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Debate: Should we endlessly assist population expansion?

I was intrigued by Magnus Larsson and indeed other TED talkers about helping with the desperate plight of people in Africa, for example the chap assisting with clean water and his 15nm filter.

But being a long view sort of chap, I immediately wonder if the best thing for the dirt poor isn't contraception. This may sound harsh, but I am no eugenics nut, this is not about picking cultures or races.

Also I wish no ill to any living people, they should receive aid, but the biggest taboo in modern science and political strategy seems to be overpopulation.

For anyone not knowing, please look at the world population figures for the past few hundred years, they cannot be overstated.

Simply working on keeping communities alive, finding renewable energies and looking to feed people is treating the symptoms, not the plague. And people, human beings are the plague.

Why is nobody asking questions like, just how many people do we want to support on this planet? Not even - how many can we support?

Now think of a world with 1 billion people. Or less. How's about several hundred million. Those people can live spread across the world according to available resources. We could still improve on our pollutions but decreasing the population seems to me to immediately fix most of the world's problems, and I don't see a down side. Why do those that want children need more than two? And really, why more than one?

Then the other counter to initiatives like Magnus' is, SHOULD we interfere with nature on the scale that he proposes? Do we really think we know the true consequences of something like that? Ask yourself, why is the desert swallowing green belt? Is it because humans interfered?

I have grave concerns that if you feed everyone, and provide their other basic needs through technology, without any cultural revolution, that overpopulation will simply and VERY rapidly throw up the next major problem, and that this may risk life on this planet.

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  • Oct 27 2012: The difficulty with population controls is that those who are in a position to see the facts and imagine the consequence are all very well fed, have access to the necessary birth control measures etc. If you live on the margin of survival, as Maslow so carefully explained, you care for little else but the next meal or the nearest shelter. To give all of those who live today the surety of a fair chance of survival, is most probably within the ability of human race, but falls rather low on the "wish list" of most of us.. Ergo. Nature will have her way. As a now less than youthful woman who chose 45 years ago for many reasons not to bring any children into this world, only one ( fairly low priority reason) of which was I could see little reason to bring yet more of us into it, I understand both the overwhelming drive to do so and the economics of necessity that drive the population growth. I had a choice, but who amongst us are arrogant enough to believe we have the right to choose for others ?
    Yet if we do not do so the " others " essentially do choose for us. Nature is very clear, eventually she will do away with the excess of every species and any species that cannot or will not adapt to the changing planet will disapear. We are changing the planet and many do die, many humans and many more species. As a child a disaster ( flood volcano etc) killed or displaced 10s of thousands now it kill or displaces 100,000's. (eg. China 800,000 peasants displaced by the building of the 3 Gorges dam)
    What we can do is talk and explain, educate, explain the consequence. Change the thinking, change the benefits, change the values, change how we rescue, change how we provide for those unable to provide for themselves, change the expectations. It has to be persuasion . Open up the choices to logic and teach people the consequence for " following " instinct rather than logic. Start with YOUR children, and YOUR culture. Be willing to make your child a misfit!
    • Oct 27 2012: I have tried, in my mind for some time to try and put this in the least troll like manner possible, but basically my issue with your statement Karen, is that it portrays precisely the "western" attitudes I see as the problems for real change in the third world. Apologies in advance.

      It is supreme arrogance and folly to think in terms of "us" "westerners" controlling and assisting the third world like parents of helpless children. Even your term "population controls" is immediately repugnant to all, even me, the advocate here for population decrease.

      But you raise another interesting effect of overpopulation, it helps us dehumanise "these people", living in millions or so here and there in filth, breeding and living like animals, and of course, "we" have little sympathy for animals.

      The more of us there are, the less important we are, I truly believe that, as we are less unique.

      And like Stalin famously pointed out, the figures just numb people, 800,000 people displaced, I cannot connect to that, and how bad could it be if they were all together, right? Besides in my own country I have the distractions of my own 63 million British residence. Not to mention the forced media from the 300+ million folks in the states.

      With foreign aid, there are no moral imperatives. We are not obliged to help, but if we choose to, we take on the total responsibility of our actions, intended and otherwise. So if you provide the basic needs of life to people that then multiply to harmful figures, that is on you. Their children's suffering is on you also.

      SHOULD we help everyone, SHOULD people live in such places, SHOULD we prop up their societies of suffering and ignorance? I have as much sympathy for Darwinism as the third world if I am truly honest. Maybe that's why we only dabble there. Which is the worst idea.

