Thursday, April 24, 2008

Overpopulation As Obesity

I just don't buy the thesis, as I understand it, that there are too many Filipinos and the Church is to blame. I think there are just as many Filipinos as there should be in the world today, no more and no less. It's not the number of Filipinos in the world that is the problem. No, it's the leaders who don't provide the means of an expanding world for them that is the problem.
Dominique Cimafranca (The Village Idiot Savant blog) makes a similar point:
Just because Thailand's population growth rate is lower does not automatically translate into a stronger economy and greater agricultural output. Comparisons of economic and agricultural figures for both countries will show why things are they way they are.
I have to concede the point to both of these gentlemen that neither the "absolute number" of Filipinos in the world today (Richard) nor the "relative number" of Filipinos to Thais (Dominique) is by itself capable of explaining either the absolute or relative states of the Philippine economy and society.

Dysfunctional leadership, massive graft and corruption, and backward states of education, industry, agriculture and administration are all equally if not more important than the population number.

As the post title suggests, I wish to make the analogy that OVERPOPULATION (which neither Dominique nor Richard regards as a problem) IS a problem like being overweight or downright obese.

First, let us observe that having a weight problem can also be regarded in absolute or relative terms. To Dom's point, merely being heavier than another person does not enforce the conclusion that one is less healthy than the other, for there are many other factors that determine health. To Richard's point, whatever one's weight may be, given that one does everything else to promote good health, one's actual weight could be regarded as no problem at all.

However, I wish to reason by way of analogy that even if all these other factors were made equal or otherwise dealt with, we would still be substantially better off if Filipino families could attain the smaller number of members that 80 to 85% of them say (in public opinion surveys) that they truly want because they believe they would be better off economically.

Most overweight people have the same sense that they would be better off physically if they could just shed some pounds. The heart's function and cardiovascular health in general are directly affected by being overweight or obese. The heart has to work harder because (somewhere I read that) every pound of extra weight means an extra mile of arteries, veins and capillaries are required to carry blood to those millions of extra bodily cells. Likewise, the economy has to pump out more of the primary social goods like food, shelter, clothing, education and the like for the millions of citizens. Of course, society has to do that anyway no matter what the population is, but who would deny that IF we were 60 million strong instead of 90 million, we would need about a third less rice, oil, food, shelter and clothing, etc. In this sense, I think that reducing the population growth rate is generally a CONSERVATIVE principle, even if "birth control" as such is usually associated with "liberals" because the latter tend to paint the problem as a "women's issue". Of course, all mothers ARE women, but I think that obesity is a gender-neutral problem and treating population as a feminist issue only burdens the matter with emotional and ideological baggage that is material but not central to the main point.

The analogy also suggests that "the other problems" that Dom and Richard point too as the causes of social and economic woes are analogous to bad personal habits deleterious to health. Graft and corruption could be likened to smoking; bad economic or political policies would be like not getting enough rest and exercise or refusing to treat hypertension, diabetes, or cholesterol problems. Yet even if we did all these things and fixed all these other problems, if at the end of the process we still found our selves to be overweight or obese, it would still be benefical to address THAT problem too.

Here we get into the HOW. I am dead set against abortion which I would liken to liposuction or amputation. But EATING LESS would not be a bad idea, and this would be analogous to pills, condoms, IUDs and other forms of "preventative contraception". In this mode, we would lose weight and reduce our waist size like reducing the population size mainly by attrition assuming that the death rate stays more or less constant.

Just as a person who loses weight gains strength and vigor, is more productive, lives longer and can do more and better things, a society that does not breed and feed like rats and rabbits can invest more in health, education, welfare, economic and social activities.

Finally most overweight people I know (like me) are generally less healthy than people who are close to some ideal weight for their height, age, temperament and daily activity. Similarly, if you look at the population growth rates of the wealthier nations, they are much lower than the poorer ones and the population profiles of those that have made the demographic transition have a characteristic shape (rectangular as opposed to triangular). Just so, obese folks have a pear-shape while leaner people are uhmm, sexier.

