Friday, January 22, 2010

Population 4: What do we do about it?

OK. Well, then.
So far:
We have seen that mathematically, sustained exponential growth is impossible in a physical system.
We have seen that it is not just down to consumption patterns, important though they be.

We have seen that it is a fact of ecological science that the carrying capacity of all land is limited.
So now. What are we going to do about it?

Deep breath.

Gather, gather.
Put on tin hat.
Here goes.

First, we could do nothing. Let world population rip. Let individual liberty be paramount: any attempt to modify individuals' natural inclination to have as many children as they choose is to be characterised "Fascism" or, better still "eco-fascism".

The consequences of choosing this path are as follows:
  1. continual degradation of the natural environment until every square centimetre of potentially productive land is put under either housing, infrastructure or agriculture.
  2. wars over resources and land
  3. mass starvation
  4. mass migration
These are the inevitable consequences of the extreme libertarian/religious fundamentalist approach, and all reasonable persons reject that consequence if put to them consciously, (although we tend to accept it by paying no attention to the subject of population).

If we reject the do-nothing approach, then what do we do to put an end to the growth in world population?

The Green Party recognises that the decision to have babies is an intensely personal and emotive issue, and we reject coercive measures to limit family size.

Instead population policy will be based on thorough education and persuasion. We look to successful, humane models such as Costa Rica, Kerala and Thailand to balance the oft-quoted, dubious coercive measures used in China.

Although population growth is a complex function of family size, longevity, death rates and immigration rates, for simplicity and clarity, we will focus on the aim of restricting reproduction to the replacement rate – that is, to one child per adult (two per couple).

The central role of Government is to protect the well being of its citizens. Food security is a priority in this role.

Governments can open the debate on population by publicising the fact that they can only guarantee food security if the population of the nation does not grow indefinitely. They could publish a social contract between government and people: the state will do its best to feed the people if the people do their best to limit their offspring to one per person (i.e. two per couple).

Every country will have to take part in this great project. The UK cannot expect other countries to curb their growth if the UK population continues to grow.

The key principle is education, not coercion.

In the educational curriculum, the population problem will be taught repeatedly. The population graph will be placed on the curriculum, and studied intensively. In mathematics, population will be used as an example of exponential growth. In biology it will be referred to when studying carrying capacity and reproduction. It will figure in sex education, citizenship classes and in food technology.

In the health service, GPs, nurses, midwives and obstetric services will hand out leaflets on population at contraceptive checks. Family planning advice and techniques will be freely and widely available. Midwives will mention population in post-natal contacts. Mothers who have had their second child will have detailed counselling.

All this will be clear and definite, but also sensitive, and not manipulative or coercive. The health care personnel will be briefed on FAQs about population, including its relationship to individual human rights.

These measures will, over time, produce a shift in consciousness, similar to the shift in consciousness that has occurred with smoking. The aim will be to produce voluntary agreement from the majority who are open to reason.

At the end of all this education is the free and widespread availability of contraception.
The empowerment of women plays a vital role. They need to be give the knowledge and status to make the decisions.

There will be those who choose to ignore or are unable to comply with the contract.
There are three main groups:
  1. Strict adherents to religions such as Islam and Catholicism
  2. Individual couples who have a form of compulsion to repeated childbirth
  3. Chaotic families.

    Strict individualistic libertarianism would allow these groups to expand, but considerations of social equity suggest that this would undermine the whole programme, resulting in society paying the price for the beliefs of these groups. This inequity must be countered by various non-coercive measures, one of which is the benefit system.

The first two children in a family should continue to receive child benefit as of right, but the third and subsequent children should receive an equivalent sum only from other sources, as the result of negotiating with the fund providers. In short, there would be a bureaucratic hassle to get benefit, forms to be filled in, and at every stage the claimant's understanding of the population problem would be assessed. This would apply mainly to chaotic families, and at the same time as increased contact with benefit agencies, they could have increased contact with social services to help them organise their lives better.

Religious communities that have expansionist policies should be legally required to provide for the third and subsequent children from the resources of their own community.
That is eminently reasonable, and will bring back the cost of the children to the community that holds the belief that causes people to break the social norm.

Other cases should be funded on a separate basis, the funding being linked with compliance in more detailed education and training, therapy, and assistance.

These measures, like many of our other policies, will be unpopular with some people, but in the end, these measures are absolutely necessary to prevent mass starvation in the future.

PS: Population, fundamentalism and irrationality.

No comments: