Monday, June 18, 2007

Designing Population Decline and Human Survival?

I made a post about ecologist Paul Watson proposing a plan to keep the biosphere habitable for the human race to avoid extinction. Somewhere in the blogospherical blogistan it got this slightly nonsensical reaction:

Blues-Tea-Cha would also like the human race to voluntarily reduce its birth rate below 2 children per family in an effort to make the world's population return toward a sustainable amount - I assume that he’s willing to provide and co-ordinate the required economic development in places so that they are able to reduce their birth rates to his optimal amount.
This reaction should probably be directed to the author of the piece. I am simply pointing to it as an interesting bit of thinking and commenting on it. Commentating on my comment is going to create a loop.

No, I was not personally offering to fund such a plan. Nor do I think such funding is required; the two largest-scale cases of societies modifying their cultural norms regarding the right-to-unlimited-childbearing to avoid population catastrophe (China and India under Indira Gandhi) were done by policy, not by increasing economic development. The economic development came later; China's GDP(or PPP) per capita is now about double that of India. What I am saying is that this point of view exists, it is worth considering for purposes of discussion, at least, since it involves avoiding human extinction, after all, and that extreme versions of population control/reduction have already been test-piloted in several of the world's overpopulated states. Thus it is a possible future (as it already has a past!) and is not really all that hard to imagine or implement.

I am not volunteering to personally coordinate that, but I think that there is enough expertise in the world to do that.

My main point was that most of the world is already below replacement levels, and that small incentives and influences on the remaining countries could tweak that. I wasn't actually taking a strong position of advocacy, but zero population growth is probably a good idea and negative growth over time would improve the standard of living if we are indeed devouring more resources than the earth produces and wiping out the earth's biodiversity as long as we maintain and increase the high-density civilization of six billion. That will seriously reduce your carbon bootprint and increase wildlife habitat, too.

I suggest education and health care. Every place where women have education, health care, and access to contraceptives, they have chosen to limit the number of children they have. This would not require all of the 1 trillion dollars now spent on military spending.

There was a lot more to what Watson said than the part about population, but since it was attacked rather hysterically (and almost comically so) I thought it deserved a more sober consideration. My contribution is just to say that most of the world is already there demographically, that shaping the future population decline has already been done by billions of people in Asian societies, and that it really isn't such a tall order for the whole world. I live in Japan, and the population decline has begun, a few years earlier than expected, and it is accelerating. The population in 2050 is expected to have dropped from the 127 million today to 100 million, a 20% decline.

As for a minimum level of global health care, no matter where you are in the world, if there is a guy sitting next to you on the bus hacking his lungs out because he has TB, you ought to be able to say, "Dude, go to the clinic already!" in the local language with your universal translator, and not have the guy respond "I don't have the f*#ing money for it!" And call me a dreamer, but I think that countries like the US, EU, Japan, (already respected for their medical techniques) would be more respected and liked for funding a simple global network of clinics (like those provided to the people of Vietnam, Cuba, and China under human-oriented governments), rather than spending money on Predator drones to blow up all wedding parties in Waziristan attended by men who are over six feet tall --a misguided and anti-human foreign policy which will eventually lead to tragic consequences aside from the eventual pygmyfication of the Pakistani gene pool.

Postscript: This is an interesting tool. (Select Dynamic Output)!

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