Population Growth and Climate Change

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Keskiviikko 28.7.2021 klo 19:00 - Mikko Nikinmaa


When one says that stopping population growth is an important component of combatting climate change and deterioration of environment in general, one is often accused of being racist or if not that, claimed to be just another person from rich industrialized countries trying to shift the focus from our overconsumption to the poor countries, who use hardly any resources. However, I would say that people claiming that population growth should not be discussed when addressing climate change and environmental deterioration are themselves not considering the poor people and their social justice, and are instead effectively saying: “Yes, we in rich countries should decrease our consumption, but people in the poor countries should not strive to increase their standard of living to enable sustainable life.”

Recently, Wolff, Ripple and Crist wrote in Sustainability Science (https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-021-00951-w; April 2021) about the need of stopping population growth in combatting climate change and environmental deterioration. They and I are aware that the compulsory decrease of childbearing is not the way to go forward, because that is both racist and colonial thinking of the rich. But there are two major ways with which the number of children can be decreased and which improve the quality of life of those concerned. First, women’s status in many of the poor countries should be improved. It is very unfortunate that often the macho male superiority persists and women are hardly anything but childbearing machines; the status of males can depend on the number of children. In the patriarchal societies, women can be raped, forced to marry as children and only go out if accompanied by a male. Second, and associated with the first, women’s education should be improved. Wherever these actions have been done, birth rate has decreased radically. To a smaller extent the same happens with male education, so improving education is a very good way of affecting population growth. However, education is strongly suppressed by authoritarian societies like the Taliban, ISIS and Saudi societies.

Social equality within the poor societies is a great problem, but inequality between rich North and poor South is an even bigger problem. It is terrible that some billionaires spend millions to go to a short space flights for fun instead of using the money for education in poor countries. Well, greed is the major cause of climate change and environmental deterioration. Also, it is quite terrible to read that many people would like to decrease developmental aid, at the same time saying that immigration from poor countries should be stopped and the causes of emigration taken care of in the poor countries themselves. How can the causes be fixed, if funds for it are not allocated? And it does not suffice to say that developmental aid should be stopped, because the money should be used for our own poor. Our own poor would be rich people in the poor countries. Besides, the same people are ready to spend a lot in policing and border control to prevent immigration. The money needed for that would decrease, if inequality between rich North and poor South would decrease by increasing developmental aid.

In addition, the immigration problem, heat waves, floods, forest fires, loss of biodiversity etc. are problems that get only worse if one does not think globally. Environmental globalism, which aims to decrease global inequality, is the key to combat climate change and environmental deterioration. 

Avainsanat: social inequality, environmental deterioration, developmental aid, immigration


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