Midcoast Peace & Justice Group
committed to positive change through non-violent action
To the Editor,
According to current estimates, we are due to hit a human population of 7 Billion this Hallowe’en, and the most recent UN predicts new, higher, figures in the future, 9B.by 2041 and 10B. by 2083, as our growth rate doesn’t appear to be slowing down as much as hoped.
In the recent past, one could take comfort in the calculations that showed us producing enough total food for our Billions, and know that the hunger and poverty we witness is caused by “unequal distribution” of this food and wealth, but now it seems likely that in the uncertain and changing climate of our future, we will not be able to count on harvests that could feed the predicted number of humans. (Already farmers and gardeners are observing these changes and extremes of weather) Our very numbers, and the level of consumption in the wealthy world, are damaging the biosphere we depend on, the breathing forests and oceans, the wealth of interdependent species, the fertile soils and clean watersheds, and the ability of the mighty natural sink to absorb our pollutants.
We seem unable to limit ourselves and our climate changing energy use. Indeed, our current mantra is that we must have “growth”, of the economic, consumption variety, and, usually unspoken, of the population, in order to have “prosperity” (or even to remain viable as a nation).
So it would be wise, at this point, to take a precautionary path, and consider the wisdom of limiting and even reducing our numbers, both of the high consumers and of those with high birthrates. This could perfectly well happen if peoples, women, men, families, are allowed and encouraged to choose, everywhere and at whatever age, whether to have only the number of children they can take care of under increasingly difficult conditions, without the coercion and draconian measures that we must avoid. We can question our assumption of perpetual growth. We can protect our kindly family planning clinics from fundamentalist assault and encourage and support more of them, here and around the world. These are choices we can and should make, because our ability to take care of ourselves in a deteriorating and extreme environment is so uncertain.
The alternatives, the Biblical “four horsemen”, cynically invoked by pessimists, as the default solution to overpopulation, are not an ethical choice. We must make other options possible. We have traditional and modern ways of choosing whether or not to bear children and how many the land will bear, and we should not be ashamed to use them. Let us face our dilemma, of loving children but needing fewer children in our future in order to take care of them. Let us openly address this issue, now rather than later.
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