population control = birth control = sustainability ?

272 quotations on sustainable development, climate change, and sustainability in general on www.oursouthwest.com.  (There were 267 on the 26th.)

Of these 272, 31 pertain directly to population growth. But the thing about this 11.4% that made them stick out so dramatically was the call by the Optimum Population Trust for each man, woman, or couple to have fewer children as a way to curb the toll we are exacting on our Earth’s natural resources.

Everything we manage to achieve for the natural environment is being wiped out by the nearly 80 million extra people each year who need to use up space and resources.

The most effective personal climate change strategy is limiting the number of children one has. The most effective national and global climate change strategy is limiting the size of the population. Population limitation should therefore be seen as the most cost-effective carbon offsetting strategy available to individuals and nations– Population-Based Climate Strategy, Optimum Population Trust, May 2007

Ahhh yes, population control, but with an interesting spin.

To rip the phrasing of Jonathon Porritt, the essence of OPT’s campaign: Do your bit for addressing climate change by having fewer children – or even no children.

Let me be clear that Mr. Porritt expressed a “love” for the OPT campaign. I am making no assumptions as to the thoughts, world views, or underlying meanings that motivate his affinity. But consider that same campaign from a young couple’s perspective. Or as I am not married, from that of a young woman who hopes to one day marry and have her own family.

Is it humane to ask me to not have any children at all? Is it humane to ask me to have only one child? Forget about fairness, I’m talking about humanity. And what are the arguments you would use to convince me of such?  The ones that have already been made?

Instead of controlling the environment for the benefit of the population, perhaps we should control the population to ensure the survival of our environment.  Sir David Attenborough

It is environmental illiteracy and a complete lack of forward thinking to ignore the need to halt and then reverse population growth in the context of climate change, congestion, unaffordable housing, and resource depletion. – unattributable (2007)

…we owe it to the rest of the planet to stabilise our own population. Producing lots of extra Brits…is a selfish strategy both economically and environmentally. Not only will it increase overcrowding and congestion [it will] put huge extra strain on resources and…intensify our impact on the Earth’s ecosystems. – David Nicholson-Lord, research associate, Optimum Population Trust (2006)

Living in an orgy of unrestrained consumption and economic growth accompanied by population expansion that ignores the carrying capacity of local environments will lead to disaster. – unattributable

Each of these is limited to the impact on environmental resources, but does nothing to address my desire, what may even be my human need, for companionship, family, and love. What happens to me if I put these aside and “take one for the team”.

I don’t doubt that our Earth’s resources are rapidly deteriorating, but what’s the timeline? Will it cease to support my children during their lifetime? During their children’s lifetimes? And if I am passionately concerned about sustainability, could I not pass those values on to my children such that they continue the cause?

I ask all these questions, but what I really want to know is why those who speak about population control via birth rate control don’t couple their arguments with a pro-adoption campaign. Don’t tell me not to have children, but rather, tell me that we already have more children in this world than we care for. Share the story of those who need a home. And help me connect with a child who, just like me, needs family, companionship, and love.

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  1. #1 by Bob on November 29, 2007 - 9:58 pm

    It’s not that we’re asking you to never procreate. Everyone has the right to have children. To me, it’s more a question of intelligence and responsibility. Everyone is asked to get a license before driving. You must prove you’re going to attempt to be responsible when handling such a dangerous machine. The same should go for bearing children. Why should anyone be allowed to have kids? (I know, I’m contradicting what I said above, one sec.) What I mean is, if we’re asked to show responsibility by having a license, registration, and insurance, why shouldn’t the same go for having kids? If you’re a preteen, dumping your child into a trash can so you can go back to your prom, how is that not a firm basis to have your ovaries removed? If you’re a guy who has 3 kids from 3 women, how is that not grounds to have your nuts snipped off, or at the very least, a mandatory, irreversible vasectomy?

    See, the world is getting overcrowded. Maybe not to the extent certain movies would like us to believe, but it’s definitely getting hotter and hotter, and it’s getting more and more cramped. It has always been the penchant of the uneducated to procreate. I can’t say this with any authority, except for what I’ve seen, but I can say I’ve seen quite a bit. We, as a species, obviously can’t control ourselves from mating, so why not add something into the water supply that causes temporary sterility, until one procures a license to multiply? Sex doesn’t have to be outlawed or sanctioned, simply conception does. If convicted felons aren’t allowed to vote, why should they be allowed to procreate?

