Global growth and world poverty remain hot topics influenced by a bunch of very hard to control variables: food, health, politics, economics, religion and human rights.
Recent reports released by FAO and other important world institutions showcase a global situation that no one can deny: the poor become poorer and the rich become richer.
Photo credit: Brian McEntire
In recent years general opinion seemed to associate the problem of low birth rates with the one of food scarcity, thus connecting low growth levels with poverty. However, recently such a viewpoint started to be questioned and several studies have been bringing to light quite a different reality: low birth rates are typical of the richest countries, where food is more available than anywhere else in the world.
On the other hand, poorest countries showcase the highest birth rates, despite the fact that they lack the necessary means to survive (and therefore they also have the highest mortality rates - especially infant mortality).
But most interesting and surprising than all of the above, is a great email message I bumped into to the other day and which made me ask a few questions I had not seriously considered before.
In a spontaneous, informal written conversation with someone in his network, partner blogger and agent of change Sepp Hasslberger was trying to explain the fake "paradox" created and perpetuated by mainstream media over the issue of world growth and poverty.
What follows below is therefore not an article but a spontaneous message from Sepp Hasslberger to his fellow contact. The text has not been edited if not in adding a few links and references and the images.
Overpopulation: Does Population Growth Follow Food Supply?
by Sepp Hasslberger
If it is true that availability of food causes populations to increase, then how is it that the countries where food is most abundantly available to every citizen (the industrialized group of nations) have the lowest birth rates of all countries on the planet, and conversely, why is it that the poorest countries seem to have the highest birth rates?
Do these facts not immediately invalidate the contention that food supply is causally related to births, except, perhaps, in the inverse way - the more food (and food security) the less births, the less food (and food securtity) the more births in each family.
I believe I have never got a satisfactory answer.
To check out my argument, look at this page of countries by fertility rate. You will roughly see the poorest countries with the highest fertility rate, and the richer ones having correspondingly much lower fertility rates.
Both Italy, the country where I live, and Germany, where I was born, have extremely low fertility rates, and I can assure you that no one goes hungry in either country.
Now I do agree that our exploitation of the planet's resources is not sustainable, and I submit it may be the way we obtain our food that is not in keeping with the times. In ancient times, people could just roam, hunt and gather what fruits and roots they found and live off them. Then came agriculture, which allowed more people to be fed with less land.
We now need to transit to the next step, that is: we need to overcome the agriculture age and start growing our food from an abundantly available resource with a technology that is sustainable. I am thinking of sea water as an abundantly available resource, and microalgae that grow in sea water as a nutritious, complete, and in principle abundantly available source of food. We can always complement with things we hunt and things we farm, but the bulk of our food will have to come from a new, sustainable source.
Next, I believe that it is not food security so much as economic security that makes people look up and say "we want less children". Where economic security is absent, and people live off the land, it is practically indispensable to have numerous offspring, because they are the labor that will sustain an aging couple into their old age until their death. Absent numerous children, a subsistence farmer could starve in old age, and therefore there is every incentive to have more than just one or two children.
The children assure future economic survival.
One of the questions that has been asked in the discussion is how COULD the populations of several of the poorer nations be better off in a realistic way. This is a very tricky one that cannot be answered without looking at the basic economic set-up of our society.
We have an economic and monetary system that practically obliges any country to expand economic activity unless it wants to see its people starve. The reason our system requires constant economic expansion, and thereby ever-increasing exploitation of natural resources is hidden in the very basic economic set-up.
Our money is issued by private interests, which consider it as their property. These interests ask us to pay a fee (called interest) for the use of their money. Economic activity cannot sustain that fee unless there is a constant expansion of the activity. In order to change this, we will need to change the basics of our economic / monetary system.
We need a means of exchange (money) that is not the property of any private interest and that is not weighed-down by the necessity to pay interest for its use. In that way, those countries that are poor today could start working for their own economic prosperity rather than for paying interest on foreign loans or on the very money they are using.
That, in my view, would increase economic security and would obviate the problem of over-population. It would also obviate the problem of over-exploitation of our limited planetary resources, letting things
cool down so we could live comfortably while not having to constantly procreate to assure survival. Population numbers would stabilize without having to force either a one-child-policy such as China does, or a diminished food supply, as the prevailing mood of the discussion seems to favour.
We need a profound change if we are to survive into the future. That change, in my view, is going to be people realizing that they are not just biological mechanisms but the crown of creation. People will realize that their real beingness is a high spirituality, rather than mammalian instincts and they will start acting in accordance with that realization.
Part of that change in our way to see things will be to see other species as every bit as important as our own, and we will do whatever we can to no longer destroy the habitat of these other species just to satisfy one of our mammalian needs - that for food.
A few days later Sepp wrote on his blog:
"There is a view, expressed in papers by Russell Hopfenberg, that human population continues to increase as a function of the availability of food. The corollary and suggested remedy is that, putting a cap on food production, we can stop human population from further growing. The implied problem of population increase is that we are eating up our environment - we are diminishing the vital space of thousands of different species leading to their extinction, all in the name of food production.
Personally, I believe that this is an oversimplified view and that, although we do cause havoc in the environment, population numbers may not be the exclusive or even the principal culprit in this play.
Some time ago, Steven Salmony contacted me by making comments on this site, arguing the view that we must recognize population growth is the major problem facing humanity, and that we must do something about it. Although he did not directly say that humanity needs to be starved into shape, the suggestion was that capping the food supply could slim down the population into acceptable numbers. At the time, I posted Overpopulation - Does Population Growth Follow Food Supply?, organizing the exhortations and successive comments, and my somewhat doubting replies into an article that could give an idea of both sides of the argument.
The reason I come back to the theme of overpopulation and food supply now is an invitation by a friendly lady to take part in a discussion on the guestbook page of a website about the writings of Daniel Quinn, who seems to be a great fan if not the originator of the idea that human population increases whenever food is produced in abundance.
Read on, to see what the discussion was about and how I responded...
Read more on this topic
This article has been originally written as a message on a public forum and it has been republished here with the kind permission of Sepp Hasslberger.
About the author
Sepp Hasslberger is an independent reporter supporting the Robin Good's Communication Agents Initiative. His interests are very wide and range from alternative health, to free energy, physics and alternative economies. Sepp uses a Mac and lives with his lovely wife in a micro-paradise he built over the arc of 20 and more years in the heart of Rome. You should really visit him next day you go by Italy. To find out more about him check his two blogs, Health Supreme and Sepp Hasslberger, and you will not easily get bored.
Food market: Oxfamnovib
Sepp Hasslberger -
Children eating: ADRA
Reference: Health Supreme [ Read more ]