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No room for children: the absurd theory of population control

Public Policy

Want to fight climate change? Have fewer children.’

That was a headline on the Guardian earlier this year. A study published in Environmental Research Letters measured the impact of certain lifestyle choices when it comes to carbon emissions. The study suggests that having fewer children, along with adopting a vegetarian diet, avoiding long flights and selling your car, will have the most impact in reducing an individual’s carbon footprint.

This argument is based on the idea that more people in the global population means more carbon emissions. Therefore, it should follow that countries with higher populations would have bigger carbon emissions. However, the figures don’t line up. A paper published in Environment and Urbanisation journal found that between 1980 and 2005, sub-Saharan Africa was responsible for 18% of the world’s population growth – but was only responsible for 2.4% of the world’s extra carbon emissions. Compare that with China during the same period, which had a similar population growth and was responsible for 20 times the emissions. True, one could argue that having fewer children in countries like China, the United States, Canada and the UK could have a positive impact in reducing carbon emissions. But the problem is that population doesn’t address the root cause of what allows emissions to occur in the first place.

The overpopulation argument has reared its head in recent years and generally goes like this: It takes a certain amount of resources to keep people alive and there is a finite number of resources on the planet. If the number of people exceed the number of resources the planet can provide, we see an exhaustion of resources. There are areas of the world that have no access to basic resources like food, clothing, housing, clean water etc. Therefore, we have reached peak capacity and cannot continue to allow populations to grow.

Of course, the issue with arguments like this is they ignore unequal distribution and consumption of resources throughout different parts of the world.

In Australia, for example, we have the paradox of a massive amount of food waste (costing each household $3800 per year) yet food insecurity (the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food) is at an all-time high. According to one article in the Sydney Morning Herald, ‘In a single month 644,000 Australians receive food relief from charities, while 43,000 people are turned away due to a shortage of food and resources … A third of those going without are children.’ So we are currently throwing away tonnes of food each year while people are missing meals.

Between 2006 and 2011, homelessness in Australia rose by 17%. Whilst we have to wait until 2018 to get the official census data on more recent figures, homelessness has increased by 75% in Melbourne (since 2014). Recent events in Martin Place in Sydney suggest that homelessness is on the rise there as well.

But homelessness in Australia is not due to a lack of dwellings. Roughly one million homes were empty on census night. Even if up to 524,779 of the homes were accounted for due to market turnover (meaning they are in a transitory phase and are expected to have tenants shortly) that still leaves an estimate of just under half a million empty homes sitting vacant. Considering we only have 105,237 homeless people currently in Australia, this seems an obvious mismatch. Given these statistics relating to something as vital as food and shelter, we should begin to question if we are really distributing resources in the best way possible. Isn’t this actually an issue of resource management?

Returning to the study published in Environmental Research Letters (ERL), ways to address climate change are framed as being ideologically motivated, as though it’s an issue that can be solved by individual choices. This approach tends to ignore the possibility that climate change is integral to the entrenched, institutionalised ways of operation found in modern-day social structures. In other words, collective industry is making emissions, but the burden of solving climate change is placed on the shoulders of the individual.

We recently learned that that just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of the world’s climate emissions. According to the neoliberal mindset of the ERL study, the average consumer should not only research all these companies and their subsidiaries, they should then boycott them to drive them out of the market. Good luck boycotting ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron entirely – let alone the thousands of companies that depend on their oil to keep running. I’m sure your act of ethical consumerism will send shock waves throughout the oil industry, driving them to immediate reform!

This isn’t to say that people shouldn’t think about their individual choices, but the reality is because of the way society is currently structured, those choices won’t make that much impact – if any at all – on how industry functions.

Clearly, there is a striking discord between popular opinion and the actions of those in the energy industry. A survey conducted by the Lowy Institute this year revealed that ‘81 per cent of respondents wanted policymakers to focus on clean energy sources such as wind and solar even if it costs more to ensure grid reliability.‘ On top of that, 57% of Australians also believe that climate change is a ‘critical threat’.

