Friday, May 29, 2020

Blaming People for the Pandemic

Socialists even from environmentalists and progressives frequently get challenged with the concept of over-population, a view of the world that we always try to refute. Fortunately, there are some who share our ideas that population in itself is not the problem. It is worth while linking to and quoting from this article on the Dissident Voice website that contests the claims that the present pandemic can be blamed on over-population.

“...So, what is the connection between population and pandemic? Employing what he calls “root cause analysis,” Mr. Judge conflates “overpopulation” with “overcrowding.” The overcrowding he is concerned about is that found in “urban slums,” which he specifically cites in the article. That is, the overcrowding of poor people who cannot afford to live in what he calls the “sparsely populated areas.”

…Let’s test Mr. Judge’s hypothesis regarding the relationship between density of population and response to the pandemic. Take Belgium, where Mr. Judge lives. After the mini-state of San Marino, Belgium has the unfortunate distinction of having the highest COVID-19 death rate in the world at 82 deaths per 1000 people. Its population density is 974 people per square mile. In comparison, Singapore and Hong Kong are the two most densely populated territories in the world with 20,455 and 17,565 people/mi2 respectively, after the mini-territories of Macau and Monaco. Their death rates are only 23 and 4 per 1000 population, respectively. That is, Belgium has over 20 times the death rate of Hong Kong, while Hong Kong’s population density is over 18 times that of Belgium…

Consistent with those who espouse the overpopulation thesis, Mr. Judge yearns for an idyllic past when the planet was not as overrun by humans, say,- the Middle Ages. Since the 1300s, the world’s population has increased over 17-fold. But that much smaller population did not prevent the Black Death pandemic from taking an estimated 75-200 million lives back then…

In short, blaming the condition of humanity for pandemics is not supported by the facts. Densely populated places have succeeded well in containing COVID-19, while there have been far more devastating pandemics than the one we are suffering now, when there were far fewer of us on the planet. Overpopulation ideology, as represented by Mr. Judge’s article, conflates overcrowding with overpopulation…
. Mr. Judge’s sophistry and my critique are not new. Two hundred years ago, Karl Marx made a similar criticism of Thomas Malthus’ contention that the world was overpopulated. Malthus opposed the English Poor Laws because they relieved human suffering and thus encouraged poor people to reproduce. Malthus’ theory was a retrograde response to the French Revolution and the rise of the working class. Overpopulation ideology is misanthropic and reactionary in its origins and its modern expression. Mr. Judge’s article is silent about our political system or economic order; it’s simply that there are too many people. Aside from being wrong, it begs the question, which people?
The objection to overpopulation ideology is not just an intellectual one, but whether such an ideological framework promotes solutions. The ideology of overpopulation poses the wrong causes while obscuring the right solutions.
World population growth rates are precipitously declining and on a trajectory to stabilize this century, with the current rate at 1%. 
Meanwhile resource consumption continues to increase at a rate of 6 to 7%. Clearly, something beyond simple demographics are at play, and that is what overpopulation ideology obfuscates. The relations of power call to be addressed in our quest of a better world. And this is precisely what the ideology of overpopulation obscures to the benefit of the powerful few and to the detriment of the multitude of humanity.
Roger D. Harris is with the human rights organization Task Force on the Americas,

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