Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Monday, December 8, 2008

American population control

As somewhat of a follow-on to last week's post, I wanted to discuss the issue of demographics and population control outside the emotional considerations made in last week's comments.

Given that Americans use, by far, considerably more resources per capita than any citizen of any other country in the world, should population control measures be introduced (a la China) to acquire better control of environmental and resource impact? Since Americans seem rather unwilling to substantially lower their carbon footprint on their own, perhaps controlling things on the other end of the coin makes more sense.

By controlling the number of Americans on the planet, or those living a high impact lifestyle, do we achieve the same goal of resource preservation and reduction in environmental degradation? In other words, by advising (or requiring) that Americans only reproduce at the replacement rate of approximately 2 children per mating couple (that is, maximum two offspring per person), can we mitigate disaster? This is sometimes called a birth permit system (1.05 permits per person, where each couple gets 2.1 permits), thereby essentially allowing a cap and trade system on reproduction.

I know that many will argue that the biggest upcoming threat to the environment are developing countries such as China and India, but the reality is that the individuals in those societies use far less resources than Americans do. And, when you stop to consider it, a large proportion of pollution generated by countries like China is due to demand of manufactured goods by Americans.

Our demand for cheap products drives the industries that pollute. For us to turn around and complain that this pollution is unfair is really, actually, unfair. The Chinese individual, for the most part, does not benefit from the cheap Elmo toys and dollar goods being generated. Quite the contrary, they suffer immeasurably due to polluted air and water. You can argue that the demand is providing jobs, but given the pittance they are actually getting paid for that labor, it is an arguable benefit at best.

So, what's the solution? If we don't voluntarily and drastically reduce our per personal carbon and resource consumption, is population control of high impact societies a realistic alternative? Would you support a restriction on reproduction?


Anonymous said...

I disagree with this system. If you look at China you'll see children being sold (both boys and girls) and some children are simply abandoned. Not to mention the kiddnapped children (mostly boys). Creating a similar system here will cause the same problems. Poor famlies having children in secret to avoid paying fines then abandoning them. Although in China you can go over your limit but you must pay a fine. I wouldn't mind paying a fine, but a lot of Americans might not be able to pay it. Then there is the abortion issue, China's view on abortion is not the same as it is in the US. In China it's not seen as such a bad thing. In China if it's discovered that you are pregnant and already have a child you can be forced to have an abortion. I don't really think that would fly here. You also need papers in order to get a birth certificate, otherwise the child will be undocumented, that means no school.

Quite frankly, I (and many of my friends and family) think that enforced sterilazation is the answer. It would really help control groups at a higher risk for neglected children. For example, if you are arrested for prostitution you would be sterilized. I think that to ask the public at large to have only two children won't work. Inforcing laws that prevent the birth of children to those convicted of hate crimes, spousal/child abuse, drug trafficking, and other heinous crimes is a better option. For those who see this as a punishment they may avoid commiting these crimes. For others it avoids a potentially abused and neglected child. For those that dissagree with me may I suggest you rent the following movie, it's very funny, Idiocracy, with Luke Wilson.

Megan said...

I've been talking about babies a lot recently. Some friends are planning families, and now that I'm married, relatives have started asking. But DH and I can't justify the impact on the environment. (There's also the fact that the responsibility absolutely terrifies me)

My dad said that "people like you" need to have kids. I would make sure I brought up kids who were conscious about environmental issues, but I can't get past the fact that ANY child will be a consumer, a user of massive amounts of energy, and have a footprint as big as me (at least until technology starts catching up)

Check out the article that got me thinking here:

I've joked about enforced sterilization, and my friends always laugh and we talk about how great it would be, but I would never, ever, ever want to actually have it. That's too much power being put in people's hands.

I told a friend yesterday that I would consider having kids if a ZPG program was started. If I knew everyone was on board with having 1-2 kids, then we'd be all set.

Wouldn't problems in China be reduced in the US and Europe by the fact that we don't count on our kids as future workers or have as many hang-ups about gender?

It's a thorny issue.

Anderson Family said...

The issue isn't the total number of children, but the "unwanted"/unplanned children. I'm all for criminals getting forced sterilization, especially drug moms. But an alternative is people getting a financial incentive to elect to get sterlized. If most children in this country were planned children, the population would go down, but it wouldn't effect those would want more than 2 children. Also, welfare and poverty in this country would be greatly decreased. In stead of getting paid more per kid on welfare, they could get an incentive to get sterilized.
Bottom line, this is America, population control (by a staight limit) just wouldn't fly.It's our right to have a dozen kids if we want. In my opinion, if they're all wel caed for and loved, then who cares. Larger families tend to be MUCH more frugal and have less of an impact, and grow up to be frugal people.

knittinandnoodlin said...

I think you're approaching the problem from the wrong angle, Crunchy. Overpopulation and the drain on resources resulting from it is a huge issue that needs to be addressed in some way. However, the drain on resources is being caused by the parents and children already here.

Instead of looking at babies as little future consumers, why not continue to focus on the good work you are doing in addressing the excessive consumption issues we already have?

Perhaps I am being short-sighted, but I believe more impact can be made by encouraging adults changing their habits right now. With our economy in the tank people are already starting to think of ways to change their habits, and in the process their children are learning different values.

Our problems are bigger than a handful of people voluntarily deciding to not have children. But, there's no way forced sterilization or limiting the number of children people can have will fly in the US. And frankly, the idea of giving people a financial incentive to give up all future reproductive rights turns my stomach.

Laura said...

Controlling the number of children couples can have and/or enforced sterilization would mean that the government doesn't think that the American people are capable of intelligence, and that it totally accepts the fact that Americans are too stupid to want to change. Or would it prove that the government itself is stupid and lazy?

If we reduce the number of children, we automatically make the overall population much older. The US will then end up like Japan: too few youngsters to sustain the ageing population. The elderly today already can't live on their retirement pension - so when will they be able to retire in the future? When they die?

