Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Precautionary Principal: Overpopulation our Climates Biggest Threat

The precautionary principle is an official guiding policy that says: “even where it is not certain that serious or irreversible harm will be caused, if it is likely, action should be taken to prevent it.” (Beder, 2006). Overpopulation is an issue where precautionary principal is taken into consideration as environmentalist, and the world as a whole are starting to see overpopulation as a threat to environment. In the article “Overpopulation is the Biggest Threat to Our Climate”, the author Roger Martin makes an unequivocal statement of the precautionary principle. He gives warning of the consequences of overpopulation, which will be met, if not dealt with in a timely fashion. In this blog post, I will analyse the precautionary principle, a key principle discussed in Sharon Beder’s Environmental Principals and Policies an Interdisciplinary Introduction, and the way in which is was used in Roger Martin’s article.

Martin states:

Our planet is finite, it cannot support an infinite number of people, so population growth, caused by more births than deaths, will definitely stop one day. And when it stops, it will be because of either fewer births or more deaths (or some combination) (Martin, 2009)

He suggests that due to overpopulation environmental problems such as high carbon emissions are worsening. It is up to the governments then, to implement a regulation on population, such as family planning, to lower population growth, thus help lower carbon emissions. Where there is no certainty of the outcomes of such actions, the results are better than the situation at hand; therefore it is safe to proceed with any implementations set fit by the government. Applying limits on the number of births maybe one way to prevent environmental damage. Introducing incentives to families with less children and having a fee to pay for large families may be another, and simple introducing contraception into population may be a third.

The implementation of contraception in developing countries will reduce the population rate and help lower people’s “carbon footprint” or negative impact on the environment. Implementing contraception would not deprive people from having children like China’s One-Child-Policy, but rather control the amount of children families want, and help regulate when they want them. Developments such as the UN have statistics that correlate with similar problems, and the solutions, which they propose, agree with Martin’s precautionary thinking.

I believe that Martin’s precautionary thinking is correct, however he fails to address the fact that it is not only developed countries that have already implemented changes to try and create a more sustainable world. Developing countries have also implemented changes to create a more sustainable environment. These developing countries turn to the developed countries for support, since many of them don’t have the means to implement population control measures for their countries.

Although Martin fails to recognize the point stated above, the precautionary principle behind his article was well constructed. The principle was applied in Martin’s ideas as it proceeded with action due to uncertainty of the outcomes of overpopulation. With the use of ‘family planning’, regulations on population, and/or contraception; populations around the world can be controlled. With fewer people population our earth, the impact humans play on our environment will decrease, leaving a healthier, more sustainable planet.


Martin, Roger. mixmysalad. 20 october 2009.

"UN Population Division Brief." March 2009. Accessed: December 24, 2009.

Sex, Food, and Climate Change

Not only will a condom save you from making a mistake, it can also help save the environment. The increasingly large human population on the earth is posing major problems for everyone. It causes heavy emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, which can result in drastic climate change. Increasingly more severe climate change and pollution, is leading to food and freshwater shortages, and causing many more negative effects on the environment. In the article “Sex, food, and climate change: Can contraception save us from catastrophe?” the author, David Pike, suggests contraception as a method to curb overpopulation and its ensuing negative effects. He claims that measures to reduce Earth’s population must be taken, or else “we will not be able to avoid the much-feared “tipping point” of catastrophic climate change, with disastrous consequences for all” (Pike, 2009). His claims are strong, but his argument could be strengthened by employing various environmental principles, such as the human rights, sustainability and precautionary principles.

The human rights principle, states that all people are entitled to fair and equal treatment, which includes the rights to life, health, and wellbeing. Overpopulation causes a violation of these rights for many people. Climate change and pollution caused by extensive emissions is resulting in droughts and freshwater shortages in many parts of the world. These factors are in turn drastically reducing annual crops and creating massive food shortages and famine. Many people, especially in developing countries, die from starvation and diseases because they lack access to food and clean water. According to the World Health Organization, in the year 2000 “more than 150,000 premature deaths were attributed to various climate change impacts” (Beder, 2006). Climate change created by overpopulation is an indirect cause of these deaths, and therefore overpopulation leads to a violation of human rights. If Earth’s population is reduced, greenhouse gas emissions and pollution could be reduced, and our resources and environment would also be protected.

According to the sustainability principle, it is necessary to protect the environment and preserve resources so that the global economy can be sustained far in the future. If the population does not decrease, the major strains on the environment and natural resources will increase further. It is the responsibility of our generation to allow future generations to have a viable economy. The future economy will suffer extremely if people continue to consume our limited resources, and pollute the earth at the current pace. The population should therefore be reduced in order to protect later generations from these negative consequences.

