Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Overpopulation and educated women

StateLibQld 1 261493 Crowded beach at Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast, 1966

Whenever I read, listen or watch anything related to overpopulation, somebody usually comes out with the line that educated women have fewer children. Therefore, the first thing we can do to combat overpopulation is to educate more women.

It sounds good in theory. We want less people on the planet. Educated women have fewer children. Therefore, if more women are educated there will be fewer children on the planet. And so far, I probably agree with that.

However, I do suspect sometimes that it’s just said to appease the feminists. Or it’s said as just an easy fix. Because it’s addressing the problem of overpopulation without really addressing why we don’t want the world overpopulated in the first place. An overpopulated world uses lots of resources. And we don’t have enough resources to go around everyone.

Educated women may have fewer children. But my guess is they use way more resources than uneducated women do. They earn more money. Therefore, they have more spending capacity. They often live in the western world where consuming is a way of life. Also, if a woman has one child instead of buying half the things as she would for two children, she may end up just buying the same amount of things for that one child.

Arguably, this also might lead to selfish people, used to getting everything they want and unable to cope with going without. Whereas a child in a family of five may realise very early on in life that they have to sacrifice, go without and curb their spending.

I have known a few big families in my time. And with very few exceptions, they are filled with caring, generous people. I have also known a few only children in my time. And I think it’s fair to say they’re generally more self-centred. And isn’t it the case that the less self-centred people are, the more likely they are to care for people in different countries and the planet? 

In fact, I would suggest that an uneducated woman who has a bigger family may end up with children who use far less resources collectively than an educated woman with one child. I would also suggest that a child in a large family is more likely to care about the plight of the planet and the people in it than those who belong to smaller families.

I do believe that overpopulation needs to be addressed. And quite honestly, I don’t know what the answer is. I am loathe to say that we should put a limit on the number of children a person has because I believe that large families often produce the best (more likely to care and less likely to consume) people. But at the same time, something does need to happen. And I don’t expect to be the person who figures out exactly what that something is.

And of course the Christian in me disagrees with many of the methods suggested to reduce the number of babies being born. I don’t think abortion should be made illegal, but I also don’t believe they should be abortion-on-demand for any and all reasons, especially not to limit the amount of children being brought into the world. I’m also not convinced that easy access to contraception is really such a good idea. But then, I definitely wouldn’t want to see all contraception methods banned either.

And I have to say, for most of the time, my Christian me and my environmental me work in harmony together. There’s no conflict there at all. In fact, they complement each other very nicely. When it comes to the issue of overpopulation though, there is a bit of a conflict. I sincerely believe that we need to take steps to stop the population of the world growing. But I can’t wholeheartedly agree with abortion or contraception. And I don’t really see any other options.

One thing I do believe though is that the overpopulation problem is not going to be solved by educating women. It may end up with less babies being born. But I doubt very much it would result in less wasteful use of resources.


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