Monday, August 27, 2012

Having Kids?

Well, here goes... 

This is certain to be a post that will rub some of you the wrong way. I apologize in advance, and can only say that this is an important topic. Whether or not people like to hear about it, or if it is considered politically correct to address it...

Overpopulation is the rather large elephant in the room when it comes to many of the most pressing issues we have on this planet. By conservative estimates, the Earth will be home to 9 billion human beings as early as 2045.

It is basically undeniable that our current crises involving hunger, lack of clean drinking water, pollution, and messing with the delicate ecosystem that sustains us, ALL have their roots in the teeming and growing masses of people on our poor, strained mother planet. Feel free to debate this with me in the comments, but I think:
  1. It is clear that a finite amount of resources exist on this beautiful blue orb.
  2. Competition over, and misuse of those resources are major problems for us already.
  3. This situation will only be exacerbated if we continue to reproduce at the current rates.
  4. We would all be better off if the planet went back down to a more manageable human population.
We can argue over what the ideal carrying capacity of our environment actually is. (please do, actually)  

We can speculate about how our technology might swoop in to save us as we invent alternative energy sources and learn to make food from algae & fungus or whatever, and I'm all for such research. Certainly, there are certain wonder crops we could be utilizing which would address a number of our issues. Moringa, hemp, spirulina and chia spring to mind.  

However, the biggest and simplest solution... one which we already have the ability to enact... is one that is surprisingly never really addressed in any substantive way by, well, any of the talking heads, pundits, opinion mongers, and leading thinkers of our time.

We need to stop having so many kids.

This is something most people don't want to hear.  Religious credos like "Go forth and multiply" have created deep and fundamental beliefs in the vast majority of people that it is their "normal" and proper duty to find a mate and squeeze out a few offspring. 

In fact, it seems to be the number one priority that lies behind much of human activity.  Even people's vocations are generally thought of in the context of providing for their families.  Many people would feel their lives were meaningless if they were unable to have and raise children.

So much so, that people who don't have children are often pitied, and nearly all political rhetoric the world over is addressed to "families," and what is or is not good for them. Terms like "family values" are tossed about regularly without any thought as to the idea that people who choose not to reproduce can also have morals... and are actually perhaps even more altruistic than their weary, progeny raising brethren & sistren.

What?  How could I even suggest such a thing?


Because it is true.

The simple act of not having children more than offsets your entire carbon footprint... and is a more meaningful action vis a vis the environment and conservation than all the recycling and hybrid car driving any 100 people could do. You could drive a Hummer limousine alone everywhere you go, pour your oil down the drain, never turn off a single light in your un-insulated 3 story castle... and you would still be less polluting for the Earth than someone who has 2 children.

I want you to imagine for a moment all the garbage that you have ever thrown away in your lifetime.  Every plastic bag full of crap that you dutifully dragged to the curb. Every scrap of whatever that you ever tossed into a trash bin. Every tire you ever had changed on your car or bicycle. Every broken surfboard, used tampon, clump of toilet paper, and old pair of sneakers that you ever discarded...  

Mentally pile all that stuff up on your front lawn. Wait... you can't.  That pile, unless you are in pre-school, would take more land than you are ever likely to own, and would tower like a mountain above you.

Now realize that this mental heap only accounts for a small percentage of your actual impact on the Earth.  Toss on all the coal that was ever burnt to make electricity for your laptop and juicer.  Throw on all the lumber and steel that has gone into making your life what it is.  Add in all the drilling for oil, refining it, shipping it around the world, manufacturing it into plastics that don't biodegrade... your share of every oil spill etc. etc.

Now imagine all the food and liquid you have ever consumed sitting on the side of this tower.

You may think that the sandwich you ate for lunch might be kind of small... but try to imagine all the resources that actually went into making all the ingredients in your sandwich, transporting them, and delivering them to whoever prepared your light lunch.  Think of the fertilizers, hormones, and pesticides that you never saw, but you certainly caused to be used.

Try your best to think of your actual impact on the planet simply by living a modest life.

