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Population as strategic nexus of global sustainability
Strategic investment in population redundancy and transformation
Sectoral appeal of global population increase
Reframing massive global population increase as vital
Potential supporters and endorsement of population multiplication
Positive clarification of large-family statistics, values and dynamics
Innovation fruitfully engendered by population increase
Rendering habitable uninhabited regions
It is reasonably clear that strategic thinking with respect to future global governance is in a condition of stalemate. This is not for lack for proposals -- agendas, manifestos, libraries and websites are overloaded with them. The issue is their multiplicity, the lack of coherence amongst them, and the modesty of their achievements in response to current challenges and those foreseen. Many proposed initiatives are in active opposition to others, for reasons esteemed to be good by their proponents. As a tragic irony, viable solutions are increasingly recognized as taking the paradoxical form of missile delivery -- especially in the light of the evident predictability of their impact
Efforts to reconcile such dynamics have long proven to be less than successful. Failure to agree with an initiative is readily framed as "being part of the problem" -- possibly further elaborated through demonisation of its opponents. The issue can be framed in terms of the illusory nature of the quest for consensus and the ungovernability of society as currently envisaged (The Consensus Delusion: mysterious attractor undermining global civilization as currently imagined, 201; Ungovernability of Sustainable Global Democracy? 2011).
Appeals have long been made for "new thinking", "paradigm shifts" and "change". These tend to lack credibility in the eyes of those who already have a clear understanding of the issues they face and their aspirations for a better future. It has not proven possible to communicate attractive alternatives sufficiently widely in a manner which responds effectively to this condition in practice. Daily exposure, via the media, to suffering of every kind is cultivating a form of psychic numbing and indifference (Indifference to the Suffering of Others, 2013). So framed, the challenge is one of Transformation of psychic numbing (2011).
Rather than "new thinking", there is therefore a case for exploring the possibility of reframing and promoting "old thinking" with which people are comfortable and familiar. These may well better reflect their traditional family values -- and their desires. Rather than continuing in the desperate attempt to change the behaviours of others in the light of this or that unfamiliar worldview or value system, the question might be reframed as how to elicit collective learning by reinforcing behaviours characteristic of worldviews with which people are familiar.
Framed otherwise, the tendency to elaborate strategies in terms of "stopping" this or that deprecated process -- possibly then to be understood in terms of a "campaign" or "war" -- might be usefully challenged (Review of the Range of Virtual Wars: strategic comparison with the global war against terrorism, 2005). Expressed otherwise, this reflects the strategic adage: If you cannot beat them -- then join them. This is consistent with subtler philosophies of Going with the flow or Guiding the canoe, rather than pushing the river. Given the disaster-prone nature of the current strategic stalemate, and the long-demonstrated collective remedial incapacity, it could also be understood as Going for broke (Recognizing the Psychosocial Boundaries of Remedial Action, 2009).
Rather than arousing the typical resistance to new strategic proposals, this would evoke the sympathy and support of those with traditional mindsets and patterns of behaviour. The paradoxical nature of this controversial approach has been described elsewhere (Liberating Provocations: use of negative and paradoxical strategies, 2005). The approach could also be recognized as necessarily counter-intuitive -- in contrast with the unrealistic policy recommendations concerned with population, as recently presented by the National Academy of Sciences of the USA and by The Royal Society of the UK.
One merit of the strategy is that it can be limited to its own promotion -- in order to provoke more focused attention on the implications if implemented.
Arguments have been variously presented regarding the critical consequences of ever greater levels of global population, whether or not these are also associated with unsustainable rates of increase of population generally, or in particular regions (see World Population Awareness, How to Attain Population Sustainability, 25 February 2015). Some of these arguments, and the role played by religion in the process, have been discussed separately (Root Irresponsibility for Major World Problems: the unexamined role of Abrahamic faiths in sustaining unrestrained population growth, 2007; Is There Never Enough? Religious doublespeak on population and poverty, 2013).
Denial of challenges of overpopulation: Especially intriguing with respect to population processes is the level of denial and the reliance on the "unsaid" (Global Strategic Implications of the "Unsaid", 2003). These are curiously analogous to the controversies and taboos associated with discourse regarding sexual interaction, whether within the family, or in society in general. Just as such processes may be a predominant consideration, without being articulated, there is the strange phenomenon of the convoluted strategic discourse designed "around" such matters, as may be variously explored (Lipoproblems -- Developing a Strategy Omitting a Key Problem: the systemic challenge of climate change and resource issues, 2009; Vigorous Application of Derivative Thinking to Derivative Problems, 2013)
Natalism as a religious strategy: By contrast, a very particular strategic understanding of population is offered by natalism. As noted by Wikipedia, this is the promotion of child-bearing and parenthood as desirable for social reasons and to ensure national continuance. In public policy typically seeks to create financial and social incentives for populations to reproduce, such as providing tax incentives that reward having and supporting children.
