Casaubon's Book

In many ways the enormous outpouring of support for Haiti after the earthquake was very moving. In other ways, not so much – consider the International community’s total lack of interest in whether Haitians will be able to feed themselves in the upcoming year – “We’re very happy to send our surgeons, engineers and food aid – but hey, when we’re done, we’re done” seems to be the dominant worldview, as the UN reports:

“At a time when Haiti is facing a major food crisis we are alarmed at the lack of support to the agricultural component of the Flash Appeal,” UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General Jacques Diouf told a high-level meeting in Rome to coordinate UN efforts for the medium- and long-term recovery of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

The $575-million UN appeal launched shortly after the 12 January quake, which killed some 200,000 people, injured many others and left 2 million in need of aid, sought $23 million for immediate agricultural needs. “But only 8 per cent of this sum has so far been funded,” Mr. Diouf said. “The economic and social reconstruction of Haiti requires a revival of food production and massive investment in rural areas.

“The immediate priority is support for the farm season that begins in March and accounts for more than 60 per cent of the country’s food production,” he added, noting that FAO has already started to distribute seeds, fertilizer and tools to enable farmers to plant for the next harvest.

The idea that we can draw away again, abandon Haiti (and not for the first time) at the point of actually dealing with their chronic hunger is an enormous betrayal. Time to remind our governments that our involvement cannot stop here! And while you are contacting your fearless leaders, remind them that the US could lead the toward the cancellation of Haiti’s enormous burden of debt.

Sharon

Comments

  1. #1 vera
    February 18, 2010

    How about an exchange? We help them rebuild their ag and cancel debts, they DO mass birth control immediately, and set aside protected land in each area to recover.

    If the call is for us to be responsible with help, where is the call for them to be responsible on their side?!

  2. #2 Prometheus
    February 18, 2010

    That’s pretty bootstrappy/extortiony Vera.

    Then again one of my initial thoughts was …Of course they had no contingency or organization when after two centuries of tolerating lavishly looney despots they choose a former catholic priest who loves torturing people as their first elected…..*ducks rotten tomato*

    Never mind, give generously.

    Actually we sent a sow through heifer international.

    Cause pigs are nice and ya know piglets.

  3. #3 vera
    February 18, 2010

    Extortionary? Why? Why is asking for responsibility and planning for the future extortionary?

    But I forgot something else that should be part of the deal. Rounding up their thieving elites and sending them off island. In chains.

  4. #4 Robyn M.
    February 18, 2010

    I doubt that this is accidental. If Haiti follows the lead of other poor, disaster-struck nations, pretty soon investor money will start swooping in to “rebuild” the nation in lavish hotels and entertainment industries. You know, once those messy poor people are out of the way and the beaches are finally free to build on. Thank the heavens for disasters!

    @Vera: there is a well-demonstrated correlation between a woman’s education level and her ability to control her child bearing. This isn’t at all unique to Haiti. Most of the poor women to which you refer live in grinding poverty and have neither the means nor the understanding to practice effective birth control. It’s not just educational, either, it’s a cultural matter, though careful education and resource availability (BOTH, not just dumping some condoms on them and saying “Use ‘em or else!”) is crucial. I have no doubt that Haitian women could take control of their birth cycles–and women who are carefully educated in these issues usually do–but it will take genuine education efforts on the part of the developed world. It’s been done in other poor nations, we can do it there, too. As for the land recovery issue, could you elaborate? Recover from what? Misuse? Bad farming practices? What?

  5. #5 vera
    February 18, 2010

    Robyn, they don’t have time on their side. They need to cut population now. The means is available. Period.

    Why is the same pattern repeated over and over by would be saviors? More food, more clean water, now! Birth control… oh… someday. A predictable recipe for disaster.

    If you look at earthgoogle, you will see a horrifyingly denuded half-island. They will not be able to restore their economy unless they also begin to restore the land.

  6. #6 Kevin
    February 18, 2010

    Vera, why is the same pattern repeated? Because forced birth control doesn’t work. Would it work on you and the people you know? What works is education (both general literacy and birth control specific) of women, and helping people/society get to the point where ones future survival is not dependent on having enough children.

    Haiti’s current state is the result of a long history. A good description is here:
    http://www.webster.edu/~corbetre/haiti/misctopic/leftover/whypoor.htm

    Going back to Sharon’s original post: the outpouring of emergency aid vs ongoing help for a real recovery is pretty standard, no? In fact I deliberately *didn’t* donate to the first wave and instead saved my money to donate now, which I just did, to Heifer International.

