Musings on the Population Problem

Newsletter No.9

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Dear LWP Readers,

This month’s World Population Day (11 July) was a reminder of the population problems the world and especially India, faces. World population, currently at 7.5 billion people, is expected, by the United Nations, to reach 9.7 billion by 2050. This does not bode well for the state of the world’s natural resources which we already appear to be over-using – the Global Footprint Network estimates that we are using the equivalent of 1.5 planets for our resources and to absorb our waste.

Ironically however, it is not the most populated countries that consume most of the world’s natural resources. Studies have found that with lesser population, levels of education and affluence rise, and concomitantly, so does the use of natural resources per person.

So the future resource-sufficiency of the world depends not only on population control by developing countries, but also lifestyle changes in developed countries. The latter need to embrace less resource intensive lifestyles including lowering meat consumption given how adversely that affects the environment.

For India, which is estimated by the UN to have a larger population than China by 2024, the population problem is complex and worrying.

India’s problem

One of the first things that strikes most foreigners about India when they step off the plane, is the sheer number of people everywhere. With a staggering 1.25 billion strong population, the quality of life for citizens is severely impacted in everything from transportation to education.

The 2 main reasons for this overpopulation have been 1) Economic and 2) Social

While most of these factors are slowly losing their grip as the government under PM Modi is working towards the economic development of the under-privileged and changing social attitudes among them regarding the desirability of a male child, there is one factor that still holds strong – marriage as a necessary rite of passage.

India culture still prizes an assembly line kind of unfolding of an individual life: study hard, get a good degree, get a good job, get married, have children, live some more, die. Any deviation from this model is not viewed favourably.

This social rigidity, while having its benefits in giving us relatively strong and stable family structures, has the downside of stifling creativity, risk-taking and trail-blazing, not to mention, leading to an exploding population. Because let’s face it, when most people have children, their potential out-of-the-box business ideas get shelved straight away. Suddenly it’s all about school fees and funding family vacations. The millions of youth that could be working on business ideas, are cajoled into “settling down” with spouse and kids. The result – higher population and fewer potential Steve Jobs. Just take the example of our PM Narendra Modi – had he not shunned the traditional family man mould, we would not have the dynamic and transformational leader we have for the country.

If we want to be a more creative society with better standards of living, this is something we need to think about.

Population as reflection of mind

In India we have known since Vedic times that the external world is a reflection of the internal world. Everything is within us which is to say that whatever is within is what we perceive as manifesting externally. The fact that there are too many people in the world in that sense is then a reflection of there being too much ‘person’ within us. That is to say that there is too much identity, ego, doer – the ‘person feeling’ – within us which has its outer reflection in the unprecedented number of human beings on the planet.

That is the real ‘weight on the planet’ so to speak. Too much person within us. Not necessarily too many bodies around us.

Thus the population problem needs to be dealt not only on social and economic fronts, but also spiritual.  As we know, as people turn within, they naturally give up compulsive consumption as the need to satisfy the ‘me’ entity diminishes.

One thing is for sure – population and strain on the planet’s resources requires everyone to look hard at their lives and implement changes. Ultimately if we can at least be more conscious about our choices and not blindly follow tradition – whether it is eating meat or getting married – then we have a chance of dealing with the world’s problems effectively.

What are your thoughts on these issues? Do write in or leave your comments on LWP.

Weekly Digest

Here’s some other highlights from the past week on LWP:

– A Himalayan yogi’s message to the world is to watch your karma. Ishaputra Kaulantaknath explains how karma is of three kinds and that we need to perform a-karma.

– A spiritual travelogue on the Isha Yoga Centre through the eyes of an outsider – Rahul Sharma shared his experience

– In ‘Indian Yogi Vs. New Age Spirituality’, I looked at how Indian yogis (like Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, quoted in the article) consider new-age messages like “love yourself”, “be compassionate”, etc to be nothing but games we play with ourselves. Such psychological tricks may appeal to conscience but do not really elevate consciousness which requires transcending tendencies – whether bad or good.

– LWP shared information about the Rally for Rivers campaign to save India’s depleting rivers. Find out what the issues are and how you can help.

– A brand new recipe was sent your way – a delicious and wholesome chickpea, pumpkin and coconut curry, South Indian style!

– Last Sunday’s newsletter was about Soldier-Saints, in reference to the 3 part exclusive interview with Maj Gen GD Bakshi where we explored themes of spirituality against the backdrop of war and conflict.

As always, I look forward to your comments, feedback, suggestions and article contributions. Do share this with those you think may be interested so that they can also and join the wiser-living movement!

Wishing you a lovely Sunday wherever in the world you may be!

Warm regards,
Shruti Bakshi
Editor, the LivingWise Project

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Shruti Bakshi

Shruti Bakshi is the Founder of the LivingWise Project. She has worked for several years in banking and financial services in London, Paris and Mumbai and holds an MBA (INSEAD) and MPhil in Finance (Cambridge). She is also a certified Hatha yoga instructor. Shruti writes about life at the intersection of spirituality and modern society. Her debut novel ‘From Dior to Dharma’ was released in May 2017. Her latest novel is ‘Yoga, Work and Life: Indian Wisdom for Modern Times’.


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