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Deconstructing The Dangerous Dogma Of Denial: The Feminist-Environmental Justice Movement And Their Flight From Overpopulation

It has become an unwritten rule of political correctness that in order to criticize people or their ideology one must share a biological characteristic of the people being criticized. The inherent racism or sexism of this assumption is lost on those who insist upon it. Nevertheless the rule, in all of its absurdity, persists. Good arguments are routinely dismissed not on their merits, but by the fact that they are waged by someone thought to be racially or sexually disqualified to comment on the issue. This cannot apply here, for Madeline Weld, President of the Population Institute of Canada, is a woman, and she reproaches the fem-left for its collusion in the crippling of the Program of Action as set out by the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo 16 years ago. Ms. Weld asserts that the feminist wing of the so-called "Environmental Justice" movement be held to account for their part in scuttling effective population stabilization programs in developing countries. Take this Betsy Hartmann!

Population growth, development, and stability: Egypt as an example

Reports on the upheaval spreading like wildfire across the Arab world overlook a crucial factor underlying the collapse of the old order: overpopulation. Given the pivotal role that Cairo has played in unleashing the current rage, it is perhaps ironic that, 16 years ago, it hosted a conference convened precisely to address that issue. In September of 1994, Cairo hosted the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) under the auspices of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) with great fanfare and even greater expectations.

Let's consider the situation in Egypt from a population perspective. In 1994, Egypt had 60 million people, now it has 85 million—a 42% increase in 16 years. The UNFPA projects 130 million by 2050. Rapid growth is fuelled by the youth of the population: one-third under 14 years of age, 20% between 15 and 29 years old, and only 5% over 65.

That Egypt can't cope with this growth is reflected in its staggering unemployment rate (83% for those between 15 and 29), its inability to educate its people (the over-15 illiteracy rate is 25% for men and 42% for women), its inability to provide adequately for its people (40% at or below the poverty level) and its inability to feed itself (it imports about half of its staples). The 3% of its surface area consisting of arable land (nearly all around the Nile Valley) is being encroached upon by development. The Nile River that irrigates the fertile land no longer reaches the Mediterranean Sea, thanks to overuse by Egyptians and their southern neighbours. The building of the Aswan Dam—to provide energy for a growing population—has reduced the silting and therefore the fertility of the Nile floodplain.

Egypt's population growth is destroying its ability to feed itself. In 1960, Egypt had 26 million people and was self-sufficient in almost all basic food commodities. In recent decades, it has depended on revenues from oil exports to import about half of the staple foods it needs. Now, with its oil reserves running dry (if you haven't yet heard about "peak oil", google it right after reading this article) and its growing population needing more oil for its own uses, Egypt is about to become an oil importer. But the oil exports paid for food subsidies which many Egyptians depended on, and the threat to discontinue the subsidies due to dropping oil revenues no doubt contributed to the unrest that eventually toppled the government. The fact that these biophysical realities are ignored in most reports about developments in Egypt does not diminish their importance or their consequences.

Some variant of the above applies to any number of countries where population growth looms large. It is why some countries can't pull themselves out of poverty and some are endlessly in conflict—and more often than not those two conditions overlap. Growth rates in the "least developed countries" or LCDs have fallen since 1994, but not spectacularly, from 2.7% annually to 2.3% (which means their doubling times are now 30 years instead of 26). That the Cairo conference had so little impact on population growth isn't because it couldn't see what was coming. The Programme of Action, the document that arose from the Cairo conference, was clear on the potential for trouble ahead. It specifically recognized that the large proportion of young people in many developing countries would result in extremely rapid growth at current fertility rates, and that this growth would cause enormous social and environmental problems that their governments were very poorly equipped to handle. And that is exactly what is happening right now—not just in those countries whose turmoil is currently dominating headlines. The impact of the population factor is not negated by the existence of corrupt and despotic governments, bad governance, unfavourable trade conditions, or anything else.

The International Conference on Population and Development: stymied by ideology

Why did the Cairo conference fall so short of the mark? Therein— precisely—lies the problem. There was really no mark because the Cairo conference fled from numbers. It focussed on the rights of women, the poor, and the disempowered. As it happens, the poorest, most disempowered women are often found in the countries with the most rapid population growth. But the Programme of Action offered no guidelines for governments or international organizations such as the World Health Organization to implement ethical, practical programs for slowing population growth and bringing population levels in line with the resource base available to support them. Instead, it stated that “All couples and individuals have the basic right to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children and to have the information, education, and means to do so.”

