We continue to deny the ill effects of overpopulation in the face of a pandemic. What could be worse?
Let’s shine the spotlight on the big elephant in the room.
Unchecked development & extreme weather
Why are people in general, relentlessly procreating and aspiring for the family way of life?
I’ve been pondering the answer to this question for over a couple of years now, even as the population in my city almost swelled to 4 times its size. The built up area soared a 1000%, and greenery shrunk by almost the same measure. It didn’t come as a surprise then, that we’d witness extreme weather phenomenon for 3 years straight in a row. Something that we’ve only being hearing about in the news, something that takes place in other cities.
Extreme summers, widespread devastation and destruction during monsoons, and a benign, moderate winter, which is quite uncharacteristic for the city of Bengaluru. Not to mention the uneven distribution of these events across different areas of the city, and how they disproportionately impact different sections of the society.
This line from a Citizen matters article, puts in perspective the unequal nature of extreme weather events and how it impacts the psyche of those impacted by them:
“As per IMD count, it can be called a “normal year”. But those who had their houses or basements flooded would disagree, and so would BBMP which had to deal with those floods, and also has to fix the Vrishabhavathi embankment. One hopes the embankment will stand for some years at least.”
Another article from ClientEarth reiterates my point on climate change inequality:
“Although the reasons for this unequal spread of suffering are diverse, the most vulnerable groups all too often share certain characteristics. Indigenous communities, for example, are often more immediately reliant on natural resources, and so more likely to feel the adverse effects of a ‘natural disaster’. Likewise, in many parts of the world, financially poorer communities are already dealing with poor housing infrastructure, and so vulnerable to weather damage. Overwhelmingly, extreme weather events exacerbate societal and systemic inequalities that already run deep.”
During these annual events, the city got battered with heavy winds sending unhinged infrastructure flying around, impaling people and animals, microburst rain, which made trees rain down their thick heavy branches on motorists and pedestrians, and floods which completely inundated many parts of the city. With heavy old-growth trees falling at such a rate, some vehicles (and a lot of public infrastructure) were destroyed to such an extent that they couldn’t even be salvaged. A few people died due to electrocution in some parts of the city.
No one was prepared for the floods. The city was too built up, and all that water had to go somewhere. With most of the land in the city heavily tarred, its lakes breaching their banks, and all the storm water drains either encroached or clogged with debris, there were just two places left for the water to go: Our homes, and our institutions.
November of 2019 was particularly horrendous as the effects of the extreme monsoon spilled over onto the winter, with one of the city’s lakes breaching its bunds and flooding an entire locality. This came as a rude shock to residents of the area, who least expected such a thing to happen on a cloudless, wintry afternoon. However, this was later attributed to human negligence that occurred while taking up maintenance work on the lake. Two more lakes breached their banks that season, plunging more people into misery and despondency.
Quoting a line from a T.V. Ramachandra report titled — “ Bangalore- unlivable city”:
Unplanned cities thus not only contribute to global climate change by emitting the majority of anthropogenic
GHGs but are also particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and extreme weather.
Nevertheless, overflowing lakes are just symptoms of a larger & more significant issue: Overpopulation, and the destruction of our precious forests to accommodate an increasing number of humans. “Unplanned cities” are nothing but a manifestation of a system which has decided to forego the ethos of systematic planned development in the pursuit of relentless growth and profit.
Short term solutions
Our governments must step up, take cognizance of these issues and understand that band-aid solutions like tree plantation programs, rain water harvesting, organic agriculture, and lake rejuvenation efforts won’t work in the long run. This is not to say that these endeavors are bad or disingenuous in themselves. The depleted green cover in the city actually highlights a pressing need for the initiation of such remedial programs.
