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“The war on population always has been, and will continue to be, a war on women’s bodies.”
After reading this article by Betsy Hartmann rebutting recent psuedo-environmental hysteria surrounding overpopulation, I wanted to investigate further how fears of overpopulation facilitate sexist, racist and imperialistic policies by Western countries and NGOs against poor women of color in the Global South.
As Hartmann states with clarity:
“The population controllers have blinders on their eyes when they attribute the cutting down of forests, the polluting of water supplies, and the extinction of species to too many poor people, rather than the unchecked power of large corporations to monopolize resources and ravage the land. Missing from the picture is the question of technological choice: for example, reducing the population of automobiles and investing in public transport worldwide would do much more to curtail climate change than imposing limits on family size.”
This seems to me fundamentally correct. It’s clear that human civilization has overshot the capacity of the Earth to provide for it, that’s not in question. The question is about what forces are responsible for this, and what can we do about it?
For Hartmann and myself, the number of people alive is not nearly as important as the structure of the economic system in which we live. The planet could support 6, or maybe even 9, billion people living a low-impact lifestyle, based on community subsistence and a diet full of fruits and vegetables. But the planet cannot possibly support 6 billion people living like Americans, with their cars, and their computers, and their wars.
As with all things, the debate on “overpopulation” is a political debate, because its a question about who has power and who doesn’t. Placing the blame on poor women is just a way of ignoring the real power-holders: Large multinational corporations and Western capitalist governments.
Below are excerpts from an article that I found helpful in explaining this more clearly. [alex]
By the Population and Development Program at Hampshire College
Fears of overpopulation are pervasive in American society. From an early age we are taught that the world is overpopulated and that population pressure is responsible for poverty, hunger, environmental degradation and even political insecurity. If we don’t get population growth under control now, the argument goes, our future is in danger.
Conventional wisdom, however, is not always wise. Placing the blame on population obscures the powerful economic and political forces that threaten the well-being of both people and the planet. It leads to top-down, target-driven population control programs that undermine voluntary family planning and women’s reproductive rights. It reinforces racism, promoting harmful stereotypes of poor people of color. And it prevents the kind of global understanding we need in order to reach across borders to work together for a more just, peaceful and environmentally sustainable world.
Here are ten reasons why we should rethink ‘overpopulation.’
2. The focus on population masks the complex causes of poverty and inequality.
A narrow focus on human numbers obscures the way different economic and political systems operate to perpetuate poverty and inequality. It places the blame on the people with the least amount of resources and power rather than on corrupt governments and economic and political elites. It ignores the legacy of colonialism and the continuing unequal relationship between rich and poor countries, including unfavorable terms of trade and the debt burden. It says nothing about the concentration of much wealth in a few hands. In the late 1990s, the 225 people who comprise the ‘ultra-rich’ had a combined wealth of over US $1 trillion, equivalent to the annual income of the poorest 47% of the world’s people.
3. Hunger is not the result of ‘too many mouths’ to feed.
…There is enough food for every man, woman and child to have more than the recommended daily calorie intake. People go hungry because they do not have the land on which to grow food or the money with which to buy it. Read the rest of this entry »
I Want a Twenty-Four-Hour Truce During Which There Is No Rape
Speech by Andrea Dworkin.
This was a speech given at the Midwest Regional Conference of the National Organization for Changing Men in the fall of 1983 in St Paul, Minnesota. One of the organizers kindly sent me a tape and a transcript of my speech. The magazine of the men’s movement, M., published it. I was teaching in Minneapolis. This was before Catharine MacKinnon and I had proposed or developed the civil rights approach to pornography as a legislative strategy. Lots of people were in the audience who later became key players in the fight for the civil rights bill. I didn’t know them then. It was an audience of about 500 men, with scattered women. I spoke from notes and was actually on my way to Idaho–an eight-hour trip each way (because of bad air connections) to give a one-hour speech on Art–fly out Saturday, come back Sunday, can’t talk more than one hour or you’ll miss the only plane leaving that day, you have to run from the podium to the car for the two-hour drive to the plane. Why would a militant feminist under this kind of pressure stop off on her way to the airport to say hi to 500 men? In a sense, this was a feminist dream-come-true. What would you say to 500 men if you could? This is what I said, how I used my chance. The men reacted with considerable love and support and also with considerable anger. Both. I hurried out to get my plane, the first hurdle for getting to Idaho. Only one man in the 500 threatened me physically. He was stopped by a woman bodyguard (and friend) who had accompanied me.
