With 250 babies born each minute, how many people can the Earth sustain? | Lucy Lamble | Global development | The Guardian

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2 thoughts on “With 250 babies born each minute, how many people can the Earth sustain? | Lucy Lamble | Global development | The Guardian

  1. In 1968 one book really hit the best seller list. It was Dr. Paul R. Ehrlich’s “The Population Bomb: Population Control or Race to Oblivion?” People paid attention. Dr. Ehrlich made the tour of the talk shows, and pundits discussed plans for salvation. But the book also got the attention of religious community and of those who advocated for constant growth. Birth control and abortion were immoral. Fewer people threated increasing development and consumption. Among those groups enthusiasm for the book and its message waned.

    But according to one population scholar, a major blow stuck the anti-population movement in 1994 at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo. An alliance of feminists and social justice groups redefined family planning programs as coercive and as limiting women’s choice. Women, they said, have the right to as many children as they want. Population control became politically incorrect.

    To the Catholic Church and other conservative religious, birth control has been morally incorrect. When AIDS became a major killer, especially among both sexes in Africa, a spokesman, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo asserted that condoms contained small holes that made them ineffective in preventing the spread of the immunodeficiency virus. Furthermore, condoms, like all forms of birth control, were forbidden, and Frances Kissling, a Free Choice Catholic, related on CNN’s Crossfire that a priest told her it would be worse for people to lose their souls and go to hell for using a condom than it would be to die from AIDS. Granted, most Church representatives would not use the same rhetoric today, but more out of public relations savvy than from any change of dogma.

    Limiting children may also be undesirable to members of religions that practice
    “ancestor worship,” in which the living maintain a relationship with the spirits of the departed. They seek favors from deceased family members, they and ensure their own immortality by having children to continue the tradition.

    In other countries people hope for multiple children in order that some may survive the hardships of early childhood to care for elderly parents. Not all countries have social security systems.

    And then some people, in industrialized countries and in spite of the warnings for the future of the planet, have as many children as they want and are assured that any restrictions would be an infringement of their human reproductive rights.

    Some scholars are speaking out at their own risk and describing the consequences of such recklessness, and their warnings are stark.

    Ecologist Garrett Hardin says the following in his “Limits of Altruism”: “But in the modern press, nobody ever dies of overpopulation. It is unthinkable. So we say people die of starvation, drowning, disease, civil disorder, and countless other acceptable causes. Taboo determines language, and language controls perception.”
    Philosopher ethicist Herschel Elliott does not hold back either: “To those who are not blinded by human arrogance or blinkered by species narcissism, human beings have become like a plague of locusts. They are consuming every mineral and biological resource that can be put to human use. The nations that have depleted their own resources now rely on global trade and the free market system to suck in unused resources from all over the world.”

    Elliott’s conclusion is equally stark: “. . . ethics cannot reward people for begetting many children they cannot support; for their inability to resist the immediate gratification of their desires; for contributing little or nothing to society; or for trashing the environment—while at the same time, it makes those who act morally take care of all who act immorally. Any ethics that gives a reproductive advantage to those who have defied the environment and human goals of ethics is a suicide ethics. It cannot long direct the moral behavior of people in a finite world.”

    Obviously, many will think those conclusions too harsh, too judgmental, and too sanctimonious. They don’t believe the earth has finite resources. They believe that technological advances will increase the carrying capacity of even overpopulated countries to provide for their needs. And they believe that the industrialized countries will continue with oversupplies to share. Then the moral imperative to provide for others can also continue.

    But what if they’re wrong?

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