Sunday, November 06, 2011

#RHbill, the false notions of overpopulation and population control

#RH bill proponent Fails to Prove Overpopulation

As you may have already noticed a lot of pro-RH people on twitter have been using the overpopulation arguement to get people to support the passage of House Bill 4244.

This argument may seem to be the strongest one.

For one, people on twitter are probably talking with people in urban population centers. Most urban centers are, in fact, crowded and it's quite easy to find a crowded place, then say that the crowding is the result of overpopulation.

Take the case of one Doctor who claims that Baguio is overpopulated mainly because the poor people there didn't have access to free contraceptives and therefore bred like rabids. 

The doctor, a young man with naked pictures of men on his twitter account, claims to be a native of a northern province near Baguio and claims to know the demography of the area.

If it hasn't struck you as a bit odd that the soctor would say Baguio is overpopulated, let me clue you in on a couple facts about Baguio. 

That little city was origonally designed as the Summer Capital for our American Occupiers.  It was meant to house important national government offices during the hot summer months that most Americans, back then, could barely tolerate.  Before that, Baguio must have grown from being a trading post in the Benguet area.

In most cities, two types of areas will create congestion: (1) Offices where people work and other people need to make transactions in.  (2) Markets where sellers and buyers converge.

Baguio has continued to be both and over the years, it has also become:

(1) a tourist destination with lots of houses that are rented out to vacationers, small inns, motels, and hotels.

(2) an education center. It is filled with dozens of colleges, highschools, and training centers.

(3) an employment center. In addition to the usual businesses that employ people, Baguio is now also home to BPO's.

Surely, there are a lot more things that draw people to Baguio than the ones I've cited and all of these things combined make Baguio crowded.

The same will be true for places like Cebu City, Davao City, and all other cities and towns in the Philippines.

Sure, cities and towns are crowded! And duh!?!? THAT'S WHY THEY ARE CITIES AND TOWNS, it's because these places have become population centers.

To make a better case for overpopulation, I suppose, you'd have to show that most of the Philippines is populated to a point where there isn't enough land for anything else but people. 

Guess what?  Of the 7,100 islands in the Philippine archipelago, only about 10 percent have people on them. That's why, when you divide the total area of the country by the number of people in it, you'll get a figure that represents what is called Population Density.  That number, my friends, is 313 people per square kilometer.

Guess what? Macau has 48,000 people per square kilometer; Monaco, 49,000/sq. km; Singapore has 18,000/sq. km; and the list goes on and on until at number 60 we reach the Philippines.

Now, popupation density itself is a poor measure in determining whether a given area is overpopulated or not.

Another thing you have to look at is the capability of that area to sustain life or a functioning ecology that would allow a community to have a reasonably good life.

This makes more sense that merely looking at the number of people and saying that a place is over populated.

In this sense, a place somewhere in the expansive but barren wilderness of Alaska, a population of one or two would make it overpopulated.

This is not to say, however, that overpopulation doesn't exist.

To find an overpopulated area, you have to figure out the combined biological needs of a an area and the capacity of the area to supply these biological needs.  If the biological demand exceeds that of supply, that place can be considered overpopulated.

If the proponents of the RH bill really want to make a case for overpopulation in the Philippines, they'd have to prove that the Philippines cannot meet its population's biological needs.

Sometime during the previous administration, proponents of another version of the RH Bill tried to prove the Philippines was overpopulated by pointing to its inability to produce and supply its own rice needs. This was raised as a case without exploring the reasons why the country wasn't producing its own rice needs.

Recent developments, however shed light on the dynamic that led to the almost regular rash of rice shortages and this could be traced to the corruption that characterized the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Only recently, the National Food Authority under Lito Banayo reported the discovery of tons and tons of rice rotting in a warehouse.  Apparently, the rotting rice had been imported at a price higher than what was prevailing at that time. The implication is that the goverment was overcharged and the difference was pocketed by some corrupt official.

Now, rice shortage is the chief justification for NFA to import rice and this shortage happens when rice production dips reason or another. 

