As we all know, Gates got on board, and now funds a lot of health research and on-the-ground initiatives.
More credibly, the "War on Poverty" was an abject failure in every way.
It's really simple. Imagine that you have no social security in your old age. Your children, who are very likely to die from malnutrition, are your ONLY resource. In the short term (generationally) it makes sense to try to have as many children as possible. That way maybe someone will still be alive to take care of you.
If you don't feel that pressure, there isn't that population explosion.
Of course we have more poverty now but keep in mind that most laws and policies associated with the war on poverty were stopped or reversed somehow or other.
The term "War on Poverty" in the U.S. specifically refers to initiatives started by the Johnson administration. Do you refer this or some other war on poverty?
The problem is one of culture, education, and relative-wealth (and also whatever traits are infuenced by DNA). Everything else stems from that.
Sub-Sahara population has seen a decrease in infant mortality and at the same time has gone from 250M to 850M people in 30 years.
It's blowing up and I'm also afraid that the cause of all that is foreign intervention and artificial aid. In 2050 there will be 2 Billion people there. Who's going to help feed the hungry then?
She doesn't want it for population control.
By empowering women to decide whether or not they want to have children, it will still significantly reduce the birth rate.
That video does a very good job of explaining this. As child mortality decreases, family size goes down. I'm sure the data is manipulated to suit someone's purposes, but all seems reasonable to me...
The point is, when you have incredibly poor country, excessive influence of religion, poor health and a high child mortality rate, you have more children, both planned and unplanned.
Religion has very little to do with the number of babies per woman. All the religions in the world are fully [able] to maintain their values and adapt to this new world. </quote>
For example, here is a graph I created of infant mortality vs children per woman: http://www.bit.ly/QTPNBk
(starts at 1900, press play to see changes to current)
Note that each axis has a small 'various sources' button under it that will cite specific sources.
You may also enjoy Hans Rosling's TED Talk on global population growth, as he gets into the details pretty thoroughly. https://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_on_global_population_...
Here's an "abstract" of the article, which hints at my synopsis:
Personally I'd guess the birth rate there is a direct result of the church's push for more children, but I don't really know.
Nevertheless, I think your worried about a scenario that for the most isn't very likely. Typical aid is not just used to buy food, but also to fund education and infrastructure investments, all of which has worked to lower the fertility rates in the past.
There are other reasons to hesitate in regards to the effectiveness of aid money, but IMHO this isn't one of them. :)
So, what should be done? I don't know. Education, a benevolent government, jobs, no drugs, secular & democratic laws... You can't have any of them without having others already in place. But, any progress is better than nothing. And in the long term, maybe
Afghanistan might be a good example. 30 years ago, a war between Soviets and US ruined the country and its (modestly functional) government. For the next 20 years they were "governed" by former US ally, the Taliban. Religious zealots who would kill girls if they wanted to go to school. Then US (thankfully) attacked the Taliban and for the last 5-6 years they've had some sort of a central government. It's (to some degree) corrupt, it's not efficient, it lacks technical knowledge, but still, it's a form of government and has some power and the desire to change the country. And they're making progress. 10 years ago Afghanistan was a forth-world country. A country from another century. But now, they've headed to the right direction. In 10 years (if the continue their progress), Afghanistan might very well become a country that people "might" consider living in (in the large cities at least - if they had the choice). It wouldn't become Norway, but it would be an average country instead of the hell it was 10 years ago.
Edit: I found a nice (read: sickeningly sad) article about Taliban and U.S. from 2001: http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/23860 The rest of the site is garbage, but this article is not.
This one is of Miranda Gibson, who is a tree hugger sitting on top of the tree for 7 months, at a height of 60 meters. Her aim is to protect the felling of a forest around Tasmania.
Update: I do wonder on the juxtaposition of this mini story in the context of the OP's story (which makes a lot of sense to me BTW). So I don't know whether the answer lies in all of us pursuing our own extremes (e.g. Mars exploration on one hand and saving the the forest on the other hand). The latter extreme, of saving a forest - is it in some way similar to the view point the Nun was taking when she wrote that letter?