If the Programme of Action recognized that rapid population growth was taking many countries down a dangerous road at great speed, why did it refuse to actively promote the use of brakes? The usual suspect is the Vatican, whose "observer status" at the United Nations allowed it to participate at the Cairo conference where it did everything it could to put roadblocks to providing poor women with access to contraceptives and abortion. It sought alliances with Muslim countries over concerns about statements on topics like abortion, homosexuality, and sex outside of marriage. But the religious forces were the obvious and identified adversaries. They constituted a formidable but surmountable obstruction. The "P" in ICPD was essentially erased—thereby effectively sabotaging the conference—by those who purported to support its goals: the feminist and social/environmental justice alliance of the political left who constituted most of the NGOs (non-governmental organizations) participating at the conference.

The Cairo conference and its Programme of Action were stamped with the same taboo of the feminist and social justice left that has, for the last several decades, snuffed out any serious public discussion about population growth which had been so much a part of the early days of the environmental movement. This attitude in fact made them strange bedfellows of the Vatican and other religious interests at the Cairo conference. While not explicitly stated in the Programme of Action, it was implicitly understood that anything remotely resembling demographic targets was racist, anti-woman, anti-poor, and flirting with eugenics.

Putting the development cart before the population horse

With the "P" sidelined by ICPD's refusal to countenance population control, the emphasis for a path out of poverty fell on the "D." It was assumed that development would lead to a reduction in population growth. Poverty would be eradicated through "through sustained economic growth in the context of sustainable development" (implicitly assuming that the Earth would support this sustained economic growth along with the rapid population growth that was inevitably going to occur for some time). Population growth would be slowed through "education, especially for girls; gender equity and equality; infant, child, and maternal mortality reduction; universal access to reproductive health services, including family planning and sexual health."

The wishful thinking that the indirect effects of development alone can overcome the problems created by rampant population growth is based on a belief in a silver bullet known as the demographic transition. The idea is that parents have fewer children when they see that those they have are likely to survive and at the same time, with increasing rural to urban migration, they realize that children cost money rather than provide free labour. The trouble with the demographic transition theory is that it is treated like a law of physics when in fact it is only one of many possibilities. A major problem is the slowness at which it kicks in. The lag time between the child mortality rate falling and the desired family size also dropping can be very long indeed. In western and middle sub-Saharan Africa, the desired family size is still six children. In the countries of Chad and Niger, it is over 9. With no international consensus for governments to promote small families, "freely and responsibly" continued to be defined by cultural values, which remained strongly pronatalist in many countries. Consequently, many countries fall into the demographic trap on their unhurried path to the demographic transition: the large families beget poverty and impede development—negatively impacting the environment, food security, the government's ability to provide services, social stability, and the likelihood that these countries will ever actually achieve the demographic transition—at least not in the happy way envisioned by the Cairo conference.

Given the subordinate status of women in many developing countries, their lack of access to education, and the absence of cultural values that include family planning, one might have asked just how "freely and responsibly" they would actually be to plan the size of their families. Early marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), and honour killings, all effective tools in subjugating women, are still widely accepted cultural practices (despite both real efforts and lip service to abolish them). A significant part of a woman's "decision" (insofar as it even occurs to her that she has any say in the matter) may be based on what her husband or mother-in-law wants, or what the local mullah or priest has to say. Wealthier people are more likely to know about contraception and to have the means to access services. On average, the wealthiest women are four times more likely to use contraception than the poorest. In some countries, the rate is 12 times higher. Without education programs that let the poor know about contraception and its benefits, they are much less likely than the rich to want contraceptive services or use them if they are even available. And without the political will on the part of governments to make them available, the poor are often unable to access services.

That political will is sorely lacking in many countries and the international community. While 55% of all population assistance went to family planning in 1995, the proportion of current funding has plummeted to 5%. Over half of current funding goes to AIDS programs. The prevalence of contraceptives of what the UNFPA defines as the "least developed countries" or LCDs is only 28% and 22% for "any method" and "modern methods", respectively, 16 years after the Cairo conference.

The consequences of wishful thinking

Not surprisingly, population growth has remained rapid in many of the UNFPA-defined "less developed regions". As a result of population pressure, widespread environmental deterioration has occurred, through deforestation, erosion and salination of overused land, falling water tables, depletion of the water and fish stock in rivers, pollution, and loss of biodiversity. Rather than being subjected to government or international initiatives promoting small families, the poor in many countries are being subjected to the "coercion" of their deteriorating environment. And while population control programs can be quite benign (such as those in Thailand, Kerala in India, Bangladesh), environmental coercion is often very cruel. The environment is also totally impervious to political pressure from the right or the left, from religionists or Marxists. It is completely indifferent to ethics, human rights, public opinion, and the pronouncements of religious leaders.

