Couples must control their lusts in this over-populated world!
"Those were the days my friend, We thought they'd never end,
We'd sing and dance forever and a day, We'd live the life we choose,
We'd fight and never lose, For we were young and sure to have our way".
Are you thinking what I'm thinking?
NowPublic's aumnews (April 2009) called the population explosion a taboo subject. We all know what should be done but daren't say it! Ok: so let's come out with it. Some people are having too many children. They've got to stop! Jane Goodall, in the video that aumnews added to the article, says: "Often we go into the (poor) villages and we say to the people - 'if you have a piece of land and you go and have ten or even twelve children, then that land is not going to be big enough for you all. We talk to them and they understand!"
Long ago, my great grandfather sired twenty-five children. My great grandmother spent half her life looking after them; apart from the ones that died. No one complained. That was what parents did in those days! My Gran then had nine children and my Mum had four. Families across Europe were slowly getting smaller.
Pretty soon, big families were being seen as the problem (couples who couldn't control themselves). Today, in some parts of the world (no names please, but look at Italy), some couples have decided not to have any children! Are they being responsible or just plain selfish?
Unless we do something about it, we are going to have nine billion people squeezed together in this little world? With not enough food, not enough water and not enough space. Is it in fact true? Or are we writers just peddling our favourite stereotypes about the population bomb? And using this emotive language just to make a point.
Matthew Connelly (in his book, Fatal Misconception, April 2008) argues that there has been a gigantic struggle going on for years, between those who want to control population and the others who see going forth and multiplying as a sacred duty. He describes how "a vast population control movement swung into motion, bent on stamping out population growth everywhere, especially in poor countries. Some, in the 1930s, wanted to see more breeding by white people, and fewer babies born by the poor". Even in the 1960's, the head of USAID, said that "abortion was especially appropriate for poor people, since they lacked the foresight to use birth control". There were even incentives for those in poor countries if they agreed to be sterilized. Trained women marched through villages, passing out condoms, pills, and lots of advice. In many areas some degree of force or deception (as with vasectomies in rural India) was used to cut population. And China introduced its one child policy, even giving abortions under force.
"Those against the population movement fought a rearguard movement. Pope John Paul wrote "a new encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, (the Gospel of Life)...and pounded home his arguments in virtually every public appearance". But in countries like Brazil, people ignored the Pope and fertility rates began to fall (from more than six to a little more than two in 40 years). The irony is that the population control programmes made little difference really. Matthew Connelly argues "the number of children per women fell between 1950 and 2000 in countries with strong population control programs. But it also dropped dramatically during the same period in countries that made little effort to stop population grown or even encouraged it".
Indeed, the UN reports (Sept 5 2005): "the halving of fertility rates in developing countries, and a dip in the birth rate of even the least developed ones.... From 1950 to 2005, fertility rates in developing countries (not the poorest), plummeted from 6.2 births per family to 2.8". The UN now thinks that population will peak at nine billion in 2050 and then start falling for the first time since the 14th century (the Black Death).
Why the change?:
So what happened to make this big change? Experts used to think it was educating women that did the trick. Once they learnt to read, it opened up more options for them and they stopped having so many children. But tell that to the women of Bangladesh! They are among the poorest and the least educated in the world. And most girls there marry in their teens. In 1973, they had an around 5.5 children in each family. But by the 1990s, this fell dramatically. Now they have 2.7 (UN Population Report, April 2nd 2009). Equally unexpected is the discovery that most of the recent decline in fertility in India has been among illiterate women. In Iran, too, women have cut their fertility rate by two- thirds in less than 20 years.
How come they have changed so much? Demographers believed humans were "hard-wired" to have at least two children. But now they have ditched the idea that it's prosperity and education that encourage women to voluntarily reduce their numbers of babies.
