Population Will Come Down — We Choose How

It’s time for the annual Global Population Speak Out. We all know that in order not to crash the planet we need to consume less energy and raw materials and we need to emit less pollutants. But it doesn’t seem to be generally known that nothing an affluent Westerner does can have anywhere near as beneficial an effect on the future environment as not having kids. Riding a bike to work, recycling milk cartons, turning off the outdoor lamp before you go to bed — all of those green efforts of yours will be swamped and obviated if you have that extra kid.

Think about it. If there were only a few million people on the planet, then we wouldn’t have to worry about consumption or pollution. The problem is partly our environmental footprint per capita, but more the sheer number of people on the planet.

So, as I once wrote, for a person to produce more than two children is unethical. If you want lots of kids, then adopt — preferably from an affluent country, as you only make things worse if you move people from cultures with a small environmental footprint to a land of big cars and hamburgers.

We need to give little girls worldwide a good education, because that makes them have fewer kids when they grow up. And we need to combat various religious organisations that sow doubt about the efficacy and moral acceptability of contraceptives.

The population will not continue to grow for ever, nor remain constant on a high figure for very long. Sooner or later the human population will come down. It’s up to us to decide if this should happen through contraception and a global single-child policy or through a catastrophic die-off.

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88 thoughts on “Population Will Come Down — We Choose How

  1. This miraculous ‘Lamarckian’ ability to transfer information from one generation to another has ended war, has it? It’s prevented the gross human overshoot of K, routed anthropogenic mass extinction, the poisoning of the atmosphere & surface ocean with oxidized carbon, and all the assorted meannesses of one person to another? Nawww… it’s not done all that but it’s SURE to prevent population collapse! Wishful thinking to the point of self-delusion apparently comes easy to a cultural determinist.

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  2. There’s an interesting conjunction between this post and the next one, detailing the number of high tech e-waste producing, phones you’ve had, and the next one you are shopping for, btw. Not standing in judgement (I own a cell too) but it does seem problematic to talk about reducing population the poor world on one hand, and why we shouldn’t adopt impoverished starving kids from the Global South and give them a higher standard of living, and then what kind of overpriced cell phone to buy. One may not truly influence the other, but the conjunction, well, that’s art.

    Sharon

    Sharon

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  3. “We need to trigger a demographic catastrophe that doesn’t involve people dying from famine, war or pandemics.”

    I mostly agree with you there. My view is that it will happen, and that the best way to implement it is the way its been done in places like Sweden, i.e. sound policies to promote economic development, empowering women, and raising living standards. Population control is futile without these things.

    “The expectation that some technocopian breakthru is somehow going to advert the consequences of the situation we face”

    It won’t be one, but thousands. The sky isn’t falling, the history of the last century proves it. And I’m not quite sold on us being at peak oil yet.

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  4. All right, I’m giving this another shot, mainly because I’m unsure how to think about these issues myself.

    So we have these two peoples, Swedes and Costa Ricans (for now let’s confine attention to these), living about equally long and fulfilling lives, the latter however imposing only 45% of the per-capita ecological footprint of the former. The world could support 5.9 billion people living happily like Costa Ricans, or 2.7 billion living happily like Swedes.

    (Figures taken from the Happy Planet report linked to above. I can’t judge how well-founded they are — but for now let’s buy them for the sake of the argument.)

    Now consider the following two scenarios.

    A. We all insist on living like Costa Ricans until Nature and/or authority-imposed family planning brings our number down to 5.9 billion.

    B. We all insist on living like Swedes until Nature and/or authority-imposed family planning brings our number down to 2.7 billion.

    Here are two questions for Martin and anyone else who might hold an opinion.

    — Do you agree that, while both scenarios are likely to entail great human suffering, A is nevertheless vastly preferable to B?

    — If so, do you also agree that blog posts downplaying the significance or per-capita resource consumption do not constitute a service to humanity?

    Or am I missing something?

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  5. “And I’m not quite sold on us being at peak oil yet.”

    What’s the latest word over at The Oil Drum, Sharon? I quit reading it. Last I saw, iirc, was that 2005 was the peak year & July, 2008, was peak month. I don’t think that those production peaks have been exceeded.

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  6. the number of high tech e-waste producing, phones you’ve had

    Yes, it’s an indulgence, though I don’t consume much else. And my old phones go on to the aftermarket. One was actually bought by a Tanzanian teacher who sent it home to her folks.