The Fund for Peace has published a Failed State Index annually since 2005. The number of states with a score of 100 or more (out of a maximum 120) was 7 in 2005 and 15 in 2010. Rapid population growth is closely associated with a high ranking. For 2010, 15 of the top 20 failed states had population growth rates between 2 and 4% a year (which would result in doubling times of 17 to 35 years); in 14 of them, at least 40% of the population was under 15. Nineteen of the top 20 failing states (and forty other countries) depend on the UN World Food Programme for food. All of the top 20 failing states are depleting their natural assets (forests, soils, aquifers) to sustain their rapidly growing populations. Deteriorating infrastructure—roads, power, water, sewage systems—is another feature of failing states.

Unfortunately, as evidenced by the violence seen in many struggling countries (e.g., Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Somalia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, and many others), the concept of human rights tends to fall by the wayside when too many humans are fighting over the same dwindling resources. Failing states are highly likely to experience a breakdown in law and order and the loss of personal security, in which women often face extreme discrimination and brutalization. The viciousness of atrocities committed in states in a downward spiral are almost beyond our capacity to comprehend. Both the prevalence and brutality of rape, often committed with weapons or other implements, are staggering.No population control program in any country has ever come close to inflicting upon women the horrors that millions of them have experienced during the environmental and social collapse of some of the world’s most overpopulated and conflict-ridden regions.

Conflicts in failing states often spread to neighbouring countries, as when the genocide in Rwanda spread to the DRC, where at least five million people lost their lives. Nevertheless, as in the DRC, most of the deaths are often caused by the war's indirect effects, such as hunger and disease. Hunger and disease are likely to be significant agents of mortality in future conflicts over dwindling resources.

Who's the bad guy?

China used genuine coercion in addition to persuasion and education in its population control program and is often singled out for particular reprobation. But those who deplore China's policies should perhaps compare China with countries like Rwanda, the DRC, Somalia, and Haiti, all of which illustrate the coercion of environmental, political and social collapse. Would a China with 400 million more people—the number of births it estimates to have averted—be a better place? It could well be argued that the world owes China a thank you for the 18 million tons of carbon dioxide it averted each year by preventing those 400 million births. Every country that has taken deliberate measures to reduce its rate of population growth (China, Thailand, Bangladesh, Iran—now unfortunately reverting to pronatalism) is better off than if it had not done so).

The world's population is still increasing by almost 80 million each year, about 220,000 each day. Virtually all of the growth is happening in the developing world. Rapid growth in developed countries (such as Canada, the US, the UK, and Australia) is driven by immigration from developing countries. Many who call themselves green say that consumption, not population, is the problem. Understandably, poor people in developing countries want a higher standard of living. By definition, increased prosperity means more consumption, when those now underfed get more to eat, those now uneducated go to schools and universities, those now unemployed have jobs and consume more products, those now walking drive cars and need more roads. But such an increase in consumption by billions of people will have an enormous environmental impact.

Human beings have already appropriated to themselves all the land that is in any way suitable for agriculture. They have converted the habitat of other species to their own uses, depleted the oceans of much of their fish stocks, and introduced pollutants into every part of the Earth. Such has been our impact that scientists say we are causing the sixth great extinction. There is no greater favour we could do to ourselves, future generations, and all life on Earth, than reducing our numbers.

It is also by no means clear that we will be able to feed all the extra people. There is not likely to be another green revolution. That the green revolution was a one-time breathing space that would allow humans to slow the growth of their numbers was recognized by Norman Borlaug, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work on increasing crop yield. Borlaug said that the agencies that fight for increased food production and those that fight for population control must unite in a common cause. Unfortunately, the fight for population control was sidelined, and population growth ate up the gains of the green revolution.

Deadly ethics? Questions for Betsy Hartmann

The concern over human rights as implicitly interpreted in the Programme of Action of the Cairo conference raises several hard ethical questions. Do ethics operate in a vacuum or are we obligated to consider the consequences of our ethical choices? Does the right of a woman to have as many children as she chooses trump the right of her own and other people's descendants to have a liveable environment? Does it trump the right of the global community in general to live on a healthy planet? Do those of us now living have any obligations to husband resources for future generations? Does the human species have any ethical obligations to non-human life—to protect Earth's biodiversity? These questions, however, were never addressed in the Programme of Action—an irresponsible act of avoidance.

Those concerned with population growth have, over the past decades, offered many olive branches to the feminist and social/environmental justice left. But the latter have not changed their stance one iota. Perhaps uncharitably, I have concluded that their major concern is not for the dispossessed or the environment, but to retain the purity of their Marxist-oriented ideology. Whatever their intentions, the impact of the population taboo enforced by the social justice left is the same as that of the abortion politics used by the primarily religious right. They synergize to deprive poor women of access to birth control that is affordable and specifically suitable to their needs.