I personally believe that everyone is able to think and to come the right conclusions - if it's well explained to them by a responsible government. The one to come in the US seems pretty smart. I'll bet they'll be able to handle it perfectly.

Farmer's Daughter said...

I support measures to reduce population. I do not support tradable permits on children. I believe in reproductive rights, just as I have the right to have as many children as I want, I also have the right to not have children. If we are a free nation, then putting a cap on children (or on the other side of the coin, a requirement to have children) is out of the question.

However, the US is not growing rapidly like many developing nations. Our fertility rate is around replacement level. Our consumerist population is our problem. A cap and trade system on carbon emissions would do much more for the environment than a cap on the number of children.

In the developing world, the answer is clear to me: education of women. This leads to delayed age of marriage, delayed age of first childbirth - leading to fewer children overall, job skills, a sense of pride and accomplishment, and the ability to take care of her family if something happens to her husband, rather than turning to illicit activities like prostitution. Overall, education leads to improved quality of life for women and their families, and lowers fertility rates.

letterstoelijah said...

Are you kidding me?! No Way! Any child from God is a blessing! We need MORE children in this country! Not less!

Debbiy said...

Only if we plan to re-write the Constitution first. Which I don't favor - rather fond of the one we have.

Population control was a socially prevalent view among the "educated" in the 60's and 70's and the result of that was Gen-X, a population roughly half the size of the Boomer and the Millenials. Now we have this tiny generation of people who are about to give a whole new meaning to the term "Sandwich Generation."

Carbon footprint is the LEAST of our worries...we can educate Americans into better practices, assuming we are not forcing the will of a few on the many. But what happens when population control backlashes is something we are, literally, still figuring out.

jewishfarmer said...

The problem with a "cap and trade" model of childbearing is that a. it doesn't work and b. it requires a method of forcible enforcement - I don't think any of us want to see the power to sterilize in the hands of our government - just think how it would be used. China has never resolved its issues - it handles them by maltreating "extra" children and then exporting them to the US, where they use more energy.

But this ignores the fact that many nations have achieved lower TFR (total fertility rates) than the US without coercive techniques. They do so by ensuring education of women, health care so that people's one or two kids get to live and a host of other social supports. We can do this without forcible sterilizations or abortions.

It also ignores the fact that consumption isn't static - because of the Riot for Austerity, we have a pretty good way of measuring. Each of my four kids (and yes, I know that's more than my share) uses at this point about 1/5 (3 of my kids use less, my disabled son more, but it averages to 1/5) of the same resources an average American child uses. Which means that compared to an average kid, my four sons use fewer resources than one average American kid.

My suggestion (in my book as well as here) is this - instead of cap and trade and coercion, and the alienation of those who believe that children are a gift from G-d (I don't think we really want to punish the Amish here, do we?) and those whose birth control will inevitably fail, we need to offer strong incentives to self-limitation - and for those who cannot limit their children, requirements that they limit consumption. My suggestion is pretty simple - that we ration energy and other related resources (but not food!) and peg family resources to a family of four, with the capacity to adapt if, for example, you adopt a hard to place child or have your MIL come live with you. If you have fewer than 2 children, you get extra resources to use. If you have more than 2 children, you simply have to find ways to cut your consumption proportionally - not a problem for most of the larger families I know. You simply have to live better with less. We could offer social service outreach to such families to make that possible.


Carmen said...

Taking the religious argument out of it (which really makes this a non-starter concept for a large percentage of the population), this whole concept comes across as very elitist and favors the wealthy. Whether you enforce this by tax policy, rationing, or just laws. Be it forced sterilization of "drug addict" moms, or whatever. These policies will ALL apply to the poor in a disproportionate way. I'm sorry, but the wealthy are not more entitled to have children. This would just further divide the classism in this country.

The whole concept of population control starts from a flawed premise that people are harmful to nature and not a part of nature. Sorry, like it or not, we too are a part of it. Instead of doing the most un-natural thing possible of preventing reproduction, maybe we should focus on all the aspects of

Because frankly, I don't care if this world goes on in perfect balance if it is not enjoyed by many progeny.

Anonymous said...

All ya'll who are advocating forced steriliation remember the OTHER big government that did that in the 1930s and 40s, right? Or am I the only one who saw "Trial at Nuremburg?"

Kim said...

I can't personally separate the religious aspect so I wholly am against population control.

That said, I, also, think it's not the government's job to think for us. In America, the government's job is (well SHOULD be) only to enforce the constitution and protect our country from attack. Yet more everyday people are pushing for the government to get more and more in our lives. Having them pass laws that say you have to wear a seatbelt, or not smoke, etc. etc. The government's grubby little hands are getting in every aspect of our lives when really they need to mind their own business. The idea of giving the government control over our children turns my stomach. I don't even want them dictating what I can TEACH my children let alone how many I can make. We're already setting precedent of letting the government meddle in the day to day affairs of the people. It's just a matter of time before we're allowing them to dictate almost every aspect of our lives. History already tells us the misery of those living in countries where they do not have personal freedom. The idea of willingly giving up mine to the government, goes against everything I stand for as a person, American and Christian.

And since this was in the comments, I am also wholly against sterilization of prisoners and convicts. I believe that everyone has the possibility of change, of repentence, of a new life. And the idea of stripping them from the possibility of having children is just wrong to me. Not to mention the fact that forcing someone to have a unnecessary procedure is wrong. Period. Right and wrong - wrong. And man the door THAT opens. If we allow that, how long before the government starts deciding that those over a certain age aren't acceptable parents, or those who have had a child with down's syndrome are too high a risk, or those just married, or....?

We need as people to think of the long term repercussions of allowing the government knee deep in the issues of our lives.


Anonymous said...

