The Elephant in the Room That Nobody Seems to Care About by D.H.

The population of Uganda in 2013 was around 37.5 million people. By 2050, it is projected that it will be around 102 million according to http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke. Do you see a problem with this? The populations of developing countries is increasing without bound, while the country itself struggles financially to sustain itself. People in these countries are already struggling to support their families as it is, with the population exploding, it’s only going to make matters worse. The cities won’t be able to support its population. Many families will be displaced into slums, many will be struggling to find employment, crime will rise, and overall there will not be enough food to properly feed the country’s people.

This problem with overpopulation is much larger than people give it credit for. As of 2016, the population of humans on our planet reached the 7.4 billion mark, and is expected to steadily increase. We are projected to hit the 10 billion mark by around 2050. I feel like a reality check is necessary before we can really start to fix this problem.

Our massive consumption of resources and production of greenhouse gases are the main causes of climate change, and to those that don’t believe that it exists… it does. While we are making efforts to reduce the amount of emissions, adding more and more people to the planet is only going to increase consumption. Do you think that we can reduce overall emissions if we are adding more and more people to the planet each year? The answer is no, unfortunately.

With more and more people on the planet, we are going to need to find more efficient ways to properly feed the growing population. At the same time we are struggling to even feed a large number of our 7.4 billion already. Do you think it’s plausible that we could feed up to 10 billion if we have trouble feeding our population today? The answer, yet again, is no.

There are many steps that can be taken to address this problem, yet this topic is one that nobody seems to want to talk about, as if it’s taboo to our society for the problem of overpopulation to be discussed. Not only do we, as humans, think it is morally and culturally wrong to make efforts to control overpopulation, but our own system of government also opposes taking the proper steps to control population.

An article that on http://www.populationelephant.com called The Problems with “The Problem” beautifully discusses the ideas of how our own system opposing the idea of controlling overpopulation. It can be broken down into three areas: Democracy, Capitalism, and Religion.

Religion: As humans, it is our biological instinct to reproduce and raise the next generation of humans so that our species can continue to exist grow. The same applies for most religions. Whether it is though converting others to a religion or by being born into one, most religions like the idea of growing in size and continually existing through generations.

What would happen to the Catholic Church if each Catholic couple only had one child? It would shrink dramatically – heaven forbid! That is why they continue with their completely irrational stand against birth control.”

This quote from the article that I mentioned above describes the problem perfectly. Making efforts to control overpopulation would have the side effect of lessening the power of religious organizations, as there would be less overall people in them.

Democracy: In our government, we have the luxury of being able to choose how we want to live our lives. This also applies to how much children we have. Why would a government whose main objective is to let its people choose how they live want to limit how many children they want to have?

Capitalism: This one is really simple. Our economy depends on consumption to grow. If consumption is high, then our economy is booming. The only problem is, making efforts to reduce the overall population would decrease the overall amount of consumption, which would cause negative growth. Our government cannot function properly with a net decrease in overall population.

I had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Strode, an accomplished high school biology teacher who has a P.H.D in Ecology and Environmental sciences. He stated as humans advance in technology, we are raising what we thought was the maximum carrying capacity for a maximum sustainable yield for humans through the use of more efficient food technology. We are making steps towards being able to feed the growing population on our planet, but there is only so much land available to grow food.

Take a piece of paper and draw a square. This square will represent the area of the USA, which is 9.834 million kilometers squared. Color in around 60% of the total area of the square with any color of your choosing. The 40% that is hasn’t been colored in represents the total amount of farm area that is currently used to grow crops in the U.S. Now take a different color and color in around 80% of the 40% that is still uncolored. The little bit of the square that is still uncolored represents the total amount of farmland that is dedicated to growing crops to feed HUMANS. 80% of the total farmland in the US is used to grow crops not to feed us humans, but rather used to feed animals that we then eat later.

The reason that I am mentioning this is that it’s a potential solution to being able to feed the growing population. Who knows how many more mouths we could feed if instead of using most of our farmland to feed animals, we instead use it to feed humans. According to Facts on Animal Farming and the Environment, an article on www.onegreenplanet.org, it takes 16 pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat. Let that sink in.

On the consumption side of the problem, our advancements in technology will allow us to help other countries “leapfrog” over excessive consumption. Countries in Africa don’t need to go through the industrial revolution again as they develop. Instead, we help them skip generations of technology in order to reduce overall future consumption. One big example of this would be through renewable energy. Where we would help developing countries set up wind turbines or solar panels, effectively reducing overall consumption as they develop.

Dr. Strode briefly talked about a time where he saw the effects of overpopulation first hand. He was in the Lome, a small country on the western side of Africa. He took a walk through the city and saw what exactly what happens when you have too many people and not enough resources. Trash was littering almost everywhere and there was sewage in the streets. People were living extremely close together in run down homes with tin roofs. There simply wasn’t enough resources to take care of the growing population of the city, there wasn’t proper waste disposal, and the overall quality of life is absolutely abysmal.

Maybe because we live in a highly developed country, we don’t properly see the devastating effects that uncontrolled population growth can cause. It’s fairly easy to get lost in our everyday lives and not really worry about the consequences that our rapid growth can cause. As of now, I would say that the best course of action to take is to simply spread the word. The beauty of our country is that it is run by the people and for the people, and this is a relevant problem that people need to know about.

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Debate on Allowing Syrian Refugees Into the United States by I.C.

In September 2015, the body of Aylan Kurdi, 3, washed up on a Turkish beach. A photographer snapped a picture that would change everything. It is the image of the lifeless body of the little boy, dressed in a red t-shirt and blue shorts, lying with his pudgy cheek pressed softly against the sand as if he were sleeping.  This single image has galvanized the Syrian crisis throughout the globe and moved millions to lend a hand to the refugees.

