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Lesson 9

                   Is It a Good Idea to Control Population
                            Growth in the World?

                                        Text

                         What Overpopulation Feels Like

    We moved slowly through the city in a taxi and entered a crowded slum district. The temperature was well over 100°and the air was thick with dust and smoke. The streets seemed alive with people. People eating, people washing, people sleeping. People visiting each other, arguing and screaming. People pushing their hands through the taxi windows, begging. People relieving themselves.

People holding on to the sides of buses. People leading animals. People, people, people, people. As we drove slowly through the crowd, sounding the taxi' s horn, the dust, heat, noise and cooking fires made it like a scene from Hell. Would we ever get to our hotel? All three of us were, I admit, frightened. Since that night, I've known what overpopulation feels like.


    Statistics show that rapid population growth creates problems for developing countries. So why don't people have fewer children? Statistics from the developed countries suggest that it is only when people' s living standards begin to rise that birth rates begin to fa11. There are good reasons for this. Poor countries cannot afford social services and old age pensions, and people's incomes are so low they have nothing tospare for savings.

As a result, people look to their children to provide them with security in their old age. Having a large family can be a form of insurance. And even while they are still quite young, children can do a lot of useful jobs on a small farm . So poor people in a developing country will need to see clear signs of much better conditions ahead before they will think of having smaller families. But their conditions cannot be improved unless there is a reduction in the rate at which population is increasing. This will depend on a very much wider acceptance of family planning and this, in turn,will mean basic changes in attitudes.

II. Read
    Read the following passages. Underlirie the important viewpoints while reading.

                      1. Childless - and Happy That Way

    In a country where most people believe that a family is not a family without children, some young couples, especially those with a higher education, have chosen to keep their families to two members -husband and wife.
    "I can't afford to have a child," said Wang, a promising research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.


    Wang has been busy travelling abroad and has received scholarship offers from a number of American universities that would enable him to complete his PhD.
    "He is a free bird who may leave the nest any day and I've never cared much about a child," said Xiao Wei, Wang's wife, business representative of a French company in Beijing.
    Unlike the Wangs, Zhang and his wife have argued over whether they should have a baby.


    "When we were married six years ago, we decided to adopt a waitand-see attitude on the issue. And after a couple of years, my wife said she wanted to have a baby while I insisted we were just fine without one. We have been arguing about the matter ever since, and now that we are over 30, I think we' re likely to end up in accordance with my wishes," said Zhang.


    "There are many marriages that should have long been broken. People just hold on because a divorce would hurt the children most and the parents hate to face that prospect. So the couple sticks together and winds up torturing each other.
    "A real happy family is a family that, without children, is still a happy family, ?said Zhang.
    Ma Jiang, who has opened a trading company and was instantly nicknamed Money Bags by his friends, said he would hate to be bothered with a child.


    "To me, being without a child, I am less bound by household chores and can concentrate on my business. My lovely wife is all I need, no third person," he said.
    Ma' s wife, Xiao Lu, working for a government unit, could have quit her job and become dependent on her "rich" husband. But she decided against it.
    "I can' t imagine what I would be like if I stayed at home, doing household chores and breast-feeding a child. I' d rather keep my independence at all costs," she said.


    "Whatever people say, I believe that to have a child means a lot of sacrifice. We're just not ready for that, fun or misery," Ma's wife said. Hou Mingkun and his wife Luo Qian said theyi weren't against having a child, boy or girl, if only the baby was physically well developed. "One takes a risk when having a baby. I've heard too many stories about children born with physical defects. Since-t-here's no guarantee that the same won't happen to my baby, I think I'd better not get myself
involved. People say `no pain, no gain,' but for me it's no gain, no pain," Luo said.


    The couple were classmates in high school and went to the same university in Shanghai. Now, they are working for a computer company in Beijing.
    Those who choose not to have children have to overcome some unexpected   difficulties in defending their stance.
    Influenced by the traditional view that one's worst sin is having no descendants, most people still accept that a wife is not a good wife if she doesn't have a child.
    Though few Chinese believe in an after-life, they do care a lot about growing old. For centuries, one of the purposes of having children, sons especially, was to have someone take care of the parents when they were old.


    "Now, since both husband and wife are working, they will have a pension when they retire. What happens now is that the retired parents are supporting their adult children," Wang said.
    "We're normal people, just like everyone else, We,ve just chosen to live our own way which harms no one. I hope people understand us," Wang said.


                   2. Three Babies Are Born Every Second

    There are over 3, 800 million people in the world today, and the total is increasing at the rate of .more than 76 million a year. United Nations experts have calculated that it could be more than 7, 000 million by thc end of this century.
    The population is growing more quickly in some parts of the world than others. The continents with the fastest growth rates are Latin America (2.9 per cent) and Africa (2.6 per cent). Asia comes third (2.1 per cent) but because its present population is so large it is there that by far the greatest number of people will be added before the end of the century.