I do believe education is the answer. We have to educate ourselves here at home (US&CAN)to reduce our impact. And we have to do that first, before we start implementing our ideals on other nations and cultures. Redefining a life worth living will take some serious introspection. In Canada, our birthrate does not currently match the replacement rate...we have to take in immigrants to fill the gap.
Telling people who can and can't have children simply doesn't work for a host of reasons. It also opens the minefield of who will then be entitled to reproductive technologies. No easy answers.

Kelsie said...

I can't believe anyone with the capacity to sit down and THINK bout it would advocate forced sterilization, financial incentives for sterilization, or even a cap on the number of children one family can have. THINK about the power we would be handing to the government. We don't want our right to have an abortion taken away, yet we can sit here and think of ways in which a woman's right to bear a child might be curbed? This is America. Not China. Not any other part of the world, no matter how many people seem to wish it were. Is it perfect here? No. But we have some freedoms I'm not willing to compromise, no matter how wonderful the perceived environmental impact might be.

We can't pick and choose which rights we want taken from us and which ones we wish to retain. If we sit back and cheer on one instance of rights revocation, we might as well sit back and cheer on the rest of them.

So I will continue to keep my house at 55 degrees, bake my own bread and make my own soap, sew my own clothes and grow my own food, and I will do it happily, and I will encourage and instruct others to do the same, but I will never support a nation that tells its people who may or may not have children, nor a nation who tells us how many resources we may use, no matter how lucrative the prospect seems at face-value.


Greenpa said...

Crunchy what IS this penchant you have for opening cans of worms?? Did your momma call you a troublemaker all the time when you were growing up, and you're trying to prove she was right as a form of revenge??


I've been intimately involved in population questions for decades, on all scales. I've even played a role in UN discussion and statements on population- which is not a can of worms- it's a warehouse full of cans of worms.

It's a massively intractable problem, from any regulatory standpoint. Legislation is divisive and ineffective.

Incidentally - all the comments about what is and isn't true about China- beware of what you hear or read. All the stories coming out are spun, I guarantee. I have sat on my heels in mud huts, in the remote mountains in China- to have my hosts repeatedly wander off into long, quiet discussions I could not follow. Only to have them realize they'd been excluding me, and then explain; "Sorry, we were talking about the population problem again." They take it seriously- all of them.

The last people in the world who would tell you that the Chinese laws are the way to go are- the Chinese. But the majority of them also actively support the laws- because they can see right in front of their eyes that the alternatives are far worse. Do the laws generate abuses? Sure. Are they awful, horrible, and inhuman? Sure. The alternatives are STILL far far worse.

It's highly unlikely that Chinese laws could be made to work in the West, or anywhere outside China. We are not the same culture. And nowhere near as poor or desperate.

Which leaves- empirical processes. Which no one pays any attention to. There are multiple 1st World countries which have declining populations.

My suggestion: uh- study the countries where population is declining. Identify their common aspects. Sift through for anything that might be causal. Then see if governmental processes might be used to generate those kinds of conditions.

I think that has a far better chance of success than any form of direct coercion; either via laws or moral finger-pointing.

Do what works.

cj said...

Great topic; I'm personally struggling with the issue of how many/if to have children of my own, versus adoption. I agree that education is the answer. I'm not sure any kind of legislation on this issue would result in a positive outcome; but I think we can all do more to educate people about overpopulation; right now there is very little media coverage, and I can't think of one advocacy group off the top of my head dedicated to the issue. I personally take issue with the reasons some people choose to have so many kids, i.e. a family member who wants four kids so that at least one of them will grow up wealthy enough to take care of his/her parents. I don't know if there's much you can do to change the opinions of people like this, or people who have very strong religious beliefs (and there's nothing inherently wrong with that); but I think more needs to be done to educate and persuade those who CAN be persuaded to choose a lifestyle that won't add to the problem.

Bld424 said...

When I was in high school 10 years ago, we read Huxley's "A Brave New World". We discussed China's One Child policy, birth control, and population growth over time. Later in college, I had a nuring professor who advocated sterilizing all babies at birth and then when they were "old enough" and could pass a parenting test and citizenship test, un-doing the sterilization.

So, your post wasn't a shocker to me. I have thought about this a lot, and I have decided that I am not in favor of this policy. I want to have a large family. I want to teach my large family about environmental stewardship and about the priveledges they have being American.

I just can't buy into the idea of the govt limitting my reproductive options. So many people who support options such as this get really mad when the govt interferes with abortions or birth control funding for poor people. They don't like govt interfering with reproductive rights. I think I am starting to see their point of view - I don't want the govt interfering with my reproductive capabilities, either!

PS - in high school we also felt that it was elitist to select who could have babies. We were all from a poor rural community and many of us were "oops" children or born to less educated parents. It was sobering to think of US not being born.

Katy said...

As the thrid child born in my family, I have to say that I am against this idea.

TheNormalMiddle said...

I absolutely, unequivocally say NO to any form of population/birth control.

We have 3 kids, a little over the American "average." However I am religiously opposed to any type of birth limits, and mind you, I'm not deeply religious anymore!

I think we can do better without having to be barbaric. I realize many of us will have differing opinions, but I doubt a mother or father of many kids will argue for birth control laws. I see the more "I don't want kids" crowd or the "just one for me!" crowd in on this. And that is fine.

But until you've walked in someones shoes, you really don't know what it is like to have a bigger family.

Anonymous said...

I'm always amused by ideas like this. A lot of people say lets limit the population by limiting every couple to 2 kids, when they actually mean 2 pregnancies.

How would you handle someone like me? I had twins in my second pregnancy, so I have 3 kids. What about the McCaughey Family in Iowa? They had 7 kids in their second pregnancy back in 1997. Would you have forced us to abort the extra babies? Force us to pay fines or buy someone else's permit? Would you deny them or us services because we went over our 2.1 kid limit? Is that fair and American? And yes, we all had our kids through reproductive technology, but that's what happens sometimes (and its no picnic to have multiples let me tell you!).

Think that through before we start saying ZPG and ways to enforce it on a population.

Jennifer said...

