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James McBennett

Founder & Designer, Assmbly.com


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The use of population control in the fight against climate change

Total energy used on this planet can be calculated by TOTAL POPULATION x TOTAL CONSUMPTION. Considering the amount of energy consumption on this planet as too excessive to sustain, and addressing the challenge to reduce this number in the fight against climate change, three arguments are made.

Firstly that technology or behavioural change can lower total consumption bringing down the energy used.

Secondly that technology will increase our capacity to produce energy. (Nuclear Fusion??)

Thirdly Population Control to curb further population growth and reduce the global population.

As the first two arguments depend on the rather uncertain strategy of technology being invented and adopted, do you think population should be controlled in rapid population growth regions?


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  • Feb 16 2011: Unquestionably population control should be used, because it would be far more humane than allowing the natural culling that will occur if we do not. Unfortunately the question is moot, because as a species we do not have the ability to reduce our fecundity soon enough. It is far too late to hope that the demographic transition in the affluent countries can eventually lift all the other boats out of poverty; the world does not have that much land and resource.

    I feel that purely technological solutions that allow us to continue increasing the population are going to fail eventually and catastrophically, as limits are surpassed. If the technology is so wonderful as to actually succeed, the world will be transformed into a horror, without a scrap of the nature that gave us birth.

    I would very much love to hear any kind of practical, workable methods of population control, which might actually be adopted by most governments.
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      Feb 16 2011: Let me say that I'm not necessarily against population control, but I think you're severly overestimating the problem.
      As Hans Rosling has pointed out (see my other post), population growth declines steadily. Also, consider the massive trend towards urbanization. People living in cities have a much smaller footprint on the environment, and - closer to the question of population - when people move to cities there's also a significant drop in children per woman. So, while there're always many things to worry about, the population isn't amongst them.

      An another note: You only have to look at China to look at a large-scale method of population control that worked. I'm however quite certain that a 'one-child-policy' isn't easily possible in other cultures (the question of desirability is another). An interesting issue culturally raised about this (I believe I heard it first asked by Christopher Hitchens, but I might be mistaken) is that China has now raised generations of only-children. Literally a whole culture for whom the word "sibling" / "brother" / "sister" has no direct meaning. Thats an fascinating cultural byproduct to me (although, as I realize now, slightly off track, so excuse me ;-) )
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        Feb 17 2011: I absolutely agree.
        More children per family are more common in rural areas than in cities and there often is a reason for that (e.g. more family members to help on the fields).
        On the other hand, more and more people are moving to the cities. Not only is life more expensive in the city, hence having a large family really puts significant pressure on the wallet, but space is also more restricted (how easy is it to find an apartment to accommodate a family of 10 at a reasonable cost).

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