by John Hawkins | November 17, 2005 3:49 pm
Apparently, there are a bunch of liberals out there whose ideal world consists of aging, childless hippies sitting around in some solar paneled commune, eating organic wheat, and waiting for all the people to die so the world can be turned over to the caribou and spotted owls. Don’t buy it? Then read this column at the San Francisco Gate:
“…(T)here’s an undeniable logic to it: Human activities — from development to travel, from farming to just turning on the lights at night — are damaging the biosphere. More people means more damage. So if fewer people means less destruction, wouldn’t no people at all be the best solution for the planet?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because my wife and I have been talking about having a child. We’re the kind of people who reduce, reuse and recycle. We try hard not to needlessly fritter away resources. We think globally and act locally in our day-to-day decisions. So while the biggest quandary of most couples in our shoes might be what color to paint the nursery, we have to ask ourselves, Is the impact of a new person justified?
The problem is stark: The United Nations estimates that the human population, currently at 6.5 billion, is well on its way to 9.1 billion in 2050. Many estimates place a sustainable population in which most of the people on Earth are able to enjoy their lives at between one and two billion.
By nearly every measure — pollution, carbon emissions, forest loss, fishery depletion, soil fertility, water availability and others — the growing population is wreaking havoc on the Earth’s systems. And it’s setting our civilization up for a big, hard fall.
…”May we live long and die out,” says Naomi Thompson, quoting the VHEMT slogan. Thompson, who is in her late 20s and works as an analyst for Wells Fargo in San Francisco, has also concluded that childbearing is irresponsible. “It’s not about wanting to kill people, but it’s selfish to have a kid at this point when so many aren’t getting the love and attention that they deserve.”
…I’m more like Mary and Mike Brune. The Alameda couple are longtime environmentalists. Mike Brune is executive director of the Rainforest Action Network, so he spends his entire workday thinking in excruciating detail about just how much trouble the planet is in.
Like most environmentalists — even most Americans — the Brunes have taken steps to reduce their environmental impact.
“We certainly do as much as we can to limit our consumption,” says Mike Brune. “We made sure we live near mass transit. We have one of the new Priuses. We buy organic food almost exclusively. We feel that it’s very important to connect our personal values to all aspects of how we live: where we work, what we eat, what we buy.”
But when, after six and a half years of marriage, it came time for the couple to consider a child, those strong personal values came up against an even stronger drive.
“I understand rationally the argument for not having children — I can see the point,” says Mary Brune, a technical writer and, since becoming a mother, co-founder of Making Our Milk Safe, an organization that monitors industrial toxins in human milk (watch this space for more on that issue).
“I’ve talked to friends who have made certain that they can’t have children so they don’t bring another person into the world,” she continues. “But for us there’s a real primal need to have a child. For me, personally, I had a desire to bear my own child.”
…Even Knight, in his oddly cheery brand of pessimism, thinks that the drive to breed may be insurmountable.
“It’s not too likely that the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement is going to succeed,” he told me. “I don’t think any of us are so naive as to think that 6.5 billion people are going to say, ‘Yeah, let’s stop breeding, this is great.’ But it’s still the right thing to do.”
You see the damage all you people who’ve already had kids are causing? Because you’ve pumped out your little rugrats, it’s making life unsustainable in other parts of the world like Belgium and Venezuela. In fact, your children are probably, somehow or another, responsible for the riots and car torchings those nice French people have had to endure.
Meanwhile, if human beings were just a little more responsible, just a little less willing to be such breeders, none of us would be here and the noble snail darter, cockroach, and, yes, even the seven tailed skunk loach, could be roaming about in peace, enjoying the earth without any of us noisy humans around.
Oh, how selfish those of us at the top of the food chain have been… ;D
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