Comments on: Understanding the Demographic Transition http://sharonastyk.com/2007/07/26/understanding-the-demographic-transition/ Sharon Astyk's Ruminations on an Ambiguous Future Thu, 04 Dec 2008 01:00:15 +0000 #?v=2.3.2 By: the GIMP 4 Digi-Scrappers http://sharonastyk.com/2007/07/26/understanding-the-demographic-transition/#comment-1981 the GIMP 4 Digi-Scrappers Fri, 03 Aug 2007 15:51:00 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2007/07/26/understanding-the-demographic-transition/#comment-1981 I have not commented on your posts before, Sharon, so let me give a brief glimpse of me first:<br/><br/>I have not signed up for your 90% reduction, but am inspired by it to move (just a little bit) out of my comfort zone. I am not a believer in PO, nor Peak Population, (now that I've read your reference to that), but respect your (and others') right to do so. I have a garden for many reasons: I come from a long line of gardeners, I want to be frugal, fresh tastes (much) better, etc. I recycle because not everything fits in my garbage can each week, but like to think that I am doing something good for the environment in the process. And I do many, many other things because of my desire to be frugal, including buying used clothing, using freecycle and CraigsList, etc.<br/><br/>I am NOT an economist, or even budding economist as several of your readers seem to be, so my questions here may seem somewhat elementary. But here goes:<br/><br/>What do you mean by public cafeterias? Would those be mandatory or voluntary? By "public" do you mean government run or privately run for the public good? I already share my garden surplus with the neighbors--is this the beginning of a "public cafeteria" in the "privately run for the public good" sense? If so, do you believe that is enough, or do you think government run is, or will be, necessary in the near future? What about privately run homeless shelters? Many of those, as well as religious congregations et al also serve meals to those who are hungry. Don't you think that the religious community will "step up to the plate" further as the needs get bigger?<br/><br/>And as far as the TFR goes, you mention limiting the tax credit to 2 children, or at least reducing it. What about limiting welfare in the same way? I just felt the hair on someone's back bristle, but isn't this the same kind of thing? "Giving" money in the form of welfare or "not taking away" money in the form of tax credits? Who, in general, has the larger families? Those on welfare or the rest of society? I'm not saying there is a wide gap between the two, but there might be...<br/><br/>Thanks so much for your insightful and thought-provoking posts. I have not commented on your posts before, Sharon, so let me give a brief glimpse of me first:

I have not signed up for your 90% reduction, but am inspired by it to move (just a little bit) out of my comfort zone. I am not a believer in PO, nor Peak Population, (now that I’ve read your reference to that), but respect your (and others’) right to do so. I have a garden for many reasons: I come from a long line of gardeners, I want to be frugal, fresh tastes (much) better, etc. I recycle because not everything fits in my garbage can each week, but like to think that I am doing something good for the environment in the process. And I do many, many other things because of my desire to be frugal, including buying used clothing, using freecycle and CraigsList, etc.

I am NOT an economist, or even budding economist as several of your readers seem to be, so my questions here may seem somewhat elementary. But here goes:

What do you mean by public cafeterias? Would those be mandatory or voluntary? By “public” do you mean government run or privately run for the public good? I already share my garden surplus with the neighbors–is this the beginning of a “public cafeteria” in the “privately run for the public good” sense? If so, do you believe that is enough, or do you think government run is, or will be, necessary in the near future? What about privately run homeless shelters? Many of those, as well as religious congregations et al also serve meals to those who are hungry. Don’t you think that the religious community will “step up to the plate” further as the needs get bigger?

And as far as the TFR goes, you mention limiting the tax credit to 2 children, or at least reducing it. What about limiting welfare in the same way? I just felt the hair on someone’s back bristle, but isn’t this the same kind of thing? “Giving” money in the form of welfare or “not taking away” money in the form of tax credits? Who, in general, has the larger families? Those on welfare or the rest of society? I’m not saying there is a wide gap between the two, but there might be…

Thanks so much for your insightful and thought-provoking posts.