I am HORRIFIED by the idea of forced sterilization on ANYONE, including criminals, ill people, and the mentally handicapped.

I am against Eugenics of all sorts. There should not be forced sterilization for any reason, social, medical, or mental.

This is NOT the answer.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that when people talk about forced sterilization, they always talk about "welfare moms," sex workers, or addicted women.

And by "interesting," I mean "sexist, racist and classist."

Given that female sterilization is far more invasive and expensive than male, I suggest mandatory vasectomy for all men.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

For those of you in favor of population control measures, how many of you would be here if any such measures has existed when you were conceived?

Gretchen said...

Just one thought:

I'm glad there was no birth permit system in place when I was born. I'm #4 in my family. I'd say I have been a very productive member of society.

It's impossible to gauge who will be a "good" member of society and who will not. What if a family has 5 children, and all join the Peace Corps? Or what if families only have 1 child, and that child ends up being a murderer?

Just think about it, folks, what number are you in YOUR family's birth order?

Unknown said...

I can't find the blog that has photo collections I looked at a few months ago, so here's a few I found: (all flash site) (next/next/next type gallery)

Will places like those continue to spread and grow larger, while richer places discuss the right to reproduce?

IMO, everything about population control in the US is pointless as long as we continue:

1. to have a lax border, and grant citizenship to any baby born here, regardless of parent/s' citizenship.

2. give food, health care, and other freebies to people unwilling to work, and/or learn a vocation.

3. give tax breaks for children, instead of taxing

Anonymous said...

This reminds me somewhat of the Jeavons paradox, which says that increases in efficiency lead to increases, not decreases, in resource use because the price of the resource drops. If people only had two kids as opposed to four, would they buy those two kids twice as much stuff, because they'd be able to afford it? I think I agree with Sharon, that at the core, environmental issues are not about the number of children people have, but how those children live.

Although I do think population control of some sort would be a good thing (unlikely to ever happen here, but a good thing), if only because I worry that we're headed for a Malthusian-style population crash. What is life going to be like for kids who are being born right now?

(In response to other comments:) Whether or not you would have been conceived under a system like this has absolutely nothing to do with it. Why don't you take a look at the actual issues that are relevant here, today, instead of events in the past, like your birth, which I guarantee is not going to be retroactively negated by population control. =)

Thanks for posting, Crunchy. This is an issue that really needs to be discussed.

Jamie D. said...

As a "child-free by choice" couple, my husband and I talk about this often. Our reasons for not having kids are only in part due to environmental impact - the larger part being that we're both older (he's 10 yrs older than I) and all the issues that arise with that.

Though we often joke about it (especially when we see out of control children), I don't think permits are the answer. It will just lead to more problems. I do think that personally, I'm an advocate for smaller families (for lots of reasons, including environmental impact). I would like to see the government stop *rewarding* people for reproducing by stopping the tax credits for's a choice to have or not have kids, one that people fight tooth and nail to protect, and I don't see why that should be subsidized by tax dollars at the home level (schools, sure, annual living expenses the parents should be responsible for, no). We struggle every year to pay into the system when friends who make the same amount or more are getting money back simply for having kids.

That may (or may not) make people think before adding that 5th kid to their family...the fact that they really will have to pay all expenses associated with raising that child to adulthood, with no tax credit for each child on a yearly basis.

I don't want to take away people's right to have children...but at the same time, I think overpopulation is a very valid problem that needs to be addressed along with every other environmental problem we're facing. Stopping the rewards for having kids might be a step in the right direction to smaller families.

I do think there are some people who really shouldn't pass their genes on to kids - but it's a moral issue, and I don't have any idea how you can convince those people that it's more honorable to not have kids than to saddle them with certain diseases & genetic problems. If a lot of those people would decide on their own *not* to pass on their bad genetics, that could help the overpopulation problem as well. But there's just no good way to go about convincing people when they're absolutely rabid to reproduce.

Obviously, I have no solid solution to present - just things we think about from time to time.

Jennifer said...

wrorth~ You nailed the nail on the head. Thanks for putting words to what I was thinking!

Why are WE the ones who are worthy of having kids, if there are "unworthies"?

EJ said...

“May we live long and die out”

Phasing out the human race by voluntarily ceasing to breed will allow Earth's biosphere to return to good health. Crowded conditions and resource shortages will improve as we become less dense.

Anonymous said...


If that phasing-out started tomorrow, with you, would you be alright with that? I'm just curious, as I'm always amused by those who express desire to see the human race die out.

Di Hickman said...

Jamie put everything I agree with in one post! Like her we are child free by choice. I too think that the benefits for childbearing need to be reduced, or phased out completely.
Whilst there are many out there who have children for good reason, there are more who are doing it to "milk the system". If you make the sound decision to have children then you should have the means to support them 100% on your own. If you can't, then IMO the time is not right for you to be having children. I realize that circumstances change, and that further down the line you may not be able to support them, but that's what family support comes in, something that is missing in todays society!

I've also wondered about forced sterilization for certain groups of high producing individuals.

There is a middle ground, IMO ceasing the benefits is it. Sometimes I think having children in many ways should be like driving. People need a freakin' test before they have kids! That would solve a WHOLE load of problems right there!!!

Greenpa said...

For those suggesting cutting tax "incentives" to have children- be careful!

Whether you call that an "incentive" or "support" may make a difference in how you see it.

Just yesterday, BBC ran this story on new and even more sophisticated evidence that "poverty CAUSES low IQ's". Not the other way around.

Do we really want those with a couple more kids becoming dumber and dumber?

It's all highly complex- and inflammatory, of course. Many population biologist say (in private, because you can get fired for saying "people are like other organisms" in public- really.) that the poor use r-selection strategies of reproduction; and the wealthy use K-selection strategies.

Even in academia, this stuff results in emotional fights.

Char said...

I haven't read the other comments yet,
but the US and Canada (and most Western Countries) have declining fertility rates.

