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World Population Day - what helps keep populations sustainable?


The Emperor Julian codified the land-tenure laws which Napoleon later consolidated. The substitution of the Napoleonic code for the British inheritance system could help overpopulation and poverty.

July 11 was World Population Day, marking the day in 1987 when the world’s population passed five billion. This year’s theme in the UN is ‘Fight Poverty: Educate Girls.’

Here are some things that the UN does not talk about and which Bill Gates probably doesn't realise.

The third world countries that have natural increase problems began by their steady-state communities being disorganised through massive immigration - then called colonisation, now called industrialisation. The problems began with loss of land-tenure as entire peoples were disorganised and disoriented by having their traditional land removed from their control. Africa and India, for instance, had many stable populations for centuries, as testified by their high biodiversity and healthy natural systems at time of colonisation. The degradation of their natural systems has accompanied the destabilising of their human social organisation and overpopulation.

It was not until the 18th and 19th Century, with the imposition of the English political systems that these populations blew out. Polynesia, micronesia and Australia, colonised later, are succumbing later to the same failure of practical democracy.

The people of the original steady state societies lost their land to the colonisers and were encouraged to become wage-earners instead of self-sufficient. The new economy was initially agricultural and then manufacturing. Large landless families benefited both agriculturalists and manufacturers. Those without land were totally dependent on wages for their labour to survive and could not opt out of the labour market. Thus, people who for thousands of years had been self-sufficient and free, became servants.

Like the Americas and Canada, Australia is still being 'colonised'. The landless people who were forced to come here or who came voluntarily and displaced the aboriginal population are now losing their own access to land here, just like the Aboriginals. At the same time women here are being conned into having more children. It is becoming harder to get a decent education as well.

There is every reason to anticipate that this difficulty will increase.

The Importance of Child Labour Laws in preventing overpopulation:

Once the rot has set in, next thing to go are effective child labour laws. This is because if there is no ban enforced on children labouring, then large families are preferred to educated wives. Once children are a major source of income, mass-education withers away.

Child Labour Laws as a variable in fertility rates[i]

Here are some explanations for changes in human fertility since the beginning of agriculture.

In countries where effective labour laws prohibit the employment of children, those children become costly rather than income-beneficial.[ii] In those countries where working for wages is the main option for survival for many but where child labour is prohibited, then people who rely mainly or uniquely on wages will have fewer children.

Similarly, a woman who has education will be more valuable as an income-earner than as a child-producing wife in a society that prohibits child-labour. Where women earn less than men for doing the same job, in a society which needs skilled workers and prohibits child-labour, then this will be a disincentive for taking such women out of the workforce to have children. It will also be an obstacle to marriage because men's capacity to find work will be undermined by the cheaper but still skilled labour of women. In societies where monogamous marriage is the model for raising children, there are implications for marriage frequency. With children a high cost, only men with high incomes will be able to afford to take a wife out of the workforce to nurture children.

Inheritance Laws as a variable in average wealth differentials

In countries where men can own and inherit land, but women cannot, (England from the 12th century until the 1920s) then lack of land is an incentive for women to marry for material survival, but women who can own land and earn a salary may experience their ability to earn as a disincentive to marriage due to the status and power of running their own lives.

A disincentive also operates in countries where, in divorce, either partner may acquire rights to the assets that the other brought to the marriage.

Some countries have facilitated the ability of women to work, raise and educate children outside marriage -- e.g. France. To this should be added the fact that French women also benefit from equal inheritance rights to men.

Although French women only recently (in the 1970s) regained the right to manage their affairs, this right, coupled with the government's duty to house, educate and assure an income to its citizens, enhances women's security and independence.

France also, through its inheritance system, makes French women more likely to inherit wealth than British women and many British men, who had almost no land inheritance rights until primogeniture was revoked in 1926.[iii] Even though all children may now inherit in societies based on British law, because there is no legal requirement that they inherit, there is still a profound tendency to disinherit children in those societies, through second marriages or due to their being the product of casual union, or based on ideology or a whim. (I often think of how the very rich Australian, Reg Ansett, disinherited his son, Bob, apparently excusing the inexcusable with an ideology that everyone should make their own way in the world, failing to take into account that different generations have very different prospects according to resource depletion and other changes.)