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By: Weaseldog http://sharonastyk.com/2007/07/26/understanding-the-demographic-transition/#comment-1980 Weaseldog Sun, 29 Jul 2007 17:43:00 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2007/07/26/understanding-the-demographic-transition/#comment-1980 Brian M. we still agree.<br/><br/>In Mexico, the people don't own the oil. Nor do they benefit from it. So the oil doesn't exist for them. <br/><br/>The oil is unavailable, so it is not counted as 'Available Energy'.<br/><br/>The wealth of Mexican farming peasants comes from the energy in the crops they grow. Agriculture provides much less energy per hour of labor than does pumping oil, so they are much poorer than people who own and operate oil fields. Brian M. we still agree.

In Mexico, the people don’t own the oil. Nor do they benefit from it. So the oil doesn’t exist for them.

The oil is unavailable, so it is not counted as ‘Available Energy’.

The wealth of Mexican farming peasants comes from the energy in the crops they grow. Agriculture provides much less energy per hour of labor than does pumping oil, so they are much poorer than people who own and operate oil fields.

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By: jewishfarmer http://sharonastyk.com/2007/07/26/understanding-the-demographic-transition/#comment-1979 jewishfarmer Sat, 28 Jul 2007 16:45:00 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2007/07/26/understanding-the-demographic-transition/#comment-1979 Jan, I want to add one thing. Now I don't know you from adam, and I'm not assuming anything in particular about you. But I was trying to figure out why your responses bother me. It isn't the disagreement per se, but rhetorically speaking, something about the way you are presenting your material strikes me as "feminism in service of..." rhetoric. That is, a feminism whose focus has been a particular desired outcome, rather than an overarching commitment to women. Now this may just be me overreading, and I apologize if it is. But I do want to say something about that.<br/><br/>I think people who invoke feminism in the interest of some outcome they'd like to see often miss the point, simply because their primary goal is X outcome, not greater power and benefit for women. I don't deny that there are ways in which population limitation benefits women enormously - and that there are ways in which population limitation potentially can harm them. But any claim that population limitation in itself is feminist, I think requires considerable scrutiny. Because, ultimately, the right of women to *CHOOSE* without coercion or influence what happens to their bodies is feminist - the right of women, for example, to be free from sexual coercion both in and out of marriage. But that also includes the right to decline birth control, to choose one's family size based on one's basic needs without coercion or undue external pressure.<br/><br/>You say "we" need to make progress in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, that population declines are not assured. Fair enough - but what would you suggest, other than raising the status of women, encouraging more equitable distribution and economic security and waiting for those societies to change from the inside, led by their own people? Because the "we" part of this seems to imply that we're going to do something. <br/><br/>I don't like the Burkha or the restriction of women in Saudi society. But Saudi women, generally speaking, don't much like Western people coming and tellling them that their religion is wrong and their sexual practices should be westernized. <br/><br/>Again, I'm curious - what are you advocating other than the improvement of women's lives for their own sake?<br/><br/>Sharon Jan, I want to add one thing. Now I don’t know you from adam, and I’m not assuming anything in particular about you. But I was trying to figure out why your responses bother me. It isn’t the disagreement per se, but rhetorically speaking, something about the way you are presenting your material strikes me as “feminism in service of…” rhetoric. That is, a feminism whose focus has been a particular desired outcome, rather than an overarching commitment to women. Now this may just be me overreading, and I apologize if it is. But I do want to say something about that.

I think people who invoke feminism in the interest of some outcome they’d like to see often miss the point, simply because their primary goal is X outcome, not greater power and benefit for women. I don’t deny that there are ways in which population limitation benefits women enormously - and that there are ways in which population limitation potentially can harm them. But any claim that population limitation in itself is feminist, I think requires considerable scrutiny. Because, ultimately, the right of women to *CHOOSE* without coercion or influence what happens to their bodies is feminist - the right of women, for example, to be free from sexual coercion both in and out of marriage. But that also includes the right to decline birth control, to choose one’s family size based on one’s basic needs without coercion or undue external pressure.

