Capitalism & The Overpopulated Planet Myth

Capitalism & The Overpopulated Planet Myth

The world’s population is about to reach 7 billion. According to demographers, the world’s population didn’t reach 1 billion until 1804, and it took 123 years to hit the 2 billion mark in 1927. Then the pace accelerated — 3 billion in 1959, 4 billion in 1974, 5 billion in 1987, 6 billion in 1998.

Looking ahead, the U.N. projects that the world population will reach 8 billion by 2025, 10 billion by 2083. But the numbers could be much higher or lower, depending on such factors as access to birth control, infant mortality rates and average life expectancy — which has risen from 48 years in 1950 to 69 years today.

The executive director of the U.N. Population Fund, former Nigerian health minister Babatunde Osotimehin, describes the 7 billion milestone as a call to action — especially in the realm of enabling adolescent girls to stay in school and empowering women to control the number of children they have.

“It’s an opportunity to bring the issues of population, women’s rights and family planning back to centre stage,” he said in an interview. “There are 215 million women worldwide who need family planning and don’t get it. If we can change that, and these women can take charge of their lives, we’ll have a better world.”

source: David Crary, News Sun.

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BUT WILL WE HAVE A BETTER WORLD? 

First we need to answer this question: Can all the world’s current problems be blamed on the lack of family planning and contraception in third world countries?  Some believe that the greed of capitalism is what is destroying our planet, not ‘overpopulation’.   First world countries are using up the world’s resources at an alarming rate.  And we’re blaming poor, third world countries.

David Maybury-Lewis writes about ecological destruction and the exploitation of native Peoples in Millennium,  published 1992.  He believes that we may be making the planet uninhabitable gradually without even being quite sure that we are doing so. The globe is warming up and is increasingly polluted. Even our vast oceans are choking on human garbage. The rainforests are burning and the ozone layer is being depleted at rates that constantly exceed scientists’ estimates.  His question is: “Why are we foolishly destroying the very environment that nurtures us”?

Maybury-Lewis suggests that the answer to his last question lies in our belief that human beings are the masters of this world.  This idea was central to Christianity as in the words of the Bible in which God’s creation of humankind is described thus:

In the image of God He created him; male and female He created them

Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

And God said, “See I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food”.

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But what kind of progress is it that rolls over people and crushes their way of life? Why are tribal Peoples constantly victims of a progress that is defined and imposed on them by outsiders? Is it not possible to imagine a kind of progress that would include fellow human beings, even those whose ways of life seem strange to us, and let them join us in it?

More questions  that haven’t yet been answered: David Maybury-Lewis – MILLENNIUM

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As we enter the next millennium, we are discovering that the ideas and attitudes that have seemed to serve us so well for 500 years are not working. Millennium tries to show that our ideas about the world are not the only ideas, to capture the wisdom of tribal people before it’s too late. – David Maybury-Lewis


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In this way the Bible assured human beings that, although they were sinners, they were nevertheless created in God’s image to have dominion over this earth. We have taken these words at their most literal sense. All of this of course was reinforced by the  Protestant Ethic, a term which Max Weber, the German sociologist and economist, used to describe the influence of Calvinism on Christians; to work hard, engage in trade, and accumulate wealth for investment.  This uncoordinated mass action in turn influenced the development of capitalism.

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Their reason for killing and destroying an infinite number of souls is that the Christians have an ultimate aim, which is to acquire gold, and to swell themselves with riches in a very brief time and thus rise to a high estate disproportionate to their merits.It should be kept in mind that their insatiable greed and ambition, the greatest ever seen in the world, is the cause of their villainies. And also, those lands are so rich and felicitous, the native Peoples so meek and patient, so easy to subject, and that our Spaniards have no more consideration for them than beasts. And I say this from my own knowledge of the acts I have witnessed. But I should not say ‘than beasts’ for, thanks be to God, they have treated beasts with some respect: I should say instead like excrement on the public squares. Bartolome de Las Casas’s Brief Account of the Devastation of the Indians (1542)

Taken From MILLENNIUM.  It seems that nothing has changed; Greedy capitalists continue to plunder the planet in their quest for gold, oil, rare earth, iron ore………………………………….

