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The world is too small for us

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Crowded, isn’t it?

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Improving environment starts with tackling overpopulation

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Do not replenish the earth

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Limits to Growth

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The more men, the more jam

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Couples wanting children are doubly responsible for the future

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Overpopulation = overconsumption

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Stop the exhaustion and pollution of the earth

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Too little prosperity for too many people

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We love people, but not their number

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We cannot let humanity happen

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Sunday, 22 August 2010 22:14

Move or Drown

Paul Gerbrands in 'Lack of Scarcity'
 
The Delta Works
The delta works symbolise costly expenditures. The more than 50 billion Euros that it would cost to create comparable facilities to those in the North Sea flood of 1953, would no longer be relative to what the small piece of land it temporarily saved from ruin signifies.
The annual floods in Bangladesh inundate areas that are hundreds of times larger than the parts of the Province of Zeeland that fell victim just one time to the water. In countries such as Bangladesh there is no other option than to wait for the waters to subside, but the Netherlands lives the high life and has no time to wait. Moreover, the Netherlands traditionally invests with great pleasure in sea-retaining activities. Water here is not scarce, nor are money or people. That is why we are free to throw our money into the sea like pennies into a wishing well. Up until now, the Delta Works have resulted in a great deal of international respect, but yet it is nature, not people, that is proving slowly but surely to gain the upper hand. Our money to fight the ever-rising water is also running out. That is why delta works and the reclamation of the Zuider Zee and inland lakes will increasingly be seen as a senseless and much too costly affair that is ultimately doomed to disappear under water. With an eye to the expected rise in water levels which could add up to many metres over the next few decades, preventatively moving the western half of the Netherlands to the eastern half seems like the only valid option. The money for possible future plans to keep the Netherlands dry could be better used to fill the growing old-age pension shortage for example or to cover the future costs of perhaps moving three million people who will soon have to flee the rising water. But there are other plans afoot. An engineering firm in Nijmegen wants to built an enormous stone threshold on the bottom of the North Sea just in front the Dutch coast to protect the entire coastline. Not that it will do much to prevent the water from rising.
 
Emergency shelter
Up until now, money has not been an issue and overpopulation in the Netherlands remains a dormant problem. No one is yet fully aware of overpopulation's effect on the environment, and floods are temporary and not all that bad for now. But the giant could awake at any moment. If a very large flood from rivers or the ocean should inundate the Dutch lowlands for a longer period of time, then the fat is in the fire. Real estate in the west of the Netherlands would then drop massively in value or become entirely useless. The people will then undoubtedly flee to the centre and east of the country. Many, mostly rich, westerly dwellers are already moving to drier and quieter areas where house prices are still relatively low. Setting aside the loss of capital (including infrastructure) to floods that do not disperse, the Netherlands will still be able to receive and house the three million inhabitants in the western provinces elsewhere in the country. But this will not happen without any resistance. Because the population density in the eastern provinces will rise quickly to approximately 600 inhabitants per km2, the pressure on infrastructural facilities in the Netherlands' disaster area will be enormous. As yet, we do not understand just how serious the lack of accommodations will be. Houses are currently not particularly scarce but they sure soon will be. The situation will necessitate emergency shelter in tents, summer holiday houses and public buildings. But being forced to live together as people were during the war where a lot of bombing took place, will be a necessity. Social unrest resulting from such causes as unemployment and lack of privacy will undoubtedly bring many to conclude that a life across the border in Germany is the best option. After all, land in the Netherlands has now become even more scarce than previously the case. The rich will probably be the first to leave and invest their money pied-a-terre in Germany, Portugal or Czechoslovakia for example.
 
The New Marshall Plan
The number of duped Dutch that will need to turn to welfare or a loan in this situation will rise sharply. The number of deaths by drowning, suicide and looting will increase as the years progress. The need for mutual solidarity will be enormous. Dutch citizens will go for this to a great extent, but the expectation is for this to have its limits. Because we have never experienced true want, scarcity has never woken us up in time. Parliament will therefore be forced to pass emergency laws. They will raise taxes for those who were spared from the water as a kind of distributive justice. The government redistributing incomes and expenditures is not out of the question. This is an unexpected opportunity for political parties that already wanted to push for distributive justice over personal, individual responsibility. These parties will act as a kind of Santa Claus and give out presents. This will have to happen at the expense of those who have saved some money and will do nothing to change the existing feeling of being taken unfair advantage of. The Netherlands will also receive a lot of aid from overseas. A new kind of Marshall plan is bound to happen. And yet it will not offer much solace, because rising sea levels will also affect the coastal areas of neighbouring countries such as Germany and Denmark and far off, poorer countries such as Indonesia and India. These countries will all want to make an appeal to communal generosity. This generosity will become ever scarcer in proportion to the number of emergency cases. The chance is huge that three million Dutch, pushed from their homes by the water, will in as far as they are free to do so, overwhelmingly have to seek refuge in churches, socialist parties and other welfare institutions. In times of emergency, people learn to pray.
 