  7. #7 jdhuey
    February 18, 2010

    WRT the ecological/population problems of Haiti, take a look at Jared Diamond’s _Collapse_.

  8. #8 Robyn M.
    February 18, 2010

    @Vera: look, it’s not that I don’t agree that time isn’t on their side, but what do you want to do? The women (and men) do not understand how to use birth control, and especially now are in a heckuva bad position to be learning. What are you proposing? Forced sterilization? Moratorium on sex? Cameras in their, er, tents? Dosing the water with BC hormones? You are right that this is a crucial issue that is a huge problem for them, but that probably just means that they’re screwed, which isn’t really news. Should it have been done sooner? You betcha. But it wasn’t, and that’s largely *our* fault for ignoring well-understood poverty & education dynamics (where “our” = the western, charity-giving, world). And now it’s too late. So do you want to impose big-brother-like restrictions on them, treating them like children and creating stunning levels of resentment towards us and the whole project of BC, or can we give them a bye on nailing down their population just right now until we can, oh, maybe find them permanent structures to live in?

    As for the land use, fair enough, they should set aside land for recovery. Maybe our charitable industries can go explain to all of the tent-dwellers right now how any material aid they need will be withheld until this happens, which of course most of these people have zero say over, and their govn’ts don’t obviously give a crap about? I’m sure that will go over well. Probably they’ll all go cut down more trees, since that will be the only source of income even possible if we rescind our charity.

    Responsibility is great, and very desirable, but these people are living in TENTS right now, with no clean water no reliable access to food, and no income, with one of the most corrupt governments in the world at the helm–cut them some slack.

  9. #9 Katharine
    February 18, 2010

    Re: birth control, I would suggest that you also reduce, heavily, any money that goes to religious organizations over there. Because they’re totally deranged when it comes to birth control.

  10. #10 Diane
    February 18, 2010

    There is a lot of background to the story of Haitian misery that is not well known. This article was a first try google result for “Haiti pigs IMF”. I had heard of this in passing but didn’t know much about it. Whether you feel this is a good source or not it jibes with other info out there:

    http://readersupportednews.org/opinion/180-natural-disaster-/770-james-ridgeway-exporting-misery-to-haiti

    The finger of blame in Haiti seems to point right back to the rich world and corrupt leaders every single time.

  11. #11 John V.
    February 18, 2010

    As a country we continue to pretend to be the wealthy benefactors of a post WWII American, but in reality we must now borrow money from China and Japan to effect our humanitarian “rescue” of Haiti. At the same time we are blind to the Peak Oil fact that our own food delivery system is arguably less resilient and considerably more fragile than Haiti’s.

  12. #12 Kerrick
    February 18, 2010

    Wow. These comments make me feel ill, and not just because I’m home with the flu.

    Haiti’s problems don’t stem from overpopulation. Haiti’s problems exist because after a successful slave rebellion made them an independent country, they were strongarmed into paying France, their former slaveowners, reparations for the loss of its “property”–the slaves that had been “stolen” from French overlords. That money would be $21 Billion today. By rights France should have been paying Haiti reparations for benefiting from the Haitian people’s free labor. It took the country until 1947–122 years–to pay off this “debt” to France, largely by exporting as much of its natural wealth as it could. No wonder in a country of formerly fertile soil and good climate people can’t grow enough food to keep themselves alive–they’ve strip-mined the fertility from the topsoil to ship us mangoes so they could pay protection money to France and other industrial nations as represented by the World Bank. And Haiti’s government has learned too well the lessons of corruption from their former masters. Population issues are a symptom of poverty that unfortunately exacerbates the situation, not the cause.

    Imagine you quit a job where you were being abused and your boss was refusing to pay you. Your former employer sues you for the loss of your work, and in some ridiculous miscarriage of justice, the court rules that you have to pay your former boss all of your earnings–every cent–for fifty years. In the meantime you get pregnant–maybe you’re in love and want to start a family, maybe you’ve been raped, maybe you’re turning to sex work, maybe you just hope that at least one of your children will live long enough to grow up and maybe support you in your old age; the possibilities are endless–and your former employer, whose income is somewhere in the neighborhood of 110 times your own and who spends much of that income on a vast house, luxury food, and unnecessary electronic gadgets, says you shouldn’t be allowed to have children. In what universe is this justice? In what universe is this motivated by compassion?