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Tribal Pharmacology and the Burning of the Tropical Rain Forest

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Burning Rainforest from MILLENNIUM

The tropical rainforest is home to approximately 70% of the million or so species of higher plants that are believed to inhabit the earth. They are becoming extinct faster than we can name them.We are just beginning to appreciate how much more tribal Peoples know about plants and their properties than we do. The conflagration of the tropical rainforest threatens not only countless species of plants but also the cultures and individuals who know their properties and use them in their daily lives. Like Australian Aborigines, tribal Peoples have lived on their land for thousands of years. The burning of rainforests makes the burning of the library of ancient Alexandria look insignificant by comparison. It’s as if the greatest medical library in the world is burning faster than we can read its contents, which we have only just begun to catalogue.

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Maybury-Lewis writes of a nomad’s knowledge which the growth of capitalism has all but destroyed:

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Nomad’s Knowledge – MILLENNIUM

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Since the British arrived in East Africa, the Gabra have been told how to manage their environment by colonial administrators, missionaries, scientists, nongovernmental organisations, present governments. Yet their own adaptive practices have only recently begun to be understood by outsiders.

Gabra grazing practices allow nitrogen to be returned to the ground and thereby enhance the growth of grass. Land that has been overgrazed for a short period of time produces richer grass after being grazed. Hoof pressure apparently activates this process through the crushing of grass and gravel. The nomads are aware of this and also of the fact that their resources include several kinds of water of varying quality and with different mineral contents. They look for water that is the appropriate source for their animals at the appropriate time, and this is not always the apparently ‘clean’ water.

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Kayapo mother & child at the maize festival in the Brazilian rainforest – MILLENNIUM

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In the Brazilian rainforest, A Kayapo woman prepares for the maze festival by painting her face with a pigment containing crushed ants. Encoded in this ritual is part of the Kayapo canon of ecological wisdom: out in the woman’s jungle garden, foraging ants protect her plantings of manioc and maize; attracted by manioc nectar, ants cut down the wild vines that choke the crop. Thus, they not only weed the garden, they fertilise it; the rotting vines enrich the soil.

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STEPS TO AN ECOLOGY OF MIND – Prescient words from 1972

 If you put God outside and set him vis-à-vis his creation and if you have the idea that you are created in his image, you will logically and naturally see yourself as outside and against the things around you. And as you arrogate all mind to yourself, you will see the world around you as mindless and therefore not entitled to moral and ethical consideration. The environment will seem to be yours to exploit. Your survival unit will be you and your folks or co-specifics against the environment or other social units, other races, and the brutes and vegetables.

If this is your estimate of your relation to nature, and you have an advanced technology, your likelihood of survival will be that of a snowball in hell. You will die either of the toxic by-products of your own hate, or, simply, of over-population and over-grazing.  The raw materials of the world are finite.

-Gregory Bateson,  MILLENNIUM.

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In Sex And Destiny published in 1984, Germaine Greer uses the example of the creation of the state of Brazil to show how greed has destroyed forests and annihilated native Peoples.  We know that in many other parts of the world this is still happening, and on an even larger scale.

To create the state, thousands of red dye trees were torn out and dragged by native Indians to the shore. They were promised shiny new steel axes in return for their hard labour. Once the Indians had enough axes they were content, but the white man could never get enough red dye trees to enrich a handful of greedy merchants. 

Greer goes on to say that the capitalists wasted people hundreds of years before there was a surplus, buying and selling them cheap all the while telling themselves these unfortunates were “non-people, who could be buried in the foundation of our empire”.