      Finally, I think it is critical to see the truth of breeding in the third world. "Family planning" does not factor into rape. Beyond that, sex is currency and the Xbox
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    Nov 26 2012: No, we definitely shouldn't.

    When I was in highschool (that's more than a half a century ago) we were already talking about the population explosion. We were scared silly by the thought that the world polulation would hit the 3 billion mark before 1960.
    On the one hand - looking back on it all now that we have passed the 7 billion mark - the great 3-billion-scare seems silly today.
    On the other hand, seeing as we now clearly realize that global resources are finite, there is no way that we can continue to grow in number indefinitely.
    - Nine billion - well, maybe ...
    - Twenty billion - oof ...
    - A hundred billion - you gotta be kidding!

    Sooner or later we gotta stop growing.

    But whereas increasing population involves doing what people seem to like most of all in this world (making babies), I can't think of any possible way of decreasing it again without doing things that we don't want to do - like starving, warring, dying from disease, etc.

    The one optimistic approach is that population growth seems to fall off as people get wealthier and better educated, so that eradicating poverty will staunch the runaway growth we had in the last decades of the 20th century.

    But resource-wise can we afford 9 or 10 billion people living comfortably above the poverty line? I certainly don't know.
  • Nov 1 2012: Your narrative and comments fairly nicely captures my outlook about the mess we have gotten ourselves into worldwide because of the unchecked existing and growing population numbers and the unwillingness of most to consider it a problem.

    Actually addressing population numbers as a problem is taboo, at least in the U.S. I think it is taboo here because of a religious sacred claim that we are here to be fruitful and multiply and dominate over the earth. Also the status quo has been that this subject is not up for discussion. On the contrary politicians can usually be found hugging the religious power base. Incidentally, thanks for giving us the biscuit for loons award (your response to Sharon) and your expansion on why we deserve that "honor."

    I would be a little more encouraged if the U.S. government would simply cancel the huge tax INCENTIVES for those producing more children, let alone making parents more responsibe and reflective about having children.

    The symtoms of overpopulation are not going away, on the contrary they are becoming overwhelming causing more grief than most of us would care to contemplate, or face. These problems will be more undeniable as they show up in our own backyards.

    There could be hope from this new incredible information age as the young can explore knowledge via Youtube, etc. More and more students and the populous are turning to online learning which may serve put biology and natural history more into proper focus. Attitudes can change and in turn could become more effectively shared and expressed in our more liberating electronically connected world. One can always hope.
    • Nov 1 2012: Fanks Dan F.

      Hope my jibes at your country are not DEEPLY offensive, they were not intended to be (seem worse now I read them without the smile on my face).
      • Nov 1 2012: Offensive to some, but your insightful sense of humor is spot on IMO.
  • Oct 29 2012: In my country See Samuelson the employers have traditionally lowered wages by importing cheaper workers e.g. more people. In my state there is always someone who has too many horses for the horsefeed available Then there are terrible pictures of starving horses. People who like horses try to see that this person goes to jail - not an unreasonable idea. I think that there is traditionally a greater love of dogs and horses than people. Maybe we need to extend the idea expressed here to people and those who ruin our lives. People have been punished for other crimes against humanity in the past. What an idea!
    • Oct 29 2012: But we didn't starve Africa George, they persist, having children even though they starve themselves.

      Maybe western people did in the past, and maybe our culture and tech have changed native folks lives so that now they cannot look after themselves, but they are not domesticated animals.

      They are people, and as such, they hold some self determinism and responsibility.

      I now see that with stability and a baseline of wealth and education, the reliance on offspring to survive, essentially birthing a workforce, is diminished and populations are capped, but it's still way too high as far as I am concerned given the amount of space we use, for urban area, for farming, for water usage, for grazing, and for mining (of all things from hardwoods to coal).

      How much space we as a species take up on this planet is annoying to me as how little space we are given in our average homes. Perhaps an answer for both is more communal living, just a thought.
  • Oct 29 2012: Karl...my grandfather's name was Karl!

    I must apologize for my poor vocabulary. Even after prove reading and changes it still only makes sense to the author...now that's just poor translation. Funny referring to proofing as a cult.

    Yes, you are right in your observation if there is no other factors to bare then a slow growing population concern would be spelled out that way...however, calculate if the calamity was forced fed as in sliding into an ice age, for survival forcing the mass's to the centre and there are guns at the borders and starving people with guns walking towards them...that is not a calculation into concern for population growth it is the result of to much now...and if climate changes there will be war. Kinda neat how it all works out, just like it was thought out!