Natalism may take political form as fecundism. In practice, it is difficult to determine whether a group has a strategy of fecundism, or if high birth rate is natural consequence of a group's beliefs or actions. The religious groups involved most often have long-standing principles and family structures that predate any democracies in which they may take part Fecundism may change the dynamics of a democracy as a consequence of the one-person-one-vote principle favouring larger groups over smaller.
Irrelevance of population factor in systemic analysis: Arguments citing population factors are widely considered to be irrelevant, despite the extent to which many critical problems are exacerbated by ever increasing levels of population (unemployment, immigration, housing, social security, energy and resources, environmental degradation, etc). Arguably most such problems would be easier to resolve if there were fewer people -- although this is rarely, if ever, mentioned (United Nations Overpopulation Denial Conference: exploring the underside of climate change, 2009). Furthermore, many sub-critical problems are exacerbated by increasing numbers, as can be variously explored (Comprehension of Numbers Challenging Global Civilization, 2014). Indeed it is becoming difficult to identify problems that would not be mitigated by lower population levels
Typically the role of population is minimized or ignored in analysis of such issues, and in media commentary on them -- to the point of considering population increase to be an unquestionable, non-negotiable given, even in post crisis analysis (Institutionalized Shunning of Overpopulation Challenge: incommunicability of fundamentally inconvenient truth, 2008). Some analyses go further in stressing concerns with replacement levels and the confident prediction of stabilization of population increase as a consequence of development and the empowerment of women. Challenging such perspectives invites censure, endangering careers and funding (Overpopulation Debate as a Psychosocial Hazard, 2009).
Inadequacy of conventional strategic discourse: This inadequacy becomes especially evident when -- exceptionally -- population is presented as a key factor in systemic analysis as illustrated by the following:
The inexorable demographic momentum of the global human population is rapidly eroding Earth's life-support system. There are consequently more frequent calls to address environmental problems by advocating further reductions in human fertility.... Humanity's large demographic momentum means that there are no easy policy levers to change the size of the human population substantially over coming decades, short of extreme and rapid reductions in female fertility; it will take centuries, and the long-term target remains unclear. However, some reduction could be achieved by midcentury and lead to hundreds of millions fewer people to feed. More immediate results for sustainability would emerge from policies and technologies that reverse rising consumption of natural resources. (Corey J. A. Bradshaw and Barry W. Brook, Human population reduction is not a quick fix for environmental problems, PNAS, 111, 18 November 2014, 46)
In his summary of the report's conclusions Mark Tran (Global overpopulation would withstand war, disasters and disease', The Guardian, 28 October 2014) highlights the argument that even brutal world conflict or lethal pandemic would leave unsustainable human numbers. The pace of population growth is so quick that even draconian restrictions of childbirth, pandemics or a third world war would still leave the world with too many people for the planet to sustain. Rather than reducing the number of people, cutting the consumption of natural resources and enhanced recycling are claimed to have a better chance of achieving effective sustainability over the 21st century.
Unrealistic policy recommendations: It is characteristic of the recommendations in both the above cases that language is used which is consistent with recommendations widely made. These have long proven to be unactionable in practice. Repeated efforts by science to recommend what "should", "ought" or "needs" to be done fail completely to take into account why they are typically not done -- or are undertaken in the most token manner possible, in order that claims may be made that they have been implemented. The inadequacy derives from the failure to explore the credibility of such arguments either for those expected to act upon them or obliged obtain a mandate for doing so from the population at large. In that sense such scientific studies are inherently unsystemic -- neglecting factors vital to understanding of the matter.
Use of "ought" or "should" implies a particular understanding of "they" or "we" to whom the recommendations are addressed -- without any consideration of the degree of existence, coherence or operacy of such collectivities in practice. Associated assumptions regarding political will and leadership also go unexamined, as being beyond the relevant systemic mandate.
Typically, as in the examples cited, the focus is on "tangible" factors. As with respect to other processes, it omits and obscures the relevance of any "intangible" factors driving population increase -- most notably those of a psychosocial nature (Knowledge Processes Neglected by Science: insights from the crisis of science and belief, 2012). The driving force of the biblical injunction is significant in this respect -- understandably in that it is held to be irrational. The systemic issue would be better framed in terms of remedial incapacity, as separately argued (Recognizing the Psychosocial Boundaries of Remedial Action: constraints on ensuring a safe operating space for humanity, 2009). Curiously, whilst fundamental physics is capable of handling and justifying the paradoxes of quantum mechanics, this capacity of science does not extend to human cognition -- effectively understood as analogous to Newtonian mechanics.