I have thought a great deal about how a feminist, like myself, addresses an audience primarily of political men who say that they are antisexist. And I thought a lot about whether there should be a qualitative difference in the kind of speech I address to you. And then I found myself incapable of pretending that I really believe that that qualitative difference exists. I have watched the men’s movement for many years. I am close with some of the people who participate in it. I can’t come here as a friend even though I might very much want to. What I would like to do is to scream: and in that scream I would have the screams of the raped, and the sobs of the battered; and even worse, in the center of that scream I would have the deafening sound of women’s silence, that silence into which we are born because we are women and in which most of us die.
And if there would be a plea or a question or a human address in that scream, it would be this: why are you so slow? Why are you so slow to understand the simplest things; not the complicated ideological things. You understand those. The simple things. The cliches. Simply that women are human to precisely the degree and quality that you are.
And also: that we do not have time. We women. We don’t have forever. Some of us don’t have another week or another day to take time for you to discuss whatever it is that will enable you to go out into those streets and do something. We are very close to death. All women are. And we are very close to rape and we are very close to beating. And we are inside a system of humiliation from which there is no escape for us. We use statistics not to try to quantify the injuries, but to convince the world that those injuries even exist. Those statistics are not abstractions. It is easy to say, “Ah, the statistics, somebody writes them up one way and somebody writes them up another way.” That’s true. But I hear about the rapes one by one by one by one by one, which is also how they happen. Those statistics are not abstract to me. Every three minutes a woman is being raped. Every eighteen seconds a woman is being beaten. There is nothing abstract about it. It is happening right now as I am speaking.
And it is happening for a simple reason. There is nothing complex and difficult about the reason. Men are doing it, because of the kind of power that men have over women. That power is real, concrete, exercised from one body to another body, exercised by someone who feels he has a right to exercise it, exercised in public and exercised in private. It is the sum and substance of women’s oppression. Read the rest of this entry »
More and more comparisons between today’s market plunge and the Great Depression of 1930s are being made and are needed. This article from Monday favorably compares the collapse of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the most important measure of industrial economic activity.
It’s interesting to note that Phil Dow, “market strategist for RBC Dain Rauscher & James” admits the possibility that we are witnessing “the end of capitalism.” He denies that this is the case, since “people will start buying cars [and houses] again“. He’s trying to be optimistic of course, but it’s hard to imagine anything more depressing, considering that members of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are now warning that greenhouse gas emissions are rising much more rapidly than their worst-case projections.
A new way of life is on its way that does not rely on consuming ever-increasing mountains of industrial products, and that’s cause for celebration. [alex]
Dow Jones decline rate mimics Great Depression
by Dawn Kawamoto
Originally published by CNET, March 2, 2009.
With the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling below the psychological watermark of 7,000 on Monday, investors may be wondering how it all stacks up against the stock market crash of the Great Depression.
It’s not looking good.
In the here and now, the Dow has dropped 52.5 percent since its high of 14,279.96 on Oct. 11, 2007, to its low point of 6,779.62 during intraday trading on Monday. (Update 1:16 p.m. PST: At Monday’s close it was 6,763.29, a drop of nearly 300 points from the previous close.)
And in taking a similar period of a year and five months in the late 1920s, it’s a case of deja vu.
The rate of decline is mimicking that of the Dow during the Great Depression.
Back on September 3, 1929, the Dow hit a high mark of 381.17. And over a similar length of time, it fell 54.7 percent to 172.36 on January 2, 1931.
“It’s very troubling if you have a mirror image,” said Phil Dow, market strategist for RBC Dain Rauscher & James. Read the rest of this entry »