It is not scientifically proven that overpopulation will cause a lot of damage, but since the potential consequences are so high, measures should be taken to decrease the population growth as soon as possible. The precautionary principle states that action should not be delayed despite a lack of scientific certainty when there is the potential for serious or permanent harm. According to UN scientists, “severe droughts experienced in many countries in 2005 could become a semi-permanent phenomenon” (Beder, 2006). Overpopulation results in significant climate change and environmental damage, which may pose major threats to future generations. The possibility that these negative impacts may be irreversible; should be reason enough to take precautionary measures to reduce overpopulation.

Earth’s continually increasing population poses a severe threat to the environment and to future generations. When environmental principles are used to examine this issue, reasons can be seen to warrant taking action against overpopulation. If actions are not
taken, human rights will be violated and later generations will be left with a lack of resources, a poor economy, and a degraded environment. If the human rights, sustainability, and precautionary principles are employed, an effective and convincing argument can be made for decreasing the current population.

Works Cited

Beder, S. (2006). Enviromental Principles and Policies an Interdisciplinary Introduction. London: Earthscan.

York, P. (2009, November 19). Sex, food, and climate change. Retrieved November 25, 2009, from The

The environment vs. economic growth – The Sustainability Principle

How much can we use? Are there enough resources on this Earth to help sustain the current global population expansion all over the world? These questions and more are explored by scientists and professors to try and help know our limits. It is clear that us as humans need to globally expand but how do we know when to stop? In many opinions the rich are the ones to blame for overconsumption, others say that it is just the way it is and that it cannot be stopped and can just be controlled. My opinion is that the growth population is here to stay and cannot go away. If there was a law implied that restricted the number of children you can have, then I feel that is a violation against human rights. People will reduce the number of children only if they want too.

In the article Sex, food, and Climate Change the author points out many flaws with overpopulation such as: by 2080, 1.1 to 3.2 billion people will experience water scarcity, 200 to 600 million will be starving, and 2 to 7 million people each year will experience coastal flooding. It is also expected that the world’s population will plummet after 2050 because of famine, drought, disease, and war (ie. water wars?). Helmut Burkhardt said, “It’s important to expose the misconceptions that only overconsumption is the cause of ecological problems, and not overpopulation. A drastic reduction of the few overconsumers, and reasonable and just increase in consumption by the numerous poor will raise the world average consumption of resources in a planet already suffering from ecological stress near the tipping point.” This just goes to show that the world must be reminded that overconsumption must be reduced and it is because of us humans.

An ecological footprint is the effect one has on the earth, environmentally. As a country the United States create the biggest footprint in the world, followed by the United Arab Emirates, and then Canada. While these countries produce the highest amount of emissions countries like India still are not as technological and environmentally profound than developed countries.

However the world’s population will always be growing and some groups will try their best to try and reduce these numbers. The economy and money will always have an upper hand on society and such environmental groups. Instead of growing at 2.4 per cent each year, the economy would grow at 2.1 per cent annually if Canada met an ambitious, science-based emission reduction target. Canada's overall GDP growth is 2.2 per cent annually but policies implied by Environmental Minister of Canada Jim Prentice will not have enough of an impact on the environment. Also, with the world in an economic slump, the government of any country will not sacrifice their economy for the benefit of the environment. In other words, if the country can improve their economy by destroying a little bit of environment then they are going to do it.

Overall, I think the economy and the government has too much of a stranglehold on the policies induced. Overpopulation can only be controlled and I think that is the way it will be for years to come unless there is a policy that is effective and does not violate human rights.

References: York, Paul

Demerse, Clare

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Blog 8

Sex, food, and climate change

Now that I have your attention, I’d like to talk to you about the social and environmental effects that overpopulation has. The article “Sex, food, and climate change” by Paul York, contains some interesting ideas about how the problem of overpopulation will be dealt with. Although York produces reasonable descriptions of the effects caused by an excess of people, his solutions should not be used because of many social principles that would be against their effects. Paul York believes, among other things, that “The reality is that if the practice of contraception is not widely adopted, another type of population control will be implemented: mass murder.”(York, 2009) The social and environmental policies that would most likely be affected by York’s solutions are the equity principle, the human rights principles, and the sustainability principle.

The idea of equity is simple: fairness, to both present and future generations. In his article, York states that in the years to come there will be famine, water scarcity, and disease due to the problems associated with overpopulation. York is clearly concerned about the future and future generations but one must not forget that the equity principle also deals with the present generation. Later in the article, York claims that if contraceptives are not widely used, mass murder in developing countries will be the resultant population control. Where is the Fairness in this solution? The truth is that it is not fair to anyone in the countries that would be affected by this. To clarify, the mass murder would be indirect by his definition, and caused by a lack of aid to any countries that are in need, leaving them to fend for themselves in emergency situations. The equity principle would not agree with this solution and neither would the next principle for similar reasons.

