Tuesday, September 01, 2020

The Over-Population Myth

Overconsumption by industry in the developed countries, not overpopulation, drives climate change. 

A projected decline in fertility could see the world's population peak in just four decades, with Japan and Spain halving in size.

Shortly before he shot dead 22 mostly Hispanic people in El Paso, Texas, a little over a year ago, a white supremacist wrote in his online manifesto: "If we can get rid of enough people, then our way of life can be more sustainable." He was inspired by a terrorist in Christchurch, New Zealand, who five months earlier had killed 51 Muslim worshippers in attacks on two mosques and identified as an "eco-fascist." Irrational fears and callous actions. The environmental movement has been increasingly weaponized by the far-right.

Fertility is falling, people are aging, and by the end of the century humans will be shrinking in number on almost every country on Earth, according to a recent study published in the journal Lancet. Far from an overpopulation crisis, demographers are asking where the next generations of young people will come from. the number of people on the planet will peak just four decades from now, at 9.7 billion, before falling to 8.8 billion by the end of the century. If the world meets targets for universal education and contraception — the positive driving force behind falling fertility — there would be 1.5 billion people fewer in 2100 than there are today.

In 80 years, countries like Spain and Japan would halve in size. China would shrink by almost as much. China's population is projected to fall by 48% in 80 years leaving India and Nigeria as the world's biggest countries. Only in 12 countries, including Somalia and South Sudan, would there be enough babies to keep populations stable. The rest would be aging. By 2050, 151 countries would have aging populations.

Shouldn't fewer people be good news for the planet? The IHME study says fewer people on the planet would mean lower carbon emissions, less stress on global food systems, and less chance of "transgressing planetary boundaries." The problem is that people's carbon footprint  are not the same . Countries with the highest fertility rates are least responsible for climate change. People in the richest countries emit 50 times more than those in the poorest. A world with lots of people running on clean energy could have lower emissions than one with few people powered by fossil fuels. 

"Sometimes people try to use population as a way to let rich countries off the hook," said Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at the Breakthrough Institute in California, "whereas in reality, it's our consumption and our level of economic activity that drives emissions more than the number of people we have."

 Rich countries have so far failed to deliver on a $100 billion-a-year promise they made under the Paris Agreement to help poorer countries fight climate change. Africa and other parts of Asia are struggling to secure loans for green infrastructure.

Even if you accept the premise that more people mean more emissions, "what's your solution?" said Ravikumar. "Is your solution to reduce population, forcefully, and if so, whose population should be reduced?"

Governments throughout history have trampled over the rights of marginalized groups to control their populations. Countries like the USA and Canada forcibly sterilized Indigenous women in the second half of the 20th century, while Australia did the same for people with disabilities. India sterilized 6.2 million mostly poor men in 1976, encouraged by foreign donors who made aid packages contingent on population control. More than 2,000 men are thought to have died in botched operations. From the late 1970s, China restricted population growth through fines, sterilization and forced abortions under a draconian one-child policy that lasted decades. It continues such practices against ethnic Uighur women today,

Educating girls is a key driver of falling fertility rates. Women are having fewer children globally because more girls go to school and more people have access to contraception.


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