While I’m still waiting for World Overpopulation Day and this year’s World Population Day official theme and statement stick to the same old obviously necessary but so far from being sufficient as to hardly be even worth mentioning when it comes to solving the overpopulation problem measures regarding access to voluntary family planning methods, emphasizing their economic benefits and their role in empowering women, a study was released that raises alarm and doesn’t shy away from using strong language, showing that the sixth mass extinction is under way.
Of course, the timing of the release is no coincidence, as the study, the full text of which being readily available, points to human overpopulation as the main culprit. While overconsumption, especially by the rich, is listed as the second major cause and the one about which the most could be done humanely and in a relatively short amount of time, the study’s authors even call other measures “band aids”. And that is indeed what they are, as human overpopulation is the world’s worst problem and the one that needs to be solved before we’ll have a real chance to actually solve any other major environmental or social problems, and anything we do before the population gets back down below a sustainable limit only serves to buy time at an ever increasing cost. And those costs are felt first by the other species we should be sharing this planet with, then by the marginalized, the poor, even the children who are thrown into this world through no fault or choice of their own, while benefits are obtained by the parents who do make that choice and the society, including authorities and economic actors, that allows and even encourages them to do so, and the wealthy and the privileged maintain and even continue to improve their standard of living until there will be nobody else left to pay the price.
But I’ve been saying that for too long. Or perhaps not, when compared to one of the study’s authors, Paul Ehrlich, who has been raising the alarm about overpopulation since the 1960s and has obviously mostly been at best ignored, if not ridiculed and attacked because of it, all this time. But even now, at the age of 85, he remains firm and blunt about it, and so he should be, though I would definitely expand upon his “show me a scientist who claims there is no population problem and I’ll show you an idiot” statement. Yes, there are indeed higher expectations from scientists, they should be held to higher standards, but show me a person, any person, who claims not simply that human overpopulation is not a problem, but that it’s not at least one of the biggest, if not the biggest, facing the world, and I’ll show you an idiot. And the same goes for anyone who claims that, from the environmental perspective, overpopulation is only a problem in poor countries or because of the poor in general, not seeing that the environmental impact of poor children may increase in time, as their standard of living will improve to the level everyone not proven guilty of a serious crime should be entitled to, but that of a child who’s better off is great from or even before birth, so the population in countries that are not poor needs to drop now, drastically in case of the wealthier ones, while in case of the poor ones the improvements in the standard of living may be restricted until the population is sufficiently reduced.
While I’m at it, show me a person, any person, who now, when information is so readily available, chooses to worsen this problem by having one or, even worse, more children without somehow being forced to do so and I’ll show you a criminal. I dare say one worse than a murderer. Though, of course, forcing another to have a child, whether in the strict sense of the term in case of a woman or even something as “simple” as not giving a man the right to decide to terminate a pregnancy he did not willingly choose to cause, is even worse. Of course, that means there are a lot of idiots and a lot of terrible criminals in the world, but that’s no news, and the fact that idiots and criminals, in far more ways than this, are in charge at pretty much every level is even less so. The fact that a number of current world leaders do not have children, or at least none of their own, is interesting, however, but in some cases it wasn’t exactly a choice and in the rest that choice definitely doesn’t reflect in the views they express and the policies they support, so they may not be criminals in this sense, but that doesn’t change the other matter.
But that’s nothing I haven’t kept repeating either, so let me now move on to another article published these days, which also raises the alarm and pulls no punches, this time about the full extent of the hardships and disasters likely to be caused by climate change even by the end of the century. At 7200 words, you should set aside a bit of time to read it, and perhaps it won’t say anything new if you really looked into the matter, but for most it will be full of shocking revelations, as it goes well beyond what even most of those who believe themselves informed tend to think about when it comes to the consequences of climate change, the path we’re already on and our chances to turn back before it’s too late.
Why am I including it in this post about overpopulation? Because it stresses the fact that we have already done so much damage that not even applying all of the best available methods to reduce emissions right away will be sufficient to prevent disaster, and avoiding even the worst of it will require immediately and drastically changing the way of life of billions. Well, now imagine how much less of an overall impact those behaviors would have had and how much better the chances of changing them in time would be if we’d have handled the “billions” problem decades ago and by now the population would have been safely below carrying capacity while also taking the other species into account. And, of course, while the best time to start implementing the drastic measures required to tackle this problem was decades ago, the second best is today.
I’ll finish this with a brief “history” of my personal stance regarding population and breeding, starting with the fact that there was a time when I wanted three children, all of them before 25, preferably one before 20. But then, around the age of 15 or so, getting Internet access meant I started finding information and realizing that overpopulation was a problem, so at 16 I was finding it hard to justify having any children anymore personally, and by 18 I knew that this view needed to be applied to everyone if we were to still have a chance. Initially, I was saying that no more than 10% of people should still be allowed to have children, then, as time passed, the population kept growing and the environmental damage continued to worsen, I reduced that target to 5%, then to 2%, then to “the minimum required to avoid a genetic bottleneck”, as I also stated in the “Causes I’m Passionate About” post. But it’s been almost three years since then and things kept getting worse, without the world even considering to enforce any of the necessary measures even in any foreseeable future, so I moved on from that to deciding that “antinatalist” is the proper primary term to use to describe myself and considering a complete moratorium on breeding as necessary, at first for at least ten years, and as of recently for at least 20 years.
Of course, that minimum number of years will only increase as even more time passes and things don’t change, or not as drastically as required. But, however many the years will be, we should be using that time to fix things, both when it comes to the environment and to our society, and when the period is over we should analyze whether we have done enough in every aspect to allow a small number of people to have children once again. If not, the moratorium should be extended, I’d say for five more years, after which we should analyze again, repeating as many times as necessary and not allowing any more humans to breed until this world will truly be worth living in for all, humans as well as the other species we should be sharing it with and taking responsibility for. I do believe we should not go extinct, because we have caused all this damage and suffering and we should be the ones to fix and make up for it, but if so much time will pass without us having done enough that, even in spite of all the advances in medicine, we will go extinct as a result of this moratorium, we’d deserve nothing else anyway.
Edit: Another study, also available in full, reveals that having one less child reduces the emissions a person is responsible for by far more than anything else. Far more than everything else, for that matter. An average, for developed countries, of 58.6 tonnes saved per year for having one fewer child, compared to 2.4 for living car-free, 0.8 for a plant-based diet, and quite negligible values for the day to day stuff that’s usually promoted. But, of course, these high-impact measures are rarely mentioned, and in fact the study found that reducing the number of children is never mentioned officially as a measure to take. No that there’s any news in any of that…
Later edit: Of course, they could and should have phrased that the other way around, stating how much each of those actions makes one responsible for instead of how much is saved. So having an omnivore diet instead of a plant-based one adds 0.8 tonnes per year, driving an internal combustion vehicle adds on average 2.4 tonnes per year compared to living a car-free life, and each child you have makes you responsible for a total of 58.6 tonnes per year. And with the study stating that emissions must fall to two tonnes per person per year by 2050, you’ll very clearly see what that means.