Missing from such sets of recommendations is any succinct articulation or depiction of the system of "inconvenient" factors undermining the feasibility of policies framed in this manner. One approach to such a depiction is provided by the following schematic, partially adapted from others (Convergence of 30 Disabling Global Trends: mapping the social climate change engendering a perfect storm, 2012; Mapping the Global Underground: articulating Insightful Population Constraint Consideration, 2010). The latter focused on global overpopulation complacency.
|Indicative configuration of factors undermining fruitful action
reproduced from Mind Map of Global Civilizational Collapse: why nothing is happening in response to global challenges (2013)
Systemic learning: With population recognized as a strategic nexus, how can collective learning best be enabled? Clearly disastrous wars, with their massive loss of life, have proven to be a vital source of collective learning -- although these have significantly failed to prevent continuing conflict with further massive loss of life. The scale of growth in population has not yet provided equivalent feedback to reframe collective thinking -- possibly at the subconscious level appropriate to the insight of John Ralston Saul (The Unconscious Civilization, 1995).
Arguably the need is to offer a sense of the planet's carrying capacity by testing it to its limits -- those which are typically acknowledged only with difficulty (Johan Rockstrom and Will Steffen, Planetary Boundaries: exploring the safe operating space for humanity, 2009). The argument applies equally to an ecosystem or to an urban neighbourhood. Massive increases in numbers make evident the challenge of overcrowding and overload for a whole range of services and their associated infrastructure -- to say nothing of the scarcity of resources variously evident. The question is at what point massive fatalities become "unacceptable" -- as is purportedly the case with respect to war.
The challenges of distribution and increasing gaps -- also readily deniable -- become an evident part of the learning process, namely a cost to be borne in population multiplication. Most obviously these are illustrated by readily comprehensible challenges (Resource Insights from Plus or Minus 12 People on a Liferaft: thought experiment to highlight global dilemmas in a comprehensible context, 2014). More intriguing are the skills required to navigate the adaptive cycle under such constrained circumstances, as explored by Thomas Homer-Dixon (The Upside of Down: catastrophe, creativity, and the renewal of civilization. 2006).
By contrast, of relevance to this argument is the universal enthusiasm for processes relating variously to sexual intercourse, procreation, and establishing a family. The question here is whether the current impotence with respect to "ought" and "should" can be fruitfully bypassed. The promotion of massive increase in global population would then avoid the elusive compromises associated with the balance sought in the conventional understanding of sustainability.
Strategic fashions? As noted by Thomas W. Merrick (Population and Poverty: new views on an old controversy, International Family Planning Perspectives, 28, 2002, 1):
Policymakers often ask how high fertility and related demographic variables affect and are affected by poverty. The popular view in the 1960s and 1970s--that fertility decline would slow population growth in developing countries and thus reduce poverty -- came in for a great deal of criticism in the 1980s, and by the 1990s, it was no longer in vogue. The alternative perspective that emerged was that demographic considerations are largely irrelevant to poverty reduction. Today, new thinking and fresh evidence challenge this view. Much of this research shows that demographic trends are indeed important.
In tangible quantitative terms, there is currently a degree of irony to the ease with which economists have switched from the severe deprecation of so-called "printing money" to acceptance of the recent initiatives of the European Central Bank (ECB launches 1 trillion euro rescue plan to revive euro economy, Reuters, 22 January 2015; David Stockman, The Draghi Derangement: $2 Trillion Euro Government Bonds Trading At Negative Yield, Contra Corner, 2 March 2015). A related point might be made with respect to the practice of quantitative easing so recently accepted. Is the fashion for either or both indicative of the probable strategic acceptability of multiplication of the global population, and could economists be encouraged to frame it so?
Rather than elaborating policy constraints on population increase, is there a case for a form of "quantitative easing"? Rather than "printing money", is there a case for engendering people as the basis for a "global rescue plan"? Should any concern that many such people may be unemployed be rendered acceptable -- unproductive labour then to be understood as a form of "negative yield" (calling for a new understanding of social security) ? With some industrialized countries faced with critical manpower shortages, are the immigrants from developing countries then to be understood as indicative of a fruitful form of "bailout"? Are trillions required to achieve sustainability? Would doubling the global population to 14 billion suffice, or perhaps tripling it to 21 billion?
Strategic clues from nature -- biomimicry? Ironically it is the current Pope, representing the doctrines of the Church most opposed to family planning, who has unwittingly indicated a fruitful metaphor to reframe strategic possibilities for humanity. He has defined that fatal doctrine by a comparison with the breeding habits of rabbits (Catholics don't have to breed 'like rabbits', says Pope Francis, The Guardian, 20 January 2015; Pope: Catholics Don't Have To Breed 'Like Rabbits', The Huffington Post, 20 January 2015; Philip Pullella, Pope says birth control ban doesn't mean breed 'like rabbits', Reuters, 19 January 2015).
