I would like all of us to visualize a population that lives in harmony with Earth, a population that has repaired this small blue ball called Earth.
When I read Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 book, The Population Bomb, it terrified me. It made sense.
We were multiplying like rats, and pooping in our cages. A few decades later, I listened to the siren song Big Business was singing. In effect, it was saying:
“Look, don’t worry about the population-growth thing. We got it handled. We have figured out a way to use science to improve on millions of years of God’s work. We will rip up huge patches of nature, dam up great rivers, dig up gazillions of barrels of oil and use it to make fertilizer and other chemicals to dump on top of genetically modified corn and soybeans. We will then run this “food” through big chemical factories and squirt out substances that we will call food. We will add a lot of sugar, fat and salt. Everyone will love it! It will be easy to feed everyone. It’s handled, everybody! Chill out and go back to your TV, kick back, grab a beer and some snacks, and relax.”
Tom Freidman, author of Hot, Flat and Crowded, recently wrote: “What were we thinking? How did we not panic when the evidence was so obvious that we’d crossed some growth/climate/natural resource/population red lines all at once?”
He was referring to the spikes in food and energy prices, soaring population growth, tornadoes plowing through cities, unprecedented floods, record heat, displaced people, terrorism, and corrupt governments that are unable to address these problems.
The Earth’s human population was two billion in 1920 and it will be fourteen billion in 2100. That’s a seven-fold increase. America’s population has tripled in the 20th century. From a population of 76 million in 1900, it grew to 281 million in 2000 and is continuing to grow at about 1.3% per year. By 2030, the population of America will be close to 400 million — almost 30% more than today. If, between 15 and 30 % of American children go to bed hungry now, what do you imagine the situation will be in 2030?
Our population was stable for a million years, until we started digging up coal, and then oil, and used these energy sources to produce more food. Now, 364,000 new babies are born every day. We are rapidly destroying more and more of the “wild” — wilderness and unharmed land — and within our children’s lives, most if it will be gone. The Trans-Amazon Highway is cutting through the center of the Amazon Rainforest and obliterating the last great wilderness.
Today, you and I are part of a system that has brainwashed us to buy all the stuff we buy and to behave the way we do. We need to turn this around. We could do some positive brainwashing about the benefits of producing fewer children. Population growth has slowed in Western Europe. And many countries have, or will soon have, negative population growth. The more educated we become, the fewer babies we have. Generally, better-educated people recognize the emotional, educational, financial, and other commitments entailed in raising children. I think once everyone comes out of denial and sees the problem, we can move to the solution.
Many schools currently have a “Take a Baby Home” program in place, but it needs to be greatly expanded. Right now some high school students are assigned a “baby” to take care of – an actual, baby-sized replica of a baby, with a computer chip that mimics a baby’s sounds. They are assigned the task of giving up their lives for a weekend to take care of the baby. This “baby” requires constant feeding, holding, bathing, diaper-changing and attending to. Lose focus for a moment and it screams! The computer chip records how well the teen is doing. These teens are amazed at how hard it is to care for an infant. And they report that they are very clear that they don’t want to have a kid of their own any time soon! We would go a long way to reducing addiction, mental disorders, and burdens on society, if we eliminated unplanned pregnancies.
We would hope that all children are born to sane and mature adults. But sadly, many Americans are born to individuals who are not very mature. We need to address the underlying causes of immature adults having babies. These underlying causes include poverty, addiction, malnutrition, and poor education. When we are able to understand this and ensure that children are loved, fed, educated, and protected from neglect, abuse, and drugs, we will have made giant strides toward removing the underlying causes of unwanted babies.
I would like all of us to visualize a population that lives in harmony with Earth, a population that has repaired this small blue ball.
If I were President, I would create a cabinet post, Secretary of the Population, whose mandate would be to raise awareness of the population explosion, worldwide.
I would assign the following agenda to this person:
- Expand the “Take a Baby Home” program to every school-aged child.
- Work with the media to raise awareness of the impact that population growth has on the planet.
- Work with the United Nations to raise awareness, around the world, of this problem, and use global resources to expand the “Take a Baby Home” program worldwide.
- Make birth control readily and freely available.
- Expand sex education to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
- Encourage the adoption of unplanned children.
- Encourage nations worldwide to provide food, medical care and education for all children.
- Support the end of war, the expansion of education and the development of democracy.
Education should include:
- What it entails to raise a baby to age 18: financially, emotionally, educationally, etc.
- What is the effect on the country and the planet’s resources of more mouths to feed?
- The consequences of malnutrition.
- The consequences of overcrowding.
- Contraception: if you don’t want to become a parent, what are your choices?
My hope is that, given the right information, Homo sapiens might make it. We have produced democracy, science, and many other brilliant things. Reducing our population significantly should not be that hard. We need to prove Einstein wrong.
That would be my message. And my hope.