What prevents overpopulation

The boat is not full, it is loaded unevenly

Environmental degradation? Scarcity of Resources? Overpopulation? Norwegian researchers have an answer: we all shrink to twelve centimeters in height, then there is enough space for everyone. Science fiction? Yes, it's the plot of the current movie Downsizing with Kristen Wiig and Matt Damon.

Humanity is shrinking

The issues of overpopulation and displacement are omnipresent - as is the prevailing narrative: the boat is full. We can't shrink people to four inches, but we absolutely have to shrink humanity. Only in this way is prosperity possible for everyone. This is the only way we can prevent the environmental catastrophe. As early as 1968, the butterfly researcher Paul Ehrlich claimed in his widely acclaimed book The population bombthat there is only room for around 1.2 billion people on earth. And influential CNN founder Ted Turner - who invests millions of dollars in campaigns aimed at population decline - calls for "a population of 250 to 300 million people worldwide, a decrease of about 95 percent, that would be ideal".

In 1974, during the oil crisis, Henry Kissinger wrote what was kept secret until 1989 National Security Study Memorandum 200. "The top priority of US foreign policy is population reduction - in other countries," noted Kissinger. The US feared a loss of power in the face of an increasing number of people living outside its borders - and at the same time feared increased immigration within its borders. The growing masses "could easily be persuaded to attack the rightful institutions of government - or the property of the 'establishment', the 'imperialists' and the multinationals". Kissinger also noted: "The US economy requires large and increasing amounts of mineral resources from outside, especially from the less developed countries". In the memorandum, Kissinger called for a global campaign, controlled by mass media, school education, food shortages and other political coercive measures to curb population growth. Above all, "food" and its distribution should be used as a "tool for the exercise of national power".

A billion people are starving

There are currently around 7.6 billion people on earth, and one billion are starving. One third of humanity is insufficiently supplied with vitamins and minerals (hidden hunger). But in view of the enormous productivity in the industrialized countries, one could easily feed twelve billion people, as the former UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler, emphasizes. Yet over 57,000 people die of hunger every day. And the reasons for this are not simply the alleged overpopulation.

In the past, the European colonial rulers robbed the people of the global south, murdered them, forcibly Christianized them, enslaved them and forced them into debt bondage. You have drawn arbitrary lines across the map of Africa that are still causing conflict. Today the EU is flooding the African market with cheap meat and other agricultural products, while the markets there are going down the drain and the people are further impoverished. This is not just about the frequently cited frozen chicken scraps, but also about the EU's large milk surpluses: In Europe, milk is broken down into its components and then migrates as fat filled milk powder to Africa. In African dairies, the fat from the butter previously removed is replaced by cheap palm fat and then mixed with the skimmed milk powder. At the same time, Nestlé, Campina, Danone and other food companies are buying up dozen of African dairies, so that the price pressure continues to rise: The milk that is mixed up is a third cheaper than the fresh milk of African smallholders, who are increasingly in distress: they live in West African countries like Burkina Faso over a third of the population from livestock farming.

Rich in raw materials, yet poor

International laws and agreements also turn out to be ineffective against this free trade, in which African states are forced by debt bondage not to levy any import duties. The first article of the UN social pact of 1966 states: "In no case may a people be deprived of their own means of subsistence". Indeed? Then why is Africa, which has 80 percent of the world's cobalt, bauxite and gold deposits, so bitterly poor? Foreign corporations and industrialized countries buy hectares of arable land, mines and water sources, thereby wresting the livelihoods of the millions of small farmers. Soy, for example, is grown - not as food, but as animal feed in order to guarantee the supply of minced meat in western supermarkets. The EU subsidizes this madness - as does the cultivation of palm oil, which finds its way into biofuels, frozen pizzas and shampoos, while the rainforest is being cut down.

Suriya Moorthy, a consultant on agricultural investments and in the palm oil business for 40 years, calculates in the documentary Land grab before: "With 100 million US dollars you can buy a plantation of 10,000 hectares. With today's hybrid seeds for palm trees, you can start harvesting after just 24 months. In the third harvest year you can achieve 30 tons per hectare. That is quite a lot. Roughly speaking, you make $ 38-40 million every year. Every year! I think that's very good. You will smile whenever you visit your bank. "

Land grabbing with German participation

Africa has a quarter of the world's arable land - and could theoretically feed itself with it. But in Sierra Leone, for example, over 40 percent of arable land is foreign-owned; in Mozambique it is 29 percent. To date, 50 million hectares of land have been sold to foreign investors worldwide, around half of them in Africa. It is estimated that the number of unreported cases of global land grabbing is 240 million hectares. China and Saudi Arabia are buying half of Africa empty. German companies such as Acazis, the Neumann Kaffee Gruppe, Enercon, Tönnies and above all the Deutsche Bank are involved in this land grab. Countries like Ethiopia, where there has been famine for over 30 years, receive high-interest loans from the World Bank, EU countries and Saudi Arabia on the condition that they lease their arable land to foreign investors for 100 years. While six million people are starving in Ethiopia, premium rice, coffee and palm oil are grown there for the global north.

