Re­mem­ber­ing op­ti­mism

Sun Star Bacolod - - ‘Yuhom! - BY ZOSIMO LITERATUS Break­throughs

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 Filipinos 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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