11. 07. 2011

Who would have thought it? Population growth and famine would appear to be linked!

It’s World Population Day. Yet ironically, while thousands of people will be making generous donations to famine relief in the Horn of Africa, very few will give so much as a passing thought to population.

This is not an either/or job. Of course we have to respond to the current crisis. But if the population of the four countries most seriously affected by the current drought (Ethiopia, Uganda, Somalia and Kenya) continues to grow at the same pace, then this particular begging bowl will become a near-permanent feature of the international scene.

And one has to ask how much effort have all those aid organisations currently clutching at our heartstrings ever made to raise as much money to promote family planning in the region? Not much is the answer. Many of them still haven’t got the guts to confront today’s population crisis with any real honesty.

Start with the facts. The combined population of the four countries was 40 million in 1960. Now it is nearly 170 million. Ethiopia’s population has grown from 23 million in 1960 to 83 million today. Kenya from 8 million to 41 million. Even now, the total fertility rate for women in the four countries is around 5 children per woman.

It’s insane. It’s no good blaming climate change or food shortages or political corruption. Sorry to be neo-Malthusian about it, but continuing population growth in this region makes periodic famine unavoidable – as many people have been pointing out since the last famine. Many of the children saved by the money raised over the next few weeks will inevitably be back again in similar feeding centres with their own  children in a few years time.

And I can’t help thinking that many of those dismissed as neo-Malthusians today have a great deal more humanitarian compassion than those who continue to turn a blind eye to the population story.

I know numbers can blunt the imagination, but dwell for a moment on these: to meet the needs of the 215 million women around the world who currently have no access to effective contraception would cost around $3.5 billion a year – a fraction of today’s aid flow. Success in achieving that objective would avoid 53 million unwanted pregnancies every year, 24 million induced abortions, and 1.6 million infant deaths.

I’ll be making my donation today to the emergency appeal, but with a sinking heart.

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17. 05. 2020
Brian C Setzler

Malthus and most people who discuss him don't seem to understand how biological organisms ebb and flow in relationship to their food supply. Google "snow shoe fox and hare graphs" to see the classic graph of the relationship between predator and it's prey.

When the population of hares decline due to predation, the decline in snow shoe foxes isn't due to starvation. It's due to a number of biological factors though actual starvation is probably minor. Off the top of my head, I can only think of one species that overruns it's food supply leading to massive death by starvation and that is locusts.

Here is an incredibly informative conversation about the connection to population growth and the food supply. It feature author Daniel Quinn (Ishmael, The Story of B, etal) and Dr. Alan Thornhill, PhD. It's the most informative lesson I've ever had on human population dynamics.

The video production is dated but the content is stellar. Enjoy.


10. 11. 2014

If overpopulation is at the heart of the issue, then letting those starving people die is one solution. A grim one.

25. 10. 2013

You forgot that trees need C02 which they breathe in and then they breathe out the oxygen we need. The more the C02 the more tree growth we have. Experiments have been done to prove this. This is a time to plant lots of trees.

There has been alot of solar flares noted and this some scientists have stated is responsible for global temperatures rising at the times this happened. The temperatures are flexiable they rise and fall. It was said that when the Romans were here they were known to grow grapes so the temperatures must have been warmer then.

Ice caps melting in the Artic and the hole in the ozone I would like to know if HAARP which is in the Artic is responsible for that . This Tesler tecnology is known to slice holes in the ozone it also warms the ozone :) There is what looks like a football field filled with this technology that spikes mega watts into the ionasphere . If this is where the hole is would that not melt the ice cap?

Chemtrails is a big concern of mine it comes under lots of names like geoengineering, solar radiation screening and maybe cloud seeding. I would like to know how this is a green thing to do and why its being done so much in the uk? The end effect will be mould on trees etc and not enough sun as its blocked to destroy it. There will be more disease of the eco system and of humans. In the end we are breathing this stuff in (aluminuim, strontium, barium and other toxins and it must be having a detrimental effect on peoples health. As a person who likes to do gardening and grow things im not happy seeing this. .

Population growth I think educated people limit the size of their family according to what they can afford and what they can cope with. If we can raise the standard of living financially and educationally then I think the effect will be to have smaller family size. An ill educated man who is poor is not going to be worrying about population growth but a person who wishes to keep his standard of living is more likely to..

