Monday, December 02, 2019

Embrace People

Except perhaps for war, nothing in our times so threatens the world's people as do hunger and starvation. Even in the UK and the US, evidence of food banks and charity larders is accumulating that hard times is here for millions who want to eat. Overpopulation is probably the most frequent explanation the "experts" from governmental agencies and private foundations have for the food crisis. There are simply too many people and not enough land and food to go around. Some "experts" put forth possible solutions such as urging the “greediness” of well-fed citizens of the West to give up eating so much meat and stop consuming valuable resources. Some ecology extremists advocate that multitudes should be permitted to die off so that the balance between food and people can be restored who present the earth as a lifeboat analogy without enough resources to feed all, then some people should be allowed to drown in order to at least save some.

 The Socialist Party’s response is to state clearly that hunger is caused by unequal distribution of wealth, an inevitable product of capitalism. Overpopulation appears when resources are owned and controlled by a powerful few, who with-holds it from the rest of the people. There is no scarcity of land, not even fertile arable land. Much of the scarcity of food is caused by those who own land but do not use it to grow food. Much acreage is planted with non-food and cash export crops which will not feed people. As long as the majority of the people on the planet are at the mercy of land-grab agribusiness corporations and manipulation of markets by the speculators, poverty and hunger will continue. As long food is treated as a commodity to be bought and sold  at the expense of feeding local people, the poor won't eat no matter how much food there is grown. Nor can the poor eat the  crops destined to be exported. The poorly paid farm-labourers on large plantations do not share in the profits of the cash crops. People cannot grow food for themselves on land used for export crops. Multinational corporations are buying up land all over the world to fill the supermarket shelves on the other side of the world. Small-holder farmers are put out of business and turned into cheap day-workers for global companies.

Among environmentalists blaming environmental problems on too many people on the planet is only too prevalent. There argument is that the rate of population growth has outpaced the capacity of food production to feed them. Such thinking influences the new younger generations of environment campaigners who see philanthropic NGO charities and governments promoting family planning to reduce populations by cutting family sizes. The Socialist Party supports the access of all people to contraception and the freedom for women to manage their own bodies but family planning, however, is no answer to our environmental problems. It is a mistaken theory to claim so and it leads to misguided actions. Our ecological crises and the climate emergency are vital problems that need urgent action but we should strive to better understand their cause, so we can reach solutions that benefit our natural surroundings and our communities. It requires challenging the argument that humanity’s population is the source of environmental problems.

Ecologists are pushing against an open door. Smaller family size is already the global trend and the norm. Birthrates are down because of factors like better health services, more education and improved status for women, and increased urbanisation. Fertility rates are also declining in regions despite the lack of health services persistent poverty, high mortality and gender inequalities. Population size is expected to grow through 2100, then plateau and slowly decline. Family planning is a technical fix for much more complex problems that require system change. Family planning will not save the planet. In contrast, the Gates Foundation believes that population growth is at the root of many social ills, including environmental degradation putting pressure on social services and resources, and contribute significantly to the global burden of disease, environmental degradation, poverty and conflict.

It cannot be denied that overcrowding of too many people is a problem in various parts of the world but it is not the cause of hunger. The problem for humanity is not human numbers but how existing society is run and in whose interests and how we apply the great marvels of technology, Artificial Intelligence, robotics, automation. The world can easily sustain its present population and billions more, if production and distribution is planned rationally for peoples’ needs and use, not for profit and the interests of the small minority class of owners and employers.

Humanity has a great future; each new member will add something precious toward building that future. There will never be enough people.

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