Those of a more reformist mindset might think this problem can be addressed by our elected politicians – that such representatives might create stronger legislation to address climate change reflecting the will of the people. But the truth is politicians and major parties rarely represent the interests of their constituents, but rather their campaign donors. The fossil fuel industry invests considerable money into our political campaign system – an estimated $3.7 million dispersed the Labor, Liberal and National parties. And it’s a wise investment for them because according to a (a grassroots clean energy campaign website) report, for every dollar they invest, they will receive $2000 back in government subsidies. So with the mechanisms for change to be enacted through the state sector currently jammed, what is the best approach to dealing with resource imbalances like climate change, hunger and homelessness?

Well, we start with the management of our collective resources, for the solution to this crisis lies in a population that leads more with democratic values and is less beholden to singular or concentrated private interests. Is it likely that empowered people will vote for a new, expensive, destructive and soon-to-be-outdated coal mine, or will they be more invested in renewable energy sources? Allow and empower communities to be more directly involved in the decision-making process of industry and production. Given the figures cited by the Lowy Institute earlier, I think it’s obvious which way people would vote. If given control over food and housing, I sincerely doubt that people would allow food to go to waste and houses to remain empty while people are going hungry and living on the streets.

Want to fight climate change? Let communities and workers be involved in the management of industry.


66 Comments on "No room for children: the absurd theory of population control"

  1. Cloggie on Tue, 10th Oct 2017 2:12 am 

    “What percent of the world’s starving people?”

    What starving people?

    Drama queen.

  2. makati1 on Tue, 10th Oct 2017 3:12 am 

    “Of course, the issue with arguments like this is they ignore unequal distribution and consumption of resources throughout different parts of the world.”

    What if … a country could keep ALL of the food it produces and not ship it to western countries because the farms are owned by Westerners for profit?

    What if … lesser countries were actually helped by Western countries instead of being destroyed by those same western countries for power and profit?

    What if … religions actually promoted family planning instead of encouraging large families?

    What if … The same methods of propaganda were used to build and educate instead of destroying?

    What if … globalization would collapse and the world could return to peace and equality?

    What if … EVERYTHING was NOT about $$$$$?

    A big word “IF”.

  3. Davy on Tue, 10th Oct 2017 5:41 am 

    “The good news about the 4000-5000′ homes I see going up in Houston”
    A disgusting example of what is wrong with the US. This is one of the primary things that needs to stop with our culture. Housing is one of the most important starting point for the beginning of rational demand management to face a coming world of limits.

  4. Davy on Tue, 10th Oct 2017 5:49 am 

    “You live in a fantasy world like Davy. The pain is going to really be great for people like you. Be patient.
    “You live in a fantasy world like Davy.”

    I think my world and world view is the real one. I can see someone with a personality issue and mile away and you two represent the worst of this board. mad cat is a flaming extremist that lives the deadly serious passion of spreading American hate and discontent. The articles don’t even matter. Mad cat will chime in with a totally unrelated comment as if the topic is not anti-American enough. Grehg on the other hand is just a stalker and pricker of Americans. He rarely saying anything of use except worn out grehgisms. Both are braggarts and have grandiose thoughts of themselves. They travel in a pack and stalk and prick in pairs. They both are disgusting examples of what is wrong with the world today of blame and complain and no self-reflection on the part they have played or currently paly.

  5. Davy on Tue, 10th Oct 2017 5:57 am 

    Do you have references for farms owned by westerners as a percentage of a countries farms or is that just your fantasy? We know American multi-national Agricultural concerns are supplying many farms today but how many farms are owned by Americans?
    What about the African countries being invaded by Asians?
    Globalization collapses and the 4.5BIL people in Asia will be in a state of localized famine and a general state of hunger.
    A significant part of what drives the world of 7BIL people is a currency, mad cat. So yea like it or not we live in a world where money matters. When and if a collapse comes then money may or may not matter as much. Get a grip some of the greediest and gaudiest people live in Asia.

  6. makati1 on Tue, 10th Oct 2017 6:17 am 

    Davy, corporate farms, not private. There are many millions of hectares owned or controlled by corporate ‘farmers’.