  13. #13 vera
    February 18, 2010

    Robyn and Kerrick, yer right of course. But what I am not seeing is a reasonable response *now.* Nobody is saying they should not be allowed to have children. Why not offer a garden — a plot of land, seeds, tools, root cellars, basic non-food supplies — in exchange for a vasectomy or an implant for everyone who has already had a child or volunteers anyway? This is not to say to abandon the rest, just to sweeten it for those who volunteer.

    Robyn, can you explain to me why it seems unfair to you that those who provide the food and other supplies *now* should ask for responsible breeding in return *now*? I honestly don’t understand you.

  14. #14 Christina
    February 18, 2010

    Vera (#13): To answer your question, it is completely unethical to require another human being to put their physical self into your control in exchange for assistance (or for any other reason). Really, that’s what a pimp does!

    A reasonable response now – and not just in Haiti but everywhere – might be to completely subsidize voluntary sterilization and birth control. A reasonable response might be to trash the military budget and use those funds responsibly to effect real change.

    An unreasonable response is to say poor people can’t have children. Especially because despite population growth, it ain’t the vastly numerous poor people who are causing what I call the e^3 problems – energy, environment, economy – it’s the super-minority rich folks doing that. (Less than 20% of the global population.) The global poor can do whatever they want – they can reproduce as much as they want, without inhibition – because while it’s making population rise, it’s not doing much else.

  15. #15 Robyn M.
    February 18, 2010

    @Vera: I think I’ll just let Christina’s answer stand for me, too, since she had the courage to say what I was hemming & hawing about. But maybe once the Haitians are at least in a reasonable state of being, we can talk about helping them with education and getting out of poverty so that they can *make their own choices in the matter*. (And no, I really don’t think your “volunteer” plan counts as making a choice here.) Eesh. I’m done with this conversation–I’m starting to feel sick over it, too.

  16. #16 vera
    February 18, 2010

    Sorry, Christina, but you are not making sense. If a place is in overshoot, they must cut their population or suffer the consequences. And Haiti, as far as I can tell, has been in overshoot for some time. Now of course, there is another way to cut the population: move the excess population somewhere else and leave only those whom the land can support. But then you are faced with the same dilemma: either those that remain commit to restrain their breeding, the problem will repeat a few years down the line. Improving the land’s carrying capacity takes time *and* restraint.

    Nobody is saying poor people can’t have children. That’s a strawman and you know it, right? What I am trying to say is that there is a price to pay for overshoot and landbase ruin. The poor and the rich are equally required to pay it when it catches up with them. It so happens that in Haiti, that time is now.

    I am grateful to you regarding your pimping explanation. You are the first I have seen who has make an effort to mount an argument about why it does not make sense to me to make the exchange I suggested. I thank you and will ponder it.

    I wonder if you would be willing to ponder something in return. If westerners go into an area and start saving children and others through providing deeper wells and modern medicine, then the people of that area will be faced with virtually immediate population explosion, typically resulting in landbase ruin and malnutrition (starvation in bad years) soon after. What do you propose to do at the time the doctors and well-diggers go in there to avoid this scenario and assure a better future?

  17. #17 Christina
    February 18, 2010

    I agree with your premise: a region in population overshoot will experience voluntary or involuntary consequences for that overshoot. I love my children dearly, and yet I suffer daily knowing that my ecological ignorance when I bore them will result in them having to experience life in descent. It is a dissonance at times almost unbearable.

    Your second premise I completely disagree with. The poor and rich do not endure equally the consequences of their actions. Quite the opposite. The rich are manifestly experienced at displacing consequences onto the poor; that’s how they became rich. The American appetite for shrimp is deforesting impoverished coastal regions in southeast Asia, for example, and not here at home. Global climate change, caused by the United States and its industrialized compatriots, will likely cause the decimation of population in Africa, south and central America, and much of Asia; I don’t believe the effects in north American and Europe will be even half as bad.

    I don’t have an answer for the paradox of your last paragraph (that helping impoverished nations can simultaneously harm them by causing population spikes). A mitigating response might be to always, always provide education and reproductive services whenever some other intervention is made. Is it too late for that? Possibly, just as it is possibly too late for effective solutions to many of the problems caused by the industrial age. But the impacts of improved education and reproductive services can be quite rapidly achieved; I believe there are studies out of India on that issue.