During the periods when it was claimed that there were rice shortages, it was also shown that a substantial area of ricelands were being converted to residential or commercial use.  It's not clear what justifications were used, but the clearest motive for selling land or buying agricultural land for conversion is speculation on the demand for housing or commercial development.

Another factor that worked against rice farmers was that the goverment had neglected the country's irrigation infrastructure and over the years, this led to farms going dry.  added to this, farmers here have been basically hemmed by the high cost of farm inputs, post harvest facilities, lack of direct access to markets, and a whole slew of other problems. 

And as if that weren't enough, the cheaper smuggled rice was flooding the market.

Naturally, faced with all these challenges, rice farmers either opted to switch crops or stop farming all together.

With the entrance of new administration, the Department of Agriculture was able to tune up the country's rice industry and for the first time in a long time, the country was able to produce enough rice to supply its own need.

This, if anything, shows that the country has a huge capacity to supply its own food needs.

So, in this respect, is the Philippines overpopulated?  I doubt it.

Now when #RH bill proponents are confronted with these facts and shown that the overpopulation argument is shot full of holes, guess what? They begin denying that the RH bill is meant to curb population growth.  If that were the case, to begin with, why use the overpopulation issue at all?

Instead of being intellectually honest, they move the goal post.

The Philippines, I suppose, is overpopulated only in the sense that there is ahuge population of people between ages 15 and 65 who cannot be counted on to do economically productive activities for most of the year.  So, in effect, a percentage of these people either rely on subsistence activities or underground activities. Perhaps, to a certain extent, these people are also helped by direct doleouts.

Now, for a poor country, the consistent policy being applied in the Philippines decades after World War II is for the state to provide aid and all manner of subsidies to the poor.

With each successive administration, my impression is that the type and amount of subsidies being given has resulted in improved conditions for a larger number of people. Over the past several years, from the Ramos administration to the present, these aids and subsidies have led to longer life expectancy and lower infant mortality.

The problem, I think doesn't simply that there are too many people, but there are too many unproductive people relying on a few productive.  The thing is, a large number of these productive people can be employed as labor in various government projects that can even enhance the productive capacity of the economy.

If, for example, instead of granting Conditional Cash Transfers, the government were to use the money to employ people to repair irrigation, till idle carp lands, collect and convert organic waste from garbage dumps to use as fertilizer; we might be closer to a situation where we might be producing more food.  That increased food production can lead to lower food prices, thereby relieving some of the inflationary pressures experienced by the rest of the population.

What we need to cure is not really the number of people, but the number of people who are not productively engaged.

Still, a better way to go about solving the same problem without government funds is to open up the economy even more and allow foreign companies to own 100 percent of businesses as well as land. This will produce a greater demand for labor, lead to higher productivity, increase the tax base, and in general enable the economic shift that leads to. . . Guess what? Less people making babies.


Anonymous said...

Is this even a serious piece on population studies? I was looking for hints of sarcasm and there was none. Following the arguments here, lets send Filipinos to live in the mountains and turn the farmlands into residential areas so we could even out our population density.Then we can go on breeding like rabbits.

Paul Farol said...

Thank you anonymous for reading the article or at least part of it or at least enough of it to notice that i left out references in the footnote or cited the sources i used. I actually used my phone to type this out with my thumbs, it took me most of the morning and at the end of it, I realized that the android app that I was using didn't allow the substitution of credentials and references for logic and critical thinking. I'm actually thinking of complaining about this in the app's forum page but i looked at it just now and found it overpopulated with comments by people eating green boscuits made out of euthanized engineers. (If you're to fixated on credentials to recognize the reference to 'Soylent Green', well, tough.)

Anyway, this isn't a serious population study, it is a blog. Sorry i couldn't make it more obvious and i was apparently mistaken in assuming that people who can use twitter and google would have enough brains to figure it out.

You know, after reading your comment, i thought, maybe the world is indeed overpopulated with morons. It may be too late to do anything about it and i guess the only humane thing to do is towait for natural selection to take its course.

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