Population Growth and Climate Change

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. 

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: social inequality, environmental deterioration, developmental aid, immigration

Global Environment Tax - for the Survival of the Earth

Sunnuntai 9.6.2019 klo 18:08 - Mikko Nikinmaa

It is an undeniable fact that the Earth’s resources and possibilities for production are overused. Another indisputable fact is that the wealth in the world is very unequally distributed. A third fact almost universally accepted is that companies move their production to cheap countries and that companies and individuals often go to great lengths to pay as little tax as possible. These facts have resulted in the most inappropriate response that is possible: the rise of populism striving for nationalistic isolation. The solution could have been appropriate a hundred years ago with less than two billion people, virtually no mass communications and no means for rapid transport possible for common people. However, today we must accept that we live in one world, and that what is happening in, e.g., India will affect us in, e.g., Scandinavia. It doesn’t help us much if we can say that “our nation has done everything correctly, but we are going under because other nations have not done enough”, when the environmental problems such as climate change, environmental pollution and food shortages make life intolerable.

Thus, only global solutions can be sustainable. However, up to now globalism has only been associated with favouring the rich. All the international negotiations have had the dividing line between developed and developing nations. Both outsets must be changed if we will have sustainability and will leave habitable Earth to our grandchildren. A balanced solution to this would be a progressive global environment tax (GET). The funds collected this way would be used for urgent environmental needs throughout the world. Below a certain adjusted (one needs to take into account absolutely necessary expenses required for warming the houses and clothing that differ between warm and cold climates) level of income there would be no tax, and tax would be increased with income. This would ensure that inhabitants from low- and high-income areas would pay justified tax. The tax should also be paid from property to make it impossible toIMG_20170725_0053.jpg evade the tax by, e.g., investing in stock market. Further, since the tax would be global, companies could not evade it by transferring operations to low-tax nations. A question, which also has to be solved is how different nations would pay the global tax, since their involvement in the overall economy differs. The simplest solution, again taking into account the different wealth of nations, would be to have the contribution as gross national product divided by population. It would be imperative for nations to be required to contribute to the global tax fund, since they have very different roles in overall economy. Since a major environmental problem is that the world population has increased beyond what can be tolerated, the average number of children should somehow be taken into account. This could be done by including in the nation tax average number of children. The nation’s contribution would be increased, if the number of children exceeded the number calculated for a stable population. As no nation would be exempt from the nation-wide payment, this would ensure that the population contribution would be paid also by countries, where most of the inhabitants would be exempt from payment. GET would be collected by the United Nations: UN already has all the world’s nations included.

Utopia? Probably, but environmental deterioration (which includes climate change) is the major enemy of every person living on the Earth. Consequently, combatting climate change should be given a high priority in allocating defence budget funds. All the nations in the world could easily pay a significant sum of money to GET – and doing that would actually decrease the need for traditional defence spending. Besides, having large defence budgets do not help much if there is nothing to defend any more. Utopia, maybe, but we need these kinds of solutions in order to give a habitable Earth to our grandchildren.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, environmental pollution, developmental aid

Borders, immigration and populism - environmental considerations are needed for counteractions

Sunnuntai 1.7.2018 klo 15:51 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Already the Roman Empire faced the Great Migration. Mongol hordes and invasion of Europeans to America are other examples of mass movements of people a long time ago. Although the areas facing invasion invariably tried to build walls or fight the invaders, the final result was not very good for the original inhabitants. One of the major cases was that the cultures of American Indians were all but destroyed by the European invaders.  In the mass migrations people were always looking for better places to live.

Thus, today’s immigrations do not differ from the ancient ones. However, there are three major differences which actually make the problems more acute, if we have not learned from the past. First, there were less than a tenth of the number of people as compared to today during the old mass migrations of people. This results in the fact that wherever the migrations go to, there are a plenty of people already inhabiting the areas, which inevitably generates marked clashes. Second, even the poorest places have mass media, and can thus every day see how rich places like Europe and North America are. Third, the means of transport are much faster than they were during the ancient migrations. There are two main reasons for people leaving their native lands: either conflicts or environmental deterioration. If the conditions in the areas from which the people leave were tolerable, the likelihood of mass migrations would markedly decrease.  

Immigration and the fear of people of anything different from things that they are used to are together the most important reasons for the rise of populism. It is invariably so that the strongest opinions against immigrants are found in areas with least immigrants. Further, people do not want to experience any changes. Virtually always things were best during the childhood days, even though if people now had to actually go back to them, many aspects would be completely intolerable because they were so poor as compared to today’s conditions. The hostility between local people and immigrants (or even their descendants because of the poor integration) is what has generated and maintains both the terrorism and ultra-right. As long as reasonable people do not rise against the hate-mongering which is utilized from very small minorities from both sides, proper integration of people to a common world cannot occur.

Although conflicts are presently probably the most important reason for the mass movements of people, the deterioration of the environment does not come far behind. Besides, the conflicts are more and more caused by environmental deterioration. Because people would likely not leave their native lands, if living conditions were tolerable, immigration would be stopped much better by improving the living conditions in the places from which people leave than by building border walls. By putting only a few % of the money that is now used for “defence” to developmental aid, national security would be increased much more than can be done by any money invested in defence budgets. However, that is contrary to the populist approach, in virtually every country the populist voices demand more money to defence budgets and less to developmental aid. However, the aid should not be given from our standpoints but from those of the receivers (which should not be the corrupt governments but the people actually in need). For example, the agricultural practises of temperate areas do not fit tropical soils. Further, much of the agricultural area of developing countries is used for crops, which are not for food production of natives, but for the different uses in rich countries. Similarly, the development of crops with, e.g., gene modification is not directed to increase food production where production is scarce, but to increase the profits of big companies.

The final problem of environmental deterioration is climate change. The overall temperature increase, unpredictability of weather, erosion as a result of sudden rains coming at the wrong time, droughts, frequent storms, floods affecting coastal populations – more than a billion people live in an area that may be covered by sea within the next 100 year, if the climate change cannot be stopped etc. are all factors that may cause an increase in the number of environmental refugees.

Economists and politicians have long thought that environment is not something that needs to be considered deeply in their profession. However, it is now quite clear that only by taking environment thoroughly into account in economical and political decisions we can have a peaceful future for mankind. Otherwise we will be having conflicts and chaos, as has been the case in all of the historical migrations. Borders and rise of nationalism can only lead to conflict.  

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, refugees, developmental aid