The legally enforceable inheritance rights of any French child, legitimate, illegitimate, issue of first or subsequent marriages is almost certainly a major factor in the lesser disparities between rich and poor in France and those other countries in Europe which benefited from the Napoleonic Code (a Roman law based system). It is noteworthy that Pacific Islands which have inherited the French system do not have the same rates of overpopulation, homelessness and economic poverty as the ones that were colonised with the English system. (Neither do those in Japanese waters, with the exception of those which passed into US ownership after the Second World War. The Japanese inheritance system also preserves land in families.)

Unfortunately the French situation of equity will be affected by changes to the Napoleonic Code introduced by President Sarkozi in 2008. Now it becomes possible for a spouse to make a serious claim on part of a deceased's estate where that estate previously went entirely to blood relatives.

The recent ability of technological societies to prove paternity is a new factor that could be exploited to access additional income for children whose mothers might otherwise be their sole providers. This could act to increase the fertility rate, but men might become more careful about impregnating women under these new circumstances.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
[i] Excerpt from my book in progress below on this subject.
[ii] Doepke, M., Growth and Fertility in the Long Run, Mimeo, University of Chicago, 2000, available in reduced form in Doepke, M. "Accounting for Fertility Decline During the Transition to Growth", Journal of Economic Growth, 9(3), 347-383, September 2004. The speed of the fertility transition depends on policies that affect the opportunity cost of education, namely education subsidies and child-labor restrictions. Doepke considered the case of two countries that started to grow at roughly the same time, but which had experienced very different government policies: (South) Korea and Brazil. Korea had a strong public education system, and child-labor restrictions were strictly enforced, while Brazil had an ineffective public education system, with little systematic enforcement of child labour restrictions. Doepke found, as his model predicted, that the fertility decline associated with development proceeded much faster in Korea than in Brazil.

[iii] The rule of primogeniture in England was not changed until the Administration of Estates Act of 1926.

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Comments

Tony Boys's picture

Hi Sheila,

I'm quite surprised that no one has added a comment here since this really seems to be one of THE central issues of what is happening in the world today. I think you are about 95% right, so this is not an "aggressive" comment - I just want to check that I understand what you have said in the way you meant to say it. You say:

The problems began with loss of land-tenure as entire peoples were disorganised and disoriented by having their traditional land removed from their control. Africa and India, for instance, had many stable populations for centuries, as testified by their high biodiversity and healthy natural systems at time of colonisation.

The first sentence I agree with. The second sentence needs a lot more explanation, clarification and verification. Are you saying that 'these societies had stable populations because they had reached the limit of their carrying capacity for the food producing technology available to the people there at that time, thus maintaining the population at a stable maximum for the given endowments/technology, but somehow not degrading the environment so as to cause a population crash'? There are examples of this: Japan in the Edo Period (1603-1868) had a more or less stable population (30-33 million) but regular famines due to poor harvests. Some (Polynesian?) island cultures are/were like this, or were somehow able to hold their population to within carrying capacity through some forms of contraception, infanticide, outmigration or premature death of older people (ubasute in Japan). Other island cultures (Easter Island) did not do this and degraded their environment until their populations crashed. There are plenty of examples of this too; the population of ancient Egypt went up and down like a yo-yo, apparently. The early civilisations of the Middle East crashed when they deforested their lands and overworked their soils or ruined the fields through salt damage caused by irrigation.

OR are you saying something different: "These societies, because of their land-tenure systems, had stable populations AND lived well within their carrying capacities"? If so we need to know a lot more about these societies, and I hope you are going to do this for us in your upcoming book. This will be interesting, and in a sense earth-shattering (if true). The 'establishment' still wants everyone to believe that food production increases through ever more sophisticated technology are necessary to 'keep up with the rising population.' I think you have done a lot to demolish this myth and to show the economic and political forces that are still trying to push it. I have 'assumed' for a long time that, contrary to the 'establishment' notions, population increase was driven by food availability - the more food available, the more the population will rise. Thus the stupidity of calling for food production increases. But you seem to be saying that this is too simplistic, and that there have historically been many cultures over large areas of the world (India and Africa) for which this has not been so. Although there are bound to be many cultural differences, how, basically, did these societies suppress their fertility? Were they just 'clever' because they knew roughly what their carrying capacity was and consciously decided to stay well within it (by having fewer offspring than they were capable of) because life was sure to be more comfortable that way? Or was there some other mechanism(s) working to keep the population in check at some optimum level well below the carrying capacity?