Lake rejuvenation can actually work wonders in solving issues pertaining to a particular area: Turning the periphery of lakes into walking and cycling tracks boosts the happiness levels of the residents in the area. Cleaning its waters means access to clean, fresh air that is free of the unpleasant odour typical of sewage canals. Tree plantations along its edges means a cool, shady environment not just for humans, but also for all the squirrels, birds, rodents, and insects who once used to call the lake their home. And finally, it attracts the local villagers back into the area to take up traditional vocations of fishing and cattle rearing, the prospects of which were on the decline along with the decaying of the lake.
Rainwater harvesting helps in reducing flooding and soil erosion, while providing clean drinking water to the residents of the building. But it is no substitute to population reduction.
Organic farming provides people with safe, healthy food to eat, while greatly improving the “physical, chemical and biological properties of the soil”. It is also no substitute to population reduction.
At the end of the day, all of these are just that: short term solutions!
Enough with the band aids
All of our great strides and efforts in these areas would be wiped out with the birth of every extra child, for whom the resources to exist have not even been extracted yet. This is where we go into a deficit, and start taking out much more than the planet can replenish.
And then come the annual “natural disasters” to remind us of our tumultuous relationship with nature.
We stay huddled inside the safe confines of our homes, read the news the next day, pour out our grievances about the less fortunate who couldn’t escape the wrath of nature, and then go right back to where we started; procreating and plundering the planet for resources.
As bizarre as it may seem, trees are still being cut for various projects right at this very moment as I write this article. Heavy summer showers inundated some areas of the city again. You can see how disproportionately these events affect people with their variability. I wouldn’t have had an inkling of the destruction caused by these events had I not ventured out to meet a friend. It had drizzled for just 15 minutes in my area, but the downpour was so intense in others that trees had fallen, underpasses were flooded, and roads had become slushy and impassable. It had actually come as a shock to me when I noticed an underpass completely inundated with flood water, when it had barely drizzled in my area. Such is the variation in extreme weather events taking place within the same city.
Increased crime rate: Theft, domestic violence, and acts of brutality
Undeniably, one of the biggest fallouts of overpopulation in developing countries has been an exponential increase in the rate of crime. The crime rate in my city almost tripled in just the span of a decade. Simple everyday activities, which were carried out with routine monotony, are now dangerous and risky. Transgressions against women are the biggest contributors to these statistics. We can no longer walk, run, cycle, or take a leisurely stroll around our neighbourhoods in the wee hours of the day due to the sense of fear and paranoia which these events have managed to instill in us.
Things have gotten so bad in some localities, that Resident Welfare Associations have taken it up amongst themselves and enlisted the services of private security agencies to check the threats of mugging, theft, rape, assault and other acts of brutality which threatens to undermine the principles of liberalism, tolerance, and acceptance, which have always been the defining features of this city. The city is no longer the safe haven it once used to be. The days of a congenial and friendly atmosphere looming in the air have vanished, along with our sweaters and mufflers.
Is it the heat that’s getting to peoples heads?
Everyone is viewed with a lens of suspicion, and it’s usually outsiders that are seen as a soft target. Not to mention a massive rise in acts of domestic violence which have threatened to tear the fabric of family apart:
- Man demands property, gouges out father’s eyes
- In Delhi, 76-Year-Old Woman Dies After Being Slapped By Son: Report
The pandemic induced lock-downs further amplified and exacerbated the existing tensions between victims and abusers within families, by locking them indoors in close proximity with each other for months together:
Domestic violence calls up from 10 to 25 a day during lockdown in Bengaluru
The hidden crisis: Stuck at home, many women in Karnataka faced abuse
No one wants to socialize and have friendly banter anymore, lest you might have an ulterior motive up your sleeve. Of course this isn’t the case only in my city. It’s an all-too familiar story that plays out around the world, mostly in developing and developed countries. Not to mention the ruthless way in which politicians have capitalized on this paving the way for xenophobia and even encouraging it. Isn’t this typical of most cosmopolitan cities? This brings me to my next point: Migration.
When a city or state gets so saturated, that it cannot accommodate anymore citizens, the locals are forced to look for jobs outside. Or is it? Of course, it isn’t that simple right? There are many other factors to be considered while studying the reasons for migration.