Aylan and his family were Syrian refugees seeking a new life in Canada. The smugglers they hired promised Aylan’s father a trip overseas on a motor boat. Instead, the smugglers came with a 15 foot, rubber raft. During the journey, the raft flipped in high waves throwing Aylan and his family into the frigid water. Aylan’s father was the only survivor (Park, Haeyoun). Tragic stories such as Aylan’s are common among the 12 million people driven by desperation and violence to leave their Syrian homeland.  All of them leave wondering where their next home will be.

In 2011, the violent Syrian Civil War began displacing millions of Syrians, leaving them no place to turn. Since then, the war has displaced approximately 4.2 million Syrians (World Vision). This diaspora threatens to become the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. The United States has done its part to help the Syrian refugees.  Since 2011, the United States has provided asylum to only approximately 0.0005 percent or 2,290 of all Syrian refugees (Bremmer, Ian).

Under pressure from European countries, President Obama recently raised the number of Syrians who may be granted asylum from 2,000 to 10,000 this fiscal year (Park, Hayoun). Syrians accounted for only two percent of the 70,000 refugees admitted in the U.S this last fiscal year (Park, Haeyoun). However, these numbers pale in comparison to the numbers admitted by other countries. As an example, since 2012, Germany has admitted 92,991 refugees (Park, Haeyoun).

Obama’s attempts to aid the refugees have been diminished by concerns of national security The terrorist attacks on Paris have added the more to the already-intense, global debate.  The attacks occurred on the evening of November 13, 2015, terrorists carried out a series of violent attacks killing 130 people in the streets of Paris, France ( “Paris Terror Attacks”).  French authorities later determined the attacks were executed by Syrian refugees.

In the wake of the attack, the French government has, nonetheless, kept its promise to allow 30,000 refugees legal status in the next two years (Tharoor, Ishaan).  The French President, Francois Hollande, says it is France’s “humanitarian duty” to honor its commitment to the refugees (Tharoor, Ishaan).

The additional refugees that will be granted asylum in the United States will come from 18,000 referrals sent by the United Nations. According to State department officials, more than half of these 18,000 refugees are injured children (Park Haeyoun) who have missed years of schooling and witnessed unspeakable violence and brutality (World Vision). Some also faced forceful recruitment by warring parties to serve as fighters or human shields (World Vision). Some United States Presidential candidates voiced their opinions prior to the Paris attacks  about the risks of granting Syrians asylum in the U.S.  Rather, than prompting the candidates to support acceptance of more Syrian refugees, the attacks accomplished the opposite:  the candidates became even more leery of Syrian refugees.  All the  Republican candidates oppose Obama’s plan to increase the number of Syrians granted asylum in the U.S.( Kaplan, Thomas).  In particular, candidate Donald Trump took a strong and angry stance stating, “If Obama, through his weakness, lets them come in, I’m sending them out if I win”( Kaplan, Thomas).

The Democratic candidates have expressed the opposite perspective and fully support Obama’s proposal. Former Secretary of State and presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, claims she would grant even more refugees legal status. “I said we should go to 65” — meaning 65,000 refugees — “but only if we have as careful a screening and vetting process as we can imagine”, she said on November 12, 2015 (Kaplan, Thomas).

In addition, more than half of the nation’s governors have spoken out against allowing refugees into their states (Fantz, Ashley, and Ben Brumfield). All but one are Republican governors. For most, the concern is one of national security after the attacks on Paris. Alabama governor, Robert Bentley, vociferously rejected Obama’s plan saying, “As your governor, I will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm’s way” (Fantz, Ashley, and Ben Brumfield).

However, the final decision is not in the hands of the individual states.  Professor Stephen I. Vladeck of American University said,  “Legally, states have no authority to do anything because the question of who should be allowed in this country is one that the Constitution commits to the federal government” (Fantz, Ashley, and Ben Brumfield).  Although, he says, the cooperation from the states is necessary to complete the task. “So a state can’t say it is legally objecting, but it can refuse to cooperate, which makes things much more difficult.” (Fantz, Ashley, and Ben Brumfield).

President Obama however, does not intend to give up the fight for the refugees. “We are not well served when, in response to a terrorist attack, we descend into fear and panic,” Obama said. “We don’t make good decisions if it’s based on hysteria or an exaggeration of risks.”(Liptak, Kevin, and Jim Acosta).  Nonetheless, the future of the refugees is still unclear.

 

Works Cited

Fantz, Ashley, and Ben Brumfield. “Syrian Refugees Not Welcome in 31 U.S. States – CNN.com.” CNN. Cable News Network, 19 Nov. 2015. Web. 25 Jan. 2016.

Park, Haeyoun. “Paris Attacks Intensify Debate Over How Many Syrian Refugees to Allow Into the U.S.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 20 Oct. 2015. Web. 25 Jan. 2016.

“What You Need to Know: Crisis in Syria, Refugees, and the Impact on Children.” World Vision. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2016.

Fantz, Ashley, and Ben Brumfield. “Syrian Refugees Not Welcome in 31 U.S. States – CNN.com.” CNN. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2016.

Kaplan, Thomas, and Wilson Andrews. “Presidential Candidates on Allowing Syrian Refugees in the United States.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 16 Nov. 2015. Web. 29 Jan. 2016.

“Paris Terror Attacks – CNN.com.” CNN. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2016.

Liptak, Kevin, and Jim Acosta. “Barack Obama Slams GOP over Refugee Stance – CNNPolitics.com.” CNN. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2016.