Isaac Asimov makes a crucial point concerning overpopulation and carrying capacity at his Queen's Park Lecture in Barbados, on Feb. 6, 1976
Well, like Obama - it seems Pope Francis, or "Pope Frank" - as Bill Maher has referred to him, oscillates in the media between appalling (meriting virtual brickbats) and inspiring kudos and congrats. It seems the Pope's latest contribution to appalling - hence meriting brickbats - is calling out no kids couples for opprobrium. I mean, the pope actually called couples who choose not to have children “selfish” and part of a “greedy generation”.
“A society with a greedy generation that doesn’t want to surround itself with children, that considers them above all worrisome, a weight, a risk, is a depressed society. The choice to not have children is selfish. Life rejuvenates and acquires energy when it multiplies: It is enriched, not impoverished.”
Sorry, Il Papa, but on the contrary we are realists and also grasp the world is overburdened with a human plague as it is - contributing to everything from trashing the environment so nothing is left for future generations, to greenhouse warming (which will lead to the same end), to mass extinction of other species, to ever scarcer and more costly resources - including food. You really want 1 billion deaths from starvation on your hands, Papa? I don't!
But the Pope, bless his heart, has an agenda - which is to populate the planet with as many Catholics as possible. That's why he denies them the use of artificial birth control - under the pain of committing "mortal sin" and going to "hell". Well, for those of us no longer Catholic, let me offer clue one here: most of us left because we got tired of padres and popes sticking their noses into our bedrooms and lecturing us on reproduction. We took our own paths, and have no intent now other than to try to prevent the planet being trashed to smithereens by over breeders.
As for being "selfish", give me a break. We are actually people who are altruistic and volunteer and serve in many other ways. We just have to concede - most of us - that we'd make horrid parents because we're not wired for minding rug rats. We'd likely leave them locked up in a car while dashing oft to a meeting or conference, or we'd feed them the wrong foods (bratwursts instead of whatever else babies eat), neglect changing their nappies or worse, strike out at them physically in a moment of impatience...because they're crying too loud and too long.
Thus, we regard ourselves as doing the world and society a favor by NOT having kids and we regard ourselves as morally superior to the yahoos who burble at babies before marriage, then have too many and can't support them. Or the turkeys who have two or three, then leave them in a car freezing while they run off for a tryst in a mountain cabin - like a woman did here in Colo. 3 years ago. Or, like the character in Georgia who left his kid locked in a hot car one sweltering day while he went to text online gfs. Or the mom, again from Colo. - who helped hold her son down in a tub of boiling water while granny beat the "devil" out of him Then there is the recent case of the woman from Provo. UT - reported in today's press- who admitted to killing 6 of her babies over 10 years. She said she couldn't afford even two more because of her meth habit. NONE of these derelicts should have had offspring but they did. Does the Pope reckon any of these into his complaints? No, he doesn't!
But "Frank" is obviously railing at the recent trends, born out by statistics, that couples are having fewer kids or no kids. To fix ideas, in 1976 there were 1 in 10 childless couples - we actually call them child FREE - and now there are 1 in 5. The reasons are multifold but one of the main ones (apart from lacking a child-oriented temperament) is that it costs so damned much just to raise one kid to maturity - nearly $230,000.
That includes all the clothes you have to buy for them - and believe me they will demand the best brand names - not any old jeans or hand-me-downs, like we used to have. It also includes all the food you have to buy and it better be foods they like. Then we aren't even counting yet the costs of all the electronic toys they will insist on including the latest and best smart phones, Ipods, Ipads or whatnot. Then there is their education through college and you can bet your sweet bippy it will have to be one of the "Ivies" - State U. will not fit their inflated egos or designs. (And the "Ivies" means lots of moola spent on SAT prep lessons!) Lastly, even if they do graduate on time and all, you still aren't done with them because if they can't find jobs that pay enough with that fine arts or philosophy degree, they will want to park themselves right back home - and live rent free!