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RUBBER BOOTS, from the Myth of Overpopulation – by Germaine Greer

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Latex being collected from a rubber tree (Wikipedia)

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Rubber boots, invented by the Amazon Indians, who moulded the latex right on their own feet, had been introduced to the United States early in the nineteenth century. But it was not until the advent of the motor car that the demand for tyres, inner tubes and other rubber by-products was responsible directly for the orgy of lawless greed and inhumanity that makes other terrible episodes in history seem pale by comparison. James Bryce, British ambassador to the United States and a social commentator of some note, declared that “the method employed in the collection of rubber surpasses in horror anything reported in the civilised world during the last century”. According to the Casement Report on atrocities at the time, the Putamayo rubber output of 4,000 tons between 1900 and 1911, was directly responsible for the deaths of 40,000 Indians. The total population of the area shrunk during this same period from 50,000 to 7000. It was estimated that every tonne of rubber from the Amazon valley – gathered primarily by and for British and American firms – had been produced at the cost of two human lives.

 

Greer asks another question: What has the above to do with population explosion?

The people who suffered that we might have tyres to our cars have been exterminated; we will not have done anything to right the wrong done to them if we allow the present inhabitants of their homelands to breed ad libitum obviously. The point is simply that when we see the hopelessness of the slums and barrios, we see the latest stages of an epidemic disease that has become endemic in its later stages. It was the scourge of colonialism that cheapened human life that made human dignity a nonsense that showed the people in the hot lands that their destiny was not theirs to command. As long as the situation continues, as long as they have no resource base of their own, as long as they are mocked by the demands of foreign economies, they will have no reason to wish to be fewer. They may wish to escape the pangs of childbirth, they may wish to escape the anguish of seeing children die, but they will not wish to be fewer. There is all the difference in the world between family limitation undertaken for positive reasons and family limitation accepted out of despair. If the second option becomes the rule, the world will not be worth living in, however few people are in it.

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“Extreme poverty and large families tend to reinforce each other,” says Lester Brown, the environmental analyst who heads the Earth Policy Institute in Washington. “The challenge is to intervene in that cycle and accelerate the shift to smaller families.” –Source: David Crary, News Sun.

Note that Lester Brown doesn’t  mention Wall Street, fraudulent bankers or greedy capitalists!

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4 comments
  1. I agree with the bit about Calvin. I blame economic rationalism on him and his disciples. However, the general pot-shots at Christians are rather disingenuous – since the bit of the Bible that is quoted is out of the Judaic tradition and included in the Christian compilation of the books that make up The Bible – yet the Jewish side of things doesn’t rate a mention it would seem. And there is no mention of the continuing impact of Christian examples of environmental appreciation instead of dominance not the least of whom was the Poor Brother from Assisi, Francis and his friends. True though, the Christian tradition has not got too much to praise itself for. People of all religions in The West need to remind themselves that arguably the greatest impact on caring for our environment in recent decades has been a woman writing – not from a religious viewpoint – but a scientific stance. She was Rachel Carson.

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  2. frandi said:

    Thanks for your comment Miss Eagle. I agree with most of what you have to say. I did think about the Jewish side of things, and how in the past their hard work, accumulation of wealth through usury, and ownership, had turned many in the populace against them. Created suspicion and envy! From my perspective nothing has been learned! However, I am saving that for another post.

    Re: St Francis of Assisi: He was persecuted while he was alive by other Christians & the Catholic Church because he valued animals and considered them to be “God’s creatures” along with humans. That’s why he lived alone in the bush. It wasn’t until after he’d died that he was venerated by all Christians and made a saint. Sorry to be cynical, but it’s historically Christian behaviour!

    Yes, Rachel Carson was way ahead of her time with ‘The Silent Spring’. However, not many took her writing seriously for many years, as you probably know.

    Regards,
    Anne.

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  3. What bothers me about almost every single documentary on animals I’ve ever seen are the words that are often similar to “Becoming endangered due to human activity”. and I laugh sarcastically when I hear someone claiming there are too many roos up the back paddocks, when there are so many humans now living in a place which the roos once called home.

    We, Us, Are a plague species, like mice who suddenly turn up in their thousands at a wheat silo.

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  4. frandi said:

    I agree absolutely Wolfie. I get really upset too when they kill animals because they annoy humans. Like sharks, who are living in their habitat but are killed by us because we don’t take enough care we we enter their space!

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