Or is it possible (as in the areas of N Thailand, N Burma and N Laos up until at least the second half of the 19th century) that populations in these areas simply had not reached their limits for the carrying capacity of the land? We 'know' this is true for the 'Golden Triangle' region because it was still possible to carry out semi-nomadic (periodic relocation of villages) swidden (slash and burn) cultivation up to that time. The population does seem to have been increasing, though. The land horizon (the ability to relocate villages or establish sister villages) seems to have disappeared by about the 1930s, but this is at least partly (largely?) due to pressure from lowland populations seeking new farmland in relatively mountainous areas.

Hope you have time to reply, even if briefly, to the above and look forward to your answer, and in the (near?) future to reading your book.

Best wishes,

Tony

Just briefly reading this website I notice a heavy emphasis on "Sustainable Population" etc. I have a particually strong interest in this topic and would like to take this oppourtunity to share them with you and perhaps the wider community in the future.

Through maturing views I have established that the priorities in summary for Victoria should be a continuing strong but realistic growth for Victoria's population as a whole but for this population growth to instead be centered on the regional cities which at present are far in disparity in size to Melbourne as I am sure you well know. Government stimulus packages rather than furthering growth in a city that could easily sustain itself (but chooses to neglect in this regard) should be to instead spread this proven growth strategy (albeit more disciplined) to the regional cities who in turn could act as great service centres to their sorrounding regions, a role Melbourne cannot serve for the obvious distance reasons.

Having briefly read the history of Victoria and how it has developed over the past couple of centuries there seems to of just being a lazy and simplistic (what seems to define Australian political policy) attitude and this has resulted in taking for granted that a strong Melbourne means a strong state. Also the "lazy and simplistic" attitude has resulted in us only adopting effecient production strategies when its conveniant and necessary rather than fulfilling any realistic or emotional ambition to make Victoria a state to be proud of and for this to in turn assist Australia's development into a strong and independant country. Sporting prowess is entirely seperate and cannot count towards this. If I believed that Australia was in such a position that it was doing the best it could with what it had then I may well not be making this reply or even have much of a care for this matter, but there appears to be a desire from both sides of the fence for the under-disciplined and naive per capita consumption to continue. In this theory someone else must always be compromised so the individual can have more than their fair share.

The two sides of this debate seem to be either see Victoria continue revolving around Melbourne and letting the rest of the state fend for itself or halt any growth altogether and see us become a smaller, inferior and more sub-ordinate part of the world order rather than helping Australia make any majorly influential and/or take any positive part in such a thing.

If Australia were a person it would be a naive spoilted brat that has little to no ambition for itself and instead wants to rely on the virtues of others as a substitute for belief in itself.

To "halt any growth altogether and see us become a smaller, inferior and more sub-ordinate part of the world order rather than helping Australia make any majorly influential ..". You obviously believe in the "growth is good" and "bigger is better" mentality! Why should halting growth mean "inferior" or "sub-ordinate"? We could never support the population of India, Japan or China, and compete with their massive economic and industrial powers. It simply isn't sustainable. Close-knit regional communities are struggling with lack of water and drought conditions. Why would they be willing to share their limited resources any further? It might just turn out that the countries that are self-sufficient and with stable populations are the smart ones more likely to survive the erratic weather, species losses and the financial/humanitarian costs etc that will come with climate change.

This is a response to Tony Boys' post of July 26th on "Stable and sustainable populations"

Hi Tony,
(Readers interested in the background to this exchange should read Tony's articles on Japan and Korea in Sheila Newman, The Final Energy Crisis, Pluto Press, UK, 2008. Please let us know where we can also read that book on the Karen that your friend Ferguson wrote, Tony.)

Good to hear from you. I note that there are many visitors still to your articles on Japan. Let us have some more please!

Response to your questions:
Indeed, there is a difference between:

'these societies had stable populations because they had reached the limit of their carrying capacity for the food producing technology available to the people there at that time, thus maintaining the population at a stable maximum for the given endowments/technology, but somehow not degrading the environment so as to cause a population crash'

and

'These societies, because of their land-tenure systems, had stable populations AND lived well within their carrying capacities'.

