by Irma Arkus
This morning I awoke to find a strange, yet relevant article on SciAm: “Population and Sustainability: Can We Avoid Limiting the Number of People?”
Good question. Or is it?
For a long time we’ve been asking the question of how many people is enough people? Most of these questions however, were prompted by popularity of horrific socio-political ideologies. Eugenics comes to mind for one. In 18th century, the poor were identified as too fruitful. Of course, that is if you entirely dismiss their value and ignore the fact that it is these poor that fueled the economy, working dirtiest, and lowest paid jobs that ultimately built the empires of colonial powers.
Similar questions were asked of certain populations deemed undesirable. Natives in North and South America, for one. Or Jews, during the 20th century. How many Jews is enough Jews? Speaking as one, I’d have to shrug as say that I’m not entirely certain of the number, but since there are about 13 million Jews in a 6.9 billion people world, and counting the fact that 6 million Jews perished in WWII, I quite frankly believe that we could use a few more.
See what I mean?
Many sociologists have wondered: how may rich people do we need? After all, with all this power of the billionnaires, and the preposterous ideas of liberal politics including gems such as “consumers voting with their dollars,” seems to imply that however many extremely wealthy people there are, there seems to be too many of them. They do seem to require a remarkable amount of resources. Private jets, extraordinary paycheques that could feed entire countries, multiple domiciles, huge car collections, etc…
While the article in SciAm asks this pertinent question, I am counfounded by its monumental nature: “Whereas more people once meant more ingenuity, more talent and more innovation, today it just seems to mean less for each.” It goes on to list: less water, less food, less land for farming, less capacity in the atmosphere to trap gasses.
Population control is evidently something we need to consider. But who is “we” and how are we going to apply our considerations?
Is it just me or is the problem in the system we’ve developed, that devoured the planet as we know it? Is it just me, or have the technologies (and I am using that term widely) created scarcity of land, water, and food?
Is it also just me, or is our global economic system hooked on concept of “growth.” This fidgety concept is very much dependent on steadily growing population. Sheer beauty of Fordism demands that we expand the pools of consumers for our goods, and the simplest way to do so is to enlarge our populations.
The question of population control brings up a lot of old wounds and prejudices. And though it may be relevant to ask, in light of recent climate change issues, it may be better still to inquire whether we require more profound changes to existing systems: from manufacturing, consumerism and trade, to pinning responsibilities for creating pollution where it deservedly belongs. Should we not examine those issues at length, prior to demanding birth control and limiting number of people?
I highly recommend you read the article on SciAm, and do keep these questions in mind when doing so.