Firstly I would like to suggest that even if you can only tackle the symptom, not the cause, it would still be worthwhile - a patient with untreatable cancer should nonetheless get painkillers. You are correct that the number of people in the second generation would be higher than the number you bring out of famine. But if you do nothing the second generation would be even larger still since the fertility rate of the extremely poor is so high. Therefore simply alleviating the symptoms and not the causes of poverty (a) delays the suffering of hunger by a generation, and (b) reduces the total number people suffering in the second generation.
Of course, it would be far better to eliminate the cancer. In many cases it's difficult to know how effective the long-term treatment is, but in some cases the outcome can be measured quite well. Here's a great talk by Esther Duflo about measuring the effectiveness of aid:
In the book she co-authored called "Poor Economics" she mentions a study of a deworming program for children in Kenya. The study concluded that an extra year of deworming costing $1.36 USD PPP lead to a lifetime income gain of $3,269 USD PPP for the child. To me that is a slam-dunk evidence that aid can be effective in the long term.
Obviously the population must eventually plateau or decline, due to finite resources.
I think it will be extremely difficult to alleviate the cause of poverty in many African countries. It seems that they have a high fertility rate mainly because their religion/culture demands it. It seems just as difficult to get the fertility rate down there as it would be in Utah (nigh impossible unless nature forces the issue).
Just to explain, Paul R. Ehrlich was wrong when he predicted hundreds of millions of Indians would die because of famines and people still ask questions to him about this just to amuse themselves. I believe anyone holding similar beliefs will be wrong again, at least for the next half century.
To be fair a great number of Indian children still suffers from malnutrition but my argument is that the situation improved because the world is not static as Ehrlich predicted, Africa will also improve in the long run with the advent of modern agriculture techniques.
In the long run that can't be true, when the population continues increasing. There's a practical limit to agricultural yield, even if output can be tripled sometimes. You could generalize that statement as "<unsustainable thing> will improve in the long run with the advent of <thing that kicks the can down the road>". The US debt can be substituted, for example. Always a better solution is to address the "unsustainable" aspect. One shouldn't be fooled into thinking the unsustainable thing became sustainable when the can got kicked down the road for a few decades.
Overpopulation leads to corruption. The situation becomes "every person for themself" to survive.
There's data out there and from what I have read African's fertility rate is lowering, albeit a little slower than some people wished it would. We just have to wait some more years and see what happen. I believe Africa will follow the footsteps of every developing country until now and will have a society of greater urban population and lower fertility rates with economic growth. India and China are still in their way following this path.
I'm not OP, but I always wondered: how do nations coming out of poverty (with high birth rates as part of life or tradition) culturally transition to a nation where low birth rates are the norm?
The scenario I'm thinking of is a nation that beats poverty and improves standard of living, but falls back into it because the population refuses to adapt and decrease the number of births.
I would think that a life lifted from poverty, even temporarily through aid, has a much better chance of being one of these human++'s. Without quantifying (and denying) this possibility, calculating the value of aid seems impossible.
If the help does more harm than good in the long run, then obviously yes. Whether a particular course of action does more harm than good is open to debate.
Of course, if your solution to the "starving children" problem is to let them die of starvation, then you indeed have a final solution. And what a solution!
I am interested in where you are coming from. Personally, I would hate to look a starving child in the eye and deny them food to keep them alive. I would hate to look their parents in the eye and tell them that because they have four children that they aren't worthwhile keeping alive and they should drop dead from malnutrition.
So I do get it. My question remains the same - what would you say to a starving child? Or their parents as the child lay dying?
> Whilst some famines are caused by over-population, it is far more likely that they are caused by other factors such as genocide campaigns, civil wars, refugee flows and episodes of extreme violence and state collapse.
It's also likely that all those other factors are greatly exacerbated by overpopulation, if not outright caused by it. Jared Diamond's book Collapse makes just that argument for the Rwandan Genocide event. Wikipedia: "Diamond theorized that population pressure was the main cause of the genocide. ... Rwanda's population density in 1990 was 760 people per square mile, one of the highest in the world. The population grew at over 3% a year. By 1985 all the land except the national parks had been cultivated."
> My question remains the same - what would you say to a starving child? Or their parents as the child lay dying?
If I was personally involved then I'd have a hard time not giving aid, even as I was confident I was making the problem worse in the long run. These age-old questions show the reason we insulate our leaders from problems on the ground, the better to allow them to make decisions that do the greatest good.