Thanks but no thanks! If you want kids, you have 'em, Frankie! Oh yeah, you adhere to celibacy so it's easy to talk trash with zero experience. Including of making simple budgets as my folks had to do when we were growing up in the 50s, 60s - trying to keep 5 kids clothed and fed when one parent was often out of work.
So from all those POVs, kids are indeed a "weight, a risk" and a liability - at least to those of us who share this child-free temperament.
This is not to say all turn out that way. A perfect example is my great niece Shayle, now at UMASS, Amherst, finishing her Masters degree in clinical psychology. She grew up in Barbados in the 90s, and so never had access to brand name clothing from hifalutin stores, or "cool ones" like J Crew. She basically wore the clothes her mom made her, or her great Aunt (my wife) passed on. She didn't suffer from problems and her peers didn't mock her or bully her for her clothing or her daily peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
When she graduated with honors, and a Barbados Scholarship - fully paid with money left - to Clark University - her mom and dad could rest assured she was on the right path.
But let's get real: having a kid like Shayle is roughly the same odds as winning the Powerball. Maybe 175 million to one. To the realist with a diehard child -averse temperament those odds aren't good enough to take the risk - say that you might get a serial killer, or druggie loser instead. (Think how the parents of James Eagen Holmes - the Aurora mass murderer - feel now as he faces trial).
What was always special about Shayle is that she was never swayed by external influences, be they her peer group or the media - which is always trying to peddle some useless crap to entice kids to get mommy and daddy to cough up $$$.(I still have the image in my head - shown on a.m. TV three days ago- of the 4 yr. old brat lugging a giant 'Frozen' doll across the aisles and screaming at her pop to buy it or else.)
Thus, the choice not to have children in the end is rational and personal, not "selfish". It is especially rational in a nation that pays lip service to children and "family values" but by its actions discloses it doesn't give two craps about them. If it did it would have free child care like many European nations so parents didn't have to hock their homes and cars to be able to go off to work!
And then there is the Reptile party which - despite the fact 15 million kids are already living in conditions of food insecurity - are prepping to cut food stamps once more from the SNAP benefits program, e.g.
So why would any sane person bring kids into such a child-hostile political environment?
Lastly, the Pope is delusional when he asserts that:
"Life rejuvenates and acquires energy when it multiplies: It is enriched, not impoverished.”
No, not really. Too much "life", in terms of the human population, can overtake and overburden a fragile world which can barely provide for all the people living on it as it is. On any given day nearly 1 billion are living on half or fewer calories than they need and it will only get worse with climate change ramping up. Not yet attended to is the scarcity of water.
In the ‘State of the World’ report (2000, pp. 46-47), it is noted that the ever increasing water deficits will likely spark “water wars” by 2025.As they note (p. 47):
“When a country’s renewable water supplies drop below 1,700 cubic meters per capita (what some analysts call the water stress level) it becomes difficult for the country to mobilize enough water to satisfy all the food, household, and industrial needs of its population.”
One of the first to emphasize this planet has a limited "carrying capacity" was the science and science fiction writer, Isaac Asimov. Asimov, as part of his Queen's Park Theater lecture in Barbados in February, 1976, touched on the specter of overpopulation and warned that humans had two choices: Decrease their population to the point of the carrying capacity (which he estimated at 3 billion) or nature will increase our species death rate - whether via violent climatic events we can't even foresee right now, or new virulent diseases, or nuclear war. He also remarked:
"It is now the willingly childless woman who is the heroine of our planet. She is the one who now deserves all the kudos and praise, for helping to do what is necessary to spare humanity from the ravages of over-population"
We who are rationalists are far more likely to attend to the words of Asimov than to the Pope. We choose being child-free not only because additional humans pose an unsustainable burden on limited planetary resources but also because we are self-aware enough to realize we aren't cut out to be part of the faux child-centric cult that dominates this nation. Pandering to the selfish whims of kids as "consumers" but nowhere to be found when actual child welfare is at stake.