I've started reading the newspaper again in the mornings. This remarkable innovation is mostly due to the i, a paper I came across in a restaurant and is readable, cheap, and short. I still love my grauniad, but I never get through it and I wouldn't buy it for the journey to or from work.

One thing about reading the paper most days is a beautiful (if, possibly, illusory) feeling of 'being informed'. I feel... In the loop. You see stories develop over time. You get behind the headlines. You have things to think and talk about that aren't just off your favourite websites.

Friday's issue was very upsetting for two reasons. What struck me first was the story of the Chinese woman whose 7 month old foetus was aborted by the authorities for being an illegal second child. More specifically, the story was about how a photo of her abortion had been circulating china and causing a stir. The authorities stance is that the abortion shouldn't have taken place since they have a 6 month limit; hence this story shouldn't be used to criticise china as a whole, but rather the individual officials who broke the law by ordering and carrying it out (although I'm sure the staff involved must have been under duress too).

It's a horrific image to conjure up, as the abortion debate never really calls into question terminations *that* late. The quibbles about how many weeks is acceptable, or the right of women to control their own bodies at all, never needs to consider events that far down the line.

In other news, a senator was silenced for saying 'vagina' during a debate on abortion, although none of the debate around that talks about how she actually said 'my vagina' which is an entirely different thing to ask someone to picture.

anyway, back to the original point of the Chinese story, and the root cause is their one-child-per-family rule. In the same issue was a story about over-population, and how some parts of the world will even see their populations triple in the coming decades. This, while we're trying to make our resources for the current 7 billion something approaching sustainable. Even if we achieve it now, how on earth will we maintain it when that population increases further?

Over-population really has been the elephant in the room around the environmental debate, but I think it's finally going overground. The thing about it is, there will always be an upwards pressure on population, no matter what our supply of resources is. So I suggest: we do not consider trying to think about supporting any more people, or even the current population.
No matter where we set the bar, as long as people are over-fertile, and over-consuming, then there will be 'over-population'. That's how we define it. Even If we found ways of sustainably meeting the needs of the current population, by next year it would no longer suffice.

Because there will always be this upwards pressure, setting the global population limits, like food production or amount of habitable space, low will actually reduce the number of deaths, simply by the fact that the numbers can't go so high.

What I'm saying sounds barbaric, but for two points: firstly, doing this would actually mean overall less deaths than allowing the population to grow really huge and then crash; secondly, yes it does sound barbaric, but the only alternative is to modify people's behaviour so that we remove that upward pressure. Which brings us back to china, and a one-child-per-couple rule, where parents who can't pay the fine are forced into abortions.

I'm not saying any of this is morally right, just logically right. What do you think?


martin said...

"parents who can't pay the fine are forced into abortions"

surely if it's a logical decision then there shouldn't be fines, it should all be abortions.

laurence said...

yeah it is and yeah it isn't. can't remember the good arguments now though.

how about only allowing someone to reproduce if they're vegetarian, don't drive a car, and have a low enough net worth? and once you have a child you're banned from flying.

you don't even have to worry about enforced abortion if eating meat makes you sterile :]

um. it's all getting a bit totalitarian, isn't it?