The President and Population Growth

Neal Pierce of Citiwire.net returns to the population issue, this time addressing U.S. federal foreign and domestic policies regarding the issue.

"Consider what a proactive U.S. global family planning effort might achieve:

+ By moderating population growth, there'd be some lessening of catastrophic food and water shortages afflicting less developed nations.

+ Global warming dangers wouldn't rise quite so rapidly.

+ The rights and life prospects of literally millions of women around the globe might be enhanced.

+ Significant worldwide totals of abortions and infant deaths could be avoided.

+ Democracy and stability would be promoted worldwide as fewer nations faced the turmoil easily triggered by high birth rates creating population "bumps" of poor and resentful youth.

+ And with a clear, unequivocal U.S. lead, other countries and the United Nations might expand their international family planning assistance."

Thanks to Scott Ulrich

Full Story: The Population Issue: Big, Critical, Global
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Comments

Comments

Population reduction is not

Population reduction is not all about women and abortion as you would assume by the relentless focus on those two items. Mr. Pierce has it backwards. Population stabilization does not lead to better lives; better lives lead to population stabilization. The so-called 'family planning' focus (for over 60 years) has been backwards.

Population is stabilized in countries where people:

___have clean and dependable water supplies

___have access to BASIC healthcare for all

___have access to BASIC education for all

___have stable governments where people are reasonably assured of peace and a modicum of prosperity

The list is of course longer, but of all the things people need to have reasonably healthy prosperous lives and 2.1 children (or whatever the gurus of population mitigation deem appropriate) abortion is near bottom of the list.

Also, the relentless obsessive focus on women and abortion as relates to population is not only deceiptful, it is dangerous. This mentality has led directly to women being victimized, stripped of human rights and 'controlled'. Women have been relentlessly portrayed as being the source of a population problem and therefore targeted virtually exclusively as the solution. (There is a reason why it was referred to for decades as population CONTROL).

Women should not be the sole target for population initiatives (pro-active or not). Men are 1/2 the procreative process. How about we get a litte "pro-active" with men.

Why Population Growth Ends

I would say population growth decreases and ends when people move from a rural subsistence economy to an urban economy. In a subsistence economy, children are an economic benefit, because they can help with the chores at an early age and provide security for their parents' old age. In an urban economy, children are an economic cost, because you have to pay for their education and support them for many non-productive years, and they are not expected to support elderly parents. Of course, you also need birth control, but the motivations for using birth control are different in subsistence and urban economies.

Clean water, basic healthcare, basic education, and security from violence are good things in themselves. There is no need to use population growth as an argument to promote them. Again, that basic health care obviously has to include birth control; if it doesn't, clean water etc. will not end population growth.

I also think we need to qualify the statement "Population stabilization does not lead to better lives; better lives lead to population stabilization." This has generally been order in which it happened - for example, in the United States, Europe, and Japan, where economic modernization brought both more prosperity and slower population growth. But I believe there are are countries where population is reaching and exceeding the carrying capacity of the land, and population growth is causing shortages of food, and in these countries, population stabilization would help bring better lives.

Jared Diamond argues very convincingly in _Collapse_ that this was the cause of the genocide in Rwanda, where population density had reached 700 people per square mile (if I remember correctly). This was widely considered to be caused by ethnic conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi, but Diamond shows that there were also wars within each tribe in places where only one tribe existed. Between tribes or within a tribe, he shows the cause was scarcity of food and scarcity of land, since a subsistence economy can't raise enough food with less than one person per acre.

My conclusion: given the world's environmental crisis, we cannot wait for population growth to end because of economic modernization. We need to promote clean water, basic education, basic healthcare, and economic modernization, which contribute to declining population growth. We also need to promote birth control to speed up the decline in population growth.

Charles Siegel

What works

There have been numerous studies that show that access to clean water, basic healthcare and basic education (boys and girls educated to a 4th grade level) do more to mitigate population growth than 'family planning' initiatives. Given the cultural differences between the West and developing countries and the distrust of Westerners trying to to attain cultural colonialism in general and in sexual issues in particular, the best way to mitigate population growth is through the above seemingly non-related to population issues I mentioned.

By having clean water and basic health care, fewer children die before age 5 which has the effect of families feeling more secure that their children will survive to adulthood, so they don't need to have more children as insurance policies. Basic education brings in a new factor which is expanded expectations for a quality life, which have proven to delay onset of parenthood.

Certainly contraceptive methods should be introduced where appropriate and where they are not culturally intrusive. But I would also argue semantics. The phrase 'birth control' implies control of women, since women are the ones who give birth. It also implies abortion since controlling birth is an after-the-fact solution. What is instead is control of conception, not birth.

Contraception methods introduced from an outside culture are less threatening to the culture than is abortion. They are also less of a threat to women if advocated for both men and women. (We have a ready example of how women are threatened and abused by abortion ... China).

Global family planning intiatives that insist on abortion are missing the bigger picture. Voluntary abortion will never mitigate population growth. Meanwhile we have proof that other measures will (clean water, basic healthcare, basic education). And these measures are a more welcome in many cultures and seen less as cultural imperialism.

Re: What Works

"There have been numerous studies that show that access to clean water, basic healthcare and basic education (boys and girls educated to a 4th grade level) do more to mitigate population growth than 'family planning' initiatives."

That statement implies that family planning initiatives do something to reduce population growth - but not as much as clean water, etc.

That more-or-less agrees with my original statement that modernization is the main cause of reducing population growth, but family planning can also do a bit more - and given world population pressure, we also should do that bit more.

There are numerous studies produced by people who have conclusions that they want to prove, and they are certainly well intentioned to want to prove that we should give more aid to provide clean water, health care and education to the poor people of the world. But I suspect that, if we looked more objectively at the figures, we would find that clean water, health care, and education reduce birth rates because they are part of a larger pattern of economic modernization that changes the costs and benefits of having children.

Note that in prosperous industrialized countries, many people have zero children - and that choice certainly can't be explained by the fact that children are more likely to survive, so they don't need extra children as insurance.

You write: "Certainly contraceptive methods should be introduced where appropriate and where they are not culturally intrusive." Can you give an example where they shouldn't be used because they are inappropriate or culturally intrusive? The only examples I can think of are marginal: eg, small groups of indigenous people who are in danger of becoming extinct. Are family planning programs "culturally intrusive" in traditional cultures where women are expected to do nothing more than stay home and bear children? Was family planning "culturally intrusive" in the United States in 1916, when it was considered so shocking that Margaret Sanger was arrested for promoting it?

Charles Siegel

Strategy

Can you give an example where they shouldn't be used because they are inappropriate or culturally intrusive? The only examples I can think of are marginal: eg, small groups of indigenous people who are in danger of becoming extinct. Are family planning programs "culturally intrusive" in traditional cultures where women are expected to do nothing more than stay home and bear children? Was family planning "culturally intrusive" in the United States in 1916, when it was considered so shocking that Margaret Sanger was arrested for promoting it?

Some contraceptive measures are culturally inappropriate in many places ... it varies by region and measure.

'Family planning' can be counterproductive to its own goals in places where it is viewed as an unwantd outside (Western) influence on the culture. In those cases it is better to fund clean water, basic healthcare and basic education, which is not seen AS culturally imperialist as 'family planning'. It becomes a matter of strategy if not a moral issue for the promoters.

Certainly promoting abortion in many places in the world is suspect and very culturally insenstive. Abortion has no place in population policy as abortion cannot solve population issues (unless it is forced).

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