Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Try digesting a one-child policy for all, with your morning breakfast

By Shawn McCarthy, Globe and Mail, December 5, 2010
Climate change and population control can make for a politically explosive mix, as media mogul Ted Turner demonstrated Sunday when he urged world leaders to institute a global one-child policy to save the Earth’s environment.

Mr. Turner spoke at a luncheon where economist Brian O’Neill from the U.S.’s National Center for Atmospheric Research unveiled his study on the impact of demographic trends on future greenhouse gas emission, a little-discussed subject given its political sensitivity....
Mr. Turner – a long-time advocate of population control – said the environmental stress on the Earth requires radical solutions, suggesting countries should follow China’s lead in instituting a one-child policy to reduce global population over time. He added that fertility rights could be sold so that poor people could profit from their decision not to reproduce.

“If we’re going to be here [as a species] 5,000 years from now, we’re not going to do it with seven billion people,” Mr. Turner said....
China boasts that its controversial one-child policy has helped limit emissions growth in that rapidly industrializing country. At the Copenhagen climate summit last year, national planning official Zhao Baige said Chinese population policy has resulted in 400 million fewer births since 1979, with a population that now stands at 1.3 billion. The lower birth rate converts to a reduction of 1.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, Ms. Zhao said.
Here is a hot political potato for a Tuesday morning in December, 2010!
Just try to imagine the world trying to grapple with this radical recommendation from Ted Turner. For starters, it looks like another proverbial "first world" prescription being imposed on the developing world. Just try to imagine how the people living in the developing world might view a global "edict" that they can have only one child.
After you have digested that morsel, then turn your face towards Rome and try to envisage the response of the Roman Catholic church, one of history's most potent advocates for increased birth rates, as a means to enhance church growth. All of the abuses of the one-child policy in China would likely become 72-point headlines in many western newspapers, quoting clerics from the Roman church.
Even a slightly less controversial proposal, to increase and enhance the availability of condoms in the developing world, would do much to decrease the birth rate, and that, again, is an approach the Roman Catholic church would strenuously oppose.
The concept of salvation has been given several "readings" in church history. However, the one that focuses on the redemption and health of the whole community is certainly going to be tested, since conversations like the one in Cancun about the inevitable collision between CO2 emissions and population limits are not going to stop with the closing gavel to this conference. If we are going to face the facts of our future on the planet, as best uncovered by the best scientists in the most objective evaluations of the evidence, then we are going to have to face the implications of a global population of some 10 billion by 2050 and ask if the planet can withstand that many people trying to survive in conditions that can only be extrapolated by what we know in 2010.
And, it is clear that the raw numbers are going to speak more convincingly than some church dogma, pronounced by some church leader in some echo-chamber of a chapel or a sanctuary, no matter how hallowed and sanctified that space or their particular holy role in that space.
Just as the Republicans are going to have to learn that their specific survival depends on their sacrificing some of their 'dogma' for the betterment of the whole society, and not on their supra-fixation on some aphorisms to which they have grown attached (like lower taxes and smaller government), so too is the Roman Catholic church going to have to re-evaluate its position on many significant issues heretofore considered unchallengeable, if the world is to reach some kind of accommodation with the realities of human survival.
And yet, as one of the Irish delegates to the Cancun conference, the world could become seriously and negatively divided, if such a proposal is not both studied and approached in the 'right' manner.
And that includes intensive training in the building of concensus, collaboration, compromise and improvization among all world leaders, and a significant shift away from top-down, hierarchical imposition of any dogma of any restricted, institutional design and purpose, including the major corporations, the major religions, and the major international powers.
We really do live in an inter-dependent world, and that inter-dependence can be our greatest strength if we come to embrace its gifts, or our "Achilles heel" if we continue to resist the benefits and implications of such a full embrace.
(Editor's note: This is posting number 300 for the acorncentreblog.com!)

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