In both Bangladesh and Pakistan, child care is the woman's domain. Men don't interfere over children in the home Husbands get involved only in decisions outside the home. So women get to decide the numbers of children they intend to bear. But controlling women is a part of the social structure. And often, it's the mother-in-law who gets to decide things, which undermines a young women's confidence.
But things are changing. Demographers say that, apart from the availability of contraception, there is something else that accounts for this fast-falling fertility - women's emancipation. Even the very poor and ill-educated are starting to learn about the gains of women round the world. Tim Dyson (a professor of population studies) says: "they are seizing their chance for a better life. And that doesn't have to involve babies".
This came partly through the improved life-expectancy of children. "The enormous time, energy and emotion women used to spend on bearing and raising children, most of whom died before reaching adulthood, can now be spent on other things," says Griffith Feeney of the East- West Center in Hawaii. And, having seized their social and economic opportunities, some women are questioning the need for parenthood altogether. "Getting married and having children are simply not as important as they used to be," Professor Dyson says.
How come? Fred Pearce gives us a clue in his book Confessions of an Eco Sinner. He followed a group of young women who had moved from their villagers in Bangladesh to Dhaka, in search of work. They took jobs in low paying so called sweatshops, making tee-shirts and being paid about a dollar a day. Not much: yet these women were able to send home about three dollars for each week they worked. In spite of the low pay and harsh factory conditions, these women were the rich ones in their families, giving them a real status in their villages for the first time ever. More important, as one factory manager pointed out: "these women are becoming an economic force. This is the first time they have had jobs outside the home. They are independent decision makers. They can come and go; nobody stops them". Tim Dyson reckons that even the women stuck at home in the villages are changing. "In the modern world... the flickering TV screen in the corner of the room that shows the young women the kind of world they could have if they could win a life away from just rearing children". And watching the tele is certainly easier than learning to read.
The rest of the world:
Already 60 countries have fertility rates below replacement levels, from Europe and North America to East Asia and the Caribbean. Soon Thailand, Iran, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka will join them. Mexico and Turkey, Indonesia and Brazil, even India, will be there within 20 years. Muslim or Catholic, socialist or capitalist, rich or poor, women are choosing not to have as many children.
"The implications", says Joseph Chamie (UN Population Division),"are momentous". "Women and men in developing countries are marrying later, having fewer children and having them later", the UN 2009 Population Report said. In the world's 192 countries, the number of women between the ages of 25 and 29 who are single rose from 15 percent in the 1970s to 24 percent in the 1990s. For men, the increase was from 32 percent to 44 percent. Of course, the population changes will take some time to filter through. At present, hospital delivery wards are full of women who were themselves born in an earlier baby boom. But the rate of population increase is beginning to slow. That is the good news.
Neil MacFarquhar (New York Times April 3 2009) says: “in most of the Islamic world it’s amazing, the decline in fertility that has happened,’’ And the UN's Ms. Zlotnik recently argued that Middle Eastern nations with high birth rates, like Yemen, are now the exception. “Even in cultures that are Muslim, advances of a very big quantity can be made, if the government has enough commitment to provide the services and the social infrastructure that validates those changes,” she said. Other Middle Eastern states in the top 15, in order of the steepest drop, including Tunisia, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, Libya, Kuwait, Qatar and Morocco.
Of course, not every country has followed the trend. Israel, Argentina and Malaysia have all kept fertility rates around three children per woman. The US has higher fertility levels, because of the influx of immigrants. And in many poor African nations, women still have six children or more. In Europe, the highest fertility rates are now in Scandinavia, where men and the state have accepted more responsibilities for bringing up children. Women there combine motherhood with a career in a way still not possible in southern Europe,
But Joseph Chamie (United Nations Population Division) expects fertility rates in most of the developing world to drop by mid-century to around 1.85. So hundreds of millions of women could be setting the human race on a path toward this steady decline. Within 50 years, four-fifths of the world's women may settle for two or fewer children. And if that happens, babies will be so scarce that the world's population will be shrinking.
Forget the population bomb: there may soon be a baby bust.