The first could mean survival on the edge of limits, with degradation always a possibility in times of environmental change, for instance. The second could mean survival at optimum levels for all species concerned.

I think that the extreme richness of biodiversity, including massive energy intensive herbivores like elephants, rhinos, hippos as well as a remarkably wide range of carnivorous cats and bears, plus a huge variety of different human societies, in environments maintaining very rich soils over many centuries (India particularly) is incontrovertibly an indication that these societies, because of their land-tenure systems, had stable populations AND lived will within their carrying capacities.

There can be no doubt that India is an extremely rich country in terms of soil endowment and water. I think that Africa's endowment was more varied, with many more deserts, but still extremely rich in many places – and, of course, Africa is much bigger than India.

These qualities of soil and water richness are reflected in the traditional population carrying capacities of India and Africa, both quite high. Modern agriculture and reorganisation from the 18th Century caused population blow-outs and broke features of the natural systems and the carrying capacity of these lands is being affected downwards. For a time this was patchily masked by industrial agriculture and imports paid for through loans, but the draw-down on wells and the destruction of forests for firewood and building materials and to clear for new fields, shows that those apparent gains were transitory. When oil runs down and the prospect of an international growth economy fails, the carrying capacity of India and Africa will not return to what it was before the advent of the industrial revolution.

[Tony Boys wrote:]

"If so we need to know a lot more about these societies, and I hope you are going to do this for us in your upcoming book."

Yes, I started with neolithic times and Pacific Islander societies, then looked at the Roman and then the Germanic land-tenure and inheritance systems. At the moment I am doing a detailed examination of the French Revolution in comparison with the British revolution and restoration and changes to laws. I believe that I have identified some elements of land-tenure and inheritance which allow some societies more control over numbers and consumption than others and also favour democracy.

"This will be interesting, and in a sense earth-shattering (if true)."

The information was well-known to anthropologists before the 1970s. But it was suppressed. Every so often someone discovers it and writes about it, but the matter does not get a wide reception. I may publish my book but the chances are that only a few will read it and the people who currently run economies and populations from a distance will not be motivated to allow us all to relocalise and regain control. For instance, in Australia, the current system needs to break down and for people to build sustainable communities around it. The government needs to be treated as an irrelevance, but that will require people to start talking to each other and having a look outside instead of reading the papers and watching American sit-coms. Widespread unemployment will probably do the trick. That will remove the government's tax base and give people more time. Hopefully they will quickly learn to share what is available. As people move back with their relatives in tough times, organic patterns of social organisation, from family up through clan, may naturally reassert, no matter what governments and vestigial big business may do. Sooner rather than later, I hope because the bigger the population the smaller the scope for survival.

"The 'establishment' still wants everyone to believe that food production increases through ever more sophisticated technology are necessary to 'keep up with the rising population.'"

That's right. There is a lot of money tied up in perpetuating the mass production system and constantly increasing product. If people relocalised their politics and production they would also quickly adapt their populations to the local visible realities which are so much easier to identify for you and me on the ground than the total carrying capacity of a continent or a planet. They would not need the global economy.

Constantly increasing crop production for profit needs to perpetuate the problem of run-away population growth to justify itself. So we are constantly lied to about the inevitabilty of growth.

"I think you have done a lot to demolish this myth and to show the economic and political forces that are still trying to push it. I have 'assumed' for a long time that, contrary to the 'establishment' notions, population increase was driven by food availability - the more food available, the more the population will rise. Thus the stupidity of calling for food production increases."

It is actually very interesting. Population numbers (of mice and humans) probably ultimately respond to food availability, but not to the point where they uses up every available calory. The setting point is somewhat below total uptake of resources available over a relatively extended period in a given area. It is not true to assert that in the past and in other species, everyone is living on the edge of survival. That is really naive and ill-supported. It relies on the ahistorical normalisation of colonial and ex-colonial population overshoots. A problem arises where a population is misinformed of what is available in a situation where they do not have the means to work out the situation for themselves.

