Views on overpopulation in the Netherlands - An ethical analysis of the population policies in the Dutch election manifestos
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Population growth is one of the main contributors to climate change. Next to climate change, overpopulation leads to more environmental and societal problems, such as biodiversity loss, land degradation and growing hunger. However, policies to limit population growth or reduce overpopulation are scarce. Most policies related to the issue are end-of-pipe solutions that aim to limit the consequences of overpopulation rather than the issue itself. This research aims to explain this trend in policies for the Netherlands, as it is one of the most densely populated countries of the developed world. This is done by conducting two research methods. First, a text analysis of the 2021 election manifestos of the Dutch political parties was conducted. In these manifestos, the parties present their societal views and policy proposals in the run-up to the elections of the House of Representatives in March 2021. Secondly, semi-structured interviews with experts in combination with a philosophical analysis, mainly focused on the concept of the moral circle, were used to give recommendations on the policy proposals of the parties. It became clear from the text analysis that although most political parties acknowledge the issue of overpopulation, they only propose solutions to deal with the consequences of overpopulation. Overpopulation is only addressed directly in the form of immigration, which is mainly because of the cultural and economic aspects instead of the ecological aspects. According to the theory of green liberalism, non-human animals should also be taken into account in addressing overpopulation. The research shows that there is a problematic overpopulation of farm animals, both from an ecological and an ethical perspective. There is some mentioning of this form of overpopulation in the manifestos, but mostly focused on the ecological part. From the interviews, it became clear that intervening directly in population growth is extremely difficult and undesirable, because limiting reproduction is experienced as a violation of human rights. Indirect measures to limit human overpopulation are therefore preferred. Finally, according to the interviewed experts, there are effective measures to be taken that address the immigration aspect of overpopulation, in the form of development aid and family planning programs.