People VS the Environment

| June 15, 2009

Without population control environmentalism is doomed

In the early stages of human history, the population and its interaction with the environment was at a sustainable level. Mental and physical capacities however, have allowed humans to live outside and in divergence from the law of ‘Maintenance of the balance in nature’, which normally applies to other species (Divergence from the law of balance in nature occurs in no other species besides the human). Around the world, the fast growth of population combined with the industrial revolution and urbanisation programs has tipped the balance against the environment.

The emission of carbon dioxide, the main contributor to global warming and sulphur dioxide, the main contributor to pollution and health problems, are bi-products of the world’s population growth. The problems associated with world population growth were the subject of the World Population Conference in 1974, which was updated and revised at the World Population Plan in 1984. To date however, no solution is found, because of the religious influence on opportunistic politicians. Politicians, generally adopt a gutless approach for fear of provoking the conservatives, the religious and the right to life establishments. 

To stimulate some debate, it may be useful to discuss the following: 

"Urbanisation"Urbanisation has a significant detrimental effect on the environment, because of the huge demand for energy in domestic and transportation needs, resulting in increased emissions and pollution. The rate of urbanisation in the world, especially in Asia and Latin America is staggering and expected to accelerate with the speed of their industrialisation. For example, in China alone, 15 million people are being urbanised every year. It may be easy to imagine therefore, the catastrophic consequences of this growth, especially if immediate action is not taken to first, curtail population growth and second, to control emissions and third, to stop deforestation and the destruction of biodiversity.

It is worth noting that although the population growth in developed countries is low, but their urbanisation is well established and the emission per capita is much higher than that of poor or developing countries. America, Canada and Australia are the three world’s highest emitters of carbon per capita. For example, America alone, with 4.5% of the world’s population consumes 25% of the world’s energy and is the highest emitter of carbon in the world. 

"Birth Control and Education"-The world population is expected to almost double in the next fifty years, especially in the poor and developing countries of Africa, Latin America and Asia, which could result in widespread environmental degradation and increased poverty. If the misery of Sudan, Chad, Mozambique, Somalia and Ethiopia is any indication, it will be extremely difficult for governments in many poor countries to provide the basic necessities of life, which could lead to revolt and tragic outcomes. The current global financial crisis will worsen the situation further, because of the limited availability of charitable and foreign aids. Scientists from around the world have been saying for many years that man cannot continue to plunder the planet without risking serious, long-term harm to the environment. An urgent compromise is needed between developed and developing countries to encourage birth control, (taking the lead from China’s one child policy), until technology is allowed to race ahead of population growth. 

"Religion and the Right to Life"-Unfortunately, controlling the birth rate is a taboo subject, because it is against religious beliefs, which is politically unacceptable, as a result of religion and politics being backwardly inseparable. It would be a major step forward for humanity if religion were sidelined from the population debate, and methods of controlling the world’s carbon emission were only discussed on a scientific basis. This can be the best way for World Population Plan to achieve any tangible result. 

To overcome the population explosion, it is necessary to solve the source of the problem, which is the high birth rate. The solution lies with birth control and education; requirements which should be treated as necessities, not choices. It also requires the examination of the world’s current dilemma, which is the entrenchment of religion in human culture. The dogmatic approach and subjective interpretation of the heavenly books by religious leaders and their followers, especially the fanatical believers of the right to life movement, act against the future of humanity by contributing to the population explosion. The consequences of their attitude contribute to the destruction of fragile environments around the world. Competition between religions to increase the number of their constituents goes against common sense to ensure sustainable living. Often it is the people who follow the dogmas of ‘God gives life and God takes it away’ and ‘Go forth and multiply’ for guidance, who become the victims of famine and misery. A striking example is the role of the missionaries and religious charities in poor countries, where their main objective is to convert people to a certain faith, rather than worry about poverty, drought, famine, ignorance and the degradation of the environment.

How many missionaries are prepared to promote birth control and abortion instead of right to life principle? The apparent activities of various religious movements, who are vehemently against birth control and abortion, are detrimental to poorer countries, especially in the absence of secular education. What is the use of giving poor people Evangelism and Western moral values or misdirected financial aid if the only outcome is to produce more offspring to front the next drought and starvation? The rapid population growth in these countries often presents many parents with the dilemma of choosing one child over another when there is insufficient food to go around, which is in total contradiction of the right to life principle. 

