My people are tired of development, they just want to live" was a sentiment expressed by Mexican author Gustavo Esteva in his remarks at a conference of the Society for International Development in 1985. Today as we are surrounded by the propaganda of prosperity, it is exceedingly difficult to ponder the exhaustion and exasperation contained in that statement. The 1980s and 1990s have witnessed expanded investment in countries that have relaxed foreign investment restrictions. The friendly logos of Western corporations are seen all over the world from neon-lit billboards to cars, from electronic items to television programs. In Eastern Europe, Marx is out and Ronald McDonald is in, and in Maoist China, Russian prostitutes are available for services.
The size of the global village is shrinking, the middle classes everywhere are swelling their ranks, the course of capitalism is secure and the "free" market has triumphed once and for all. That the gods of the West have won is the gospel of globalism. While this appears to be the surface
picture in the popular press, there are nagging realities that continue to beleaguer the prosperous world—the ecological crisis and the population "problem." The two issues are closely related; I will take up the subject of population and consider how it fits in the global context.
What of the population question? What is so problematic about human population that we have to "control" it? Is talk of "population control" a semantic subterfuge for control of poor people, women, and other "inferior" peoples (frequently those of color)?