    “In tropical regions worldwide, thousands of square miles of forest land have been cleared since the 18th century for the cultivation of sugarcane, coffee, tea, cacao, rubber trees, oil palms, sisal, and bananas. Such plantations frequently depend on foreign capital and agricultural training and tend to exploit the labour forces of native populations.”

    “The banana industry is almost entirely controlled by three large fruit companies: Chiquita, Dole, and Del Monte. The banana industry in Central America is still controlled by U.S. based fruit companies.”


  7. makati1 on Tue, 10th Oct 2017 6:25 am 

    Your fantasy Asia is getting in the way of your rational thought, Davy. I don’t care if for profit capitalism dies tomorrow. I hope it does and takes globalization down with it. The world managed for thousands of years without either. Trade will continue without the US in the middle skimming off war money and trying to control the world thru their financial mafia.

    That collapse will be a huge problem for the West and their wannabees. Too bad. It is only a matter of time until the leveling is complete. No more elite when survival is all that matters. Who will suffer the most? Westerners. Why? There is a price to pay for past waste and they are the Number One wasters in the world.

  8. Davy on Tue, 10th Oct 2017 6:28 am 

    Mad cat, how many are owned by American’s or westerners? I suspect none in your above reference so why do you rabidly attach “westerners” to so many comments in an intellectually lazy way? You are so academically sloppy that your comments can’t be relied on.

    Please how many banana plantation are there in relation to total farms, mad cat?

  9. Davy on Tue, 10th Oct 2017 6:31 am 

    “I don’t care if for profit capitalism dies tomorrow. I hope it does and takes globalization down with it.”
    You and many others will likely be dead mad cat. You haven’t thought through that statement. I would like to be in a different world but I am not delusional like you.

    “Trade will continue without the US in the middle skimming off war money and trying to control the world thru their financial mafia.”
    Mad cat, can you explain the mechanics behind that statement? Otherwise that statement is nothing more than an irrational and emotional statement with no basis in reality. This is typical of you.

  10. makati1 on Tue, 10th Oct 2017 7:05 am 

    You are too lazy to even check the few refs I posted. I knew you wouldn’t want your rant to be proved wrong, and they would. Your need to always be correct is killing your brain.

    Your death wish for me is not going to come true Davy. Sorry to burst your bubble. I don’t live in the situation you dreamed up based on the propaganda you are fed in the US. I live in the real world and am aware of my surroundings and situation with a clarity you can only guess at. I am much safer here than in the US police state.

    Mechanics? Do you need an education in economics and trade? Funny, trade existed for thousands of years without a middleman. The Chinese, Russians, Iranians and many others are already doing it. They are preparing for the day the dollar collapse’. So an I. You live in a country with nothing of real value to trade except a bit of grain, IF the weather cooperates. You import much of your energy and mineral needs and at least 20% of your food. The world doesn’t need the US.

  11. Davy on Tue, 10th Oct 2017 7:40 am 

    “You are too lazy to even check the few refs I posted.”
    I read all your post mad cat. I am your reality moderator.

    “Your death wish for me is not going to come true Davy.”
    Spare me the drama. I am just working you into reality and exposing you to what moderation means.

    “I am much safer here than in the US police state.”
    We are fine here mad cat. If you look for trouble you will find it. What is new about that? It is better than Duterte’s hell where you don’t know when you will be killed.

    “Mechanics? Do you need an education in economics and trade?”
    My major was finance and economics. I did not drop out of college after the first semester. Your college was even paid for and you still dropped out.

    “The world doesn’t need the US.”
    I think the rest of the world differ with you we are the biggest economy in the world along with China. I think the world does not need Washington DC but you are too blind with hate to know the difference.

  12. Apneaman on Tue, 10th Oct 2017 3:17 pm 

    Snails Are Going Extinct: Here’s Why That Matters

    “Ah, snails. They’re small. They’re slimy. They lack the charisma of a polar bear or a gorilla. And yet just like flora and fauna all over the world, they’re disappearing.”

    “All of which begs the question: why does the extinction of a snail matter?

    Obviously the answer to that question depends on the exact species, but we can make generalizations. Many birds, fish and other species rely on snails as important parts of their diets. Most land snail species consume fungi and leaf litter, helping with decomposition, and many are carnivores, so they help keep other species in check.”

