Nurture can change our course
--- Scarcity and resulting social violence are problems, which seem impervious to political and technological solution. However, they could be resolved by rapid and continuous reductions in population. These reductions could be implemented when six billion people change their behavior from "two or more children per family" to "one child per family." This shift in behavior would require either draconian institution action or a process that could nurture the cognitive capacities of each procreator so as to create a more robust understanding of both "the human condition" and "his or her self-interest."

Life is getting better for individuals who are close to the ownership of resources or advancing technology. Their life spans are increasing at 2.5 years per decade. Their earnings purchase an ever-increasing amount of food, water, shelter, health care, services, physical mobility, and participation in the arts and recreation. However, as an individual’s distance from the leading edge of this economic wave increases, his or her earnings decrease. This has been true since collected human consumption exceeded nature’s supply of game and editable plants and humans turned from hunting and gathering to farming.

Today each child using skill development, inheritance, and migration, tries to out perform their parents. If he or she succeeds we call it upward mobility. Those that fail, we assume they got a late start or tripped and fell in life’s race, are expected to pick themselves up and they or their children will move upward. However, in today’s world of scarcity and social unrest, this may be a myth both the economically strong and weak want to believe.

It assumes the playing field is level and boundless. When neither is true, most of these people will experience downward mobility.

For example, food can be grown for every global inhabitant. However, every global inhabitant can not earn enough to pay the new landowners, water suppliers, planters, fertilizer makers, harvesters and transporters to produce and deliver it. For example, the land that many generations used to feed themselves as subsistence farmers, now, with higher populations, has higher uses. Housing, parking, manufacturing, lawns, flower beds, forests, and protected wilderness all pay higher returns than their alternative utilization "producing food." Food prices that would take these resources back from their current uses are more than these people can earn.

A rising minimum wage transfers jobs to robots or to lower wage areas. Laid off workers seek lower paying service jobs. This causes not only local downward mobility; it closes the door to immigration and traps a remote group in the downward mobility they were trying to escape.

Too abundant labor suppresses wages, makes labor unions impotent to force the sharing of industrial profits. "Trickle down," once the centerpiece of universal upward mobility becomes "trickle up" and downward mobility.

Rising costs, relative to earnings, extends beyond subsistence farmers and unskilled labor. Middle-class Americans spend hours a day commuting to work. They get their water in bottles. Their food comes with preservatives, pesticides, hormones, genetic modification, and artificial ripeners. If people want housing near their work, clean water from their tap, or organic food on their table, they have to pay a bigger percentage of their wages than their parents paid for these items. The middle class thinks of itself as well off with its cell phones, DVD players, and computers, but when you add in the rising costs of the basics, they too are experiencing downward mobility?

For the last 40 years middle class income has increased but this may not indicate upward mobility. Replacing vocational training with college education added years to an already long educational process. Sending a "stay at home spouse added the costs of childcare and the costs to the child in terms of quality of life. Even if there was a net upward mobility, the next generation does not have a third spouse to send to work, and postgraduate degrees do not create the same quantum jumps in productivity or income. The next generation of middle-class will surely experience the eroding of earnings power already experienced by the non-skilled.

The growing legions experiencing downward mobility will hold in contempt, those that now own or control the resources that were once their parents. When the downward tumble appears irreversible they will revert to force to restore their well-being. Some individuals will become terrorists. Other individuals, powerless by themselves, will form ethnic, religious, or regional alliances. The Tutsie, Hutu’s, Afghanis, Chechens, Seeks, Palestinians, Indians, Pakistanis, East Timories, Serbs, and Croats are current examples. Every country is growing its own marginalized individuals and groups. Social unrest expends resources, to create the disruption, to rebuild destruction, and to protect that, which is not destroyed. The results are fewer resources to support upward mobility and more people sent downward.

Is there anything we can do to stop downward mobility? Are the propensities to propagate and improve one’s own life unstoppable human forces? Could we change the propagation propensities enough to create a rapidly decreasing population and attenuate the impact of gains in per capita resource consumption?

