Questions on: Population Issues
I just wanted to point out that there is a hole in your argument about over population. Although it is true that the world population is increasing at a rapid and dangerous rate, it is not growing equally the world over. In fact most first world industrialized nations like France, Italy, and England actually have declining populations. Furthermore, When immigration is taken out of the equation, America also has a declining population.
I view the population problem as a global concern, so regardless of regional variations, the total human population continues to increase. True, Italy and a handful of other countries are showing an actual decline in population; but the numbers make them statistically insignificant. I have had lengthy discussions with a couple of Ethical Egoists on the U.N. reports of replacement values below 2.1 (which is the “break even” point for reproduction rates). A number of the Developed Nations have fallen below this value (the U.S. included), but this is merely a statistical measure of rates, rather than a representation of actual growth. These figures do not include death rate factors: the human life-span continues to lengthen each year, infant mortality continues to drop. Consequently, even though the replacement values suggest a declining birth rate, the real population rate continues upward.
I cannot take immigration out of the equation, because globally, it is part of overall growth; and will become a greater factor, as the Undeveloped Nations become more overcrowded. I am happy to see a trend toward restraint in the Developed Nations, but this is a small start on the bigger problem. First World countries only account for fifteen to twenty percent of the world’s population. Having an adequate education in birth control methods, and ready access to prophylactic devices, has certainly improved the situation for the small segment of humanity that inhabits the Developed World; but it is an insignificant effect if it does not spread to the Third World. You are quite correct in stating that the problem is most severe in non-G7 countries; but that is where we find the vast majority of people. [back to FAQ index]
Surely you have considered the possibility that our planet could sustain many times more people with better managed resources?
The population problem has been a topic that I have discussed at length. From these experiences, I have learned that certain points must be addressed: the most important one being that we must view the human population from a global perspective, without entertaining regional variations.
You are correct in stating that the planet could sustain a larger percentage of humans with better resource management. That said, we must realise that twenty percent of the world’s population consumes eighty-five percent of the resources: eighty percent of mankind lives much as it did thousands of years ago, with a phenomenal birth rate compensating for low life expectancy, and very high infant mortality, rates. This is the first problem with equitable resource distribution: because most cultures of the world have spent thousands of years following this pattern of behaviour, improving the lives of the majority of people will lead to an uncontrollable population explosion. Obviously, birth control is a prerequisite to better resource management, otherwise the rapid increase in numbers will immediately cause an imbalance in the system.
Secondly, the small minority of people who consume most of the resources are unwilling to accept a change in their standard of living. Most of the Developed World is showing a declining birth rate. You will not see widespread support for an action that will lead to a rapidly increasing Third World population, where an ever-increasing proportion of resources must be directed toward people not considered part of the “pack” (that is to say, the innate primate clan attitude, manifested as nationalism, invokes the “take care of our own” stance).
Logic dictates that the amount of resources on this planet are finite: eventually, demand must exhaust supply. Although this may take thousands of years, it is wiser to diminish our needs now, in order to prevent the eventual demise of humanity: this is part of the “species awareness” I write about. The larger the population, the more difficult it is to reverse a trend. Population control became an issue when the world only contained two billion people; with all the effort put into limiting our growth, we have still rapidly soared to over six billion.
Even if we could slow our growth rate, and manage our resources more efficiently, would we stop the pace of destruction? Currently, other life-forms are driven to extinction at a rate one thousand times greater than that indicated by the fossil record. Our impact upon bio-diversity is staggering. Some life-forms have been able to adapt to man, but many cannot. The only types of life showing great evolutionary leaps are the viruses which prey upon man. This should be of serious concern, considering nature’s ability to balance the ecosystem.
Although I could go on and on with reasons for birth control, there is a question that bears consideration. Why not? If people produce fewer children, the results are only positive. A smaller family means better children. Aside from the reality that psychological research has demonstrated children without siblings grow up to be better adjusted, more intelligent, and more successful; logically, apportioning your love and devotion out to numerous offspring is diluting it. As well, a smaller human population means less of a footprint upon the Earth: fewer resources required, and less damage to the ecosystem. Technology has allowed us to efficiently use our resources, and if the populace decreases, while technology advances, we reach a point where everyone on the planet can live without hunger and suffering. In nature, overcrowding leads to disease transmission: fewer humans in close proximity means that our species can survive pandemics.
Producing a child because a person wishes to fulfil the innate need, is a perfectly natural occurrence. Producing numerous children simply because they can, strikes me as selfishness, since the resources devoted to sustaining one additional child in the Developed World, could save the lives of one thousand children in the Third World; hence, it is not a love of children which drives them to create more. [back to FAQ index]
What were you referring to in: PART 2 The balance inherent in nature , lemming migration? If you're talking about the suicidal plunge into the water as a method of population control I believe it's a myth
Of course lemming suicide is a myth, for it would be contrary to the conscious behaviour of living things (with the exception of man), and contradict my own “internal/external” argument. This is the reason I referred to it as migration rather than suicide. I had assumed the vast majority of readers were aware the old beliefs of suicide were false.
Lemmings are instinctively compelled to migrate en masse when the size of their population threatens the survival of the whole. Nature adjusts for balance by ensuring that the lemming’s system of migration also manages numbers. The lemmings will try to swim any body of water, regardless of the fact that they cannot see the other side. They will crowd each other over drop-offs, in spite of the fact that they cannot gauge the slope or depth.
We can attribute this to a lack of “common sense”, being that they behave as creatures who are too stupid to rationalise cause and effect. However, the resulting high mortality rate is by design. Lemmings are a critical food source for predators in the sparse environment they inhabit, and their prolific reproduction guarantees their presence as a necessary link in the food chain. When predator populations fluctuate, something has to prevent the prey form overwhelming the ecosystem. The carnivores take years to recover from a low point, whereas the lemmings can accomplish it in a single season.
Certainly, lemmings could have been programmed to behave with the same level of awareness as most other creatures capable of migration, and avoid what people once mistook for suicide; but for the specific environment in which they live, this particular form of innate programming is elegant in its efficiency. [back to FAQ index]
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