Australia is a case in point. A farmer can look at the dam level falling and the grass wearing down in his dry paddocks and immediately know that he should not increase his flock. The flock also realise this. The signs are obvious. But how does the population in North Melbourne know if they are close or far away from starvation? They get their information from the newspaper and the television. They assume that they will be told if the situation warrants alarm. They are told by people promoted as 'authorities' - church, politicians, Bernard Salt, the Pope, the Property Council of Australia, etc - that Australia needs a much bigger population, that we are rich and selfish. How would they work out that this is not true? No-one is visibly starving in their street and the media and government always have always other explanations than a stretched economy for the increasing number of homeless, buskers and thieves. There is one thing that will, however, indicate to the people of North Melbourne that supply is getting dangerously low, and that is increasing costs for necessities like water and food. A declining standard of living will reduce their reproduction.

The Growth lobby has a way of overcoming these signals though. The public can be strung along for a while with the illusion that borrowing money will take care of these rising costs and that the water crisis will be overcome with investment, technology and higher charges to make us less selfish.

And as marginalised people begin to suffer visibly, the public will be told that this is because they are lazy or have brought it upon themselves in some way.

There is no way that the growth lobby could con people to this extent if they could verify what was happening locally with their own eyes and by comparing their perceptions with other local people. Manipulation of populations requires disorientation, a complex system, and propaganda from distant sources sources of 'authority' - the high priests in banking, talk circuits, media and government etc, talking the garbage-jargon of the religion of global economics.

There is another way to stimulate population growth in a country where people are instinctively limiting it, and that is via high immigration, preferably from countries with denser populations with lesser incomes than the receiving country. The immigrant is even more disoriented and dependent on the manufactured reality of the growth merchants. They may be told, for instance, that Australians are too lazy to work, so there is plenty of work here. If Australians are unemployed it is their fault that they don't want to 'work hard'. Likewise, they may hear that Australians don't have large families because they are selfish, so the immigrant may easily be made to believe that it is quite okay to go ahead and have large families in this country. And the immigrant may hear that the water shortage will be taken care of by technology and higher prices. Well that's okay, isn't it, since there are lots of well-paid jobs etc etc. And, oh yes, they may be told that Australians are racists, so don't pay attention if they tell you that the population is growing too fast and they don't want immigrants. Australia needs immigrants and a much bigger population! So that's okay, don't listen to the locals; the government doesn't.

"But you seem to be saying that this is too simplistic, and that there have historically been many cultures over large areas of the world (India and Africa) for which this has not been so. Although there are bound to be many cultural differences, how, basically, did these societies suppress their fertility?"

I think it was a random evolutionary option. The societies that preserved certain patterns of land-tenure survived and the ones that used other patterns did not survive. Those patterns, to do with restrictions on marriage (meaning mating with view to procreating) and procreation with near relatives, seem to be present in most or all animals. Once upon a time you had to walk a very long way to find someone who either wasn't already married and wasn't closely related to you. The opportunities for marriage/having legitimate children were low. And no-one would marry you and have your children if you couldn't show that you had land to support children, because without land they would not survive. So people without land did not get married and did not have children.

At times, events, particularly climate events causing seas to rise, probably pushed distant populations together, bringing more opportunities for meeting non-relatives. Technologies evolved from necessity to serve denser populations, but people still could see the limits to the carrying capacity in their local area. Sometimes one people invaded and subjugated another and made them work as slaves and servants, with the ruling caste living a high quality of life and the lower castes living in very reduced circumstances. The ruling castes learned to preserve and aggregate land among themselves by intermarrying, but their rate of reproduction was slow due to their social organisation which ruled out marriage with anyone outside their own caste and kept their population small and sparse therefore few opportunities for marriage. (Think of how long it takes a member of a royal family to find a spouse because of the limited number of suitable royals in the world. )

Marriage or 'fertility opportunity' for the lower castes, however, could go two ways. In France, for instance, prior to the Revolution, the lower castes - the serfs - were often not allowed to marry anyone outside the manor lands they were born to. Incest avoidance and the Westermarck Effect (which makes us sexually unattractive to people we are brought up with in infancy) meant that these serfs in France had a low marriage and birth rate. In Britain, however, the serfs were dispossessed early and turned into land-less labour. These landless laborers moved all around the country and had many opportunities to have children with other landless laborers whom they had not grown up with. Furthermore they were encouraged to do so by the fact that parishes and local governments paid more to a woman with children and the man who married that woman derived benefit from this. And child labour (Queen Elizabeth made laws that forced children as young as 7 years old to be sent to work on farms) meant that children brought in an income. The British were brutalised for centuries in this way.

