The “overpopulation” discussion is almost as interesting as the one on racial inequality…

The discussion about population reduction has brought up some interesting points, some of them actually addressing the topic, others about the appropriateness of the discussion itself.  Here are the big hits:

  1. A lot of people don’t believe overpopulation is an issue.   We knew that.
  2. Others believe that unless they personally agree that it is an issue, the discussion shouldn’t be conducted.  
  3. Others SEEM to believe that unless there is total (or some unspecified percentage of) agreement, the discussion shouldn’t be conducted. I think these are actually #2.
  4. Some believe that the only means of reduction (or the ones they are most worried about, a reasonable thought) involve genocide.
  5. Others that “nature will take care of it” through war, disease, or famine.
  6. Some mentioned the “we’ll expand into space” notion, which I find absurd in the context of overpopulation.  For ensuring the survival of the human race?  Sure.  But there is no technology present or seriously theoretical that could lift a million people a year into orbit and sustain them.  And that wouldn’t be close to enough. Give it up, people.  
  7. Of those who actually addressed the question, the following ideas arose:
  8. Wealth decreases birth rate 
  9. Education decreases birth rate
  10. Women’s education and reproductive rights decrease birth rate.
  11. Specific understanding of environmental issues decreases birth rate IF this does not conflict with immediate survival needs.

There were others, of course, but those loomed large.  My own thoughts include the following:

  1. The urge to make babies is so hard-wired into the human nervous system, as well as our social structures, that it probably DWARFS tribalism as a perceptual filter.    
  2. So long as suggestions are humane and non-coercive, I can see few objections to population reduction that do not relate to #1.
  3. Here’s an impossible: if you could install a switch so that someone would have to make a conscious DECISION to have a child, rather than make a DECISION to avoid having one, and that both partners would have to agree, every time…that single “switch” would be a huge positive influence without infringing upon anyone’s legitimate rights at all.   And the nice thing about “impossibles” is that they lead to other thoughts, such as…
  4. One of my favorite “out there” theories is that we are seeing an increase in homosexuality specifically as a Gaiac response to our population.   I can imagine no more loving, humane, and gentle way to slow our baby-making down.  “You can have all the love and sex you want, but you will never ever ever accidentally make a child”. That single thing: that you would have to make a conscious decision to have a baby, would slow things down quite a bit.

This is fun.  And valuable. And a test of my thought that if you want to accomplish something, you have to separate the

1) “is there a problem” discussion from the

2) “what is the problem” and most certainly the

3) “what shall we do about the problem?” conversations.  Different discussions. And once you determine that there is a percentage that cannot be convinced within what you consider a  reasonable time frame, it is totally rational  to have the #3 discussion without allowing #1 or #2 to interject objections.  They will of course complain.  But why are they suggesting that you shouldn’t even TALK about it, unless they are afraid that, given those discussions, you will go out and do something evil?

  1. Are they saying THEY would do evil under such circumstances? If so, that is an honorable and reasonable complaint.  
  2. Are they saying THEY would not, but think themselves above you morally?  Well…that should raise a “caution” light in the back of your head.
  3. Are they saying that GROUPS of people operate at a purely emotional level, and if you give them a focus that involves unethical behavior and convince them that this is a survival need, said mob might well do something ugly?  That’s just history.  I’d consider it a righteous concern and a reasonable contribution to the discussion–a call for “safety rails”: whatever conclusions reached must adhere to certain moral and ethical standards, and not result from hierarchical thinking: “my tribe has a right to decide for your tribe” and so forth.

While there are always concerns that people are acting without total information, the fact is that we NEVER have total information.  There is no objective universal threshold as to “how certain should we be before we take action?”  And even if there were, the threshold for discussion is hella lower.

It is another fact that because we are programmed to make babies genetically, socially, religiously…for countless generations going back to the first single-celled organisms to the point of the first realization of “I am” which was followed by “I’m horny”…you have to assume that on the other side of the equation people will not look at the evidence that we might be pushing our limit except through gigantically tinted lenses, perceptual filters designed to produce the maximum number of kids, instructions engraved on our ROM, or even the machine language beneath it.
The discussion is valuable both for its own sake, and for the sake of the meta-discussion: how shall we solve our problems?  How can we discuss the undiscussable? Well, I’d say by being polite, but also understanding you will never get total agreement, and being adult enough to know that sometimes you have to hold a private party for discussion over brandy and cigars. So to speak.  That is infringing on no one’s rights, because no one has the “right” to attend your private parties, no matter how uncomfortable they feel about not being invited.

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