Recent studies of population growth indicate that population in the developed world is relatively stable, declining in some places and being bolstered by immigration in others. The developing world, however, is seeing a continuing population explosion (link). I was astonished to hear in a radio news report last year that the city of Karachi, Pakistan, had a population of 17 million, and that Mexico City was cited as the largest city in the world at 35 million. Whether those figures are accurate or not, the thought of such huge and densely populated cities in such poor countries is staggering. It is obvious that the developed countries need to help the developing world with this problem, if for no other reason than that it will fuel illegal immigration, already an issue in much of the developed world. How can this be done most effectively?
An immediate need in most developing countries, and one which has the most impact on population expansion, is in family planning. The current U.S. administration has moved consistently in the wrong direction, cutting funds for family planning, putting ridiculous restrictions on family planning organizations if they are to receive government funds (link), and trumpeting completely ineffective messages along the lines of the failed “just say no” campaigns of the past. It is unfortunate that many conservatives who oppose family planning help, mostly on ideological grounds, are the same people who are most upset about illegal immigration. Family planning is the most immediate need, and most effective means to mitigate the population-driven disasters looming over the developing countries.
A second measure against population explosion is education. Birthrates fall and standards of living rise as education levels increase. Much of the developing world appears to already be struggling to provide much if any education to its masses. Public education was and is at the foundation of the current economic strength of the developed countries, is quite affordable (link) as it would cost less than is spent on many non-essential commodities in the developed countries, and needs to be promoted and assisted in the developing world.
Either of these approaches beats food aid and other measures significantly, both on efficacy and cost. Due to the policies of the current administration, supported by conservatives in congress, we are less able financially to pursue other aid avenues than in the past, making the approaches of family planning and education all the more attractive. Now, if only we hadn’t spent a trillion dollars on invading and destroying Iraq …
As always, I welcome your comments.