    Yes thus far, intelligent explanations when dealing with a eternity/patients it knows nothing of. All stories end in chaos which supposedly no one wants, but there it is, so I doubt any of the foretold calamities were a decision of man itself.

    Correlate? Oil refuses to change to new energy formations...what is your base for argument? The guys in control stand against what they see as competition, medicine against natural, oil/coal against environmental, doctors/nurses against actual health prevention...and they stay this way as all systems are based on supporting the other just as you cannot send the men into battle if the church says no, hand shakes...is that maybe enough for ya ;)

    Albert God bless his sole, not all quoted quotes are identical nor incorrect, in both cases the end result is insanity so for that reason he is correct. However, idiocy brings on insanity. As, I do not think we are insane as a group I do however feel strongly about the idiocy part. So my statement based on his statement is all relative to time...go figure!

    Still didn't ask...and I ran out of space...
  • Oct 28 2012: Dear Karl in reply.
    I am sorry if I offend you with "Population controls." An awful phrase, I apologise for it's use.
    The fact is the choices we make as rich individuals affect the lives and well being of other living things including humans. What we buy decides who prospers and who does not. Who eats and who does not. They're here.
    2. Human activity results in the premature extinction of thousands of species every year, many of which have been living on this oasis of life millions of years before the ape family, of which we are one, appeared. Every one of us has a responsibility for that, without them we die.
    3. My personal view is that we do have an obligation to help those less fortunate than ourselves, whatever their colour creed belief or status, both home and abroad. The pitiful 0.7 % of GDP that the UK currently spend on foreign aid has to be "sold" as in our interest, and defended as "necessary for our future growth".
    4. I concede the current thinking, "teach the needy to fish, rather than provide a daily fish" is a better approach than past efforts, but it does not necessarily make for a solution, and may make it worse.
    5. Rape murder, slavery, child abuse, cruelty, hate, prejudice and destruction abound across the world wherever mankind sets his foot, it is not the prerogative of the uneducated or poor.
    6 Greed and power are the motivators for these, along with survival madness and belief. The worst atrocities in history and today continue to be justified in the name of good, god or necessity. You are as likely to find a rapist in your street, town or board room, as in squalor or poverty. It is a weapon of power.
    6. Capitalism is the source of our wealth and power and the exponential growth of our numbers.
    The difficulty is deciding which choices deliver the lesser ill, however well intentioned our act.
    All the above lead to my interest in your debate. I have no solution but believe the human race must evolve and become a better species, or die out.
    • Oct 29 2012: Two points.

      1. I forget the name of the speaker, or talk, but just saw one vid on TED from a lady saying that India and I think the surrounding places, have an appalling and absurdly high occurrence of rape. Rape comes with lack of policing and the disrespect of women. I see no reason why SS Africa would be any different.

      2. Having also just seeing Hans Rosling's TED talk on Religions and babies, I am far less concerned about population. Though, as you comment about natural destruction, and I did too, if we saw a sharp down turn in human population then I suspect many species would do much better on our planet. I will go check Rosling's data tho.
  • Oct 28 2012: This is how bad it is here in the states.....

    http://www.upworthy.com/wow-just-wow-anti-women-propaganda-at-its-finest

    Don't wait for us to address the issue at all. The planet will shrug us off eventually.
    • Oct 28 2012: Wowser, thanks Sharon.

      Yeah, your country takes the biscuit for loons. That's what happens when the craziest religious fruits from all of Europe re-settle and inbreed in the new land. I think the vastness of your wilderness also encourages those inclined to go rather wrong in the headspace.

      But plenty of my favourite intellectual material and "stuff" comes from the same country, like CentOS, Bill Hicks, and TED!

      PS. "contracepting" is not a word, the OED has spoken!

      Check out that cultists youtube page, these people should not be allowed to influence children prior to deprogramming;

      https://www.youtube.com/user/ComeUnityinTruth

      What I don't understand is why these people are trying to promote population increase, because they are not just trying to sell their own people, which obviously aims to increase the subscriptions, which is the game the catholics play, but why encourage everyone to breed in ever increasing numbers? What is the fundamentalist christian angle here?

