MENA and the Muslim World: Can Having Less Babies Really Save The World?

Arwa argues that population control is not the silver bullet that will solve climate change, rather over-consumption is the real issue

According to the latest data coming from the UN, the world population will reach a staggering thirty billion people by 2300. Now, that’s a lot of people and a real sobering thought for those concerned with the impact of a growing population on the earth’s finite resources.

As the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region has experienced some of the highest population growth since the 1950’s- second only to sub-Saharan Africa- you could argue that it’s time the region took population control seriously. If only to save the planet.

Over-simplistic link between Population and Climate Change

The link between a high population and climate change is a simple one. More people equals less resources and more emissions, which ultimately leads to resource conflict and more climate change. Subsequently, some have argued that by controlling the population, through better family planning facilities, we can have more control over our resources and emissions and so mitigate climate change.

In terms of population growth, the MENA region, which is made up of a large Muslims population, is one of the top offenders. However the fertility rates in the region is believed to have fallen over the last 20 years, according to a journal by Nadia Diamond-Smith, Kirk Smith and Nuriya Nalan Sahin Hodoglugil exploring the link between climate change and the Muslim world. Even so, the population in the region has been steadily increasing and the MENA region is expected to rise from 423 million (2007) to 800-900 million by the end of the 21st century. With all this in mind, it seems to make sense to take on board population control as a solution to climate change.

Over-consumption: One American produces the same emissions as 250 Ethiopians

However, the only problem with the ‘control population= more resources=less conflict= less climate change’ equation is that it’s rather simplistic. The fact remains that whilst the figures do show that the earth’s population has skyrocketed, in reality it is consumption, and not the existence of people alone, that is bringing the earth to near collapse. So, even if we somehow managed to control population growth, if these people were still consuming the earth’s resources without check then we would still be doomed.

For example, Fred Pearce the environmental writer calculated that on average the carbon emissions of one American is equivalent to those of around four Chinese, 20 Indians, 30 Pakistanis, 40 Nigerians, or 250 Ethiopians. And so it is the rich consumer of the West that are doing more harm than the supposed ‘breeders’ of the developing world.

Whilst many people like to think that climate change may be the fault of overbreeders in some countries/regions/religions- or at least that family planning is the answer- it is (unfortunately?) not that simple.

: Image via Brad.K on flickr.

:: Grist and International Journal of Environmental Studies

For more on population control and the Middle East see:

Can a Male Birth Control Pill Save the Environment?

Father of ‘Green Revolution’ Leaves Behind Big Questions

Arab World and Med Region More Vulnerable to Climate Change

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4 thoughts on “MENA and the Muslim World: Can Having Less Babies Really Save The World?”

  1. Arwa Abuarwa says:

    @Tinamarie: I agree that BOTH are important issues that need to be tackled. I just think people are misguided if they think population control (as well as geo-engineering and technofixs are the real answer) as in reality, over-consumption is a BIGGER problem than a growing population.

    Sometimes it feels like people push for population control as its not ‘our’ problem and means we (the big consumers of the world) don’t have to stop shopping/buying/flying/driving cars.

    @Athur: Yes, the planet can’t sustain a large population, but it also can’t sustain a tiny population if they consumed like crazy. The fact is that over-consumers in the developed world have contributed MORE to climate change now and historically than ANY of those people who live on $1/a day.

    Personally, I think getting to grips with the way we consume is more important than population control(which of course still plays a role). Also once we have a fair world this would mean more opp for family control and better rights for women to control their bodies in those developing countries that currently do not.

  2. Arthur Esparza says:

    I agree with Bernard, while consumerism is definitely a factor, the author fails to take into account that most of the world’s population lives on $1/day and that the planet simply cannot sustain such a large population. Look at the growing food crisis, or soil crisis for example. We simply do not have the natural resources to feed everyone without resorting to GMO’s pesticides, and fertilizers to sustain crops and livestock. Look at the depleting fisheries, and the growing amount of toxic metals found in seafood. Just recently the number of starving people in the world has surpassed 1 billion. This is a simple arithmetic problem, if a family of four makes 17,000/year (far beyond what most make in the world, but a little above poverty line in the US) they would have much more to go around than a family of ten that makes 17,000/year. 17,000/4=4250; 17,000/10=1700. What is more important? Quality of life or quantity of life?

  3. I respectfully disagree: Both are a problem. In my observations, those that are high consumers want to blame those who have more babies; those who have large families point the finger to high consumers.

    We are ALL responsible, and the solution isn’t one side. Less consumption and fewer children are both necessary.

    And the other question, very uncomfortable for people to ask and answer, is why people are having so many children in certain parts of the world. Those reasons have to be addressed too.

  4. Agree, blaming high birthrate in some of poorest is not a positive way forward. Am surprised about high emphasis on having (many) kids as Muslims… where did this come from? Prophet PBUH didn’t have that many kids, nor have kids with all of his spouses (i.e. having kids is not compulsory!). IN peace, Rianne

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