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Overpopulation and Birth Control
The inherent problem with the concept of overpopulation is that the finite resources available on Earth cannot hope to support the potentially infinite expansion of humanity. The Earth itself is a closed-off ecosystem with no resources entering into it. As such, its surface can only support a certain population of species, both human and animal alike, before the ecosystem inevitably collapses in on itself due to a severe strain on the planet’s natural and ecological resources.
Nature itself has a certain prevention system in place that prevents populations from growing beyond their means due to the predator and prey dynamic. Humanity, which long ago evolved to be the dominant species on the planet, does not have an imposed system of control placed upon it by natural forces and, as a result, can expand exponentially due to this apparent freedom. In her article explaining the repercussions of overpopulation, Julia Whitty explains that in 1965 the global population stood at a mere 3.3 billion people who collectively taxed the Earth’s resources to only 70 percent of its bio-capacity (Whitty, 1).
This means that only 7/10 of the land, water, and air the planet could regenerate or repair yearly to produce various life-sustaining products were consumed as well as its ability to absorb greenhouse gas emissions (Whitty, 1). Unfortunately, the rapid expansion of the global population following the period of the 1960s resulted in humanity consuming more resources than the planet could replenish, resulting in the present day conditions wherein 6.8 billion people are consuming the equivalent of 1.4 Earth’s (Whitty, 1).
This phenomenon described as an “ecological overshoot” can be seen in the rapid degree of deforestation in various countries around the world, the rampant overpopulation in developing and Third World countries, as well as the sheer amount of pollution currently in the planet’s ecological system. This has affected weather and climate patterns to such a degree that it has caused artificial climate change, resulting in an increasingly hot atmosphere due to the accumulation of pollutants such as C02 in the air due to cars and fossil fuel burning power plants. Based on the information presented, it can be seen that the current growth of the human population is unsustainable in the long run due to the finite resources on the planet. One method of controlling this inexorable growth towards destruction is birth control properly administered through family planning programs.
Various studies show that family planning programs utilizing birth control methods account for about a quarter of the worldwide decline in fertility rates since the 1950s and, as such, could be considered a viable means of controlling the growth of the human population. Although people argue that birth control is against the human will and that people are free to have as many kids as that want, I believe that birth control can help solve the problem of overpopulation since it presents itself as an effective and viable means of population control.
Birth Control and the Concept of Choice
In her article on overpopulation, Julia Whitty explains that one of the main reasons behind overpopulation is the inability to choose (Whitty, 1). While it may be true that a person can choose whether or not to have sex, Robert Kunzig, in his article explaining the rise of the global population by 2045, explains that at times people cannot help but have sex because it feels good and that it is a natural part of human nature (Kunzig, 1).
For example, even during the height of China’s one-child policy, people still on occasion had more than one child. Unfortunately, due to the illegal nature of such action-heavy fines or even death usually followed such an action (Mosher, 71- 86). In countries such as the Philippines, more than half of the pregnancies are unplanned, resulting in greater population densities. It must be noted that studies conducted by the Guttmacher Institute show that if easy access to birth control such as contraceptives were available to the general Philippine population, this would result in nearly 800,000 reductions in overall births in the country, which would result in $16.5 million in savings for the Philippine government per year due to the cost of healthcare (Whitty, 1).
It must be noted that since the Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country, it was the influences of the Catholic Church that made the use of birth control highly controversial, resulting in a drop in its usage. The Church advocated using natural methods of birth control such as “natural” family planning and the use of the rhythm method; unfortunately, such methods have proven themselves to be highly ineffective in controlling the growing population of the country (Whitty, 1). The problem in this case, as explained by Kunzig, is the fact that the concept of actually being able to choose when to have a child and how many cannot be relied upon due to the inherent aspects of human nature (Kunzig, 1).
The only viable method that gives people the ability to choose while at the same time is a viable method of population reduction is the use of birth control. Various studies support this claim and those conducted by the Guttmacher Institute, as such in cases where basic human nature has to be taken into account, natural methods fail in truly being effective compared to methods of birth control nearly 100% effective.
Birth Control and Modern-Day Precedent
On the side of birth control as an effective means of population control is the fact that modern-day precedent has shown that birth control works in reducing populations. In the period between 1988 and 1996, Iran experienced a plunge in fertility rates where the rate of births plummeted to 50% of its original number 7 to 1.7 today (Whitty, 1). Studies show that this was due to a combination of government education programs and the media showing the value of having small families and the use of birth control with free distributions of contraceptives among the local population.
The result was an almost overnight change in Iran’s population demographic aptly named “the Iranian Miracle,” which reversed Iran’s overpopulation into a viable one. Such reversals through the use of education and birth control can also be seen in countries such as Costa Rica, Cuba, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Tunisia, and Morocco, wherein through the embrace of birth control methods and contraceptives, the populations of such countries were lowered to manageable levels (Whitty, 1). While it may be true that such methods run the risk of creating pressure for quick results while increasing the temptation to resort to extraordinary measures, the fact remains that they have been proven to effectively and as such a viable method of controlling global populations (Connely, 1).
Birth Control and Historical Precedent
Birth control as a means of preventing unwanted pregnancies and control populations is not a modern concept at all and can be seen in various cultures throughout history. For example, the Chinese used certain oiled silk paper forms to prevent semen from entering the vagina. At the same time, the Japanese, on the other hand, utilized an entirely different, if not strange, the concept of using fine leather or tortoiseshells to cover the head of the penis and capture the semen within (Whitty, 1). While it may be true that such methods seem laughable today, they were one of the first attempts at trying to prevent women from having unwanted pregnancies.
The fact is even cultures from the past recognized the need to limit children; however, they understood the folly of relying on human will or abstinence as an effective means of birth control since many among them usually broke such vows within a few weeks of enacting them. The fact is man is an inherently sexual creature described by Freud in his various studies examining human nature. While there are few historical records on whether such methods of birth control were effective, the fact remains that since they continued for several thousand years shows that even in the past, they were considered an effective means of population control and as such could also be considered effective as well in the future due to vastly more effective means in the present.
Birth Control and Science
Various studies conducted throughout the years have shown that birth control has been scientifically proven to effectively reduce and control the rate of pregnancies within a country. The use of birth control in the form of condoms, birth control pills, vaginal sponges, and vasectomies have over the years proven their worth in populations in Europe and the U.S. it has been shown that their use has effectively been able to control the rate of pregnancies in such regions despite the growing rate of sexual promiscuity brought about by the popularity of sex and sexually related themes seen in pop culture.
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Based on this information, if it has been shown to be effective in 1st world countries such as the U.S., it is likely such methods would be just as effective in developing, or Third World countries should the proper educational programs be instituted such as what was instituted in Iran.
Connelly, Matthew. “Controlling Passions.” Wilson Quarterly 32.3 (2008): 60-66. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web.
Kunzig, Robert. “By 2045 global population is projected to reach nine billion. Can the planet take the strain? (Cover story).” National Geographic 219.1 (2011): 36-69. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web.
Mosher, Steven W. “China’s One-Child Policy: Twenty-five Years Later.” Human Life Review 32.1 (2006): 76-101. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web.
Whitty, Julia. 2010. “The Last Taboo.” Mother Jones 35, no. 3: 24-43. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost.