STABILIZE WORLD POPULATION.
It is simple to say but tough to do. It is clear that stability here means zero population growth, which basically depends on the equality of birthrate and death rate for a long period of time. Why do we have to bother? Because during the last century death rate due to tremendous developments in the medical sciences has been reduced worldwide without any corresponding adjustment of birthrate. This imbalance resulted in an enormous population growth within a very short time resulting in a six billion plus base population with a doubling time of about fifty years. Never in the history of humankind have we experienced such an event. Of course, because the resources to support us are limited, the ultimate balancer is death rate. Is that the best we can do, to live it up and die? Then we should not have bothered to develop the medical sciences in the first place.
Another point is the urgency of the situation. Since we do not exactly know
where the carrying capacity of the earth really lies, some people maintain there
is no need to worry yet. That is just simply being blind. There are many telltale
signs that we are close to the limits. (See section on Ecological Perspectives.)
Others may say that the real problem is not the insufficiency of resources but
their adequate distribution. In other words, the problem is that of social and
economic justice. In answer to such views we must consider our present numbers,
the rate of population growth, the standard of living, and the way we use the
earth, in addition to the carrying capacity of the earth in relationship to
all that. We also should have a keen eye on the richness of the biosphere, which
should not diminish because of us. This may be a very difficult task because
of the multitudes of societies and cultures we live out our lives. But all this
complexity will not overshadow the intuitive insight that the issues are fundamentally
and primarily ecological in character. In other words, better distribution of
resources may ease the situation, and we should pursue economic and social justice
with passion, but in the long run, unlimited growth even in a totally just society
means equal misery for all. The push toward a demographic transition whose goal
is to stabilize world population is unavoidable. We should call this inevitability
of the need for stability at sustainable levels a true ecological imperative
that spells out for us conditions of survival.
Stabilize world population. It is simple to say but difficult to do. There are many obstacles in the way to stability. Here are a few.
Not so long ago, a special CNN Report was published on a video tape with the
title The People Bomb, (Turner Broadcasting System, 1994.) CNNs
special team of reporters traveled to thirteen countries to look at the personal,
national, and global efforts as we move toward stability. The cultural and ideological
obstacles are obviously very high. The report shows that overpopulation
is a relative term as it depends very much on the way of life of people in the
different parts of the world. The life of superabundance in some parts of the
world in contrast to the life on the streets in mega cities, poverty, lack of
education, and disease, all stack the odds against balance. Such cultural factors
as son mania, the machismo factor, and certain religious ideologies render functional
solutions difficult to reach. There is a five minutes section on China where
the one child per family rule is government enforced. The presentation is powerful
and it brings home the desperate measures and the heavy burdens of decision
making in many parts of the world where it is already too late to find good
In March 1997, Scientific American carried an editorial: The China Syndrome, where we read the following:
Eugenics produced some of the worst horrors of the century, so geneticists get jumpy when their expertise is used to coerce. Scientists are now trying to decide how to respond to a law that came into force in China in 1995 and seems unabashedly eugenic.
In most of the world, choosing to have a baby is a private matter between two people. The Chinese Law on Maternal and Infant Health Care, however, stipulates that if a married couple in childbearing years suffers from a genetic disease of a serious nature, the couple shall take measures in accordance with ... medical advise. Other provisions make plain what measures might be appropriate. The solutions for couples with unspecified genetic diseases are long-term contraception, or preferably sterilization.
Robert Haynes of York University in Toronto points out that it is unclear how the Chinese law is being implemented. In China today millions of female children vanish - presumably killed - and many children with developmental abnormalities are left to die.
Few Westerners have an appreciation of the magnitude of the population problem of China. The Chinese government is not making matters easier. It has shown no inclination to revise the eugenic law, and it has not repudiated a statement attributed in 1994 to Chen Mingzhang, minister of public health, that seems to confirm our worst fears. Chen reportedly said births of inferior quality, are serious among the old revolutionary base and ethnic minorities as well as the poor and those near the borders.
Infant girls fill Chinas orphanages and many face grim conditions, as seen in The Dying Rooms, shown in a 1996 Cinemax documentary. There is a photograph, which shows a two or three years old little girl tied to a chair and left to die.
We are in a terrible need of a kind of new ethics which speaks to us in terms of our present experiences. The explosive population growth of the last century has no precedent in our past history. Consequently, we do not have much to rely on from the past. We inherited from our past a set of moral values, which have been all geared toward maximizing reproductive success to balance high death rates and assure survival. It is clearly destructive to attempt to apply the same set of values to our present conditions without modifying them through adaptive changes. It may be unfortunate but true that the moral good of past centuries has become the moral evil of today. We must be, therefore, careful.
This caveat is particularly valid in case of resistance toward any change because of religious reasons. One can easily understand that abortion is not the proper means to lower birthrate, because it actually raises death rate. What is hard to understand is the resistance to use contraception as a means of lowering birthrate. Here are just a few points of ill begotten logic. For the Catholic community, contraception is prohibited, while the so called natural family planning (NFP) is permitted. (Pope Paul VI: The encyclical Letter on the Regulation of Birth (Humanae vitae), 1968, published by the United States Catholic conference.) The reason is that there can be no direct action used to prevent conception, only an indirect one using the natural rhythms of the reproductive cycles of women. Since the demographic imbalance we experience today is mostly the result of direct intervention through the medical sciences lowering death rate, the logical conclusion should be that we reestablish the balance through direct intervention of the medical sciences lowering birthrate as well. If that is not permissible, then neither should the harvesting of the benefits of medical sciences be permissible in the first place. Another blunder is the recommendation of making use of the NFP method to avoid pregnancy, because the method is neither natural nor planning. The failure rate of NFP is associated with irregularity of the womans cycles. Since regularity of cycles runs in families having a genetic basis, accidents resulting in pregnancies select in favor of irregularity and thus eliminating the efficiency of the method. Self destruct is not one of the natural characteristics of life and survival. NFP leaves much to be desired in efficiency as well. It is hardly feasible to expect the level of sophistication required by the method to be in any way practical for most of humanity. The method robs the natural spontaneity of lovemaking, and is not without psychological side effects. Neither is sit free of some medical side effects. The accidental pregnancies that may occur using the NFP method involves aged gametes raising the probability of some birth defects.
It is not good to prohibit something without providing feasible alternatives.
Neither is it good to insist on bringing as many children into the world as
biologically possible without also providing the means of sheltering, feeding,
and educating them. It is not good to make a prohibition and then do not provide
for carrying the burden of the consequences. What is truly needed today is the
revision of moral values of the past and so rendering them meaningful for the
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