    Tor, I agree with you on what is preferrable in that scenario. But those 5.9 billion wouldn’t constitute a stable population. It would grow. The Swedish way of life, as we have seen, leads to demographic collapse, which is what we need. The Costa Rican one does not. And Costa Rica is not well enough organised anyway to manage an authority-imposed family planning policy.

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  7. How about this idea of population control:
    We let all the people that are killing themselves by living unhealthy lives (eating bad food, smoking, drinking too much, etc) just die without extending their lives via drugs. This would much alleviate an already bulging healthcare system that does not provide its patients with health, just a prolonging of life in an unhealthy state.
    The United States would be wiped out of most of it’s people. That would be huge.
    Not that this is a realistic option, but I do think that we have gone too far to preserve a heartbeat rather than quality of life.
    As far as Costa Rica….I do plan on relocating there this year! How ironic that it is mentioned in some of the comments here.

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  8. Re:oil peak, I think it depends on whether you count the adjusted “liquids” data and include biofuels and high cost extraction techniques that are only viable at certain prices or not. Stuart Staniford, who has an excellent blog just argued that Iraq’s increased production combined with the recession could push off the actual peak by a couple of years, although most of it will get consumed by China’s car growth.

    Sharon

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  9. Martin, I’m not picking particularly on you – I hope it didn’t come off that way. I’m just struck by the way we think about our indulgences – me too – and the way that we regard the indulgences (a lot fewer) of people in the poor world. A woman in India as of the late 1990s (figures may be different now) had to have five children in order to be sure of one surviving to support her in her 60s. In Nigeria, with one of the highest reproductive rates in the world, a child produces more than they consume by the time they are 6 years old for a family with almost nothing else. I do think it is important to have a nuanced view of the way population operates here – that children are the one luxury fully available to most of the world’s poor.

    I’ve got four kids – I’ve already crossed the moral threshold, and I don’t have a problem with your analysis that this is unethical. It certainly doesn’t pass the “do as I do” test – at this point, what we can do about it is reduce our consumption radically, and measurably, my four kids use less than 1 average American kid, but I don’t use that as an argument in favor of my reproductive rate. I don’t have a problem with people arguing for social policies that reduce reproductive rates in the Global North – yes, there’s an economic crisis coming, but we should suck it up and endure it.

    I have more issues with how this is done in relationship to the Global South. Worldwide, many women would like to have fewer children and can’t – that’s bad. But it is also not self-evident that the poor world can/should bear the costs of a faster-paced demographic transition than is already occurring, at least as long as you and I still have our cell phones ;-).

    Sharon

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  10. We let all the people that are killing themselves by living unhealthy lives (eating bad food, smoking, drinking too much, etc) just die without extending their lives via drugs.

    You’re kidding. They live that way because they don’t know better. Letting them die would be like trying to combat overpopulation by withdrawing aid from Haiti.

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  11. The great majority of people who choose an unhealthy diet, choose to smoke or to drink too much, know full well the adverse consequences of their choices, Martin, yet choose to indulge in these behaviors regardless of the consequences. Few, if any, indulge in such behaviors “because they don’t know better.” Who hasn’t heard that smoking contributes to or causes lung cancer, for instance? People value the short-term gratification these behaviors offer more than they fear the long-term consequences. Is this not so?

    Likewise, most people value the innate gratification of parenthood more than they fear the consequences of overpopulation induced environmental degradation. Lot’sa luck convincing people to refrain from reproducing because of some threat doing so poses to the species as a whole or to the environment. If people still smoke knowing full well that smoking may kill them, don’t expect them not to have kids on the grounds that doing so may eventually kill (or at least sicken) the biosphere.

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  12. Are you people all for Obama czar that mentioned that the government should sterilize parts of the public through the water system? That is evil, not to mention a good way to get his ass kicked when the people find out about it.
    Peak oil? Give me a break. There will always be oil somewhere. Some is even abiotic. Libtards have no brains.

    “Carbon footprint”? Is that what they call it now when you step in a pile of dog shit?

    Carbon is the least of your worries. Global warming is a scam designed to control the population, gain taxes, and gain more power. That’s all. The ICPP is full of crap and most people know it. It’s the hard left socialist marxists that are pushing this load of crap on everybody else and making their lives miserable. When it comes to how much energy I use, how many kids I have, etc, do me one favor – mind your own damned business. If I want to have 50 kids I will. If you don;t like it, lump it or hump it.