                3. Population Increase Has Wiped out the Material
                         Benefits People Have Achieved

Matthew:   Sarah, is there a need to control population only in countries
  like India, Africa, Brazil. . . those countries   that we.call the
  underdeveloped countries, or is there a case for limiting population
  in Europe, for instance?
Sarah:   The reason one would have to limit population is because            
  you're running out of food and you're running out of
  resources. The people in Europe and America consume a far
  greater proportion of the world's resources and the world's food than
  they do in India. So... um... population is directly related to...
  um... consumption and your general impact on the environment.
  If as an individual your impact is far greater than anybody
  else's, um... then that is the factor that's important, rather

 

  than how many people there are, or how many people can the
  world support. Now it's...obviously in that sense, it's possible
  to increase population if everybody's willing to um...use less
  material or eat less food, but it isn't if everybody's continually
  wanting more and more and more, and this is... seems to he the
  trend at the moment. . . higher and higher consumption. . . with
  at the same time a greatly expanding population.And the problem
  in ... um... areas which are poor and which have expanding
  populations is that they try and develop and try and...er...
  get...er...more material
  benefits, but as soon as they do this, the population increase
  has.wiped out any benefits that they may have um... achieved.

 

Matthew:   But do you feel that this battle with a...a rapidly expandint
  population can be won?
Sarah:   The most sensible thing is to realize that you   can't go on expanding
  human populations for ever and countries and individuals must decide
  to have a policy which would limit population.

 


         4. An African Woman Says: "...the Men Never Talk about It."

    "To us, children are the most important thing in life. When we marry, it is not above all to get a husband or wife, but to have children. I had my thirteenth birth only a few months ago, and most of my adult life I have had to care for a baby as well as do all my other work in the house and in the fields. For a long time I have wanted no more children, but I keep having them as long as I am with my husband.

A nurse comes to visit our village regularly. She holds meetings for all the men and women together, to explain about family planning. Now these are wellknown facts to us, but still nobody in our village practises birth control. When. we sit together with the nurse, everybody seems to agree that this is the right thing to do when a family had grown big enough to give the parents security in their old age, and there are enough hands to attend to all the daily work. But when we go home, the men never talk about it My husband and I attend every meeting, but in our home we have never talked about birth control. I desperately want to stop having more children, but this can only be done if my husband suggests it."



                   5. Free Birth Control Techniques Should
                           Be Available Everywhere

Matthew:   Peter, what sections of the population do you think free birth control
  techniques should be available to?
Peter:   They should be... available to all sections of the community er...
  things are getting to such a pitch that I personally think
  that...er...not only should birth control methods be available to all
  sections of the community, but indeed should be compulsory. There
  should be some kind of law which says that a family should not have
  more than three children,.a complete maximum of three children, if
  they have three children then they must be obliged by law, almost, to
  use birth control, if not have er... various kinds of operation
  which... um... make conception impossible.

 

Matthew:   But surely this is very er... explosive in social terms?
Peter:   It's very...it's a very totalitarian notion, but. the
  alternative...if we look around us in the world outside is millions
  of people starving to death in places like India, and people
  suffering from malnutrition in. . . in other parts of the
  underdeveloped wor... world and indeed even in parts of the dev...so
  called developed world.

                       

                                   6. It's a World Probl'em

    The rapid rise in world population is not creating problems only for the developing countries. The whole world faces the problem that raw materials are being used up at an increasing rate and food production cannot keep up with the population increase. People in the rich countries rnake the heaviest demands on the world's resources, its food, fuel and land, and cause the most pollution. A baby born in the United States will use in his lifetime 30 times more of the world's resources than a baby born in India. Unless all the countries of the world take united action to deal with the population explosion there will be more and more people fighting for a share of less and less land, food and fuel, and the future will bring poverty, misery and war to us all.


                 7. What Has Caused the Population Explosion?

    The main reason is not so much a rise in birth rates as a fall in death rates as a result of improvements in public health services and medical care. Many more babies now survive infancy, grow up and become parents, and many more adults are living into old age so that populations are being added to at both ends. In Europe and America the death rate began to fall during the Industrial Revolution. In the developing countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America the fall in death rate did not begin till much later and the birth rate has only recently begun to fall.

 

            8. "The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Babies..."

    This sudden increase in tl~e population of the developing countries has come at a difficult time. Even if their population had not grown so fast they would have been facing a desperate struggle to bring the standard of living of their people up to the point at which there was enough food, housing, education, medical care and employment for everyone to have a reasonable life. The poor countries are having to run faster and faster in their economic activity in order to stay in the same place, and the gap in wealth between rich and poor countries grows wider every year


    The most pressing problem created by the rapid increase in population is a shortage of food. More mouths have to be fed every year, and yet a high proportion of the existing population are not getting enough of the right kind of food. Over the past two years the total amount of food has decreased, and of course the total amount of food per person has decreased even more sharply.


    More and more of the babies born in developing countries have been surviving infancy and now nearly half the people living in those countries are under the age of 15.The adults have to work harder than ever to provide for the needs of the children, who cannot contribute to the economy until they are older. There is a shortage of schools and teachers, and there are not enough hospitals, doctors and nurses. Farming land is becoming scarce, so country people are moving to the towns and cities in the hope of finding a better standard of living. But the cities have not been able to provide housing, and the newcomers live in crowded slums. Finally, there are too few jobs and unemployment leads to further poverty.