“Endangered Species Condoms explicitly push the message that creating fewer new humans leads to fewer species extinctions.”
This is bad reasoning. The number of humans is far less important than how they’re using resources. Humans in the first world use tens to hundreds of times more resources than the most impoverished people.
We could replace each first worlder with 10 third worlders - considerably raising the global population - and still come out ahead in terms of environmental impact. That’s because a human doesn’t just come with a kW/h tag like a refrigerator. The resources we each use are virtually entirely determined by social, economic, and political factors. A first-worlder isn’t inherently more expensive than a third worlder, they consume more resources because a) they want to, and b) they can.
Population control as it relates to environmentalism is a very touchy subject, and rightly so, because of the history of eugenics and racism which is so closely related to ideas of population control.
The important points about population/environment are:
- People (particularly women) should be able to reproduce or not as they choose.
- One segment of the global population should not have privileged access to far more resources than others
If, once these problems are seriously addressed, we still have a major resource problem, maybe then we’ll be in a place where we can reasonably talk about guilting people into not reproducing.
It may be poor reasoning but the more people think about - and discuss - this issue, the better.
Sure, but these condoms seem to be framing the discussion arguments as “You shouldn’t have a baby, because your baby will use up resources that threaten habitat” vs “You’ve a right to a baby and who cares about habitat.”
It should be framed as “Have a baby, or don’t. But is it ok that one baby (yours or otherwise) would be using a village worth of resources?”.
Meanwhile, all the people not wearing and reading your snarky condoms continue to procreate - ala Idiocracy.
Some countries, like India, have changed dramatically in the last 50 years. They’ve undergone, or are currently undergoing, technological revolution. Unfortunately, even in urban areas and with better food and medical care, people are breeding as though they are still agrarian. They haven’t yet changed that part of their lifestyle.
As of 2000, India had 19.1% of the world’s total for population under age 5. China was just below at 16.3%. So, in 5 years, just those two countries will represent 35.4% of the young adult population. You could say that land mass explains those high numbers, but in contrast, the U.S. will represent 3.1%. Also, the U.S. has had a dropping reproduction rate for several decades. Only recently did it begin to rise again.
Places like Ethiopia, where rural poverty runs rampant (they rank 174th out of 187 countries in the UN) aren’t having and retaining lots of kids. Many children die from disease or violence. As of 2000, Ethiopia ranked 1.9%. Nigeria ranked 3.4%. With true, rampant poverty, and people living in an agrarian culture, breeding isn’t a problem. They can’t keep up with the death.
I recommend spending a minute with the world population clock. That should put things into perspective. We all need to slow down.
Generally speaking, we all are slowing down. Yes, even in India.
If current worldwide trends continue the global population will likely level off at around 10-11 billion people at some point this century. It turns out that when people have access to birth control they usually work out the “right” number of kids to have on their own.
That doesn’t mean overpopulation isn’t a problem we need to worry about at all, but it does mean that it’s a far less pressing long-term problem than things like the ever-growing hunger for resources in developed countries.
You do realize that those two problems are directly related, right? Food stores are related to population.
Here’s a link to the Wikipage on [total fertility rate]. Currently, India stands at about 2.6 children per woman. The U.S. is down to 1.9. It isn’t just reproduction rate that matters, but the size of the population that’s reproducing at an elevated rate.
India has a population of 1,247,008,310.
The U.S. has a population of 318,434,264.
Here’s why this matters.
India may have only 2.65 children for every woman, but if you work it out:
1,247,008,310 / 2 = 623,504,155 (that’s females)
623,504,155 / 2 = 311,752,077.5 (that takes out those too old and too young)
311,752,077.5 x 2.65 = 826,143,005.375
(that’s the # of kids from women currently childbearing)
318,434,264 / 2 = 159,217,132
159,217,132 / 2 = 79,608,566
79,608,566 x 1.9 = 151,256,275.4
So the difference in population growth (all things being equal other than population and number of children born per woman) is:
826,143,005.375 - 151,256,275.4 = 674886729.975
151,256,275.4 / 826,143,005.375 = 0.183, an 18% difference by country
Existing population size matters.
Yes repeatedly it has been shown that as societies modernize, become more affluent, and urbanize the birth rates drop off. Which is why the doom and gloom of immigrants out breeding a native population doesn’t come to fruition. Even if they come from a place where 5 kids is the norms, within 1-2 generations their birth rates align with the society they moved into.
Simply put, when a community advances to the point where more kids become a liability vs an asset, the birth rate drops. A poor farmer in India doesn’t spend a lot of money per kid, other than food and clothing. They “earn” their keep because they can utilize their labor for farming, making clothes, etc. Someone with a little money in the city not only has to feed and clothe their kid, but the kid can’t contribute much to the household. On top of that there are additional expenses such as schooling.
Yes, the size of the population matters—but population growth is the side of the equation that’s already trending in the right direction, even in India. It’s a problem, but one that is steadily correcting itself.
By contrast per-capita consumption of resources is trending in exactly the wrong direction and it’s getting worse by the year. If you want to solve the planet’s biggest woes, the resource-squandering people in developed countries (and I count myself as part of that group) are the ones you really want to put the pressure on.
Resource consumption is one of those problems that tends to self correct though. As a resource starts to run down the price of it ramps up and people look for alternatives, sometimes the green alternatives that were previously uneconomical.
The real problem is pollution, especially carbon pollution. That doesn’t have any market forces behind it pushing back, and will tend to run away unchecked unless people step in and specifically combat the problem.
You can’t just believe everything my 14 yr. old daughter says.
I’m not disagreeing with that. I haven’t at all. My original comment was in response to zikza, who was asking that the question only be framed in terms of resources, and that we mainly ignore birth rate in favor of resources.
I don’t believe it’s that simple. People need to understand how population growth, and every child born, affects the world.
My ultimate point is this: Both resources and reproduction rate matter. You can’t ignore either component. I never claimed that one was somehow “more important” than the other. What I did was show just how much faster certain areas of the world are growing (18% faster when you compare India to the U.S.) even at reduced rates, because they already have huge populations to start with!
I wholeheartedly agree that people need to reduce consumption, and that it is developed countries who are the worst offenders. Here’s something to consider: waste from populations in developing countries is rapidly changing as their economies change (conversion from agrarian to tech changes waste levels, because it changes the balance of organic waste, and those countries are changing faster than they can adapt). We need to watch ourselves because soon there will be a whole lot more people behaving similarly. We can’t wag fingers about behavior we ourselves already have.
Food stores are related to demand and production capacity (especially which ever one is lower). The population is just along for the ride.
I agree completely. The problem lies not in the consumption of resources per se, but in their production, both in terms of supply sustainability and adverse consequences. Which means that the sustainable population of the Earth is more a function of technology level than anything. Cheap carbon-free energy would make many things possible by its self. Whether our children solve problems or create them matters more than the number of children that we have.
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