    Dominoes falling. Most have probably watched Al Bartlett’s exponential videos. Well the same phenomena does & will happen with eco systems. The current speed of decline is the fastest known, but nothing compared to what’s coming. It’ll make your head spin.

    Current pace of environmental change is unprecedented in Earth’s history

  13. Apneaman on Tue, 10th Oct 2017 3:35 pm 

    Mo Money Mo Money Mo Money

    The High Price of Protecting Arctic Towns From Tsunamis and Icebergs

    As the permafrost melts, millions are spent annually on beach berms and port defenses in a losing battle to protect the area from the sea.

    There will come a day when all the hardcore (remaining) stupid denier scum and the soft denier tards will be standing in their ruins, completely broke, wailing and gnashing their teeth and crying, WHY? WHY? Why diddn’t ‘we’ do something while we had the chance. Simply preparing and adapting to what is here and the even bigger shit storm to come, could potentially save much suffering and early deaths. Can’t do that though now can we? No y’all would have to admit you were 100% wrong and that will never happen even if it means the wife & kids go down early & hard.

    “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”
    – Proverbs 16:18, KJV

  14. Go Speed Racer on Tue, 10th Oct 2017 4:32 pm 

    aw cmon
    davy what have ya got against
    4000 sq ft houses. Every childless
    couple should have a house like that.

    ‘Nuff indoor rooms for the cat to roam.
    Everybody knows cats like to roam.

    I have 3 houses. All energy-inefficient.
    Don’t have any electric car.
    I looked at my annual electrical consumption.
    That’s kilowatt-hours.

    I computed back to the consumption if I got
    all my year’s energy needs by purchasing it
    from 1 Nuclear power plant (standard 600 MegaWatt sturdy output).

    The kinda facility staffed by 100 people and
    has blinky lights on top to ward away the
    jet aircraft.

    I was stunned to see that to keep 3 houses
    lit up and heated, my own annual usage
    results: It is 8 minutes time annually,
    on such a power generation facility. Using ALL their electric output for 8 minutes.

    I was thinkin’, thats kinda nuts. I mean
    the whole GD nuclear plant going flat out
    with neutrons flyin every which way, steam
    turbines the size of houses spinning like
    all just to keep me watching Bugs Bunny
    Road Runner Hour and microwaving popcorn
    while walking around in wintertime in
    boxer shorts.

    Aint that amazin? I never seen such numbers.
    Everbody dont believe it then the mathematicians
    double check me and see its true.

    One thing sure, aint no sustaining no
    sustainability sustainances, there aint
    nuff space in the whole world build that
    much electric generation capacity just
    keep one guy munching microwave popcorn
    and running the flat screen in 3 houses.

    Fortunately, the power plants seem to be
    very good at producing their product,
    the pricing is not so bad.

    Expressed differently, its the power usage
    of flying a 747 all 4 engines, for about
    an hour (like if just 1 guy riding in the
    back like he is King Tut).

    See the solar panels just don’t cut it.
    They dont produce enough power to keep
    3 houses lit up and heated.

    That’s why Prezadet Trump just ended the war on coal.

  15. Go Speed Racer on Tue, 10th Oct 2017 4:37 pm 

    Hi Sleep Apneaman,

    “No Whatest thou dost next do,
    Thou art screwed and thine asseth is grasseth.
    Only the Richeth people in thine holy
    Greyhound Bus RV’s which thou surely d
    ost not haveth and with thine
    2nd Amendment gun collection shall be
    the chosen ones. But thou haveth not the
    thick wallet, so thou shalt perish and
    not be saved with the anointed. Thus
    sayeth the Republican Lord”.

    Relevations 15:18 New NRA translation

  16. makati1 on Tue, 10th Oct 2017 5:42 pm 

    Ap, many species of snails are used as human food around the world. My partner like the small ones that are harvested near the farm. They are not my fave, but ok if I am hungry. Then there are the big ones like conch.

    “The meat of conchs is eaten raw in salads, or cooked, as in burgers, chowders, fritters, and gumbos. All parts of the conch meat are edible” WIKI

    The food chain is breaking down and we will die regretting it.

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