Monday, October 31, 2011

7,000,000,000 700 & 0

In order, the world's population; the number of blog posts I've written (including the precious few unpublished ones); and the number of trick or treaters at my condo. In reverse order, the comments.

[be on the lookout for autocorrect errors, posted from phone.]

My brother and I learned early the efficiency of trick-or-treating in high density housing. It's a safe bet that the house with skull and pumpkin lights will be stocked. I do not understand how people are passing up free candy. Oh well, after a dinner of bloody guts (spaghetti) it was all the Muscato and Reese's for myself. My mom reminisced about the good 'ol days when the adults brought shot glasses along for an adult treat on Halloween night. Good thing I got some costume action this weekend to avoid total disappointment :)

Wow. 700 blog posts! Roughly 160 a year until this year. Lower rate is part no energy, part not blogging as fast from the new phone and using the phone about 10x the amount I used the netbook. But I'm going to try to get back into it. It's not ideas I'm short on. Like the next one.

With the population hitting seven billion, the question of fertility limits keeps being bandied about. Usually on the same day, one can also find an article on insufficient births for replacement rates (Russia, Italy). Overblown populations are problematic, so how do we slow the growth rate? It bothers me that everyone leaps on China's One Child policy as a guide, completely overlooking the multitudes of countries that have birthrates averaging "replacement rate" which is about 2.1 kids per woman.

China's policy means that couples who are significantly wealthy can leave during childbearing years and have an extra child or two. The remaining women either give up their non-lineage-continuing daughters to orphanages, have abortion forcibly done to them, or go along and have just the one. It's a horrendous invasion. I understand the reasoning, but the reality of it is beyond troubling.

So let's look at the plentiful other examples that dont use forcible coercion. What makes a birth rate trend toward replacement rate? Women with educations and power over their own bodies. They are neither being forced to bear children (arguable with restrictions to abortion) nor forced to give up or abort children, they (we) just choose how many kids to have. Some have a lot, some have none, but when left to make their own choices, most women don't have the 8-10 common a mere 2-3 generations ago.

The other thing that turns the tide is having a reasonable expectation that your children will live to adulthood. That means sanitation, education, vaccination, antibiotics, and clean food and water. It means girls get feminine hygiene products so they aren't barred from being at school for one week/month after puberty. It means women have access to birth control and both the legal and social power to enforce the use of birth control with male partners.

I'm not totally sure how all this plays out when in my own country my ability to control my own reproduction is under constant attack. Here's one clue: abortions don't have rights, women have rights. Or rather should have rights. But that aside, investigations show that on average the more educated a mom is, the healthier her children are. Where they've introduced TV into rural areas of India, wife beating drastically decreases (either because they see other ways of communicating or because they have something to occupy free time has not been determined).

Cultural expectations do play into birth rate. Individual choice most often conforms to cultural norms, so it's not a decision made in isolation, and social/political pressure can raise and lower birthrates. There are cultures still where birth rate is tied strongly to women's status. They may not easily trend the birth rate to 2, but my bet is that 3-5 would be where they settle down. We went from 8 child families to 2 child families in about 2 generations. If we can empower women worldwide, our overpopulation problem will almost certainly cease to grow too fast within 50 years. Fewer children per family will almost certainly reduce the desire to support participating in armed conflicts. Just value women, provide access to birth control, and support our decisions.

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