Chrystal Savage, Culture Editor|
“… but land does not beget:” Cecil Rhodes
Present day, overpopulation reigns as one of the most eminent dangers facing mankind; and conveniently remains tremendously overlooked. Most people can acknowledge the threats of global warming, the lack of food and clean drinking water, the epidemic of nearly 6,000 new children being placed in orphanages each day in the United States alone; sadly, more than 14,000 of them will grow up with never having been adopted (“Orphan statistics,” 2017). Most people recognize that unemployment exists as a problem and that consuming a non vegan lifestyle has harmful effects on both an individual’s health, the land and economy. Despite all this, not nearly as many people recognize the root of the problem; the exponential growth in the population of human beings (“Effects of overpopulation,” 2013, Nov. 20).
It shouldn’t come to much of a surprise that the earth’s resources are vastly limited and will in fact reach a point of complete, total and utter depletion if a more sustainable global population and way of life is not achieved. The earth currently supports nearly four times the sustainable human community (“Current population,” 2017). This sustainable or optimum population is measured and defined by the European standard of living; which annually consumes by comparison only half, that of a single American (“Current population,” 2017) (Hantal, 2016).
The planet cannot, does not, and will not support a world community of 7.5 billion individuals; the current global population (“Current world population,” 2017). Despite projections that 9.5 billion people stands as the absolute maximum population that could exist on earth, the lifespan of this existence would be short lived and is expected to be reached by the year 2050 (Wolchover, 2011, Oct. 11) (Kochhar, 2014, Feb. 3). The masses of developed nations are currently living as if we have access to 1.6 earths (Mcdonald, 2015, June 16) (“Ecological footprint,” 2017). When so carelessly depleting natural resources it’s important to remember that the renewability of these resources are imperative to the survival of mankind.
While several known sources of renewable energy exist, the harnessing and ultimate use of the power generated from these sources are minimal and not being taken advantage of to their full potential (“World energy use,” 2017). In America, energy is primarily consumed through products of nonrenewable sources; in fact, only ten percent of the total energy consumed was through geothermal, wind, biomass, solar, hydro, tidal or other renewable energy outlets. Nearly 90% of the globe’s energy consumption is obtained through sources that take centuries, even millenniums to form. At the current rate of depletion these resources will not exist for the next generation (“World energy use,” 2017).
So for any individual who planned to use the excuse that it will not happen in their lifetime; try again. In fact, the damaging effects of overpopulation on humans socially and environmentally can already be seen. Great taxation strains the man made construct of the economy and is having very real lasting, arguably irreversible, effects on the environment. While a variety of social issues continue to threaten freedoms of the democratic world, it is essential to the survival of the human race that the excess of global citizens is addressed and seizes a solution, before all others. With the population growing exponentially it is critical that action be taken now if the goal of mankind is to not only survive, but also ensure quality of life for it’s posterity.
A variety of reasons exist as to why an individual would even consider intentionally bearing offspring; arguably, all of which are selfish. Several, truthfully biased and unprofessional explanations as to why a person should have children bombard the current generation of young adults. Millennials, more than any other generation, consider the effects being had on the future of the planet as compared to blindly bringing children into the world. Certainly, ignorance has contributed to the exponential growth in population and unfortunately remains too relevant today. If one was educated and “conditioned” from birth that they as an individual should only have one child (a couple could have two children), and that their first option should be an orphan; this would maintain and balance the population. Now suppose people are being taught the reason for only having one child is because each child after that would suffer the consequences of food shortages, insufficiencies in the clean water supply, lack of land and shelter, poverty, unemployment, pollution and global warming; a couple would in fact only have two children for the risk of being perceived as unethical and immoral.
Even with dramatic scientific evidence uninformed articles continue to circulate the internet such as, “Why Your Top 10 Reasons For Not Having Children Are Stupid,” published by The Federalist. In which explanations countering very legitimate concerns are that of advocating smelling a baby’s breath will change the minds of thinking and feeling adults (McInnes, 2016, Mar. 15). McInnes even goes so far to address overpopulation, admit there’s a problem and then slander and blame other races for the issue by saying that “another kid named Cody is not going to cause global warming,” indirectly implying that Cody is likely a white, male and has parents wealthy enough to support him until adulthood and is somehow more important than the indian children referenced a sentence prior and taglined “quality, not quantity” (McInnes, 2017). The main flaw with McInnes article is that it focuses on social constructs such as race, rather than scientific evidence.
Of course, one child is not responsible for anything that has happened in the world today, nor is one child the “problem” (there is not one child or even one hundred thousand children being born each day, nearly four hundred thousand new lives come into the world each day); their parents are. It is the job of a person once they assume responsibility as a parent to teach their children right from wrong. It is much easier for parents to teach their children to share their chicken nuggets than the abuse associated with the popular fast food.