      For the longest time, I abhorred Christianity and Islam for their most toxic obnoxious subversive illogical lies and dogma. But Joseph Campbell (another American!) told of how it all can be viewed purely as metaphor, and then as such, it is a new age retelling of older spiritualism, not a simple rip off and bastardization of Buddhism and Ancient Egyptian mythology.

      I am more sympathetic to the moderate Jews, they are less certain, and seem more open to the metaphorical interpretations. They seem highly pragmatic, for a religion, and open to dialogue. Though the orthodox Jews, I lump them with the other Abrahamic cults - it's plain child abuse.
  • Oct 28 2012: I am for any decrease! As time has proven, mother nature controls all growths...since we can not ourselves it will be done for us...as for-tolled.

    Man reasons by way of elimination/separation...the Earth survives on unquestioned acceptance of all...so no, thinking that the poison of greed is just on one side of the wall would only be sold by the guy who wants to build the wall...unless his desires are pure, even if greed will take it away after it is up...so no long term benefit.

    Religion is corruption? But you guys have the belt and that is a scary group, not to mention Mormons! What a bunch they were/are. In a world of 50/50 ratio with male to female these guys hide their desires by trying to convince rational minds the truth is to have multiple wives...so what happens to the other 40% of males to do? That's all prehistoric crap where the alpha male took everything including the best of the best.

    And maybe pigs will fly...the only changes possible in this and any day and age is if it leaves man in power which he is already, most change removes that...so...

    First we have to agree what we are before anything can happen and to use the ones we have well there is an old saying...idiocy is the attempt to do the same thing over and over expecting a different response...

    If you want that answer, you will have to ask...
    • Oct 28 2012: You clearly still think I am an American. Else you need to revise your geographic understanding of Mormonism. Please see my response to TED Lover below.

      Does "the belt" refer to the bible belt of America?

      Your writing is hard to follow, very poor use of English in malformed spasms of disjointed phrases. Are you familiar with the theory of proof-reading? It's not a cult.

      As I just wrote below, I have grave concerns if nothing stops our overpopulation, as quality of life would be gravely affected for humans, and most of the natural species of the planet would be destroyed as urban sprawl swallows up the land and we finish off the rainforest.

      As for your foretelling of nature controlling all growths, human history is thus far the clear exception. Perhaps nature will cull us, thin the herd, but with our ingenuity, this would require something nasty and I'd rather not push it to that point.

      Your bit about changes removes power from men, does not correlate with my understanding of anything at all, if that is the summation of the opinion, then I simply disagree. But it sounds like half a thought, so maybe there's more.

      Your last sentence is pure gibberish. As is the paragraph before it, save the incorrect quote of Albert Einstein when he defined Insanity (not idiocy) as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

      The bit about the Earth surviving on acceptance, suggests to me you are attempting a failed metaphor perhaps. The Earth is in fact a planet. Planets survive as long as they maintain orbit and from a technical standpoint, are large enough to be categorized as a planet. Planets cannot offer acceptance.
  • Oct 27 2012: I am so impressed with your reasoning, it is solid, as yes if one was to ever seriously look at the third world situation finding a solution would be easy and I agree with everything you stated, I had to find out how you actually feel...the one thing missing in all the videos is the male population in all the videos of starving woman and children, these woman are rapped and abandoned to a world of slow death and despair, it is the most sickening we could imagine...but all chaos is male generated and conformed...you want a serious answer to your serious question every male should poke themselves in the chest...we are the poison we reason to deal with the results of our own ignorance of self...so do you truly want to find the answer...man in the mirror...unless you get greed to accept that, settle in for the ride...1% is such a symbolic rule...tell them they need to stop and you will notice a domino effect but as long as we argue them, this you will never see...

    Also the rapping is continued on the bases of religion and its desire for mass which is power control and manipulation...they will not let you stop the flow of new power and influence and they calculate an acceptance of the pain and offer band aids for the wounds...and the people flock to them as if they care...welcome to hypocrisy...are you aware of its actual depth? A word to explain would be saturation!

    We argue and are challenged by the results of our own existence...there is only one answer to the concerns of man and that is the illumination of the problem...who should remain is not a question we will answer...the earth (that which gives forth in abundance and is everything and everywhere) is going to take care of that for us...
    • Oct 27 2012: So are you for population decrease?

      What do you think about Magnus' great wall of Africa?

      I was surprised to see in your profile you are from Canada, your views sound VERY American (USA). Is religion such a corrupting influence in Canada too?

