Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Despite Efforts, Population Getting Worse
Photo courtesy of Hot Springs Wizard. Honoring the landscape with a hand-made head on what he calls, "The Rock of Knowledge"
Happily, our friend from Belgium (AKA Spirit Across the Sea) has contributed a post to give us another starting place for the on-going conversation...
Attempts to Solve the Population Problem Only Make Matters Worse
Over population is one of those proverbial elephants in the living room that nobody wants to talk about, mainly because it is easier to ignore an insoluble problem than attempt to deal with it. Thomas Malthus essentially said that population would continue to grow until it ran out of food. He used different words but that is what he meant. The problem is that there is no way you can stop turkeys from having little turkeys or any other species including humans from having offspring. They have been doing it since pre-history and regard it as an inalienable right but this inalienable right has caused a problem. It doesn’t matter whether you blame it on the age of oil or any other reason it is a fact that there has been a mushroom cloud of people on the planet in the last hundred years and the Malthus train is headed at full speed towards the buffers. The world population is expected to reach seven billion by 2012. At a current population level of almost 1.4 billion, which is a mere billion more than the population of the USA and 20% of all humans on Earth, the Chinese saw the problem coming, switched the points at the last moment and sat back to watch the train head for the cliffs.
China Set to Abandon its Failing Population Policy
It is fairly obvious that if two parents have two children during their lifetime the children replace the adults and if these children replace themselves on a one to one basis then the population remains stable. If they have more than two children then the population increases and if they have less than two it decreases. In an attempt to decrease its population China did just that. From the mid 1970’s it limited each female to just one child during her lifetime so that the population would halve over one generation. The experiment was a partial success, which means it didn’t work or more correctly it worked but not in the way intended. It is true that this policy has prevented the population jumping by an estimated 400 million but it has also resulted in unforeseen social problems which are now preoccupying the regime. Normally children are born in roughly equal numbers of males to females. Nature skews this slightly in favour of males since generally they do more dangerous things like fighting in wars for instance. Proportions vary throughout the world with ‘normal’ being about 103 males for every 100 females but in isolated groups can be as high as 107 males to 100 females (jargon shorthand for this is a ‘ratio of 1.03’ or a ‘ratio of 1.07’). Currently China is approaching a ratio of 1.21 resulting in 33.31 million more men than women being born during the twenty years between 1980 and 2000 (and of course more since). This short post is actually about gender imbalance rather population per se. There are at least 33.3 million men roaming around China that can’t find women, many living a new phenomenon called bachelor villages, resulting in male depression; an increasing sex industry and crimes against females. It is so much of a problem that in the two years between 2001 – 2003 police freed 45,000 abducted women and children and these are just the ones they found. There is also a disproportionate aging population with too few working age people to support both the elderly and the state structure.
Since the time of Mao, China has dragged itself into the industrial age but old habits die hard and its mentality is still largely peasantry. The country is not known for its human rights or its social (welfare) policies. When the elderly become too old to work it is traditionally for the offspring to continue the pastoral life in the same locality and provide for the parents. In this way strong family bonds are maintained. Now with migration of the young into the new industrial areas combined with the one child policy, the elderly have become vulnerable in a way previously unknown. Previously, sons took over father’s duties in the fields and lived in the family home or nearby to care and provide for the parents. Daughters married and went to live with her husband or in the home of his parents. Thus it was mainly the sons and their wives who cared for the parents. In a way, sons represented their pension policy. Now with the one child policy that safety net has been lost especially if the son is enticed into the new industrial areas which could be a couple of days train journey away. If parents have a daughter they are even worse off since it is almost certain she will be lost to them during their working lifetime with no one to carry on the family line or provide for them in old age. Not only this, the daughter’s family has to provide a dowry on her marriage yet it is the bridegrooms family that receive care from her in later life. A growing market within China for affordable ultrasound scanners has allowed many parents to ‘choose’ for sons with illegal selective pro-choice abortions becoming an increasing fact of life. If this fails or the woman ‘chooses’ too late, then incidences of infanticide of daughters are reported to be drastically increasing. The administration now realizes it got a few details wrong and that even the plans of an authoritarian regime can be sidetracked by the will of the people. It is now expected that there will be proposals in the next five year plan (2011 – 2016) to drop or at least shelve the one child policy to replace it with a sliding scale policy where the one child per female law will remain in the main cities; two children per female in the designated countryside and three in areas like Tibet for instance where gender ratios are within normal world wide limits. It is suggested that this will be combined with some sort of welfare plan which favours girls. Proposed measures include exempting girls’ families from contributing towards school fees; parents with two daughters would also receive the equivalent of $150 pa for the rest of their lives (this is a lot in China); preferential health care treatment together with modern housing and secure employment. A care package for the elderly would also be provided. There are three foreseeable problems with this; firstly this break with existing policy would seriously conflict with China's population control effort; secondly there are not enough working people to pay for it and finally export revenue may get caught in the dollar’s demise.
