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Overpopulation - Social Justice?

 
pollinator
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This was part of a response to this  thread about fuelling vehicles

Right now, the better, long term, answer to fuelling a vehicle is to leapfrog the development of the developing world.

People consume resources. Does increasing the population by X% then increase consumption by X%? Not necessarily. Permaculture has given us a way to reduce to consumption per person and living in community 'can' pretty much always result in lower consumption per person.

However, is it enough to reduce to consumption per person? I don't know if it's possible to reduce it enough to be sustainable, but in the long term, 500+years, I don't think it will matter. Lot's of people have agreed that eventually the world population will stabilise and reduce, the question is can we speed up that process?

Yes, it's been demonstrated many times that as countries develop, populations increase until a combination of education, healthcare and job opportunities mean that people choose to have fewer children. The main driver of population growth in developed countries is immigration from developing countries .

So does this mean we ban immigration? NO! Stopping people moving just keeps the problem out of our backyard where it can continue to grow. Quota systems and points systems are all crap. If we can stop people wanting/needing to move, then population growth will naturally stop.

This brings up the question of, when the population of the world stops growing, how do we change the economy to a steady state economy? No idea, but I suspect that that question is so far off in the future that's it's one that I don't have to answer and I wouldn't be surprised if it's a smoother transition than we fear.

Sorry to head off in a slightly political direction but we need to look at the whole system not just the individual parts.

I know this sounds preachy, so I'll say this. Right now I'm working where I live. In a couple of months I'll be moving to a ship based off the coast of Africa, working where I live to help developing nations improve their healthcare systems. I'm trying to do this authentically. Oh yeah and going pooless means less liquid and so less hassle when travelling.
 
pollinator
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The trouble discussing this topic is that people often hold very strong views, but those opinions often run counter to the evidence of what happens on the ground.

My favourite book that deals with this - and other issues - is “Poor Economics”. It deals with the economic decisions made by those in poverty, and studies what actually makes an impact on the ground. The results discussed follow rigorous scientific principles. It is an excellent starting point.

Some key conclusions are to do with population growth. Specifically, people have fewer children when they have better economic prospects, and long term financial security. Improving health, education and job prospects in the poorest communities is the biggest thing we can do to slow population growth.

We have the economic capacity to alleviate global poverty, but currently not the political will to do so.

If we want to reduce global population growth then the most effective course is to tackle poverty.
 
James Alun
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I haven't read "Poor Economics", I'll put it on my list. I have read and thoroughly recommend "When helping hurts".
 
pollinator
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I have long held the opinion that if we want to curb unhealthy, unrestrained population growth in developing countries, the best tool we have is supporting and educating women.

Even taken in a context where she will return to a subsistence-level existence afterwards, education, if tailored to the situation, can mean the difference between periodic starvation and rude abundance for her and her family.

When education translates to social mobility or increased employment opportunities, children become less of a survival strategy in the near-term, because taking time out for even just the leave medically necessary to give birth and recover would be financially punitive. So while couples may still want large families, it will be delayed, and the definition will change because the food and medical resources will be there to better guard against childhood illness, of the which there will be less, as a steady and sufficient healthy diet can be greatly preventative. So it won't be necessary to have many more children just to ensure some survive as a sort of "retirement plan."

I do want to point out that while the population is still increasing, the global trend of increase has been slowing, sitting at just over 1% (1.05% in 2020, 1.08% in 2019, 1.10% in 2018, and 1.12% in 2017). The rate of replenishment globally has been dropping steadily. This issue of is still a huge issue to tackle for developing countries, though, because, as mentioned above, of their outsized capacity to pollute at lower energy efficiency rates.

Many people will disagree with this statement, but overpopulation isn't going to be an increasing problem on our current course, except that those types of disasters that cause resource shortages and the movement of great numbers of refugees seem to be happening with disturbing frequency.

To be clear, I don't think we should have as large a population on this planet as we currently do, not with current inefficiencies and consumption levels, anyways, and so by that measure, any population growth, even replacement, could be seen as detrimental by some; to be clear, I feel that's a bit of an extreme view.

I am definitely not saying that typical western levels of consumption are good, or that we have nothing to worry about. But I definitely agree that we need governments of developed nations to reach out proactively to those developing ones that are in the position to benefit from aid in situ, and to accept refugees in greater numbers from nations less stable than is required for aid to do much good.