Overseas
Floods are as old as time and living in low-lying coastal regions has never been without risk. Those in Bangladesh and Sumatra know all about it since the earthquake and tsunami of Christmas 2004, and July 2005 saw 90 million Chinese fleeing from rising waters. Many regions the world over are hit each year. Sometimes it is due to excessive rainfall, sometimes because of earthquakes, sometimes it is down to human meddling with nature. In the Netherlands, where people are rich, valuable money spent like water without any form of objection. Or it can be thrown in the water! This money keeps nature restrained and we can currently keep the unpleasant consequences of these actions at arms length a while. Poor countries cannot. That is why we in the West organise huge fund-raising events for those who have to keep their heads above water without western luxury. Huge sums of money can ensure houses are recovered or rebuilt where the water has receded, but in all probability, the water will return. It is of course difficult to explain to every tsunami survivor that they must not return to living on the coast if the Dutch do so in large numbers. It is equally difficult to explain to them that all our donations have not one single negative effect on our personal, luxurious lives, and we ourselves will never understand that all of our contributions, all our money is a mere drop in the bucket in providing a real solution to all of their innumerable problems. Because Asian countries are generally so overpopulated, the people are forced to establish themselves on the water due to inland population density. People move to the coasts in the hope they can keep their heads above water economically speaking, with the little money they have.
 
The sink of Europe
The Dutch can build solid concrete apartments behind high embankments and have beautiful dikes and dunes. The risk of a nasty surprise seems smaller here, but the Netherlands, which is not called the Low Lands for nothing, is Europe's sink. It is our Dutch arrogance that makes us walk with eyes wide open into our very own possible cascade. A good example of this is the collapse of the dike in Wilnis. The disaster was entirely unexpected, but luckily it was a very small scale problem. Disasters in the Netherlands are few and far between. But despite this fact, the Netherlands still needed to think long and hard about how high the compensation should be. Dutch compensation per person per house for the residential area in Wilnis was on average enormously high when compared to the extremely low average amounts given per person per house to the Indonesians after the tsunami. The millions raised for the Boxing Day tsunami could only rebuild one entire village in the Netherlands. For a large-scale disaster, something 100 times worse than what happened in Wilnis, there is not a single emergency fund that suffices and so the insurance companies will probably get the short end of the stick. In this case, adequate financial support is by definition impossible. Our money is therefore scarce and insufficient.
 
Short sightedness
Even in times of famine, we the Dutch people, provide aid to those people around the world in critical danger. We use food parcels to generate false hope in a better future. The hope is false because international food aid cannot provide truly permanent solutions. Food aid contains within it the same massive danger for the future as flood aid does. Once assistance has been provided, people will have children as if there were never a famine and in turn these children will run the very large risk of dying from hunger within a few years. There is in fact an issue at hand here of unintentional cruelty from the generous donor. This is the consequence of short sightedness, thoughtlessness and appeasing our own consciences. The problems seem solved in the short term, and when everyone has forgotten the disaster after a few years, destiny strikes again. This is how every western country manages to harbour the idea that they are magnanimous and generous to poor countries, but generosity does very little to provide structural support. The suspicion that the state of technology and science in the poor countries is insufficient to guarantee the short and long-term maintenance of the solutions offered is correct. Moreover, population growth neutralises a significant portion of the country in question’s very low-level local economic progress. This state of affairs seems ever more applicable to the Netherlands.
 
Sell Up
The question is whether it is ethically responsible to continue this form of assistance. It has no sustainable effect, after all. In fact we repeatedly fail to take the opportunity to indicate that all of us are going entirely the wrong route with our relief measures, and in so doing, the West escapes its responsibility to take a direct approach to structural problems in poor, densely populated areas. These areas need a totally different kind of action. In the meantime we are continuing here with our own battle against the water and against the degradation of welfare that threatens our future. It is only thanks to our enormous financial and economic safety nets that we are able to continue living our blinkered lives here. Precisely like the victims who fled to the hills to avoid the tsunami who are forced once again to return to the coastal areas. That we as developed Westerners, despite all our science and knowledge of the looming disasters that nature has in store for us, keep living our worry-free, luxurious lives is as unbelievable as it is true. He who now sells his house to escape the looming floods in the western Netherlands at any rate shows they possess a modicum of smarts and selfishness.

World population