It isn't the West we need to be concerned about as far a growing populations go.
As society's Industrialize and Urbanize, fertility rates decrease. What does need to be focused on is countries still in the primary and secondary phases of their development.

A driving force to population control is women's literacy. Empower women to have more options than raising children, and offer birth control.

Still ... my opinion on Western countries: mandatory classes. You must take and pass basic courses to become a parent. Some human geography classes would be required. I haven't thought of a way to enforce this, and could in no way see anyone of power supporting me.

Farmer's Daughter said...

There's an excellent episode of NOVA that explored the population issues all over the world. The title is "Population Paradox." I highly suggest it and show it to my students.

The reality presented is that many women in the developing world would like to reduce the number of children they have, but birth control is either not available or not acceptable. In the film, a woman in India describes begging doctors to sterilize her after almost dying delivering her 7th child. She was only 30 years old and didn't want any more children. However, her husband and mother-in-law would not agree to the sterilization, so she did not get the medical treatment she wanted.

While I don't believe forced sterilization is okay, I think women around the world should have the right to make that choice for themselves.

Anonymous said...

I am SO anti-sterilization. As mentioned above, any kind of restrictive/sterilization system is inevitably a racist and classist system. There's no just way for the government to regulate this - forcing any woman or man to have a child, terminate a pregnancy, or be sterilized is just way too 1984 for me - it gives me chills.

Europe does have a declining population, and they think it's a major issue. Instead of trying to figure out ways to welcome more immigrants from around the world, they are protecting their "race", "ethnicity" and "culture" by encouraging local women to have more kids (paying them cash in some cases) while actively excluding others from immigrating, joining the workforce, and alleviating the growing issue of caring for the old with a diminishing younger workforce.

Although in many countries in the world the population continues to increase by large numbers, think about the carbon impact that many of those kids are having and going to have. Many of them don't have electricity, cars, industrially-produced products of any kind...their impact is still going to be nothing like what my son's will be.

Anonymous said...

Imposing governmental regulations on childrearing is granting too much power to people and institutions who are not guaranteed, over time, to have the best interests of the PEOPLE at heart. I actually think the US has one of the best government systems around, but even so, it's pretty clear that we're not immune to corruption and placing corporate interests above those of "we the people."

Regarding forced sterilization: this falls exactly into the same issues as government regulation of reproduction in general, PLUS has the added disadvantage of making some person or entity become the arbiter of who is worthy and who is not. I'm not a religious person by any stretch of the imagination, but I think the line about "let he who has no sins cast the first stone" probably applies here. There just isn't a way to guarantee that such rules would be applied without prejudice, and there's a good chance that some sort of prejudice would prevail. A better option would be to put money and energy back into education re: birth control and family planning, and to make contraceptives and yes, abortion more accessible and affordable for those who are so inclined.

Regarding people who have children "milking the system"... [long-winded rant deleted in favor of:]There may be flaws in how we as a society have constructed our social support systems, and I won't argue against the need to strengthen informal social networks to aid in the raising of children. But please don't resort to making snap judgments and demonizing people who have made different childrearing decisions than you have. I seriously doubt anyone who is actually bearing the burden of raising a child would consider the limited resources on offer from "the system" as offsetting their own outlay--or milkable in any fashion.

Anonymous said...

My God, Crunchy.

The history of forced sterilization in this country is ugly, and not so old - BIA hospitals were routinely performing unasked-for hysterectomies until the 1960s, and we still get the occasional judge ordering individual women not to get pregnant.

I'm in favor of voluntary sterilization (practiced by my partner and a number of people we know, men & women) and of free preventative health care including sexual health care. Those things do bring the birth rate down wherever they're tried, along with empowering people to thrive whatever their family situation.

Among other things, just encouraging people to have their first child later lowers the total population by quite a bit.

Also, the "people like us should have more kids" argument doesn't hold water, either - you can't control how your kids turn out. You can't force them to follow your values, and you can't really account for the resource impact of their adult selves or their own kids. Ask my parents how they feel about my "lifestyle".

cheflovesbeer said...

I slowly stuck my toe in the water of this discussion and decided I should have used a ten foot pole. Much better for stirring things up!

I shall keep my opinions on this topic too myself and let everyone think I'm an idiot. I will not type a response that will remove all doubt!

Anonymous said...

If people are all for "parenting" classes, I guess we will all wear chastity belts to prevent us from having sex, because only absentance is the proven method of not multiplying...I think some people would have a problem not having sex, especially since thats what our country (US) is so focused on. I think people should have children if they can afford them and if they are conscious parents and limit their impact. Dont buy into all the commercialism of the materialistic world and we should all be fine...

Anna Marie said...

Why not focus on avoiding all the 'accident' children born to teenagers that don't have knowledge of or access to birth control? Or people who don't want to have (another) child but can't afford birth control?

Why not give out free hormonal birth control to anyone who wants it? Don't you think that would have a major impact?

How about IUDs? Voluntary serialization for free? After all, it's probably cheaper to prevent a child of poverty than to support that child and it's family.

I also think requiring childhood psychology and development for everyone thinking of having a child. That would help a lot of people, I'm sure.

I don't see this country ever passing lawns to limit the number of children- too many human rights and ethics issues.

Jennie said...

I think education is key, both in the US and abroad. Educate women and men on their choices and the consequences of those choices. Educate them on the options they have available.
And while I really agree with Sharon's idea for resource limits as opposed to child limits, I'm not sure how such a system would be implemented in real life.
I'm thinking resource limits is going to be a strong force for change even without a system in place. Are people going to want to have another child if they can barely afford to heat the house or drive the car?
I also don't like the idea of penalties for "too many" because birth control failure is fairly common. I have a sister who was born 9 months after my brother was born. My mother had her tubes tied when my brother was born. :-P Who deserves the penalty there?

Anonymous said...

Here's something to think about. If we study other countries that have a declining birth rate for their citizens, we must factor in something else. We need the following generations to work and pay in the system via taxes or what Europe the burden(or load) is now being carried by immigrants(mostly Muslim) that are having several more children then the negative of the national births.