Migration happens between rural, suburban, national, and even international boundaries. The reasons for migration are many, but the most popular one world over, is searching for better prospects. And the biggest type of migration is rural to urban migration. The process of urbanization.
These “prospects” could range from anything like better jobs, faster career growth and better investment options, to a cosmopolitan life that is free of restrictions, a safer environment, better infrastructure, and a higher standard of living.
Of course, most of these fringe benefits don’t exist anymore in many cities, who once upon a time, used to boast off these comforts. As cities got crammed with an increasing number of people from outside (as well as inside), it cancelled out any net benefit that could be obtained by the innovations they produced. The final outcome is that somewhere along the way, many cities crossed the point where the population was manageable and they now fare worse than certain suburban and rural towns in terms of livability. Some of the most polluted places on earth also happen to be the same places with the highest population densities: Cities.
The daily traffic jams, accidents, highway pile-ups, incidents of assault, theft, rape, cheating, extortion, murder, seasonal floods, heatwaves, and other extreme weather events ensured to cancel out any benefit that could be obtained by eating healthier, exercising, having better access to world class healthcare & infrastructure, driving safer vehicles, and living in safe, temperature controlled homes with their accompanying creature comforts.
An increasing number of everyday citizens are getting fed up and frustrated with their roles as employees, and want to be their own bosses as entrepreneurs. As the population grows, companies are forced to dilute their values by over staffing and undervaluing their existing staff to fill up the unemployment gap. This not only creates more dead-end jobs that are meaningless in nature and have no scope of growth, but also a citizenry who are just living to pay the bills.
Employee engagement is the lowest its ever been!
Outsourcing and third party payroll are the new tools of the trade, used for corporate fascism. This is again, a direct effect of overpopulation. As cities grow, more staffing agencies are needed to screen and place candidates, as parent companies would not have the required workforce to interview such a large pool of candidates.
Hiring employees on a contractual basis relinquishes companies from providing them with any of the actual benefits given to their own employees, thereby ostracizing them from the company itself. After all, why provide one with a sense of belonging, when the very reason they are on contract payroll is so they can be easily fired?
Most employees have no knowledge of the inner working of their companies and just stick to their role. They are neither paid for it, nor incentivized to do so. This creates a submissive workforce dependent on the company for their daily living who would go to great lengths to get the job done. It also perpetuates an unhealthy company-employee relationship, where the latter is constantly looking up to the former for direction.
But not anymore!
Gone are the days where the company you worked for was the sole, and only reservoir of knowledge. Also gone are the days where they prevented their workers from seeking knowledge from the outside world. The modern day worker has a vast number of medium, from which she can pick up knowledge and utilize it towards her benefit. And that’s exactly what millennials are doing.
They’re using their free time (or rather, making time) to learn, up-skill, and and become multi-talented individuals, or even subject matter experts within their own field. They aspire to hone their new skills and certifications to become more employable, and stand out from the general pool of job applicants. They see it not just as a path to riches, but as a respectable vocation, instead of working in uninspiring environments, under demoralizing teams, control-freak bosses, and authoritarian company policies all throughout their lives.
Stricter rules and more regulations
Suppressed dissent and a submissive, compliant populace. This is exactly what a fascist government would want. And we’re giving it to them. Not just through conformity, but through our very lifestyles. We dutifully vaccinate our kids without questioning the govt why it is needed, we stick to street codes, dress codes, culture codes, and everything else that is patriarchal and misogynistic in nature. We obediently go to school, get a degree, work a job or start a business, and then marry and have kids at the right age (well, most of us).
We’re behaving like robots even though we’re not. And this is the reason we have one of the highest rates of student suicide, infanticide, adult suicide, caste and gender based violence, depression and every other major mental illness in the world.
