Have your babies!


I have been getting emails from Growthbusters, a well-meaning group dedicated to stopping the push for growth at any price.

As part of this, they recommend having fewer babies. The logic is clear. If fewer babies are born world-wide, and if a number of other strong measures are taken by world-wide agreement, then the world human population can gradually fall in a manageable way and good things will follow after a number of generations.

The trouble is, none of that is going to happen. A small minority of idealistic people might have one baby or none, but no-one else is going to restrict themselves. Relations between the nations of the world are not such as would permit the co-operation and trust needed to  keep the world-wide campaign going for the many generations required.

The problems of endless population growth are plain. More and more people want more and more of everything in return for less and less. Irrational leaders encourage conflict. The natural environment that produced us and sustains us is under threat.

If human population is to be reduced, it will much more likely be in the traditional way. We have always slaughtered each other in large numbers.

In modern times, major wars have been prevented for several generations since the introduction of nuclear weapons, but now there is a world-wide arms race and a number of issues being beaten up into flash points for war.

Religion has always been an efficient means of enabling mass slaughter, which would normally be unacceptable. Human societies have always treated the taking of human life as a serious matter. But religion provides a means of clearly dividing people into those who believe the ‘true faith’ and those who don’t, or who believe something else. The ones in the minority, or less well armed and organised, can be labelled as evil, not deserving to keep their lives, and killing them is justified, and even a holy task. ‘We do God’s work here’ chop, hack.

Ethnicity is obviously another efficient way of dividing people and justifying the slaughter of those deemed ‘inferior’. In Australia, aborigines were not legally human until 1967. Slaughtering them was considered acceptable and a duty, from first European settlement in the 18th century until early in the 20th.

Religion is a powerful agent in this context. It is no accident that the areas in the United States of America most committed to fundamentalist Christianity, the states of the old ‘Confederacy’, are also those where African Americans have never been considered equal to ‘whites’, having not been created in the image of the Lord, who as everyone knows was ‘white’. Their enslavement in earlier times, and their subsequent oppression and treatment as a permanent underclass with no legal rights, was justified by ‘Holy Scripture’. This attitude didn’t change after the South lost the Civil War in 1865. It was still alive 100 years later, and now, 50 years after that, it is resurgent, egged on by the current reactionary administration.

Elsewhere in the universe, there may well be other planets where a similar problem has arisen. One species becomes so successful that its population cannot be limited by the usual constraints, and its members come to believe that more and more of them can become richer and richer and eventually not have to work at all.

So, my point is, have your babies. Babies are gorgeous, there’s no point to life without babies. The human population problem is self-limiting. Resources will be depleted, destructive wars will increase, the death rate will rise and the infant survival rate will decline. I don’t know what the future holds but it is reasonable to think that this planet will survive, as will its life-supporting capacity and many of its species, for many millions of years yet. Who can say what will develop in that time?

There are already signs that world leaders are drawing in the fence. They know that it is impossible to provide a decent life for ever-growing populations, so they are planning to save a minority, those who prove themselves fit to be saved. That is why there is a world-wide trend to cutting back expenditure on public health, public education and social services, and refusing to tax people who are sitting on countless billions of dollars.  Also, housing is now an overpriced speculative commodity instead of a basic right, abandoning the homeless. More of us will be abandoned as time goes on.

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