population crash?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by zakary, Feb 24, 2009.

  1. \tAn essay I wrote for school... never got past the first draft so im sure it's not the most coherent read. but feel free to expand on anything / criticize

    \tOne of the most commonly overlooked issues of importance in today's society is that of population control. Generally people are too caught up in the preservation of life to even consider the contrary; the fact that there may be too much life for our resources to manage. The effects of over population can be traced back to man's earliest civilizations, whereas a finite solution to it has yet to be engineered. Sadly, past generations tended to ignore this issue as they were not in deep enough to see visible signs of the devastating effects of overpopulation, allowing it only to swell. Today, the idea of over-populating the world is no longer sitting on the horizons, but rather becoming a reality. A solution to over-population must be reached soon, possibly involving means such as sterilization and other contraceptive measures. Overpopulation is one of the most critical issues of our day, and the time to make change cannot wait any longer, even if that means that our sense of morality must conform to these measures.
    \tOff the coast of Chile, the tiny Easter Island has its own story of overpopulation to tell. located over 2,000 miles from the pacific coast, it is no surprise that the mariners that made it there in the early 4h century AD never saw their home continent again. When the Dutch discovered the island on Easter Sunday 1722, what laid before their eyes was a raped land with a civilization in devastation (Foot 2004). However, signs of a great society remained intact, including monstrous statues of stone. The story of this island is a magnificent one, for it demonstrates the effects of over-population first hand. On this tiny island, a society rose and crumbled under it's own weight. Having mastered astrology and engineered the construction and transportation of their “moai” (statues weighing up to 270 tons), this civilization was one of very advanced technology. As much as this civilization prospered at first in it's land full of trees and seas full of fish, the population's rapid expansion led to severe deforestation and conflict. Having been isolated for so many years, the people of this island were lost souls with nowhere to escape to. War over the shrinking resources broke out, causing famine and anarchy. The island was in perfect balance with nature before humans intervened; however, at the end of the reign of the Rapanui people (Easter islands native inhabitants), all that was left behind were great statues of stone and a few struggling survivors, of whom lost all knowledge of science and engineering of their forefathers and turned to cannibalism. To find a single tree on this island would have been a miracle.
    \tThere is an classic analogy behind the famous Easter island story; “The world is a lonely place in the universe…. Easter island is a lonely island on Earth” (Metraux 1940:35). Similarly to how we are on an isolated land mass floating out in the middle of space, the Rapanui people were isolated to their small island floating in a sea of nothing. Although it may be hard to imagine, a scenario similar to the rise and fall of the Rapanui civilization is happening on a much larger scale, involving our planet and mankind as a whole. The industrial revolution, improvements in technology, mass deforestations, and general exponential increase in the human population over the last couple thousand years have all contributed to the state that we find ourselves in today; at the brink of population collapse. This may seem like an overstatement, but when you consider that the world population of humans has gone from 3 billion in 1961 to nearly 7 billion today, whereas the population in 1804 was a mere 1 billion (Dyer 2007), this doomsday prediction may not be too far off. At this rate, we expect to hit the 10 billion mark around 2050... But then what? Do we wait patiently for the same fate as Easter island? Do we look forward to the 20 billion mark? The answer is simple; we act now while we still can so that Easter island remains a metaphor and does not become a global reality.
    \tThe cause of our overpopulation is really quite simple; vast improvements in medicine and technology over the several thousand years have had a major impact in our life expectancies. The human race has gone from the evolutionary “survival of the fittest” way of life that applies to all living organisms to a domesticated way of life in which machines perform our labor and medicines cure our illnesses in only a matter of millennia. Rather than survival of the fittest, it became survival of everybody. In doing this, we have drastically altered nature's balance. For millions of years the human population remained relatively small due to predators, disease, and other natural limiting factors. Reproduction was a necessity for survival; and as Darwin theorized, natural selection slowly bred a more intelligent human race. Not all humans survived, only the strong and those smart enough to survive. Eventually, humans gained intelligence and showed early signs of civilization and technology.
    \tEarly civilizations, mainly clans and tribes, were created as a source of protection and strength through numbers. The advent of fire allowed for cooking of meats, ridding them of pathogens that cause infection. The utilization of clothing for insulation, tools for building, language for communication all led to a different way of living. Soon, the human race advanced from nomadic hunters and gathers to organized groups of people who's sole purpose of survival was no longer to reproduce and keep the population alive, but rather to harness the world in such a way that mankind could expand endlessly (Wood 1978). Thousands of years later, we see the effect of these great technological advancements in our species, as our life expectancy is exceeding 70 years and our population is expanding endlessly. The only problem is that our planet is staying the same size. Without natural predators or any other limiting factor, our population will expand exponentially until the Earth becomes over crowded, which is when population collapse occurs. Resources will become scarce, causing poverty on a mass scale which would lead to disease and famine, and the human race would begin to degrade. Just like the great Rapanui society before us, our society would crumble under it's own weight, leaving only relics of a great past (Ehrlich 1968). Although it may be contradictory to Darwinism, action must immediately be taken to control our own population in order to keep it from imploding.