    Implementing communist style rules (one child policy) is the best way I know of to start a civil war. It’s fascism based on a lie.

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  13. “Slums have high fertility rates. Manhattan has a low one because only educated people can afford to live there. Both are urban areas.”

    Slums have lower fertility rates than the surrounding countryside. Urbanisation in itself does lower the fertility rate. Not that it takes away anybody’s greater point here or anything; I just wanted to point that out.

    @Captain Parrot, we’re not discussing your home country here. Perhaps take your absolutely fascinating insights to someplace where it’s on topic?

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  14. My home country is AMERICA where it is illegal to have the type of population control programs that you so dearly wish to implement. We are not communists or socialists, we are free people. We can have one child or fifty and the best part is – no one has a right to say a damned thing about it as long as those 50 children are being taken care of, the parents can afford it. Too bad for you. Looks like your AmeriKa and my America are not the same. Maybe you should move to China. Methinks you would enjoy the baseless atheism, sensless one child policy, and the rest of your utopia.

    Who on here said Hitler was not in favor of population control? What do you call killing 6 million Jews not to mention the others he killed beforehand.

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  15. most people I know are opting for zero to 1, and a handful at 2.

    Me? one. Never doing this whole having a kid thing again.

    It would help if adoption criteria wasn’t so grindingly archaic even in the western world. My husband and I, educated, stable, married, would get laughed out of most adoption agencies because we don’t fit their ideal image of churchgoing suburbanites.

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  16. OK, Captain Patridiot, but the rights of the children should be enforced then against their parents.

    Hitler was against population control for his people (like you). He was for killing whom he considered enemies. Your Hitler comparison is not only ridiculous, it shows that you watch too much Beck.

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  17. Personally, I don’t want kids anyways so that settles it. I’m just not into parenting really. At least, everyone will agree with my decision lol.

    @Captain Patriot: Who are you? Pick the answer from the following list of nutjobs:
    1) Glenn Beck
    2) Bill O’Reilly
    3) Rush Limbaugh
    4) Michael Savage
    5) Lou Dobbs
    6) Michelle Bachmann
    7) Sarah Palin
    8) Alex Jones
    9) Pat Robertson
    10) Ted Haggard

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  18. Hello everyone,

    Pardon me, but I’ve heard this argument (or a variant thereof) many times, and it always rings true for a few minutes before souring. It’s been made by some segment of the educated class consistently for (at least) the last two hundred years or so, and yet the Malthusian trap has yet to catch us. If you are capable of modifying your beliefs based on evidence, this by itself should give you pause. There’s a potential fallacy that may have not been made explicit in this discussion – the planet’s carrying capacity is not constant, technology is steadily increasing it. Earth can support more people w/o mass starvation after the invention of refrigeration than it could before, and it can support more now than 50yrs ago b/c of the green revolution. Is there any a priori reason to think that this technological innovation will be stopping anytime soon? If not, it doesn’t seem likely that the “better technology -> more people -> better technology” loop will be stopping anytime soon either.

    But this is just talk – we can argue all day, the case could be better decided with data. Can anybody point me towards some empirical evidence supporting the claim of this essay? A serious quantitative attempt at estimating Earth’s carrying capacity? Anything? Or is this business about overpopulation all psuedophilosophical rambling?

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  19. Maybe my mention of family planning was misleading. And I did not mean to suggest global implementation of all aspects of Costa Rican or Swedish culture and politics. I’m only talking about rates of consumption; specifically, about what happens the day Nature imposes its limits on us and brings down our total consumption with or without our cooperation. And the point of the example is, the higher our per-capita consumption, the bigger our die-off. That, to my mind, is a strong reason to curb excessive consumerism. Now.

    As for the “Swedish way of life” leading to population contraction: are you suggesting that the way to salvation is for humanity to raise its per-capita consumption to Swedish levels and then serenely drop off to sustainable numbers? I’m pretty sure if we tried that we would bang our collective head on the world’s resource ceiling long before the plan could be carried to completion.

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  20. Tor, it seems to me that we basically agree. The point of my blog entry was that if we don’t curb our population trend, then the per capita resource consumption will be an academic concern. Of course people who have no kids should recycle milk cartons.

