Dare I Speak of Over-Population and Global Warming?
Seven billion people don’t always (ever) see eye to eye on sensitive issues such as the significance of global warming. So, with an ever-growing, or rather booming population, serious issues surrounding long-term sustainability must be addressed globally. How can/will we provide life’s necessities (clean water, food, peace etc.) to more and more people with a diminishing pool of resources due to global warming?
We, as global citizens, are using the earth’s natural resources at an alarming rate. And it doesn’t help that the way in which we devour our resources (without too much thought) creates an immense amount of harmful pollution. We generate a cycle of waste, pollution and further inability to harbor sufficient resources.
Also consider that how we choose to use resources directly affects the kind of society in which we live. I consider myself to be an avid supporter of peace. And I believe that there are really two basic motives for unpeaceful behavior; vying for attention or vying for resources. Hopefully, by the time we leave grade school we have outgrown the former (although admittedly not everyone has,) and by the time we are adults the focus falls on the latter.
As a result of the unfair divide of valuable resources competition emerges, the rapid depletion of our natural resources only exacerbates global competition. So yes, I believe that global warming’s effect on our natural resources may lead to conflict and result in wars.
So we have a couple options…
1) Create more resources. This could be done with artificial/genetically modified food, or damming rivers that would naturally flow to the ocean, etc. Theoretically, we could accommodate for drought, war and various natural disasters that hinder our human ability to gather and maintain natural resources. I’m not advocating this, merely presenting it as something that we already do in part.
2) Limit population growth so that the natural resources we have will sustain a steady flow of population. Let me be clear, I am not advocating for this either considering I am the youngest of four kids where things were always exciting and always a lot of fun. Not to mention, I don’t feel anyone should be able to dictate the kind of family I choose to have.
Sadly, neither of these basic proposals account for the pollution that is invariably created from people, so man-made pollution will have to be addressed some other time (maybe another post for someone more ambitious than I.)
As I have read up on the subject, here are couple of interesting, specific strategies that I have seen proposed as viable solutions or parts of a solution to global warming, in regards to over-population;
A “green” advisor to the Prime Minister of Britain suggested two children per family cap, so that population growth will slow and hopefully, eventually shrink. (I will question the ethics a little further down, so if you are angry at this, so am I. Hold on, I’ll get there.)
The Gates Foundation chooses to approach this same problem from quite a different angle, arguing that the introduction of basic human rights will reduce population. Their evidence shows that birth rates are highest in developing nations, citing that where the mortality rate is alarmingly high women choose to have more children in hopes that some will survive. But by lowering the infant mortality rate and eradicating fatal yet preventable diseases (like malaria and HIV/AIDS,) the birth rate will decrease. They pair these strategies with educating and empowering women and introducing family planning. Together, they hope to slow population growth by establishing human rights. (Personally, I love this idea.)
I have a lot of questions about the ethics behind population control or lack of control. And by no means do I have comprehensive solutions for all (or any) of them. I have put my own viewpoints in parenthesis, so if you don’t care for my voice, by all means skip my commentary. I invite your thoughts and opinions about any or all of the following…
Is it ethical for governments to dictate how many children a family can have? (Since I have an opinion, I’ll insert it here. We all know this is something that China has done for years, limiting one child per family, but I think this strategy is detrimental to its society. For one thing, it dampens the progress of gender equality that we have achieved. With the one child per family law, the value of baby boys intensifies and many baby girls are abandoned or shunned. Admittedly, there are many other problems with this system too.)
Should the same rules/limitations apply to families that choose to adopt children?
Is it ethical to use fertility drugs to produce multiple child births? Where should the line be drawn: twins, triplets or more?
Is it anti-green to have children at all? Another blogger I read asked; how green is it to have kids in a world of dwindling resources, vast global inequality, terrifying climate change scenarios and dying empty seas? (I’m not sure I’m with her on this, but there are a lot of people who feel this way.)
How do we survive on the resources that we do have? Is it more environmentally friendly to resort back to our hunter-gatherers roots which were more harmonious with the environment? (Personally, I think there are too many people these days for that kind of life, not to mention we’ve destroyed too much wildlife and land for this through industrialization, but I saw it proposed anyway.)
What will it take for us (all 7 billion or whatever number we will amount to) to live on this planet, in harmony with the planet? (Promote education and human rights.)
Over-population is something that has been on my mind for a while, but I’ve never really settled on one solid solution because it seems too daunting a task that raises all sorts of ethical questions. The Global Population Speak Out campaign is calling on people all over the world to speak out publicly on the population issue throughout the month of February, 2009. By talking about the problem, together we can brainstorm solutions.
Ultimately, for any solution there must be a combination of approaches to tackle the ever growing disaster that is global warming, and ethics should never be left out. Thankfully, it is the diversity of ideas that leads to the best possible suggestions to move forward. So, I invite you to diversify my solutions by adding your thoughts and comments.