So as noble as the plan is, when those who decided to be good citizens for the environment dwindle and die out and policy is then set by the new citizens.

In the US one of the largest groups having babies are Mexicans either of ancestry or here illegally. And then we see faith brought back into childbirth.

Living so very close to the border I know that local issues mirror family and the love of the child.

Sadly mother earth has more money behind her movement...

I don't find this conversation interesting or sad. Only telling of how the god of the earth and man having thinking he has the power to control cycles that existed long before bad ole USA and our consumerism. I find that cycles right themselves and brain- storm ecological solutions such as the energy lightbulb(which if breaks is a hazard)...will come and go depending who has the most bling to pass on.

I sure wish I could buy carbon offsets for my life and those of my children(oops I have 4) so that I can feign support for a cause that has just removed one religion(be fruitful and multiply) into another of super god the earth...I wish like in times of old this movement would give the earth a godly name...

Anonymous said...

"Be fruitful and multiply" had, and has, it's own population restraints put in: War, Disease, and Famine. If you think that government mandates are harsh, I say that they PALE compared to those!

Carmen said...

Jonathan Swift presented a very good solution with regards to the Irish that were such a drain on the British economy:

Sharlene said...

I am very sad that their are people out there who don't want to have children because of environmental impact. The children of environmentally conscience individuals are needed so they can pass their knowledge on to others who were not raised with the same values. I don't think our problem in the US has to do with how many children a family has but how they choose to raise their children. One of my closest friends has nine children (four biological, the rest adopted) and their carbon footprint is much smaller than the average family of four.

Anonymous said...

You know, a lot of our neighbors are immigrants, or children of immigrants. And their kids are Americans.

Legal or not, they have the same consumption habits, the same disease patterns, and the same level of environmentalism as other Americans. They go to the same schools, they live with the same cultural pressures.

We don't have to "do something" about "those people" who are having babies, whether they're religious fundamentalists, dumb teenagers, or rich people who pay $100K for IVF. All we have to do is what we're trying to do anyway - pass environmental legislation and turn the culture around as best we can.

MrsSpock said...

Enforced sterilization? That happened in this country in the 1920s, when the eugenics movement was at its peak. Most folks sterilized were poor, uneducated, immigrants, or developmentally disabled. That was not a great chapter in our country's history. Who decides who is worthy of reproduction?

Allie said...

Although I often joke that we should need a license to breed, in practice this would not work well in America (and in fact, did not work well when forced sterilisation was legal and practiced in this country) for several reasons:

1. We have no base cultural agreement on birth control and/or abortion. If you limit the number of children people can have, then you must ALSO remove any limitations to birth control and abortion. As this is a continually debated issue, the viability of population control is diminished.

2. The Chinese were able to have more children than the allotted amount - they simply had to pay fines and higher taxes. Americans continually balk at paying ANY increase in taxes. This will not fly for most people.

3. Abandonment and child killing. These would become more commonplace, at the very least in low-income, urban environments. The expense of investigating and prosecuting these cases would be astronomical. And then of course there are the associated moral issues.

4. Foundation of American culture. Although it is true that we use very little of our Constitution and Bill of Rights these days, the American culture is based in the concept of freedom. Eliminating the right of a predominantly Christian, freedom-based society to breed at will is going to cause a lot of problems.

Ultimately, while it's a lovely idea to restrict breeding, the concept isn't congruent with the values this culture holds, so it would not be, and has not been, tolerated or effective.

Robj98168 said...

I personally think they need to have a license to have children and if they made it as hard to have kids as pass a driver's test then we wouldn't have a population problem.

Anonymous said...

If I remember correctly from my college classes, the only reason the US population is growing is due to immigration. This is not to say I'm anti-immigration, far from it.

But it is to say that the solution does not lie in forcibly limiting the birth rate, all moral questions aside.

Anonymous said...

Ok instead of taking such drastic measures like this and taking away peoples rights why isn't anyone advocating the government outlawing the poor treatment of our enviroment. Seems to me if all these practices that are harmful and unjust were not allowed to be then some if not most of the problem would be gone. I know there are government regulations of pollution and production of goods and that is why they take them places like China and Japan and other third world countries and pollute their land in the name of our consumerism but who see that these laws and regulations are kept up with? There aren't enough laws in this dept. Let's put blame where blame should be!

Anonymous said...

I've read some of the other comments since posting last night and I agree with some. I really like the idea of a financial incentive to convince some men and women to be sterilized. I wish I had thought of it. I do however disagree with the notion that forcing some individuals to be sterilized is "classist". I had to work in a store in Boston, my family thought it would be a good learning experience for me. I worked with people who had that job, and others just to survive. I learned a lot from them, and saw how hard their lives were. I saw some of my co-workers who had children in their teens and were still struggling in middle age. Still there were more that got pregnant by random men and assumed the government would take care of them. It was all a real eye opener.

In poorer neighborhoods there are more environmental concerns for the rest of us. I would suggest to a co-worker that they buy a bigger bottle of something, reducing waste from many smaller bottles and costing less at the same time. I was told that a smaller bottle costs less now, and not everyone can afford the big bottle of shampoo when bills are due. Many of these people had several children who had children of their own, and they were spreading this thinking to their children. Just think, if forty years ago someone sterilized just one woman we could have avoided a few dozen people who have no concern for the environment. Individuals who had engaged in drug use, been arrested, and stole.

I have seen parents high wandering around a store while their three year old child stuffs a magazine under their shirt. I can't count the number of children under the age of two that would just wander the store while their parents shoplifted make-up. Then there's my favorite, an junkie who used to come in and steal everything not nailed down. She's dead now (O.D.) and so is her son. Her son died before he was ten, he drowned while his mother got high. I think it's nice to say "I don't agree with preventing people from having children!" But then you should meet some of the people I have. I don't know though, maybe I am classist. All I know is I don't want to see my family and the environment suffer because others didn’t teach their children to be responsible.