    And I don’t think that the aspect of Northern European and Japanese culture that leads to population collapse is their high resource consumption. I think it has more to do with their high standard of education and what, for lack of a better word, might be called their “Lutheran Samurai” work ethic. Careerism and individualism. Japanese men work themselves to death at their offices instead of getting it on with their lovely wives.

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  21. The great majority of people who choose an unhealthy diet, choose to smoke or to drink too much, know full well the adverse consequences of their choices

    It’s not that simple. Obesity and smoking is strongly correlated with poor education. Those people are not unhealthy because they choose to, but because they belong to a subculture that de-emphasises education.

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  22. First, I wanted to make a correction re: Martind and Thomas: While Japan does indeed have a very low birth-rate, the birth-rate in the Scandinavian countries is in fact quite high be European standards, most likely because of significant support for working mothers. The countries with really low birth-rates are industrialized countries with crappy options for women to both work and have children, such as Japan and Italy.

    Second, the only way to bring down birth numbers in the third world is by making it both possible and rational to have fewer children. The first is achieved through education (particularly of girls and women) and contraceptives. The second is achieved through a lower child mortality (so that you don’t have to sire as many children jut to have decent odds of one surviving) and through social security measures so that you don’t have to have children to take care of you when you’re old.

    Third, while bringing the expansion of the global population under control is an important goal, the actual reduction of it is a very secondary one. To start with, it’s not something that’s enforceable in a democratic society. It would also have massive social effects. Perhaps reducing the global population by a meaningful percentage could be achieved in a few centuries, but it’s not going to be a solution to any current problems. The actions that are needed – and also practically possible, unlike the pipe-dream of rapid depopulation – are global standards for pollution (CO2 in particular), improved techonology, and improved efficiency, and at a sufficiently fast pace to get the improvements done before disaster strikes. Of course, right now we’re losing this race badly.

    Depopulation, while perhaps theoretically relevant over centuries, is a non-starter. It’s so impractical it’s hardly even worth spilling bits on.

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  23. for a person to produce more than two children is unethical

    Why two? Make it one (like China). Drastic times call for drastic measures. And make it retrospective to set an example. All non-firstborns should be put up for adoption to infertile couples and newly weds.

    Dr. Martin Rundkvist is a … father of two

    Oh I see!

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  24. Depopulation, while perhaps theoretically relevant over centuries, is a non-starter. It’s so impractical it’s hardly even worth spilling bits on.

    Still, thank you for doing so. Good points.

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  25. Sharon @ #59:

    at this point, what we can do about it is reduce our consumption radically, and measurably, my four kids use less than 1 average American kid

    I realize that you’re not using this argument to justify your reproductive rate, just as I would not use the choice to have no children to justify being carelessly wasteful and excessively consumerist (if I were). Your four kids may indeed use less than one average *middle class suburban* child in the US (though I’m not really sure what all you’re measuring), but I’m not convinced that middle class suburban is “average”. It isn’t average where I live, and you’d have a very hard time convincing me that your 4 kids use less than one “average” child in a typical impoverished urban or rural setting in this region. But such children, unfortunately, are effectively invisible to many Americans, even during this current economic crisis.

    I also realize that Martin’s post and this thread are not about the US primarily, but nevertheless, I wanted to counter Sharon’s point with a different regional perspective.

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  26. And regardless of how much resources my kids burn today, we have no way of telling how much their kids will burn. If I have four kids and that particular family tradition endures, then I will have 16 grandchildren and 64 great grand children.

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  27. I almost have to laugh. Exhorting folks in countries with below replacement rate fertility to only have two kids seems a little redundant. Maybe a little late to the party?

    A family with ten kids is a drop in the ocean in a country with millions of people and a TFR of 1.5. In the USA 20% of women have no kids. So the 1% who have 5 or more cannot make up the difference.

    Every industrialized country on the planet has a total fertility rate (TFR) below 2.0, and the USA is only at 2.0 because of immigrants who have a higher TFR.

    In fact the white TFR in the USA is lower than the Chinese TFR despite their “one child” policy.

    50 years ago Europe had twice as many people as Africa. Now Africa has more that Europe. Who is going to feed the 3rd world when Europe and the rest of the developed world undergoes its “demographic catastrophe” ?