Parents are directly liable for the perceptions their children adopt. Five primary perpetrators exist and are directly responsible for the overpopulation that can be observed in the world today: religion, tradition, the patriarchy, the lack of sexual education and the availability of contraceptives. All of which are interconnected to fit immoral objectives and instill toxic expectations that are often times entirely unrealistic, sexist and unfounded. Whether misogynistic religious teachings are to blame for the patriarchy or the patriarchy is to be blamed for sexist spiritual principles, each inflict shame concerning sex and perpetrate ideologies which have resulted in overpopulation.
The patriarchy promotes misogyny, which prior to World War II allowed social restrictions on women to thrive; ultimately prohibiting them from freely seeking employment. Prior to the suffrage movement women could not vote; ultimately prohibiting them from openly speaking their minds. Not only was did an expectation exist that women would stay in the home, have and raise children; it was arguably one of the few ways women achieved some kind of fulfillment to their secluded and oppressed way of life. Families grew exponentially and the lasting effects can be seen today. With this kind of social environment thriving in the free world imagine the events occurring in more sexually oppressive nations. Audre Lorde once said, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even if her shackles are very different from my own” (“Audre Lorde: Quotes,” 2017).
With medical advancements and shifting gender roles the number of children a family had declined from more than five per household, now to between two and three on average (“Overpopulation: The human explosion explained,” 2016, Dec. 22). Women today, lead very successful and joy filled lives by pursuing a career, traveling or through a variety of other experiences which the patriarchy previously robbed from them and is influencing the issue of overpopulation in a positive way.
Spiritually speaking, by intentionally conceiving children people are essentially taking on the role of the divine power and “playing” God. For argument sake, one could say that by intentionally not conceiving children God’s will is also being interfered with. However from a moral standpoint God should only “want” people who would raise their kids in any given faith to have children. This is clearly untrue given the fact that more than 4,000 different religions and denominations exist present day (“List of religions,” 2017, April 17). Furthermore, looking specifically at Christianity, the bible explains that children are a blessing from God as they bring much joy to their parents. Arguably then, no child should ever be abandoned, abused or neglected; in the United States alone approximately one in four children die as a result (“Child abuse statistics,” 2017). The Christian bible goes on to explain that the house and family should be put before all else. Many may take this to mean that women should be more concerned with being a wife and mother than pursuing other avenues in life, however the passage can also be interpreted to mean that if a person (man or woman) cannot find joy in having children at any given point in their life and/or know themselves to be unable to put children before their career than children should not be a want or priority in a their life.
Whether an individual believe God to be all-seeing being and already “knows” who will and will not have children or a belief in true free will exists infertility would not exist if God intended each person to bear children. Of course, this logic is contingent upon a belief in a spiritual creator (“Does God expect us all,” 2017).
Connected to spirituality are traditions that have been produced as a result of a variety of human desires, more specifically sexual lust at the point of physical maturity. Adhering to the religion of Christianity, premarital intercourse is perceived by many Christians to be forbidden, arguably only for women, despite God declaring men and women equals in His eyes and image in Genesis 1:26-27 stating that “God designed both the man and woman in His own image equally” and Genesis 2:18 explaining that, “God fashioned Eve out of Adam’s rib. The well-known Bible commentator Matthew Henry said that Eve was “made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved” (Stelzer, 2007, Jan. 1). Many evangelicals would be surprised to learn that sex is only forbidden if a member is already married (“What does the bible say about premarital sex?”, 2017). Infact popular belief would be put to shame if the passages in Leviticus were dissected and taken for it’s actual meaning and not face value. Leviticus is one of the only books in the old testament that even makes reference to homosexuality stating in chapter 18, verse 22, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination” and in chapter 20, verse 13, “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them” (“What does the bible say about homosexuality?”, 2017). Most people who would consider themselves to be good members of the faith could not define abomination. Today, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines abomination as something that causes disgust or hatred (Merriam-Webster, 2017). Nowhere is mention made as to who is killing homosexuals other than that “their blood shall be upon them” implying that it must be a physical being (not God or a divine power because as far as man is aware the spiritual side has no tangible presence). One could conclude from this that God is warning homosexuals that people will hate and discriminate against them just as the Roman government did Jesus Christ and warning the people not to hate them for they will surely kill them and have their blood on their hands and have committed a sin against the sixth biblical commandment given to Moses by God (Bennett, 2017). So opposed to popular tradition and teachings God is not judging homosexuals but rather the people who commit acts of hatred against them. Furthermore, the bible was written by men, translated by men, for men.