Anderson Family said...

Maybe I'm "classist", but drug-moms need to be sterilized. My daughter spend a month in the NICU and I saw so many drug babies, usually around 2 lbs. That is the biggest form of child abuse - they don't even get a fair start at life. It's not about class but consequences for actions they chose.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we should just shoot the heartless morons who think forced sterilizations are a good idea. Surely that'd go some way to solving the overpopulation problem - in America, anyway. Geez, you people sound like a bunch of rednecks.

Anonymous said...

No, not rednecks - fascists.

Mari said...

A lot of people have already mentioned the shameful history of sterilization in America and the moral and constitutional points, but another issue is we use more resources now than we did in the past and we have a lower birthrate. So the problem isn't numbers, it is how those numbers use and abuse resources. Say compared to 1920s Americans, we eat more, we use more electricity, we drive more, fly more, use more water, live in suburban and exurban areas that eat up farmland, and are less connected with food production and the land. If we continue with this trend, we could have less than a replacement rate but use up more resources than we do now. An American in 2050 could be using up twice as much gas (depite having a fuel eff. car) because he has to drive everywhere, twice as much electricity because he has a zillion more gadgets that need to be on every second, three times as much water because X has to be very clean, and smacks a 2,000 sq ft house for his single self down on what used to be farmland because he has to have his own space. It's not the numbers, it is the habits.

Anonymous said...

I think that reproduction is an ungovernable right, and that our citizens should have the right to choose the shape of their family. I also believe that the United States should remain legislatively dedicated to personal freedoms, as our constitution intends, and what you are suggesting is just a hair-breadth away from putting barcodes on people.

Cave-Woman said...

Perhaps, instead of a "cap" on population---we give a financial incentive to folks who agree to voluntary sterilization, or who simply agree not to have children.

TDP said...

My vote is NO for forced sterilization of anybody, NO for permits. Voluntary sterilization, even free sterilization for those who want it, YES!

But as with some others here, I say the problem is not the number of people, as population trends show a downward movement in US, Europe and Japan (which is by the way, a 1st world country.) The problem is with the consumption rate of our population and in 1st world countries.

Why not give incentives and tax breaks for those who can show a reduction in their energy and overall comsumption rates? Its Something that could off set the drive to have more "dependents" and get a bigger tax break. Heck, I bought a condo so I could have a tax break, because as a single person, childless, I was at the highest tax rate. If I could get "credit" for reducing our energy usage, that would be helpful to me.

For those who are saying drug addicts should be sterilized, remember rock stars, movie stars, stock brokers and the wife of a certain recent Presidential candidate was admittedly drug-addicted. Her net worth is more than some countries. Does she fit into that "should sterilize" category. IF not, why not? Does the sterilization include men?

We need to keep pushing the education about different consumption choices. Change our values about what is glamourous and fashionable. Change our need for so many plastic junk.

China is a huge producer of goods that they make for our market. While according to our standards their wages are a pittance, I am sure they will tell you it beats starving in the countryside, unable to grow food in poisioned soil from factory waste coming down river.

Our consumption choices effect the health and well being of those across the globe. Change those and all the people in the world will be healthier and able to support themselves off their local resources.

We will need more than replacements of ourselves (future tax payers) to get us out of the monetary hole we are in across the globe!

Jenn said...

I agree with Rosa and others:

I'm in favor of voluntary sterilization and of free preventative health care including sexual health care and sterilization.

Offering lighter sentencing or some other benefit to drug addicted mothers (and fathers) would probably be a good way to go - but forced or mandatory is a violation of civil rights.

The real issue is reducing the number of accidents. In some respects, the only way to do that is to reduce the "abstinence" crap that the Christian right is teaching kids - I have read that those kids are getting pregnant at higher rates than kids who get actual sex ed instead of "just don't think/talk about sex until you are married" nonsense.

The CDC released a report showing that the rates of teen pregnancies are increasing - blaming it on the increased number of "abstinence only programs."

Emerging Answers 2007: Research Findings on Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Synopsis here -

The abstinence only lie

Red, White & Blue Sex: Why do so many evangelical teen-agers become pregnant?

Deoxy144 said...

I have serious ethical concerns about any type of government limit on the number of children people can have. Not all people are created equal as parents. I know some who realize that they do not ever want children, and I admire them for making that choice. I know others who have 8 kids and are raising them to be very responsible, environmentally conscious world citizens.

I do believe that we need a smaller world population, but we need to accomplish that by making sure people have the ability to limit the number of children they have, when they wish to. I personally am facing the question of what type of contraception to use after my second child is born. My husband and I are not planning on having any more children, but want to wait a couple years before we go for the vasectomy. I am rather frustrated that there is not a better option available.

NFP is reliable if you are trained and very dedicated, but with my cycles, that would mean we could have sex for about two weeks every other month. Not good for the marriage...

The various hormonal methods can be very effective, but I have serious health and moral concerns about them.

Non-hormonal IUDs work, but again, I have moral concerns because they work by making the uterus an inhospitable place for fertilized eggs to implant. To me, this is abortion.

Condoms and other barrier methods are not as reliable, and not as fun.

That eliminates pretty much every option. In our case, cost is not a concern, but for others it is. Now, we will feel strongly enough about not having more children that we will eventually pick one from the list undesireable options, but I know plenty of people who, seeing the lack of a perfect option, choose to do nothing.

Anonymous said...

Something definitely needs to be done, whether it be more education or whatever, but statements like this from a previous commenter...

"We need MORE children in this country! Not less!"

...scare the crap out of me. We already have way too many kids that are not being taken care of or paid attention to - why not take care of them first before encouraging everyone to have even more? Sorry to bring it up, but it is related - so many people want abortion to be illegal yet they are not willing to take care of the all the kids that were born unwanted already or to pour money into inner city schools where so many kids are struggling. If we outlaw abortion, will all the anti-abortionists step up to take care of every single kid, current and future, that are not getting his or her fair shake in life?