    Martin said:

    ” And about the concept that not all human behaviour is genetically determined? ”

    Of course not all behavior is genetically determined but some is. Assuming intelligence helps one choose his own behavior, it seems amazingly irresponsible to leave the planet to those least willing and able to modify their behavior.

    Martin also said:

    “Children of all skin tones and cultural backgrounds can learn enviro-responsible behaviour if they just get to go to good schools.”

    Sounds swell in theory. Who is going to build those schools and provide the curriculum and instruction when the industrialized world goes through its “demographic catastrophe”?

    Honestly, Martin, these are important issues. Sure population is important, but if the only folks who know and care are destroyed by a “demographic catastrophe” it won’t be a panacea, more like an apocalypse.

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  28. The word “suburban” wasn’t very useful there – what I do know is that my famly uses about 1/8 the resources of the average American – and measurably, we’ve been doing it and measuring it for some years now. That means the six of us use less than one average American adult – we make 1/10th the garbage, use 1/8 the heating energy, use 1/9th the gasoline, 1/5th the water (we can do 1/10th but we live in a very high rainfall area, and last summer we had 27 inches of rain in one month, so we’ve been a little slack on this one ;-)), 1/10th the electricity, and purchase 1/10th the consumer goods.

    Again, this is not a justification, and as you point out, it doesn’t mean we use less than every single American. I’m not claiming other people should have 4 kids or that my having them is ethical. Just like a lot of people who come to environmentalism, I have a past, not all of it fully conscious. It is also true that just because we do this now doesn’t mean my kids will continue the trend, and also that if they use our reproductive pattern as a model, they will probably reproduce as well (our severely disabled autistic eldest is probably a firm exception – it is extremely unlikely that he will reproduce). That said, it isn’t a fixed pattern, and we do talk, in age appropriate ways, about the issue – my husband is an only child, for example, so manifestly one’s reproductive patterns are not fully transmitted biologically.

    Again, I say all of this for full disclosure, and to point out that I’m not trying to pick on Martin’s smart phone or anything like it. I don’t have to say this – I write and speak about demographic issues and population all the time and I always cop to my kids, unlike most of the people who speak on the subject ;-).

    Sharon

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  29. Exhorting folks in countries with below replacement rate fertility to only have two kids seems a little redundant.

    Good point. Who knows, maybe this blog isn’t read by a single person in a country that actually has an exploding population?

    Assuming intelligence helps one choose his own behavior, it seems amazingly irresponsible to leave the planet to those least willing and able to modify their behavior.

    Did you just say say people in poor countries are genetically inferior and less smart than people in rich ones?

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  30. “Did you just say say people in poor countries are genetically inferior and less smart than people in rich ones?”

    No, I said people intelligent enough to modify their behavior, that includes intelligent people in poor countries. I don’t think poor countries will be better off if the smart people in those countries go extinct and leave it to the less intelligent.

    “Who knows, maybe this blog isn’t read by a single person in a country that actually has an exploding population?”

    Anyone reading this blog should probably have at least two kids, and thank you for your contribution to the next generation.

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  31. I’m more like Micheal Savage than the rest. Hannity is great, but Savage tells it as it should be told and isn’t afraid of the libs like Hannity.

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  32. “We need to give little girls worldwide a good education, because that makes them have fewer kids when they grow up. And we need to combat various religious organisations that sow doubt about the efficacy and moral acceptability of contraceptives.”

    That’s right blame the religious for all your problems rather than taking personal responsibility. Liberals suck. We need little girls to grow up to be women, not militant man hating feminazis and we need to combat anti-religious organizations who threaten 6000 years of human history.

    ————————-
    ” It’s up to us to decide if this should happen through contraception and a global single-child policy or through a catastrophic die-off.”

    A global single child policy is FASCISM plain and simple. The man who though that idea up should be castrated and burned at the stake all in the same day.

    There will be a catastrophic die off. Ever heard of the Book of Revelation?

    Damned this was a fascist post.

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  33. A really sobering (and downright terrifying) realtime simulation of births, death and carbon emmissions per country and globally: http://www.breathingearth.net/

    I needed a cup of tea and a lie down (and a tubal ligation)after looking at this for a few minutes!

    Voluntary population control (and the education, medical and cultural means to make it logical and practical) should be more widely encouraged.

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  34. No, I said people intelligent enough to modify their behavior, that includes intelligent people in poor countries. I don’t think poor countries will be better off if the smart people in those countries go extinct and leave it to the less intelligent.