The human rights principle pertains to the rights of life, health, and wellbeing. Conversely, York states “...let the developing world—namely sub-Saharan Africa—die, and we will hoard all the resources for ourselves.” (York, 2009) From a human rights point of view this is completely unacceptable. All people have the right to live; it is not fair to allow those who are in need to die in order to gather all of the resources for the rest of the world. If all humans are entitled to the same rights then there is no way that any group of people is more entitled to live. Although all humans have the right to live, in order to live there must be sufficient resources to do so; this is when the sustainability principle becomes important.

The sustainability of our planet, on the other hand, would benefit from a decrease in population size. For years it has been believed that the world will soon run out of food, and as York claims, “Malthus’s ideas are now back in vogue as global food futures are uncertain...” (York, 2009) Sustainability is very important when talking about an ever-growing population, the truth is, people need to eat and an excess of people require a lot of food. In terms of the sustainability principle, there would be huge benefits in decreasing the amount of people in the world, namely: less stress on resources.

In conclusion, although Paul York may believe that allowing the developing countries to die will solve the overpopulation problem, there are many problems with that idea. The sustainability principle may agree with a decrease in the human population, but when taking both the equity and the human rights principle into account York’s solution is not a suitable option. Therefore, other solutions must be found to solve the problem of overpopulation, mass murder is not the answer.


York, Paul. “Sex, food, and climate change.” The November 19, 2009. Accessed: November 22, 2009.

Overpopulation - The Biggest Threat to our Planet's Survival

The issues of overpopulation affect many different principles and policies such as the sustainability principle, equity principle and precautionary principle. In Ace Smith’s article Overpopulation - The Biggest Threat to our Planet's Survival he addresses these points and urges for something to be done about the world’s overpopulation crisis.

The sustainability principal states that the Earth does not have an unlimited carry capacity and eventually we will run out of space and resources. This relates extremely well to overpopulation because an unsustainable planet will be caused by too many people. Some people now believe that with new technologies the earth will be able to maintain an always growing population. This solution may work in developed countries where the new food production techniques or recycling plants are available. But the greatest population increases are in developing countries that are not well off financially and unable to support themselves. So really, without decreasing the population there is little than can be done especially in developing countries to support sustainable development. Another point of sustainability is the ecological footprint of individuals which again is too large for the planet to successfully support.

Intergenerational equity takes in to consideration the distribution of rewards and burdens not just in the current generation but for present generations. With the topic of overpopulation the more children that people have now may increase their present day benefits. But with a larger population there will inevitably be greater carbon emissions, use of more resources and other negative effects towards the environment. Some people argue that future generations do not exist yet and we will not know what kind of needs they will have. They will not be able to reprimand us for not taking care of the environment so why should we make ourselves suffer in the present day? But the opposition assumes that future generations have the right to clean air, food and water. I believe that they are right and we need to take care of the environment to future generations can live and prosper.

The precautionary principle can also be applied to this situation by stating that the population is increasing at an alarming rate and in the present day it seems to be causing problems with a lack of resources to support everyone or increased carbon emissions. Although some people do not believe this problem is evident it can be assumed that the more people on the earth the greater the carbon emissions and thus a detrimental effect on the environment. But it is unknown all the effects of overpopulation so is it better to act now and cut down the population manually or let nature run its course and hope that the planet can support us? It is generally thought to be better to reduce our population now to protect us from unforeseen consequences in the future.

The overpopulation problem affects many different aspects of the environment and society. This can be seen through use of the sustainability principle, equity principle and precautionary principle.

Smith, A. (2008, August 13). Overpopulation - the biggest threat to our planet's survival. Retrieved from

Monday, November 23, 2009

Family Planning Regulation

Family Planning Regulation

The population growth of the world is one of the leading environmental problems. Overpopulation can lead to many problems such as overconsumption which limits the number of resources that are available for everyone to sustain life. The rate of population growth is very high especially in developing countries. 90% of the world’s population is concentrated in these areas. Population growth is increased by poverty. This article promotes the challenge of family planning. For example, having only planned pregnancies is one of the key ideas trying to be encouraged. The argument between this kind of regulatory control and the idea of economic incentives will be argued in this blog.

Throughout the article I chose, the regulation of family planning is highly emphasized. Contraceptives are promoted throughout the article. In the United Kingdom the government set up a teenage pregnancy strategy to try and promote the awareness of teens about teenage pregnancy. In year 2000 they implemented the Teenage Pregnancy Unit. The purpose of these programs were to provide specific messages on peer pressure, the option of waiting for sex, sexually transmitted infections, using contraception and condoms. Correct contraceptive information is trying to be promoted by these groups. For example, people in Rwanda believe that contraceptives such as birth control may lead to permanent sterilization. This organization wants to eliminate such rumors. The program is also aimed at problem groups that are often neglected such as boys and young men, young people from black to ethnic minority communities and ones in care homes. The methods and resources that are available to these target groups should be readily available. Vasectomies and male sterilization should be encouraged also and made available as well as for females, hysterectomies. Policies such as the one child policy in China should be a last resort. That is because they are liable to be neglectful of the human rights of some women, and of additional children who arrive despite the policy and also may be unnecessary in some countries. Fiscal incentives to encourage women to have large families should be discouraged.

