Tuesday, July 11, 2017

World Population Day

We have been bombarded for decades with the idea of overpopulation and food scarcity. It all seems logical and credible, right? Well, think again. The capitalist system spells deprivation and misery for great numbers of the population. The "overpopulation problem" is really a misuse of resources problem. Capitalism, as a system of rationing via the market, is justified in people's minds by a belief in scarcity. "There isn't enough to go round", so we must be restricted in what we are allowed to consume. It has become a cliché to speak of "this overcrowded planet” yet if, for example, the entire world's population were now placed in the United States, the population density in that country would still be little more than that of Holland. The world already grows enough food for 10 billion people. The world production of grain and many other foods is sufficient to provide at least 4.3 pounds of food per person a day. We don’t have a scarcity problem. We have a distribution problem. 

 To achieve perfect replacement, humans must have 2.13 children per woman.  Some women have more children while others have fewer, but 2.13 is the magic number to maintain a steady population. More than 90 countries (the USA and Canada among them) are currently experiencing a birthrate under that magic number. People are simply not having children.

Wealth distribution is extremely unequal: More than 70 percent of the world's population own an accumulated 3 percent of global wealth, with each one of them owning 10,000 dollars or less. The millionaires and billionaires of the world, on the other hand, own almost half of the global wealth.

According to Forbes magazine, there are 2,043 billionaires living on Earth in 2017. That's a record number - the first time that the magazine was able to pin down more than 2,000 billionaires. Last year, that number was at 1,810. On the other end of the spectrum, in 2013 there were 767 million people living in extreme poverty according to the World Bank. These people live on less than 1.90 dollars a day.

663 million people have no access to clean drinking water, according to the NGO water.org, and 795 million people didn't have enough to eat in 2015, according to the World Food Programme. One in nine people will go to bed hungry tonight.

People who claim that population growth is the big environmental issue are shifting the blame from the rich to the poor. The overpopulation myths are handy for the exploiters, giving them a "scientific" excuse for the misery they cause so they can enjoy their blood-money without remorse. 

It is not overpopulation is the problem but the private, corporate or state ownership of the means of production and distribution with its competitive ethos and accumulative 5% minority parasitic profit system allied with the coercive state apparatus and war machines to aid and back up its plundering and wasteful use of nature given raw resources as well as the exploitation of the 95% human resources in pursuit of accumulation of profits.

We are more than capable, with a commonly owned world, of sustaining a superabundance of the necessities of life with production for use and not for sale, allied to free access to them, with democratic control exercised by all through delegation, not government or states allied to a self-regulating equilibrium of virtuous, holistically sustainable and ethical environmental standards. Poverty is caused in the developed world by capitalism.

We can easily provide in abundance for everyone here, and even double, triple or quadruple that if we really like. All we need to do that is to create a resource based economy, making sure food and resources are created where people need them and empower people to create their own lives wherever they live. 

The myth that overpopulation is the problem is not supported by evidence. We should reject anti-humanist solutions. We must celebrate humankind. 


Dave Gardner said...

I'd like to point out that many overpopulation concerns are directed at the reproduction of the wealthiest section of our population. Even though their average fertility is low enough that it's tempting to assume they are not part of the population problem, each of their progeny represents a huge impact. Maybe there are a few rich trying to blame the poor, but there are many who believe reducing family sizes in every part of the world can only improve lives for all, in every possible way.

The writer mentions "The world already grows enough food for 10 billion people." We are accomplishing that by destroying fertile soil much faster than it can regenerate, by creating vast ocean dead zones, by depleting our aquifers, pumping our rivers dry, and toxifying the rest. We are not producing that amount of food in sustainable fashion.

There is plenty to fix about inequitable distribution of resources and economic injustice, but those problems exist alongside a tragic level of overpopulation that makes it even harder to correct the injustices. It's not an either-or proposition.

ajohnstone said...

I agree that there presently food production is conducted on an industrial scale which has detrimental effects on the soil, something that is not new, however, and was pointed out by Marx. It is fixable using various agricultural methods such as organic.

The trend is already towards smaller families, and for many countries that is below replacement levels and means immigration is required to maintain a demographic balance so regions that are slower to respond such as sub-Saharan Africa can provide a reservoir of young healthy educated people.

We have because of rural poverty a massive exodus towards mega-cities so urban over-crowding is a problem but this is not an over-population issue but to do with the geographic distribution of people which is related directly to wealth distribution which is related to types of farming - cash crops or satisfying food needs

But the articles core message is that we should not be fooled into adopting eugenic solutions that imposed birth control or one-child policies are the real solution. Capitalism is the problem, not people.