Dislodging the dogmatists

Many population activists are ready to take on the dogmatically based religious injunctions against family planning and abortion. But when it comes to the dogmatically based feminist and social justice arguments against population control, we often fail to challenge their faulty premises and misguided conclusions. We have allowed them to appropriate for themselves the moral high ground on this issue, which they have held not with reasoned arguments, but with unsubstantiated accusations of racism, sexism, colonialism, not wanting to share the wealth, and other ad hominem attacks. We have allowed ourselves to be intimidated by these bully tactics to the detriment of all living things—human beings and the biodiversity of Earth. It is time to drive the ideologues off the territory they are illegally occupying with a "fact-based revolution" —by simply presenting the facts, fearlessly and persistently.

At the Cairo conference in 1994, the world fled from numbers. But, as current events in Cairo and elsewhere are showing, we can't flee from the consequences of those numbers. The Marxist feminist/social justice ideology that denies the population factor and vilifies those who address it is as long-lived as some of the dictators in the Arab world and, like them, finds itself on shaky ground, because ideology cannot trump reality. An ideology that claims to promote social justice but does not recognize that the Earth is finite is more than unethical. It is dangerous to those now living, to future generations, and to all life on Earth. It must be overthrown. We have all the weapons we need: arguments based on hard facts and actual data.

Let the charge of reason begin!

Madeline Weld
February 24, 2011

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Poverty, repression, decades of injustice and mass unemployment have all been cited as causes of the political convulsions in the Middle East and north Africa these last weeks. Rivers are few, water demand is increasing as populations grow, underground reserves are shrinking and nearly all depend on imported staple foods that are now trading at record prices. In just 25 years, Egypt’s population has risen by nearly two-thirds, from 50 million in 1985 to around 83 million today, with an average age of 24. Many governments are suffering from demographic stress, unable to cope with the steady shrinkage in cropland and fresh water supply per person or to build schools fast enough for the swelling ranks of children.

Most ecologists and many geographers argue that there are already too many people on Earth and that it is the steady growth in human numbers that threatens to bring our food/population treadmill experience to a bad ending. We will ultimately have a sustainable population, but until then there will be inevitable suffering.

Martin Hutchinson, one of the few financial writers who understands something about population issues, wrote recently, in a piece called “The Blight of Population Growth,” (Feb. 7, 2011):

Both the rioters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and the Western commentators on those riots have missed a vitally important component of Egypt’s miseries: its excessive and rapidly rising population.

The monster of population growth and unsustainable numbers of people are often ignored.

The Arab world accounts for 6.3 percent of the world’s population but only 1.4 percent of its renewable fresh water. From 1965 to 1997, population growth drove demand for agricultural development, leading to a doubling of land under irrigation. Demographic expansion in these countries is set to dramatically worsen their predicament.

Hunger and thirst are powerful drivers -- not only of migration, but of revolutions as well. Climate change leads directly to water and food shortages in already unstable regions, and can lead to violence and unrest. The International Organization for Migration reported today that it has already driven an estimated 24 million people from their homes--a number, they warned, that could rise to as high a billion people by 2050.
Water-starved Middle Eastern and other countries snap up leases on African land to improve their own food security and thus threatened the survival of already struggling communities.

One of the best, most closely-argued essays written as a challenge to feminist dogma;congratulations to Madeline.

I note that Betsy Hartmann has recently written that the 'population explosion is over' : I would beg to differ and I say this as someone who believes that men and women are equal -(and who lives in the overcrowded UK, where the birth rate is now at its highest level for many years).

Human rights should be placed in a context of environmental justice and public health should be extended to embrace environmental health.

As to the Middle East: in the aftermath of the Tunisian uprising, Italy found itself having to manage an influx of several thousand young men, fleeing unemployment and poverty.

Latest forecasts from Libya suggest that as many as 300,000 may flee across the Mediterranean within weeks.
And Egypt has the largest population of all.

Here is a letter recently sent to the UK's 'Times' by an acknowledged expert in Middle Eastern affairs :

While Western powers must, and by all appearances do, welcome the prospect of better governance in Egypt, they would be wise to plan their policies towards that country and the rest of the Islamic world on the likelihood of continued turmoil there.

I have watched with anxiety over several decades how populations have constantly outstripped the effects of economic growth in those states that do not benefit from relatively vast hydrocarbon resources,and this will not change soon.

Egypt's population was estimated at 22 million in 1950.Today, it is about 85 million, with perhaps 10 million more settled abroad. No mode of government could have fulfilled the aspirations of so many young people.

