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  Albalagh Home Population The Myth of Population Crisis





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The Myth of Population Crisis

By Khalid Baig

When a hippopotamus gave birth recently, the "world famous" San Diego Zoo in California celebrated the arrival for weeks. At the zoo, it is always a joyous occasion at the birth of a panda, a kangaroo, an elephant, or what have you. You are assured that each arrival has enriched the world!

Now contrast this with the birth of a child in any LDC (Less Deserving Country?). An unbelievable assortment of "experts" would immediately tell you that it is a moment of great sorrow. That the world is somehow impoverished by the birth of each child.

It is a strange world in which the arrival of a hippo is a blessing but that of a human child is a burden. But it is even stranger that the argument given is economic. A hippo needs 100 pounds of food everyday, compared with a few pounds for human beings. Further it does not produce any of the food it consumes. No animal ever does. Only human beings produce their own food. Lions eat goats and so do human beings. But lions do not breed goats; human beings do. Jay-hawks eat chickens as do human beings. But jay-hawks do not breed chickens, human beings do. If there were an economic argument against overpopulation, you would think that it would apply to all animals except human beings.

Yet an extremely powerful propaganda machinery has been busy for more than a century in spreading the nonsense that the world faces a human "overpopulation problem." While at the micro-level, the idea had been there in many ancient jahiliyyah societies, where people even killed their children so they won't have to feed them, its introduction at the macro-level is recent. It was Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834) who forcefully presented the idea that the human population would always exceed our ability to produce food by some natural law. He opined that population grows in a geometric progression (2, 4, 6, …) while production of food grows in arithmetic progression (2, 3, 4, …). Even if there is plenty of food for everyone at the beginning, in two generations there will be more people than the means to feed them. Hence the "population problem."

Malthus based his theory on very limited observations in American colonies and even more limiting assumptions about the progress of agriculture technology. The result is a theory that is totally contradicted by facts. World population has not been growing as fast as his theory suggests; African population is smaller today than it was before the European-led slave trade played havoc with it. The increase in food production, on the other hand, has been much greater than Malthus allowed. World population has more than doubled since 1950, but food supplies have more than tripled. Further, experts believe that if technology continues to improve at today's rate, it will be possible to feed ten billion people on roughly the same amount of land currently devoted to agriculture. As a result of improving crop yields, the area that is used to grow crops---about three billion acres globally---has increased little in the last two decades. Other estimates suggest that the world can support 33 billion people.

While as a work of science Malthus's theory was worthless, it was received enthusiastically for political reasons. The industrial revolution and capitalism that accompanied it, did not deliver what they had promised. It was expected that as it became easier and cheaper to produce goods, everyone would share in the resulting prosperity; the rising tide would lift all boats. It did not. Capitalism produced a small class of very rich people and a large mass at barely subsisting levels. This made many people to start questioning the system. Karl Marx's was one extreme and misguided reaction to the very real injustices. Other critics differed in their prescriptions but agreed that the issue was political and social justice. Malthus's The Essay on Population was avowedly a reply to William Godwin's Inquiry concerning Political Justice, a work asserting the principle of human equality. And its purpose was to justify existing inequality by shifting the responsibility for it from human institutions to the laws of the Creator. As Galbraith would say, his work provided a satisfactory formula for the rich to suffer the misfortunes of the poor. Malthus was a priest in the service of the East India Company and taught generations of its staffers who would then go out and plunder the colonies with the satisfaction that the plight of their victims was the result of "natural laws."

After World War II, when European powers found it difficult to maintain direct control of their colonies, they were concerned that the newly liberated colonies would develop and become economically independent and politically powerful if left to grow on their own. The current population control mafia is born of these concerns. While Malthus's original theory remains discredited, the neo-Malthusians have tried to resuscitate it with "concerns for the environment." Add to it the U.N. charlatans who are never short of fancy phrases like "reproductive rights." And you get the Population Control Bomb that has been devastating the world.

It did not have to be like this. The clear Qur'anic teachings destroy the basic assumptions of Population Control campaign. "And the earth We have spread out (like a carpet); set thereon mountains firm and immovable; and produced therein all kinds of things in due balance. And We have provided therein means of subsistence, for you and for those for whose sustenance you are not responsible." [Hijr 15:19-20] "And there is not a thing but its (sources and) treasures (inexhaustible) are with Us; but We only send down thereof in due and ascertainable measures." [Hijr 15:21] "There is no moving creature on earth but its sustenance depends on Allah: He knows the time and place of its definite abode and its temporary deposit: all is in a clear Record." [Hud 11:6]

These verses clearly demolish any basis for use of birth control as a tool of economic policy. How can anyone who believes in the One Creator, Master, and Nourisher of the universe, entertain the idea for a moment, of limiting the number of children for fear of want? Our job is to use the resources wisely and distribute them justly. And Allah will provide for all human beings as He has promised and as only He can provide. Muslims are bound by their faith to work to dismantle the obscene birth control establishment in their lands and devote their energies to solving the problems caused by capitalism, imperialism, and neo-colonialism.

    Albalagh Home Population The Myth of Population Crisis
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