    It’s obvious people won’t take responsibility, so as always, the government will probably end up doing it for them.

    – the Devil’s Advocate

  2. #2 by Jeremy Vaught on November 29, 2007 - 10:39 pm

    The problem however is not the developed world. Europe and North America are at near exact replacement or below. It is the 3rd world where the population is swelling. And it is not a matter of asking them to not have kids, it is a matter of them having way too many.

    So I say to Jonathan, publish this in Swahili and Spanish and who knows what else. Blogging about this is preaching to the folks that are already following your advice.

  3. #3 by hlherr on November 30, 2007 - 5:17 am

    The belief that European and North American populations have stabilized at or near a replacement rate is likely the general assumption among citizens of developed populations, and likely propagated by the media. However, through the trend monitoring work I do for Experience Studio, I have encountered information that reveals this belief to be a misconception.

    The United States population reached 300 million last year, is currently estimated at 303 million, and is projected to reach 420 million by 2050. That’s 40% growth in 44 years (2006-2050) and stems from both births and immigration. The United Nations estimates that population growth worldwide is 1.14% annually; US population growth is about 0.9% annually.

    Population in the United Kingdom reached 60.5 million in 2006 and is officially projected to reach 69.1 million in 2050 (14% growth). However, OPT believes UK population will be closer to 75.4 million in 2050 (25% growth). This growth also stems from births and immigration.

    I concede that some European nations have negative population growth, but believe the factor that most fail to take into account when thinking about growth in countries such as the US and UK is immigration. (Please note I am not saying immigration accounts for a greater percentage of projected population growth than births and I have not yet come across data that breaks down growth sources.)

    To bring this back to sustainability, the relationship between population and environmental impact is not proportional. OPT’s argument arises from the trend that developed nations have greater per capita carbon emissions than underdeveloped and developing nations.

    Consider the US. Our 303 million people constitutes 4% of the global population, but is responsible for a quarter of all carbon dioxide emissions – an average of 40,000 pounds of carbon dioxide is released by each US citizen every year – the highest of any country in the world, and more than China, India and Japan combined. (source: CommonDreams.org)

    But yet again, I wonder why adoption is overlooked, even in these responses. It was the culminating thought of my post. Perhaps that only reinforces my point…

  4. #4 by Jeremy Vaught on December 3, 2007 - 1:54 pm

    The numbers I gave for direct replace in the U.S. and Europe are from my senior level Sociology class. But then I had another teacher that taught that there is no god. So I do know that I have to take everything with a grain of salt, I guess I bit into that one though.

    And yes, it is true that the U.S. consumes a lot, therefore, there are a lot of emissions. So yes, we should take steps to be more ‘green’.

    But to adoption. I simply think that adoption is not looked at very seriously by couples until they can’t have any kids of their own. When I was married, my wife and I had talked about this however. We were considering having two of our own kids, and adoption two more. Unfortunately I am no longer married, and this plan was never carried out.

    But to support your point. The world is getting more populated. And there are a lot of great kids that need great parents. I read many positive stories about kids that have families now due to adoption, where before they would have had a much more difficult life ahead of them.

    A quick story about me. When I was married, my wife already had a 2 year old son. I love him very much. Although when I considered having kids of my own, I did wonder in the back of my brain how I would feel toward this child that is not my own. I have an answer for that now, and the answer is I rarely even thought about it. He is 12 now, and my biological kids are 7 and 6. I love them all so much, and consider them my 3 kids.

    So perhaps teaching the benefits of adoption should be something we consider. I had my doubts. If I had those same doubts before I were to adopt a child in a way other then through the marriage, I may not have gone through with it. But I am happy to say that an adopted child is just as precious and loved and a biological child.

    Ok, I don’t even know if this makes sense or not. I hope my thoughts at least flow a little bit and you get what I am trying to say.

  5. #5 by Simon Ross on May 11, 2008 - 3:51 pm

    The OPT is only asking for you to “Stop at two” : it’s quite clear on its web site. But sure, adopt, why not. That’s your decision, too.

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