Global Problems and "One Child Families"

Why is it so easy to see that a growing human footprint increases scarcity, social conflict and environmental destruction and at the same time, so hard-to-see, that a shrinking human footprint will decrease them.

If the total human footprint is the sum of six billion individual footprints, then changes in the total are due to combinations of increases or decreases in the number of individuals and their individual footprints.

Two plans that will reduce the total human foot print include: 1) if the population doubles and every individual cuts his or her footprint by more than half, then the total human footprint decreases. 2) If the population was held constant (two kids per family) and everyone stopped striving for a better life and at the same time each person conserved and recycled, then the total human footprint would decrease.

Be forewarned that "Stopping any striving for a better life," means everyone stops looking for ways to get bigger cars, bigger homes, and longer vacations. Also that everyone forgoes improved bionic parts and medical treatment. If they did not give up the latter, then people would live longer then their parents and thus would have a bigger individual footprint

Both plans call for a reduction in individual footprint. Dirt farmers, who are barely growing enough to eat, might not like the idea. Even middleclass members, might not like getting locked into their present positions well below their more well off neighbors. No one will like the thought of what additional sacrifices would have to be made each generation to maintain the constantly decreasing footprint required to maintain a trend toward peace. So the two plans are far from perfect. If we wish to change the front-page news we had better keep looking for another option.

Consider a plan that allows people to strive for a better life (attain a bigger per capita footprint) and at the same time decreases the total human footprint by decreasing the population. Lets focus on a plan that allows only one child per family to achieve the population reduction. The plan allows each child to increase his or her footprint by 50 per cent over the footprint of a parent. The net reduction of family footprint would be 25 percent per generation. That is, the two parents had a total footprint of 2 and the next generation, one child, would have a footprint of 1.5.

Unlike the constant population plans that reduce footprint by reducing material well-being and thus require an ever-increasing reduction in material well being on each successive generation, this plan imposes the same cost on each generation. This plan, within the lifetime of existing children (three generations) reduces the world’s population to a quarter. At that time, there would be four times the resources per remaining person. Given that they could not eat four times the fish they eat now, the fish stocks of the ocean could bring themselves back from near extinction. They could not live in 4 homes either.

Finally, the one child per family plan, reduces social conflict in that each child can see their future containing four times the material well being (footprint) he or she has now, "Why would he or she rock this boat with aggressive social actions that threaten such a beneficent process?"


Jack Alpert (Bio)     mail to:      Other position papers

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