I don't know of course that HAPPINESS correlates, but we aren't really talking about that at the moment. Anyway looking at this problem like this seems to be less emotional and ideological, though I want to tackle the issue of Papal Infallibility from a Godellian point of view in my next post.


Gabby said...

I think it would be better to understand the issue in the light of dependency ratios. You want to have a higher population, given that they are productive. If they are all children, or old people, then you are in trouble.

If you insist on your analogy, it matters where u pack on the weight. If it hits your gut, its a problem. If its broader shoulders and tighter thighs, then its good.

Unfortunately, while there is a link between demographic transition and growth, the transition between demographic states is somewhat less understood. It must be true that to have many productive citizens, at some point prior, you MUST have had a lot of kids. And the evidence in fact shows that the demographic distribution of Thailand and the Philippines (for example) was similar before, but should be substantially different now.

Dominique said...

Hey, now that's just hurtful. My doctor says I'm overweight. :-(

Just kidding, Dean.

But taking off from your analogy (and from my personal experience of being overweight): yes, indeed, it would do to eat less, but by analogy, that simply means sexual abstinence.

If I do eat (or overeat, as the case may be), I have to live with the consequences. If couples have sex, they too have to live with the consequences.

By analogy also: contraceptive use is akin to chewing your food (to enjoy the taste) and then spitting it out afterwards (or vomiting it out.) You get to enjoy the sex but without the consequences.

Further analogy: if you throw up your food, you end up looking like a bulimic supermodel -- idolized and photographed, the example of modern success, but deep down an emotional and psychological wreck.

DJB Rizalist said...

As your doctor will confirm, there are many different ways of preventing weight gain.

But abstinence alone cannot possibly work, because by analogy that means not just eating less, but not eating at all.

However, I admit that partial abstinence, the avoidance of fatty and oily foods is part of maintaining a good diet.

Now, like amputation or liposuction, which seem to be radical measures to me, and quite unacceptable, vomitting after eating (enjoying sex without the consequences) does seem to be also extreme or disordered, but the analogy to birth control might be those drugs which prevent the absorption of fat, which would be harmless yet effective enough as millions of people have proven.

Btw, I do not get impression that the natural rhythm method, which is an acceptable method to the RCC, prohibits the enjoyment of sex without the consequences. It is obviously designed to allow for such pleasure between man and wife while preventing pregnancy, so that prinicple is not essential to the RCC's objections to "artificial means" of birth control.

Unless of course, you are willing to admit that the RCC KNOWS it is a largely ineffective means anyway and that consequences will surely be visited on the hedonistic.

But that would make the RCC insincere and disingenuous, like a doctor saying it's alright to eat longganisa as long as you do it in the dark of the moon when it won't cause you to gain weight (trust me!)

Fat-absorption prevention drugs, btw, do not necessarily lead to supermodeldom or bulimia.

Most non-overweight people can be mentally healthy, all other factors being equal.

Losing weight,like attriting population size can be done without becoming mentally ill or behaviorally disordered.

Why should we forego the benefits of weight loss done safely and morally when the evils of NOT doing so are so self-evident?

DJB Rizalist said...

Overeating will hit your gut long before you get sportsman's shoulders and supertight thighs!

Thailand moderated its freedom to breed, we did not. We are obese compared to Thailand. That is an undeniable difference. That is why they are able to export half their food to countries like the Philippines which is the LARGEST importer of rice in the world. And the most vulnerable to famine and want and riots, going forward.

Our thighs are flabby, our shoulders sagging, and our gut is bulging.

There is no real mystery why, nor any as to how to safely and morally reduce.

The greater evil and injustice of overpopulation far outweighs any possible evil in non-abortion related birth control.

Cocoy said...