The contribution religion makes to overpopulation is that the true meaning of the scriptures have been modified to fit the objectives of modern day American society which notoriously discriminates against others. For fear of sinning and going to hell by engaging in sexual intercourse individuals got married extremely young. After marriage the shame and fear associated with pregnancies diminishes so individuals are not educated on the proper methods of avoiding conception until they’re ready, financially, socially, economically, etc. Many times this resulted in families who had children in the double digits. With medical advancements, often times all children survive to adulthood in which they can reproduce themselves, creating a toxic cycle of welfare, unemployment as well as threatening a previously secure bond could provide reassurance to the elderly that retirement was achievable; now the likelihood that any sufficient funds will survive the baby boomer generation is essentially nonexistent.
This ignorance surrounding natural temptations causes social stigmas, discrimination, social anxieties and clinical depression. It is imperative that America moves to normalize safe sex if humankind is to survive and avoid extinction. The government of any particular nation is liable for and has an obligation to its citizens and part of this is maintaining a sustainable population; which has been greatly exceeded. Strictly considering the economic standpoint of the issue it would be vastly more cost effective to provide free birth control and contraceptives compared to to trying to develop entirely new methods of agriculture in an attempt to provide a fraction of the required food to sustain the population, financing research to find cures to sexual diseases, supporting orphans and families with several children on welfare or unemployed, et cetera (“The future of food,” 2014).
A plethora of natural and manmade components have been affected. Excluding controversies surrounding the ethics and morality of childbearing; overpopulation is to blame for a variety of social issues not limited but dramatically relevant to, economic depressions, high rates of unemployment, the inaccessibility to fresh food and produce, the scarcity of clean drinking water, reduced availability of land, energy shortages and even climate change.
Everyday, nearly 800 million people suffer from chronic illnesses caused by malnutrition and food deprivation and more than 20,000 die each day (“How many people are hungry,” 2016, Dec. 28) (“Hunger and world poverty,” 2017). If the world primarily engaged in a vegan diet the thirty-million pounds of dry feed that sustain beef cattle for American consumption alone could end world hunger (“Determining how much forage,” 2013, April) (“Average and total numbers,” 2009, Oct. 22) (“U.S. could feed,” 1997, Aug. 7) (Misra, 2015, Sept. 18). Ideally the ideology surrounding food would change instantly- which it won’t, but if Americans alone could give up beef alone it would be an attempt at a solution. Furthermore beef cattle are being bred and reaching exceeding their ideal species population. Of course, America is not the only offender, nor is beef cattle. Now continuing with strictly the American impact, more than 160 million tons of produce is wasted daily (Chandler, 2016, July 15). Twelve million tons of produce would guarantee an end to world hunger and would ensure each living person would go to bed satisfied and healthy (Mirsa, 2015). Perhaps a more relevant point to draw on would be viral trends on social media such a, “chubby bunny”, the “pickle”, “pizza” and “cinnamon challenges” in which food that could sustain a human life is being famished by those who have never experienced what it feels like to truly be hungry. This is only America’s impact; a much larger scale is vital to solving the equation; this includes all nations; not just America, all slaughtered livestock; not just cattle and all forms of food waste. Nearly, a billion tons of food decay annually before ever making it to the consumer as a result of markets being difficult for farmers to access or produce being rejected for being “unattractive” and while this on it’s own won’t eliminate the current demands of food it would certainly make a difference (Lee, 2015, Mar. 13).
Clean water is yet another issue that causes detrimental effects to the people of the world. Benjamin Franklin once said, “When the well is dry, we will know the worth of water”(“Benjamin Franklin: Quotes,” 2017). Unfortunately, little priority is placed on conserving, fresh clean drinking water. The average American flushes up to 13 gallons of clean, drinkable water down the toilets each year (“Toilet,” 2017); certainly saltwater could be used to flush toilets or a push for composting toilets could be made. More than, 17 gallons of running water are wasted by extra time spent in the shower or bath alone (“Showers,” 2017) (“FAQs,” 2017). Furthermore water is being wasted when an individual leaves the sink running when brushing their teeth or washing dishes. In America, “cooling off” in the summer typically includes ice cubes that get tossed to the trash after the beverage has been consumed or running threw a sprinkler. Lawn sprinklers and irrigation consume annually more than 60,000 gallons of water per 10,000 square foot yard (Erickson, 2017). More than 50 million acres of land are irrigated in the United States alone, resulting in more than two trillion gallons of consumable water, wasted (“USDA reports 55.3 million”, 2015, Oct. 5). Meanwhile nearly 800 million individuals suffer consequences of dehydration, poisoning and other repercussions as a result of issues in the clean water supply; more than 16,000 of these individuals die daily (“Facts and figures,” 2013). Ismail Serageldin, a Harvard University graduate warns, “The wars of the twenty-first century will be fought over water” and unfortunately it won’t be realized, and prioritized as a real world crisis until fresh water has been depleted to the scale that it will become so difficult to access and the average first world citizen is unable to obtain it. Several celebrities are raising their voices and awareness to the issues facing the world; in particular Matt Damon, best known as an American actor, is quite literally creating waves; co-founding water.org an organization dedicated to solving the inconceivable issues facing families worldwide as a result of shortages in the supply and accessibility of clean water (“Water,” 2017).
