Friday, July 25, 2008

The Greatest Population Explosion In Human History

I blogged a while back on the amazing population increases in the third/developing world over the last sixty years.

Certainly several of the traditional horsemen, war, famine and plague (HIV/AIDS) have been galloping around Africa for the last few decades - but the population keeps on keeping on. Look at the Congo, basket case of basket cases - yet with a six-fold population increase in 60 years.

As William Rubinstein put it :

These levels of increase are, of course, simply staggering. They are greater, both in absolute numbers and almost certainly in percentage terms, than anything known before in a relatively short period in human history. They have occurred despite losses in wars and civil wars, such as have occurred in India -Pakistan, the Congo, Ethiopia, and Iran-Iraq, among other places, despite totalitarian mass murders as in Communist China, despite immigration abroad, and despite losses through AIDS and other illnesses. In just over sixty years, Brazil's population has increased by 318 per cent; Colombia's by 352 per cent, and Ethiopia's by 503 per cent - and so on, with, in general, the most impoverished of these nations showing the most unbelievable increases.

The causes of these vast increases are obvious enough: Western medicine, applied to the eradication of communicable diseases and epidemics and to a decrease in infant mortality ...

Kevin Myers isn't too pleased about it all - and that's putting it mildly ...

Africa, with its vast savannahs and its lush pastures, is giving almost nothing to anyone, apart from AIDS.

Meanwhile, Africa's peoples are outstripping their resources, and causing catastrophic ecological degradation. By 2050, the population of Ethiopia will be 177 million: The equivalent of France, Germany and Benelux today, but located on the parched and increasingly protein-free wastelands of the Great Rift Valley.

So, how much sense does it make for us actively to increase the adult population of what is already a vastly over-populated, environmentally devastated and economically dependent country?

How much morality is there in saving an Ethiopian child from starvation today, for it to survive to a life of brutal circumcision, poverty, hunger, violence and sexual abuse, resulting in another half-dozen such wide-eyed children, with comparably jolly little lives ahead of them? Of course, it might make you feel better, which is a prime reason for so much charity. But that is not good enough.

Hmmm. I wonder if he was inspired by stories like this :

Scottish singer Sandi Thom has helped Oxfam erect an 11,000-litre water tank in Glasgow to highlight the growing humanitarian crisis in East Africa.
Ah, yes. Fight drought in Africa with water tanks in Glasgow. You know it makes sense - if it's all about us. I think what's bothering Mr Myers is that we chuck aid and technology at Africa - with the amazing population results seen above - while the recipients of our aid carry on 'as you were'. Here's Mr Myers' follow-up piece :

I am not innocent in all this. The people of Ireland remained in ignorance of the reality of Africa because of cowardly journalists like me. When I went to Ethiopia just over 20 years ago, I saw many things I never reported -- such as the menacing effect of gangs of young men with Kalashnikovs everywhere, while women did all the work. In the very middle of starvation and death, men spent their time drinking the local hooch in the boonabate shebeens. Alongside the boonabates were shanty-brothels, to which drinkers would casually repair, to briefly relieve themselves in the scarred orifice of some wretched prostitute (whom God preserve and protect). I saw all this and did not report it, nor the anger of the Irish aid workers at the sexual incontinence and fecklessness of Ethiopian men. Why? Because I wanted to write much-acclaimed, tear-jerkingly purple prose about wide-eyed, fly-infested children -- not cold, unpopular and even "racist" accusations about African male culpability.

Hmm. Certainly the Dark Continent doesn't seem appreciably lighter these days. Quite apart from some of the major unpleasantnesses, there are still plenty of stories like this little item, on the killing of albinos for their allegedly magical body parts, from Tanzania, one of the greatest of aid recipients in the days when Julius Nyere was every liberal's pin-up.

Yet the wide-eyed children of 1984-86, who were saved by western medicines and foodstuffs, helped begin the greatest population explosion in human history, which will bring Ethiopia's population to 170 million by 2050. By that time, Nigeria's population will be 340 million, (up from just 19 million in 1930). The same is true over much of Africa. Thus we are heading towards a demographic holocaust, with a potential premature loss of life far exceeding that of all the wars of the 20th Century.

This terrible truth cannot be ignored.
But back in Ireland, there are sanctimonious ginger-groups, which yearn to prevent discussion, and even to imprison those of us who try, however imperfectly, to expose the truth about Africa.
Sanctimonious ginger-groups ?

Hundreds of bishops from across the world have marched in London to demand urgent action on global poverty. The Archbishop of Canterbury led the walk from Parliament to Lambeth Palace. Dr Rowan Williams called on governments to fulfil their promises on aid and development or see the world's poor suffer disease, starvation and death.
Otherwise known as "hundreds of bishops from across the world have marched in London to demand that somebody else take urgent action on global poverty". Hasn't the Church of England got any money left ? "Sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven".

It does look as if we've spent the last 60 years handing out fish while neglecting to teach the art of fishing - and the recommendation of the bishops is for more of the same. Maybe teaching a continent isn't the same as teaching a man. Maybe it can't be done. In which case we're apparently supposed to carry on sending the "food, the Mercedes 10-wheel truck and the Lockheed Hercules".

Self-serving generosity has been one of the curses of Africa. It has sustained political systems which would otherwise have collapsed. It prolonged the Eritrean-Ethiopian war by nearly a decade. It is inspiring Bill Gates' programme to rid the continent of malaria, when, in the almost complete absence of personal self-discipline, that disease is one of the most efficacious forms of population-control now operating.

Lordy. Malthus, thou should'st be living at this hour. But he has a point, albeit brutally expressed. The population of Africa is soaring. In two generations it's gone from millions of poverty-stricken people to billions of poverty-stricken people. Where does it stop ?

If his programme is successful, tens of millions of children who would otherwise have died in infancy will survive to adulthood, he boasts. Oh good: then what? I know. Let them all come here. Yes, that's an idea.

And by strange chance ... another news item so small that you hardly notice it. 30,000 Ugandan and Kenyan Asians in the 1970s, 90,000-odd German Jews over a five year period in the 1930s were major news items - and these were some of the most educated, intelligent and industrious people in the countries of their birth. They were also minorities in the country of their birth. I'm not sure any of the above neccessarily applies to the following :

About 39,000 asylum seekers in a backlog of 400,000 applicants have been allowed to remain in Britain by the Home Office ... The top four nationalities among asylum seekers were Somalian, Pakistani, Iraqi and Afghan.

Have a nice day. Our Government (of both political complexions), having wound down the nuclear industry over the last 20 or more years, is proposing to sell our remaining nuclear expertise to a French state-owned company (which continued to build reactors over that period), thus placing a strategic British energy interest in the hands of Paris. This kind of decision is so depressing, so destructive, that it's tempting to give way to despair - and rejoice at the total kicking Nulab were given in Glasgow, even while realising that it brings the breakup of Britain closer.

UPDATE - you have to ask - why didn't the UK carry on having eight or nine kids each after Victorian times ? Anyone who researches their family history will have noted the number of children in the nineteenth century - and the number of child deaths. I guess that when Western medicine developed from Victorian times onwards, its development accompanied a process of declining birthrates and a culture of fewer children. In Africa it's been parachuted in - literally in some cases - to cultures which haven't undergone those changes and show no signs of doing so.