A one child per family behavior could implement rapidly decreasing population. Rapidly decreasing population could prevent downward mobility, social disintegration, and environmental destruction.

This change in behavior has been considered. It has been rejected, not because it would not work if implemented, but because it appears impossible to implement.

However, there is a precedent for implementing such impossible changes in human behavior. For example there was a time when rape of an unprotected female was the common male behavior. Some combination of genetic mutation, natural selection, and nurture, has made rape the uncommon male behavior. Most males recognize the inappropriateness of rape in a social context, and this recognition induces a previously unthinkable behavior.

Not knowing of a gene modification that changes procreative behavior and not knowing of a mechanism that kills off people who want two or more kids and allows those who want one to survive. I focus on the nurture mechanism.

Nurturing "new behavior" has had mixed success. For example, it is possible to get a man "to love his neighbor as himself" when times are good. However, when the neighbor lives in the next state or century or when times are tough obtaining "the love they neighbor" behavior is all but impossible. The success of a "nurture mechanism" depends on a combination of implementation and social context.

"Coercion" is a nurture mechanism. Coercion is done in three steps. First the group must understand that a problem exists. Second it has to know which behavior will solve that problem. And third, the group has to have a charter that allows it to coerce its constituency to choose that behavior. If the problem is an unseen or undervalued trend, if the behavior that creates a solution is one child per family, if no group has been given charter by its constituency to coerce this behavior from its individuals, then individuals choose an allowed behavior (2 or more children) and downward mobility continues.

"Transmission" of a broader view of self-interest is a nurture mechanism. It tries to obtain the desired behavior through educational venues that focus on knowledge of history and philosophy. For centuries these programs have been in place at universities. They have names like the great books program or western civilization studies. However, these programs have not created understanding that stops downward mobility. Understanding civilization from review of its diverse thinking has not worked for three reasons. The first is that the great thinkers of the past have had the same cognitive limitations that we have today and thus their views have been devoid of an understanding of the existence, mechanisms, and dynamics of downward mobility. Second, even if a few new leaders get a clear view of which behaviors work to check downward mobility, no government or religion (other than the autocracy of China) has ever been bestowed with the right to tell its constituents to take procreation limiting behavior. And third, the learning residual of these programs has not brought even the best and brightest graduates to personally choose a one child per family behavior. These programs have failed both at the leadership and individual levels.

"Developing cognitive processes" which construct a broader view of existing context and self-interest is a nurture mechanism. For example, consider changes in mental abilities that would have resulted in southern slave owners seeing their self-interest in supporting its abolition. If slave owners could have seen, "that slavery is facilitated by superior technology and "that" superiority can shift, then they also could have seen that they or their child, in a "slave allowing social system," could become slaves.

The new cognitive processes I envision would show that, in our present social context (that of demand far exceeding supply) superior technology not only achieves upward mobility for some, it also creates a downward mobility for most others. I am not suggesting we stop improving technology. Just that we put adequate effort into changing the social context, to include "rapidly decreasing population" so that successful implementations of technology do not create downward mobility.

The nurtured cognitive development I envision facilitates seeing a broader self-interest both in space and time. Future procreators must change their cognition so they see "stopping downward mobility" has utility even at the cost of not having a second and third child. This expansion in cognition includes changing how each person understands and values current trends. And this understanding relies on changing how each person gathers, processes, and values information. The nurture I envision develops thinking and learning processes that construct the future from the temporal aspects of existing information. The cognitive development I envision creates images of and feelings for expected future events.

Until we succeed at nurturing these additional cognitive skills, "trends and their implied problems," will remain hidden behind problems displayed by immediate conditions. Civil laws and religious codes will fail to create behaviors that keep human population in a graceful balance with the available resources and technology. Outside of an enlightened autocracy, a rapidly decreasing population will not be an institutional agenda. For it to become part of a democracy’s agenda, it would first have to be part of a majority of the constituency’s agenda. Achieving a graceful life for all, independent of institutional action would require this level of thinking to be the possession of most members of the global community. And this would require nurturing each individual’s thinking processes well beyond what we have accomplished in the past.

It is not a simple task, but achieving a graceful social existence depends on it.


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