Are you concerned about overpopulation? If you live in a city, or Asia, it is easy to feel justified. But strictly speaking, the Earth has plenty of land, air, food and water for billions more. The limit is energy and the true crisis is poverty.
Billions live in a world of destitution brought about by state-augmented human stupidity and the artificial scarcity inherent to capitalism. A legacy of Western colonialism (since financialized by the IMF and World Bank and euphemized with terms like Structural Adjustment and Fiscal Austerity, but going strong today) extracts wealth from Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
The corporation-state’s neglect of the problems wrongly ascribed to overpopulation are to be remedied by further state action — at least according to states like the People’s Gulag of China and unelected superstates like the United Nations.
In his June 24th interview with VICE, environmentalist-politician Michael E. Arth advocated Birth Credits, an authoritarian wet dream:
“Each person would be issued half of a birth credit, which he or she can combine with a partner to have one child, or a person can sell his or her (half) credit at the going market rate. Each additional child costs one more credit. Noncompliance would bring a fine greater than the cost of the credit, and there would be sanctions for non-compliant countries (such as migration restrictions).”
Poor people cannot pay fines; they are poor. What are you going to do, imprison them and their children? Put a lien on their meager income and make their lives even better?
The rich can afford more children and it would become a conspicuous consumption item. Excess fecundity would become fashionable — just the opposite of today’s trend, a moderate trend which puts to rest fears of a crowded planet.
Arth addresses the fashion argument in his book, by noting that European women already limit familial size by choice (average 1.1 children per woman, which results in a negative growth rate). If this is true, and women in the developed, imperialist world already choose not to have kids, what’s the use in putting a gun to their heads and extorting money for a “license”?
This policy would only be applicable to presently virile territories, namely Africa. Is this to be another case of White Man’s Burden, the West imposing special rules on the Rest?
How would Arth deal with accidental pregnancy, forced abortions? What about in cultures where women exert little choice over giving birth, or are raped? These misogynistic regions (Africa and Asia) are where population is actually still increasing briskly! The birth credit is unenforceable there — kleptocratic states can hardly hand out mosquito nets, could they really handle the regulation of birth credits? Does the world need a dystopian new flavor of crime and punishment?
The solution is to raise standards of living and women’s autonomy, not Draconian, state-spawned markets for legitimate birth.
“If we had addressed these issues in 1985, two billion people in the world now living on less than two dollars a day would never have been born … In the 2010 Haiti earthquake, 220,000 people died, mostly because of conditions set up by overpopulation.”
Ignoring the nostalgically genocidal undertone of this claim, the real tragedy is that those who live on more than two dollars a day don’t get subtly blamed for being born. The problem is that centuries of colonialism have impoverished two billion descendants of previously self-sufficient human beings while those that live off the dividends of bloodshed and slavery don’t get branded as irresponsible.
Overpopulation is not why so many innocent Haitians died. The population density of Haiti is 32nd in the world, behind the Netherlands (24th), South Korea (23), and Monaco (2). Monaco has one of the highest living standards on Earth, and it happens to be infested with billionaires. These “nations” are not likely to suffer massive death and disease due to an Earthquake of a similar magnitude, yet they’re far more densely populated than Haiti. Haiti suffers because it is poor.
And Haitains are poor because, since 1492, this thing called slavery. Two centuries after the Haitian Revolution, extractive corporation-states like the IMF employed the services of Western intelligence agencies to overthrow democratically elected Jean Bertrand Artistede… twice.
This is a common neoimperialist tactic, as detailed by John Perkins in “Confessions of an Economic Hitman.” It matters little if there are a billion Haitians or ten, so long as their aggregate labor product is being extracted to pay for sports cars and dog jewelry in the white metropole.
The Limit To Flourishing
“Implementation of birth credits is the best compromise to the individual rights versus collective rights dilemma, because choice is preserved and the commons has a vastly greater chance of being saved.”
No, the way to save the commons is to stop subsidizing and warring over fossil fuels.
The true Limit to Growth is energy (not that GDP growth alone is desirable). We can desalinize or atmospherically sequester water. Saudi Arabia does just that, thanks to their cursed petroleum reserves. We can use vertical farming and artificial fertilizers, though low-tech, local farming is completely viable as well. Even today, the developed world produces (and wastes) enough food to feed everyone.
Another completely legitimate concern is pollution. The most promising alternative energy sources do not emit toxic gasses. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch could be remedied with biodegradable materials (Cradle-to-Cradle design) coupled with a culturejamming anti-consumerist movement. There is profound demand for sustainability, although consumerist environmentalism is a luxury good, which is why the focus ought to be on global poverty.
The affected community could take direct and/or polycentric legal action to deal with waste dumping. Pollution is today a function of population, but need not be. This blinkered conflation results in calls for more state violence, where corporation-states have been responsible for the vast majority of environmental degradation in the first place — including nuclear waste — the kind that really loves to stick around.
But let’s assume that humanity is just about to overstep Earth’s carrying capacity. Still, the imperialist NATO bloc of “nations” has meager, even negative growth rates. It’s actually a big problem for the workforce-extraction mechanism. The global average growth rate is 1.1% per annum, mostly coming from Asia and Africa. Population growth is a function of poverty. This problem is best solved by overthrowing despotic rulers and sending genuine aid monies liberated and repurposed from their present parasitic financial masters back in the countries that actually consume most of the resources.
The prevailing overpopulation myth, even among otherwise anti-authoritarian people, leads to a really brainfucked, psychopathic disposition when one hears of mass slaughter – oh well, at least the atrocity moves us in the right direction on overpopulation!
Breeders spew out large litters of kids when they expect many of them to die. They also reject contraceptives because they believe an invisible man in the sky frowns upon them. But when “nations” modernize, birth and death rates decline — quality over quantity. Population growth is projected to taper off around 2050, no authoritarianism required.
The greatest threat is not overpopulation but the spectre of it. That is, the fear of a massive problem only tractable by equally massive institutions, superstates, which consolidate global power and undermine individual sovereignty and peace.
“[The road to] Hell is paved with good intentions.” – Samuel Johnson