and total population remains relatively stable. During development, death rates tend to fall first, followed in a generation or two by falling birth rates. Total population grows rapidly until both birth and death rates stabilize in a fully developed society.
CHAPTER 7 Human Populations 147 lifeboats. Continuously, so to speak, the poor fall out of their lifeboats and swim for a while, hoping to be admitted to a rich lifeboat, or in some other way to benefit from the goodies on board. . . . We cannot risk the safety of all the passengers by helping others in need. What happens if you share space in a lifeboat? The boat is swamped and everyone drowns. Complete justice, complete catastrophe.” Social justice is an important consideration A third view is that social justice (a fair share of social benefits for everyone) is the real key to successful demographic transitions. The world has enough resources for everyone, but inequitable social and economic systems cause maldistributions of those resources. Hun- ger, poverty, violence, environmental degradation, and overpopula- tion are symptoms of a lack of social justice rather than a lack of resources. Although overpopulation exacerbates other problems, a narrow focus on this factor alone encourages racism and hatred of the poor. A solution for all these problems is to establish fair sys- tems, not to blame the victims. Small nations and minorities often regard calls for population control as a form of genocide. Figure 7.16 expresses the opinion of many people in less-developed countries about the relationship between resources and population. An important part of this view is that many of the rich countries are, or were, colonial powers, while the poor, rapidly growing countries were colonies. The wealth that paid for progress and security for developed countries was often extracted from colonies, which now suffer from exhausted resources, exploding populations, and chaotic political systems. Some of the world’s poorest countries such as India, Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Haiti had rich resources and adequate food supplies before they were impoverished by colonialism. Those of us who now enjoy abundance may need to help the poorer countries not only as a matter of justice but because we all share the same environment. In addition to considering the rights of fellow humans, we should also consider those of other species. Rather than ask what is the maximum number of humans that the world can possibly support, perhaps we should think about the needs of other crea- tures. As we convert natural landscapes into agricultural or industrial areas, species are crowded out that may have just as much right to exist as we do. Perhaps we should seek the opti- mum number of people at which we can provide a fair and decent life for all humans while causing the minimum impact on nonhuman neighbors.
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