I feel that the onus is on developed nations, as our forebears are those that first started the increased emissions and extractive industries that have put us in the current carbon predicament in which we find ourselves. I don't mean to suggest that we need to wear sackcloth and ashes and flagellate ourselves; that's true virtue signalling. But if we act to increase systems efficiency and decrease our carbon budget (as well as those budgets that correspond to less-discussed resources, and ones that are industry or usage-specific), we take strides to end the systemic inequality of the environmental depredations of developed nations.

I feel this is definitely a conversation we should be having here. There are so many social justice links to environmental ills (which makes sense, as social and environmental costs are two areas where classical economics make externalities to generate profit), and this is where we find and discuss better ways of doing, for the environment and for people.

Great points, people. Keep it up.

-CK
 
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I didn't read your whole thing, not gonna lie. I got caught up in the first bit. I've been trying to be more minimalist. The one thing that minimalist Youtubers say over and over is that Americans consume more toys and material goods than any other country. We're just addicted to stuff. If we could only stop buying just for the joy of buying and owning things we'd reduce a lot of everything.
 
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Hi,  You can see charts on population explosion. Populations rose almost vertically with the introduction of the steam and gas powered engine. It was those inventions which allowed for the accelerated growth rate of food production, thereby allowing people to produce more offspring. There is enough food to feed everyone on the planet, yet because of politicians, bureaucrats, and religious terrorists, between 100,000 and 200,000 people will die from starvation.

In some countries microcredit loans and educating women have caused regional population stability and decline, But education must be true education and not propaganda. Propaganda education just makes dumb sheep and populations may still rise.
 
Chris Kott
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True. But check out some of Malthus' writings on the matter.

He essentially observed that humans had this propensity to utilise abundance for population growth rather than for maintaining a high quality of life for all. It mirrors the animal dynamic, one example of which can be seen in relation to masting tree species.

On the oak savannah, during mast years, there is an abundance of food for nut-eaters. So their populations explode. They experience increasing food stress, then starvation, whereupon the population shrinks, until the next mast year, when the population explodes again. Rinse and repeat.

The predators of those nut-eaters have a similar pattern. Their abundance happens when the nut-eater population explodes, thus causing a population explosion of their own. When the prey population dwindles, so does the predator. Until the population explosion following a mast year.

And we do exactly the same thing. The only way we can do any differently is to consciously change our behaviour. Sating our need for stuff is one stand-in for having more children in the animal sphere, but it still results in material waste, which leads to either poverty or food scarcity, or both.

This is why the war on poverty or hunger is doomed to fail until we increase a Kardashev level. We need sustained abundance to enable an educated society (I mean where everyone gets a university or equivalent education, on the whole planet), for long enough that we build abundance-building feedback loops beyond ones that act like mast years, or fossil fuels. A jump lasting a mere century that makes a small portion of the global population obese toy-hoarders isn't advancing humanity out of its Malthusian catastrophe anytime soon.

Educating everyone, but women especially, can improve conditions societally, such that a giant safety net made of your surviving children isn't required for survival past your working years. It also greatly increases one's potential working years, and increases their individual value.

I feel that population growth is the wrong metric to track. I feel that educating everyone, at the public expense (with everyone paying taxes, and preferably at a rate that increases as you take more out of the system through hoarding of wealth rather than reinvestment) is the only real way to approach any true social justice, along with creating a world where such education is not only a boon, but critical.

You know Star Trek, where so many engineers are required to keep society functioning that it forms a third of Starfleet (maybe way more; I seriously doubt that you need as many command and security personnel as you do engineers and, to a lesser degree, scientists)? That's the kind of society where we'd have enough highly technical jobs to do to satisfy a highly educated populace.

It needn't be solely engineering, although you could broaden the meaning of that concept by including one word: systems.

Systems engineers would work with systems designers to create systems of systems whose individual "waste" is fed into other systems that use it as a feedstock. This applies if you're talking about a Galaxy-class starship, a Cardassian space station, or terraforming projects, just to name a few examples.

Realistically, we need to expand the system. There has to be a beneficial outlet for the education we're giving to these people who otherwise had none, and no need of it, because literacy in agrarian societies, say, where being literate doesn't help your survival by getting you more resources, is a luxury. But if suddenly you have neighbours with electric traction for their fields, and knowing how to read gets you education in electric tractor repair, or solar panel installation and repair, or any one of a number of farm-related time- or risk-saving technologies, which gets you paid and the farmers greater yields, thus money to pay you, there is then a payoff.

So it's not just education, but that's a crucial piece. There has to be a need for that education that pays off for society, but more importantly, for the individuals and their families.

-CK
 
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