  18. #18 vera
    February 18, 2010

    Quick clarification, Christina: When I say “The poor and the rich are equally required to pay it when it catches up with them” I am not disagreeing with your second paragraph. The rich are very good at delaying tactics, and unloading stuff on the backs of someone else. I simply meant to say that they/we too will have to pay the price when it catches up with us. And I have absolutely no doubt that it will catch up with us someday. Probably sooner than we think, given our ostrich habits.

  19. #19 Ed Straker
    February 18, 2010

    You gotta love this thread. Harbinger for the future where we basically weigh each country on the precipice of die-off to determine whether we should let them fail. Thumbs up or thumbs down.

    Lifeboat ethics at the national level.

    This will be replete with the usual trip down memory lane to illustrate how perhaps we (the collective we) OWE it to 3rd world country A or B due to past colonialism or other interference. The usual “the devil made ‘em do it” argument that absolves them of any sense of personal responsibility.

    Bailouts of failing states is a privilege, not an entitlement. Everyone’s going to be too concerned about the future of their countries to be moved by collective guilt over past sins. When the support ends, Haitians should be thankful for what they got and then figure out how to handle their own affairs.

    The moral outrage that rich countries do not improvrish themselves in order to spread the wealth evenly is idealism gone amok.

  20. #20 vera
    February 19, 2010

    Christina, you don’t have an answer to the “paradox”. Neither do I have an answer to the charge of pimping. I just think that if my neighbor wants me to feed her 5 kids on a regular basis, I should have a say into whether she is going to bring a 6th and 7th into the equation.

    Basically, I feel that the population conundrum does not have a solution, because the religious wish to continue breeding for their own reasons, and the progressives think that making demands is cruel and unreasonable. So we will dither until nature takes care of it. Sigh. Thank you for keeping the discussion on an even keel.

  21. #21 Sharon Astyk
    February 19, 2010

    A couple of points – first of all, feeding for contraception/sterilization programs have been offered in other countries before – Vandana Shiva and Maria Mies do a pretty comprehensive analysis in _Ecofeminism_ and what they find is that the programs don’t work that well – because you only get fed if you take the implant, what happens is a lot of anger and hostility because they won’t feed the elderly or those already with contraception, and that eventually, a mythos that these people are there to kill or poison you arises, and people stop going. The truth is that there is no good way to magically substitute birth control for education.

    Moreover, often the value of children is greater than the immediate value of food to people – the average Nigerian child starts to produce more than he consumes at age 6 – for the desperately poor, children are the only available measure of security available – there is no social security for the elderly, no ag subsidies, etc… so short term food aid, which will probably go away is less valuable than children in most cases. Remember, the people in question are not stupid, they are merely poor – they can do cost benefit analyses.

    The only way to deal with population that anyone has ever found to be successful is precisely the opposite of what Vera advocates – it is more food security, not less, more education, not just the involuntary insertion of devices into people’s bodies (Vera, do you really want to live in a society where your circumstances and need for help means that the government can decide that you get a device inserted into your body? Because once you open that door, nothing good comes out of it.)

    We have the money and resources to do a great deal about poverty in the world – international aid is a teeny, tiny portion of the US budget, and of most nations’ budgets. It is not the straw breaking any backs.

    As for deforestation and overpopulation – there is no doubt these are fundamental problems for Haiti – along with poverty. New York City, London and Hong Kong have much higher population densities and are far more radically deforested, but they don’t experience the same difficulties on the same scale – the problem with Jared Diamond’s analysis is that it is purely ecological, purely passive, people don’t act, things just happen. That’s part of the truth, but by no means all of it.

    Sharon

  22. #22 vera
    February 19, 2010

    But then, I did not say we should deny them food, Sharon. I said that in Haiti, what I would see working is — besides providing basic food to all — is to offer land, seeds, tools, and other help in return for reproductive responsibility. And ecological responsibility, setting land aside etc. Offering a carrot for doing what will get them out of the hole. My message keeps being twisted.

    The only time in history when global population went down was when the Four Horsemen rode in. So it will this time. I feel despair right now. Between those who pray to the God of “multiply and dominate the earth” and those praying to the god of progress, the rest of us will not be heard. So there it is. I will not be back here, and thanks for the hard lesson.

  23. #23 Jim
    February 19, 2010

    Vera: It is incredibly nice to read your thoughts, I can’t tell you how much. I have felt just that way for years, and have been consistently surprised at other peoples lack of understanding on such a seemingly simple issue.