You say “we” need to make progress in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, that population declines are not assured. Fair enough - but what would you suggest, other than raising the status of women, encouraging more equitable distribution and economic security and waiting for those societies to change from the inside, led by their own people? Because the “we” part of this seems to imply that we’re going to do something.

I don’t like the Burkha or the restriction of women in Saudi society. But Saudi women, generally speaking, don’t much like Western people coming and tellling them that their religion is wrong and their sexual practices should be westernized.

Again, I’m curious - what are you advocating other than the improvement of women’s lives for their own sake?

Sharon

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By: jewishfarmer http://sharonastyk.com/2007/07/26/understanding-the-demographic-transition/#comment-1978 jewishfarmer Sat, 28 Jul 2007 15:02:00 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2007/07/26/understanding-the-demographic-transition/#comment-1978 Anonymous, ethanol production is turning food into gas for our cars - equitable distribution of food for 9 billion or so people is going to mean that we send food to people to eat, not to burn in our cars. Already ethanol production in combination with climate change has raised grain prices by more than 30% worldwide. We're seeing it in our dinners now, but almost half the world's population spends 60% or more of its income on food - how do they eat if we keep burning their dinners in our tanks?<br/><br/>Sharon Anonymous, ethanol production is turning food into gas for our cars - equitable distribution of food for 9 billion or so people is going to mean that we send food to people to eat, not to burn in our cars. Already ethanol production in combination with climate change has raised grain prices by more than 30% worldwide. We’re seeing it in our dinners now, but almost half the world’s population spends 60% or more of its income on food - how do they eat if we keep burning their dinners in our tanks?

Sharon

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By: jewishfarmer http://sharonastyk.com/2007/07/26/understanding-the-demographic-transition/#comment-1977 jewishfarmer Sat, 28 Jul 2007 14:59:00 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2007/07/26/understanding-the-demographic-transition/#comment-1977 Jan - I've not read your first recommendation, and will, but I've read the former. If you'll recall from the former, the rate of abortion was actually quite small for the populace as a whole - dramatically lower than the rate of birth control use at present. You left infanticide out as well - another form of "birth control" that was quite common. But again, statistically speaking, such measures were used in a comparatively small percentage of cases, despite the demographic transition. Compare it to the present rate of reproduction (2.1), where birth control of some form is used in 83% of instances, and you'll see that you simply can't account for the demographic transition in America or Europe based on birth control access. I agree that abortion, herbal and medical means were used - no question. But as I said before, they account for a comparatively small part of the reduction.<br/><br/>I'm certainly no advocate of eliminating birth control, as you insinuate - I think it should be vastly more widely available. However, living in the irrational society that I do, I have the horrible feeling that peak oil is going to dramatically cut birth control access for billions of people, and it is worth noting that there are other ways of dealing with these issues - ways that seem comparatively unlikely in a society that doesn't have much truck with the idea that people could not have sex within or outside of marriage. <br/><br/>I also think that equating feminism and adequate health care for women with birth control is a mistake - sure, some men will always look for an excuse to do that. And some people will always look for an excuse to advance their basic political agenda by pretending their primary interest is the rights of women. But women aren't idiots, and they can distinguish between real power and justice for them, and a focus whose narrative is "just stop having so many babies." Historically speaking, state involvement in fertility - limitation or growth - has often been disempowering, not empowering. The line between what enables women to meet their needs and what enforces outside policy on their bodies is sometimes quite fine. <br/><br/>You are also again, putting cart before horse. You are right that in poor societies, women have comparatively little right to refuse their husbands - or use birth control for that matter. The reality is that all of this depends on women's political and cultural power - however women choose to limit their families, and more options are better than fewer, the root of this is not any single medical technique, but women's political power, and the focus needs to be there.<br/><br/>My message, if you re-read, is not that we shouldn't have birth control, but that we should focus on the basic needs of people, especially women. I don't see anything in your arguments that compellingly contradicts that.<br/><br/>Sharon Jan - I’ve not read your first recommendation, and will, but I’ve read the former. If you’ll recall from the former, the rate of abortion was actually quite small for the populace as a whole - dramatically lower than the rate of birth control use at present. You left infanticide out as well - another form of “birth control” that was quite common. But again, statistically speaking, such measures were used in a comparatively small percentage of cases, despite the demographic transition. Compare it to the present rate of reproduction (2.1), where birth control of some form is used in 83% of instances, and you’ll see that you simply can’t account for the demographic transition in America or Europe based on birth control access. I agree that abortion, herbal and medical means were used - no question. But as I said before, they account for a comparatively small part of the reduction.

