Swans Commentary » swans.com December 1, 2008  



Population Control


by R. Scott Porter





(Swans - December 1, 2008)   Mankind is the ultimate extension of evolution on Earth. Some may argue that whales or elephants or some other species hold that distinction, but until one of them steps up and articulates that to me, I'm sticking with humans. Our evolution as a species is a journey from primitive to evolved. We can only hope that God is in charge of the timing for it seems inevitable that the human race will overpopulate this planet if left to its own devices. Sex is the only true joy in the otherwise joyless lives of too many people, and children still represent social security to the vast majority of the poor. The major religions of the world, notably the Catholic Church, are fundamentally against birth control. It is, of course, to their advantage in the short run, to create as many potential Catholics as possible. Many governments also reward poor women with increased welfare for having more children. All this, in combination with improved health care, is a recipe for overpopulation. To add to the problem, too many people think they need too much of everything. This planet is a finite system, therefore unless we can stabilize our worldwide population, life on Earth will eventually descend into a constant, brutal competition for remaining resources. To avoid this, and we still can, we must make education a priority. A dedication to education, instead of greed, will be critical to our very survival as a species.

"The foundation of every state is the education of its youth."
—Diogenes Laertius

This discussion inevitably leads to a debate concerning just what we should include in this education. Since the advent of the nuclear bomb, stabilizing population by mass murder, in the form of unnecessary war, is an increasingly dangerous option. Birth control is the alternative that makes the most sense. Abortion, although abhorrent and regrettable, is still a necessary evil. It should be avoided, but by no means ruled out, especially in the case of rape or incest, or to protect the life of the mother. We should concentrate on protecting the living, so when does life begin? Where should we draw that line? Each of us must make that distinction on our own. I would suggest that if a human embryo has developed to the stage where it can breathe on its own, it should not be aborted. That would clearly be murder. I have never met anyone who was pro-abortion. You would have to be mentally ill to want something like that. Those who are pro-choice are simply being pragmatic about our over population problem and the degradation of our societies caused by the flood of unwanted children being born every day. Every young woman who is old enough to get pregnant, and every young man old enough to impregnate, should be given a complete education regarding sex and birth control, abortion, and adoption. Sex education at home, as well as in schools, is critical. Abstinence and family planning should be stressed with an open mind to the reality of the situation. Sex is fun, especially for young people. That ageless fact will hopefully never change. Being responsible, while admittedly taking some of the fun out of it, is now essential to our survival. No amount of debate will erase that reality. Ignorance only makes things worse. Giving young people the knowledge and tools to avoid unwanted pregnancies cannot be considered immoral. It is simply a reality and an absolute necessity.

"Only the educated are free."

The Baby Boom Generation, and all those that came after, were raised in a culture that praised the shallowness of youth. Too many never grew out of that mindset and now lack the mental toughness required to tackle the hard questions of our time. Hopefully, like me, you have had enough of avoiding controversy simply because it makes you uncomfortable. We face tough choices in the future. The longer we procrastinate the worse it will get. As we sink deeper into denial, our climb back to reality grows more difficult. I don't expect you to agree with everything I say. I only ask for your honest attention. Above all, be honest with yourselves.

"Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence."
—Robert Frost

Sex should now, and for the foreseeable future, be reserved for the most transcendent moments. Its primary purpose, of course, has always been to insure the survival of the species, and at present, the human race is in no danger of going extinct. That was an understatement, or an ironic statement, if there ever was one! Therefore, we should make every effort to insure that procreation is only attempted by loving, committed couples who have done the proper planning in order to insure the best outcome. One of the main things the Hippies got wrong, in my opinion, and I once considered myself one, was their promotion of "free love." After the sexual repression of the 1950s, and with the coming of age of the "Boomers," America was ripe for a sexual revolution. Unfortunately, too many confused unconditional love with unbridled sex, and so that "revolution" was doomed from the start, and has set a bad precedent for every generation to follow. Promiscuous sex too often leads to all sorts of heartbreaking and unhealthy results. If the terrible health risks and the regrets over the loss of virginity and abortions weren't enough, consider the unplanned and unwanted pregnancies that result. In an overcrowded world. It is tragic to continue to add more souls who will never experience a proper, loving environment. The more people who are brought into this world without planning, the worse the situation becomes. Having said all this, I am realistic enough to know that asking everyone to be sexually responsible is a tall order. Abstinence before marriage is an anachronism, assuming it ever truly existed as a norm and not just an unattainable goal. This is a goal that we might consider, however, for the foreseeable future, and until we can find a suitable mate, straight or gay, we must all protect ourselves against communicable diseases and unplanned pregnancies. Adults in committed relationships are certainly free to have as much sex with each other as they desire. They should, however, make every attempt to avoid having any more children than they honestly need. Until young people grow old enough to be wise about sex, instead of simply giving in to their raging hormones and abandoning all logic and common sense, they must learn to use protection. The only way this can happen, on a grand scale, is through a worldwide program of sex education in schools, at home, and even at church. As much as some would wish otherwise, we now live in a time when unprotected sex can kill us.