However, in the spirit of biomimicry, there is a case for using the metaphor otherwise, given issues misleadingly handled by the papacy in the past: the Galileo Affair, sexual abuse by clergy, Vatican Bank scandals, Magdalene laundries in Ireland, and the like. Perhaps the strategic key may indeed lie in the global population "breeding like rabbits" -- especially since this is implicit in the biblical injunction framing the doctrine shared by the Abrahamic religions: Be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28)
The justification for this comparison with rabbits is the biological reality that such species repeatedly engender multiple progeny because their lives are at risk -- being especially vulnerable. Human readily assume that their lives are not at risk -- mistakenly. Should humanity recognize that increasing risks should favour massive increase in population, possibly enabled by increasing "litter size" or "clutch size" (A genetic tool to manipulate litter size, Frontiers in Zoology, 2014, 11:18). The tragedy is most evident for parents with a single offspring. Arguably any fatality in a family is mitigated to an increasing degree in families as they increase in size, as partially explored in the movie Saving Private Ryan (1998)
However ongoing conflicts, urban violence, natural disasters, together with deaths from from malnutrition and disease, suggest otherwise.
Requisite adaptation to permanent conflict and disaster: The assumption is readily made that conflict and suffering can be progressively reduced and eliminated around the world. The historical records contradicts this unquestionably. The US alone, upheld as exemplar of democracy and peace, has been shown to have been at war for most of its existence (America Has Been At War 93% of the Time: 222 Out of 239 Years, Since 1776, Information Clearing House, 23 February 201). In October 2013 the incarceration rate of the USA was indicated as being the highest in the world, at 716 per 100,000 of the national population.
With respect to terrorism, a "long war" was variously envisaged and rebranded as "perpetual" by the Bush regime -- to the point of being known by its own initials (pGWOT). Its perpetual nature continues to be recognized (Jeremy Scahill, Perpetual War: how does the global war on terror ever end? Foreign Policy in Focus, 1 November 2013; Glenn Greenwald, The 'war on terror' -- by design -- can never end, The Guardian, 4 January 2013; Edward Luce, America's perpetual war on terror by any other name, Financial Times, 14 September 2014; Adam Hudson, Perpetual War, Indefinite Detention, And Torture, MintPress News, 18 September 2014; James Holbrook, The Global War on Terror Is Perpetual and So Are Its Costs, University of Utah, 13 August 2013).
The Precautionary Principle then suggests that it would be strategically prudent to invest in the probability of future violence and suffering. The constantly increasing military budgets already seem to reflect this appreciation.
In a period in which the military foresees future wars (and social unrest) as being fought and enabled by swarm intelligence, there is a case for switching from the "rabbit" metaphor to an "ant" metaphor. Thus has been a primary inspiration for this strategic thinking through insight into ant colony optimization algorithms. Of particular interest are the combative characteristics of swarms of ants -- now in process of being adapted by the military to the programming of drones -- namely adapted for unrelenting conflict, rather than averse to it. There are of course widely publicized speculative accounts of the quest by the CIA for means of "programming"assassins to operate in an analogous mode -- with medical enhancement.
Such an argument suggests that humanity needs to invest heavily in numbers in order to ensure survival -- beyond the previous politico-military reliance on "cannon fodder". Aspects of this transformation have already become evident in a form of swarm intelligence exhibited in the Arab Spring revolutions enabled by social media. The more fundamental issue is one of enabling human populations to anticipate conflict and suffering of a higher order -- tragically prefigured by that in the Middle East. Population increase should then be understood as a key to risk reduction with respect to the survival of humanity.
Redundancy and margin for error: Given the evident strategic inadequacy, there is already a need for building up redundancy through massive increase in population. However the inadequacy of strategic mindsets suggests that such redundancy should also be considered as offering a margin for the risks of disastrous strategic errors which are increasingly probable -- as indicated in commentaries on strategies in the Iraq and Afghanistan arenas with regard to both (What Have We Learned: lessons from Afghanistan and Iraq; Pick Your Battles: ending America's era of permanent war?, Foreign Affairs, November/December 2014; Transforming the Unsustainable Cost of General Education: strategic insights from Afghanistan, 2009).