26. 10. 2011
neil jones

I met Jonathon Porritt in 1986 at a FoE talk in London before going out to live and work in Kenya for 12 years.

What he says here is so blindingly obvious, and yet the world does nothing!

All increase in environmental damage is due to rising population.

Developed parts of the world already have far larger populations than can be supported in a sustainable manner. These should be reduced, simply by controls similar to those in China. Why should anyone want to have more than one or two children? Any benefit can only be short gain. The likes of Ann Widdecombe don't seem able to grasp that more children in the UK now means a larger elderly population later.

Allowing Africa and other poor nations to increase their numbers simply increases their suffering.

The aim of any compassionate human should be to reduce suffering.

Governments and religions unfortunately are not concerned with individual welfare but rather seek to boost their supporters in order to exploit them for their own financial and power gains.

Why can't the world be run by the most intelligent people, who could persuade the populace of sensible policies that would be for their own good?

17. 08. 2011
Lichfield Humanists

One commentator suggested that
'Selling home grown food would enable people to buy contraceptive devices.'

Unfortunately comments like this live in the world of logic and common sense. The Horn of Africa does not live in this world. It lives in the world of religion, primarily Islam. For 1500 years the Koran has mandated that Muslims must have as many children as possible. So if there is more money around it will not be used to buy contraception it will be used to generate more children. So unless you can think of a way to alter intensely indoctrinated teaching reinforced daily by dogma I would suggest it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye.....than it will be to reduce the population growth in this region.

In areas of the world where a program of education, especially if aimed at women, has been implemented the reduction in births has been dramatic. Unfortunately Islamic fundamentalists do not believe in the education of women and what education is undertaken is mainly aimed at memorising the Koran.

Thus as is often the case in many fields the ignorant have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the table. Usually not wanting to be 'confused' by facts and knowledge if it conflicts with what they already 'know' to be true. And in this way the lunatics take over the asylum and drag us all into the abyss.

10. 08. 2011

The respiration of 7 billion humans put out as much CO2 as 4 times the worlds airlines...time to reel in population growth.

Perhaps the Chemtrails Conspiracy Population Control can become a reality since people don't have access to or don't want to stop making babies. We can geoengineer and block sunlight using birth control dust. Of course i'm being sarcastic.

People don't want to link this to climate change, but the global complex of melting Arctic sea ice, aerosol haze in the northern hemisphere, 4 C anomoly of east africa, and warmer oceans all spell disaster.

01. 08. 2011
Joyce Edmond-Smith

The dreadful famine in the Horn of Africa is not solely the result of a three year drought - other factors such as the destruction of the pastoralist way of life , policies carried out over years, refusal to recognise the impact of such policies - and - as Jonathan says population increase. If we are to seriously face the challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss, and increasing poverty ; an integrated approach has to be taken which looks at all the issues , and population has to be part of that. In all the conferences on climate change and environmental crisis the issue of population is never on the agenda. Everyone shies away from it because it is a difficult and controversial issue - but it is irresponsible not to factor it into any analysis. That means challenging cultural, and political barriers and putting funds and effort into fertility reduction, empowerment of women and reproductive and children's health.

26. 07. 2011
Michael Burrows

The overall number you give of unwanted pregnancies, induced abortions, and infant mortality globally each year that contraception would avoid equates to the total widely estimated death toll for the whole of WorldWar2. That's shocking, and equally shocking right now, eleven million East African people are on the brink of starvation and death through lack of water, sanitation issues around refugee camps, and perhaps a resulting pandemic, and compared with the time scale of WW2 this death toll is possible within weeks. We cannot ignore this. Western Governments must step and help alleviate this humanitarian crisis.

The key is always freshwater. With available freshwater vegetative cover increases, seeds will take root, food can be grown, and the surpluses sold. With freshwater there is every chance of people making a sustainable living without the need to have so many children. Selling home grown food would enable people to buy contraceptive devices. So where can the water come from - in the very first instance? When there is a drought, as in East Africa, saturation cloud seeding would be very effective - right away. If there is a will to do this, on the part of Governments and their military air forces, this major drought relief plan could be implemented within as few as five days.

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