In the persistent debate of population control, there are two differing theories. The first is the Malthusian proposal that suggests limiting the population is necessary in order to ensure that we do not reach carrying capacity. Carrying capacity is the amount of people the planet can contain before being stripped of all resources and space.
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The second is the Cornucopian idea that as the population grows, we will advance technologically in order to sustain the ever-growing amount of earthly inhabitants. This is where Neo-Malthusianism, the idea that population control programs are needed to secure resources necessary for the future population’s survival, comes into play.
Population Connection, the Zero Population Growth movement, is an example of a Neo-Malthusian movement as it is self-proclaimed to promote the “progressive action to stabilize world population” so that it is at a point where it “can be sustained by Earth’s resources.” This will be achieved through actions such as the defense of international ‘family planning’ programs and educating the public on the dangers of rapid population growth. In the United States, family planning can help prevent the substantial amount of unwanted pregnancies occurring. According to Population Connection, an average of “45% of all pregnancies are unplanned.” This means that the withdrawal of these programs would cause a substantial growth in the birth rate and consequently, a growth in the natural increase of the American population.
The continual support of such programs will help control the size of the U.S. population and prevent rapid population growth. The opposite kind of issue, though, is occurring as well. In an article by BBC News network, it is explained that China is to “relax its policy” of permitting couples to have “only a single child.” This program was put in place in order to control the rapid population increase that was previously occurring. The unfortunate result of this policy was the aging of the Chinese population after families were discouraged from having children. Even though there are both issues of increases and decreases in birth rates across the world, the most substantial issue is concerning underdeveloped regions of the world. In these underdeveloped countries, the populations are increasing rapidly which cannot be supported due to a lack of adequate resources like food.
In an article in The Pan African Medical Journal, it is mentioned that adolescent malnutrition is “associated with fifty-four percent of deaths in children in developing countries.” These children are being underfed due to insufficient food amounts which could be balanced by population control. This is the case in areas like Sub-Saharan Africa where food security, “physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food,” is lacking. According to The Population Reference Bureau, an estimated eighty percent of the global population today lives in underdeveloped regions. This number is estimated to be close to ninety percent in the year twenty fifty. Population control is necessary to create ZPG in these areas which theoretically would improve quality of life and create a balance between food supply and population size.
The opposite, however, is seen in a Princeton University population research journal where it is observed that mortality rates differ in the underdeveloped world. It is explained that the “replacement total fertility rate for the East Africa region is 2.94” and that “lowering fertility to 2.10” would ultimately lead to a “regional birth rate twenty-nine percent below replacement” due to higher mortality rates. This means that putting programs into place that would limit birth rates in order to create ZPG, may create areas where the replacement fertility rates are below the necessary threshold to maintain the population size. This means that while in more developed nations ZPG can be effectively achieved, developing nations will struggle with these programs. Poorer nations struggles will be defined by a lack of workers and resources in the process of developing.
This idea is described in the words of Former Chinese Chairman Mao Tse-Tung when he stated that “Every mouth comes with two hands.” What this quote means is that every child that is born serves as a productive worker and without the large yield of future workers, the country would fall to a deficit of labor. The ZPG movement that is encouraging limitations on population growth does not consider the regions where population explosions happen in order to compensate for necessary amounts of workers. With the technological advances that the growing population size can offer, we can create more efficient options for producing and using resources in order to reach beyond the current carrying capacity.
This means that with enough innovation and conservation of resources, overpopulation does not appear as a threat. Though the idea is perpetuated that there is no middle ground between the pessimistic Malthusian and optimist Cornucopian, there can be a compromise within this division of ideas. As regions throughout the world differ in terms of access to resources, education, and work, an absolute and global ZPG effort will not prevail. Though in certain areas, like those with an influx of migrants to compensate for a lack of workers, the ZPG movement may be an effective option to prevent overpopulation.
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