June 24, 2012

The Forbidden Topic


 ("What to do with all us people?") 

(or the non working title “Brian hates babies?”)

I have thought about writing on the human population or overpopulation (0) ever since I started getting interested and working around wildlife over 12 years ago. Every time I sit to write, another article or show comes out (“Mother” the Movie comes to mind) and I learn something new. Or another Earth Day rolls around or some “Green Fair” and I get frustrated at how few environment and wildlife groups will even mention the human population explosion in any manner. Are they afraid they will lose donations to their causes if they make people feel uncomfortable? I guess that answers my question of why our wimpy politicians won’t touch the topic. They don’t want to lose a vote from the few of us that vote. (You would think Trojan would jump on this topic and market less people & and more family planning and watch their sales go through the roof.)
I do recall seeing something about human population growth on a flashy sign at the Minnesota Zoo as well as tucked in the back of some book about primates with Jane Goodall in it stating the proven fact that supporting family planning and woman’s education drops the growing population rates in communities that share the land with exotic wildlife. And with that drop in population comes a better standard of life for those people. So why don’t these wildlife and environment groups talk more about the big picture of population growth? Who knows?
I certainly don’t mind making people a little uncomfortable, spent my twenties being a little punk rocker I did, as it is usually then when we stop and think what are we uncomfortable about? I know I made people somewhat uncomfortable when I wore my “Save the Planet-Stop Breeding” T-shirt at the Chicago Green Fest 2 years ago. People go to Green Festivals and the sort to feel important and to see themselves as part of the solution, not part of the problem. But why is that, as we all are human and want to be “Green” so why is it strange to talk about it?
First off, I don’t see myself as some kind of doomsday nutcase. I am not stocking up on cans of cream corn in waiting for the zombie apocalypse or anything like that. And also I actually like kids. It seems too easy for someone who hates people to say that there are too many people on my damn planet. But you seldom hear from someone who likes children and their brutal honesty and snotty little noses (ok, maybe I don’t like all kids) state that they are making the choice to be childless for the environment which in turns benefits all humans, even children. I actually wanted 2-3 little offspring just like most of us growing up. I mean what is cooler than passing on your genes and name and seeing what becomes of it all. After looking around at this crowded world, I then decide one would be just fine. But with my wife not wanting any (strange a little as she comes from a large family) it puts a stop on having a child. We don’t want to adopt at this point either as it allows us to have some flexibility in choosing jobs and living locations with only worrying about the two of us. I can’t imagine how many people are stuck in houses, jobs, and heck even relationships they hate just for “the kids”. I do think about all that I will miss out on like watching the kid walk for the first time, seeing them play in after school sports, and looking for more creative ways to ground or punish them than my parents to me. But I am a realist in that numbers don’t lie and also that society is mostly lazy and doesn’t want to sacrifice or be proactive, rather we all seem to react.
So why worry, what will happen will happen, or do we care enough about the next generation and the generation after that to actually start the discussion of population. We did back in the 70's and it seemed to drop out of our conversations since then.
 I should mention that if you don’t think that jumping from 1 billion people in 1900 to today’s over 7 billion people isn’t an explosion, then I don’t think you should read any further. I can’t help you.
 I can say that locally here all you have to do is go onto the 290 at rush hour heading west and look at the sea of cars (even with our public transit system) and go “damn, there sure are a lot of us.” Blame poorly designed highways, blame anything, but it all comes down to we have a lot of people occupying the livable places here on earth. Even as we make unlivable places like the dry hot desert (Hello Arizona) livable, there still are a lot of us crammed into cities. It can all be misleading for instance; recently Chicago had a Tribune article last year stating they lost 200,000 people. (1) (Where’s your population boom now mister cynic?) BUT if you look just outside the city and into its burbs you will see we are still growing and growing fast. Even with the average family size shrinking from 3.1 in the late 70’s to 2.6 today (2) we still have more people in the state of Illinois from 11.4 million in 1980 to 12.8 million and counting. So you see, while we might be spreading out and declining in small pockets, as a whole we are always growing.
 The US as a whole (and I pick on my beloved country for many reasons I will get into next paragraph) has grown from 1970’s 203 million to today’s 313 million. (3) So even with the lower family size and population drops in big cities like Chicago we are still growing fast as a species (And I ain’t even talking about our obesity issues. Wocka Wocka! – Fozzie Bear reference..ah, forget it..) So really, how many is enough?
When do we start to worry and when do we come up with some kind of plan or solutions?
 I pick on the good ole’ US of A as we seem to bring up the other countries and continents when it comes to population growth. We look over to India and Africa (both places I have traveled to) with their booms and don’t look back at us. Well sure, India with its population growth from 683 million to 1.2 billion in 30 years as well as Africa and its double in size to 1 billion in the same time frame are indeed huge growths that do need attention as we all share just one planet. (Well, until those luxury condos on the Moon finally get built.)
 Those numbers are staggering given the huge percentages that live below the international poverty line.
So, I pick on the US as we are the king of using resources. We use at least approx 4 times more than other countries. We can blame China as they grew near us recently in resource usage, but take in the fact that a lot of what they use is then sold back to us here at our friendly stores like Wal Marts, and we easily take the title for using the most. And your below poverty population in India and Africa ain’t driving their family to the store in their SUV’s to get the latest plasma TV if you know what I mean. We make a lot of garbage here and use a lot of plastic, that isn’t breaking down anytime soon. Heck I just found a burger wrapper that looked like it was from the 80’s the other day while walking in the forest preserve. (note to self: put wrapper on ebay) We all are also a reason there is that large garbage dump in the Pacific Ocean (4) that floats around with debris. I use that as an example to show that our population does effect the environment. We can blame the seal for eating fish or wolves for eating all the elk, but c’mon now, our population is the real reason behind any decline of resources. We do affect the natural world, and look, I didn’t even bring up climate change.
 We seem to be an out of sight out of mind country. If we had to keep that 11 million tons of recycled paper, or the tons and tons of plastics and old computers we ship away to China we might feel the pain of consuming too much junk here in the US, but we don’t. And why do we have all this garbage? Because we have a lot of people here. I mean when its gets to the point we are shooting up our livestock with growth hormones just to make bigger meat faster or adding chemicals to make more veggies to keep up with our food needs, you would think people would stop and look at the big picture, but we don’t. We take food, water, and electric for granted, it all is made too easy for us to realize how much of a strain our huge population puts on things. I don’t think the right people will be making the right money from energy anytime soon that we will become all clean energy. So you can also factor in our oil usage at 22.6% of the world’s usage (China is 2cd at 9.9. %) to add to the theory that we have to look no further than right here in the US to see what we can do about all these people and how we live our life. Even your sweet sweet child who you will teach to recycle and walk to school and car pool to work will still grow up in this mass consumption society we have. I do my best myself, but you get sucked in and consume and make a hell of a lot of waste and use up a hell of a lot of resources. It’s the American way. Again, we have a lot of people here.
 I just read an article like a few others I have seen this past year or so where a woman decides she doesn’t want children for various reasons and is having a good life. Seems innocent enough, but all you have to do is scroll down and read the comments (gotta love today’s opinionated society where it is so easy to comment on anything from the safety behind your computer, although I really await your comments to this blog.)
I was amazed to see all the negative feedback people had for her. Calling her everything from selfish to soulless for not having what they see as a complete life. All for the choice of not breeding another number or two to add to the 7 billion plus we already have. I saw everything from remarks like "you wouldn't be here if your parents felt this way" to the always brilliant statement whenever anyone states we have a human overpopulation of "then kill yourself."
Another point I should make is that I do believe in some sort of a god, be it Buddah or Zeus or the God that I was brought up with and that is the gray bearded guy in the sky who come to think of it told this other bearded guy Noah to collect two of every animal, which to me as an animal caretaker seems unrealistic as trying to capture one pig in a rainstorm is hard enough but to get two and crate them safely, let alone trying to get a stubborn donkey to walk up a plank to an ark since they, ah forget it. Anyway, I bring this up as many people who commented pointed out that those who don’t want kids are not doing god’s will or that they have to be atheist. Religion shouldn’t really come into play into our population growth but it sure does (look at the Catholic Church and birth control for instance). Also politics shouldn’t but they do as well (look at the fear from the far right that the minorities and their growing populations are taking over, or the hippy far left using their reusable bags and shopping for organic food while pushing a mega stroller of 4 rug rats complaining about resource usage for instance). Both sides are not helping no matter which end your on.
 For me it is simply looking past politics or religion and at the numbers. Humans have lived on this planet for a very long time but it is only in the past century with health, travel, and daily basic needs improvements and the such that our populations have grown and spread out to now over 7 billion. What will that number hit before we look around and go...wow there are too many of us?