    Why is it that the same person who can get up in arms about oil being finite, or water shortages being a problem, cannot equate any such limitations to a theoretical maximum of consumers of said resources (i.e. max population).

    What do people think famine is? It goes back to your argument on “overshoot”. If you are *just* producing enough to sustain your population, and loss of production will result in problems. If the loss is severe (i.e. earthquake), then your population loss will be equally severe.

    What people do not want to grasp you also mentioned. You’re not being mean or insensitive, nature is the mean one. You’re just pointing out that if not planned for, nature will come along and smack you like the b%^#@ you are. It doesn’t care about fair or social justice, only balance. Abuse the balance, and pay.

    What is kind about encouraging people to enter into a situation you know will be bad for them? Of course you cannot force them to not have children, but by the same token you cannot force others to sustain their children. There must be a mutual respect and a recognition of the reality of the extremely fragile life we are all a part of. Well thought through non-emotional solutions based on practicality, while being assertive in explaining to all the reasons for each, are what Haiti and its people need to have any hope of clawing back.

  24. #24 Calamity Jean
    February 19, 2010

    I suspect that the reason contraception isn’t used more in Haiti is lack of *availability*, not lack of interest in using it. Putting family planning clinics in convenient places and giving people reminders that the clinic is there would probably increase contraception use by leaps and bounds.

    Deforestation now, as opposed to in the past, is driven primarily for the need for cooking fuel. Send solar ovens and portable high-efficiency wood stoves. (In addition to food aid, and passed out at the same time and location.) Include a short remark to the effect that “This is a bad time to conceive a child, if you want to put off your next child until next year, go to the family planning clinic at (location).”

    In other words, availability and gentle reminders are likely to be more effective than aggressive insistance.

  25. #25 Jim
    February 19, 2010

    Hence the reason I suggested being assertive in the explanation of the solutions, not aggressive.

    And out of curiosity, is lack of availability of contraception the reason the American poor reproduce at rates triple their counterparts? Planned Parenthood gives out condoms like mints, and birth control through them is rather cheap as well.

    Forgive me, but I’m a little tired of excuses.

  26. #26 Lora
    February 19, 2010

    @ Jim: “And out of curiosity, is lack of availability of contraception the reason the American poor reproduce at rates triple their counterparts?”

    Yes, since you asked. In the poorest states, birth control is not widely available, and there is no public transit to get to a clinic. Many states have effectively made abortion unavailable. Exhibit A, the fight to keep Plan B off OTC shelves. For formal statistics, please see http://www.guttmacher.org

    Also, define “cheap”: Last time I checked, Depo was the cheapest at $200-300/year, pills ran $30-40/month, and IUDs are not suitable for everyone. Many poor women simply do not have the social or economic power to insist on consistent condom use with partners. And then there’s always rape: economically dependent women make good targets for predators.

    In fact, the precious few pharmaceutical companies that were doing research on new contraception methods have since ceased work in that line of enquiry. Academic science, you’re welcome to come to the rescue. No takers? Really? The field is wide open, you’ll have zero competition.

  27. #27 vera
    February 19, 2010

    Prices; just verified with a PP clinic in Colorado:
    $26 from Planned Parenthood per month
    but generics are commonly found at $10-20 per month
    PP suggested to look at Walmart for generics at $10 per month.

    I forgot to ask about the cup along with spermicide… that used to be the cheapest way to go altogether.

  28. #28 Ewan R
    February 19, 2010

    “What people do not want to grasp you also mentioned. You’re not being mean or insensitive, nature is the mean one. You’re just pointing out that if not planned for, nature will come along and smack you like the b%^#@ you are. It doesn’t care about fair or social justice, only balance. Abuse the balance, and pay.”

    I disagree. Nature just doesnt care either way.

  29. #29 vera
    February 20, 2010

    “What is kind about encouraging people to enter into a situation you know will be bad for them? Of course you cannot force them to not have children, but by the same token you cannot force others to sustain their children. There must be a mutual respect and a recognition of the reality of the extremely fragile life we are all a part of.”

    Bravo, Jim. Anyone else care to comment on this?

  30. #30 Ewan R
    February 20, 2010

    I assume the kindness is the lesser of two evils.

