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Two centuries ago, Thomas Malthusian came up with a theory which is popularly known as the "Malthusian population theory". In his theory, Malthus argued that population grows at a Geometric progression GP) rate while global food productivity proceeds at an arithmetic progression (AP) rate (Bose, 2010). Malthus had argued before we get to the third millennium (21st century), fierce competition for resources would be evident in all parts of the globe. To date, Malthus prediction has not come true yet. However, there is nothing to celebrate. Population in almost all parts of the world is on the constant rice. All African countries and some parts of Asia experience the highest annual population growth rates. Who or what should be blamed for this?
There are four major factors that can be blamed for the ever rising population. Increased birth rates, reduced death rates, immigration and emigration (Laforce, 2010) is the four major factors that have been attributed to the skyrocketing population growth. Culture is tied in all the four factors. In this paper, main focus will focus cultural influence on population growth. As a thesis statement for this paper, it must be stated that most global cultures are directly linked with increasing population growth which in turn puts pressure on natural resources.
Culture directly influences such factors as birth rate and resources use (conservation or otherwise). The relationship between birth rates and culture is more conspicuous in developing nations as opposed to industrialized ones. In most developed nations, culture has it that a couple sires two children or three at most. Rarely will you have a family in a developed country having more than four children. The question of culture and child birth, thus, shifts away from the developed world to the developing world. Families in the developing world rarely comprise of a mother, father and just a few children. The scenario in these families is different. Families are more often than not made up of a father, a mother and children who do are not less than six.
Culture is to blame here. Most people would rather have more children because certain cultural aspects make this desirable and appealing. Other reason why this happens is because culture dictates. Consider for instance a culture that dictates that women should be married off as early when they are 14 years old. In such a case the fertility rate of the bride is usually very high. A woman who starts giving birth at 14 is likely to have as many children as she can before she reaches menopause. What happens with most cultures is that women give birth year after year and she may only stop giving birth menopause knocks in. Most cultures are almost always against exotic birth control methods and will only want to hear of traditional or natural birth control methods which are inaccurate.
There are a number of contributing factors to women siring as many children as 13 in most communities. As already indicated, girls are married off in certain communities like the Maasai of Kenya when they are only 14 years old. Such girls are usually forced to withdraw from school for the sake of marriage. What this means is that this young brides make illiterate mothers who cannot be in a position to use effectively artificial family planning or birth control methods. Illiteracy and high fertility rates, combined, allow these women to have more children than they can even take care of.
Another way that culture encourages high birth rates is by making people see the number of children as a source of prestige. In certain communities, the number of children a person has is a source of pride. Those with 2 or just a few children are thought to be weak (in bed and in society). For men to avoid being seen as weak, they do their best to ensure that they have as many children (and wives) as possible. Community leaders in such communities are selected on the basis of their family size. It is not possible to see a man from these communities being made head of a gathering if his family size does not speak for him.
Still on culture and child birth, it is important to note that some families practice what is popularly referred to as "wife inheritance." What happens in such cases is that when a husband dies, the wife, if she had reached menopause stage, is married off to one of the brothers of the deceased. Death, according to Darwin, is one of the ways nature controls growth of species so what should happen is that once a person dies, his productivity should be discontinued. Communities that practice wife inheritance, aims at ensuring that the deceased's productivity; in terms of bringing forth more children continues. It has been reported of cases where a husband dies leaving behind a widower with mature children only for the deceased's brother to come in later and take the widower back into the stages of childbearing and upbringing.
So far the paper has dwelt largely on the cultural practices that support high birth rates. It was noted earlier that birth rate is one of the four factors that are associated with rapid population growth. Apart from causing increased population growth that in turn put pressure on natural resources, culture affects natural resources in other ways. First, culture determines how people conserve their environment or natural resources (Stefano, 2011). Natural resource use is directly linked to population size. According to Kuznets curve, high population demands high productivity. High productivity, in turn, is inversely related environmental quality. This means that as productivity increases, environment becomes degraded. This sometimes is inevitable because population has to be fed using the available sources be they natural resources like forests or water resources.
There are some cultural practices that encourage land subdivision. Many communities believe that a father has to divide his land among his sons in a ratio he dims fit. When a family has a big number of sons (which is the most common case), a small parcel of land becomes subdivided into even smaller parts that are un-cultivatable. The problem with this is that when a piece of land is divided into such smaller pieces, conservation becomes an issue which is hard to accomplish. Soil erosion control becomes impossible to undertake especially when the parcel owner has no incentive to do that. Again, a small piece of land gets cultivated over and over again without giving it a break to replenish its nutrients. Poor farming practices which lead to nutrients exhaustion are also associated with land subdivision as opposed to consolidation. Simply put, land subdivision and its related practices only lead to natural resources exhaustion and not conservation.
A culture that leads to population growth is also associated with deforestation and desertification. While deforestation has to do with clearing of standing forests, desertification has to do with encroachment of productive land towards arid and semi arid land. Culture can be blamed for these two ills against natural resources from two perspectives. The first perspective has to do with population growth while the other has to do with people's day to day practices. When culture encourages people to bear more and more children, what happens is that new generations at one point of their lives demand land on which they can put up their shelters and where they can put up their shelters and where they can cultivate food and cash crops. When this land is not available, then these people turn to forests and other reserved lands like game reserves and water catchment zones. When they encroach towards these areas, the results are desertification. Deforestation, then, comes with consequences. Big water bodies like lakes and rivers drop in water volumes while others dry completely. In worse case scenarios, once productive lands become arid and agricultural activities become no longer feasible.
In some cases, families or communities may not have forests to clear but may be lucky to have productive land. When the demand for this land increases, people move closer and closer to deserts or arid land (Stefano, 2010). The final result of this is having a once productive piece of land becoming enjoined into a desert. As a matter of fact, desert conditions are more predominant in this case and so what happens is that the productive land "adapts" desert conditions.
So far, blame has been put mostly on the developing nations as these are the areas where cultures that may be considered "backward" can be found. Putting aside the issue of population growth but remaining with culture, we find that developed nations also put pressure on natural resources in a great way. It has been found that an average American citizen consumes 19 times more gasoline than what an average Nigerian consumes and about 34 times of what an Ethiopian consumes. Without contradicting issues, it is evident here that population may not necessarily be an issue when it comes too resource utilization. Gasoline is a natural resource which almost everyone in the entire world consumes in one way or another. An American uses gasoline even for the most basic activities like brushing teeth. The argument here is that, resources are available in plenty for everyone's needs. If resources can be used equally, then we may not have a problem on straining available resources.
In conclusion, we note that there are cultural practices that directly lead to population growth. A culture that dictates that women need to be married off when they are only 14 contributes in a great way to rapid growth in population. An expanded population puts pressure on resources such as land and forests. Sustainability of these resources is in great doubt if human numbers continues to soar. Human being must understand that sustainable population is determined by availability of food (Salmony, 2004). Finally, it has been noted that population may, after all, be an issue of concern as what matters is equitable distribution of resources.