A view from Pakistan

Today I thought that I’d share with you a piece from Pakistan - a developing country that could be in line to have a photo of its babies accompany doomsday media pieces announcing massive population increases in the world (see the blog earlier this week for an explanation of what I’m talking about).  Writing in the Pakistan Observer, Khalid Saleem discusses the implications of living in a world of seven billion people and why one can be sceptical of the ‘population control’ meme coming from certain organisations (generally in the West).  Saleem’s argument can perhaps stand as a small antidote to the Western-focussed debate on demography. 

“The world was authoritatively informed that controlling ‘population’ was the sine qua non of economic progress. In simple terms, any nation that that desired to move up the economic ladder was ‘advised’ to take steps to control the growth of its population by means fair or foul.

All this led, in due course, to the rich countries setting aside billions of dollars in ‘aid (read tied loans) to the Third World for what were termed as ‘population control projects’. All well and good! The only snag was that the whole issue was blown out of all proportion and, what is more, was used as a handy stick to chastise the developing countries with. At the same time, it served as a pretext to stop the poor of the world to cast a covetous eye on the abundant food surpluses of the First World.” ‘Population control’ measures means that those in the ‘have’ countries can assuage their consciences.  The world will be able to hold all of us because others were cutting back (in babies) rather than us having to cut back (in material consumption). 

“The economic experts of developed nations rested easy in the understanding that, with lesser mouths to feed worldwide, the haves could continue with their extravagant existence.  For years on end the blame for the world’s ills was put squarely on the poor people’s propensity to reproduce. The rich nations were outside the equation since they not only had ample to eat but lots left over to hoard or dump into the sea as they wished. The haves’ principal concern was nothing more than not having to share their bounty with the have-nots. Their whiz kids argued that if only the world’s deprived lot could be coerced into resisting the urge to add to their number, their own ‘have’ status would not risk being dented.” As we have said before, when we talk about the world needing to have less people (or less babies) we often implicitly saying that the world should have less African/Latin American/South Asian babies as these are the areas on the worlds with the highest fertility rates.  Maybe it would be useful to find out from time to time what people in those countries think about the whole population explosion. 


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