Saturday, July 25, 2009

Population Control

The Columbia University magazine has an interesting article about overpopulation in this season's issue. On the one hand, population control seems like a good thing:
Now, after decades of unprecedented population growth, the land is running out. In southern Uganda, as in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, farm communities are bumping up against one another and against dry lands, mountains, and rain forests... Other farmers are subdividing their parents’ land, reducing the typical-sized farm plot in some parts of Africa to half an acre.

“That’s too small to feed a family,” says economist Jeffrey D. Sachs, who directs Columbia’s Earth Institute.
The only way to break this cycle of overpopulation and misery, Sachs writes in Common Wealth, is for wealthy nations to provide birth control to the world’s poor.
However, any mention of population control is immediately going to bring up memories of the last time large-scale birth control was attempted, during the '60s and '70s. China's "one-child" policy was one of the most innocuous methods used.
Western family planners in the 1960s and 1970s, in their zeal to slow population growth and to spur development in Asia, supported forced sterilizations, slum demolitions, and other abuses.
The article has a lot of details the sudden population increase in Africa and Asia, the history of the birth control agencies and processes, and how more kindly methods of birth control (for the purpose of slowing population growth rather than focusing only women's rights) may become a major issue again.

In a different news story, India is looking into an untried birth control idea: having Indians watch more television.
In rural India where birthrates are high, many people live in homes without electricity. Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has called the country to redouble its efforts to bring electricity to the rural population so these people can plug in TV sets and watch late-night soap operas rather than have sex.

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