[Marxism] Trawling the oceans to exhaustion

Mike Friedman mikedf at amnh.org
Wed Jul 9 13:18:13 MDT 2008

It's really meaningless to abstract this from the social order under
consideration. I've maintained before that, although I agree with the
ecological concepts of carrying capacity, limiting factors, critical
tolerances, etc., when applied to human societies, and concretely, a
capitalist, market-based society, these factors are almost impossible to
determine, since knowledge is fragmented and kept in multitudes of private
hands as "trade secrets." And when capital faces the imperative of making
short-term decisions based on the need to compete to maximize their

The same kind of timeless, abstract, almost platitudinous, approach is
evident, here: "Low-cost measures now..." *Who* is going to implement
those measures? Big capital? The "invisible hand"? You are obviously
referring to a demographic transition. Demographic transitions occur when,
as you imply, the population's sense of wellbeing increases. And let's be
clear about this, you are talking about the majority -- workers and
campesinos in most of the world. Demographic transitions have taken place
among certain sectors in the imperialist countries and in a few oppressed
nations that have experienced social revolution (Cuba, etc.) or have had
social reformist governments (Kerala). For most of the global south,
conditions favoring a demographic transition are so far from reality as to
be in another galaxy. Imperialism has no intention of changing its stripes
(and stars). The conditions that foster high reproductive rates among the
world's majority are the very conditions that allow imperialism to
survive, and it will defend these with "two, three, many Iraqs." Wellbeing
for the majority of the world's working people will not appear with the
wave of a hand. It requires massive upheavals of a socialist bent, shall
we say.

Moreover, when capital does come into our neck of the woods with rhetoric
about overpopulation, this is not for ecological reasons. It usually means
victim-blaming, when not genocide. After all, it's much cheaper to
sterilize all those Native American, Black and Puerto Rican women than to
offer them day care, decent-paying jobs and health care (all required for
d.t. to happen).

So, how do *you* suggest we get to a global demographic transition?
Because if you don't refer to social systems in concrete terms, and think
that the current rulers are going to do it the right way, then all you are
calling for is triage on a massive scale.

> Low cost measures now can make a huge difference later when the
> inevitable correction comes due: education, empowerment of women, make
> birth control available, a social safety net making sure old people
> can survive even if they don't have children, etc. We should say that
> one child per woman is the responsible thing to do.  The Catholic
> church and also the Mormon church should be criticized for their
> population policies.  This should be the subject of talk shows and
> soap operas.  It is a debate, fitting together with debates about
> sustainable consumption patterns and intergenerational equity.
> Marxists should not exclude themselves from this debate by the
> word "Malthus."
> Hans.

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