"Solution"-Wouldn’t it be better if the United Nations or donor countries send their own secular and objective teachers to poor countries to fight illiteracy and ignorance through sustained secular education? Isn’t it ironic that the majority of educated people in developed countries wouldn’t follow the dogmas of ‘God gives life and God takes it away’ and ‘Go forth and multiply’? Isn’t it because having many children is unaffordable, it limits the opportunity for women to have a work career that is equal to men and it doesn’t enhance the quality of their children’s upbringing?

The curtailment of the world’s population should start with ignoring the religious dogma of ‘Go forth and multiply’ and the adoption of new ideology, relevant to sustaining the environment. This entails the encouragement of birth control and abortion in Western countries to set the example for poor countries and to achieve population growth that is proportionate to their per capita emission. 

In the absence of education and birth control, the do-gooder’s concept of eliminating world poverty is flawed. Eliminating hunger in poor countries, without eliminating illiteracy and ignorance can only increase the desire to produce more offspring, which completely aggravates the problem that the world is trying to solve.

Born in Iraq in 1939, Hani Montan graduated with a Masters of Science Degree in Civil and Industrial Engineering in 1966. Prior to that, he was a primary school teacher. Arriving in Australia in 1969 he acquired citizenship in 1973. In addition to his extensive travels around the world, he has studied and worked in Iraq, Russia, Algeria and Australia. Hani worked at Sydney Water as a project engineer and group leader for twenty years, which was followed by fourteen years of managing a retail business and a further four years of study and writing. Hani Montan‘s book titled "Thorny Opinion" can be previewed on Google Book Search and, and can be purchased from and 





  1. quagga

    June 17, 2009 at 4:39 am

    The environment never has, is not and will never be in balance.

    This article is states a common misconception, specifically the "Maintenance of the balance in nature". The environment has no such a thing. There is NO balance of nature.

    If there was a balance of nature then things would never change, but unbalanced change is precisely what nature does. Infact we have even named this concept- it's called…."EVOLUTION".

    The environment is a complex chotic self-adapting system operating far from equilibrium that tends to increase in overall complexity in the long run. It never has, is not and will never be in balance. 

    • froggo

      June 17, 2009 at 5:50 am

      yes but…

      I think what he's referring to is when man comes and abuses the resources of nature a 'balance' will be tipped and it will. Man is at war with nature. I think that nature can have a 'balance' and still change, the 'balance' being nature just being nature and naturally evolving, that IS it's nature- to evolve, so evolution IS the balance per se. But NOT when man steps in and plunders the resources of the earth for the sake of consumerism, this can and will have a disastrous effect. 

      Paying citizens to have children isn't going to help the global population problem either. 


      • JEQP

        June 18, 2009 at 11:04 pm

        There’s no exception, just a misunderstanding of “The World”

        I don't think humans are particularly abnormal in the natural sense. A good definition of humans is a plague species — and plague species are very common. There are plenty of species that grow their populations exponentially, use all the food and resources in the area and experience a severe population crash. There's probably been numerous species that have done this to the point of their own extinction, although that would be hard to prove.

        We can plunder all we want, but we can't do anything to "unbalance" nature, because we are a part of it. All we can do is make the planet uninhabitable for ourselves and countless other species, but that just means new species will arise to take our place, just as they have countless times in the past. Our world will be ended, but the planet and nature will continue on.

    • sally.rose

      June 17, 2009 at 6:02 am

      Self-interest is the most natural part of the predicament

      Nature, is by nature at war with itself.  The magnitude of our environmental problems can be blamed on human nature and what could be more natural than human nature? It is a constant source of cringe to me that so many environmentalists feel the need to anthropomorphise nature in order to empathise with it as some sort of tool to make people care.

      A few years ago I took a fabulous course on this topic at Newcastle uni that was run by Dr Colin Wilks,(I feel the need to mention it as it was so influential on my thinking in this area).

      Humans as caretaker and humans as brutal overlord are not the only two characterisations available.

      The reason human intervention in the natural environment has been soooooo catastrophic is any more in our nature to upset the balance of things than our life forms, but merely because our technological capacities have made us so much more efficient at doing so.

      • froggo

        June 18, 2009 at 7:40 am

        yes but…
        You are right, man and human nature is of course a part of nature, but you have agreed that people don't care, so you can cringe all you like but let's remember the one fundamental law of nature- cause and effect / action reaction. There is no reason we can't progress technologically and do it with some regard to the consequences of our environment. 

        • sally.rose

          June 18, 2009 at 9:13 am

          Hi Froggo

          Hi Froggo

          I agree with entirely that we should make technological advancements with greater regard to the consequences upon the environment.  Indeed the great irony is that by not doing so we are actually acting against our long term self interest as we are blinded by what we often stupidly (or shortsightedly) percieve to be in our best interests.

          The point I was trying to make is that the popular rose coloured view of nature which goes something along the lines of… all the lifeforms would love one another and live in harmony if it wasn't for us… is dysfunctional and holding us back from living in a more truly sustainable way.

          Cheers Sal


          • froggo

            June 18, 2009 at 4:23 pm

            G’day Sal

            G'day Sal,


            Yes, I hear you.

            There is a book that explains, in an incredibly logical way, how all other lifeforms live compared to us, we are definately an exception to the rule. It's called Ishmael by Daniel Quinn there are no rose coloured glasses involved, it's fascinating.



            • sally.rose

              June 18, 2009 at 11:48 pm

              Thanks for the book reccomendation

              Hi Froggo

              I remain highly sceptical; but that's ok, I'm used to my some of my best friends disagreeing with me on this one!  I'll take your reccomendation and get the book from my library.


  2. JEQP

    June 19, 2009 at 12:27 am

    Simplicity Itself

    I agree the world's population needs to be reduced, but blaming it on religion is simplistic. The baby bonus isn't a religious thing, it's a secular one. When Miguel de la Madrid told Mexicans to breed it was because the more Mexicans there were the stronger the economy would be. Governments promote population growth in their own countries to increase the size of the economy — they don't care if the individual standard of living goes down, the more people there are the higher the GDP. And they don't really care what happens in other countries…

    You ask: "Wouldn't it be better if the United Nations or donor countries send their own secular and objective teachers to poor countries to fight illiteracy and ignorance through sustained secular education?" 

    Yes, it would be, and yet it doesn't happen. Why not? Is there no will to do so, or no cash? The reason these missionaries are there is because they're willing to go there, and the religions are willing to pay the way. It would be really simple to get secular educators over there promoting birth control…

  3. sally.rose

    June 19, 2009 at 12:43 am

    Quagga’s new blog in response

    Hi Hani,

    You have inspired a new blog from quagga in response to some of your ideas. Take a look at

    Cheers, Sal

    • Hani.Montan

      June 19, 2009 at 9:40 pm

      Response to all

      Hi everybody,

      Your discussion is interesting and prompting me to add the following: 

      There are some events in nature (based on negative and positive feedback) to make some scientists believe in the equilibrium theory and other events prove to other scientist that the natural environment is in constant state of flux.

      Some scientists describe it as in state of "Upheaval".

      Call it what you like, but we shouldn't get bogged down in interpretations, because science itself is in state of flux. This is what distinguishes science from religion. Science doesn't accept today's conclusions as an absolute, whilst religious beliefs are absolute. Science deals with facts and when facts are changed, conclusions are changed too. 

      An established fact for example, is population explosion increases demand for agriculture and grazing. This in turn results in many forests* together with nutrient to disappear, flooding and soil erosion rates to become high. With agriculture and industrial technologies, we have caused nature to become unbalanced. Humans don't understand the living planet well enough to know how to manage it. Science should be allowed to soften the human environmental impact on ecosystems and natural selection. Human have altered the atmosphere and is capable to bring it back to point of balance, "Equilibrium"**. Birth control is only a starting point, because people compete with other species; use more resources, cause pollution and climate change, which damage the ecosystems and cause global warming.  

      *In his blog titled "People of the Environment", guagga claims:

       "When we clear land, we replace the "native" environment with crops and these crops provide food for us and other animals- all up the overall balance is an increase in complexity." Aided by satellites and supercomputers the research by Dr William Clark proved that the environmental damage of the last century was so extensive that replenishing the forests soon is impossible. Deforestation in Sudan, Hondurans, Easter Island, The Amazon basin and Indonesia is clear evidence of the environmental destruction we are causing. Replacing these forests with crop to feed more people is even more damaging, not only by the farm animals' methane gas, but the biodiversity destruction. ** In his comments on this blog and his own blog titled "People of the Environment", guagga states: "The environment is a complex chaotic self-adapting system operating far from equilibrium that tends to increase in overall complexity in the long run. It never has, is not and will never be in balance."

      Yet in his own blog, he states:

       "During the last few thousand years, the amount of food available has increased overtime due to the evolution of technology hence our population has increased. Unfortunately, do to the chaotic nature of the environment there are the times when food suddenly becomes scarce, but these are normally just short term fluctuations. If food was to become scarce for long periods then the population will naturally decrease to the sustainable level. The environment automatically adjusts our population to the appropriate loading levels that it can support. In the long run it takes care of itself, you don't need to worry about it."

      Doesn't this mean the return to the point of balance, "Equilibrium?"Copy of my comment is posted on guagga blog titled "People of the Environment".