"Were they just 'clever' because they knew roughly what their carrying capacity was and consciously decided to stay well within it (by having fewer offspring than they were capable of) because life was sure to be more comfortable that way? Or was there some other mechanism(s) working to keep the population in check at some optimum level well below the carrying capacity?"

Yes, the mechanism, as I said above, was incest avoidance and the Westermarck effect plus the fact that their familiarity with the territory and their reliance on a local economy meant that the limits to carrying capacity were obvious. Folktales and memory of old people of what their parents and grandparents had described would have given them knowledge of variations over time.

"Or is it possible (as in the areas of N Thailand, N Burma and N Laos up until at least the second half of the 19th century) that populations in these areas simply had not reached their limits for the carrying capacity of the land?"

I don't think that a population that has self government and local control over its economy and is not subjugated by an enslaving caste gets out of control. The only reason that it would is if it starts very small in conditions of isolation. Then, if the population does not override incest avoidance and the Westermarck Effect, it will die out. But if it does override these built in brakes on multiplication, it will theoretically multiply to infinite numbers. Another cause would be a sudden change for the better in the productivity of the environment, causing an influx of immigrants and more opportunities for marriage, followed by an exhaustion of the windfall resource, leaving a larger population suddenly overwhelming the available resources - as with discoveries of minerals or changes in sea-level increasing or decreasing land-supply.

"We 'know' this is true for the 'Golden Triangle' region because it was still possible to carry out semi-nomadic (periodic relocation of villages) swidden (slash and burn) cultivation up to that time. The population does seem to have been increasing, though. The land horizon (the ability to relocate villages or establish sister villages) seems to have disappeared by about the 1930s, but this is at least partly (largely?) due to pressure from lowland populations seeking new farmland in relatively mountainous areas."

Ah yes, but I have, of course, read your anthropological notes and we know that the land-tenure arrangements and inheritance conditions have changed. :-) Once the women controlled the land and married late. They were not obliged to find a husband to keep them and they had other roles besides the role of mother and wife to occupy them. I think that land was not bought and sold, so it remained in the hands of the same families. Money was not necessary, even though the Karen you describe had a complex society with beautiful art and clothing and their own writing - does my memory serve me in this last detail? It was the usual traditional thing of having to go a long way to find people not related to you to marry and you needed to have land in order to marry. Furthermore you would marry within the Karen culture, which had a limited number of members. You didn't consider the neighboring tribe that spoke a different language and wore strange rings around its neck, and it didn't consider the Karen suitable either, marrying within its own people. Oh, there was always a certain amount of immigration, but it required the consent of the receiving community which might be granted if for some reason there was a greater lack than usual of marriage opportunities within the tribe.

But, in the situation you are talking about, with the encroachment of the industrial economy of mass production, land speculation and travel for education and work brought more and more people in contact. People were pushed off their land by the military who claimed to be able to manage it more efficiently. The military were often preceded by the church, which had the job of softening up the traditions by giving people new expectations and making them unhappy with themselves and dissatisfied with their lifestyle. The rules about needing land before you married were relaxed. Married couples cohabited where perhaps they did not before, (this was a factor in the population explosion of Pacific Islanders after the missionaries interfered) and you only needed a wage to marry, and maybe a credit card. Phut! Along with the land and the old communities the social organisation was lost. And the knowledge of contraception.

The same thing happens to kangaroos and mice when they are disorganised.

"Hope you have time to reply, even if briefly, to the above and look forward to your answer, and in the (near?) future to reading your book."

Thanks. Obviously I've left a lot out - like all my sources. I have to publish first.

Hope you may answer by talking more about the Karen, maybe quoting that book about them and from your chapter on the Edo period of Japan and the Industrialisation of Japan, and also from your chapter on how the Koreans starved when the could no longer afford to purchase enough oil on the world market.

How are things with the Karen at the moment? Last time I heard from you things were going terribly badly. I have come to feel deeply for those people.

Best wishes,

Sheila Newman, population sociologist
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Tony Boys's picture

Hi Sheila,

Thank you very much for your long and interesting reply. I think you have many of the elements that could help to stabilize the global population. Unfortunately, the established elites are running hell-for-leather in the opposite direction. I may reply again at some point, but for the time being I need to take time to assimilate your comments and then see if we can develop this discussion in some way (also hoping that others will take part too).

