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Chantal Soldini

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What can we do to improve human population control?

Besides world hunger, poverty and inequality, humanity faces another social phenoma: over-population. I recently read Dan Brown's newly published book Inferno. The book talks about over-population and (spoiler alert!) how a plague was produced to leave 1/3 of the population infertile.

It got me thinking, if we did find the technology to do this, would we do it? Should we? Then again, isn't reproduction a basic human right? Yet, this same right is making our already limited resources even more limited.

What do you think fellow TEDizens. Are we taking enough initiative as it is regarding birth control? Are campaings of contraceptive methods enough or should we have a more radical approach? There are already countries that support the idea of population control, amidst them China and India. Is this enough?

Let me know what you think.


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  • Oct 28 2013: Its been well documented that as people's economic status improves, they start having less children.
    Part of the reason is women investing more in their careers and having fewer kids at a later age. Another part is parents wanting to bring to the world only as many kids as they can support to rise to the same standard of living as adults (funding 2-3 kids through higher education is within reach of your average middle class family, funding 7-8 is not). People who are better off economically are also more likely to turn less religious; make of that what you will, but in the case of faiths that have an issue with birth control and encourage marrying early, it makes a difference.

    In short, the best way to get people to make less people is by uplifting them out of poverty.

    Removing the legal barriers faced by what we call "family planning" clinics and treatments also ought to help. In addition to directly reducing population growth, they also help people get out of poverty.

    Seeing as the most major threat of overpopulation is the lack of ability to feed everyone, investing in things like better fertilizers and genetically engineered crops with higher yields may also help raising the cap before disaster. We're already incapable of sustaining the existing global population without artificial fertilizer, so we may as well go nuts, seeing as we're already dependent.

    Should those measures prove insufficient, more draconian methods may have to be considered, like limiting the number of births per woman under government mandate. I'm not particularly fond of it, but it seems preferable to a mass famine.
    • Oct 30 2013: This has certainly been "well documented". However, it is just useless information.

      Even if there was a mechanism that ensured we did not average too many children when we achieved some level of wealth, there is no reason belief that this level of wealth can be attained. The developed countries wealth that correlates with this lower fertility requires fossil fuels. Haven't we noticed that fossil fuels are not renewing? We are destroying them.

      Let's properly recognize that demographers are doing nothing more than reporting correlations. They have not found any mechanism to ensure we do not over breed. They cannot state that we will average equal or less than the real replacement rate after we achieve $x in living standards.

      Heck, they don't even have a definition for real replacement rate. I had to create the definition because the definition that demographers use, "replacement rate" is circular. It is circular because births can be causing deaths, and the definition does not attempt to factor that out.
      • Oct 31 2013: Fossil fuels aren't the problem.
        Oil is expected to last several more decades, and coal and gas centuries. Chances are we'll have technological means to replace them economically by the time it becomes an issue.

        We could honestly replace them right now in a matter of a couple of decades by ignoring our nuclear power taboos and spending a whole lot of money (or go renewable and spend even more money), but apparently no one wants to do that until its more pressing and less expensive. Fossil fuels are used because they're cheapest, not because they're irreplaceable.

        A potentially more severe limiting factor is peak phosphorus. This talk will explain it better then I ever could (as well as offer a solution to help stave it off) if you don't mind reading a translation while watching.

        The biggest problem with overpopulation is feeding everyone. Energy is secondary. You could always start consuming less electricity and fuel; cutting back on your eating to bellow healthy levels is a taller order.
        They say civilization is three meals away from anarchy, and they're right.

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