The (Over) Population Problem

Ken Smail points out a disturbing global problem curable only by significantly reducing the worlds population. That problem, simply stated, is that we are reproducing at a rate that will make the earth unable to sustain us in the vey near future. Even if we could attain zero population growth (ZPG) toady, Smail believes the world’s population would contine to grow. At a replacement rate of 2.1 children per female, it would take two or three generations to reach population stability and the population would be considerably larger than it already is now. The reason for this is because 30 – 40% of the population is under fifteen years old and hasn’t born children yet, a phenominon known as “population momentum”. Two more reasons why a replacement rate of 2.1 per female is inadequate to stem the rising population is a decrease in the mortality rate and an increase in longevity. Fewer people are dying (infant and maternal mortality especially) and people are living longer, especially in developed and emerging countries. Smail states that the earth’s resources are finite. That is true. We only have one Earth and if we take more than the earth can replenish, eventually we will run out. The earth’s “carrying capacity”, Smail estimates, is approx 3 billion people. That is the number of people expected to live a reasonably adequate to comfortable existence co-existing with the other species of the planet. We have already more than doubled that estimate. We are currently growing at approx one billion every ten years. In 1900 the world’s population was approx 1.6 billion. This year (2011) that figure has climbed to more than 7 billion, a greater than four-fold increase (4.3 to be exact). The formula used to determine the human impact upon the global environment is I=PAT. That is, the human impact(I), equals Population(P) times Affluence(A) times Technology(T). Our impact increases exponentially as population and affluence (our standard of living) increases. Technology may off-set that increase marginally if we can find suitable alternatives to energy and resource consumption but, the total impact will still reach a critical stage very soon if the other two multipliers are not addressed. Man has been likened to a virus. That is an apt description of us. A virus takes from the host, has no appreciable benefit, causing more harm than good, multiplies rapidly and in the end kills not only it’s host but itself. Smail states we must “… come to regard ourselves more as the Earth’s long-term stewards than its absolute masters.” By this he means we must learn to care for and protect not only our natural resources but the millions of other species inhabiting and co-existing with us on this planet. The time is now to responsibly manage and maintain our world so that future generations will have to the same or better standard of living, if we are to survive at all, as we have now.

A Discourse on Cross-Cultural Domestic Violence

Studies done in the mid 80’s to mid 90’s point to a prevalence and general social acceptance of domestic violence against women in India. Indeed, it is so commonplace that a 1997 survey found only 22% of women willing to talk about it. The unwillingness to talk about wife beating and domestic violence wasn’t because these women were afraid to talk about it rather, it was so common place they thought it hardly worth mentioning.

In India, especially rural India, men have a “right” to beat their wives. If the wife misbehaves, neglects her chores or her wifely duties, has not born her husband any sons or if the husband gets drunk and depressed, he is within his rights to beat his wife. A drunken beating is usually tolerated as long as it’s not too severe, by village standards, and the man is generally a good husband. This mode of thinking has been culturally accepted for generations.

Female infanticide has also been culturally accepted for generations. Women carry very little worth except to bear strong male children, satisfy the husband and do housework. Males provide economic support and defend the family while females leave their birth families and are an economic drain. It is a womans societal expectation to provide male heirs. Those who don’t or can’t, are severely chastised and abused. These societal norms are prevalent in all aspects of Indian culture from the poor rural areas to the middle and upper class urban dwellers.

Modernization and industrialization have only served to increase domestic violence. Corporal punishment, according to Elaine Leeder, “… is so well entrenched in Indian society that even the middle and upper classes admit to using it.” With the shift from an agrarian society to a more modern and industrialized society comes competition to be ever more upwardly mobile. This puts greater economic and social stress on the family. The husbands react to this stress by taking out their frustrations on their wives. The easy access to alcohol and it’s affordability do not help matters.

The children also suffer from this scenario. As I pointed out, corporal punishment is the standard by which men maintain control and vent their frustrations. Modernization and industrialization has also sent shild abuse statistics sky rocketing. Almost 57% of college educated parents admitted using “acceptable” forms of violence while almost 42% admitted abuse. The actual percentages are probably higher as the data was taken from a relatively small sample.

Why do these women tolerate such unjust behavior and attitudes? Because it has been a part of their culture for centuries. They know of no other way of life. For women, there is no life outside of marriage. A single mother would be stoned to death or at the very least outcast from her village which in India also amounts to a death sentence.

   Violence need not be physical to be present. Corporal punishment and wife beating are only the “visible” forms of violence. In Vietnam, for example, women work long hours in the factories and are then expected to come home and do housework. They may spend five to six hours a night on household chores. This is the “Invisible Violence” common in Vietnam. Vietnamese culture is deeply rooted in the
teachings of Confucius whereby they “think highly of men and slightly of women.” Poor socio-economic status and it’s stressors coupled with Confucian dogma give men any number of reason to vent their frustrations out on women. Legally, in Vietnam, men and women share equal status. Culturally, the disparity is obvious and not soon to change.