Author with a donkey in Ireland.
What will we do?
It is the catch 22 of modern life. We have a healthier life, and live longer therefore more of us are around that in turn might bring this modern life to a faster end, if that makes sense.
 So not to keep on this path of gloom and doom but what will we do?
 I ask you fine people, do you even factor in thoughts about the population as a whole when family planning?
And if you decide to have 1 less child, is it due to the economy (as the average is birth to high school about $2000,000 to raise one) (5), or do you think about the big population picture?

 We wouldn’t let the population of any other species of animals get out of control. But yet we are scared to come up with any plan or estimated limits or even converse about our own. Are we waiting until 8 billion to worry about it? 10 Billion? Mass riots, or die offs due to not enough food or clean water?
Do we really think the zombie apocalypse will take care of it all?
We are better than that I would hope.
And since people don’t seem to do something for nothing- Do we need to come up with a reward system for not having children or having one less? (6)
Yeah, that wouldn’t be controversial now would it! People hate the government telling them what to do, let alone opening up any topic about how many kids is a good amount.
And how would we even know if someone is indeed having one less than they wanted to? And some would say the reward would be the extra income saved by not having the child, but we childless still pay for others children and the growing population in ways like rising health care cost, insurance cost, rising property taxes going somewhat to the schools to educate your children, etc..etc.. So really, what do we do?
I am interested in your comments as I know this is a very personal and sometimes heated subject, but in the end we all want a good and healthy planet to live on and for most of us to raise our children on. Even the snot nosed ones :)








Interesting sites:
Population counter:

Mother The Film.

Population Connection: