Wednesday, February 4, 2009

too many babies

From BBC News: Population: The elephant in the room

From Dr. John Feeney comes an editorial about how our unchecked population growth will lead to a Malthusian catastrophe, and how environmentalists don't really like to talk about overpopulation and its control. I totally agree. It is an issue, and it is affecting our environment. Somewhere around 100 species go extinct every day, because we're converting biomass to human-mass (I stole that from Daniel Quinn, I'll admit). People are starving all over the plant, and they keeps getting food and more land gets converted, but they're still starving.

I think the taboo on the subject comes from a lot of things. First, of course, is that birth control is still a touchy subject, mostly because certain religious groups try to block access to it, especially to those who most need it, the poor. In the US, when the pill came out back in the '50s and then got really popular in the '60s, minority groups accused the government and Margaret Sanger (a birth control advocate who helped bring everything together in its creation) of eugenics and racism. On the part of Sanger, this is, unfortunately, true. But those who don't really have the means to support children probably shouldn't be having them. I don't know if we can erase poverty, but I can't imagine growing up in it will help break the cycle.

However, I also don't think rich people should be having a ton of kids just because they can, though I admit "a ton" is relative (some say one should be the limit, some say two, some say more). I've heard people give Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt a hard time because they have something of a brood now, but I mean, they only had three; the other three are adopted. Nothing wrong with adopting. On the other hand, there is that woman in California who just had octuplets when she already had six kids because of some crazy fertility treatment; or that couple in Arkansas with 18 kids. I don't see how they can raise that many. My mother just had three, and even when she was a stay-at-home when we were young it seemed pretty stressful.

However, moving on. I think there's also an issue because the cultural meme is that women should be having children, preferably more than one. Women who don't want to have children get a lot of shit, as do women with only one. I feel like women who aren't sure if they want them or now feel like it's better to in case they regret it.

Last is that for a lot of women, especially in developing and third world countries (though definitely in developed, too!), it's not an issue of consensual sex. Where women are raped, or are given away in marriage forcefully or too young to really understand. I don't feel like in those cases it's a birth control access issue, or just that, it's a women's rights issue. It seems like women's rights is still somewhat controversial: in the US while Bush was in office, in parts of Africa, the Middle East, and I'm sure many other places around the world. I don't know how much birth control can help women who never really have any choice in the sex.

I don't know what the solution is. I mean, in a lot of ways, having children around is nice. I mean, we're wired to like babies. I have a niece, and she's adorable, and my sister makes an excellent mother; at this point, though, I'm not sure if I'll be having children. I'm 25, so I've got time to really decide. Part of me wants to; the other part of me realizes I have trouble taking care of plants. That part of me also thinks I shouldn't be contributing to the problem, and leave it to people like my sister who will actually do it well.

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