Monday, June 4, 2012

1. Overpopulation

When people describe the overpopulation of India, they are usually echoing what they have heard. Let us break this term apart into ‘Over’ and ‘Population’: the ‘over’ refers to the belief that there are too many people/population, and there are not enough resources for everyone.

1. In my view, the term refers to not only how many people are alive, but to how much they consume. This brings in the dimension of economics to H/SS. Normally people who talk about overpopulation may also think that too many resources are being used to feed, house, clothe educate etc. the masses.

2. When we examine consumption, however, I humbly suggest that we Americans /folks in Europe and North America are the ones who use a disproportionate amount of global natural resources, not people in China or India. Yes, China has a quarter of the world’s population, and India a sixth of the people. But in terms of consumption they rank much lower. The US consumes more per person than do either the Chinese or Indians.

3. The number of children a family has is a function of the family’s religious traditions and preferences. Can we impose one group’s beliefs on another?

4. Birth control methods are historically recent. Sex is pleasurable, for the rich as well as for the poor. Generally, every family wants the best for their children. If birth control methods are available, they generally use them. Also examine this paradox - as education and economic levels rise, family size often shrinks.

5. In the less developed nations, not all children survived and make it to adulthood, which also accounts for the tradition of parents having as many children as they did.

6. Many of the poorer, less developed nations do not have a social security system in place. A social safety net does not exist for the elderly. Parents, in their old age, expect to be taken care of by their children.

7. Children are a joy. Without them, life would be empty.

So for these reasons, I maintain that the term overpopulation refers to an equation. To do justice, examine both the number of people, and their consumption patterns. You may want to watch the YouTube video ‘The Story of Stuff’ to illustrate this. Explore all the complex, inter-related issues, then make up your own mind.

Beyond this, yes, we are a global society living beyond our resources. Theories abound, from the Malthusian to Gaia. We also have to accept that as humans, we do not yet have all the answers.

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