      Good news to you sir, the rest of the world is not infected by such corrosive religious zealotry. Many places are religious, but they are the good side of it, they know it's place as spiritualism, rather than a political ideology. And for places like where I am, religion is fading from style. Although it's still embedded in our official institutions, I take solace in Britain's long cautionary approach, trying to avoid negative radicalism. We'll get there, and maybe those lawyers will take those wigs off some day.
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    Oct 27 2012: We should certainly be talking about this, and some are, but the fundamentalist evangelical members of the Abrahamic religions are still a strong political force in our country. These anti-intellectuals don't know the hardships that they lobby for.

    Some are talking about this, and believe that the world can support 5 billion people, which means that we need to decrease the number of children born. As it stands now, by 2030, all but the wealthiest few will be in dire straights. The economy is collapsing. More and more are driven into poverty. Global warming - whatever the cause - is real, and arable lands are dwindling. Hurricanes/typhoos and tornadoes are increasing in intensity. Glaciers are melting and the sea level is rising. Aquifers are being polluted by big businesses, whether by mega corporate farms or oil companies that use fracking to get natural gas. Topsoil is being eroded at a huge clip because of poor farming practices by mega farms. Hunger will be very real very soon. By 2030, 28% of the world's population will be starving, and that starvation will not be limited to Africa and parts of Asia. It will be as real in the US and UK as it is in Africa.

    During the great depression, food rotted in the fields because there was no money to buy fuel to transport it, and because there were no buyers for the food.

    We can do better, but for as long as politicians can distract us from dire threats against all of humanity - caused largely by the economic model that we desperately cling to - it looks like we are choosing to jump off the cliff rather than face solvable problems responsibly. We also need to find a way to silence the fundamentalist religions that think that they will be raptured before the consequences of THEIR actions hit the sinners.
    • Oct 27 2012: Ooo, you have touched on two things that make me wildly unpopular, Abrahamic cults and American politics.

      Let me just say, I agree, these cultists are of huge concern to me too. Those "religions" anger me beyond expressing nicely here to you lovely people.

      I am not of your country though TED Lover (praise Xenu!). I was fortunate enough to be born in Europe (phew) in the UK in particular (lucky lucky bar-steward). And here the religion is less common, though still a major influence in politics for those really looking, it is much less fire-and-brimstone crazy town. We are British after all! Pip pip.

      So good look with all your craziness America. We (the rest of the world) are far from immune from your turmoils and corruptions, but if there's one thing we all know about America, it's that no-one outside the country is going to change anything there in any meaningful way (not without a nuclear winter).

      On the topic of starving and future predictions, that really is only part of my concern. Again this focus leads to a simple continuation of the same problem. "Oh no! We are starving!", science and tech breaks through with another save and we all go on breeding like rabbits.

      The real concern is that at some point there is no countryside. And that our numbers permit something catastrophic; superplague, total environmental destruction or GM finally makes us all infertile.

      Besides that, there's a real quality of life question. Seeing pictures of Manila, Mumbai, even New York and Tokyo; it skeeves me out. There are not enough anti-depressants in the world for me to live like that.

      Why would you birth the next 20 BILLION children into a world with 20 billion people crowding it? Put in your own figure, how many would make you reconsider having children?

      If there is no answer here, then you have the crooks of the problem. We are not as in control as we think. Having kids is primal and emotional.

      I don't have answers, just questions of blindly feeding the breeders.
  • Oct 27 2012: If I don't help you, you will die.

    If I save you, you will have many children, and they will then suffer, and again without my help, they will die.

    Is it not more responsible and humane to just allow you to die?

    I feel far more responsible for my actions, than my inactions. I did not create the suffering and death in the third world. If I do nothing about it, I feel much better than if I intervened and made it worse.

    Being accountable for my actions, I would only intervene in such matters after first fully understanding the situation and, as best I could, understanding the consequences of my attempts to assist. Given my insights into long term (multi-generational) and holistic outcomes, I am MUCH more comfortable with my inaction, versus the likely harms I see from aiding what is clearly a broken system.

    You are responsible for the lives you save, and the lives you allow to be created by your "assistance".

    In particular I feel we need to FIRST or simultaneously address the issue of rampant third world population explosion. Cure the viral nature of mankind BEFORE you feed and nurture the virus, or else risk breaching a tipping point.

    I do appreciate that making settlements from sand and bacteria is immensely cool, but I question not only meddling in population matters, and thus the mere deference of the problem or transference of this problem into another later, but also I question the sheer scale of your solution - a wall across all of africa. I harbour doubts in foreseeing the long term effects.

