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The great red herring of overpopulation

M. Spector
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Joined: Feb 19 2005

Continued from this thread-chunk. (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.


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Fidel
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Joined: Apr 29 2004

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
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

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
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Joined: Jul 21 2005

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
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Joined: Oct 28 2007
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
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Joined: Feb 19 2005

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
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"...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
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

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
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Laughing

Sven
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Joined: Jul 22 2005
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
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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
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Joined: Oct 28 2007
And discussing them both without having to go on anti-depressant meds is another problem.  Hence the lame attempt at humour.

Frustrated Mess
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Joined: Feb 23 2005

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.

Quote:
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

Quote:

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
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Joined: Feb 2 2009
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
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Joined: Apr 29 2004

Muriel Mirak-Weissbach said last spring:

Quote:
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
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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
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Joined: Apr 29 2004

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

Quote:

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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Quote:
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
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Jingles wrote:

Quote:
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
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Joined: Apr 29 2004

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
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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.

 

Quote:

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
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Joined: Apr 29 2004

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


Ghislaine
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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
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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
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Joined: Oct 28 2007

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
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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.

 

Quote:

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.

Quote:

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

But they don't have to include that.

Quote:

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.

Quote:

 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.

Quote:

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.

Quote:

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.

 

Quote:

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.

Quote:

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.

Quote:

"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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Joined: Nov 13 2002

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. 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

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

Hear, hear.

Quote:
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
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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
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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: Costa Rica. Conversely, there is abundant evidence that higher birth rates are found in the most poverty-stricken, over-exploited countries in the world; see here, for example. 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 THIS.


Jingles
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Quote:
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
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Joined: Oct 9 2001

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.

 

Quote:

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. ;)

 

Quote:

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.

 

 

 

 


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