I think that it would be most prudent to advertise all forms of birth control (excluding abortion) and let people decide on what to use.

i mean, if you belong to the Catholic Church, as a Catholic you should decide (free will and all that) whether your Church is right on this issue or not.

There should also be a campaign from all sides because, I think, it is also most logical not to have kids when you can't afford them in the first place: i.e. nothing to feed them with, can't give them good education, etc. etc. I think that is the most responsible thing we can do.

IMHO, i don't think the Church teaches people to be responsible for their actions, preferring the old line, that birth control is "evil". I'm not very religious though I am Roman Catholic but I've never heard my church talk about being responsible in the context of birth control. I think they focus more on the device, rather than appealing to people's God given ability to discern right from wrong and having faith in that. I think it is a greater crime against God to have kids if 1 can't afford to give the kid the best education, the best food, the best opportunity that 1 can give him/her.

Being responsible for your wife and kid--- that's part of love isn't it? We may even prevent teenage pregnancies if we teach teens to be more responsible. Somehow, IMHO, the Church often loses sight of that.

So yes, I agree, there is injustice in overpopulation and it far outweighs any possible evil in non-abortion related birth control.

Dominique said...

That's the thing with analogies: essentially, they're imperfect. You won't die if you don't have sex; but you'll die if you don't eat.

DJB Rizalist said...

I guess I am arguing from WITHIN the Catholic Church, as a member of that particular religious tradition, because I do care about at least the vast numbers of people that are at least nominally inside the Church.

Even the hierarchy cannot oppose your point of view. They would say yes, it's a free country. But they do emphasize to the vast majority that they are able to influence that it is a "grave moral disorder" to use pills, condoms and iuds. "Let them be anathema" they declare to the people.

This to me is most unfair, most unjust and borders on evildoing, not from the general point of view of democracy and free society, but of Christianity's deepest tenets.

It is NOT the message of love that Jesus Christ brought as the Good News, but the prerogatives of absolute worldly power disguising itself as God's will!

ricelander said...

Your analogy is nice. But is it obesity resulting from eating too much or a bloating of the body because of a disease? Just another of looking at it.

Numbers seem to suggest though that as countries progress, population growth declines too. It appears that progress tend to modify people's behavior about family size. Poverty, strangely, seems to favor human breeding hahaha. Look at rich countries like Singapore, Japan, Germany (?). Their governments have gone to the extent of offering, would you believe, incentives just so their people would procreate more!

It may be counter-intuitive to most but I think poor people make up for their disadvantage by precisely having more kids. Sort of revenge? I can't figure out something yet to complete my argument but suffice it for the time being that all these times we say 'human resources' not 'human liabilities'. A new human being is one more mouth to feed--- who could be another Bill Gates someday, who knows?

I remember my parents telling us they were planning for only three, with at least one girl. I came to being because all the first three were boys. Then I was another boy. They stopped on the fifth: finally a girl. It was a struggle of course.

blackshama said...

The funny thing with human sex is that it is weird.

First of all human females don't PHYSICALLY advertise if they are in estrus or are receptive to sex.

Second of all human males try to be monogamous but really can't.

Since Darwinian sexual selection really is the job of the female,then females have evolved all sorts of behaviours(and even secondary sexual characteristics) to make sure their males stick close by.

To DJB and all readers: Do you realize that we shouldn't have this problem if females develop red behinds (like all female apes and monkeys) when they are receptive?

stuart-santiago said...

ahahaha. fyi: human females are most receptive to sex when ovulating, that is midway between menses. but no we don't physically advertise it because even in estrus, women are programmed to be choosy, unlike apes and men.

overpopulation as obesity? the analogy is weird. overpopulation means hunger, no obesity there.

DJB Rizalist said...


I guess the analogy is: overpopulation is obesity of the body politic.

BTW, I think you just insulted apes, who are said to be choosier than men, at least in the sense that they would never willingly have sex with them!

POGB said...