Yet we continue to suck up to the fascists and maintain the status quo. Because what better way to rule over a people who are so homogeneous and conventional in their ways, than by imposing blanket rules and restrictions over freedom of speech, movement, freedom of religion, language, sex, class, and freedom from poverty and slavery. No contrarian can live in such authoritarian states, and hence you see them living in the mountains, or in hippie communities scattered across the world.
Aldous Huxley rightly foretold that “democracy is threatened due to overpopulation” And how true did that turn out to be? Countries that used to boast off being democratic, and offering a lot of freedoms to their citizens are increasingly starting to resemble fascist dictatorship nations, and this directly corresponds to a rise in their populations. Any issue that pertains to the freedoms offered by these states, immediately gets politicized instead of investigated and corrected. People are quick to point to out that all this new crime is because of the outsiders. But where did the outsiders come from? There are a multitude of reasons, but mainly because their very own home cities have become overpopulated and saturated.
Increased instances of police brutality, silenced voices, wrongful arrests
Aldous Huxley again, rightly said, “As population densities increase, laws, which serve as a primary social mediator of relations between people, will more frequently regulate interactions between humans and develop a need for more rules and restrictions to regulate these interactions.”
This means that people like You and I, the general population, will be finding ourselves having far more interactions with law enforcement than we’d like. This leads to increased police brutality, comparable with what’s happening in the US.
Coinciding with the George Floyd protests that rocked the United States during the first half of 2020, were calls for #justiceforJayarajandFenix back here in India. In India, it’s a well known fact that the police are generally brutal in their ways and methods of dealing with people.
Especially if they’re suspects.
However, the deaths of Jayaraj and his son Fenix while in police custody, elicited a reaction from Indian citizens unlike any other. The issue gained so much prominence, that even state leaders, politicians, and people from all over the world started talking about it. However it didn’t lead to wide scale violent protests, anarchy, arson, and shutdowns, the way things unfolded in the U.S.
What crime did Jayaraj and Fenix commit? — Keeping their store open beyond stipulated hours, which were in place as part of Covid -19 protocol.
What was George Floyd’s crime? — Trying to purchase groceries with counterfeit cash.
Another very recent issue that has to do with fascism, and one that grabbed the attention of the entire nation was the arrest of Disha Ravi. Disha is a climate change campaigner, and the founder of the Bangalore chapter of “Fridays for Future”, a global climate strike movement started by Greta Thunberg.
Disha Ravi was arrested for purportedly “creating misinformation and disaffection against the lawfully enacted government” through a toolkit she had shared with Greta. “The police alleged Ravi was a “key conspirator” in creating and disseminating the tookit, and that she “collaborated with pro-Khalisatani ‘Poetic Justice Foundation’ to “spread disaffection against Indian state.”
However the alleged “toolkit” was only a “document used by social justice campaigners to raise awareness about issues and suggest strategies to proceed” , and it was “meant to enable anyone unfamiliar with the ongoing farmers protests in India to better understand the situation and make decisions on how to support the farmers based on their own analysis”.
See how such petty crimes and non-issues led to such unwarranted, and unjustified outcomes?
This is mainly because the system has become fascist, parasitic, and self-serving in nature, and everyone else has ended up becoming second class citizens, in a supposedly democratically elected government.
Expansion and growth of industrial animal agriculture
Population growth directly translates into more number of animals being slaughtered for their meat and by-products. This puts immense pressure on a system that is already bursting at the seams.
More slaughterhouses need to be set up. And additional slaughterhouses means more butchers and stall workers doing filthy, unsanitary work that should never have existed in the first place. This creates the perfect breeding ground for zoonotic diseases like the present Coronavirus. It’s a lose-lose situation no matter which angle you look at it from. There is enough and more information available on the downstream effects of slaughterhouses, such air pollution, fecal contamination of groundwater, contamination of lakes, oceans and other water bodies with the discharge from slaughterhouses, the rise of drug resistant bacteria, respiratory and other health complications for people living in close proximity to abattoirs, and much much more.
