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ETpro's avatar

[SFW] How do we limit births to avoid disaster due to resource depletion, pollution and destruction of nature?

Asked by ETpro (34247 points ) January 17th, 2014

When I was born, there were about 2.2 billion people here on Earth. I’m about to turn 70, and in the 7 decades I’ve been here, Earth’s population has grown by more than 3 times the amount in grew in the first 200,000 years of modern humanity inhabiting this planet. The UN predicts Earth’s population will hit 8 billion in another 15 years, 9 billion in 2050, and 10 billion by 2100.

Still, the leaders of many religions and denominations, always ravenous for a larger flock to pour more money into their offering plates, are exhorting their faithful to make babies as fast as they can pop them out. But we are running up against resource, pollution and habitat destruction limits now far faster than technology can solve those problems. We have to start limiting births. China’s one child per couple approach was as disastrous a failure as it was a barbaric policy. How can we maintain population at what it is now or even decrease it a bit over time? How do we limit births when medical science progresses to the point where, barring accidents or murders, humans begin to approach living forever? If celibacy isn’t an acceptable answer what do you prefer we do?

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17 Answers

tom_g's avatar

@ETpro: “How do we limit births when medical science progresses to the point where, barring accidents or murders, humans begin to approach living forever?”

So, the problem is modern medical science? Should we be focusing on the scaling back or elimination of this? We’re asking how we can solve a problem (population) that seems to be a result of a project (medicine) we’re still investing in.

I don’t have an answer.

ragingloli's avatar

Well, western countries are dealing with low birth rates.
The big birth rates are in lower developed nations, so the best way to limit births in those regions is to elevate their quality of life by bringing their economies to western levels.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

With the exception today of China, I don’t see the population growth as the major problem. It’s the resources consumed per person. A child in an impoverished area is happy with a blanket and food for the day. In the US we have a car for every family member, crap out the butt, and we consume resources like crazy. Who is more of a drain on the Earth. China is the one that concerns me now. A huge population and they are consuming resources like crazy with no concern for the health of the planet.

JimTurner's avatar

It’s a slippery slope when talking about worldwide population control or even population reduction because it has the potential to open the gates of genocide.

There’s even an ugly side to sterilization that hints of extinction, racism and barbaric methods. In most instances it is usually the uneducated poor who are manipulated to be a part of these experiments.

I believe the earth itself will retaliate to overpopulation and will react to what we are doing to it.

Because of our lack and concern for our planet we may experience more natural disasters, less drinkable water and even something as serious as the Black Plague that could wipe out millions of people at one time.

El_Cadejo's avatar

Make sex education more accessible, make contraceptives more readily available to anyone who wants them, and stop slut shaming women who want an abortion.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Stop the tax breaks based on number of children in the US.
Stop the increase in food stamps and other aid/housing based on number of children.

When we stop rewarding people for having children, they may stop reproducing haphazardly.

flutherother's avatar

I agree that population growth will lead to disaster unless it is controlled. I don’t agree that the Chinese one child policy was a disaster or that it was barbaric. If you are to limit population growth you have to limit population growth. There isn’t an easy way to do it, but if we don’t do it Nature will do it for us and it won’t be pretty.

YARNLADY's avatar

Make birth control free and accessable to everyone.

Encourage the rumor that women on birth control are better at sex than women not on birth control.

@KNOWITALL There is already a policy that welfare is not increased if the child is born while the mother is already receiving assistance.

ETpro's avatar

Just for the record, here’s some info showing that the challenge is there and growing. Oceanographer, explorer, author, and lecturer Sylvia Earle warns in this short
YouTube Video”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6SPuCV77as that our oceans are dying due to polution, and that if they die we die. Looking at Global Warming, this disturbing report on the recent increase in the rate of greenhouse gas emissions tells us we aren’t yet even moving in the right direction. In fact, it says we’re heading the wrong way toward driving toward an environmental train-wreck, and we’ve got our foot jammed down on the accelerator. good for this quarter’s profits. Meanwhile, Earth’s primordial forests, the natural CO2 scrubber for our atmosphere, are being clear cut at an ever increasing rate.

@tom_g I am simply asking a question about medical progress. It is a question which I believe needs to be asked. Nowhere did I indicate I was against improving longevity. That’s as far from my personal beliefs as is @JimTurner suggestion that even considering ways to limit population growth is somehow courting eugenics, forced sterilization and genocide. Let me be very clear. I believe in questioning everything. That doesn’t even begin to suggest I believe in every answer that one can toss out to the question asked. I strongly support modern medicine and want to see it advance till death is a rare or absent event.

@ragingloli Unfortunately, the problems of resource depletion, deforestation, habitat destruction and pollution would be massively exacerbated by moving to a world where everyone lives like the most profligate among us.