A quote from Likhaan who did some study and interview on the impact of Atienza's Pro-Life Taliban's reign in Manila:

"The Arroyo government is the first administration since 1969—the beginning of family planning policies in the Philippines—to weld its policies not to medical standards, but to the moral standards of the Catholic Church. President Arroyo is adamant that in focusing solely on NFP her government has not violated any law, since modern contraceptives have not been banned in the country and are available commercially nationwide and in DOH facilities,21 a position similar to that taken by the Manila City government. However, given that the majority of Filipino incomes fall below the poverty line, expecting families to purchase contraceptives when they can barely meet their most basic needs is out of touch and cruel. DOH facilities also will no longer be a reliable source for artificial methods, given that national government resources will be focused on NFP."

"Natural" FP and abstention is a failure and will fail miserably at the expense of the poor and violation of womens right to choose under the hypocritical delusional leadership that is in denial. Close to 80 million people and projected to reach 150 million in 20 years is truly very alarming unless something is done to stop making babies. Why even our much touted increase in GDP cannot keep up with population growth and still we insist on blaming "oversexed" couples as the culprit is plain cruelty borne out of ignorance. At the rate we are going and the corruption so prevalent we will never be self-sufficient in food production so allow the poor free access to medically proven birth control methods now. Por dyos por santo parang awa ninyo na, if La Gloria admits she used pills when she was a young mother but all her sins was now forgiven because she confessed to her priest why not give the poor the pills and other proven contraceptives and let them confess their "sins" which is a better prospect than 150 million people in 20 years.

Richard said...


You've made me famous, as McCain would say (just joking, I don't think he means it either).

And while making the overweight analogy may be purely academic fun (and I won't deny you that, based on your most recent post), you've already conceded the point. I quote:

"Dysfunctional leadership, massive graft and corruption, and backward states of education, industry, agriculture and administration are all equally if not more important than the population number."

So, maybe a top-heavy ship would be a better analogy then :-)

Take Care and I love reading this blog, especially since you made me a STAR!

Best Regards,


Anonymous said...

Ricelander: It may be counter-intuitive to most but I think poor people make up for their disadvantage by precisely having more kids. Sort of revenge? I can't figure out something yet to complete my argument but suffice it for the time being that all these times we say 'human resources' not 'human liabilities'.

This reminds me of a passage from Frank Herbert's other masterpiece (besides "Dune"), The Dosadi Experiment:

"You recall that in those final days, Broey increased the rations for his Human auxillaries, his way of saying to them: 'You'll be turned out onto the Rim soon to fend for yourselves."

"A Dosadi way of saying that."

"Correct. We always held that thought in the reserve: that we should breed in such numbers that some would survive no matter what happened. We would thus begin producing species which could survive there without the city of Chu...or any other city designed solely to produce nonpoisonous foods."

Anonymous said...

I cannot speak to Filipino agricultural land levels but I've read that there has been enough food grown worldwide to make every man, woman, and child overweight. So "overpopulation" isn't anywhere close to being the cause of food shortages in modern times.

Yes poor people have more children. Its partly because children grow up to be laborers who help the family when older and also partly the shotgun approach to making sure a children survive.

For a lot of social problems I tend to look first to those wealthiest in a society as their control over resources that define how well (or badly) a society develops).

And I'm not ready to say population levels are a problem when the point I just mentioned seems to be so overpowering in comparison to everything else.

An irony is that those with the wealth may look to use population level as a scapegoat for problems that I doubt are do to it.


Eat less rice, carbohydrates and you will lose weight.

Greediness is the cause of obesity -- have you noticed that many Africans are thin?

Question of will power!

Anonymous said...

In 1971 only 4% of 6-to-11-year-old kids were obese; by 2004, the figure had leaped to 18.8%. In the same period, the number rose from 6.1% to 17.4% in the 12-to-19-year-old group, and from 5% to 13.9% among kid’s ageing between 2 to 5. Include all overweight kids, and a whopping 32% of all American children now carry more pounds than they should.