Following my previous posts on the damage our demand for resources is having on our planet, I think it’s about time I approached this monster of a topic – population increase. It’s what is causing the demand after all (with the addition of a growing middle class). Attempts to curb it are pretty futile and with religious beliefs affecting people’s choices on contraception, the problem continues to escalate.
So where do I stand?
I’m unapologetically Malthusian. Leaps and bounds in healthcare and agriculture alongside the contrasts in the cultural mindset on the number of offspring one should have has led to a trend of constant increase in population in lesser developed countries and a decrease in more developed countries. To make my point clearer, an ad campaign in India showing the benefits of fewer children (one photo showed a man with a car, house and two kids vs a man in a slum with many) was not well received with the common comment in response being ‘the guy with the car and house doesn’t have enough children!’ Fret not though, for all the optimists out there, I do feel that our intellect has a habit of redeeming us when the end seems very nigh.
There are some factors that have counteracted growth – education for one. National Geographic’s 7 billion series mentioned that statistically, the longer a woman is in education for the fewer children she will have (through an expanded attitude to birth control etc). The other restriction is some of the most populous country’s government policy – namely China’s one child and India’s bribed vasectomy operations in exchange for housing benefits (as mentioned in National Geographic). This, inevitably, creates a network of social problems.
Does the government really have the right to restrict and remove our basic, primal function as humans – to reproduce? Or should we see the wider picture, that we’re all drops in the vast ocean of populations spiralling out of control? It’s a toss up between a planet which is risking overload and our instincts as humans – parenthood. It’s not only the potential restriction of free will to reproduce, it’s also the conflict of often universal and long-held gender preferences.
China, a culture long standing in preferences of boys over girls has notorious rates of female infanticide (however, sex-selective abortion has been made strictly illegal). This has been all the more intensified by the one child policy.
Drawing from a lecture I recently attended by the British-Chinese journalist Xinran, she highlighted the pressing issues the policy is having on the culture and the rights of women. The problems are devastating. A policy that encourages immoral actions is terrifying. It’s encouraging a culture that treats killing and abandonment of infants as necessary actions to avoid falling into poverty.
Additionally, children are left without cousins and the stable family structure of previous generations. However, the population in China has lowered meaning that the government can provide better services (although, it is worth mentioning the disparities in quality of life between rural and urban areas – particularly education).
Then there’s the view that the population just isn’t too big. Although, I feel that as countries continue to industrialise and quality of life improves (to achieve western standards of living), we’re going to encounter a problem. If we can get these countries to implement sustainable development strategies, the risk could be minimalised. However, working that out could be a bit of an economic pickle.
To end positively (sorry it’s so doomy and gloomy) let’s hope we wake up pretty soon and get mother necessity to make us invent the solutions.