    Population Control
    \tTemporary solutions to over population have always been to expand into new territory, such as the colonization movement of the Greeks or the western expansion of the Europeans. However, these solutions were only good for as far as the horizon would take us, which we know today is just a big circle. So unless we plan on colonizing another planet in the near future, the only way to prevent over population would be to control the population's growth, which we have allowed to increase exponentially over the past few millennia. Ultimately, this means that we must have a negative birth to death ratio globally, and many different methods of achieving this must be explored. Common forms of population control that are often enforced rather than voluntary include same-sex relations, sexual abstinence, contraception, sterilization, abortion, infanticide, and genocide.
    \tAs farfetched as it may sound, first instance recorded of population control was through the establishment of homosexual relationships. Among the upper class Cretans in ancient Greece, population control was important to keep the rich few, preserving their wealth. The solution that they came up with was pederasty, in which young male nobles were assigned a male mentor who would act as a close companion with homosexual bonds (Percy 1996). This practice generally delayed sexual interactions with women and marriage, for the intimate bonds between mentors and adolescents lasted well into early adulthood. This method of population control served it's purposes well in Greek life, and the demonstrates how an acceptance of homosexual behavior may a have a positive impact on population growth.
    \tSexual abstinence is a form of population control that is commonly accepted today. Religion, health benefits, and the pressure of chastity are all common reasons that people sustain abstinence. However, the teaching of abstinence in public schools is often paired with frightening adolescents over the possibility of contracting STIs or conceiving an illegitimate child, telling students that sustaining abstinence is the only way to ensure that these misfortunes would not fall upon them. Organizations such as SIECUS refer to these educational programs as “fear based” and say that “like advertising…. abstinence education had to make sex scarier and scarier, and, at the same time, chastity sweeter” (Elders 2002). Although the practice of promoting abstinence does give the individual the freedom to choose alternative methods of contraception such as condom use, fear, shame, and guilt often cause adolescents to repress their sexuality and can cause confusion and psychological distress. Another problem with abstinence education is that it can often be very deceptive. Educators often exaggerate over how easy it is for conception to occur, whereas in reality, the chance that a woman could be successfully impregnated at any given time is relatively low. Misinformation concerning AIDS and the HIV virus lead children to believe that those infected with AIDS are tainted somehow as outcasts in society. The point that people can be born with AIDS is not emphasized nearly as much as sexual contraction of the disease, but rather they say that sustaining abstinence until marriage is the only way to prevent contraction of the virus. However, this is not even true, because even a virgin can contract aids through a variety of ways, most of which do not even involve sex, such as blood transfusion. AIDS and other STIs are often used as tools to scare people into abstinence, subsequently controlling population growth.
    \tOne of the most popular forms of population control today is not to avoid the act of sex, but rather to prevent fertilization of the female's egg. Different types of contraception include the use of the pill, condoms, and rhythm method. The oldest record of contraceptive use was in ancient Egyptian texts, where instructions to make a pessary can be found (Quarini 2006). Although different methods of contraception vary in their effectiveness, the use of the pill and condoms are found to be 100 percent effective in contraception when used properly. Contraception is one of the most promising forms of population growth control, because it ensures the user's sexual freedom while at the same time it effectively controls population growth. Having taken thousands of years to perfect, contraception is making it's mark in todays world, especially in developed countries as the predominant solution to over populating.
    \tA step further from contraception is sterilization, but many say this is a step too far. Although many individuals choose to be sterilized, most would rather choose to prevent conception rather than no longer be able to conceive a child. However, sterilization is not always voluntarily, but more often forced upon individuals. The moral issue that arise over sterilization is who do you sterilize, and how do you decide? Often, this issue becomes one of race and social class, allowing eugenics to enter the equation. evolution is a very simple concept; in nature, offspring are produced with genetic variations that differ from the parents. Sometimes these alterations benefit the organism, giving it a higher chance of survival and to reproduce, passing on these new additions to the genetic code. However, abnormalities that do not benefit the organism but rather decrease it's chance of survival cause the organism to have a lower chance to reproduce and pass on this new undesired genetic code. Eventually, this leads to survival of the fittest, routing out the weak and keeping the strong. However, because we preserve the life of all of our offspring in modern society rather than just those that are more genetically enhanced, causing good and bad genetic variations to survive. This “genetic drift” can be attributed to many of today's hereditary diseases and malformations which would have otherwise been routed out through Darwinism.
