Monday, July 28, 2008

Stop Having Children Or The Planet Dies

From the Register, an article about the attempt of two doctors to reduce the population of the UK. Sadly, there's no Harold Shipman type slaughter of the elderly being proposed. Wonderfully, however, they do recommend a reduction in the number of children - so it's not all bad news after all.

And while I would normally support such a call for less children, I have some reservations. Because the doctors are suggesting that controls are needed because kids cause carbon emissions and, therefore (at least in their eyes) climate change. The ecopalypse! Noes! We're all going to die!

Sorry, I got a bit carried away there. The two medics suggest that choosing to have a third child "is the same as buying a patio heater or driving a gas-guzzling car" and that "GPs should advise their patients against it". Yes, you did read that right - Doctors are comparing children with consumer goods. How splendid is that? It makes my heart swell to hear the medical profession talk in such loving terms.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, John Guillebaud (emeritus professor of of family planning at UCL) and Pip Hayes (a GP) raise the spectre of global population explosion, and suggest that the children of the developed world are a particularly severe carbon burden.

You think? I have three words to say to you: Too. Fucking. Late.

There is no "spectre" of a population explosion, there's already been one. If you're over 40 years old (and thankfully I'm not quite old enough to be in this group) the population of the planet has DOUBLED since you were born. I am old enough to remember being taught there were 5 billion people on Earth - the figure now is around 6.75 billion.

There are too many people on this damn planet. To quote Bill Hicks; "How about we take a moment out of our frenzied rutting to work out the whole food/air deal, huh?"

While some - China - have set limits on the number of children a family can have, and the birth rate has fallen in most Western countries, family size in third world/developing countries has actually increased.

In 1984, when Band Aid exhorted us to "thank God it's them instead of you", there were 42 million in Ethiopia and 8 million of them were starving. There are now 78 million people in Ethiopia, and 10 million are starving. When Band Aid suggested we "feed the world", I think they would have been better advised to teach family planning.

From the Country Studies site of the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress (as part of the Country Studies/Area Handbook Series sponsored by the U.S. Department of the Army between 1986 and 1998) a short paragraph giving some insight into why this may have happened.
In 1990 officials estimated the birth rate at forty-five births per 1,000 population and the total fertility rate (the average number of children that would be born to a woman during her lifetime) at about seven per 1,000 population. Census findings indicated that the birth rate was higher in rural areas than in urban areas. Ethiopia's birth rate, high even among developing countries, is explained by early and universal marriage, kinship and religious beliefs that generally encourage large families, a resistance to contraceptive practices, and the absence of family planning services for most of the population. Many Ethiopians believe that families with many children have greater financial security and are better situated to provide for their elderly members.

Analysts believed that reducing the population growth rate was a pressing need, but one that could only be addressed through a persistent and comprehensive nationwide effort over the long term. As of early 1991, the Ethiopian regime had shown no commitment to such a program.
Funny that, as feuding tribes (and Ethiopia was at war with two different countries during the 90s) don't really like this option. Unfortunately, religions don't like this option either. Both for the same reason, weirdly. If there's less people on your "team" then there's more chance of you being taken over/killed by the opposition. This "breeding for God" approach does no-one any favours.

Sadly, using the fear of the ecopalypse to encourage people to breed less also fails to do much good.

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