Monday, January 29, 2007

Finding hope in criticism

The Ismael article on Wikipedia says this under "Criticism of population claims":
Recent population trends indicate a dropoff in fertility rates in most regions in the globe; many demographers claim that increased women's autonomy and access to reproductive technology is responsible for the decrease, and that such trends actually bring fertility below the " replacement rate" in many industrialized nations. Some argue that people in industrial societies have less of an incentive to "over-reproduce," as children are a net economic drain, unlike in agrarian societies. In this view, it is possible that population levels will become self-limiting if high rates of reproduction become irrational and avoidable.
It's an understandable criticism, and Quinn's response is described in that article.  However, there's something else here.
It is true that in industrialized nations aren't growing their population the way other parts of the world are.  While the potential reasons are concerning
  • too busy conusming products and media to breed
  • too busy working to pay off the debt from the former
  • exposed to polutants that interfere with fertility or libido
there is some hope.  You see, people in these countries aren't sitting around mourning their lack of reproduction.  They aren't crying in the streets because they didn't have any kids.  For the most part, they're perfectly content to not be reproducing so much.
That's where the good news lies: there is a way to get civilized people to avoid reproducing in such large numbers.  Something in their life is pushing a button that gets them to choose not to reproduce so verbosely..  Now all we need to do is find another way to push that same button -- a way that doesn't involve the incredible consumption of natural resources and production of pollutants.
(Flash-forward: In Beyond Civilization, Quinn has a proposal for a way to address the ills he describes in his earlier books.  Perhaps that proposal can succeed because it is able to push this "don't reproduce so much" button, without the undeseriable consequences that Quinn points out in response to the criticism above.)

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