    That’s eugenics. Doesn’t work that way. Intelligence is not strongly heritable, and not all intelligent people come around to an enviro-friendly viewpoint.

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  35. Depends on what you mean with “strongly” – somewhere between 0.4 and 0.8 is the typical range given.

    (But I fail to see how intelligence would be at all correllated with an environmentalist standpoint. sg, do you think that China opposed Copenhagen because the Chinese leaders were *stupid*? That’s nonsense! It was good old self-interest, as it almost always is.)

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  36. “sg, do you think that China opposed Copenhagen because the Chinese leaders were *stupid*? That’s nonsense! It was good old self-interest,”

    Well, the Chinese think that their one child policy (which yields a TFR of 1.78) counts as part of their long term as being environmentally responsible and no, I don’t think they have the one child policy as an eco friendly measure. However, having fewer kids is what Martin was proposing as an effective eco friendly/responsible measure. So if it counts when Sweden does it then it should count when China does it. I agree that China’s policies are designed to serve what China perceives as its self interest. Other results are incidental. I do not believe that the Chinese plan to implement curriculum in their schools that will help their “people come around to an enviro-friendly viewpoint”. I think their schools teach their people to be loyal to China first. It will probably be effective.

    “not all intelligent people come around to an enviro-friendly viewpoint.”

    Do you think dumb people are as likely to become eco-friendly and therefore limit their fertility for the sake of the environment? Anyway, from what I have read, intelligence is heritable, albeit not 100%, as Akhôrahil stated.

    Also, limiting fertility in industrialized nations is moot since it has already happened and shows no signs of going back up. A more effective environmental strategy for these nations to limit population growth therefore is ending immigration. If your nation’s consumption is high per capita but you are decreasing in number, it doesn’t make much sense to import people with lower consumption to come in and pick up your bad habits and thereby increase total consumption.

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  37. first-off i think it is true that progressive people’s children tend to give a good response in the sence of feeling responsability as a result of the different attitude of their caretakers.
    next i disagree strongly to the xenophobiac reasonings that it would have any merrit to try to keep poor and underdeveloped areas marginal, or that it would actually have any impact on statistics of consumption to apply such measure. it is actually one more of the colonialist excuses, but that besides the advances in clean technology and information (like eg birthcontrol) will allways be better served with exchanges. so in fact the opposite is true, and to have a better chance for survival as a species we should set out to share technology. (of wich living space is an example also). next the realist perspective is that they will develop, and that your ‘race’ of whatever subspecies you do think is served by applying limitations to people who can’t reach you , might develop, the mechanisms that will help us survive the collision of rich and poor, wich is bound to outline more of our recent history then it yet did.

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  38. Just my two [s]cents[/s] dollars.

    The heritability of intelligence isn’t the only factor at work here. Cultural transmission is also “heritable” in the sense that parent to child transmission of values is a strong factor in what the child will believe in. Therefore, utter morons like Captain Patriot (nice nickname there, illustrates the in-group/outgroup thing so well) will outcompete you in the process of transmitting their sheer idiocy to the next generation.

    I’d also like to point out that current opinion in neurobiology does not support the kind of determinism argued for by darwinsdog. The “solid rock of biology”? On what grounds do you argue this? The “solid rock of biology” gave us a brain capable of making projections and modeling the world we live in. The same brain that is capable of designing interventions against eventualities. Also the same brain that is plastic enough to acquire cultural meanings from others of the same species. Dr. Rundkvist’s post outlined an intervention he chose for the reasons he gave. The fact that I essentially disagree with the projected outcome does not remove the fact that planning ahead rationally is possible.

    I support efforts to empower women, because firstly, it’s consistent with my moral viewpoint, and secondly with regard to this post, it is effective in addressing a broad range of social ills affecting third-world countries. That’s an example of rationally designed intervention.

    It’s a fallacy to say, “That’s always been the case, why haven’t we solved it yet?” We plan interventions in our daily lives and in the broader scheme of things according to what we know (and what we believe in, not to discount the role of ideology in coloring evidence). Our tools for projecting, monitoring and assessing the success and methodology of intervention have never been better now than at any point in human history. We have tools never dreamed about by people fifty years ago, a mere blip in human history. Read any science fiction book written 30-40 years ago. The difference between what they imagined and what we have is stark.

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