Land is also being depleted exponentially and will need to see a total overhaul and redesign of farming practices if it is to sustain any human population in the next century. Unfortunately we are already living as if we have access to more land than we do, the earth cannot sustain any larger of a population. Already, 1 in 3 people do not have shelter and more than eighty percent of the total surface area of the earth is “unusable” for human purposes of housing or agriculture ( Shah, 2013, Jan. 7) (Pianka, 2017) (Sharp, 2012, Sept 17).
The issue of non renewable energy use is also baffling considering the technology to harness sources that will likely outlast mankind exist. “Scientists Politely Remind [the] World That Clean Energy Technology [is] Ready To Go Whenever” explaining, that on the scientific, technological end of the spectrum the resources and manpower are ready to move, rather it is societal, political and governmental ideologies, stigmas, unwillingness and close mindedness that is restricting a green world to take off (“Scientists politely remind world,” 2014, May 21). Having a planet that is strictly powered by solar energy would result in panels taking up less than one percent of the surface area of the earth (Harrington, 2015, Oct. 1).
The connection between unemployment, a failing economy unavailability in shelter and the cause being overpopulation. It’s easy to blame a third party, such as mexican immigrants, as was seen in the 2016 presidential election, however the fact of the matter is Mrs. X [who was born in Mexico and proceeded to earn citizenship and her PHD] did not “steal” Mr. Y’s [who was born in the United states and dropped out of high school] job as a pediatrician or that individuals who are living in the states illegally are happy to take jobs that are dangerous, pay well below minimum wage, or people simply do not want to do. A higher “supply” of people creates less of a demand in the workplace, resulting in fewer employees and a lower minimum wage. Furthermore a limited supply in housing creates a higher demand for shelter which drives up the price of inadequate living environments, in turn people have a difficult time affording housing, feeding themselves, and financially supporting basic needs of children they brought into the world. Moreover this is the exact reason that contraceptives should be made free. Half of all pregnancies are unplanned. Eliminating unplanned pregnancies would greatly reduce the problem on it’s own (Bonham, 2013, Oct. 21). Two people are born each half a second that someone dies. Eliminating unplanned pregnancies would but he brakes on the exponential growth of mankind (“World Birth and Death Rates,” 2017). This would allow the population to slowly, overtime, decrease to a more sustainable size. Despite scientific projections that two billion people is the optimum population that number is based on current values and practices. By eliminating harmful non biodegradable wastes, using strictly renewable energy, engaging in primarily vegan diets, providing free contraceptives, avoiding misuse of produce and water, rejected buying excessive amounts of material items, et cetera; the maximum sustainable population may grow, however this is all dependant on making more than necessary changes today.
One can clearly conclude, beyond any shadow of a doubt with the evidence that has been provided, that all aspects of the globe are in fact inter connected. The problems observed today that threaten the future of the earth, mankind included, are indisputably a direct result of the negative ecological impacts that stem from the social construct that is human society. The primary causes for human fatalities is ultimately human births. Certainly human reproduction is natural and necessary to some extent for the species to survive; however reproduction may be the thing that wipes humankind of the face of the planet forever. Scientists predict that the twelve-billionth child will never even be born (Overpopulation: The human explosion explained, 2016). Fortunately solutions to the problem exist; they just need to be recognized and implemented; people can either produce half of the children they currently are or society can overhaul the values of its citizens. All possible solutions to the threat overpopulation presents would certainly cost, time and money but it would also create a demand for manpower, create jobs and be far more cost effective long term. The government has a liability to its people to look out for its people. Through education great advancements can be made to saving and ensuring the progression of society. Certainly more benefits would follow, such as a potential for world peace one day, eliminating national strains and bonds over nonrenewable energy, shifting human ideology to highlight the power of resourcefulness and not accumulation of items, instilling a desire to give back and be rich in life and experiences rather than dollared wealth.