Every night, European and Chinese fishing trawlers illegally invade the territorial waters of Senegal, robbing people of their most important source of food. A single trawler pulls over 200 tons of fish from the sea within 24 hours - a Senegalese fisherman over 50 years of age has to catch prey for this. The EU border police Frontex should better monitor the illegal fishing fleets of major European corporations - and not "fend off" refugees who have to flee because Europe is robbing them of their livelihoods. In addition, Senegal is one of 14 African countries that have the CFA franc as their currency. The CFA franc was introduced by the French colonial rulers in 1945 - and is still used today as a neocolonial control instrument: the currency is rigidly linked to the rate of the euro, which is contrary to a self-determined economy. The 14 states - seven of which are among the poorest countries in the world - are obliged to store 50 percent of their money reserves with the French National Bank. The 14 states have no access to this operations account, but France invests the African money reserves on the Paris stock exchange and makes profits from it.

Economic system of inequality

Our so-called trade surpluses, praised by politics and the media, are their trade deficits. After all, we have an economic system that relies on inequality and competition. The corporations of the global north are enriched by the disaster of the global south. And those who sow poverty and exploitation will reap mass exodus. But only foreign exchange and goods are allowed to circulate freely in the globalized world - if people want to move around just as freely, they quickly come across barbed wire and passport controls.

In his bestseller inferno Dan Brown writes on his behalf: "Ozone depletion, water shortage, environmental pollution - these are all not the diseases, but their consequences! The disease is the overpopulation". This narrative of the regulars' tables is nothing more than a scolding of the victims: the sacrosanct market economy is never to blame for the destruction of human life and nature - the people are to blame self due to their mere (too numerous) existence.

High birth rate is a response to poverty

The famine in Africa is not related to alleged overpopulation, but to the neo-colonial economy. If there were 500 or 300 million people living in Africa instead of the current 1.2 billion, they would probably also suffer from famine and warlords. The high birth rate in Africa is not primarily a cause of poverty, but rather one reaction on poverty. The families in these countries are simply dependent on large numbers of children because they would otherwise have no pension provision. Those who have no children and grow old and weak cannot save themselves in any social system. Of course, the people of the global south also need very simple things such as contraceptives and educational material - given the 74,000,000 unwanted pregnancies around the world every year. At the same time, condoms are just a mechanical solution to a socio-political problem.

Of course, 20 billion people cannot live on earth - especially not in a Western lifestyle. The resources and space are actually limited. But the annual growth rate is falling anyway and is currently 1.09 percent, in 1970 it was 2.07 percent and in 2100 it is expected to almost stagnate at 0.09 percent. Although the absolute number of people will increase by the middle of the century, there can be no talk of unchecked growth. Either way, it is cynical to hold the global South responsible for all misery and to label its countries as "dirt holes" on top of that - as recently US President Trump implied that the people living there were second class.

Is there any overpopulation in Africa at all? When the topic comes up in the media, you usually see a slum in Johannisburg or crowds of people on the streets of Abuja - but never the clogged Alexanderplatz in Berlin or the metro in Paris. The Netherlands (408 inhabitants per square kilometer) and Germany (231 inhabitants per square kilometer) are far more densely populated than Ethiopia (93 inhabitants per square kilometer) or Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa (196 inhabitants per square kilometer). And if there is "overpopulation" anywhere in the world, then it is clearly in the club of the super-rich: In Monaco, 18,944 people crowd one square kilometer.

The fairy tale of poverty and environmental problems

It is a myth that poverty and environmental problems originate primarily from a "population explosion". Often enough, this fairy tale only stirs up racist fears and whitewashes the fact that it is not biological reproduction but exploitation that is the cause of all misery. The fact is: the US and the EU are responsible for a quarter of global CO2 emissions. The residents of New York City alone use more energy every day than the entire African continent. And it is precisely this increasing consumption of resources Not linked to population growth, but to economic growth. But why is there always only talk of reducing the number of people in the global south instead of the number of multi-billionaires? "The dark side of abundance is the superfluous person", criticizes Ilija Trojanow quite rightly.

In view of the fact that it is largely the industrialized countries that pollute the planet and burn fossil fuels on a large scale, it is rather strange if even the UN wants to curb global warming by recommending that population growth in the global south be curtailed. We keep growing until we literally burst, including real estate bubbles and stock prices. Guilt for the misery is not a "superfluous person", not a single one. The sole fault is the unequal global distribution of money, land and food. So the boat is not full, but loaded unevenly. The boat's capitalist course is the problem. The primary question is therefore not: Are too many people living on earth? Rather: don't a handful of these people live far too broadly? (Patrick Spät, February 5, 2018)

Patrick late lives as a freelance journalist and book author ("Man does not live from the brain alone", "I'll take your freedom - 11 downside of capitalism") in Berlin. Blog: patrickspaet.wordpress.com