    Here’s more resources so you don’t die now. (and then hopefully some work will be done so that the situation doesn’t repeat – which is a major endeavor all of its own (and I’m sure Vera would rather pull teeth than have the same go around with me as elsewhere… so I’ll excuse further comment there =p)

    Rather than.

    Die now. (and not do anything, because each time disaster strikes – all the surplus folk who happen to not have enough that time conveniently go away)

  31. #31 vera
    February 20, 2010

    Huh?

    “Of course you cannot force them to not have children, but by the same token you cannot force others to sustain their children. There must be a mutual respect and a recognition of the reality of the extremely fragile life we are all a part of.”

    I got accused of pimping by demanding reciprocity. How come it’s one sided?

  32. #32 Christina
    February 20, 2010

    Vera/Jim: You’re acting as if anyone here would be against the free distribution of contraception and reproductive services in poor countries. I don’t see anyone having said that at all. Are we all still reeling from the Bush years of no family planning support overseas, and the Gingrich years before that? Of course. But Vera’s quote was “besides providing basic food to all — is to offer land, seeds, tools, and other help in return for reproductive responsibility”. (#22)

    You can’t force people instantaneously to believe that it’s better for them not to bear children. You can try and convince them, and you can make access and availability a non-issue, but I believe it is completely unethical to coerce people to contraceptive use by bargaining with poverty-reducing measures. And of course it would illegal as well as unethical to forcibly induce contraception.

    What you’re advocating is the bare bones of keeping people alive (“providing basic food to all”), under which circumstance they will clearly bear more children against their poverty. An alternative is to give them the tools and education to reduce their poverty so they can find themselves in a life where more children are actually unnecessary.

    As for the bravo’d comment from Jim, of course it isn’t kind to help people only just enough to keep them alive. It isn’t abjectly evil, but it isn’t wholly kind either. However, others have commented that the benefits to a poor family of having additional children far outweigh the costs, and very quickly too. You and I have the luxury to contemplate the far-off future, and the fact that the international poor are contributing to population overshoot – we are not in abject poverty. Those who are generally don’t give a flip about our ZPG concerns because they’re too busy surviving day-to-day, and another child helps them with that.

    I still maintain that the global north is contributing far more to the global crisis via environment/energy/economy than any population-increasing individual elsewhere. Let’s get our own house clean before complaining that the neighbors are slobs, shall we? Having no children, or living in a cohort much closer to the replacement fertility rate, doesn’t put us on a righteous pedestal.

  33. #33 Christina
    February 20, 2010

    Vera #31: “I got accused of pimping by demanding reciprocity. How come it’s one sided?”

    So much for the even-keeled discussion, huh? I didn’t accuse you of pimping, I used it as a descriptive for the ethical perspective I was outlining. What you’re demanding might be reciprocity, but it’s unethical reciprocity in my book, in the same vein as “I’ll give you this XYZ if you’ll have sex with me”. It’s a power-grab of the most inappropriate kind, demanding control of another’s body for your own purposes. The person can refuse it, but that doesn’t make the request itself ethical.

    Ethical reciprocity is something like microlending – I have the tools for improving your food productivity, but they cost me something and I want to loan them to you rather than give them (or I want you to buy them from me over time).

    I don’t understand your accusation of one-sidedness.

  34. #34 vera
    February 20, 2010

    Look, Christina, it was short hand. Meant no offense.

    What I am asking is this: if it’s unethical of me to offer land a tools in exchange for something that is guaranteed to cut population now (and since this is patently what they need, I do not accept such a simple-minded analysis; besides, your example shows a sexual advantage… what advantage do I gain if I ask some poor Haitian to get on a contraceptive shot?!).

    But let us accept your argument, that it is unethical. So let us look at the other side. In what way is it ethical to demand that I support someone else kids without any reciprocation at all? The person is in effect saying, hey, gimme, and I owe you nothing. How come this is not a power grab of the most inappropriate kind?

  35. #35 Christina
    February 20, 2010

    Part two first: If indeed someone was saying “gimme and I owe you nothing”, I would say their demand was unreasonable perhaps (what if they are saying “gimme back what you took from me” or “you took too much, gimme my fair share”?) but not necessarily unethical. Are they asking for something you have in surplus, that it does you no harm to lose? Such answers would be necessary to resolving the ethical question.