I’m certainly no advocate of eliminating birth control, as you insinuate - I think it should be vastly more widely available. However, living in the irrational society that I do, I have the horrible feeling that peak oil is going to dramatically cut birth control access for billions of people, and it is worth noting that there are other ways of dealing with these issues - ways that seem comparatively unlikely in a society that doesn’t have much truck with the idea that people could not have sex within or outside of marriage.

I also think that equating feminism and adequate health care for women with birth control is a mistake - sure, some men will always look for an excuse to do that. And some people will always look for an excuse to advance their basic political agenda by pretending their primary interest is the rights of women. But women aren’t idiots, and they can distinguish between real power and justice for them, and a focus whose narrative is “just stop having so many babies.” Historically speaking, state involvement in fertility - limitation or growth - has often been disempowering, not empowering. The line between what enables women to meet their needs and what enforces outside policy on their bodies is sometimes quite fine.

You are also again, putting cart before horse. You are right that in poor societies, women have comparatively little right to refuse their husbands - or use birth control for that matter. The reality is that all of this depends on women’s political and cultural power - however women choose to limit their families, and more options are better than fewer, the root of this is not any single medical technique, but women’s political power, and the focus needs to be there.

My message, if you re-read, is not that we shouldn’t have birth control, but that we should focus on the basic needs of people, especially women. I don’t see anything in your arguments that compellingly contradicts that.

Sharon

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By: Anonymous http://sharonastyk.com/2007/07/26/understanding-the-demographic-transition/#comment-1976 Anonymous Sat, 28 Jul 2007 05:06:00 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2007/07/26/understanding-the-demographic-transition/#comment-1976 In your last paragraph you say "That would mean giving up ethanol". What is this about? I've never heard anyone recommend that. Please clarify. In your last paragraph you say “That would mean giving up ethanol”. What is this about? I’ve never heard anyone recommend that. Please clarify.