It is ironic how many of our current problems are a direct result of overpopulation and how little attention we pay to the subject. Those in power don't have a problem in their economic strata. They can afford to have as many children as they want, and many of them are loath to help the poor. Our "leaders" seem to be willing to do only enough to keep the masses at bay, even though by not getting more creative and involved they are sealing their own fate. Their master plan seems to be the tired old ploy of keeping most of us dumbed down and in the dark so that we will continue to be easily manipulated. Throughout history this tactic has seldom worked for any length of time. "We the People" have never been dumbed down enough to put up with tyranny for very long. What's the alternative? Education is again the key. The rich, influential elite of the world need to realign their priorities. They need to realize that they have enough and start giving back. They need to help develop programs to educate those less fortunate than themselves to the seriousness of our situation. Future generations will suffer the consequences of their lack of action. They should look into the eyes of their children and grandchildren and decide what kind of world they want to leave for them. Everyone will need to get involved at the grass roots level. We should make sure all of our children understand the problems caused by overpopulation. Everyone must now make every effort to avoid unwanted pregnancies. For instance, family planning, along with basic economics classes, should be a prerequisite for obtaining a marriage license. Throughout history, and certainly in the present day, unplanned pregnancy has forced too many unwilling, unprepared, immature people into parenthood. When they fail as parents the children suffer and, more often than not, go on to repeat the same mistakes. As the worldwide population increases so does the number of damaged individuals. Our situation worsens each and every day. Everyone should be given the knowledge required to avoid this downward spiral.

What is the quickest way to kill off a couple of billion people? I would guess thermonuclear war. Why are other countries around the world trying desperately to develop a nuclear bomb? They obviously don't want to be annihilated and they think that their capacity to retaliate might somehow save them. This sounds like a race to the bottom. If we cannot reverse this trend this planet will soon become nothing more than a bigger bomb waiting to go off. This is no way to live, and yet our country, the leader of the "free" world, is the most heavily armed nation on Earth. We spend more on our military than every other country on Earth, combined! We are the nation that is scaring the rest of the world. We are the potential cause of the war to end all life on Earth, and, to make matters worse, the Bush administration seemed to think war was a great form of population control.

"War is a cowardly escape from the problems of peace."
—Thomas Mann

So what are the alternatives? There is a long list of ways to lower the human population. They are disgusting and I will not list them here. You can use your imagination. Any of these could potentially ease our population problems, but at what cost? We sell our very souls if we condone such brutal, senseless, inhumane "solutions." Of course, family planning through education and birth control, along with supporting a woman's right to choose, is the enlightened path to a sustainable world population. It is not the quickest, or the cheapest, and it is certainly not the easiest way. It is simply the most sustainable way, and it is surely the most humane way.

On a broader scale, along with food and medicine, we should flood the Third World with birth control. If we start all of this immediately we may still be able to stabilize world populations. They are now skyrocketing out of control in a geometric progression. You may have seen the chart of world population. For hundreds of thousands of years it stayed nearly flat. Then, around the time of the Industrial Revolution, populations started to increase geometrically, until today the line on the chart is going nearly straight up. This is an unsustainable situation, and the only long term solution starts with education.

Some here in America argue that we actually need to have more children in order to maintain a young workforce. I disagree. What we need is a worldwide attrition of our aging population through natural means. There will be a difficult period in the near future while the abnormally large "baby boom" generation ages. During this period we should develop a rational immigration policy that will supply the young workers that we will undoubtedly need. This will also benefit the immigrants who desperately need the work. All of this should be coupled with intensive negotiations with Third World countries to promote family planning to reduce their populations. Birth control should never be mandated, although by implementing proper policy regarding education and social security, governments around the world can, and should, begin to positively influence family planning decisions, with the emphasis on population control. The United States should be supplying these countries with technical and monetary assistance, but this must always be contingent on verifiable progress on population stabilization. If we are successful in controlling world populations every other problem that we face will become less difficult to solve.

