Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Documentary: Population Boom

Population Boom explores the myth of overpopulation in this 91 min documentary filmed at various  locations throughout the world. Released in 2013, Population Boom explores the controversial population control methods pursued by the United States in the 1970's to control population growth almost exclusively in the developing world. Werner Boote seeks answers as to how this came about and who is driving the efforts to drastically reduce population in poorer countries.

By way of introduction to his topic, Werner Boote looks at how the United Nations announced the Earth's population has reached 7 Billion - a number supposedly portending disaster. The announcement is made on Halloween, October 31, 2011. Rather than marking this milestone in a joyous manner, the 7 billion number is linked by UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon to war and famine on the planet. Werner Boote asks Babatunde Osotimehin of the United Nations Population Fund if it would be better if there were fewer people on the planet. Osotimehin tells Werner that no one knows the capacity of the Earth and what it can sustain. As an example, he states that a 1960's cover of Time magazine referred to the Earth's population of 3.5 billion as over population. Osotimehin states that how he deals with population control varies by country.

This leads Werner Boote to state his thesis: for decades the UN has been stating that the world is overpopulated. The belief that the world is overpopulated seems to be a view of the rich and influential such as David Rockefeller and Ted Turner. Ted Turner, founder of CNN and a major land owner continues to promote the view that the world is over populated and that this will bring about the extinction of the human race. The reasoning is that too many people will lead to global warming which will lead to drought and famine and ultimately to starvation and cannibalism. Surprisingly Boote never mentions Warren Buffet nor Bill and Melinda Gates, the latter who have donated millions of dollars to develop various types of contraceptives with the intent of marketing them to the developing world.

Boote then explores the origin of the idea that the Earth has a limited capacity of people that it is capable of sustaining. The concept that the Earth can only support a limited population originated in 1789 with Thomas Robert Malthus, an Anglican theologian and economist. Malthus believed that man is the ultimate danger" to the planet, that the world even in the 1700's was overpopulated and would eventually be unable to feed itself. He predicted total collapse by 1860. Despite this not happening, many continue to believe his theory as evidenced by the bizarre monument in Georgia.

The Georgia Stones
In Elbert County, Georgia, six granite slabs were erected as a monument with ten "laws" inscribed on them in eight different languages. The person or persons who paid for the monument remain a secret but the intention is not. Two of the laws refer to population; 1. Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature. and 2. Guide reproduction wisely -- improving fitness and diversity.Number 10 says "Be not a cancer on the earth - leave room for nature - leave room for nature."

Boote asks the question "Who is one too many?" and sets out to discover who is driving this catastrophic view of the future. In the process he explores how the overpopulation movement gradually gathered strength in the late 20th century and the consequences to the developing countries and to families. He also explores how the developing world views population control, the discriminatory nature of population control, attitudes towards consumption and how the global economic system makes it increasingly difficult to have children at all.

He begins in the United States. In 1974, a large scale population plan was drawn up by the then U.S. Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger with his Memorandum 200. The top priority of U.S. foreign policy was population reduction in twelve countries including Philippines, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand, Turkey, Nigeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Columbia, Brazil and Mexico. One hundred thirty-seven countries agreed to reduce their population. Enrique Mendoza Morales, a lawyer who represented Mexico at the 1974 Population conference, claims the Americans were concerned at the time with a population explosion and the believe that this would be accompanied by the growth of communism. They also recognized that the more people a country had, the stronger it would be and that this would affect the balance of power and the United States' ability to exert control. Their plan was adopted by the UN and in Mexico was heavily promoted by the media. Instead of population "control" the term "family planning" was adopted to avoid seeming aggressive and draconian. The measures succeeded and Mexico brought its birthrate of 6.1 children per woman in the mid 1970's down to 2.1 children per woman - the rate needed to just maintain the population.

The fear of overpopulation spread around the globe leading governments to use different means to achieve their goals. In 1979, China introduced its one child per woman policy. This policy was strictly enforced for decades by forced sterilizations and abortions, leading China to be criticized for its human rights violations. In the last few years, in specific rural areas, China has allowed couples whose first child is a girl to have a second child but the one child policy continues to be the norm. Boote is told by Hu Hontao of China's National Population and Family Planning Commission that people who do not have babies can work and increase economic growth. This view affirms Boote's belief that "worldwide greed for economic growth doesn't leave any room for personal desires and feelings."

The Chinese policy has resulted in 400 million fewer Chinese. In the short term, China's economy has profited with increased income and economic growth. However, in the long term, China's population will suffer. The government has created a society of only children, usually "exalted sons". Professor Xie Zhenming is an opponent of China's family planning policies which he wants to change. Professor Xie in the presence of China's Family Planning officials, met with Boote to discuss how he believes China's policies have damaged Chinese society. Professor Xie states that the one child families are not strong families and usually require some kind of assistance. He also points out that because of the one child policy China will soon have too many elderly people and not enough young people to support them. He also refers to China's thirty million "missing girls" as a result of the Chinese cultural preference for sons.

From Beijing, Boote moves on to Mumbai, India to explore family planning there. A main feature of the population reduction mantra is that poverty could be eliminated if people in poorer regions would stop having children. In India, which will overtake China as the most populous country, women are given many incentives to be sterilized. The official position of the government is two children per family. Boote visits the Khatoon family who live in one of Mumbai's slums, without water, electricity, sewers and have little food or money. Two million children under the age of five die in India's slums each year. These slum dwellers will never become major consumers. In contrast to the Khatoon family, India's wealthiest man, Mukesh Ambani lives in a 37,000sq ft. home overlooking Mumbai's slums. In Mumbai, families with two children or less receive special incentives and have access to government services. It becomes apparent from talking to various India officials how population control in the country works. The people who have money are able to have as many children as they want but the poor must "control" the number of children they have IF they want their children to have access to state facilities and services. It is a discriminatory policy that seeks to eliminate the poor not by helping them out of their lower economic status but by population control.