With respect to population policies, the sense of margin for error could then be fruitfully in terms of the need to "embrace error", as otherwise articulated by Donald N. Michael (On Learning to Plan and Planning to Learn: the social psychology of changing toward future-responsive societal learning, 1973) Given the enthusiasm for violence as presented by the media, is their a need to "embrace conflict". This could be reframed as the modern equivalent to the bloody conflict so much appreciated in the amphitheatres of the Roman Empire, exemplified by its Colosseum -- considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering. Michael describes the "requirement to embrace error" in the following terms:
More bluntly, future-responsive societal learning makes it necessary for individuals and organizations to embrace error. It is the only way to ensure a shared self-consciousness about limited theory to the nature of social dynamics, about limited data for testing theory, and hence about our limited ability to control our situation well enough to be successful more often than not.
Religion: With respect to this sector, the appeal is readily recognized in the case of the Abrahamic religions in the light of the biblical injunction: Be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28) by which they are collectively inspired. The Quiverfull movement among conservative evangelical Protestants is further inspired by Psalm 127:4-5:
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one's youth.
Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.
There is little indication that other religions argue against unconstrained increase in family size or community growth -- or any prudence in this respect. Those religions attaching deep significance to any future manifestation of divinity -- whether prophesied or promised -- already frame global crises as a welcome indication that such end times are near. Any pressures arising from increasing population are therefore a means of enabling fulfillment of such prophecy.
Some go further in framing their initiatives in this respect as a means of "helping God" and bringing about the End Times, as with the so-called Armageddon Lobby (Rammy M. Haija, The Armageddon Lobby: dispensationalist Christian Zionism and the Shaping of US Policy towards Israel-Palestine, Information Clearinghouse; Sarah Posner, Lobbying for Armageddon, AlterNet, 2 August 2006).
With respect to any increase in suffering, as may be foreseen globally from the increasing stresses within society and on the environment, there is every likelihood that these will effectively be welcomed by religions. Such suffering will engender a significant appeal to religion as offering a source of hope -- thereby increasing the numbers of their active believers. This could evoke questionable interpretations of such implicit agendas by religion, as separately explored (Indifference to the Suffering of Others, 2013). However this can be readily framed by religion as inappropriate and to be ignored. Curiously the value attached by religion to the experience of suffering -- as a major source of learning regarding compassion -- is consistent with this strategic proposal -- as a means of eliciting systemic learning.
Much more relevant is the mass appeal of religion under such circumstances -- especially when focused on a positive framing of the end times scenarios they prophecy. More questionable however is the implication that religions may rely unconsciously on their traditions of human sacrifice as a means of global governance (Systemic Reliance of World Religions on Human Sacrifice: covert use of fatal conflict to ensure vital resource management, 2014)
Growth-dependent economic sectors: It is strange to note the range of human activities dependent on growth for their viability and sustainability over time. It is however difficult to distinguish the associated dynamics from that of a Ponzi scheme -- however deliberately or inadvertently organized. Needless to say this is most evident with respect to economic growth in general -- framed by politicians as the panacea for most social ills (in sensitive response to their voters). Growth in population is then readily appreciated in terms of growth in markets. The point acquires particular emphasis in the event that population fertility should fall below replacement level -- upheld as a threat to their very survival.
It is evident that significant increases in population can only be welcomed by many manufacturing industries, notably those producing consumer goods. Particularly evident is the case of the construction industry then called upon to meet ever greater needs for housing and infrastructure. Such enthusiasm would clearly extend to the many service industries thriving on larger numbers of customers (communications, entertainment, recreation, tourism, and the like). In the case of the health sector, this would clearly be of the greatest value to the pharmaceutical industry -- to "big pharma".
Ironically the desperate quest for stimulants for such growth bears a strange resemblance to that for aphrodisiacs by the impotent -- even implying unconscious aspirations consistent with the above-mentioned rabbit metaphor (Warren Buffet Using a Viagra Metaphor, Swift Economics, 12 July 2009; Maurice Glasman, We need to talk about Keynes -- and his Viagra economics, The Guardian, 8 July 2012; James Pethokoukis, Does the U.S. need a dose of Viagra economics? Reuters, 10 July 2009).
Employment: The implications for the development of many economic sectors clearly creates new job opportunities. It is therefore likely to be welcomed by many -- but will call for careful consideration of the risks to those already in employment. The World Economic Forum has recognized the dividends to be derived from population growth in the following terms:
The global conversation on population growth has shifted from a focus on control to avoid the damages of overpopulation, to a positive conversation around the potential economic benefits of the youth bulge (Global Agenda Council on Demographic Dividend 2014-2016)
Emerging stresses in global society will necessarily also offer a wide spectrum of employment opportunities -- whether or not these need to be remunerated, as explored in the case of civilian response to crisis situations (Reframing Sustainable Sources of Energy for the Future: the vital role of psychosocial variants, 2006)
Security: As implied above, it is notably the military and security sectors which would be especially enthusiastic about population increase -- particularly given the demand for their services as a consequence of the probable increase in social unrest. This is readily understood in terms of upgrading the law and order services, as noted above. However, as also noted, the undeclared need for a supply of "cannon fodder" remains evident -- a challenge in managing the "replacement level" to ensure the renewability of that supply.
