Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Literatus: Remembering optimism


THE population issue is one of those in perennial debate not just in the Philippines but also around the world—and July 11 is actually World Population Day. Moreover, the question, still, must be asked, “What is there to recall about the word ‘population?’” Does it convey that population—or rather, high population—is a problem?

It is beneficial to Cebuanos and Filipinos alike to be clear on some myths that have no conclusive evidentiary support.

One myth is constituted in the concept of “overpopulation.” Oftentimes, the definitions and bases for such are problematic. Which population constitutes “overpopulation?” Whose standard is used in grounding the basis for measuring “overpopulation?” In the Philippines, does it refer to the maximum capacity that the Philippine land area can accommodate? Do we really know that maximum capacity? If that is so, on whose density standard such estimation was based? Are those bases real or mere statistical estimates? Oftentimes, the issue on overpopulation refers only to the subjective exaggeration of what is high population and what is low. Moreover, the concept simply exaggerates the obvious question, “Is population a problem?” or even, “Is high population a problem?”

Another myth is that eventually, “population increase will outrun food production increase.” The proper question is, “Will it?” Theoretically, perhaps. However, in reality, will it? In China, for instance, between 1961 and 2002, available food supply per person even increased by 24.4 percent. In addition, China was a developing country. India is also another case.

Another weakness from this question came from ignoring that death rate can also increase anywhere in the world from natural calamities alone, not to mention deaths from incurable diseases and old age. It is often ignored that nature itself has its own population management system. Account death rates to the population growth rates, the estimation will not be that bad.

The next myth involves connecting high population with poverty. Studies had been conflicting on this issue, indicating that the connection is rather weak. In the Philippines alone, higher population densities had not caused lower personal incomes. Hong Kong, Singapore and Korea have high population densities (higher than the Philippines) and high personal incomes (higher than the Philippines), simultaneously. Often, the larger factor in poverty is corruption in government and ineffective government policies.

Perhaps, what should be remembered on World Population Day is not to be deceived by pessimistic arguments. There are countless reasons to be optimistic.


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