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Make Poverty History has some lofty aims, but makes no mention of population explosion.

Make Poverty History aims to halving global poverty by 2015 and achieving the Millennium Development Goals by:

  • More and better aid
  • Dropping poor country debt
  • Making trade fair
  • Helping poor communities keep their governments accountable
  • Tackling climate change
  • Sub-Saharan Africa is headed for a "population emergency" according to a new French NGO analysis of demographic trends.

    Africa takes up more than 12 percent of the world's population, while its Gross Domestic Products (GDP) accounts for a mere 2 percent. With a population growth of 3 percent annually and an agriculture growth of 2.5 percent, the continent can hardly feed its increasing population. The words ‘population explosion’ are hardly ever heard nowadays, even though Africa’s population is still doubling every twenty-odd years.

    The population of the continent south of the Sahara, decimated by the slave trade and colonization, stood at 100 million in 1900. It had grown more than seven-fold to 770 million by 2005. By 2050, it will grow by as much as 2.6 times above that level, to 2 billion. Abnormal climate and natural disasters have resulted in the emergence of a new kind of "eco-refugees."

    Campaigns promoting the balanced family such as those successfully run in other developing countries (Bangladesh, Jamaica for instance) have never really been implemented in Sub-Saharan Africa.

    Today, two out of three inhabitants of this large region of Africa are under 25 years of age (twice the number prevailing in Europe) and, with 32 inhabitants per km2, Sub-Saharan Africa is more densely populated on average than Latin America (28 inhabitants/km2).

    Band Aid was a supergroup founded in 1984 by Bob Geldof and to raise money for "Famine relief" in Ethiopia. In 1950 the population of Ethiopia was just 16 million. According to the nation's only census, conducted in 1984, Ethiopia's population was about 42 million. By 2005 it had increased to nearly 78 million and is forecast to increase a further 80 million over the next 25 years.

    The UN has admitted that it won’t meet its Millennium Development Goals in Africa but fails to explain the underlying causes for pessimism. Africa has had more than ten times the Marshall Aid given to Europe since the Second World War - a trillion dollars, or $5,000 for every African alive today. Yet many African countries are poorer now than in the 1980s.

    According to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation, the world faces the challenge of producing 70 per cent more food for another 2.3 billion people by 2050. Meat production will need to increase by more than 200 million tonnes on the current 270 million tonnes by 2050. Unrealistic Western livestock-based diets means that grains fed to livestock could be distributed more equitably throughout the world to avoid some of the starvation.

    In Australia, Make Poverty History is a coalition of more than 60 aid agencies, community groups and religious organisations. Make Poverty History has some lofty aims, but ignores the impact of Western diets, makes no mention of family planning or contraception schemes, or even population growth. Unless the people of Africa take some ownership of their own destiny we could be trying to fill a bottomless bucket! Neither will the campaign be achievable until we recognise the threat to our planet and humanity due to runaway global population growth. World poverty (like climate change) is unavoidable whilst governments, including ours, willfully encourage unsustainable population growth. Growing our own population will do nothing to alleviate the portion of the world's population that is already starving, and violence will escalate as resources diminish. Immigration globalises overpopulation.

    Increasing population might seem to be a way of growing the economy in the short term, but in the third world it is only likely to lead to even greater poverty.

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    The Aid Agencies all function on two fallacious beliefs:
    1. That industrialisation is progress and will cure all ills
    2. That overpopulation is normal for the third world and can be cured by industrialisation in an ideology known as 'the demographic transition', which has so often been shown to be fallacious that you wonder that the AID people and the politicians who so often quote it, continue

    AID agencies, and particularly the UN, avoid looking at the theft of land by colonials and big business and justify the failure to return land with the 'industrialisation cures all ills' ideology, thus allowing corporations to buy it all up, and allowing new colonisation by China and India, for instance, in Africa.

    There are a number of amazing books about Foreign Aid Agencies which would put you off giving them chewing-gum off your shoe. So many are busy in there providing cover (whether they know it or not) for foreign warmongers who want to make trouble in adjacent countries with various minerals or oil.

    Somalia is a very good example of all of these things. A book now out of print is Michael Marin, The Road to Hell: The Ravaging Effects of Foreign Aid and International Charity,

    The book is all about Western intervention in Somalia, plus Marin's investigation of a number of well-known aid organisations, notably some of the ones that get people to sponsor a child - CARE and Save the Children, notably.

