Monday, August 22, 2011

Overpopulation scruples

In response to one of my recent posts, I received a comment saying basically the following: shouldn’t we all refrain from having more than two children, due to the planet’s being overpopulated?

They are plenty of statistics and videos available online, showing how not overpopulation, but population ageing and decline are plaguing the Western world, demographically, socially and economically – I can’t supply links right now, but that won’t be necessary because we can all do a Google search. I am just going to clarify a few brief points.

First, and most importantly, I don’t worship nature; I’m coming from the premise that even if nature could benefit from there being less people on the planet, it doesn’t mean we should restrict our population. Of course we must put all effort towards preserving our ecology, but the notion of not reproducing reminds me of the old Soviet joke saying, “no person, no problem” – the only sure way to get rid of a difficulty is to get rid of the person to whom it relates! Surely none of us wants to think along these lines.

Second, I am under the impression that “we are not having children because we are thinking about the planet” is only ever stated by people who wouldn’t want to have a numerous family anyway, for reasons that have to do with their personal convenience rather than with the environment. How many people who are thus choosing to have fewer or no children, are also making an effort towards living simply and sustainably? What else are willing to “go without” for the sake of the environment – cars, new clothes, travelling? Or are they ready to give up only that which they do not value anyway?

Third, not all regions of our planet are overpopulated – far from it. In fact, there are countries, such as Russia, where population decline is one of the gravest national problems, and the government is trying in vain to induce people to have more babies. Would you tell a family living in a small village somewhere in the arctic circle or the far East that they ought to have no more than two children, for the sake of the planet?

Of course, even within the borders of one country there are regions which are more, and regions which are less populated. Israel is tiny and is considered a densely populated country, but even here, we have regions which suffer from population decline, because people flock to the urban areas which offer more opportunities for employment. The solution for crowded population is not to have less children, it is to give people opportunities which will enable them to spread out to emptier regions.

When talking to a Jew, overpopulation is a rather sad joke, when you remember that around one third of our number was wiped out in the Holocaust a couple of generations ago. Add to this the threat of assimilation and intermarriage, and you’ll see than unfortunately, it doesn’t look like our ranks are going to swell anytime soon. Thus, as a people, we must rejoice in every Jewish child that is born.

And here's a link I stumbled across after I finished writing this, which illustrates my points exactly.


priest's wife said...


Sometimes I think this 'overpopulation' talk is a bit of general, it is the poor non-white who has more than 1 or 2 children

Anonymous said...

have you seen this:

the entire worlds population could fit inside texas in the USA, farming and fresh water also from the USA, the rest of the world empty. obviously we don't want to actually DO that, but if people CAN fit and still have enough space for food/water AND a whole lot of empty world doing nothing, then there's really no overpopulation.

i think people forget how much empty space there really is out there.

Anonymous said...

I have conflicting thoughts on this.

Point well taken about the population decline in rural areas. Many small towns in America have met the same fate. I also completely understand about the Jewish population not being so large. And that preserving your heritage is extremely important.

There are places, Sub-Saharan Africa being the main one, where I do not believe people should continue to have so many children. With such limited resources, it would be better to have less children and then have a higher rate of children surviving to adulthood. Furthermore, as the current situation in Somali shows, people there have no way of supporting themselves. No crops will grow there. No way to get water. They depend entirely on International aid. The more children they have, the more it cost the rest of the world.

Much of the nation of Canada isn't populated- but it isn't habitable either. Some rural areas aren't. I imagine many places in Russia are the same way.

I think you and your husband have made the right decision for yourselves. I agree that overpopulation is a myth in some ways (you will need young people to support the aging ones), but you cannot deny that there are places that do not have the resources (water & food) to sustain a population.

I won't pretend to have the answers. Just throwing my thoughts out there.

Anonymous said...

To the poster who commented about the world's population being able to fit into the state of Texas: as a Texan, much of the state is unpopulated for a reason. There's no water. There's even less water state-wide now that we're in the midst of the worst drought and the hottest summer in recorded history. When discussing world populations, one cannot simply consider land space, but available resources. Much of the world is uninhabited because it, simply, is uninhabitable, not because there aren't enough people to fill it.


Jo said...

I struggle to understand the comment of fitting 7 billion people into Texas, I assume standing room only.

The problem with the population is how fast it has been growing. We are adding 1 billion people every 13 or so years, this can't keep on going without some overcrowding issues is some parts of the world. By 2050 it is forecast to reach 9 billion people. That needs to be addressed. Can some nations afford to have ever growing populations. Overcrowding is not a myth in many countries, it is a real problem. Whereas in other countries, such as Australia we have vast empty areas of country but no good to live in due to little or no water. It isn't possible to populate it in
large numbers.

PandaBean said...

I am a big fan of Colleen Carol Campbell, the author of the article you posted. Someone she has interviewed frequently on her show, Faith and Culture, is Steven Moshure. (I hope I spelled that right!) He is one of the world's leading experts on the over population myth.

Anonymous said...

Right on! I'm not Jewish, so I don't share those reasonings behind it, but Lord willing, my husband and I hope to have four children someday. It's not just Russia in a population decline, much of Europe is in population decline as well, along with countries like Japan - which is facing huge social problems since their population is so old. The US (where I am from) is only barely making it due to immigrants. Indeed, I was just reading a month or two ago that we have the lowest percentage of children we've ever had in the US and that one in four of those children are immigrants.

From my understanding on the Texas illustration to answer the previous poster, it's not that everyone needs to live in a place the size of Texas, it's the point that everyone could live in that size of space.

As to the other previous poster who taked about Sub-Saharan Africa being a place where people should not continue having children, those kinds of arguments upset me because having less children won't make the people who are hungry any less hungry. And indeed, if you look at the WFP's reasons of hunger, not a single one of them is that there is not enough food. Over and over again to me it is clear that "fixing" overpopulation as a way to stop world hunger is a misguided intention. The people who are left will still be hungry unless we address the root causes of hunger.

I used to work in a restaurant - we threw away so much food that we couldn't sell anymore according to health code. If there was really that little food in the world, no one would do that. Poverty is not caused by overpopulation, plain and simple. We have the resources to feed everyone but not everyone has access to those resources. People will not suddenly have access to those resources if they stop having children.