Author writes of overpopulation in poor countries as caused by lack of modern birth control and abortion. false. "inside the third world by paul harrison is an excellent book about all aspects of world poverty.
i took a full semester class in college on third world poverty and overpopulation has always and continues to be caused by cultural
beliefs that make having more children desirable.
humans have long known that the number of children could be limited by astinence, coitus interruptis, later marriages, more people never marrying, and, sadly, infanticide. europe had a very fast growing population centuries ago and was able to bring down its birth rate without any modern methods. I am not implying that these forms of birth control are as effective as modern methods - they still
produce more children, but they do reduce family size compared to what we see in nations with very large families.
in many countries a woman's status is raised by having many children, sometimes by having 2 or more sons. women in ghana and ethiopia are still averaging 7 births per woman and a majority of the children will survive to have their own children. with 4 or 5 children surviving, you are doubling the population per generation, which is usually 20 or 30 years.
ethiopia has been advised by the west since the 1970's (and perhaps earlier) that the carrying capacity of their land, even with the most modern and costly farming methods (which are impractical for a poor country unless the rich countries plan to supply indefinitely)
cannot support further population growth. yet, their population has grown tremendously and continues to grow rapidly.
family planning programs sponsored by wealthy nations have been available around the world since before the 1970's. you can bring a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.
of course, when at least one son and, preferably, two are highly desired, people often will keep having children until they get at least one son, even if they end up with 4, 5, or 6 kids. plenty of families will try to guarantee future support for the parents by continuing to have children until they have two sons. in that case, a first child being a boy may not limit family size much, unless the second is also a boy.
in india the tradition of needing sons is being somewhat lessened by modernization and more financial earning power among educated females.
secondly, in regards to the environment, the author wisely educates us that animals and hunter-gatherer can do a lot of environmental damage, contrary to the idea that only modern societies do so and that environmental damage is a modern phenomenon. he explains that, for both animals and humans, and individual exploiting the environment to increase its reproductive success and/or lessen that of another individual is acting from evolution. sometimes evolution is flawed in programming individuals to maximize their reproductive success and number of descendants while harming species overall with environmental damage. of course, nature is amoral and a species will starve and be reduced periodically.
where the author's opinions are flawed is in his complete belief in global warming in spite of scandal and questions in the last few years. the reason that he gives for replacing fossil fuels with solar, etc., is global warming. if there is no global warming, then why replace fossil fuels? also, he repeats the estimate that oil reserves in the world are at or past peak and running out, and that coal and natural gas are running out.
we don't know how much oil is left, but we have found more or found the price of oil now high enough to access oil that was too expensive to bother with earlier, such as shale oil in canada. there are probably unknown reserves all over the world, and we simply don't know without exploration. example: north dakota, u.s. and alaska.
the u.s. has an enormous supply of coal and natural gas that would last 250 years at current energy use rates.
one thing that isn't asked is how safe and non-polluting are alternative sources? electric cars need electricity often produced with coal or some other fossil fuel. same with ethanol, which may use more gasoline than it replaces and raises food prices that hurt the poor around the world.
how do we know solar is safe? until something is implemented on a large scale, you don't know everything about it. when they first started using gasoline i don't believe that they could have predicted the lead pollution that resulted from millions of cars. what are the solar panels made of? are the materials safe and non-polluting? how renewable are they? will the panels end up filling our garbage dumps with dangerous materials/chemicals? if every or most homes/buildings relied on solar panels, what unknown effect might that have? would the solar radiation leak from the panels or get concentrated close to the ground causing heat outside or over-exposure to radiation for us? solar radiation does cause cancer.
author also mentions hydrogen. i don't want to hear anymore about hydrogen. we don't have the technology, and assuming that it would only produce a little harmless water vapor is pollyanish. we may discover that there are problems there too.
we cannot create a utopia - not even an energy utopia. solving our energy problems is going to take being open minded enough to study all the consequences and be ready to cope with new problems. so we can do better, but not perfect, save the world.
finally, energy policies need to be about energy not redistributing income in another go at marxism. it never works. the rich countries gave about one trillion dollars just to africa in the 20th/21th century with no benefit overall. poor countries lack the governments and economic systems for prosperity. without strong protection of private property rights, why invest money, time, or effort in starting a little business or producing more? someone can easily steal what you produce. and cultural motives for overpopulation outstrip gains in income.