    There's a paradox here; people are hurt by the notion of population control as if the children we don't create are somehow destroyed, even though they never existed. And these same people hold any person over and above any other species or concern. Yet under the logic, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, we should save those many extra from suffering by not having them and instead just giving the few children we do have the best lives possible.
  • Oct 27 2012: First off, we are all human so linked together any blood is our blood, one man one voice as it goes.

    Any solution dealing with elimination is void, natural things accepted. Why keep some alive, kill the ones that pollute the least, go figure...so why not just let us die, take away our filters and environmental protection along with all health issues...why keep you and me alive...why keep anyone alive...your right we mass produce, we are gluttonous pigs...if the issue of consumption is the issue then simply cut back on 70 % of the food we eat and waste...no more food concern...but wait we are self righteous arrogant vain beasts to even think to question why some...by others...just think if they were not hear then we could have even MORE...every one of the one percent just fell in love with you!

    Do not get me wrong...I feel ya, but as you are aware nature along with man both have their own way of corrections and you just touched on a very close issue...good on you...if anyone is offended on this site they should not be here...this is where the gown ups talk...about reality...limitless issues and the pursuit of its perfection...
    • Oct 27 2012: I only pointed to the third world because they are infact (by far) the greatest cause of population growth, and there is a lag between increasing life expectancy, and a reduction in brithrates.

      In particular, I was picking on central africa because I was responding to the Magnus Larsson video, in which he wants to build a permanent wall across the entire width of africa. My concerns for population growth lead me to question the wisdom of his approach due to the long term effects, namely the people you have saved are still poor, bored, ignorant and rapey, so while they have some food, water and shelter, they will just breed until either they run out again, or hit some other problem.

      However, my concern is with global overpopulation, not just the third world.

      "your right we mass produce, we are gluttonous pigs", I never said anything of the sort. I think again this reflects upon the individualist folly of the western world, and my attempt here is to turn the attention the other way, irrelevant of how good or bad each person is to the environment, if there were FAR fewer of us, then we would greatly improve conditions for all life on the planet.

      I really don't understand the resistance to reducing the global population.

      A few particular points for you Asls; I expressly said I favour the health of all those already created, life is precious. Reducing the number of children you have, or dare I say it out loud, even considering NOT having any children, is nothing to do with destruction, you are going to die anyway and I would have nothing to do with hastening that.

      Life is not more precious the more of us there are, if anything the opposite is true. So why not reduce population by 70% ?

      Something that I can laugh at, as I am not a parent; people that want to save the planet for their children, when in having children they have already done the worst possible thing they could do to the planet. So do them the next best thing, have no more.
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    Oct 27 2012: I think:

    “The VALID happiness is the short-time feeling of things being a-step-better for keeping one’s own DNA alive. ”

    Not for SILLY "invalid happiness" of reproduction.

    Be happy validly!
    • Oct 27 2012: If you have a good life, and you feel you can provide the same for a child, plus you really want to keep your own DNA alive (or around half of it at least), then sure, have ONE child.

      Maybe if you have a legacy to offer, you are successful, a genius and have a great family history health wise, then maybe have two kids.

      If you are starving, your daily aspirations are hoping to find water and a hut, surrounded by disease, then having any children is abhorrently ignorant or worse if they have ANY insight into the consequences of reproduction. I doubt such people do though. I would suspect the male population are rather bored, horny and unrestrained. I am trying not to condemn the people, for truly, how can I appreciate their situation.

      I do condemn western guilt and naivety for simply rushing in to patch up the obvious symptoms of a complex issue. Particularly when you consider that our attempts will likely lead to even more abused, exploited children of a baby boom that we foster through only partial assistance. At least that is my major concern.
  • Oct 27 2012: Birth rates are plummeting in Africa and especially the Middle East now that contraception (partly due to efforts like you describe) and women's rights are starting to take off there. Young girls living there today won't have 10 kids.
    • Oct 27 2012: I would like to see your evidence John.

      According to stats I have seen, population growth is still accelerating (not just increasing) in central africa:

      http://www.google.co.uk/publicdata/explore?ds=d5bncppjof8f9_&ctype=l&strail=false&bcs=d&nselm=h&met_y=sp_pop_totl&scale_y=lin&ind_y=false&rdim=region&idim=region:SSA:MNA&ifdim=region&hl=en&dl=en&ind=false&q=world+population

      Also world wide, 7 BILLION and counting.

