THE HUMAN POPULATION
By Roland Watson
In the last article, I described the devastating impact that we are having on the planet, and on other species of life. Of course, this all starts with our population, at least in a practical sense. The underlying problem is that there are simply too many humans.
Transcend the insect phase
Other species, notably insects, have survival strategies that are based on producing massive populations. And, the derivative idea is that in such large groups the individual is unimportant. But, we are advanced, at least in the sense that individuals are important, and that we no longer need to rely on this type of strategy. We can transcend our "insect phase."
We simply must defeat the form to have children, of which we have seen there are many parts. First, there is the basic procreation instinct, the unthinking desire to have babies, which is no different from the behavior of other species, animals and otherwise. And then, at the other end of the spectrum, there is the motivation to give birth as the ultimate form of creative expression. In-between, there are all of the selfish rationales that I described earlier in the series of articles about the human species, in Part 2 of the website.
Equality for women
Next, we must fight the specific social form of the subjugation of women, what has been called "keep them barefoot and pregnant." The greatest reduction in population pressures will be achieved by bringing about equality for women; specifically, by ensuring that women have the right to education, and also to pursue any opportunity in life.
It is well-documented, in many, many countries, that if girls are given the chance to go to school for longer periods, and career options other than that of being a wife, or possession, that they will postpone child-bearing, and also reduce significantly the number of children that they have.
There are also many other social forms that we need to confront. For instance, national tax policies should not include tax credits for children. And, individuals who do not have children should not have to pay for the schooling of those who do.
Understand parental responsibility
A final way to look at this is to consider the responsibility that children entail. Babies, like puppies, are cute, but they are one hundred times more work than any pet. You can't put them in a box, and feed them twice a day. You have to be there for them, particularly when they are young, all the time. And, if you are not, if you do not accept and fulfill this responsibility, then you are a bad parent.
Many people are unprepared for the seriousness of this responsibility. They have a baby because it in some way satisfies their needs. They are not prepared for the consequences, for how much effort, and patience, and love, a child requires, so they don't give it.
An unstoppable force?
The global population is now 7.2 billion people. And, while some countries have reduced their birth rate, this overall number continues to grow, with a seemingly unstoppable inertia. It is easy to predict that we will one day reach eight billion, and then nine, and then ten. We will keep going until we reach the straw that breaks the camel's back, until what the earth is still able to produce is not enough for our support. At that point, there will be a massive human die off. We observe it in other species, when their populations outgrow their habitats. It will occur with us, too.
We have to prevent this from happening. However, the means should not be forced sterilizations or forced abortions. Rather, we must accomplish a population reduction through activism and voluntary action.
The earth needs a break. It needs a rest: a long rest. Therefore, you should always use birth control, and you should encourage others to do so as well. You should further actively support such programs in the countries that have the greatest population pressures.
Even more, if you decide that you do want children, you should postpone this until at least your late twenties. You will be a better parent if you do, more experienced as a person and hence more able as a teacher, and you should also have greater financial resources to care for your child. Finally, when you think about having children, consider - carefully - the world in which they are going to have to live.
A global moratorium
Our best course of action would be to have a global moratorium on births, lasting up to a decade, to limit to the greatest extent possible the number of new children that we bring into the world. Indeed, this is perhaps the only way to finally and significantly reverse the ecological stress and damage that we create.
Ultimately, we need to not only halt our never-ending population growth; we need to reverse it. We need to reduce the human population - I recognize that this will take time, to a level that is easily supportable by the earth's ecology, meaning without a detrimental effect on other species. It would also be best if we can establish social incentives to encourage people to contribute to this goal, either by not having children, or by postponing childbearing - as I have suggested - until later in life. Indeed, the statistics are not that daunting. By acting like this we can reverse course from a never-ending rise in our overall population, to a slow and steady reduction.
In the final article in the series, I will examine environmental education.
© Roland Watson 2015