    But I believe you are working to establish a strawman with this poser. Who is demanding something for nothing? Certainly not the Haitians or other impoverished peoples, who have no power to demand anything at all. I believe your issue is really with governments and individuals who offer things without establishing a mechanism for reciprocity, or perhaps more accurately, without taking adequate steps to ensure that the donations are part of an effective overall program of assistance. Because I’m pretty sure that anyone receiving international humanitarian or anti-poverty aid knows full well that plenty of reciprocity is implicitly expected: here’s our aid, by the way we’re going to put a giant multinational industrial site here. Or maybe here’s our aid, our military needs a base to protect our interests in the region. Maybe the real issue with Haiti is that there’s nothing we can demand from them because they truly have nothing of value.

    As for part one, again it is only your opinion that an immediate reduction in the birthrate is “patently what they need”. (And it is the birthrate, not the population, that will be reduced; contraception isn’t going to manage that immediately, only death can.) Your conclusion is informed by your circumstances, which I infer do not involve a daily personal acquaintance with abject poverty and barely staying alive; you are on the outside looking in, and while that may give you access to the bigger picture, it does not give you access to knowledge of survival on the ground. Those having the children in question clearly come to a different conclusion, or presumably they would request contraceptive aid instead of the offered food aid.

  36. #36 vera
    February 20, 2010

    Christina, you assume too much and aim to guilt trip too much. If someone wants me to feed their kids, I am going to ask for something in return; not for myself, but for the future of the planet. If you want to call me nasty names for it, be my guest. You absolutely know nothing about my background and what I have had to do in hardscrabble terms. So, enough of that.

    I quite agree with you that one way or another, international aid nations get their pound of flesh for what they do there. I would rather they demanded birth control than a naval base.

    I am actually not much interested in rates. I am interested in the population (not rates, but counting the people) of the earth to come down. That can only be accomplished by actually doing something that will make it come down… since we cannot whisk people off to another planet, it means having fewer babies, while natural death rates gain over births. Lowered population numbers begin with slowing the population increases. Which means, contraception now. Not some day.

  37. #37 Christina
    February 20, 2010

    Vera, I haven’t called you a single name, so please don’t act as if I did; analogy is an accepted rhetorical technique, and if you feel attacked by the analogy then perhaps it holds some truth that makes you uncomfortable. And yes, I did make an inference, quite explicitly, about your circumstances, which you have the option of refuting (yet did not).

    You are claiming the right to enforce your beliefs on other people – because you know with certitude what’s best for the future of the planet and for their future as individuals. I don’t believe you have that right, despite agreeing a great deal with your evaluations on both counts. It’s frustrating to know how to fix the world and not be able to, and yet, perhaps there are ways to fix the world if one is willing to consider more realistic alternatives. Contraception now – absolutely. At any cost? I hope not. I’m not looking to prevent one apocalypse by starting another, vis a vis an inverse Handmaid’s Tale.

    You cannot reduce the sum of the human condition to a single number, and you cannot effect change by treating people as if they are merely 1/6,804,007,747 of that number (at 22:53 UTC Feb 20, 2010). Who would come to you to feed their children, when there is even one other willing to provide food along with respect? This is not a mathematical equation, and it seems to me foolish to try to *improve the human condition by *ignoring the human condition.

    …off to improve my seed supply instead…

  38. #38 Sharon Astyk
    February 21, 2010

    Ok, folks, chill a little. Vera, I’m sorry, I don’t see the attacks you seem to see.

    Vera and Jim – I don’t think there are any people here who disagree that we have an acute population problem or that we’re in overshoot. But we also know that overshoot can be both a chronic and acute condition – we’ve been in overshoot for a long time, and have managed to keep it mostly a chronic situation. That’s changing, but it hasn’t wholly changed yet.

    What I think is strange is your insistence that this is simple. Peak oil is simple in many respects – but the solutions aren’t necessarily all simple – some are, some aren’t. The best tools take into account the complexities of the situation. We have a long history of intervention into other people’s reproductive practices – and we know something about what has worked and what hasn’t. You seems to want to say “let’s do this” even though it usually hasn’t worked. There are already family planning programs in Haiti, many of them doing some of the things you advocate – their lack of success has come because we haven’t been able to stabilize the things that actually persuade people to make changes. For example, one study found that women will reject birth control in most areas of high infant mortality, because they don’t have any confidence that if they accept sterilization, they’ll be able to replace children lost to death. This seems like something not so wrong. So you have to go at this appropriately – there may come a time when we don’t have the resources to do this, but that’s not now.

    Sharon