      In my father's lifetime the population HAS DOUBLED globally. Being just 3.5 billion around 1967.

      As of 2012 data, this trend continues.

      6.5% of all people ever alive on the planet, are alive right now:
      http://www.prb.org/Articles/2002/HowManyPeopleHaveEverLivedonEarth.aspx

      Here's more, but this info is backed everywhere I care to look;
      http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/population/la-fg-population-matters1-20120722-html,0,7213271.htmlstory

      The figures from central africa are an AVERAGE of OVER 3 kids per woman, with many areas OVER 5.5 kids per woman;
      http://www.prb.org/Publications/Datasheets/2012/world-population-data-sheet/world-map.aspx#/map/births

      Load the above interactive map, go to the "Births and Deaths" tab over the map, then choose the radio button over the map for "Total Fertility Rate".

      So on average, no not 10 kids per woman, but according to all the data I found, your assertion that "Birth rates are plummeting" is dead wrong, even in more developed parts of africa, but especially in the area in which Magnus and myself are talking about - central africa.
      • Oct 29 2012: You should not focus on what the birthrates are today, you should compare them to what they were 10, 20, 30 or 40 years ago. You will see that the birthrate has fallen even for places like Bangladesh.

        Your first graph seems to show nice exponential growth, except it doesn't: its gradient decreases, or in English, the population of 2010 divided by the population of 2000 is smaller than the same ratio for 2000 and 1990 which in turn is smaller than the ratio for 1990 and 1980 and that's happening even though people are living longer. See, if you start out with 100 million people who each get 1.5 kids after 30 years, who eacht get 1.4 kids after another 30 years you'll see the population go from 100 million to 150 million and then from 150 million to 210 million. The graph would look terrifying because 210-150 > 150-100, but the birth rate definitely has gone down and if the trend persists population growth will cease.

        Misunderstandings like this are why people in leadership positions really need to learn more math.
        • Oct 29 2012: After seeing Hans Rosling's TED talk on Religions and babies, I am rather less concerned about population strangulation.

          At least some, for then I have today seen Jonathan Foley on TED, with the Other Inconvenient Truth, that even if we cap at 9 billion, we have serious agricultural and thus environmental problems.

          I get the point of "who the hell are we to slam others for destroying nature", and there's not a natural square metre left in Britain (people think moorland is natural, they are wrong), however that damage is done. I do feel we should depopulate the west too, and try to restore something natural, get some forests back etc.

          But it's in the third world where inefficiencies meets ignorance meets population growth meets true natural environment.

          I think it's also important to differentiate between the ACCELERATION of population growth SLOWING and actual population DECLINE. Birthrates are only part of it, it's the totals that concern me.

          If every person needs 125kWh per day, as I half remember from another TED talk, and we at 7billion use crop land equivalent of all of South America, plus another area the total size of Africa for grazing our animals, then please ask yourself - how many people should there be on this planet?

          I cannot get an answer to this one simple question - even from religious nuts that espouse massive breeding INCREASES, and that is WHY? (Besides a "god" telling you to multiply and be fruitful) Why do we not want less people, why am I alone thinking that the world would MUCH better with 1billion vs 7 billion.

          Seriously, please someone tell me - why is more better? Because is doesn't mean you know more people, does it equal more creativity and ingenuity? Is that proven or even investigated? Or is it simply that many people want a house full of children? Does that sort of thinking come from Individualist thinking, and Individualist parenting?
      • Oct 29 2012: "I think it's also important to differentiate between the ACCELERATION of population growth SLOWING and actual population DECLINE."

        Italy, Germany and Japan once started out with only a slightly slower population growth but then the trend continued and now immigration and increases in lifespan are the only things keeping those countries from population decline. Who is to say the same won't happen for Africa? It is important to realize what a tremendous accomplishment it is that birth rates are actually declining now, after centuries of growth. The fact that we will level out this century is something that was by no means a certain prospect 50 years ago.

        "Seriously, please someone tell me - why is more better? Because is doesn't mean you know more people, does it equal more creativity and ingenuity? Is that proven or even investigated? Or is it simply that many people want a house full of children? Does that sort of thinking come from Individualist thinking, and Individualist parenting?"

        A higher population does mean having more geniuses and larger niche markets, but yeah, the environmental impact outweighs those advantages, in this we agree.