With a million people on the planet there would be no sustainability issue unless that million was into continuous nuclear warfare or some other mindless, environmentally destruct behaviour of mega proportion.

 

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It is capitalism itself that is unsustainable, regardless of the level of population. 

True, at least without setting it back periodically.  It is a ponzi scheme built on perpetual growth, a social cancer that left to run its course will consume its host.

 

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Uncontrolled and unplanned economic activity is incompatible with having planned and controlled population levels.

I would rethink that.  Any uncontrolle and unplanned economic activity?  Capitalism is unplanned?

A case can certainly be made for the role of economic activity in population trends, but it isn't the only factor and probably not always a factor.

 

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The world isn't dying, it's being killed. Not by people like you and me, but by a mad economic system that puts the relentless quest for profits above everything else. As long as the quest for short-term profit is the most important driving force in society - as long as we live under capitalism - the environment will suffer.

Certainly, I agree, but it doesn't make that case that if we did not live under capitalism the environment would cease to suffer.  The problem is total overconsumption, capitalism certainly encourages this, but isn't the only force that does.

 

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And arguments about overpopulation merely serve to defend this system, by telling ordinary people to blame ourselves and each other, rather than fighting back against the system that is destroying our planet and our future.

Not necessarily true.  This is a position taken from a political/economic view point to specifically attack capitalism, not from scientific/environmental view point.  

There are good reasons to attack capitalism for its destruction of the environment, and that should be done, and it can be done in conjunction with addressing the problem of over population because it is part of the problem.  

Jerry West

M. Spector wrote:

So now you're denying that capitalism devalues women?

Are you saying that without capitalism women would have never been devalued?  Is your argument that patriarchy is a product of capitalism?

I think that gender attitudes are much more complicated than "capitalism made me do it."

It is possible that gender attitudes that you see in the capitalist system were brought there rather than created there?

 

Ghislaine

Jingles wrote:

As far as I can see, there is only one way out of the world's present situation, and won't have anything to do with capitalism, socialism, home reno rebates or a new Prius.

It involves a mass culling of human populations. Whether climate, starvation, disease, or war, the unsustainable mass of people will be brought down to a sustainable level whether we want it or not.

Ironically, I think the poorest nations on earth will make out the best. They already have the skills to survive. But up here, without A&W, we'll all be dead in a week.

 Speak for yourself. Some of us live in the country and know how to survive self-sufficiently.

 Now I must say that your comments are frightening. I will thank Fidel and M Spector for their intelligent comments that they have brought to this discussion. The problem is the system of organization. Your "solution" has hints of fascism. M Spector and Fidel are much closer to realistic solutions that also respect human rights.

 I asked for examples of enforcement - you suggested that ideally "society" would willingly stop having children. I am suggesting that a significant percentage of humanity would not give up this right willingly. What is your proposed response then? Yes Nature has her ways of "culling" humanity, such as disease, war, natural disaster, etc. This is not the same as some fascistic leader culling humanity on his own.

Presently, many of us also spend free time raising money to save people from these things. Are you suggesting we stop?

 I am just curious about some of the logical practical actions required to follow through on your beliefs. What actions would you support to enforce them? You refuse to acknowledge that one of the single largest contributors to a low fertility rate is the winning combination of women's rights and birth control. (Keep in mind as well that Birth control requires the creation of environmentally-harmful products that require industrialized production).  When I presented the morally repugnant ideas of removing a woman's right to choose and forced sterilization, you wrote that those don't have to be the only options.

 How can you consider such morally abhorrent ideas options at all? Why would such a society even be worth saving? Women and only women should have the choice as to whether to have their children. The right to control their own bodies is  absolute right.  

Fidel

George Victor wrote:
Then, what comes into play is the Darwinian system of natural selection.Frightening for sure, because there is no morality in nature.

Yes, Darwinian economics in the US eliminates 2200 newborn infants more on average every year than in countries with socialized medicine. But Darwin doesnt have it all his way in that country. There are social programs for everyone but the most vulnerable. Banksters are the latest capitalist cause damanding to be insulated from Darwinian free market forces.

 

 

George Victor

Ah yes, capitalism and free market forces, again. Can't help this. Been busting a gut to respond to your mantra.

 Here goes! Fidel de dee, Charlotte.

Fidel

Nobody really believes in Darwin's invisible hand anymore. Or was that Smith? Political conservatives are all about interventionism in the economy ever since 1929-32 or so. They found that particular fundamentalist point of view needed altering, because doing so was absolutely vital to their political survival. Surprised

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