As for my stuff on Japan and Korea, as well as the chapters in The Final Energy Crisis, Pluto Press, UK, 2008, please visit:

http://www9.ocn.ne.jp/~aslan/

for a menu of past papers and so on. For Japan, with food self-sufficiency at 40%, a sudden food/energy crisis would be a nightmare of horrific proportions. If world transportation of food breaks down, almost 100% of the Japanese people will 'be hungry' and 1/3 to 1/2 of the population will be in danger of starvation. The government seems to think that an average of 2020 kcal/cap/day can be provided domestically (that will keep you alive, but not 'happy'), but internal distribution is likely to be as bad as global distribution, so despite the people who tell me 'Japan isn't North Korea' I still think that what is happening in that country is a big warning sign for the Japanese. Personally, I think the conditions for avoiding this kind of disaster are the five I set out in my comment on "Surely these are the "inconvenient truths", livestock industries and population blow-out!" (#1408).

For material on the Karen, please visit:

http://tonbo80.spaces.live.com/

where you will find the novel by Francis Ferguson that you mention, a book translated from Thai (but written by a Karen) on Karen rotational swidden farming, as well as two photo albums to back these up.

The Karen in N Thailand are just about hanging on and their own efforts to keep their culture alive are growing. Things are not wonderful, but there is a little glimmer of optimism. The government is not, of course, about to allow them to return to traditional lifeways, which would include rehabilitation of their rotational swidden farming.

You mention writing. In fact they did not have an extensively used writing system until the US missionaries found them in eastern Burma and adopted the Burmese alphabet in order to translate the bible into Karen ('Skaw' Karen). Most Karens now use this writing system, but the Roman Catholics in N Thailand have a system that uses the Roman (English) alphabet. It is actually quite good and they published a very useful dictionary two years ago.

Best wishes,

Tony

I read an interesting article in the UK Guardian newspaper yesterday (29 July, p15) about the Death of the southern hemisphere and how the Pacific region may become the extinction hotspot of the world. A report just published in the journal Conservation Biology highlights six causes driving species extinction - almost all linked to human activity and a burgeoning human population in the region. It says the population of Australia will likely rise by 30% by 2050 (I though the projection was 100% from 23m to 46m?). New Zealand's pop would rise by 25%, while New Guinea faces a 76% increase and New Caledonia 49%. Just think of all the pressure of many more islanders wanting to move to Australia and NZ. The report says the populations of many Pacific Islands have now outstripped their capacity to deal with waste. Richard Saunders, an environmental scientist at the University of New South Wales in Sydney is the lead author of the report.

I hope it is making a strong splash in Australian and NZ media?
Regards,
Brian (MCGavin)

Thanks Gavin for providing this predictive finding and for importantly bringing us awareness of the authors of the 'Conservation Biology' journal.

The SCB, which I have just learnt is:

Society for Conservation Biology
1017 O Street NW
Washington, DC 20001-4229 US
voice: 1-202-234-4133
fax: 703-995-4633
information@conbio.org

However, in order to access your reference article, the SCB website requires up front membership and annual membership costs $125. The SCB's report that population rises in the Pacific are set to rise substantially prompts one to ask..WHY? It sounds quite feasible that six causes driving species extinction would be linked to human activity and a burgeoning human population in the region. But it would be helpful to obtain more details on this finding.

Meanwhile, I found out at http://www.conbio.org/ that,
"The Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) is an international (US)professional organization dedicated to promoting the scientific study of the phenomena that affect the maintenance, loss, and restoration of biological diversity. The Society's membership comprises a wide range of people interested in the conservation and study of biological diversity: resource managers, educators, government and private conservation workers, and students make up the more than 10,000 members world-wide

What is the mission of the Society?
"To advance the science and practice of conserving the Earth's biological diversity."

What is the SCB Vision?
"Our vision for the future takes a global perspective both in how we want the world to be and how we, as a Society want to be." In these visions we see:

* A world where people understand, value, and conserve the diversity of life on Earth.
* SCB as an effective, internationally respected organization of conservation professionals that is the leading voice for the study and conservation of the Earth's biodiversity."