> This is evident in the drop in birth rate that tends to accompany development.
I would argue that development follows a dropping birth rate, not the other way around. Poor people with 4+ kids can't contribute to development or otherwise improve their future. They're too busy each day focusing on basic survival. Unlike many African countries, Italy solved their cultural/religion problem. Now they largely ignore the Catholic Church on contraceptive issues.
The subsistence farmer who has lots of children to help him dooms his kids. What's insane is enabling farmers to do that by saving their kids and nothing else. Since it's economic the farmer may well have even more kids to do even better economically.
Countries that improve living standards usually get lower birth rates as a result. This usually results from better education for women more career opportunities for women, lower child mortality, better financial certainty, etc. This effect has been seen in almost every country to undergo a significant improvement in living standards and it is pretty much known to be true.
You have to couple it with healthcare, education, infrastructure and economy reform (because the famine was most likely caused by a failing economy) and maybe political reform. It's more or less rebooting the place.
However, you may wish to consider whether you are the gardener of Africans and whether humans should be pruned.
You then suggest that looking at the causes of population explosions should be investigated and resolved, and therefore until this is fixed then children should starve.
A cruel sort of logic indeed.
I said a cruel sort of logic. His logic is wrong. Misused logic is a sort of logic. Unfortunately, his misused logic leads to cruelty. Sort of like the logic that says you need to forcibly sterilize disabled people to reduce those who have genetic abnormalities from polluting the overall population.
I am not advocating for the use of probabilities, but instead possibilities.
See the first link joering2 posted. If you look at the top 10 defense contractors you'll find that several of them are also Nasa contractors.
They don't just do this in the military industrial complex, they do it across the board, making decisions that benefit their portfolios and constructing their portfolios so their decisions get benefits from laws being passed.
Yes. What kind of a question is this?
Top 100 Defense Contractors (most privately owned) 2007: 
Further, histories like the one with Chertoff  makes U.S. politics really a dirty place: spend trillions of scared US tax payers' money on frying them with cancer in the name of fight on terror with Al Qaeda (quick hint: while we fight them here in US (and of course spend most of your tax money on it), we ally with them somewhere else at the same time ).
It would require a massive cultural shift, on a number of levels.
But then, why does the space program need to be defended like that? People prefer buying big TVs, big cars, big houses instead of giving the money to starving Africans. So why not view the space program as just an extension of that?
> When he [Michael Faraday] demonstrated his apparatus [the dynamo] to His Majesty's Government, the prime minister, Sir Robert Peel, asked, "Of what use is it?" To which Faraday replied: "I don't know, but I'll wager that some day you'll tax it."
- Michael Faraday
We will tax space in good time my fellow skeptics.
All in good time.
How is a nun in middle of Africa meant to have even a basic understanding of how a specific government's budgeting and economic system works?
I am willing to bet the vast majority of Americans themselves (to this day) have no idea of even the basics so simply explained by Dr Stuhlinger, yet it was a critical part of the bigger picture.
Still, a good story though. Had he ended there, the letter would lack any real substance to argue his point.
Not just that, but to drive home that although the benefits of research may not be known at the time they are nevertheless existent.
She can't have read a few books on economics? His explanation was pretty basic and nothing that couldn't be found in econ 101 textbooks. He essentially just assume she was uneducated.
If this were in person, he might have been able to ask, "What do you know about the US's method of setting a budget and taxation?" and tailored his response after that. Since it was a letter, greater caution was needed.
Are you offended by the first chapter or two of nearly every programming language book that explains what variables, conditionals, arrays and the like are? If you know it, you can skip it. If you don't, you can read it to have a better foundation for the rest of the text.
It would seem quite reasonable for a nun who received her regular education that early to possibly have grown up going to a religious school somewhere where the idea of teaching topics such as economics to a woman would not have been particularly favoured, and/or where the use of a "standard library" to read texts outside of the curriculum would have been discouraged.
In other words, depending on the wording of the original letter, it might very well have been entirely reasonable to assume that she would not have had any knowledge of economics (for that matter, you could assume a fairly substantial percentage of adults today would benefit from the explanation he gave).
Now what if this is the next fuel source for cars? We could dramatically cut down on our use of fossil fuels. That's pretty world changing.