To those who believe we can simply grow our way out of the problem and that free market forces will control the chaos I pose this question. Where should we draw the line? Should we scrape the ocean floor clean to catch every edible form of life, and in doing so, kill everything else? Should we destroy every square mile of rain forest in order to raise more cows? Should we plant more and more feed crops to feed them, in order to sustain an ever increasing human population? Should we dam up every river and stream in order to irrigate more lawns planted in more deserts? Should we continue to build more homes up into more isolated canyons, where they will most likely burn down? Should we simply continue to populate the Earth until humans drip off the planet in globs? Progress lies in the opposite direction.

I don't have the words to express my concern for the kind of world our children might have to inherit from us. If nothing changes, and everything stays the same, as it has for so very long now, the future will be a difficult struggle for everyone. Before now anyone who espoused such a view was discounted, out of hand, as being some kind of a kook. No one wanted to seriously consider that the human race might outgrow the planet Earth. That was just crazy talk because as soon as you left the city limits you saw nothing but open space for as far as the eye could see. How in the world could we ever overpopulate all that? What we failed to admit is that we might eventually demand too much from the arable land and the water supply. We could not believe we could ever deplete our natural resources. We were in denial about deforestation, over-fishing, air pollution, water contamination, the pollution of the entire ecosystem with all manner of manmade chemicals, and even raising too much livestock in order to feed too many meat eaters. Now these issues are too real to ignore. Now the damage may even be too far advanced to be repaired. There is only one way to find out and that will require drastic measures that most comfortable people will not, even at this late date, be willing to endure. They will go, kicking and screaming, to their graves in pure denial. Only if enough of us change our ways will our civilization weather the coming storm.

After you read this sit back, close your eyes, and relax. Try to see, in your mind's eye, this planet we inhabit. Try to imagine what it must look like from space. See the blue oceans, the greens and browns of the land, the white polar regions. See the clouds swirling around in weather patterns, as the earth spins on its axis and travels in its orbit. Notice how thin the atmosphere is that protects us from the harmful rays of the sun. Now look out. See the moon, the sun, the other planets in our solar system, and beyond that, the inky black vastness of space with billions of stars twinkling in the distance. Reflect on just how vast our universe is and how improbable it will be for any great number of us to live anywhere else any time soon. Now come back to earth. Think of what a perfect place this is for us to live and learn in. Think of how long it has existed in this perfect state. Consider how long it might continue to be a perfect home for us if we can only take care of it. Think of all the humans, the animals, and the plants that depend on it for their very survival.

Now visualize the towns and cities constantly growing as the human population skyrockets out of control. The blight of urban sprawl is spreading at an exponential rate and seems to grow before your very eyes. Our careless civilization spews pollution into the air and water. It covers the earth with trash. It seeps into the very marrow of our bones. We are ruining our home planet and we have no backup plan. We have no escape. And so our duty to ourselves, to each other, and to future generations is clear. We must place the preservation of this planet first on our priority list. We must now, and forever more, consider the implications of our actions. We must gauge the impact of our lifestyles. We must reconsider our options and choose the least destructive path. This will be our greatest test. This must now be our primary motivation. If we are successful we will be able to hold that vision of a perfect planet in our collective mind forever. What glory will be in that thought!

Earth must now become an organic garden planet that sustains a planned population of humans living in harmony with nature. All life depends on an interconnected web. For instance, plants absorb carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen while animals breathe oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Neither can exist without the other, and so we must protect, nurture, and expand our remaining forests. Weather patterns distribute water around the globe to properly hydrate all life, and so we cannot continue to affect our climate through the overuse of fossil fuels. The sun's rays sustain us and yet only our thin atmosphere saves us from the ultraviolet rays that would kill us, and so we must not continue to pollute the air with carbon monoxide and other greenhouse gasses that destroy the ozone layer. The science behind all of this is solid and we can no longer deny the dangers we face. Humans must now change course away from unlimited growth and towards sustainability, while there is still something left to sustain.


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About the Author

R. Scott Porter is a General Contractor who lives in Laguna Beach, California, and whose skills and expertise have been featured in This Old House magazine in March 2008. To learn more about Porter's bread and butter, please visit GandSbuilders.com



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Published December 1, 2008