Mainland Chinese have more in common with the Yanomamo People than with the inhabitants of Hong Kong
The above is just a knee jerk reaction of the people to an ill thought through policy by an authoritarian regime – and it couldn’t happen anywhere else, right? Well, No!
The Yanomamo are a tribal people who inhabit Venezuela’s jungle region along its southern border with Brazil. There are about 15,000 of them living in 150 or so scattered villages. If you accept the initial premise that they are often attacked by their neighbouring villages, then their solution to this can only be described as bizarre logic. But before that, some interesting numbers. Villages of forty members or less cannot survive since there are too few men to defend it. At numbers of 100 – 125 inhabitants, there is constant squabbling about policy and at a level of 150 inhabitants it becomes totally unworkable as a cohesive unit and splits into two. Bear with me for a few seconds because I am going to run the argument backwards and then the reason for the attacks will become clear. The villages are attacked so the attacked village needs a strong force of men to defend it and because of this the attacking side needs a strong force of men to prevail in their mission. In order to get a sufficient proportion of warriors it is customary for separate communities to practice infanticide against females. This leaves a disproportionate number of men and the reason for inter village conflict is to steal women from their neighbours. If they only had the wit to stop with the infanticide then there would be enough women to go around without any need for fighting at all. Maybe the whole thing is nature’s way of sharpening their survival skills.
Well that is all fine or not, depending on whether you are one of the victors or the vanquished and we can see the disproportionate numbers of males and therefore the connection with the mainland Chinese but what has all this got to do with the people of Hong Kong. Well it seems that the men of Hong Kong just don’t like very much to marry the ladies of Hong Kong and go on more of a poaching rather than raiding mission to the mainland. The reasons for this are not at all clear but it just is so. Perhaps city slicker males don’t like to marry city slicker ladies and go off to find mainland maidens. This leaves a more than an average number of local ladies on the island - for those of you who are interested in knowing this fact.
Now that the ladies of Hong Kong have entered the conversation, is there anywhere else in the world that has a surfeit of women? Well it just so happens there is but I am not at all sure the surplus men of China would want to head there in droves. It is in Greenland and the Arctic waste territories; the peoples who are collectively known as Eskimos. The reason is not reverse infanticide but all the same, I am sure it is not one you are going to want to know about. Their diet consists entirely of fish and other sea life, seals, walrus etc and these species over the years have absorbed much of the toxic waste our civilisation has dumped into the sea – DDT, PCB’s mercury, cadmium and other heavy metals. These chemicals affect hormones and endocrines in pregnant women in a way that favours the formation of a female fetus. So next time you see an Eskimo woman smiling in your direction, just remember that she might be a sack of toxic waste.
It seems to me that when you set about deliberately meddling with the primordial forces of nature then nature has ways if biting back and although they might not always be conventional, they are always effective.
Rolic News – Chinese syndicated newspaper Dec 2009
Experts urge switch from one child policy
Human Sex ratio – Wikipedia
NBC: China begins to face sex-ratio imbalance
National Geographic Magazine August 1976 pp211
Yanomamo, the True People
(Borrowed from the doctor’s waiting room)