    He shows how Somalia, once self-sufficient due to herding and nomadic lifestyles on marginal lands, overpopulated and destroyed those previously well-maintained lands, due to the provision of wells for permanent populations and other really arrogant and stupid 'progressive' agricultural innovations - none of them necessary at all - merely dictated by the ideology of 'progress'.

    (See also the "Kalahari fires" article on this site which is a study of traditional nomadic lifestyles on marginal land.)

    Somalian politicians (the modern variety) - not the ordinary people - abused the aid system by setting up pseudo refugee camps among other things, but the aid system had done the damage and set in train the overpopulation.

    Maren argues that the aid business is driven by the grain merchants, to guarantee income for grain that might otherwise not find buyers in any year. The objective is to sell the grain, not to help people, some of who do not need or want that help in any particular year.

    Maren says that journalists are uncritical of the aid agencies because they rely on them, presumably for stories and safe passage.

    Maren's is not the only book I have read on the subject, but it is the one I most recently read, albeit now out of print.

    If you go to internet sites about Africa, Somalia etc you will be able to put together the same stories, especially from independent local writers.

    All in all it would be better if we all grew and manufactured what we needed locally. The third world does not benefit from trade; the rich in the first and the third world benefit from trade in the third world.

    Australia is increasingly subject to the same treatment as third world countries, with foreign purchases of land, especially agricultural land, dispossessing the local farmers and local people forced by inflation to live in accomodation with no possibility of any self-sufficiency.

    Colonialism produces poverty and there is a constant drive to keep that system going.

    Sheila Newman, population sociologist
    home page

    Deep Ecology is the belief that the world does not exist purely as a resource for man's benefit. The world exists for its own sake. We are a part of this wonderful and diverse creation but we do not own it. Our culture tells us that the way we are living is the best that human beings have ever had. It is the best that we could hope for. The world was made for man and our destiny is to conquer and rule it.

    Our cultural ecology sees human beings as separate from and superior to the rest of nature. We believe that all of creation exists for man's benefit.

    Deep Ecology advocates a change in culture to one where we see human beings as equal partners in the community of life but not the owners.

    Our culture with its sneering sense of superiority thinks that is the best way of life humans have ever lived. Our culture detests the way of life of so called "savages." We patronise developing nations and impose our values onto them, then urbanisation and industrialisation is promoted as an ideal, a way to emulate.

    Tribal cultures were sustainable because their vision meant they did not devour the world. They did not see the world as theirs so they did not turn the world all into human food.

    Colonialism destroyed tribal societies, and imposed the evils "civilization" onto them.

    Yep, read Arne Næss' eight principles of Deep Ecology. So how to persuade an eldest son of a champion woodchopper to appreciate and respect the existence values of a forest?

    Answer that effectively and you are half way towards appreciating deep rooted 19th Century logging cultures like that still breeding strong in NW Tasmania with a one eyed view of the dollar value of old growth forests. Check these popular sites and appreciate the embedded culture you come up against:

    Tasmanian Woodchopping Carnivals

    Axeman's Complex (Tas)

    Tasmania's Legendary Axeman David Foster

    Deloraine Axemens Club Inc. (Tas)

    ..just back from Tasmania's north west, where one must have passed a few dozen B-double log trucks loaded with big native tree logs, plus three busy saw mills.

    It's almost like getting Christians to accept Muslims.

    Getting woodchipping Neanderthals to accept deep ecology is not like Christians accepting Muslims as they are, in some ways, on the par. It is more like trying to convince red-neck gun-slinging shooting carnivores to go vegan!

    The idea of human dominance has been misconstrued. With the honour of responsibility and stewardship of Earth comes the onerous duty of caretaking and ultimate accountability. Nowhere does God, in any Creation story, give humans the right to destroy, kill and overpopulate or basically trash the planet. Neither is the right to conquer and destroy the natural world and other species. This is what is happening now.

    The gorilla has been chosen to be the mascot for this year's World Vegan Day, 1st November These herbivores can weigh between 75 - 180 kilograms but are known to have upper body strength at least six times greater than that of humans. Event organisers were impressed by their strength and ability to live harmoniously with the natural world. Gorillas look fierce, but they are actually shy, friendly animals

    In the 2007 Red List of Threatened Species, Western Lowland gorillas are now classified as Critically Endangered. Mountain gorillas are Endangered. Gorillas' main threat is people. They are hunted as food, are susceptible to human diseases and ironically their loss of habitat due to human conflict and habitat destruction.

    Going vegan is about celebrating life, health, creative cooking and ethical choices. It is also about caring for Earth's creatures and encouraging a humble footprint on our planet. Deep Ecology and veganism are about harmony and peace, not dominance!