Now realize that you can't.  You can not actually conceive of all that went into your lonely little sandwich, let alone your entire life, thus far.  I guarantee you that 99% of you are seriously underestimating, no matter how ridiculously large you are imagining this to be.


So we are a voracious species that has done a serious number on the planet in a very short amount of time.  

I want you now to recognize that the population has actually already doubled in many of our lifetimes.

So now let's get back to our imaginary pile of refuse.  You can berate me in the comments with the reality that much of our trash is recycled and our actual footprint is not commensurate with this abstract image of stuff.  Just remember that the continent worth of plastic and other junk that is currently compressed into the sweet spots of all of our world's oceans is not make believe.

So.  Let us think about procreation on top of this for a moment.  How does having kids affect your footprint?

Take your pile and multiply it to account for your entire lifespan.  Now double that.  This is the amount of impact you have on the world simply by deciding to have less than the average number of children.  Meanwhile, some of you are out there having a dozen or more.

Not frightened yet?  

Well, imagine that both of your kids also have 2 kids each... and that all of your 4 cute grandkids also have an average of 2 children.  Within only 10 generations, you have made 1,024 piles of garbage from a decision that probably happened unconsciously, or after already accidentally getting the ball rolling at any rate.

Of course it doesn't stop here.  

In fact, it never stops.

If humans actually survive 100 generations more (unlikely as long as they keep having so many kids unless we can colonize other solar systems)... this is two to the 100th power piles of shit. 

For those who are not Rain Man:

Two to the 100th power is... wait for it... 


In the US number naming system, that is one nonillion, 267 octillion, 650 septillion, 600 sextillion, 228 quintillion, 229 quadrillion, 401 trillion, 496 billion, 703 million, 205 thousand, and 376.

Let me put that in perspective for you.  If you stacked that many sheets of paper, the pile would be 13.4 billion light-years tall.  Yes.  It would stretch farther than the most distant galaxies we have yet to observe.

Of course, this is only with 2 kids per couple.  And, naturally, such a birthrate applied worldwide would plateau population growth.  Since we have never seen that fantasy situation in recorded human history... let's recognize that people are having more than 2 children a couple... even after infant mortality, war, pestilence, and plagues take their cut off the top.

Naturally this is somewhat hyperbolic, as we will probably have endured a number of near extinction level events during that time frame... and most of those bodies would be dead and piled onto the imaginary trash heaps themselves with their atoms recycled into other forms a number of times... rather than running around filling up the known universe.


Look, I don't say all this just to bum you out.  

I'm not here to point the finger at all you people out there who have kids, or are intent on manufacturing some in the future.

These are just facts. 

And, these facts are likely to cause the extinction of the human race at some point (not to mention the ongoing extinction of other species) unless we address this seriously. Obviously, this will also include the demise of your very own offspring, unfortunately... how many ever generations removed that might be.


What do we do about this?

Well, we can't really start talking about population control or reduction, can we?  That stuff smacks of Nazi holocausts, ethnic cleansing, eugenics, and other foul topics.  

Fortunately, I am not a sociopath, and I have no interest in promoting forced sterilizations, 1 child policies, or permits to have children. (though one does wonder why we need a license to drive, but not to be totally responsible for another human being... irrespective of our readiness or ability in that regard.)

And, I want to state, in no uncertain terms, that genocide is no answer to the problem.  Even for those of you born without a human set of emotions, all of these types of solutions are actually as likely to lead to human extinction as overpopulation itself. 

As misanthropic as all this sounds, it actually comes from a place of deep concern for the future of humanity.  And yet, even speaking of anything that slightly leans in this direction is more taboo even than my--already notoriously unpopular--suggesting that your kids are going to destroy the world.

So what the hell am I saying then?

What I am proposing here, is that we need to change the way we all look at having kids.  

We need to look up to people who choose not to have them. We need to recognize that they are not being selfish (as the current perception goes) as much as they are being selfless. By choosing not to enjoy the wonders of raising kids, they are helping to offset your baby footprint.

We can encourage people to adopt.  We can condemn people who still preach against birth control as being dangerously inhumane.  And while I doubt any of my really religious friends are still reading this screed... I will apologize once again if I am offending you.