      • Hani.Montan

        June 27, 2009 at 5:49 am

        Response to quagga’s response

        For those of you who read quagga's blog titled "People of the Environment", the following is a response to his response to my comments of Sat. 20/06/2009:

         In his response he states: "Also, the article tries to convince us that we humans are destroying the environment due to overpopulation.  However, in reality concepts such as "pollution", "resource depletion" and "environmental degradation" are subjectively relative. When these words are used to describe the environment it is almost always from the view point of humanity being considered as the most important entity on earth." 

        The assertion that humanity should not be considered as the most important entity on earth is somewhat baffling. It doesn't take into consideration the natural survival and the survival of the specie's instincts. Do we have to abandon our natural instincts and follow the speculative theory of increasing the mathematical complexity of the environment, as he states below?

         "The true measure of the "health" of the environment is the magnitude of its overall mathematical complexity and its ability to keep increasing it." 

        Mathematical complexity must be based on a mathematical model. Mathematical model is usually based on inputted assumptions. Who can say that all assumptions are factored-in and who can tell that the inputted assumptions are correct?

        Do we have to increase the environmental complexity to a point of crescendo and wipe-out most of the species including humans?

        Who can tell that human plaguing of the environment will increase its complexity?

        Who can tell that farming and grazing (to feed more people and destroy the evolving biodiversity) will increase or decrease the environmental complexity?

        Do we want to deal with facts or theories? Isn't it better to give the planet the benefit of the doubt to give future generation a chance? 

        The message in my blog "People VS the Environment" is for politicians to ignore religious leaders' advocacy of "Go forth and multiply", which can destroy the hope of future generations. Religious dogmas don't allow science to race ahead of population growth. Religious leaders, throughout the history of religions were always active in retarding science, because of the threat it poses to their lucrative business. 

        Equally, I hope scientists do not promote theories as ultimate facts until are proven.

        A copy of this response is posted on quagga's blog titled "People of the Environment".

        • JEQP

          July 1, 2009 at 5:49 pm

          You’re still missing the point

          I think you have a rose-coloured view of how science and scientists operate. Scientists aren't rational robots with purely logical input/output circuits, they are humans, with all the irrational, invested, biased beliefs that go along with that. Historically radical, paradigm-shifting ideas have been accepted by the scientific community slowly, and are the result of a new generation of scientists without the vested interests and biases of the previous generation coming through.

          Science by itself won't solve environmental problems — in fact it's been the cause of most of them. Farming practices are far more destructive now than they were a few hundred years ago because of scientific advances. The oceans are fished more completely, to the point of unsustainability, because of scientific advances. Even the population explosion is not based on a single factor such as religion, but on science increasing the ability of food producers to feed more people.

          I agree that saying "When these words are used to describe the environment it is almost always from the view point of humanity being considered as the most important entity on earth" misses the point. The problem is not that the world is going to end, or nature will be irrevocably destroyed, but that the planet will become effectively unlivable for humans, at least in the way we have gotten used to living.

          However, your argument seems to be that if governments ignored religion all these problems would somehow be magically solved. Your argument goes something like this:

          1–To solve population explosion problem, governments ignore religion.

          2–A miracle occurs.

          3–Problem solved.

          A major factor governing overpopulation is the culture of a country, and culture is more than just religion. It has been a very long time since I've heard religious leaders say "go forth and multiply", let alone governments listening to them…and arguing against condoms doesn't count.  

          • Hani.Montan

            July 2, 2009 at 11:14 pm

            Response to JEQP

            Hi JEQP

            I agree with most of your comments, except for the following:First, religion is well entrenched in Western culture and worse in developing and poor countries. World-wide, the average woman currently bears 2.6 offspring. In some African countries however, fertility exceeds 7 births. This is one of the problems that could not be solved and was placed in the too hard basket at the conference of “World Population Plan of 1984.” Instead; World Vision, philanthropists, celebrities (like Bob Geldof) and all religious missionaries mobilised their resources to fight hunger. Fighting hunger instead of fighting ignorance through secular education is having the opposite effect, by doubling the population in poor countries, which in turn causing catastrophic environmental destruction. It is obvious that agriculture, population explosion and poverty are all agents of environmental destruction.

            Second, (as you well know) religion and science are always in conflict. In the environmental case, the process has resulted in population growth to race ahead of scientific and technological solutions for carbon emission and pollution caused by massive energy needs and urbanisation programs around the world. 

            Third, it is worth reading chapter-6-Religion and Culture of my book titled “Thorny Opinion”.