Lastly, it also means that more virgin forests are bulldozed to house these animals, and the agricultural land necessary to grow their food. This creates a double whammy of sorts, as the deforested areas release their sequestered carbon, while animal farts like methane and ammonia, which are ten times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat, are released into the atmosphere all through the life of the animal up until the time of slaughter.
A surplus of grooms in the marriage market
There is a bride shortage in India. Not because the sex ratio is skewed, but because it has deliberately been made to be so. Female infanticide and sex selective abortion practices that were once abhorrent practices rampant in the 90’s are resurfacing now as millions of millennials grow of marriageable age. This is again yet another direct effect of overpopulation and the aspiration to follow a certain lifestyle.
Tradition and culture has a role to play in it too:
“For decades, impoverished families preferred boys to girls because they could avoid the burden of paying dowries. The tradition has persisted even as laws have been enacted prohibiting such customs. Males are also traditionally expected to care for their parents in their old age; a female becomes part of her husband’s family after marriage, and her life becomes focused on her in-laws.”
The urge to live and spend like millionaire bigwigs is only further getting stronger, thanks to social media and the internet in general. Celebrities further fuel the natalism epidemic by glorifying and normalizing childbirth and parenthood on social media. This further boosts the morale of their followers and they get more validation for natalism even as the world burns.
Increased loneliness and estrangement
We’re in the midst of a loneliness epidemic. Not just a virus borne pandemic! Loneliness and depression are at the highest levels they’ve ever been. The pandemic induced lock-downs have only managed to add fuel to the fire, and has aggravated many mental health issues in a significant percentage of the population, sending many people over the edge. Especially those who were already categorized as ‘vulnerable’ to such events.
COVID-19 has produced ‘alarming’ increase in loneliness
Feeling lonely during the pandemic? You’re up to ten times more likely to have worse mental health
The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use
This has led to downstream epidemics as people look for ways to tide over their internal crises with substance abuse, alcoholism and domestic violence, which has already been covered above.
A study conducted by NCBI, titled “The dual pandemic of suicide and COVID-19: A biopsychosocial narrative of risks and prevention” concludes that (and greatly elucidates on my pre-covid narrative):
“Suicide remains among the top ten causes of death globally (Ferrari et al., 2010). Rates are usually higher in men, in those with psychiatric disorders and past attempts, substance abuse and in developing countries (Vigo et al., 2016). The global burden is increasing, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has called upon for a global action to prevent suicides (Fleischmann and De Leo, 2014). On this background, the COVID-19 crisis is surely a ‘double-hit’ increasing the susceptibility.”
“Suicide itself is considered to be a pandemic. A large-scale outbreak like COVID-19 can easily overwhelm the available public health resources, needing more workforce on the ground. Besides, prompt treatment of psychiatric disorders, increasing mental health promotion and awareness as well as reducing social risks like poverty are other broader strategies for suicide prevention. While all of these measures are equally important and applicable even to the pandemic situation, certain specific risks during COVID-19 crisis might need special measures at different levels”
It is shocking to see the citizenry and governments alike play blame games, as people kill themselves in desperation, unable to envision a future where they can peacefully exist without any existential crisis looming over their heads.
Increased geopolitical tension & the refugee crisis
More people means more refugees fleeing war-torn countries and the persecution of dictatorial regimes. This is not only a threat to the refugees themselves, but also a threat to the countries that they’re fleeing to.
The countries taking in these refugees have to be capable of providing for them in the first place. When the receiving country itself is plagued with issues of its own, how can it manage to accommodate more people?
It also creates divisions amongst the locals, forcing them to take sides, with one section of the population being vehemently against allowing refugees inside, and the other campaigning to allow them on humanitarian grounds. This creates polarizing issues in vast swathes of population and creates further divisions in society, what with religion, race and colour already acting as very potent dividers of people. The arms trade, drug rings, and flesh trade also get a further boost in the arm from overpopulation. With such vast networks operating cross country and even internationally, it becomes extremely hard in reigning in and shutting down these backyard operations for good.