    \tAs a solution to this problem, Francis Galton (1865) created the science of eugenics. The philosophy behind eugenics is that since we are no longer evolving on our own in nature, we must create our own survival of the fittest scenario, whereas only the most fit are allowed to reproduce. In the early 20th century, the United States implemented their own eugenic policies after the case Buck v. Bell when the supreme court rules 8-1 that sterilization is a “constitutionally valid way for the state to prevent anyone deemed "unfit" from having children” (Bruinius 2006:64). The result of this was the forced sterilization of more than 65,000 Americans. However, this method of population control takes away one of the most important unalienable rights assured by the constitution: all men are created equal. The last attempt to create a superior human race took place under the Nazi regime, where hundreds of thousands of people, including Jews, retards, gypsies, and others who Hitler felt did not make the genetic cut for survival were sterilized (2006:89-93). The outcome of this was nothing more than genocide, war, and devastation on a global scale.
    \tAlthough eugenics in theory is a good idea and would be beneficial to the human race as a whole, the moral issues in the way are just too much to compensate for. However, as long as we do not force sterilization and allow it to be used responsibly such as when married couples wish to be sterilized as opposed to using of contraceptives, it can be used as an effective means of birth control and reduce population growth.
    \tOne of the most widely debated methods of population control is abortion. First, it is important to understand the benefits of abortion. The main benefit of abortion is that it reverses a woman's pregnancy without causing severe stress or damage to the body. A fairly simple procedure, it is a way to stop the embryo from growing before it even has a chance to become developed. It is a solution for victims of rape or accidental conception that minimizes consequences. In developing countries where contraceptives are less available, it plays a vital role in birth prevention.
    \tThe main argument against abortion is that it is destruction of life. Once again, back to man's basic unalienable rights, is the right to live. However, where should the line should be drawn between what is an embryo and what a living human? Many people say when the first heart beat is present, the baby is alive. Others say as soon as the sperm comes into contact with the egg to initiate the new life, a new life and soul is brought into the world. However, when it is a new life being brought into a dark world of famine and despair such as in many developing third world countries, the pros seem to outweigh the cons in abortion. These children born into poverty and hunger rarely receive proper medical attention or nutrition, often not making it past infancy (Strobe 1991). Anti-abortion arguments tend to focus on the fetus while it is in the belly of the mother, but often simply ignore the outcome of bringing another impoverished soul into this world. In this case, I believe that our morals have to conform to human need on this subject if we hope to eventually improve the living conditions of those in impoverished countries with no contraceptives readily available.
    \tInfanticide is another morally straining issue. A common practice in china, where they have an active once-child policy, is the killing of female offspring. The reason for this is rooted in China's long standing tradition that only males can inherit land. However, since they have a once-child policy, when the first-born is a female, she is often immediately killed. The effects of this infanticide in China has been devastating, causing the country to produce significantly more males than females. However, this decline in human production has proved to be successful, making China the first country to implement a plan with visible effects of a shrinking population within it's borders (Beech 2001). Sex-based infanticide and abortions will also yield more men than women, lowering the future reproductive rate even more. However, the practices taking place in China cross almost ever moral boundary that we have in the US. Although a similar idea of limiting the number of offspring per family could be implemented in the US, infanticide and sexism would never be morally accepted.
    The Final Solution
    \tThe final solution to uncontrolled population growth is less of a solution and more of an inevitable disaster. In crowded areas in parts of Asia and Africa where humans fight over resources such as Darfur and Bangladesh, genocide and war bred from poverty and overpopulation are already taking place. If the population cannot control itself, than competition for survival becomes the next priority, which will end in bloodshed.
    \tTo conclude, population control is not an issue that can be put off any longer. The effects of over population are devastating, and time after time the same patterns predicting our doomsday resurface. While we sit back and ponder over moral issues concerning contraceptive measures and abortions, the problem of overpopulation grows much larger than either will be able to solve. The only way for us to solve this problem is to be realistic and look at what is best for the human race, and what we can do to save it. The Rapanui people of Easter island tried erecting statues to solve their problems, and the outcome of that solution is obviously not desired. In order for us to alter our fate from that of Easter island, serious measures in population control must be taken immediately, for if you look at the deforestation and general disposal of our natural resources that has occurred over the past several thousand years and the thousand foot skyscrapers that we have erected, Easter Earth looks like it might be the next big metaphor.
  2. Ugh what the hell?
  3. spacebar, its the long empty looking key at the bottom of your keyboard, Meet it, shake his hand, maybe use it every once in a while

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