From the Indian subcontinent, Boote travels to Africa where most of the international aid is contraceptives. A case in point, a 1997 malaria epidemic in Kenya saw the country run out of malaria medicine but have shelves stocked with toxic contraceptives like pills and IUDS. Ndirangu Mwaura believes that America promotes population control in Africa because it is fearful it will be swamped by the poor. Mwara believes the problem is not one of overpopulation but of congestion - the poor live on top of one another in crowded cities because they cannot afford land.

An interview with Obadias Ndaba of World Youth Alliance Africa is one of the more interesting in the documentary. He states that Africa is not overpopulated but in fact has one of the lowest population densities in the world. Its 40 people per sq. km is much lower than Europe's 170 people per sq. km. Illiterate villagers are taught that population control is the path to development but Ndaba points out that this is not the process that occurred in the West. People became educated and wealthy and then had smaller families but in Africa the reverse is happening. Ndaba says people drive economic growth and that governments need to see people as an investment.Poverty in Africa "is not a result of too many people. It's rather a result of too few people who mismanage and misuse our resources."

Although Boote does not detail the effects of population control in Western countries he does take a look at Japan, a G7 country with an advanced economy. With a birth rate of 1.3 children per woman,Japan now produces more adult diapers than baby diapers. Boote does not mention that this is far below the replacement level for a population and that no country with such a low birthrate has ever recovered its population. Tokyo's overcrowding suggests a vibrant country but a short trip into the countryside reveals the truth about the Japanese situation. One mile away in Akiruno, Suzuki Tadashi shows Werner an abandoned school and laments the loss of so many children.

So who is to blame for this situation? Are there any who disagree? For that Werner Boote interviews several notable persons.

Probably the most interesting interview in the entire documentary is that of journalist and conspiracy theorist, Benjamin Fulford who only agreed to be interviewed in a boat in the middle of a pond in the western part of Tokyo. Fulford pulls no punches in stating that the Western elite who run the planet believed the only way for humanity to live in balance with nature was to eliminate 5 billion people. The real reason behind all this disaster according to Fulford has been greed, especially on the part of the banks, petroleum companies and the chemical pharmaceutical companies. He blames the "aristocratic and banking families of North America and Europe" - the Rothschilds, Rockefellers, Warburgs and Morgans who believe in eugenics and eliminating inferior people (that is, the poor who breed). It is Fulford's opinion that the eugenics of the early 20th century brought to bear by Adolf Hitler and Nazism, never really died out but simply went underground. It reappeared later in the 20th century marketed under the guise of Planned Parenthood (whom he specifically and surprisingly mentions) and lately, global warming. (Note to readers, the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger was a noted eugenics supporter particularly interested in reducing the population of black Americans.) But as Fulford notes, the law of evolution dictates that those who have kids will control the future.

Betsy Hartmann, a demographer from Hampshire College, Massachusetts also suggests that bankers and petroleum companies are partly to blame. She believes that "it's the systems under which we live that determine the kind of consumption and production." Hartmann cites the US military as a prime example, it being the largest consumer of oil in the world.

Boote turns to fellow Austria, Wolfgang Lutz, a demographer whom he interviewed at his beautiful summer home on the island of Vaha-Vehanen in Finland. Lutz believes there is no optimum population size and that population control is inherently discriminatory because it believes that there are too many people of one group. Sudan could easily feed a billion people with modern agriculture but its problem is not too many people but "too many people without enough education."

Farida Akhter and Werner Boote discuss UN aid.
Finally Boote is seen in Dhaka, Bangladesh, a country often used as an example of being overpopulated. Boote says that Western media will often post pictures of overcrowded trains out of context leaving westerners to believe that this is the normal state of affairs. Farida Akhter, a scientist and activist states that even saying there are too many people is a way of looking at the poor. It carries with it specific connotations that are both derogatory and biased. She cites that much of the aid from the Western world is like Boote's UN umbrella. An umbrella is useless without the spines. Each of the spines of the UN umbrella of aid represents a condition that must be met first. Countries not accepting those conditions do not get the aid.

Boote's documentary is likely not to be popular in many circles, especially those who promote foreign aid and contraceptives and abortion to the developing world. But his documentary raises many important questions about our view of the poor, our view of the developing world, the right of couples everywhere to choose the number of children for their family, and the global economic systems that make having a family more and more difficult around the globe. Of particular interest to me was the belief that economic growth can only be achieved by reducing population. Yet the Canada and the United States with its baby boom population and unprecedented economic growth during the last century seemingly disproves this theory.

The influence of the global economic system (which encourages people to work and consumer rather than to create the next generation), in the declining global birthrate is an experience that is not just restricted to the developing world although the consequences are more serious.  We now have a global economic system that favours a select few while impoverishing many and causing great harm to the planet.

Boote made his documentary after the success of Plastic Planet in which people asked him the question, "Isn't the planet in danger of being destroyed because there are too many people?" The answer, as Boote has learned, depends upon who you ask.

Some interesting reading may be found at the following links:

The Intellectual Roots of Paul Erlich's Population Bomb (and the prehistory of climate alarmism) by Pierre Desrochers

Population Growth: Disaster or Blessing by (Lord) Peter T. Bauer who is emeritus professor of economics at the London School of Economics (scroll past the first page which is an ad for the Independent)

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