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Overpopulation Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Jillian Xenia Sunderland, Canada Sep 30, 2007
Human Rights , Education , Peace & Conflict   Opinions
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Imagine, a woman lying in the street bleeding, her screams echoing through the poverty-ridden back allies. Yet, no one takes notice, for she is a woman; a woman who just underwent a botched abortion and who is now praying for death to come quickly. She is just one of the 585,000 women who will die of preventable complications during unsafe abortions or childbirth. Further imagine, a child being born and instead of smiling faces to greet the new life, that child is strangled by a fellow family member and tossed into a ditch, its tiny heart no longer beating in its limp and lifeless body.

This infant could possibly be one of the 10,000 female infanticide victims in China alone. Also picture, an eight year old girl forced to stay home toiling without food or clean water while her brothers come home to a nice meal after a day of school and play - a common sight in India. Now, look at today’s world. You no longer have to imagine these horrible things, for they are normal things happening everyday around the world. Not surprisingly, these situations, these extremes, are a dire consequence of the world’s over- population and resultant poverty in third world countries.

Overpopulation in undeveloped poverty-stricken countries such as Ethiopia, India, and Haiti is not the only factor impacting the world’s resources. Over-consumption, prevalent in developed countries in the western world, is a serious problem also threatening the wellbeing of future generations. It is astounding that over three-quarters of the world’s resources are consumed by one-quarter of the world’s population.

When a child is born in the western world, that child consumes considerably more of the world’s resources than those born in less developed countries. It is this combination of over-consumption and overpopulation that plays a major roll in poverty around the world. Societies in third world countries are impoverished due to insufficient resources to maintain their burgeoning population, lack of job and entrepreneurial opportunities, and inadequate education and training. In turn, their governments are impoverished due to low worker productivity (poor health and starvation) and specialized expertise.

The highest urban growth is taking place in some of the poorest countries around the world. Take Ethiopia for example, where bad economic policies have led to a lack of education, food, health care and birth control. An Ethiopian, who has an average annual income of $180, cannot afford $40 for birth control pills. Poverty is not only the result of overpopulation but is also continuing the course of it. In other words, overpopulation creates poverty but poverty, in turn, contributes to overpopulation.

In many impoverished countries where the likelihood of a child living past five is low, the people have more children, since they cannot expect many of them to live. For example, in Nepal one out of five children die due to lack of healthcare and proper nutrition, a direct impact of extreme poverty. This low survival rate brings the birth rate up. Yet, it is not just cultural expectations and the joy of children which contributes to high birth rates. Since there is no pension for the elderly (also a factor of low economy) the children are the only assurance that the aging will survive. Thus, parents look to children for later security - the more children you have, the more likely you will survive in your senior years.

Literacy is another major issue in overpopulation. Education plays a fundamental roll in family planning and thus population growth. Yet, nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read and sign their names. The majority of these billion people are women. In many countries, women are seen as second rate citizens and are denied education. A number of knowledgeable people have expressed the view that the most important factor in overpopulation is women's second rate status in many societies. Take, for example, India where girls work all day while boys go to school and play.

It does not matter how wealthy the family is, education for girls in not seen as a priority. Girls, in general, are not seen as a priority. In over 8,000 abortions performed in India, only one was a male. Thus, instead of paying for a daughter’s education families would rather use the money for their daughter’s dowry.

Yet, why is female education so important to population? The answer is ‘family planning’. An educated woman understands reproduction and can make decisions on her own behalf. She becomes knowledgeable about her contraceptive options. She will recognize that for her family to live comfortably, the number of children must not exceed the family’s resources. In Kerlela India, the educated method of birth control is working amazingly. They have found female literacy to be the most enduring contraceptive.

Unlike in Bolivia where large families are due to women's lack of right to choose when she has intercourse, and absence of information on contraceptives. The rhythm method of birth control method does not work even if taught, because you cannot properly teach this method to illiterate women. This lack of education leads to extreme forms of birth control such as unsanitary and self-induced abortions and infanticide. It also contributes to unsafe pregnancies for both the fetus and mother and high infant mortality rates.

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Jillian Xenia Sunderland

I am currently attending University and in the future hope to pursue Law and International Relations. I am also a photographer on the side, and have work shown in national galleries and international magazines.

R Kahendi | May 10th, 2008
Very thoughtful piece

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