Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Too many people? Or too many capitalists?

There are many impoverished nations which are now keenly feeling the impacts of climate change on their food production systems. Climate change is having profound effects on our ability to feed the planet. But their contribution to rising temperatures is marginal, say experts. Climate change is now having a disproportionate impact on the food systems of the countries that have done least to produce the carbon emissions that are driving up temperatures. The top 10 most food insecure countries all generate less than half a tonne of CO2 per person, and in total just 0.08% of global emissions.

For example, Burundians produce 0.027 tonnes of CO2 per person per year. The annual carbon emissions of one Briton is equal to the CO2 produced by over 200 Burundians. Someone living in Saudi Arabia produces the same as 718 people in Burundi. The equivalent number for the US would be 581 and for Russia 454.

Research from Christian Aid show that rising concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere are reducing the nutritional quality of the food we eat and that the most vulnerable people to these impacts are those least responsible for rising global CO2 concentrations.

There are many people the environmental movement who consider the population problem a most pressing problem, because "overpopulation" has become a threat to us and the planet. The size of population is held to be an important factor in the misery and suffering of the world's population. Feeding people and the movement of people are international issues. We are taught that the insufficiency of food and the lack of the means of subsistence is caused by too many people. A deeper study of society should teach us better.

We are faced with an excess of food which increases with every year. We are not faced with a scarcity but surplus of food. Deprivation and misery cannot be blamed on a surplus of people. We see today, under the capitalist system many millions of tons of foodstuffs are wasted each year. It is true that under the prevailing relations of ownership and production, people struggle for existence, and fail to obtain the necessaries of life. But this is not because of the scarcity of means of subsistence, but because under capitalism the means of subsistence are withheld from them in a world where great abundance prevails. It is wrong to think that this can never change. In socialist society where mankind will for the first time be truly free and living sustainably and in harmony with our natural surroundings, equipped with knowledge, questions of production and distribution will be rationally acted upon consciously and according to plans based on needs and not upon profits.

Capitalism makes workers to blame themselves for their suffering. The anger of working people against the conditions they live and work under is an inevitable result of capitalism. Low pay, long hours, unemployment, high food prices and slum housing all are the inflictions of our wage-slave existence under capitalism. The capitalist class schemes to divert workers’ anger, to get people to view themselves rather than the system as the source of their problems. 

Academics and intellectuals conjure up all sorts of theories to place the responsibility of poverty upon the shoulders of those who are burdened by hardship. It is easier to unload the responsibility onto those people who refuse to reduce their birth rates rather than draw attention to a system which requires farmers to create profits rather than healthy people. Certainly no socialist argues against sex education and family-planning contraception for all women but equally, no socialist apportions the culpability of inequality on the reproductive choice of poor women who remain scapegoats for environmental destruction. Women’s access to contraception and abortion around the world should be defended in its own right, just as a woman’s right to bear children should. A woman’s control of her own body is the essence of the feminist movement. But they forget that working class women sell their bodies to the employers. All those material resources that make life better for all humans - wealth, education, justice, housing, health and child care should be available to all women and men. The disparities in equality imposed by global capitalism must come to an end on our ravaged planet. Women and men on every part of the world need dignified and comfortable lives, free of coercion and suffering. Liberation is not a luxury.

With socialism overpopulation will not be an issue. The solution to the “population problem” is to overthrow capitalism and for production to be geared to the needs of the people and not to filling a few greedy pockets. The problem is not one of overpopulation. The Earth could sustain a far higher population than already exists, but only if land were cultivated in order to produce food that is needed rather than what is profitable. The central point is that world hunger is not due to the impossibility of producing more food.

Our species has a great future; each new addition to it will add something precious toward building that future. The ruling class keeps claiming there are too many people. We say there are too many capitalists but by no means enough working people. There will never be too many people.

But Engels did once say:
There is of course the abstract possibility that the number of people will become so great that the limits will have to be set to their increase. But if at some stage communist society finds itself obliged to regulate the production of human beings, just as it has already to come to regulate the production of things, it will precisely be this society, and this society alone, which can carry this out without difficulty. At any rate, it is for the people in the communist society themselves to decide whether, when and how this is to be done, and what means they wish to employ for the purpose. I do not feel called upon to make proposals or give them advice about it. These people, in any case, will surely not be any less intelligent than we are.”

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