Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Illustration from Indexed

Overpopulation is being touted as a "major problem" nowadays and, to solve it, people in office propose contraceptives (and by default, anything that follows...). I can't help thinking it's the easy solution to things: to solve poverty, blame it on overpopulation, then propose a bill that puts contraceptives under "essential medicine" (Section 10 of proposed RH Bill) to make it look like you're doing something about it.

(If you watch Demographic Winter, you'll see that not only is there no population explosion, but also that there's actually a population implosion. We're all getting old without people taking our places. So, looking at the illustration above, how sure are we that the future will be crowded?)

I read an article in the Inquirer's Opinion section, this one by Michael Tan, who is a well-known anthropologist. He focuses on the concern on family size, and gives reasons why big families were an advantage in a farming society but not in today's setup. The concern he brings up is how family size (read: large families) affect the country in a bad way. Quote:

What I find missing in many of the local discussions around optimum family size is the almost total lack of reference to “collective costs” for the community, if not the entire nation. The dominant view is still: “If a couple can afford to have 10 children, by all means, let them have 10 children.” A long-term view of a sustainable environment thinks of what those 10 children might mean not just for the couple but for the country, now and in the future. Politicians are beginning to recognize this, realizing that there will never be enough resources for a constituency with a large young population, and the gaps are growing all too rapidly.

This brings to mind the ecology term "carrying capacity" which refers to how much of a certain population a place can support. Which, I might add, refers only to animal population.

True, humans affect the environment: our misuse of the natural resources depletes them faster than nature can replace them. But aren't we gifted with reason to resolve these problems? Is cutting down on people (abortion and contraception are for cutting down on people) the only solution?

Of course not.

What's being overlooked in the whole overcrowding business is our ability to improve our understanding of the world around us and adjust our lifestyle accordingly. Collectively speaking, that means we won't just pollute and pollute our neighborhood; we'll organize a brigade to put our trash away properly and effectively. Isn't that the beauty of our unique ability to reason?

This is the solution: to use that reasoning. Cutting down on people is just the lazy thing to do. Not to mention the selfish thing, too.

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