Understood from this perspective, the military-industrial complex can be fruitfully recognized as highly responsive to a multiplication of global population.
Supportive refocusing of public information and image management: Clearly there is a long tradition of appreciation of large families, as a particular extension of that relating to family values. The question is how best to enhance this understanding through highlighting additional factors and considerations. In public relations terms, this is an issue of image management and finding ways to best promote such appreciation. How can large families be turned into a natural attractor and aspiration? How can their creation be fruitfully associated with the challenges of global society?
Typical devices include the promotion of exemplars, well-publicised family size competitions, interviews, and documentaries. Clearly imagery suitably for posters and social media distribution could be a key factor in creating such a focus for the collective imagination. Especially valuable would be documentaries and imagery which enhanced appreciation of the rich dynamics within large families in comparison with that of smaller families -- perhaps recognition of distinctive forms of qualitative emergence as the number of family members increased.
There is clearly a case for celebratory songs -- family songs with multi-part singing offering special possibilities. The Beatles song, All You Need is Love (1967), is a possible example. Large-family song contests might prove especially valuable as a vehicle for this. Slogans, as indicated below, offer another means of succinctly framing the particular value of large families. Educational programs in schools merit special consideration in preparing attitudes for wider social responsibilities.
|Slogans supportive of population increase
to focus strategic implementation and buy-in
As with marketing of many consumer products, in considering the underlying psychology of the process, particular consideration could be given to using metaphor to harness the fundamentally attractive associations of sexual intercourse. This offers a means of enhancing the image of "sustainability", especially through associations to games -- as is most obviously recognized in use of "scoring". With interpersonal relations so readily associated with game-playing, as in flirtation and in sexual games, enlarging families could be imaginatively explored as a dynamic rather than in conventional static terms. An elegant point is offered by the religious author James P. Carse (Finite and Infinite Games: a vision of life as play and possibility, 1987)
There is the further possibility of using the unconscious instinctual associations of the quest of the sperm for the egg as a means of reframing the quest for global integration -- for fruitful globality (Engendering Invagination and Gastrulation of Globalization: reconstructive insights from the sciences and the humanities, 2010).
Deprecation of opposition to population increase: Engaging fruitfully with the mindsets opposed to population increase can naturally be considered in the light of the arguments traditionally articulated by religious leaders, most notably the Pope, in terms of their scriptures. Variants have of course be articulated by non-Catholic religious authorities, notably Christian fundamentalists. The arguments of pro-life movements more generally also constitute a rich source of commentary negating the arguments of those concerned by overpopulation.
With respect to the strategic potential of fecundism (noted above), has a totally inappropriate fear been instilled in women, as indicated by the following:
Potentially even more fruitful in strategic terms is the process of negative campaigning as it is typically deployed in response to other social change strategies. An analysis has been fruitfully made by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway (Merchants of Doubt: how a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming, 2010).
This documents how authoritative individuals with strong ties to particular industries, have "played a disproportionate role in debates about controversial questions". According to the authors, this has resulted in "deliberate obfuscation" of the issues which has had an influence on public opinion and policy-making. There are interesting parallels to be drawn between the process of negating anthropomorphic global warming and that of negating global population increase -- if only with respect to the metaphoric implications of psychosocial "warmth".
Such campaigning needs to devote careful attention to those considered exemplars of the opposition to population increase, such as Margaret Sanger (Woman and the New Race: the wickedness of creating large families, 1920).
Reframing the unbelievers: There is appropriate irony to the fact that the possibilities of deprecating the position of those opposed to massive population increase are most fruitfully indicated by the range of strategies deployed in opposition to more conventional understandings of appropriate remedial initiatives In this light, those challenging the merits of massive population increase -- whether in scientific terms or otherwise -- need to be reframed as the "merchants of doubt" with questionable agendas in support of undeclared or secretive agendas.
However it is clearly such strategies which need to be deployed with respect to opponents and opposition to massive increase in global population. This applies most clearly to those expressing concern at such increase and challenging approaches to family planning which have proven to be ineffectual in practice, like the rhythm method. Wikipedia offers a (preliminary) List of population concern organizations and a List of organisations campaigning for population stabilisation. An extensive list is provided by EcoFuture (Organizations Addressing Overpopulation and Sustainability) which includes the following -- necessarily to be considered as targets for negative campaigning (as they already are by some):
Clearly initiatives critical of population increase and its implications should be condemned through appropriate negative campaigning -- skilled or otherwise. Such campaigns, and their leading individuals, need to be systematically discredited. This could take the form of organization of media bias employed with respect to other social change proposals, as separately discussed (Vital Collective Learning from Biased Media Coverage: acquiring vigilance to deceptive strategies used in mugging the world, 2014). The Wikipedia typology of cover-ups, mentioned there, is an especially valuable source for discrediting critics of population increase. Going further, given the threats to global society of failure to implement the remedial strategy of multiplication of global population, any resistance merits consideration in the light of the emerging structures of homeland security (Wanted: Enemies of the Earth and Greenwar International, 1992).
