Population Politics: The Choices That Shape Our Future

Population Politics: The Choices That Shape Our Future

Population Politics: The Choices That Shape Our Future

Population Politics: The Choices That Shape Our Future

Synopsis

The United Nations has stated that the 1990s are the last possible decade for regulating fertility rates so that populations do not grow beyond the earth's capacity to sustain human life. Demographic experts are confounded by the persistence of high fertility in light of a number of circumstances that were expected to cause a decline, such as international dissemination of technical assistance and capital; improved health care conditions to lower the risk of infant mortality; increased opportunities to develop literacy in men and women; the democratization of governments; and several decades of liberal immigration and refugee policies favoring third-world nations. Population Politics brilliantly dissects the paradigm responsible for the counterproductive efforts of nations and international agencies. Virginia D. Abernethy, Ph. D., a renowned anthropologist, shows why support offered in the name of a "demographic transition" has been misdirected; why policies which do not encourage caution and restraint hamper the shift to lower fertility. Ireland, Indonesia, Cuba, China, Turkey, and Egypt are a few of the countries to which Dr. Abernethy looks, showing how economic, sociocultural, and agricultural factors have been both a cause of population growth and a way-of attempting to stabilize population size. The author stresses that motivation is the key to birth control and, using historical and cross-cultural data, hypothesizes that perception of limited resources is the chief stimulus. Renewed interest in limiting family size is seen in third-world countries, such as Sudan and Burma, where traditional patterns of delaying first births and increasing the interval between having one child and the next are reviving. Dr Abernethy proceeds with a fascinating critical perspective on population growth in the United States, relating it to twentieth-century industrialization, urbanization, fluctuations in the economy, and an "open door" immigration policy. All sectors of soc

Excerpt

Nearly two hundred years have passed since Malthus published his celebrated essay, and the controversy is as spirited as ever. Since "facts" in the simplest sense have not been enough to produce consensus, we suspect that psychological resistances are involved. Indeed they are, as the reader of this volume will soon see.

Psychoanalysts tell us that we never wholly free ourselves of the expectations of infancy: passively we hope that somebody or something will take care of us. In the early months of life such expectations are realistic, but as we grow and mature we find that we must take ever more responsibility for our own lives. But always there remains a residual expectation that my problems will be taken care of by some external power. For some, the beneficent power is a personal God who answers prayers. Others hold that an impersonal Providence will eventually set things straight. In our culture, most adults cherish a childlike belief in the equation Providence = Science (with a capital S!).

The evidence assembled by Virginia Abernethy clearly shows that faith in impersonal, beneficent forces can be misplaced. Contraception, a gift of Science, can reduce fertility, but the problem of population control ranges far beyond the techniques of birth control. Better technology is always welcome, of course, but improvements in reproductive control will not, by themselves, keep the human race from "trashing" the environment that supports it.

In the classical Greek theater, when the plot got out of . . .

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