@Adirondackwannabe I totally agree that the developed nations in the West and Americans in particular need to learn to live more holistic lives. It should be shameful to live in a MacMansion and have an elevator for your cars, and we were thinking of rewarding such a poor steward of creation with the top office in our land. The guy we did elect lives almost as large.

@JimTurner From the NSFW thread, “I simply don’t buy that. Yes, eugenics was once practiced, but there are plenty of ways to encourage population control that have nothing remotely to do with forced sterilization, genocide or the like. And what’s the shinning alternative? Planetary pollution that ends up killing most of the human race and perhaps brings on a nuclear confrontation to finish the job? Hell of a Hobson’s choice is you ask me.”

@uberbatman That’s something we should definitely do for so many good reasons, helping to solve the dilemma in this question being just one of them.

@KNOWITALL I completely agree.

@flutherother My personal opinion was that the one child policy was ham fisted and produced as much harm as good. China will have a whole generation where there are two men for every woman because so many girl babies were aborted in order to preserve the family name in the one baby allowed. If nothing else will work, we may have to turn to strict birth limits and outlaw abortion for sex selection purposes. But there is so much in education and modification to government policy such as taxes that can be tried before we turn to strict limits and forced abortions when they are violated.

@YARNLADY Good ideas. Thanks.

tom_g's avatar

@ETpro: ”@tom_g I am simply asking a question about medical progress. It is a question which I believe needs to be asked. Nowhere did I indicate I was against improving longevity. That’s as far from my personal beliefs as is @JimTurner suggestion that even considering ways to limit population growth is somehow courting eugenics, forced sterilization and genocide. Let me be very clear. I believe in questioning everything. That doesn’t even begin to suggest I believe in every answer that one can toss out to the question asked. I strongly support modern medicine and want to see it advance till death is a rare or absent event.”

I think you misunderstood my comment. I think your question is a great one. But I’m wondering if the question should include the project of modern medicine. In other words while I am a huge fan of eradicating disease and modern medicine overall, I’m wondering if it isn’t worthwhile to ask what the end game is. I mean, if we were to double life expectancy and come up with a cure for cancer, what would be the effect on global population – even if we implemented dramatic population control programs.

And while I am sympathetic to arguments about resource consumption disparities, as others have mentioned, I’m not sure it’s too early to discuss the math involved in determining just how much future advances in medicine could potentially affect global population. We take it for granted that there is nearly nothing negative that could come from our efforts towards eradicating disease and increasing life. I’m wondering if we should just include it in our discussion – especially since it’s likely a major variable that makes the whole discussion of population reduction/control an important one.

ETpro's avatar

@tom_g The fact that advances in modern medicine will impact population growth is precisely why I included it. Some have suggested throwing out all the advances of modern medicine and letting plagues and epidemics act as a national right-to-life lottery. So clearly, for better or for worse, medicine and how to dispense it is part of the puzzle presented here. I believe there are ways to solve the problem that do not involve deliberately letting people die, and that many of them are far superior to such an approach to the problem.

ragingloli's avatar

@ETpro
Well, you could forcibly lower the standard of living and resource consumption in western countries, to compensate for the rise in developing and 3rd world nations.
The question is, is resource consumption, to you, as much of an argument for lowering your own status, as it is against raising the quality of living in 3rd world nations?

ETpro's avatar

@ragingloli Since only one of those two options will do anything to accomplish a goal which relates to the long term survival of my progeny, yes; I’d be willing to lower my needs and help meet the needs of those in the most impoverished areas.

dabbler's avatar

Empower women.

My most measures of well-being, where women are as empowered as men (or closer) everyone is healthier, better-educated, less-impoverished, and they have a closer-to-ZPG rate of births.

Empower the middle class.
The more desperate and poor people are the more that their instinctual compulsions to breed as much as possible will motivate them.

ETpro's avatar

@dabbler An answer I support 100%. So then the question becomes what best serves to empower women.

dabbler's avatar

People who are less desperate have less children.

So, for the women, income parity for starters…
Encourage, support, and even mandate greater numbers of women in legislative and executive posts. Generalizing, women make different choices in public office, nearly always more people-oriented.
Properly funded public schools, through university for qualified students. People with better education and better jobs have less kids.

Stop racist/classist laws and enforcement that cause huge numbers of people, many of them the ‘man of the house’ to be incarcerated for victimless crimes like marijuana possession. Some dads will be deadbeats regardless but many tens of thousands are not home because they are in prison only for the benefit of the U.S. prison-industrial complex.

Let’s get civilized and get socialized medicine built in the U.S.
It will save the federal government tons of money, and set the stage for providing pre-natal care and infant care… and mother care. People who feel less vulnerable to losing their kids have fewer kids.

In other words, in all respects support natural-born people as the priority before supporting corporate ‘people’.

ETpro's avatar

A noble list. Let’s roll!

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