According to the best surveys we have, a third of Egyptians are under 15 years of age, while 60% are under 30. Their total number is expected to reach 120 million by the middle of this century. Furthermore, expectations are unrealistically high-and democracy does not thrive alongside rage.

There are so many parallels between Egypt's revolution and that of Iran in 1979.If you take into account the already dire scarcity of fresh water and arable land in Egypt, the future seems even more bleak. (Emphasis added - Editor)

Hazhir Temourian, London.

Finally, it could be said, perhaps, that reproduction is a form of consumption since all humans consume the earth's resources. Therefore, to promote absolute freedom in the matter of reproductive choice is irresponsible, since the infrastructure-both natural and constructed-is breaking under the strain of ever-increasing numbers.

I think that feminists should visit the website of the Centre for Biological Diversity (http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/).

The turmoil in northern Africa could soon trigger a global migration crisis. 5,000 Tunisians have attempted to migrate to Italy and are waiting for Italy to decide what to do. 300,000 Libyans might try to flee to Italy after a collapse of the Gaddafi regime. The people of these growing and disrupted societies look to migration as their solution. Europe's immigrants come overwhelmingly from the Middle East and North Africa, and they are overwhelmingly Muslims.

They usually congregate at the bottom of the labour force and often turn to crime or political extremism. Europe's generous welfare social security offers the low-skilled an attractive alternative to work. The Chancellor of Germany, the Prime Minister of Britain and the President of France have all described their societies' experience of recent immigration - called "multiculturalism" - as a failure.

The World Bank reports that its global food price index rose by 15 percent between October 2010 and January 2011. Fluctuating food prices contribute to "food insecurity, poverty, hunger and political instability." Price instability can lead to systemic economic instability. Frustration with high food prices is among the underlying causes of the unrest in the Middle East and North Africa. In view of acute shortages of water in Africa, Middle East, Asia and elsewhere, the future wars could be fought over water. High prices for food are adding millions to the number who go to bed hungry each night in the Middle East.

Oil prices have jumped, which means food prices will soon follow. Egypt's population is up from 20 million in 1950 to 80 million. This means that 80 million net new jobs are required over the next 15 years just to keep pace with the population growth.

Oil-rich countries are acquiring land in poor and under-developed countries. Is this a sustainable way to go in food security? Globalisation has given us the illusion that our planet is bigger than it is.

Raispal's vision is unfolding before our eyes. All of us, in every affluent country with a social safety net, will be overwhelmed, but not so much by the sheer volume of incoming migrants, but by the 5th columnists at our backs who shape public opinion and cultivate an attitude of defeatism and guilt. I am speaking of the Puppet Intelligentsia and the nest of cultural relativists in universities, political parties and the media who will press us to open the floodgates in the name of compassion and moral responsibility. Unless we deal with them

our lifeboat will be swamped. The Greens, the environmental establishment, the trade union bureaucrats who line their guts with members' dues, and the mainstream political parties must be identified for what they are. The enemies of nature, of sustainability and of the indigenous poor, middle and working classes. There can be no fellowship with them.

They aim to take us down. We haven't much time.

Tim

Editorial comment: I can see that we have much to lose, if we allow fruitless compassion that cannot, to any worthwhile degree, hope to improve the lot of all the hundreds of millions of those most at threat from the coming ecological crisis, but I also think we stand to lose a lot if we allow ourselves to give in to those are seemingly on the opposite end of the political spectrum to the Puppet Intelligentsia, about whom Tim rightly complains, that is those who are waging immoral wars against the Middle East and Central Asia. It is striking that so few of the bleeding heart Puppet Intelligentia have spoken the truth about the lies that have been used as pretexts for those wars, that is the lie of Iraqi WMDs as exposed so eloquently and vividly in the movie Fair Game of late 2010, and the even bigger lie of 9/11

The Puppet Intelligentsia want us to adopt measures that can only harm the poorest members of our own community in a futile attempt to improve the lot of those most threatened by the coming global ecological crisis.

It's striking how the most dedicated and effective fighters against war and international injustice are also the most outspoken against high immigration and for the rights of the poorest of their own country. One of history's most renowned opponents of war, population growth (as you, yourself have noted, Tim) and high immigration is, of course, the late Reverend Dr Martin Luther King. His views on the cause of opposing immigration, which is even less “politically correct” then supporting birth control, can be seen from the following:

Unfortunately, studies have overemphasized the problem of the Negro male ego and almost entirely ignored the most serious element -- Negro migration. During the past half century Negroes have migrated on a massive scale, transplanting millions from rural communities to crammed urban ghettoes. In their migration, as with all migrants, they carried with them the folkways of the countryside into an inhospitable city slum. The size of family that may have been appropriate and tolerable on a manually cultivated farm was carried over to the jammed streets of the ghetto. In all respects Negroes were atomized, neglected and discriminated against.