Statistics on family size: Currently measures are provided in terms of total fertility rate (TFR), namely the average number of children born to each woman of childbearing age. This is a proxy for family size. As noted by Wikipedia, these data indicate that large families are most common in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the TFR ranges from 2.5 children per woman in South Africa to 5.5 per woman in Nigeria. Fertility was also high in the Middle East, ranging from a TFR of 2.4 in Turkey to a TFR of 3.1 in Jordan. As noted with respect to the UK, large families (3+ children) made up almost a fifth (18 per cent ) of all families with dependent children in 2001, with the remaining majority of families being equally likely to have one child or two children -- 41 per cent for each (Maxine Willitts and Kirby Swales, Characteristics of Large Families, 2003).
|Total human fertility rate (TFR)
(image reproduced from Wikipedia, indicating average number of children born to a woman over her lifetime)
Also presented by Wikipedia is a List of sovereign states and dependent territories by fertility rate. For the period 2010-2015, these are ranked in terms of the medium variant, starting:
This can be compared with a related List of countries by population growth rate, with the ranking starting as follows:
More indicative of the real potential with respect to fruitful global multiplication of population is the List of people with the most children. In the case of women (typically in marriage), the ranking starts with:
With respect to men known (or reputed) to have fathered children, the ranking starts with
The latter listing suggests a fruitful reframing of leadership which leaders of countries of the future might consider in their role of exemplars. The earlier lists raise the question as to whether the current focus on Global Domestic Product (GDP) could be more fruitfully replaced by GPD, namely Global Population Development. It has been noted that it took the US 200 years to go from an average of 7 babies per family to 2. In past decades Bangladesh has achieved that in 20; Iran has more than halved its fertility rate in a decade. The challenge is to completely reverse this trend -- despite the encouraging terms in which it has been misleadingly framed (Go forth and multiply a lot less, The Economist, 29 October 2009; Mike Seccombe, What Happens When Half The World Stops Making Babies, The Global Mail, 12 March 2013)
Of some relevance, in contrast with developing countries, are the family aspirations documented in the Irish Republic by K. Wilson-Davis (Ideal family size in the Irish Republic. Journal of Biosocial Science, 12, January 1980, 1 pp 15-20):
From a survey conducted in the Irish Republic, data on ideal family size are given. Irish wives have high family size preferences, the overall mean ideal family size being 4.3 children. The Irish data are compared with American and western European; they show that the ideals of wives in Ireland are significantly higher than in these other countries. The concept of ideal family size appears to possess validity in its own right, and is not solely a rationalization of actual fertility experience.
Especially relevant, given the extent to which Catholic popes and cardinals tend to have been engendered and raised within large families, is how the size of such families has favoured their promotion of larger families and opposition to restrictive family planning.
Articulation of large family values: Sources of insight in this respect include the European Large Families Confederation (ELFAC) and the Association of Large Families of America (ALFA). The latter was initiated by the activist pro-life Human Life International (HLI) as a growing community of families who are standing together as witness to the counter culture comeback of large families and enabling them to share their stories (Association of Large Families of America Challenges Time Magazine's 'One and Done' Theory, Cattholic Online, 26 August 2010).
Large families are the most splendid flower-beds in the garden of the Church; happiness flowers in them and sanctity ripens in favorable soil. Every family group, even the smallest, was meant by God to be an oasis of spiritual peace. But there is a tremendous difference: where the number of children is not much more than one, that serene intimacy that gives value to life has a touch of melancholy or of pallor about it; it does not last as long, it may be more uncertain, it is often clouded by secret fears and remorse. (Pope Pius XII on Large Catholic Families, 1P5, 19 January 2015)
Now the value of the testimony offered by the parents of large families lies not only in their unequivocal and forceful rejection of any deliberate compromise between the law of God and human selfishness, but also in their readiness to accept joyfully and gratefully these priceless gifts of God -- their children -- in whatever number it may please Him to send them.
