Sunday, May 18, 2008

The population debate

There is a big debate on population taking place on Green Party lists.
This is my take:

The ideal of Social Contract has been pretty much a constant, in one form or another, in western philosophers since Locke. It means in essence that individuals give up one of their rights to their social community in exchange for a service provided by the community.

It is a reflection of democracy, in that all power of social authorities (governments &c) is ultimately given to them by the people.

RL: Real economics and politics means harmonising our needs with the needs of the web of life that ultimately sustains us. We have to stop human incursion into nature, e.g. slashing down forests to grow food. Change to green technology is important, but even if every human on the planet had the minimum ecological footprint, we would still have to stop population growth, because it is impossible to expand forever into a finite space.

The present human population is 6 billion. Business as usual projections indicate that it will peak at 9 billion. The world can just about feed 6 billion. It follows that the trends indicate mass starvation for 1 in 3. This is not acceptable, therefore population growth is an urgent issue for the world.

The proposed social contract is an instrument, a lever, to bring about the radical change in global policy that is required. The contract is this:

We, the people, will undertake to have only 2 children per couple, and in exchange it is government's responsibility to make sure that we have enough to eat.

This is an entirely reasonable contract given the circumstances of mankind on planet earth in 2008. The present food crisis is the result of fluctuations in commodity markets, poor harvests probably due to climate change, 3W debt, WHO rules, EU subsidies, and a host of other factors leading right out to militarism; but is is not a flash in the pan. It is here to stay.

3% of the earths surface is low-lying, fertile deltas and flood plains, like that part of Burma just flooded by cyclone Nargis: that 3% produces 30% of the world's food. Sobering.

So the principle of the food/family social contract (FFSC) is rock solid.

The devil is in the detail.

First and foremost, Greens reject compulsion. Education, information and persuasion has to be the way. The role of FFSC is to flag up this approach. It will create global consciousness of the link between population growth and mass starvation.

It is controversial enough here, so when the UN starts discussing it, it will be headline news, and a big debate will ensue. We will be ready to lead that debate.

Our educative approach should be:
1 Schools. Teach the pop. graph big time. In maths, peach pop. in consideration of exponential growth. Major on it in biology. And in sex education. And in citizenship classes. And in food tech...
2 Health contacts. GPs, nurses, midwives hand out leaflets on pop. at contraceptive checks. Midwives mention it. Most of all, mothers who have had their second child will have detailed counseling. All this will be clear, definite, but also sensitive, and not heavy or coercive. The health care personnel will be briefed on FAQs about human rights &c.

These measures will, over time, produce a shift in consciousness, similar to the shift in consciousness that has occurred with smoking. (For our younger readers, there was a time, back in the day, when smoking was a perfectly acceptable habit socially...)

This will produce voluntary agreement from the majority who are open to reason.

Which leaves us with those who choose to ignore or are unable to comply with the contract. There are 5 main groups:

1 Religions such as Islam and Catholicism.
2 Baby addicts such as the couple with 12 children in the Guardian may ~16
3 Accidents
4 Chaotic families

This is where things get tough. The first 2 children in a family should get child benefit as of right, but the 3rd and subsequent children should receive an equivalent sum by other sources, or as the result of negotiating with the fund providers.

Religious communities should be legally required to provide for their 2+ families. That is eminently reasonable.

The other 4 classes should be funded on a separate basis, the funding being linked with compliance in more detailed education and training, therapy, and assistance.

Yes, it is tough. There will be losers, as indeed there are with all our policies.

But in the end, these measures are absolutely necessary to prevent mass starvation* in the future.

That's how I see it anyway. I would be delighted to be shown that I am wrong, and that there is some factor that I have overlooked that will enable us to expand forever into a finite space...

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