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By: Jan VanDenBerg http://sharonastyk.com/2007/07/26/understanding-the-demographic-transition/#comment-1975 Jan VanDenBerg Sat, 28 Jul 2007 02:13:00 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2007/07/26/understanding-the-demographic-transition/#comment-1975 Also, Sharon, you should realize that there is considerable controversy, fueled by the population equivalent of global warming deniers, around your blythe statement that birth rate decline is unassociated with the availability of birth control.<br/><br/>That is the opinion of only one side in a major war.<br/><br/>It is true that the French, using withdrawal, and the English, using abstinence, and the Japanese, using abortion methods, stabilized their populations in the 18th and 19th centuries.<br/><br/>However, no one else did.<br/><br/>Why not? Cause it's really hard, that's why.<br/><br/>To pretend that all these modern peoples just may as well re-invent the wheel all over again and use these archaic methods, none of them pleasant or effective, rather than use modern methods, is a line of argument put out by the men in some societies who want to justify denying their women adequate medical care -- because they want to maintain high birth rates and/or they want to use only male-controlled methods, such as condoms and withdrawal.<br/><br/>It is clear that, thinking rationally, a man is usually going to want to have more children than a woman, because the cost of the child is not born by him.<br/><br/>This is true in most traditional cultures. One survey showed Gambian men wanting 15 children and the women only 5.<br/><br/>And, there are many cultures, such as the Palestinian, who see a high birth rate as a kind of armament, a kind of war strategy. People rationally decide to have 8 children for reasons the rest of us may not appreciate -- like, so they can sacrifice a couple to suicide bombing or soldiering.<br/><br/>You seem to be studying and quoting only those on one side of this big battle. One quote from the opposing side: The best contraception is contraception.<br/><br/>Someone always seems to be looking for an excuse to fail to provide adequate health care, including birth control, to poor women. Men, mostly. Don't fall for their line.<br/><br/>Further population growth rate declines are NOT assured. We have made the easy gains. Now, we need progress in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and other such places. Progress there may be a lot slower than the UN expects.<br/><br/>Progress there without modern birth control is very very unlikely.<br/><br/>I think the UN is wrong to blithely assume that the Saudis, the Yemenis, the Pakistanis, the Ethiopians and so on will all be having 2.1 children in 20 years. While women are still held inside under purdah, can't drive and wear the burqa? Those cultures are not going to change that easily. Their birth rates are not going to fall that easily, either.<br/><br/>Jan VanDenBerg Also, Sharon, you should realize that there is considerable controversy, fueled by the population equivalent of global warming deniers, around your blythe statement that birth rate decline is unassociated with the availability of birth control.

That is the opinion of only one side in a major war.

It is true that the French, using withdrawal, and the English, using abstinence, and the Japanese, using abortion methods, stabilized their populations in the 18th and 19th centuries.

However, no one else did.

Why not? Cause it’s really hard, that’s why.

To pretend that all these modern peoples just may as well re-invent the wheel all over again and use these archaic methods, none of them pleasant or effective, rather than use modern methods, is a line of argument put out by the men in some societies who want to justify denying their women adequate medical care — because they want to maintain high birth rates and/or they want to use only male-controlled methods, such as condoms and withdrawal.

It is clear that, thinking rationally, a man is usually going to want to have more children than a woman, because the cost of the child is not born by him.

This is true in most traditional cultures. One survey showed Gambian men wanting 15 children and the women only 5.

And, there are many cultures, such as the Palestinian, who see a high birth rate as a kind of armament, a kind of war strategy. People rationally decide to have 8 children for reasons the rest of us may not appreciate — like, so they can sacrifice a couple to suicide bombing or soldiering.

You seem to be studying and quoting only those on one side of this big battle. One quote from the opposing side: The best contraception is contraception.

Someone always seems to be looking for an excuse to fail to provide adequate health care, including birth control, to poor women. Men, mostly. Don’t fall for their line.

Further population growth rate declines are NOT assured. We have made the easy gains. Now, we need progress in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and other such places. Progress there may be a lot slower than the UN expects.

Progress there without modern birth control is very very unlikely.

I think the UN is wrong to blithely assume that the Saudis, the Yemenis, the Pakistanis, the Ethiopians and so on will all be having 2.1 children in 20 years. While women are still held inside under purdah, can’t drive and wear the burqa? Those cultures are not going to change that easily. Their birth rates are not going to fall that easily, either.