But, I am assuming that if you read my blog, you are at least moderately intelligent, and might have some interest in philanthropy. (love of humanity)

So I will reiterate.  

We can not assume that war and disease will keep our population down.  Furthermore, those things suck, and we should be doing our best to eliminate them.  I myself spend a good amount of my time working to end the world water crisis. And, this kills more people worldwide than all forms of violence combined... including war.

No.  Short of some horrific eventuality, we will continue to overpopulate this Earth, clear cut its forests, over fish its oceans, and generally behave like bacteria in a Petri dish.

So, we need to stop having kids.  Maybe take an entire decade off.  We can consciously reduce our population back to a sane level, and then hold it there intelligently by agreeing, as a species, that it is in our best interest.

While you reading this, are probably in an industrialized nation, a few of which are actually population growth negative already... and some of you might live in vast countries that could perhaps use some population growth... the overwhelming majority of you live in places that are already too full of huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

I will end this by saying that you are not exactly an environmental terrorist or some kind of human plague of locusts if you have a few kids. Not exactly, anyway.

However, if you live in a place where the local ecosystem is unable to support the current population (meaning that if shipments of stuff from elsewhere stopped coming in, people would start dying)... then you might seriously want to consider if having more than one or two kids is actually appropriate.  

And, all of us need to profoundly re-engineer our beliefs and opinions about having kids in general.  

I hope some of you out there will be extra bold and decide not to have children at all.  This is what I have done.  And, while it is not something that will need to be carried on indefinitely, I think that it is something that some of us should proudly do... at least until the population goes back down somewhat and levels off.

Think about it as an effective form of abstinence. Have sex all you like, just abstain from having kids.

This stuff applies even more for places like India & China.  If your country has ever suffered famine or extended droughts, you should probably be working on ways to get that population down.  Ignore the Pope (or your local equivalent), and avail yourself of some method of not reproducing. Seriously.

The fact that we can get busy and not have a litter every time is one of the things that separates us from animals.

Right then, comment away.

Tell me what a jerk I am, and how horribly wrong-headed this is. I invite the debate.

Tell me how many people you think should actually live on this planet. I think my ideal number will be lower than many of yours, but then, I like the idea of a smaller number of us living extremely well better than that of a huge number of us subsisting on algae crackers and fungus paste.

:-)  (Let's not talk about Soylent Green shall we?)


  1. Really?

    No one wants to argue with me?

    Come on, I am sure most of you can find something here to disagree with me on. ;-P

    And feel free to chime in if you support my position as well.

    Remember, anonymous comments are welcome!

  2. i liked the article. i have 1 son/sun ;) and you are inspiring. this world is crazy, i think i should have been born at least 100 years ago because these days...the technology is frightening...peace

    1. Thanks for the comment. I appreciate it.

      Page hits alone are not enough to convince me I am not wasting my time and shouting into the void. People might click over here for other reasons than to read my ramblings... google image searches are one big reason.

      Anyway, as much as I might be tempted to join you 100 years ago, I think there were other issues in that time that would irk me just as much... plus we would only have two bitter world wars and a depression to look forward to.



    1. Very interesting debate. I am familiar with both of their work, and it is always a pleasure to see a couple intelligent and learned men argue a topic... even heated or uncivil debate is entertaining for the viewer in most cases. Hehehe.

      Thanks for the link, and I am curious as to your thoughts on the issue. Feel free to chime in any time.

  4. I can't argue against you; as I am one of those who has chosen to not have children myself, and for very similar reasons. However, if you're itching for debate, you could come over for dinner, I'll invite my entire family and you can help me verbally slap them every time they try to coherse me onto the baby bandwagon. Peace, love and thanks for your music.

    1. May just take you up on that.

      I'm a sucker for a good debate (as long as it stays friendly and everyone has some respect for logic). I suppose I even enjoy debating people who are opposed to logic and reason... though it is not really fair, and more like playing basketball with children, than anything of a challenge.

      I guess that could be considered mean spirited (read: dickish) if I wasn't nice about it...

      I'm really not as arrogant as this sounds.


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    1. Not sure what the problem is with RSS. I haven't tried it out in ages. I will give it a shot.

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