Famine and overpopulaton

Thomas Robert Malthus circa 1800 suggested some problems with unlimited population growth.
Extensions of his theories are sometimes known as Malthusianism.
Among the problems he feared were a so-called “Malthusian trap
and a so called “Malthusian catastrophe”.

Now, in 2017, we have reports of famine in four nations in Africa:
Why 20 Million People Are on Brink of Famine in a ‘World of Plenty’
New York Times, 2017-02-22

Secretary General António Guterres of the United Nations
raised the alarm Wednesday afternoon about the risk of famine
in northern Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen.
And this week, the United Nations declared famine in a patch of South Sudan.

“In our world of plenty there is no excuse for inaction or indifference,”
Mr. Guterres said at a news conference,
flanked by the heads of his aid agencies.


Why are people starving?

Mr. Guterres cited two reasons for the current crisis.
First, he said, there is not enough money;
the United Nations needs $5.6 billion to address the needs, most of it by the end of March.
Barely 2 percent of that money is in hand, he said.
Whether the United States, by far the biggest humanitarian donor in the world,
will follow through on its commitments under President Trump remains unclear.

Second, all four countries facing the threat of famine
are reeling from conflict, and in many instances,
the leaders of warring parties are blocking aid workers
from delivering relief where it is most needed.


In northern Nigeria, where the military is battling Boko Haram insurgents,
there was probably a famine in two towns, called Bama and Banki,
according to an early warning system funded by the United States Agency for International Development.
But traveling through the area is so dangerous that
aid workers have been unable to verify the levels of hunger there,
let alone deliver relief.
At least five million people face the risk of famine.


There is no doubt that war and conflict can disrupt the economy, including the supply of food.
But there is another factor affecting Nigeria, explosive population growth.
See, among many other reports,
Nigeria’s Struggle with Overpopulation
by Matt Lesso
The Borgen Project, 2015-04

Home to about 170 million people, Nigeria is the world’s sixth largest country in terms of population and also one of the fastest growing. In 1950, its population was less than 40 million, meaning it has multiplied several times over in recent decades. With a population growth rate of two to three percent every year, Nigeria’s population is expected to continue to skyrocket.

By 2050, Nigeria’s population is expected to surpass that of the U.S. and could exceed 400 million. By 2100, it is forecasted to exceed one billion and could potentially surpass China; all living in a country about the size of Texas.

The effects of overpopulation are already acute. Lagos is currently one of the largest cities in the world with an estimated population of about 21 million. Since many people live in slums and the government has few resources to conduct an adequate census, the real population is unknown.

Nigeria’s fertility rate is approximately 5.5 children per woman. The Nigerian government has made some effort to address the problem, but to no avail. It has made contraceptives free but many still do not have access to them and, in a religious society like Nigeria, their use is often frowned upon. Several government campaigns have aimed at encouraging people to have smaller families, but these have failed as well and are at odds with Nigerian cultural values.

Many societies in Nigeria have long valued large families as a sign of prestige and many cultures practice polygamous lifestyles. In some Nigerian villages, families with fewer than eleven children are considered small and incomplete.

This problem is very common in the developing world, where impoverished families view having more children as a plus as they can help the family earn money and do chores. Given high rates of child mortality, many feel the need to have larger families as a safe guard in case some children do not make it to adulthood.

Many other African countries are also experiencing population booms. Sub-Saharan Africa is the world’s fastest growing region in terms of population. Currently home to slightly fewer than a billion people and accounting for about twelve percent of the population, by 2100 it is expected to have more than four billion people and account for one-third.

Many fear this rise in population growth will fuel poverty, hunger and civil strife.

I, for one, do not know if population growth contributed to Nigeria's famine.
But, to me, that population growth in Nigeria and other parts of Africa
begs the question:

“Is it the responsibility of the West in general and the United States in particular
to provide food to a population which refuses to limit its growth?”

My opinion, which no doubt the left will not agree with, is “No.”

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