If King were alive today, I don’t believe he would be any less contemptuous of the Puppet Intelligentsia, than you are, Tim

Does anyone know what the actual carrying capacity of the earth is (for humans) if resources are fairly distributed and sustainability methods are employed?

I read an article in which this was expressed:
In short, it seems prudent to evaluate the problem of sustainability for selfish, myopic people who are poorly organized politically, socially, and economically.

But, I don't see how you can separate these. If we are poorly organized socially, politically, and economically, how can you expect to create a population control measure that everyone adopts. This poor organization and myopic orientation is what leads to overpopulation! It makes sense to me to address these underlying issues and the problems overpopulation will become self-evident.

Ryan, your approach strikes me as a realistic and fair. What Australians get from their government and the media on population policy is organised disinformation.
Please stay in contact.
I see that you are part of the Zeitgeist movement, which is an interesting one that seems to seek to unite people on a good basis, by first attracting their attention, using very successful modern methods, to a workable theory of dysfunctional social systems. I would be keen to hear if your movement has been infiltrated by the usual gatecrashing groups that bedevil independent Australian political effort. I have cut and pasted some excerpts from Wikipedia on the movement and its fascinating films. The Wikipedia sources are at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeitgeist:_The_Movieand http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeitgeist:_Addendum

Zeitgeist Movement and Films

Click here to find links to the movies at Zeitgeist Movie Com

Zeitgeist: Addendum, is a 2008 documentary film produced and directed by Peter Joseph, and a sequel to the 2007 film Zeitgeist: The Movie.] Zeitgeist: Addendum is itself followed by the 2011 film Zeitgeist: Moving Forward.

Contents

1 Synopsis
2 Critical reception
3 See also
4 References
5 External links

Synopsis

The film begins and ends with excerpts from a speech by Jiddu Krishnamurti. The remainder of the film is narrated by Peter Joseph and divided into four parts,[4] each prefaced by an on-screen quotation from a notable scholar: Krishnamurti, John Adams, Bernard Lietaer, and Thomas Paine, respectively.

Part I

Part One states that money is the most corrosive societal tradition and explains that the monetary system and its policies in the United States through the fractional reserve banking system as illustrated in the pamphlet, "Modern Money Mechanics". In clarifying, Part One explains how money creation as an exchange between the government and the central bank (Federal Reserve in the U.S.), creates a perpetual cycle of interest and inflation, summarizing that money and debt are necessarily correlated and increasing.

Part II

Part Two shares an interview with John Perkins, author of Confessions of an Economic Hitman, who explains his own role in the facilitatiion of subjugation of Latin American economies by multinational corporations, including the United States government's involvement in the overthrow and installation of various Latin American heads-of-state. Perkins asserts that the there are three steps required to conquer the target nation:

1. Arranging loans that will be impossible to repay,
2. Using the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or World Bank to force the host nation to renegotiate the debt through agreements that result in currency devaluation, resources being made available at a low cost, selling of public services to foreign corporations, support in foreign conflicts, etc. When these steps fail, the second measure taken is to overthrow the government, through assassinations, staged protests, and bribery. The history of Guatemala, Ecuador, Panama, Venezuela, and the Shah in Iran, are used as asserted examples of economic subjugation.
3. As a last resort, the military is sent to topple regimes, and Iraq is shown as one of these cases.

Part III

Part Three introduces Jacque Fresco and the Venus Project, and asserts a need to move away from the current socioeconomic paradigms. Fresco states that free market enterprise and capitalism do not promote efficiency, abundance nor human progress, but rather they instead encourage artifical creation of scarcity to maximize profits, encourage suboptimal technological development in order to maintain cyclical consumption, put the interest of people second to monetary gain, and engage in the production of pollution, as well as other forms of environmental degradation to lower operating costs.

Fresco states that capitalism perpetuates the condiations it claims to address, as problems are only solved if there is money to be made and if more money can be made by propagating the problem rather than solving it, the problem will be propagated.

Part IV

Part Four explores the idea that all major social problems are ultimately the result of wide-scale ignorance concerning the two concepts of emergence and symbiosis—an ignorance maintained by the political, monetary, and religious institutions. This fourth part maintains a cosmopolitan attitude, and states that human societies are part of an interdependent universe. It suggests several means of social change, largely via non-violent boycotting and educating, in order to oppose rigid social institutions.

The film concludes in a sequence depicting actors as members of the fast-paced modern world suddenly stopping in their everyday activities and letting go of various symbolic items of corporate, religious, and materialistic significance.

