From Venom to Compassion: Telling the Positive Side of the Overpopulation Issue.
We must take the venom out of the overpopulation issue and inject it with the compassion that truly is at the heart of its story. When some people hear the word OVERPOPULATION, they cringe. The images that are conjured up in their minds are negative. They hear the word “population control” even if you don’t say it. They remember stories of draconian measures in China, when the success of their population policies are ignored. Did trying to enforce a one child policy create some disturbing problems? Of course it did, but why do we neglect discussing the millions who were saved from the horrors of starvation? We need to tell the side of the story that is positive. Policies that prevent misery, suffering and early death are worthy of a more positive place in our collective memory of history. They could always be implemented with more compassion and understanding. But it is up to us to understand the time bomb of exponential growth and its darkest ramifications.
The overpopulation isn’t that complicated. When humans numbers rise exponentially resources cannot keep up. In fact our limited resources decrease and result in pollution. But few want to hear it or allow it to be a part of our public discourse. This is the real doomsday scenario, increasing demand on a limited planet with decreasing resources. Two grandparents having three children and those children having three children for three generations will result in 81 progeny. That kind of success is just not sustainable. Most species are limited by disease, lack of food and habitat. Humans are great at eliminating those natural controls, so our numbers go out of control. That sets up for long term problems of suffering, misery and early death when we start to demand the very basic resources we need from an earth that cannot keep up. We started on that downward slide a mere 90 years ago. In that blink of an earth eye we added an unsustainable 5.5 billion to our limited earth . That is like adding over 3 China’s in one person’s lifetime.
All of this reality is so hard for most to swallow because it means changing their story of a limitless earth where everyone has a right to reproduce especially if they are financially well situated. The activists who focus on specific issues rarely even mention overpopulation because they know the risks of associating clean water, saving tigers and whales etc. with this quicksand-laden issue.
To recalibrate this scenario without a happy ending, we have only one humane choice. Have less children, a lot less. The results from this difficult choice are the possibilities of the continuation of our species and many others who are so innocent in their own demise. We owe our fellow citizens of this planet to tell the positive side of the overpopulation story.
Instead of focusing on the reality of what will happen if we don’t have less children, lets focus on what will happen WHEN we do. We will have more water to go around, less pollution, more minerals, more open space, less traffic, and my personal favorite, more wild spaces for wildlife. Those goals are ONLY possible if we tame and reduce our exponential success. We can reduce our consumption most successfully if we reduce the number of consumers. It is that simple and that complex. I wish celebrities would get it and demonstrate with their own actions how moral it is to stop after one child. Instead they keep having children with each new spouse, clueless as to the very unfortunate example they are setting.
It is so difficult for many to wrap their heads around the concept that less people is a recipe for success, but indeed it is. If you want a more just and peaceful world, we must improve the ratio between our numbers and our resources. Fossil fuels are just that, resources that aren’t coming back once they are gone. We can’t be continuing to contribute to setting up a world where we will be fighting over diminishing resources. Of course there are many other challenging issues but I can tie them all to this one. Everything gets better with less of us. Everything gets worse as we grow.
Holding hands and wishing for peace is an important gesture but must be coupled with ecological reality, a reality which must include the humane goal of closing the gap between relentless growth on a limited and degraded planet.