The automated landing represented a huge engineering challenge as well. Lots of lessons learned can likely be transferred to earthly pursuits. Imagine a rescue helicopter that can automatically fly into dangerous situations and save people. Imagine robots that are faster and more efficient at producing or harvesting food.
Then of course, every time we land on a planet, we get better at it. The earth has a finite surface area. Barring major catastrophes, we'll probably fill it up eventually. If the experiments of today can provide a place for the people of the future to move, I think that will be the biggest contribution.
Interesting points, but I don't believe in next 100 years we will be able to live on Mars, or there will be enough justification to move there and spend trillion to pursue that vision (of course this mission only gets us closer). Not only its still extremely expensive to fly there, further the only way to live there is under the shelter, which would cost hundreds of times more than building something similar on Earth.
One could only hope that down within the further explorations, there will be possibilities to either mine or produce something that Mars' atmosphere is perfect for, and something that would cost much more to accomplish here on Earth. Eventually, possible monetary gains would create entire new industry with trillion poured in. Wonder what Mars atmosphere is suitable to produce.
Because on the one hand they spend all this effort to make sure all the components that go into space are absolutely sterile, in order to not accidentally contaminate the environment on Mars [this really is high priority to NASA], and on the other hand you fly a nuclear reactor there, without anyone or anything to make sure it's contained in the event it might start leaking or something.
2: Possibility of discovering signs of prior life on Mars.
3: Baby steps on the way to developing a more robust space presence.
I don't want to take the time to flesh these out.
You could argue with all of them. You could grant them, and argue about cost/benefit.
But ultimately, it's exploration, and there are no guarantees what will turn out, so arguing cost/benefit when benefit is unknown is not an analytical process.
When first microscope was constructed, the author did not and could not know anything about bacteria or anything other microscopic.
Your question is unanswerable yet.
Got it now?
Update: Google Books answered the question for me:
> Dr. Stuhlinger responded to the sister in a letter that was published by NASA/George C. Marshall Space Center in 1970 titled "Why Explore Space?"
Amen to that.
And now it gets complicated. Money is necessary but far from sufficient, and the problem is very much not lack of resources.
As an aside, I wonder if something so convincing could be written about military spending.
I agree with TheComedian that the drawbacks mitigate the benefits a lot, though. The thing about space exploration is that the drawbacks are purely speculative (alien regard, exoplanet contamination, etc.) and are a lot easier to dismiss.
Even better would add the estimated lives saved by NASA technologies and DoD bombs.
Just the guy to be answering ethical questions...
The world isn't some Hollywood movie where the good guys and bad guys are clearly delineated.
He was a smart guy who could spin a good yarn and seemed to care. I sincerely doubt that he did and don't value his opinion.
"He was also drafted into the Wehrmacht to fight on the Eastern front" doesn't seem like he had a lot of choice there...
Most of our early rocket scientists were ex-German scientists taken from Nazi Germany.
> Ever since this picture was first published, voices have become louder and louder warning of the grave problems that confront man in our times: pollution, hunger, poverty, urban living, food production, water control, overpopulation.
He even took care not to mention climate change, which I assume was in case the reader has a strong bias against it.
The possibility of human-caused climate change did not start come to the awareness of the general public until 1988, and did not become a political issue until this millennium.
He therefore cannot legitimately be criticized for his inability to predict where science would go in future decades. However he can legitimately be praised for being prescient about the role of satellites in researching a number of environmental problems, including global warming.
Good catch to notice that. I was impressed this too, but didn't post until I saw your reply.
To me, Earth remote sensing is the most clear-cut example of near-term benefit to humanity by space technologies. It's amazing what can be done -- way beyond inputs for weather forecasts.
You can assess health of forest canopy from space (because you can measure water content of leaves -- it's a delicate measurement, but it can be done). (Hyperspectral radiometer)
You can measure full-air-column CO2, CO, and other gases, from space.
You can measure sea surface salinity and temperature, and even surface wind velocity, from space. (microwave radiometer, radar scatterometer)
You can measure tiny post-earthquake land deformations -- not at selected sites, but continuously over a broad area. (Radar interferometry)
All this is way beyond where it started, with pictures of cloud formations. Having these physical inputs allows much better modeling and prediction of all kinds of activity: weather/ecology/seismicity.