Cultural Anthropology

Population Growth Stress Resources India China Brazil

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The Chinese one-child policy has probably been rather prophetic in it's uber cautious approach to future restraints on resources. Currently, China doesn't produce enough grain to feed the livestock required to satisfy rising middle class demand for meat so it has appropriated land acres in Africa and elsewhere (mainly Uganda and the Congo) for the explicit purpose of exporting grain back to China. It is a situation mirroring the plight of many countries with distressed resources; those with a larger capital outlay can afford, for the time being at least, to satisfy the growing consumption demands of their rising populations.

Global demand for biofuels with increased pump prices has led to massive clearings in Brazilian rainforest coupled with the expansion of sugarcane ethanol for export. The primacy of corporate interests have become so pronounced that Marina Silva, the environment minister and member of one of the indigenous rainforest tribes, resigned a couple of years back convinced she could do more about the country's agricultural policies out of office! The major boost in Brazilian agriculture in recent times which has subsumed many thousands of extra hectares has been in soya bean production. This is not used for human consumption but is mainly exported to India and China as cattlefeed; again to satisfy growing consumption demands for a meat diet.

Population stress on resources are not confined in a global market to the country in question but have international ramifications. Future population growth and resource stress is incidentally the subject of Jeffrey Sach's recent book (Commonwealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet) which is interesting insofar as he is full-time director of the UN's Millenium Challenge programme which is concerned with (halving actually) the incidence of extreme poverty worldwide. The future incorrect management of global resources is an almost cast iron certainty as the international ''community'' is at an infantile stage of co-operation when it comes to matters such as allocating wants and needs equitably. This will first of all effect the poorest of the poor on this planet and secondarily involve all of us with the inevitable dislocations and incendiary war-like footing that affected communities will have to adopt.

The rich world's inability to pass effective legislation to lower rates of oil consumption for example (see Lieberman-Warner and the recent quashed Obama energy bill) will in the future lead to crippling hikes in prices for agricultural inputs and further raise the price of grain ensuring global food inflation for the marginalised who after repeated trials will eventually organise themselves politically into trans-international networks which will perhaps force a reconfiguration of international power blocs through a democratic restructuring of the UN. It is also conceivable that terrorist tactics wil be adopted by affiliated groupings related to these mobile interstate actors.

As for direct population control through restricting procreation rights this is a fascistic and unnecessary response and should only be considered as an absolute last resort. It was tried in India during the Emergency of the mid-70's where Indira Gandhi's son, Sanjay, organised forced sterilisation programmes, often through kidnapping. Since the green revolution took off in India the Punjab and other regions, mainly in the north, have been producing enough grain to feed the population and (barely) the needs of livestock but as the middle class bulge widens with altered dietary intake we may see alarming reverberations along the lines of the Chinese land capital export model.

More about this author: Bob Seery

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