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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Population trading

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Most of you will be familiar with ‘carbon trading’ and attempt of various countries and organizations to become ‘carbon neutral’ by certain time in future. By fixing quota of permitted pollution, attempt is made to reduce/prevent/stop Global Warming. Those that cannot control pollution to the permitted extent are allowed to buy additional quota from those that can control more than required. Idea of ‘population trading’ and ‘population neutral’ emanates from this and this post can be understood as an intellectual fantasy if this were followed…

Rapidly expanding population of Earth is increasing danger to rapidly vanishing Earth’s resources, and has direct impact on human welfare and lifestyle. It is also the most important contributor to Global Warming. Naturally, it helps if attempt is made to reduce world’s population. However, no such attempt is in offing and most efforts, if any, are at country level. At one hand poor countries of Asia and Africa, India included, are trying to reduce population growth, on the other hand, few highly developed countries (viz. Japan, Australia) are incentivizing their reluctant population to grow faster. Unfortunately, both are failing to some extent.

If future population quota is fixed based on country’s habitable area, then countries growing faster can buy ‘population credits’ from those growing slower. Unpalatable part of this scheme will be that mostly poor countries will be required to pay to mostly rich countries, and that is unlikely to happen. If such quotas were permitted at couple level then parents trying to produce more than allocated children will have to buy quota from those who are producing less or not marrying. Again, poor families will have to cough up money to pay to rich families, as usually educated (and mostly rich) couples desire fewer children than usually uneducated (and mostly poor) couples. Involvement of government authorities in licensing quotas can open floodgates of misallocation and corruption.

At personal level, a couple can try to be ‘population neutral’ by limiting their progeny to two. If neutrality is carried over generations than compensating actions is permitted where fewer or no children in one generation can allow additional in next or so generation. Such practice can be followed at community or social level and will require careful auditing and population enumeration.

In extreme case, wholesale population migration can be attempted, where select couples from populous countries can be moved to countries with negative population growth. This, of course, has to be tried by later country and will have significant effect on its social, cultural and political environment. Some indirect efforts are already underway in this realm where some countries are luring students to study, work and settle in it, though these are primarily aimed at economic growth at not at population decline.

Lot of it may not make any sense and may be poorly thought of but it was merely an idea, I thought novel, carried to a limited extent.