Living in a tight new world

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When writing about the tendencies connected with the demographic situation in the world, famous?English scholar Thomas Robert Malthus could hardly imagine that in two centuries the number of people occupying the earth would rise from less than 1 billion to over 6 billion.

Malthus believed that human race together with the nature could control the population growth keeping it infinitely on the same level. According to him, because of the biological capacity for procreation, humans? physical abilities are used to increase their food resources but population is strictly limited with the means of existence. Because of this factor, population growth can be stopped as soon as it outruns the food supply ? humans will fall in distress which will lead to the discouragements to marriage or having children. This situation will last till the subsistence outgrows population and then the circle will start all over again.

What Malthus did not consider is that the accumulation of world capital together with scientific and technological progress would compensate for limited natural resources. As a result we have the world?s population reaching its highest point ever recorded ? 7 billion people.

However it does not presage the happy ending where world population grows endlessly and people live in peace and prosperity. The problem is that the world capital is not accumulated evenly and the technical progress is not infinitely dimensional in all its aspects. So while few developed countries are prospering the rest suffer from malnutrition, and the prognoses are even more severe – by 2025 about 1.8 billion people will live in places suffering from severe water scarcity, as per the International Water Management Institute prediction.

One more important tendency that contradicts with the Malthusian ideas is that human distress does not inevitably lead to the decline of birth rates. On the contrary, regions where the poverty reaches the highest rates as a rule are also marked with the highest birth rates. In sub-Saharan Africa, which is one of the most impoverished regions, has the highest birth rates in the world. The region’s current population of 900 million could reach 2 billion in 40 years if the same tendency continues.

So if not distress then what factors control birth rates and population growth? There is no one simple and unifying answer to this question as each culture, region, or country has its own economical and social peculiarities which determine its demographic situation.

India, for example, stands on the second place among the most populous countries in the world with over 1.2 billion people. Many families keep having children until they have a boy. This tendency has deeper roots than simple sexism ? male child means labour power and thus a better future for one concrete family.

China is the world’s most populous country with over 1.3 billion inhabitants. It adopted the one child policy in late 1970s to limit population growth. The policy is still in force albeit more lenient – a special provision allows millions of sibling-less couples to have two children legally. Also citizens living in rural areas and minorities living in China are not subject to the law of having only one child.

While one child policy somehow regulated the country?s population growth it also has been the reason for the brutal and inhuman treatment towards female infants. Desire of having the male offspring as the successors of the family reflected in the abortions, neglect, abandonment, and even infanticide of female infants.

While the demographic situation and the attitude towards it is unique in every country there still is one tool that can improve control over population in every part of the world and this tool is education. Birth control, family planning and empowering women to gain control over their bodies are the most important aspects of the knowledge that is needed to save the world from over-population.

Babatunde Osotimehin,?former Nigerian health minister and?executive director of UN Population Fund, is very well aware of the importance of women empowerment:?”It’s an opportunity to bring the issues of population, women’s rights and family planning back to center stage,” he said in an interview. “There are 215 million women worldwide who need family planning and don’t get it. If we can change that, and these women can take charge of their lives, we’ll have a better world.”

Malthus was too na?ve hoping that economical distress could compel people to restrict their reproductive instincts. Only well comprehended and argumentatively solid knowledge can force individuals to be responsible for themselves as well as for the rest of the human race.

(By Keti Chartolani; Edited by Moign Khawaja)

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