The Seven Billionth Baby

31 10 2011

Too many babiesToday, in several nations around the world, they are celebrating the birth the baby who kicked the total population on this fragile planet to seven billion. No body really knows which of the 250 babies born every minute on average really was the one to tip the number. No matter how you crunch the statistics, it’s still too damn many.

It beats the alternative, a friend of mine commented.

The alternative? I asked. You mean, birth control?

No, no, it beats seeing the population declining in a post-apocalyptic death spiral. At least the future is still coming along. (Yes, when you hang out with geeks and SF/Fantasy authors, you have conversations like this.)

Certainly, I prefer optimism. That’s why I write anidystopian fiction. But I don’t see this dubious landmark as anything positive, or a reason for optimism. Quite the opposite.

I see the growing population as contributing to that coming apocalypse, when we finally run out of food, resources, and clean water. I see the out of control birth rate as a symptom of oppressed women with no alternative to being barefoot and pregnant, and of families mired in poverty and disease who keep having kids because they anticipate that at least half of them won’t reach adulthood. I see it as Fundamentalists who condemn family planning and abortion, then abandon unwilling mothers to cope with one of the greatest responsibilities a human being can take on. I see it as the glorification of sex without consideration for its natural consequences. In short, I see continuing population growth as a manifestation of human stupidity.

In the interest of hope, I can add that population growth has declined to sustainable or near-sustainable levels in most industrial countries, that is, in places where health care is good, life expectancy is high, education is widespread, women enjoy something approaching equal rights and opportunities, and family planning is readily available. The better the standard of living, the more likely population issues take care of themselves.

Never mind the exhortations of religions of compassion to take care of the poor; here is a logical, secular reason to do it: the horror of riots, wars and widespread suffering that will result if we don’t control population will not be good for anybody. Except, perhaps, rats and microbes.

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