Large scale mob violence has been documented in each and every single part of the world where huge populations have outgrown livable areas. It also becomes harder for politicians to gain common ground with voters because of the cosmopolitan nature of cities. And the only way they can gain some control of the situation is through the fascist dictatorship model.
Unemployment and the ongoing economic crisis
Toxic optimism. That’s what the pro-lifers are suffering from. They think the world is their oyster. One big sphere of happiness and joy made for their sole contentment and pleasure. And we antinatalists are here to remind them that it is not!
You need to smell the coffee(another wage slave drug) and wake up to the madness and hysteria of your own making erupting all around you. For how long do you wish to numb yourself of the sufferings of the world, safe inside the confines of your “family life” cocoon? When will you start acting like your family isn’t the thing that comes first, and the only thing that matters? When will you, my dear pro-lifer realize that every time you create a life, you destroy the livelihoods of a dozen others? Why can’t you see the downstream effects of capitalism that are staring us in the face each and every single day? Why is this so difficult to comprehend?
We’re in one of the biggest recessions of this century. Unemployment is at the highest its ever been. The pandemic has forced many businesses to shut down temporarily or for good, leaving many workers out in the dark to fend for themselves. What good are all your degrees, all your accolades and achievements, if the bottom half of humanity is struggling to get by every single day? What good are all your big houses, cars and planes, if the rest of us cannot even afford healthcare? What good are your charitable donations if they only aim to solve issues, rather than prevent them from happening in the first place?
If philanthropy as a solution actually worked, there wouldn’t be so much inequality and suffering in the world today. A lot more people would have been safeguarded and immune to the effects of the pandemic. A lot less people would have suffered and died in the streets because they couldn’t afford healthcare. A lot less people would be needing psychiatric evaluation and counselling. A lot less people would be on suicide watch!
Why aren’t we able to see the bigger picture here? and who exactly is to blame for this mess?
Or just plain common everyday citizens?
To get even an inkling of this issue, takes a deeper understanding of the social fabric of society and what it is built upon. For most families residing closer to the poverty line or in destitution, having a child is seen as a way to get out of their situation. As per studies done on the subject:
“Poverty is believed to be the leading cause of overpopulation. A lack of educational resources, coupled with high death rates leading to higher birth rates, result in impoverished areas seeing large booms in population.”
This only creates ripple effects downstream in the society, as more mouths to feed mean more people have to go to work, and in the current industrial system, it only plunges ever more people into poverty. A truly vicious cycle if you ask!
This ripples are so huge and significant, that no aspect of our existence is spared of its wrath. From leading to reduced mortality rates, infertility, shortage of clean drinking water, a lower life expectancy, and increased intensive farming, to increased competition for the basics of life including, but not limited to food, clothing, and shelter, these effects are just too large to be ignored.
So what should be done to stem the tide of these effects, which are already at play, while at the same time, impart knowledge on population control to the public?
Long term solutions
Here are some workable solutions put forth by leading scientists and change makers around the world:
- Improving access to quality education: This entails imparting knowledge on family planning and birth control measures, at the high school stage itself.
- Educating the girl child: This reduces the chances of her being dependent on the family system as an adult, and will no longer enable men to hold women hostage in unhappy marriages.
- Making changes to policy, without it being perceived as restrictive by citizens: Being child-free, or having just a single child must be incentivized by world governments.
- Removing barriers to contraception: Educating the underprivileged and lower classes about contraception and removing any preconceived notions about it.
- Solving inequality: Inequality is one of the primary drivers of overpopulation. When citizens, particularly women, are educated, empowered and financially unburdened, they seldom aspire to have children or follow a family way of life.
Maybe, just maybe, these are some of the reasons people relentlessly procreate and aspire for a family life. Because they feel disempowered. Because they’re poor. Because they’re lower down the ladder of social hierarchy. Because they’re not provided with that many options to choose from in life in the first place.