Demography and bioethics (I) The UN agency for Population and Development (UNDP) had predicted that the world population would reach a very worrying record during 1998. Neither more nor less than the considerable amount of 6,000 million human beings. Even though this spectacular brand was not achieved in such year and was postponed, first for the month of 1999 and then for the same year (El País, 01.02.99), the
30 of of 2010
It is believed that by 2011 the figure of 7,000 million people will have been reached. The direct consequence of this demographic growth has been basically the emergence and consolidation of two very different big worlds. On the one hand, the developed world that is populated by something more than a billion and that has a very low birth rate and, on the other hand, the underdeveloped one that presents a high number of births and will soon reach the five billion creatures.
This increase in the population affects misery and the degradation of the environment. More than ninety percent of births occur in developing countries that are not prepared to bear their consequences. At present, around a quarter of humanity lives in conditions that prevent it from covering the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing.
There are hundreds of millions of people who only have four fifths of the food necessary to survive, which condemns them to rickets and vulnerability to diseases or premature death. Almost a third of the population in developing countries lacks safe drinking water, which causes the proliferation of multiple microbial infections. More than fifteen million children under the age of five die each year because of hunger or diseases that would be easy to prevent and cure in the first world.
But poverty itself and the high mortality rate also contribute, albeit paradoxically, to the growth of the population. The relationship between poverty and demographic increase is like a whiting that bites its tail. Both influence each other. The misery that exists in developing countries does not come from overpopulation but from the reverse. The misery is the auténtico cause of the excessive number of births. Poor couples want to have many children in order to have more help in family support and a certain security in old age. But also the access of such families to effective contraceptive methods is difficult or completely impossible. Some demographers calculate that the increase in world population will continue at an approximate rate of about 90 million inhabitants each year, although this rate, it is believed, will end up stabilizing at the end of the 21st century between 15,000 and 20,000 million. Of course, these are long-term hypothetical forecasts based on current growth.
What is certain is that everywhere the same tendency seems to be corroborated: rich countries are becoming richer and the poor poorer. Well, these two inclinations, however opposed, contribute to increase the current ecological crisis that the planet suffers. Different disturbances throughout the biosphere are emitting clear warning signals. From the environmental point of view, the type of economic progress is more serious than the growth of the population itself. The governments of underdeveloped nations overexploit their natural resources in order to pay the foreign debt. The poor are forced to destroy forests, degrade soils and deplete ecosystems for food, while the industrialized countries, with much less population, also contribute to ecological deterioration but in proportion, through the emissions of gases that cause universal warming, the destruction of the ozone layer or acid rain.
Another unfair record reached during the year 1998 was the unbridled growth of consumption. The high figure of 24 trillion dollars was invested in the acquisition of goods and services during that period. Six times more than in 1975. But the most worrisome aspect of this data is that 86% of this universal expenditure corresponded to only 20% of the population of the planet, to rich countries. One more fact that certifies the constant increase in the differences between rich and poor.
What, then, is the future that awaits us? How far is it possible to continue growing? Up to the 35,000 million maximum population for the land that some propose? Can population policies solve the problem of population explosion? Is it ethical to apply such policies? Would it be advisable, on the other hand, to encourage births in the industrialized world, which is the one that presents a low birth rate today?
All these problems force to promote effective solutions since they seem to put an end to a fundamental question: the survival of humanity itself.
Authors: Antonio CruzAuthor: Antonio Cruz
He was born in Úbeda, province of Jaén (Spain) on the 15th of 1952.
Bachelor of Biological Sciences from the University of Barcelona on the 17th of 1979 and Doctor in Biology from the same University of Barcelona on the 10th of 1990.
As a scientist:
Professor of Biology and Head of the Seminar of Experimental Sciences of the IES Matadepera in Barcelona. Biologist researcher of the "Animal Biodiversity Resource Center" of the Department of Animal Biology of the "University of Barcelona."
As a theologian:
Is Pastor of the "Iglesia Evangelical Bethel" of Terrassa (Barcelona) Spain and Professor of the "Center for Theological Studies" in Barcelona.
Science, does it find God ?; A demystification of Sociology; A proposal for the third millennium; Parables of Jesus in the postmodern world; Science: do you find God ?; The Christian in the universal village; Christian bioethics, Darwin did not kill God, and Postmodernity.