    I appreciate your insight. I support practices that strive for a humble ecological footprint and the feedback suggests traditional farming of cattle and sheep is an extravagant use of natural resources, so seeking ideas about less impacting alternatives has merit.

    I prefer the custodial approach to the stewardship approach in how humans interact with the natural environment. Stewardship presupposes human domination over nature and prescribes responsible caretaker use of that power to treat nature responsibly. But since when have humans been held accountable?

    Humans are top dog in nature and watchdog to the extent of ecological dictatorship. Carnivors have their place in nature, like tigerquolls, but human dominance of nature is far more that what quolls take to survive. Humans play god. Playing god is when humans step outside nature. Perhaps celebrating nature has a higher morality than celebrating a human fabricated deity.

    The variant species of the quoll are a traditional top order natural predator across Australia's forests in perhaps an equivalent way as the gorilla or lion is a traditional top order predator in Africa. A predator's diet of meat should not shape the degree of respect to preserve their habitat - vegan or carnivore - let's not discriminate on nature's evolution.

    Respect for the health and integrity of top order predators is key to preserving biodiversity and forest ecosystems. Much forest management is about trees and ignores the dependent fauna - including the current human myth of prescribed burning.

    It is custodial responsibility that humans would be morally correct in pursuing as a philosophy to re-engaged with nature. "Custodial responsibility, sometimes called the principle of inter-generational equity, underpins both the intrinsic value and utlitarian cases for conservation."
    I recommend reading: 'Practical Conservation Biology' by David Lindenmayer and Mark Burgman.'

    Tigerquoll, you are correct about top order predators is a key to preserving biodiversity and forest ecosystems. Too many have been eradicated to protect livestock industries and people. However, "top order predators" cannot include humans as the rate of our expansion is far to heavy to support. Our "hunting and gathering" for bearers have been much more celebrated for their hunting, but the reality is that the gathering part was probably much more part of their diet. We are actually physiologically more foraging herbivores than carnivores, despite the hype and what our culture and conditioning tells us.
    Economies developed from a culture of breeding, herding and eating animals. Civilisations meant captive domestic animals instead of a subsistence level of hunting. Livestock ownership became a currency.
    Our nearest "cousins", Chimpanzees, are omnivores, but the amount of meat they eat is minimal compared to what most human societies eat. Chimps may eat up to 3% meat, but mostly fruits and nuts. Most people accept Darwin's theories, yet throw them out when it is convenient! The food pyramid should be turned upside down.

    I agree that gathering probably contributed the largest part of human diets, but that included crustaceans, molluscs - land and marine - arachnids and insects and birds' eggs. I have read that women's gathering contributed around 70% of hunter-gatherer diets.

    Humans have only been engaged in agriculture for about 10,000 years since the last big ice age. During that time the most unequal societies evolved, with large populations and with the majority of people poorly fed. I don't think that we have adapted to this and it is likely to kill many of us off early in the 21st century.

    We have entered, with the industrialisation of agriculture, a new era of high fat and simplified carbohydrate consumption. It is probably that diet that signals to some populations that there is plenty to spare, when in reality the fat and sugar is just about all there is to spare and it is not good stuff to store (all of it) as fat.

    Food seems to be being used like a narcotic, and their high fat and sugar diet may be one of the things that keeps North Americans from revolting against their long working hours (especially compared to Europe) and poor returns on the personal energy they invest in their society, with so few having any real power or choice in important things.

    The gardening societies of the polynesians and micronesians - and indeed all peoples living in clans and tribes after the ice-age - were probably ideal, with a variety of food sources divided up among families sharing the same territory. One of the most notable foods, of which the vast array of species was eradicated in the 20th century in the service of the false god of 'progress' and 'efficiency' was the giant taro. This plant was a staple of polynesia and micronesia. It grew in swamps and provided medications, fibre, and high-energy foods. Large and beautiful specimens would be kept for special occasions. The Japanese still grow taro. There have been attempts to grow and harvest taro on an industrial, massive basis, with the usual results of destroying the delicate societies they nourished and symbolised, reducing taros to a few species, and stuffing up the soils and water tables. Those societies typically also ate lots of fish and trapped or kept small terrestrial animals.

    Naturally there were big variations between islander diets, according to what grew and survived on different islands, but there was a typical majority of islands.

    For sure, big societies are not beautiful societies.

    Sheila Newman, population sociologist
    home page
    Copyright to the author. Please contact sheila [AT] candobetter org or the editor if you wish to make substantial reproduction or republish.