Jan VanDenBerg

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By: Jan VanDenBerg http://sharonastyk.com/2007/07/26/understanding-the-demographic-transition/#comment-1973 Jan VanDenBerg Sat, 28 Jul 2007 01:48:00 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2007/07/26/understanding-the-demographic-transition/#comment-1973 I would suggest that you read two interesting books: Contraception and Abortion in Nineteenth-Century America and A History of Contraception.<br/><br/>Women didn't reduce births before contraception by some magic. I know several women myself, old now, who had far more children than they wanted.<br/><br/>The two old, safe, effective methods most used -- withdrawal and marital abstinence -- were controlled by men. Men made these decisions.<br/><br/>The methods women could control were crude and dangerous, but very very popular throughout the 19th c, when birthrates were quite high in the US. Potions to induce abortion, crude RU-486, were advertised in almost all popular magazines. Women were desparate and they died.<br/><br/>White lead was commonly inserted in diaphram-like devices. Women surely died from lead poisoning.<br/><br/>There was a long period, a couple of hundred years, when births could be effectively controlled by a man, but women relied on a wild array of dangerous methods, devices and potions to block semen or, more usually, to induce abortions.<br/><br/>Crude IUDs were also inserted, called pessaries. These are still used for some farm animals such as camels.<br/><br/>Please don't assume that there was some magic which allowed women to "make rational decisions and then have that many children" If it were so easy, why do teenagers make such a mess of things? If it were so easy, why can't modern American women do it without using abortions?<br/><br/>Jan VanDenBerg I would suggest that you read two interesting books: Contraception and Abortion in Nineteenth-Century America and A History of Contraception.

Women didn’t reduce births before contraception by some magic. I know several women myself, old now, who had far more children than they wanted.

The two old, safe, effective methods most used — withdrawal and marital abstinence — were controlled by men. Men made these decisions.

The methods women could control were crude and dangerous, but very very popular throughout the 19th c, when birthrates were quite high in the US. Potions to induce abortion, crude RU-486, were advertised in almost all popular magazines. Women were desparate and they died.

White lead was commonly inserted in diaphram-like devices. Women surely died from lead poisoning.

There was a long period, a couple of hundred years, when births could be effectively controlled by a man, but women relied on a wild array of dangerous methods, devices and potions to block semen or, more usually, to induce abortions.

Crude IUDs were also inserted, called pessaries. These are still used for some farm animals such as camels.

Please don’t assume that there was some magic which allowed women to “make rational decisions and then have that many children” If it were so easy, why do teenagers make such a mess of things? If it were so easy, why can’t modern American women do it without using abortions?

Jan VanDenBerg

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By: Anonymous http://sharonastyk.com/2007/07/26/understanding-the-demographic-transition/#comment-1974 Anonymous Sat, 28 Jul 2007 01:48:00 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2007/07/26/understanding-the-demographic-transition/#comment-1974 No we disagreed. I guess I failed to communicate the information, but that doesn't mean it wasn't there. Let's try shorter. "Lack of energy is one thing that can cause poverty, but not the only one." For example, a society with plenty of energy can have decent wealth per capita, but still have widespread poverty if the wealth is distributed unevenly (Mexico), or it can have plenty of energy but do a bad job of turning it into wealth (Soviet Union).<br/>-Brian M. No we disagreed. I guess I failed to communicate the information, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t there. Let’s try shorter. “Lack of energy is one thing that can cause poverty, but not the only one.” For example, a society with plenty of energy can have decent wealth per capita, but still have widespread poverty if the wealth is distributed unevenly (Mexico), or it can have plenty of energy but do a bad job of turning it into wealth (Soviet Union).
-Brian M.

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By: Weaseldog http://sharonastyk.com/2007/07/26/understanding-the-demographic-transition/#comment-1972 Weaseldog Fri, 27 Jul 2007 16:32:00 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2007/07/26/understanding-the-demographic-transition/#comment-1972 Brian M. after all that, you ended up agreeing with me.<br/><br/>Available Resources / Available energy is what counts toward wealth. That is what I argued in my point about Nigeria.<br/><br/>Yes it is easy to complicate an analysis to the degree that the information content becomes zero. Brian M. after all that, you ended up agreeing with me.

Available Resources / Available energy is what counts toward wealth. That is what I argued in my point about Nigeria.

Yes it is easy to complicate an analysis to the degree that the information content becomes zero.

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