Through economic incentives, meaning that the government grants an organization with money to for the quality of their work, overpopulation can be controlled instead of just an education about premarital and teenage pregnancies and other self control programs. Such ‘bribes’ can be used to encourage people to use these contraceptives. I mentioned before that the majority of the population growth in the future years will be in third world countries, areas that are struggling economically. Money is a high commodity any where in the world so this could be beneficial. Some negative effects of these incentives could be increased crime. But personally I think these incentives will give these people an opportunity for them to make a difference to the world as well as benefit with the extra money that they might be in desperate need. Also incentives should be rewarded to families that have one child or the maximum two.

Overall, I think that the idea of economic incentives is a good idea for the environment and will help encourage people to reduce unplanned pregnancies. Clearly the whole sexual education is not working as well as planned, so why not give something that everybody wants?


Guillebaud, John., Accessed Nov. 16th/09

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

China's One Child Policy...The Way To GO?

In the article A Brief History of China’s One Child Policy, the Chinese government calls to implement a policy that limits families to having only one child. In this article, possible rulings and solutions to regulating population in China are discussed. A regulatory control approach is favoured in the article, however in this blog post, the opinions of both financial incentive and regulatory control methods will be discussed and analyzed in order to deduce the best opinion.

The Chinese Government is proposing the policy that would limit every family to having only one child. The author, Laura Fitzpatrick , has cited many varied reasons for the supporting of this. First, they argue the population growth was taking a toll on the nation's food supply. For example, the decreased per capita food availability in China, despite phenomenal increase in their production has caused poverty in many parts of China, which has leads to malnutrition, hunger, and disease. (Gale 2002) The author’s concern was in considering China’s population, which is over 1.3 billion people, demand for food will overpower supply of food. This will result in a higher poverty rate in China, but also with so many inhabitants living in a space, the country will become more and more crowded. This high population will lead to an increased pressure on resources like land, water, natural forests, and animals, leading to many far-reaching effects. For example: fragmentation of land below the economic level, the shortage of drinking and irrigation water, deforestation to increase the area under agriculture, and pollution of water, land, food materials.

In the case of population regulation to lessen its negative effects stated above, an outright ban is not the only solution. Financial incentives as exemplified by having to pay the Chinese government a set fee, if you are to have more then one child is a less extreme alternative that is practical and sustainable. By setting a fee per every child a family has over one child, the government does not prohibit families to have one child only, however because there is a cost to have over one child, there is an incentive to have less children. The first argument against the ban and in favour of a feeing system is one regarding gender equality and health of women.

The author of this article strongly claims,

With boys being viewed as culturally preferable, the practice of female infanticide — which had been common before 1949 but was largely eradicated by the 1950s — was resumed in some areas shortly after the one-child policy went into effect. The resulting gender imbalance widened after 1986, when ultrasound tests and abortions became easier to come by. “ (Fitzpatrick, 2009)

Next, the One Child Policy negatively affects farmers and families who depend on their children to provide for them. Although the One Child Policy does allow for some lenience in the matter, allowing families to choose how many kids they see fit to have, so that they are able to provide for themselves is a fair practice.

In my opinion, the option of an economic incentive is significantly more practical option. Since the environmental, monetary, and health benefits would be much higher if a feeing system were to be implemented, it seems like a much better alternative. If this system were put into place, changes would not be immediate, but they would be very sustainable and long-term. Most people are not willing to put forth money unless they need it. The people who would pay the fee in order to have larger families would be families that utilise these “extra” members for their survival. By taking off the pressure of only being able to have one child, perhaps women would gain some equal rights in China’s society and the practice of illegal abortions and poor health care to women and children would improve.

In conclusion, when it comes to overpopulation, extremism might not always be the way to go. Whether environmentalists like it or not the world is going to be become more and more populated with or without the One Child Policy. Convincing people, especially those who are in need or larger families, and women, who are continually demeaned in society, that this policy is “the way to go” will be near-impossible at this point with out putting people’s health and lives at risk. It is for these reasons that I believe; in this case, a financial incentive is more practical and sustainable than regulatory control.


Fitzpatrick, Laura. Brief History of China’s One-Child Policy. (July 27, 2009),8599,1912861,00.html Accessed Nov. 18, 2009.