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In: Preserving the global environment: the challenge of shared leadership, edited by Jessica T. Mathews. New York, New York/London, England, W. W. Norton, 1991. 39-77.The thesis that human population growth will eventually destroy the equilibrium of the world ecosystem, because environmental strain is a nonlinear effect of the linear growth, is embellished with discussions of technology and resulting pollution, population dynamics, birth and death rates, effects of expanded education, causes of urbanization, time constraints and destabilizing effects of partial development and the debt crisis. It is suggested that the terms renewable and nonrenewable resources are paradoxical, since the nonrenewable resoureces such as minerals will always exist, while renewable ecosystems and species are limited. The competitive economy actually accelerates destruction of biological resoureces because it overvalues rare species when they have crossed the equilibrium threshold and are in decline. Technological outputs are proportional to population numbers: therefore adverse effects of population should be considered in billions, not percent increase even though it is declining. Even the United Nations does not have predictions of the effects of added billions, taking into account improved survival and decreased infant mortality. Rapid urbanization of developing countries and their debt crisis have resulted from political necessity from the point of view of governments in power, rather than mere demographics. Recommendations are suggested for U.S. policy based on these points such as enlightened political leadership, foreign aid, and scientific investment with the health of the world ecosystem in mind rather than spectacle and local political ideology.
Population and development problems: a critical assessment of conventional wisdom. The case of Zimbabwe.
ZIMBABWE JOURNAL OF ECONOMICS. 1988 Jan; 2(1):81-100.Conventional wisdom, as reflected in reports by the World Bank and the Whitsun Foundation, maintains that control of population growth is the key strategy for stimulating socioeconomic development and ending widespread poverty. The Witsun Foundation has criticized the Government of Zimbabwe for failing to include specific policies for population control in its National Transitional Development Plan. the report further expressed alarm about future availability of land to contain Zimbabwe's growing population. Communal areas are designed for a maximum of 325,000 families yet presently contain 700-800,000 families. This Malthusian, deterministic emphasis on population growth as the source of social ills ignores the broader, complex set of socioeconomic, historical, and political factors that determine material life. Any analysis of population that fails to consider the class structure of society, the type of division of labor, and forms of property and production can produce only meaningless abstractions. For example, consideration of crowding in communal areas must include consideration of inequitable patterns of land ownership in sub-Saharan Africa. Unemployment must be viewed within the context of a capitalist economic structure that relies on an industrial reserve army of labor to ensure acceptance of low wages and labor-intensive conditions. While it is accepted that population growth is creating specific and real problems in Zimbabwe and other African countries, these problems could be ameliorated by land reform and restructuring of the export-oriented colonial economies. Similarly, birth control should not be promoted as the solution to social problems, yet family planning services should be available to raise the status of women. Literacy, agrarian reform, agricultural modernization, and industrialization campaigns free from the dominance of Western capitalism represent the true solutions to Zimbabwe's problems.