Critical reception

The New York Times reported that Peter Joseph describes the mission of his movement as "the application of the scientific method for social change”, and that his films Zeitgeist, the Movie (2007) and Zeitgeist: Addendum (2008) have been watched by 50 million people around the world. They also noted that while the former was famous for its alleging that the attacks of September 11 were an inside job, the second film "was all but empty of such conspiratorial notions, directing its rhetoric and high production values toward posing a replacement for the evils of the banking system and a perilous economy of scarcity and debt."

Australia keeps growing, but not maturing

The tallest woman on Earth, Yao Defen, died because she didn't stop growing. The cause turned out to be a cancer in her pituitary gland

There are stages in the growth of all people. The first is physical growth to the early teens. During that period there is much learning of facts and a mental growth through what are called "concrete" stages of learnings. After that, the physical growth should stop, and be followed by a mental growth - that which psychologist Jan Piaget calls the "formal" thinking stage. As in Physical growth, there is a need for challenges and exercises in mental growth to achieve this formal level of thinking*. Without these challenges and experiences, even whole cultures will not "grow" to the formal stage, although their cultures may operate very well because the people are easily manipulated by privileged leaders who can think formally.

The same with of cities. Growth to maturity is good, but accepting unlimited population/area growth is ignorance or it is caused by the cancer of greed.

It is the rich and powerful Gordon Geckos of this world whose paid media pervade the media with the self-serving mantra that unlimited population growth of cities is good. That is because unlimited growth is what is making them rich and powerful of course. However, there are a few quiet intelligentsia who are saying that it's time for the Governments of the country to get on top of the Geckos. Australia is far from a mature country. In Australia, Geckos reign supreme, due to the unthinking acquiescence of Parliament who are kept irrelevant by the unthinking acquiescence of a docile public.

On the other hand, there are countries and cities that reject physical growth, who are light year ahead of Australia because they have attained the stage of smart growth - Japan, South Korea, Singapore the Scandinavian countries and many more. They recognise the folly of growing population, instead they grow intellectually smarter.

Here in Australia we create special pedestals for "think tanks" but the government ignores them in favour of groups of compliant and overrated people who can rationalise the reasons for implementing developers' schemes. They are not think-tanks, they are merely another purchasable commodity.

To have a growth of population in a mainly desert country like Australia with no significant water supplies - rivers, is muddle-headed hara-kiri. We are well past the physical limits of our renewable resources. We now need a growth of wisdom and maturity and the kind of planning that goes with wisdom and maturity. The planning structures we have now are premised on a growth of population. Instead we need different structures to enable good planners to implement mature planning. Plopping surplus humans into tickey-tackey boxes on "surplus" green fields or brown fields or purple fields or pink fields is an insult to mature thinking and to the competent planners we have in Australia.

When we run out of energy.

Our Western way of living is dependent on using far more energy than is our share. But everybody demands the same quality of living which they reasonably equate with the amount of energy we use. It is the available energy that we have now that provides for the energy-dependent foods we squander. By 2060, fifty more years, this abundant energy will have been used up. The consequences of this is that we will be dependent on the food we grow ourselves within walking distance of where our one-room house is. Perhaps you might believe the people who constantly tell us that by then we will have found some new energy source. But consider this: in 1950 the wisest scientists predicted that fusion energy would cater for all future energy needs, and so squillions of dollars have been spent in the past 60 years trying to get it to work, without success. We are no nearer to achieving it than we were 60 years ago. That is probably because of the physical problems of containing and using the pressures and heat of fusion energy. Remember, it was less than a kilogram of hydrogen that produced the largest ever explosion.

A sad metaphor is the case of Yao Defen whose over-growth killed her. The cancer in Australia's case is developers who either can’t or won’t think formally. Why should they? Wealth and power is there for the taking, politicians and lawyers are easily bought, so the Gordon Geckos "logically" ask why not make a killing - literally. And it will surely kill or enslave us. If we continue along this path, the Geckos may soon be living in luxury in countries like ours that they own absolutely.

* Actually Piaget described two levels of formal thinking.

Madeline Weld ignores the progress made in many countries, including Rwanda, Bangladesh, Mexico, Ethiopia, Iran, Turkey and more. She ignores the successes of family planning providers Pathfinder, Planned Parenthood, Population Media Center, and many others.

If Ms. Weld likes numbers, she should have crunched these before commenting: Nearly 230 million births are averted annually by global contraceptive use, or 1.7 times the current number of livebirths. See epirev.oxfordjournals.org/content/32/1/152.full

Or these from UN Population Division Fertility Reports December 2011 :

Since the 1970s fertility declined worldwide to unprecedented levels between the 1970s and the first decade of the twenty-first century. Total fertility fell in all but three of the 185 countries or areas for which data are available. In the most recent period covered, 75 countries or areas had a total fertility below 2.1 children per woman. The median level of total fertility among developing countries fell by more than half, from 5.7 children per woman in the 1970s to 2.5 children per woman in the most recent period.

