One-Child Policy Reduces Garbage
China has a rich history with such well-known creations as Silk Road, the Great Wall of China, and a gunpowder invention. China was an influential player in the trade of goods, but nowadays, China has regained recognition as one of the biggest manufacturers in the world. This creates a positive effect on the economy and social employment. On the other hand, excessive production creates a negative impact on the environment. Growing production makes the economy expand; in turn, favorable economic conditions encourage the growth of the population. In the end, overpopulation overproduces garbage, and if overpopulation and waste overflow does not stop, China will smuggle in the trash. When these problems are intertwined, the answer can be found somewhere in between: China should maintain a one-child policy in order to maintain a low population and reduce garbage.
I believe that the human factor is responsible for every change that happens on our planet, so we make an impact not only with what we do but with our quantity. My suggestion for China to utilize the principle of one child for one family is not new. A website China’s One-Child Policy hosted by Alexa Tsintolas provides a thorough information about the policy that I believe helps the Chinese society environmentally. The one-child policy roots back to the previous century and the Club of Rome, a group founded in the late 1960s (2013). The movement put the blame for everything wrong in the world on society’s shoulders: extinction of animals, lack of resources, waste overflow, nature disasters, climate change, etc. They suggested the shortage of the population. Among the ways to implement the decrease in number of the global population, they proposed to equal birth rate with the death rate or to raise the death rate. The Club saw the solution to the interrelated global issues in the decline of the population number to the state of 1900 which accounted approximately 1.6 billion people. The Club of Rome projected the realization of the project by 2100 (“China’s One-Child Policy” 2013).
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A 1978 conference in Finland on control-system theory became a landmark event for the Chinese people for the next few decades. The Club of Rome promoted its vision in the presentation “The Limits to Growth and Blueprint for Survival.” It is interesting what history China would have if Song Jian, a Chinese scientist, did not happen to attend that conference. He took the copy of the Club’s publication home to China. That was the beginning of the 30-year-old story about the birth control (China’s One-Child Policy” 2013).
A few turning points changed the direction of the situation with garbage amount. I see Mao Zedong as the first person who created a significant problem for both China’s population and environment. He encouraged everyone to have as many children as possible. He perused only economical goals, while he could not comprehend the environmental consequences of his decision. The population multiplied along with the issues of urban waste and village household waste. The situation changed in 1979 when the government reached the agreement when legislated one-child policy. Childcare, healthcare, and education are among the benefits for those who comply with the policy. If the policy continued to exist in its primary design – one child to one family – the government could significantly reduce the waste issue. However, the plan crashed over the economy. The Economist highlighted that China was under the replacement rate, and workforce number fell by 3.45 million people in 2012 (G.E., “Why Is China Relaxing”). This would lead to the mismatch of pensioners and taxpayers. So designed as a one-child policy, the legislation loosened restrictions due to economic reasons, natural disaster demographic consequences, particular family conditions, wealth of parents, place of living, etc. To my mind, the regulation must make equal conditions for everyone on the contrary to the diversity that the government created. Despite that, one-child policy is still valid; the number of male and female group between 0 and 15 years old fell from 18.5% and 17.4% to 9.7% and 8.3% respectively in these years. Despite that, according to National Bureau of Statistics of China, around 1 billion people lived in China in 1982, in comparison with 1.3 billion people in 2010 (Kent, “China’s Population Swells”). We can only guess how quickly the people of China would have overgrown if the policy has never been implemented; and how dramatic environmental impact that would have created.
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To start the dispute about the garbage issue, the number Edward Humes (2012) mentions in his book Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash is terrifying – a single person produces about 102 tons of trash throughout a life. It seems to me that the garbage issue in China has two problem areas: mental and governmental. By stating “mental problem,” I mean endless consumerism in the circumstances of the cheap production, availability and affordability of the low-cost goods. This concerns cities and megalopolises.
Villagers have a different mental problem. They think that the nature is bound to take away everything a human makes. The “governmental problem” is the bad collecting system. The infrastructure does not cover the cities’ needs as well as no collecting system in the villages. For me, it is clear that neither people care about the garbage they produce nor the government pays sufficient attention to the garbage issue directly. As a result, other more strict methods like the restriction in the number of children is capable of covering the waste problem.
