Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Too Many People? reviewed

By Julie Filer
Socialist Review
December 2011

Too Many People? is a compelling rebuttal of the idea that underlies calls for population control - that population growth must be halted through limiting the reproductive rights of poor black women and stopping migration to more economically developed countries.

Both authors share a passion for social change and are deeply frustrated at argument that "population control" is a means of stopping climate change.

Rather than denouncing those in the Global South and portraying them as passive victims without agency, the book calls for solidarity with the many struggles against climate change, particularly in Latin America. 

The writers look to the Via Campesina movement as one such group - an alliance of peasants and small farmers' co-operatives, stretching across 50 countries and five continents, who call for democratic control over their land and products.

The book highlights the discrepancies of wealth within countries and tackles the free market ideology of economic democracy, arguing instead that while consumers may be able to choose what to buy from what is on offer, they do not have any say over the production process.

It is a refreshing change from lifestyle politics in that the book places the blame for consumerism, waste and oil dependency at the doors of the capitalists, who do not merely respond to consumer demand, but also drive markets through advertising and planned obsolescence.

It is also not afraid to tackle the question of military spending. Even without addressing the environmental destruction, Angus and Butler show that the amount already spent in Iraq by the US could have covered global investments in renewable power until 2030 and ultimately stopped current warming trends.

This book explains the origins of each populationist argument, shows why they are false and considers the purpose each serves for the ruling class. It continually offers solutions which do not simply cover up symptoms of capitalism.

Too Many People? is not disheartening or alarmist, as some books about climate change can be. It is assertive, passionate and a key reference for arming ourselves against those, on the right and the left, who talk about population control. This book meticulously argues that people, particularly poor people, are not the cause of climate change - rather it is capitalism and the brutal drive for profits.

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