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Specifics of the whole culture can turn the birth rates either way, surely. But if the culture of a small isolated island favors high birth rates, that will turn out unfortunately within a few generations.

What I suggest is that the Pacific cultures should be geared towards suppressing birth rates, and it must be interesting to analyze their peculiarities in the light of limitations of their habitats. The Pacific cultures are certainly one of the most peculiar in the world - even if the region was settled late.

Jared Diamond considers a few cases in the book "Collapse". In particular (pg 286-293), he describes a small Tikopia island (of just 5 km2) that has been continually inhabited for 3000 years. Several methods of population control were used: contraception, abortion, infanticide, celibacy, suicide, reckless sea voyaging, a momentous war centuries ago. At one point (around 1600 AD) they exterminated all pigs to preserve the soil.

If you are a smart respected fellow living on a small Pacific island, you might wonder at some time how many generations will fill the island beyond the comfort limit for your family. What do you do then? Initiate a wide discussion how the population should be controlled? Ask the elders whether they considered that? Talk with your closest fellows and decide to rig the culture towards sustainability? Use the respect you have and go for a political domination, keeping the population agenda non-obvious?

I downloaded a few text on the Yap islands, though not have time to look through them. But I suspect patriarchy, hierarchy to be present, as they facilitate population limitation pretty inherently and relatively mildly. The economic system (with the big Rai stones at the end of the monetary spectrum rather than firmly exclusive for the chiefs, for what I read) may allow certain degree of meritocracy - as fictitious in practice as it is now globally. The economy effect on population growth is not direct, but I do not see it refuted. The global economy now is just 7 years away from the start of a possibly steady downturn. Sure, the downturn is driven politically, but the motivation behind the politics could be nothing but population numbers.

I can imagine your favorite spectrum of possible society models, without hierarchy and patriarchy as well. The problem is, those models do not address inevitable population limitations neither explicitly nor inherently. Deep down, you would check female fertility, right? Welcome to the club!

by das monde on Mon Jun 29th, 2015 at 09:56:34 PM EST
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