   These are not the only two countries in the world to have domestic violence and child abuse issues. In Japan, domestic violence is so prevelent and common place they don’t even have a word for it. In the United States, according to a 1986 study by Gelles and Straus, “at least a million children are abused a year.” If the two most supposedly “civilized” nations in the world are guilty of this level of domestic violence and abuse, imagine what goes on in the rest of the world.

By: D

Commentary on “Invisible Priviledge”

The article by Paula S. Rothenberg poses the questions of “why is priviledge often invisible” and “what categories of people are more or less likely to be aware of it?” The story centers around a white mother (Paula) and her daughter (Andrea) and a black mother (Carol) and her daughter (Jewel). The two little girls had been friends since kindergarten and it wasn’t discovered until the girls were mid-way through third grade that Jewel’s mother had falsified her address to get Jewel into a good school. Carol did this for three reasons. First of all she, like most parents, wanted her child to
have a  quality education and, second and lastly, she was black and poor. So, the issues seem to hinge mainly on the disparity of class, race and economics, at first glance. The point Ms. Rothenberg is
trying to make is that, if we look deeper, we see a system that is set up to keep this division in place and make it more difficult for non-whites to improve their status in society. Blacks and hispanics,
according to the article, work just as hard if not harder than whites yet make 45% less per anum. Non-whites have a harder time finding better jobs or affording better housing, schools or medical care.
This condition has been going on for so long that it has become the “norm” in our society. Even today, whites (the dominant culture) have easier and better access to higher paying jobs, better schools and more affordable housing, and we (whites) take all this for
granted. Those who struggle against this well established form of oppression have been aware of this predjudice for generations.

The first and only time Andrea went to Jewels house, she experienced a
type of “culture shock” that left her not only uncomfortable, but also unable to relate or interact in any way she was familiar with. To Andrea, the environment, customs, mannerisms and ways of
communicating were completely alien. Sadly, their friendship ended that day. If Andrea had continued to see her friend Jewel, she would have become familiar with those customs and mannerisms and gained a whole new understanding of Jewel’s culture.

Invisible Priviledge is not a new concept. Whether you view the word priviledge
as a special advantage, permission, right or benefit, it has always been a part of our society. Everything in our world has a hierarchy. Everything has a polarity. It is our nature to catagorize things and put them in some sort of order. The prevailing culture, and the subcultures within that society will assign values to those catagories and treat them accordingly.

Women and the Birth of Sociology Fall 11

1.  As with most accounts of history, it’s telling is at the mercy of the victor and the prevailing culture. Despite their contributions, fifteen prominent women were effectively erased, or “written out” of the history of the founding of sociology. The excerpt from “The Women Founders: Sociology and Theory, 1830 – 1930” by Patricia Madoo Lengermann and Jill Niebrugge-Brantley does not give any
specific date of this erasure only that at some point in time the names and contributions of these fifteen women were exsponged and credit given soley to the men assosiated with Sociology. Upon reflection, the reasoning behind such a crime of omission is not difficult to understand. Civilization has been a
patriarchal society since it’s inseption. Men, especially educated white men, were, and pretty much still are, the ruling class. Women were looked upon as “second-class” citizens who’s sole purpose in life was tend hearth and home, raise the children and be pleasing. The world of science was considered the domain of men. Men still constitute the greatest majority in most of the sciences. To recognize women as even partially responsible for the founding of any of the sciences would be tantamount to heresy.

2.  The founding women wrote about the issues of the day. Martineau wrote social analysis and translated the works of Comte. Ironic the translator of one of the “founding father’s” works should go unrecognized. Martineau wrote “How to Observe Morals and Manners” and published her
methodology. The focus of the women sociologists were as wide ranging as the issues of the periods they lived in. Trade unions, labor practices, the economy, slavery and immigration were just a few of
the issues they addressed. All these women were well known and well established in their field and were friends with many of their contemporaries such as Mead, Park and Thomas. Wells-Barnett was a
co-founder of the NAACP and together with Cooper, created an American version of Marx’s conflict theory to explain and illustrate their arguments concerning civil rights.

3.  The importance today of recognizing the contributions of Sociologies women founders lies in
the concept and ideology of Sociology itself, that society and institutions evolve and change relative to the actions of the people within that society. It is not only antithetical to the principals of
sociology, it is illogical to base ones viewpoints on matters of society without including the female perspective. It is not only hypocritical, but a slap in the face of the science of sociology to
ignore the contributions of any member of that collective. If the women of sociology had not been there, had not made the significant contributions they made, we would be much less progressive as a
nation in terms of civil rights, womens rights, labor practices and our social health as a whole. The NAACP might not have been established, although I admit this is purely conjecture given the
limited scope of the article and I think the world would be a much poorer place without the literature published by these outstanding women.

By D