With the economic boom, more and more villagers want to live a better life in the cities and leave their village homes. The city sprawl forced the government to take harsh measures to limit this kind of migration and implemented hukou system. According to this system, villagers have limited access to medical treatment; their children are not allowed to go to public schools, and other social benefits ex-villagers cannot request if they move to the cities. City dumps built to be outside the cities have now become a part of the landfill as the city’s boundaries expand day by day. Humes (2012) warns, “Garbage has become one of the most accurate measures of prosperity in twenty-first-century America and the world” (6). While wealthy citizens live in city downtowns and have better environmental conditions in which to live, work, produce excessive volumes of trash, so they forget about their waste at the moment they throw it into the garbage; poor populations tend to live on the outskirts, which is also the destination of the refuse collection vehicles and where the garbage sites are located.
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From my point of view, the measures the Chinese officials have been taking are just not enough. Peggie Liu from The Huffington Post had an in-depth investigation to see the insufficient actions of the authorities. In 2010, the government invested $1.6 million in a campaign that had two directions: fight with illegal landfills as well as to construct new facilities. Incineration is another solution to the problem of garbage pollution. Beijing was surrounded by almost 500 illegal dump sites back in 2011 compared to China’s licensed 919 landfills in 2010 (“If Trash Is Gold”). By 2015, China aims at building 90 plants that would burn the rubbish along with producing the energy in Beijing and 300 facilities in the country. Beijing burnt 10 per cent of its rubbish and plans to raise this number to 40 percent by 2015 (Liu, “If Trash Is Gold”). The more incinerating factories occur, the more acute the air pollution issue will become. No one says that these facilities will be state-of-the-art; this means that with burning one problem the government increases another one.
I am not in the minority who see the interconnection between the population and garbage issue. The Guardian describes that the one-child policy is an “environmental blessing” (Watts, “China’s One-child Policy”). Designed for economic and education benefits, it also has a vast environmental impact. According to Liu Shaojie, vice director of the Population Commission in Henan, the policy directly decreased pollution of water by more than 30 per cent in Henan. When one appears standing on the edge, he dears to act dramatically. Similarly, China exceeded the limits of sustainability; therefore it was ready to take strict measures. It seems to me that the country succeeded, even though the population is still growing. Liu describes the situation in Henan; and to check how the diverse guidelines are implemented the government employs 17,000 administrators; 22,000 nursing staff and technicians; and 9,600,000 volunteers (Watts, “China’s One-child Policy”). Zheng Zhenzhen, a specialist in population at the Chinese Academy of Social Science, stands up for the policy:
We debate the relationship between the size of the population and resource consumption. But it is not a fixed formula. It depends on how you utilize your resource. We waste and pollute. I think those problems – behavior – are more important than the size of the population (Watts, “China’s One-child Policy”).
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MiND (Media Independence) is a Philadelphia-based non-profit television station. They highlight significant issues through media; and overpopulation is one of the issues they address (“Population Growth”). They placed a video in YouTube called “Population Growth” which contains statistical data backed with easy to understand multiplication. The video begins with the quotation, “Instead of controlling the environment for the benefit of the population, maybe we should control the population to ensure the survival of our environment” by Sir David Attenborough (“Population Growth”). The situation that the global nation is unable to comprehend is that 2.4 people are born per second. This will lead to further overpopulation up to the number of 8 billion people by 2025 and 9.5 billion by 2050. The media holders suggest three steps to prevent a disaster. The first one is to reduce consumption; the other one is to provide access to family planning services. This means to raise awareness about contraception and related information among the masses. And above all, they propose empowering women. Women should have the access to health care, education, and birth control; give women the right to control their family size. In spite of some differences, for me, the vision shown has common sense and common ground with what China has been implementing for more than 30 years. First of all, the propaganda institution is quite vast. As it was mentioned, a big number of people are involved in the promoting and informing about one-child policy, its differences in regulation, social and financial benefits. Since China is historically patriarchal, women are not greatly empowered.
Instead, the government plays the role of a “big brother” who bans, restricts, allows, encourage, and indue. The authorities have a 30-year history of the start up, changes, and tailoring one of the most significant initiatives in the world; the policy that no other country would dare. The last point for the policy is in the narrator’s ending words, “Democracy cannot survive overpopulation.
Human dignity cannot survive it.” And that is what we see in the policy of China. Only the Communistic Party is empowered to implement such harsh changes and not to give up the program. According to Katie Holiday from CNBC, the program succeeded as the birth rate remain lower than in the US and the UK, with 1.66 births per woman opposing to 1.88 and 1.9 births in 2012 ( “China’s One-child Policy” 2014).
China has enough power and moderation to turn dazzling dreams into reality. In the past, the one-child policy has proven to work.
It may reach the goal of the Club of Rome, genuine founders of the idea – to control the birth rate; therefore, to take the responsibility of the human factor impact on the nature. By gaining control over excessive population growth, China’s future will be cleaner and clearer of rubbish.