Increasing numbers of Governments have become dissatisfied with the fertility levels of their populations. In 1976, 53% of Governments at the world level viewed their fertility levels as being satisfactory, and by 2009 only 38% held this view.

Among developing countries, contraceptive use increased sharply, where the median of the distribution rose from 44.6% in 1970-1979 to 64.1% in 2000-2009.

She blames lack of funding on the feminist agenda, but it is obviously due more to opposition to abortion and contraception. People like Betsy Hartman who call those of us who are population-concerned 'Population Controllers', has a small voice compared to the conservatives who determine foreign aid, including every Republican presidemt since Reagan.

Hartman just adds more ammunition to the conservatives' arguments against family planning.

Weld, on the other hand, in ignoring the many successes arising from the Cairo Convention and voluntary family planning, sells us short, making us all look like Population Controllers, and fuelling the hate of both Betsy Hartman and the conservative lawmakers.

It is funding that we lack to make a success of voluntary family planning (allowing women or couples to choose the size of their families), not population control, but articles like Welds stand in the way of winning funding because population control is not only totally unnecessary, it is highly unpopular.

The whole has to take priority over the individual groups and parts. How can "voluntary" birth control really dilute the rampant global population growth rate? Also, individual families and couples can't see the whole picture of the global overpopulation picture. If people don't make the choice, then Nature will have no emotions or qualms about doing so.

Fertility levels declining in some countries will be insufficient to slow down exponential growth to a leveling out. It's about slightly reducing the planet's all time population growth rate acceleration, but not avoiding ecological collapses.

The agonizing slowness with which birth rates are coming down means that population is still increasing.

People propose a giant pyramid scheme to continue to produce young people who will take care of them as old people - leaving the question of who is going to take care of the young people when they get old?

There is still a fair chance that the population in 2100 might be even higher than the 10 billion projected in the medium variant of the U.N. projections. The U.N. projections assume that fertility would decline in most regions of the world, but slowing the surge of numbers would need to be drastic without a world-wide awareness campaign, a denial of aid without cooperating in family planning, and tax disadvantages for big families.

Yes, well... Australia's population growth is being forced up by its governments and commercial growth lobby with trends set to double it within next fifty years or so. Same problem with the USA, which is heading towards half a billion soon - and Canada.

The Western population growth in Australia, US and Canada is mainly driven by immigrants seeing the land of opportunity, arriving, breeding exponentially and claiming the baby bonuses.
Catholic heaven!

And the Western baby boomer governments only know economic growth by increasing demand and the fastest way is the immigration red carpet.

Problem is none of the politicians studied sociology or will be around long enough to see the social consequences - Third World with all its culture moving in on the First World - net effect is Australia US and Canada become Second worlds - that is a massive Western underclass.

I blame the UN do gooders - they don't want to address Third World countries poor standards of living - too hard basket. Rather the UN policy is that the best way to improve Third World standards of living is to move Third World populations to the First World.

It is the 21st Century dumbing down social mistake and it has got to f&%#n stop!

Tigerquoll
Suggan Buggan
Snowy River Region
Victoria 3885
Australia

I agree that the UN is dodging its responsibility. It has absolutely no interest in land-rights for people of 'third world countries' or first world countries either. The result is dispossession, disorganisation, and overpopulation. In the third world where child labour is not prohibited, the only way landless people can increase their income is to have plenty of children to send out to work. In the first world the poor are encouraged to have plenty of children (by baby bonuses) and those children, poorly educated as education costs rise, man unskilled and semi-skilled jobs or may endebt themselves with interest in the pursuit of higher education. Also, in the 'first world', the elites who are taking control of all the land, sell this land off to the highest bidder, in a globalised market. The elites also finance the mortgages.

Imagine if Africans and Indians had retained their traditional lands. They would also have retained their traditional stable populations. There would never have been factory fodder or overpopulation. Australia, Canada, the USA are going the same way. This is why I advocate relocalisation with land-rights. And part of land-rights is the power to use your land to grow food and cooperate with your neighbours. It would be impossible to recolonise Australians, Canadians, Americans, Africans, Indians etc if full land-rights were recognised and defended internationally as human rights, with leasing only - not buying and selling - permitted.

Understanding of these problems unfortunately goes right over most peoples' heads - but not the property developers, of course - they are right behind the dispossession, the international buying and selling, and the open borders.