This kind of attitude frees married couples from oppressive anxieties and remorse, and, in the opinion of outstanding doctors, creates the ideal psychological conditions for the healthy development of children born of the marriage. For, right at the beginning of these new lives, it eliminates all those worries and disturbances that can so easily leave physical or psychological scars on the mother or child. (The Large Family, Catholic Culture)
On that occasion, with respect to overpopulation, Pius XII indicated:
The so-called problem of overpopulation of the earth is partly real and partly unreasonably feared as an imminent catastrophe for modern society; but undoubtedly the rise of this problem and the continued failure to arrive at a solution of it is not due to some mix-up or inertia on the part of divine Providence, but rather to disorder on man's part -- especially to his selfishness and avarice.
With the progress that has been made in technology, with the ease of transportation, and with the new sources of energy that are just beginning to be tapped, the earth can promise prosperity to all those who will dwell on it for a long time to come....
So overpopulation is not a valid reason for spreading illicit birth control practices. It is simply a pretext used by those who would justify avarice and selfishness -- by those nations, for instance, who fear that the expansion of others will pose a danger to their own political position and cause a lowering of the general standard of living, or by individuals, especially those who are better off, who prefer the greatest possible enjoyment of earthly goods to the praise and merit of bringing new lives into existence. The final result is that they break the fixed and certain laws of the Creator under the pretext of correcting supposed errors on the part of His Providence.
Pope Francis has recently articulated his understanding in an address to the same association (Pope Francis' Address to the Italian Association of Large Families, Zenit, 26 December 2014):
The presence of large families is a hope for society.... You rightly remembered that Article 31 of the Italian Constitution, asks for particular attention to large families; but this is not adequately reflected in the facts. It remains in words. Therefore, I hope, also thinking of the low birth rate that has long been in Italy, for a greater focus on policy and administrators on a public level, in order to give due support to these families. Each family is a cell of society, but large families are a more rich cell, more vibrant, and the State has an interest in investing in it.
Within the context of the Russian Orthodox community, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow opened an international forum on The Large Family and the Future of Humanity at the State Kremlin Palace (10 September 2014). He notably stated: .
The large family is a phenomenon that influences very many because the large family is an example of how people build a very solid community by dedicating their life to others. The large and healthy family is a factor defining the moral health of the whole society. That is my profound conviction and for this reason I support all the events and the program which you have carried out in cooperation with like-minded people from many countries of the world. [see summary]
Could such authorities possibly be misguided as some have inappropriately assumed?
Other arguments include the resources indicated on the QuiverFull and large families website including books and articles such as:
Given the associated controversies, it is appropriate to juxtapose the following perspectives:
Large family dynamics and their management: A variety of valuable resources exist:
Clearly global population multiplication will increase pressures engendering creativity and innovation. Usefully distinguished are:
Sectors which may be benefit from, and be characterized by, such innovation include:
An argument frequently presented is the degree of overcrowding associated with increasing population and the lack of space for housing and agriculture. These apparent constraints provide a particular focus for innovation. Possibilities variously considered include:
These examples indicate that there is indeed no space constraint to multiplication of the global population. The argument can be taken further with the question as to how much space individuals and families really need (especially following the possibility of genetic decimation of height). The point is made by the evident adaptation of individuals to available space in urban slums, refugee camps and crisis accommodation. Further possibilities are indicated by the density of accommodation in prisons. How much space do humans really need -- understood in terms of carrying capacity?
Kim Brenneman. Large Family Logistics: the art and science of managing the large family. Vision Forum, 2012
J. S. Bossard and E. Boll. The Large Family System. University of Pennsylvania Press, 1956.
Nancy Campbell. Be Fruitful And Multiply: what the Bible says about having children. Vision Forum, 2003
James P. Carse. Finite and Infinite Games: a vision of life as play and possibility. Ballantine Books, 1987
Michelle Duggar and Jim Bob Duggar. A Love that Multiplies: an up-close view of how they make it work. Howard Books, 2012
Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. Cheaper by the Dozen. Crowell, 1948
Max Heine. Children: Blessing or Burden -- Exploding the Myth of the Small Family. Creation House, 1989
Thomas Homer-Dixon. The Upside of Down: catastrophe, creativity, and the renewal of civilization. Knopf. 2006
Craig Houghton. Family UNplanning: a guide for Christian couples seeking God's truth on having children. Xulon Press, 2006
Rick Jess and Jan Hess. A Full Quiver: family planning and the Lordship of Christ. Wolgemuth and Hyatt, 1990
Donald N. Michael. On Learning to Plan and Planning to Learn: the social psychology of changing toward future-responsive societal learning. Jossey-Bass, 1973
Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway. Merchants of Doubt: how a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming. Bloomsbury Press, 2010
Mary Ostyn. A Sane Woman's Guide to Raising a Large Family. 2009
John Ralston Saul. The Unconscious Civilization. Free Press, 1995.
this work is licenced under a creative commons licence.