Why Birth Control is as Important as a Climate Treaty or Food Aid

Wikipedia/Public Domain
UN World Population Projections

A quarter of the world's children are undernourished, resulting in stunted growth and reduced intelligence, reports a new study out by Save The Children.

Certainly, this report would make it seem a poor time to reduce access to birth control, as a small number of US religious and political leaders suggest is desireable. The motive for those typically male leaders has to be that increased human numbers would prospectively support their personal power: a characteristic found everywhere, not just in Republican circles. Given the chance, however, as was the case under previous US Republican Administrations, such restrictions would be expanded to have global impact.

What this just-reported vast and growing level of childhood misery establishes is beyond matters of faith, however. Promoting economic development is not going to help fast enough to save children from undernourished existences...maybe not at all.

Debunking the Myth of Demographic Transition

There is simply not enough to go around. Some places, resources are scarce and technology isn't multiplying the loaves and fishes. With epic droughts and flooding doing most of the propagating -- climate change posing the specter of even more food scarcity -- the biological imperative of humans is to produce more, not less, offspring. And so, less developed nations may potentially experience an inverse demographic transition, and more undernourished children. WIkipedia provides some background on this phenomena.

Non-applicability of demographic transition model [DTM] to less-developed countries


DTM has a questionable applicability to less economically developed countries (LEDCs), where wealth and information access are limited. For example, the DTM has been validated primarily in Europe, Japan and North America where demographic data exists over centuries, whereas high quality demographic data for most LDCs did not become widely available until the mid-20th century. DTM does not account for recent phenomena such as AIDS; in these areas HIV has become the leading source of mortality. Some trends in waterborne bacterial infant mortality are also disturbing in countries like Malawi, Sudan and Nigeria; for example, progress in the DTM clearly arrested and reversed between 1975 and 2005.

As reported in The Independent, conditions are bad and going to worse in poor nations most vulnerable to climate change.

...a third of parents surveyed said their children routinely complain they do not have enough to eat. One in six parents can never afford to buy meat, milk or vegetables. It suggests that six out of 10 children in Afghanistan are not getting enough nutrients to avoid stunted growth.

"If no concerted action is taken," warns Justin Forsyth, the charity's chief executive, "half a billion children will be physically and mentally stunted over the next 15 years".

Over the past five years the price of food has soared across the globe, thanks to extreme weather conditions, diverting farmland to grow biofuels, speculative trading of food commodities and the global financial crisis. The poor, who spend the bulk of their income on food, are hit hardest.

Sending food now won't reverse developmental damage in children who passed though early years without enough nutrition. More humans simply expands the devastation.Climate change could, in some regions, accelerate the hazards of undernourishment by orders of magnitude. Those who can walk and sail away from the misery will migrate to places where they think life might be better. The rest will not.

Forget Wildlife Conservation

If your kid is hungry, you'll welcome factory-farm produced, genetically modified corn or wheat. You'll eat the south end of a skunk headed north. And, you won't give a damn if the skunk is endangered or not.

All Politics are Local, But Some Have Global Impacts

I think it was back in the 1980's that Sierra Club was torn apart in philosophical struggles over population growth and immigration: the ultimate threat to natural areas. More of this is coming to the environmental movement.

As I reflect on the meta-story -- millions of undernourished children and more frequent weather extremes coming -- the efforts of those who would 'de-fund' non-profits that offer family planning seem increasingly self-defeating. You just know with these people, if given the power of office, that the next step is to threaten withdrawal of all US foreign aid from nations that have family planning. They've done it before.

Consider the big picture and remember to help get out the vote this fall. Put down that iPhone and do the smart thing: knock on doors.

Tags: Developing Nations | Population Growth