    Clearly industrialisation has been the nutrient fertilising the human weed plume. Not only is the insatiable appetite to grow fat from the land, top order humans of the 'first' world have extended that insatiable urge to a growing dependence on materialism, credit, sugar, fat, babies and drugs as if addicted to the principle that more is good. It is beyond the norm. It is cultural extremism. Boom and bust is set to perpetuate with this greed mindset as if last recession was last generation's failure, the current generation knows best.

    Big societies insatiably want exponentially more - taller, larger, faster! It's as if humans have become engorged ticks sucking blood from the Earth. Humans have exceeded ecological competence and top order predator status. With billions swarming across the globe humans have become the most invasive pathogen on the planet, invading and multiplying rapidly in not just suitable but unsuitable new habitats which they then convert to suitable, then want more.

    To any non-human organism able to comprehend the scourge, this is a scary phenomenon. But the urge to breed is instinctive and encouraged.
    Where's the mirror?

    In 2000, world leaders came together and developed a blueprint for halving extreme poverty by 2015 - the Millennium Development Goals. The agreement committed developed countries (including Australia) to giving 0.7 per cent of their gross national income to overseas development aid.

    Since 1990, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty has dropped from 42 per cent to 19 per cent. This is an unprecedented victory, but more is needed. Nearly a quarter of a billion people escaped slums in the past decade, but the housing effort was outstripped by population growth and rural exodus to the cities, the United Nations said. Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest slum population, totalling 199.5 million people, or 61.7 percent of its urban population.

    It is followed by South Asia (190.7 million people, 35 percent of urban population) and East Asia (189.6 million, 28.2 percent).
    Here is an estimated 137 million women who have a need for family planning which is not currently being met.

    Furthermore, it has been reported that there are 87 million per year unintended, mistimed or unwanted pregnancies.
    This number can be reduced dramatically by increasing knowledge and access to contraception. However, it is important to realise that without addressing the issue of gender inequality in many countries, many of these unwanted pregnancies will continue to occur.

    There is an estimated 137 million women who have a need for family planning which is not currently being met. Furthermore, it has been reported that there are 87 million per year unintended, mistimed or unwanted pregnancies. This number can be reduced dramatically by increasing knowledge and access to contraception. However, it is important to realise that without addressing the issue of gender inequality in many countries, many of these unwanted pregnancies will continue to occur

    Sub-Saharan Africa is disastrously far from meeting any of it development goals. Despite aiming to reduce the number of people living in extreme poverty to 27 per cent of 1990 levels, efforts have only managed to reduce that number from 57 to 51 per cent in the past 20 years. Sub-Saharan Africa is disastrously far from meeting any of it development goals. Despite aiming to reduce the number of people living in extreme poverty to 27 per cent of 1990 levels, efforts have only managed to reduce that number from 57 to 51 per cent in the past 20 years.

    There are more than 100 million more destitute souls in the region than in 1990. Statistics for infant mortality and childbirth death rates are just as bad.

    Too many people, rich and poor, to sustain for this planet. Australia is infamous for our rate of biodiversity loss, plants and animals going extinct every year.

    Natural impediments to population growth were overcome, at least for the medium term, with the industrial revolution and modern medicine.

    It is not only the church that is blocking progress. Whether it's a muslim woman in Saudi Arabia denied the right to work, a Chinese infant murdered because she can't carry on a surname to appease the ancestors or a Christian woman in Africa forced to bear her 8th child, a child she cannot afford to feed or immunise, because contraception is apparently contrary to Government policies.

    Hundreds of millions of people in developing countries are denied access to birth control. Major upgrading of Australia's pitiful support for the United Nations Population Fund and non-government organisations working on population is vitally important in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

    Too many people, rich and poor, to sustain for this planet. Australia is infamous for our rate of biodiversity loss, plants and animals going extinct every year.

    Natural impediments to population growth were overcome, at least for the medium term, with the industrial revolution and modern medicine.

    World Vision’s family planning guidelines "encourage both men and women to take equal responsibility for their children’s birth and development." These objectives are consistent with the UN Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5, which are to "reduce child mortality and improve maternal health respectively". However, reducing child mortality and improved maternal health is not contraption!

    All contraceptive methods promoted by World Vision are reviewed with respect to ethical, medical and development standards. World Vision programs provide integrated voluntary family planning services that offer a range of natural and artificial methods.

    Australian and international NGOs will continue to be able to choose what services they deliver in line with their philosophies and policies.