I am not saying we should implement programs like they have in China, but maybe we should learn to educate and care for those that are already here and not getting the attention they deserve - and see how we handle that first before having even more. EDUCATION is key, from the poorest of the poor to the wealthiest we can find. We need more money for sex ed programs, sustainability education in school, and campaigns in places like Africa to really help people make safe, healthy decisions - just doing a little might really go long way reducing the strain on our world.

Unknown said...

This was a big discussion between my friends a family a month ago when I read a mother in one of the blogs asking what is she going to do if she doesn't have the medicines to support her child that was born 10 years ago with many health problems. There are many people in this world that would not be here if it would not be for the medicines that maintain them alive. I think the problem is not having more or fewer children are actually that nature has a way to take care of overpopulation but we have put a stop to this. It sounds cruel but is true. Do not get me wrong, my mom would not be here if it would not be for her thyroid pills. We have a lot of sick unproductive people and the people that take care of them. Overpopulation is a sad subject because it will happen even if we have 2.1 birth rate like we have right now. If the economy keeps going the way they are and less people can acquire health services and medicines you will see the population decrease without having to think about having fewer babies. It is the same when every winter we hear people dying because they do not have heat.
Sorry but it is a reality.

Pete Murphy said...

Crunchy Chicken, Wow! You have quite a following here! Sorry I didn't come across this post sooner.

I'll begin with a couple of comments on your post. I agree that steps to stabilize and eventually reduce our population are absolutely critical. But there are far more ethical and unintrusive ways to do it than those employed by nations like China and India. I'm speaking primarily of a system of economic incentives to influence family planning decisions toward smaller families.

You mentioned a fertility rate of 2.0 children per female. I'm afraid that won't do the job. The rate needs to decline to about 1.79 in order to stabilize the population. Why less than 2.0? It's because of our steadily rising life expectancy.

I should introduce myself. I am the author of a book titled "Five Short Blasts: A New Economic Theory Exposes The Fatal Flaw in Globalization and Its Consequences for America." To make a long story short, my theory is that, as population density rises beyond some optimum level, per capita consumption of products begins to decline out of the need to conserve space. People who live in crowded conditions simply don’t have enough space to use and store many products. This declining per capita consumption, in the face of rising productivity (per capita output, which always rises), inevitably yields rising unemployment and poverty.

This theory has huge implications for U.S. policy toward population management. Our policies that encourage high rates of population growth are rooted in the belief of economists that population growth is a good thing, fueling economic growth. Through most of human history, the interests of the common good and business (corporations) were both well-served by continuing population growth. For the common good, we needed more workers to man our factories, producing the goods needed for a high standard of living. This population growth translated into sales volume growth for corporations. Both were happy.

But, once an optimum population density is breached, their interests diverge. It is in the best interest of the common good to stabilize the population, avoiding an erosion of our quality of life through high unemployment and poverty. However, it is still in the interest of corporations to fuel population growth because, even though per capita consumption goes into decline, total consumption still increases. We now find ourselves in the position of having corporations and economists influencing public policy in a direction that is not in the best interest of the common good.

The U.N. ranks the U.S. with eight third world countries - India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Uganda, Ethiopia and China - as accounting for fully half of the world’s population growth by 2050.

If you’re interested in learning more about this important new economic theory, I invite you to visit my web site at where you can read the preface, join in my blog discussion and, of course, purchase the book if you like. (It's also available at However, since you have a large following here, I'd be very happy to send you a complimentary copy if you will just E-mail me a shipping address. (

Please forgive the somewhat spammish nature of the previous paragraph. I just don't know how else to inject this new perspective into the overpopulation debate without drawing attention to the book that explains the theory.

Pete Murphy
Author, "Five Short Blasts"

Alison Kerr said...

I think we're getting distracted from the real issue. Is there a way for America to be sustainable with the current population level? If so, let's try to understand what that way is. I've read a few places about the idea of a steady state economy, but nowhere have I found something I can read to get a grasp of what that would involve or look like for our country. While our economy is based on, and dependent on, growth we can't be sustainable whatever our population because we need to continually buy more of something to keep the economy functioning, otherwise everything will come crashing down on our heads. Like it or not, even if I am frugal I think I am living in a country where I'm dependent on the spending of others to keep me in the lifestyle I'm accustomed to.

Then if we want to talk about sustainable levels of population that is something different from sustaining the current level of population. Where birth rates are dropping maybe we can find a way to sustain the population at the current level, but is that a sustainable level for the resources available in that place in our time?

Some writers here mentioned about the influx of immigrants to enable the sustenance of current population levels in places like the UK. You can say that immigrants are unwelcome because of racial prejudice, but to me it's actually just as much about cultural threat. What do we think of when we think of England? Personally I think of stuff like tea, scones, cricket, Ascot, Oxford, Shakespeare etc. Culture is good. The question is how do immigrants both maintain their own culture and adopt the culture of their new country? How do we appreciate our own culture and sustain it yet prevent cultural divide in this globally conscious day and age?

Latte said...

Do you realize that the entire population of the WORLD would fit into Jacksonville Florida!!!! Easily!

It's not a population control that we need at all!!!!! It's moderation of the junk we make and buy that is needed!!!

The reason it seems we are overpopulated is because we live in cities instead of spread out. Kind of like ants...


Anonymous said...

I may have found this too late to comment, but can't resist as I have always been in favor of limiting population growth. For the last 30 or more years I have been hoping that people will decide to limit their reproduction before we excede the ability of the earth to support our species.

As number 6 in a family of 7 my views have never been taken seriously since people love to point out that if my parents limited their family to 2 children I would not be here. However, being number 6 of 7 meant that there was no money left to send me to college and the family land had already been divided up and given to older siblings. I hope people who think it is a great idea to have lots of children please make sure you can treat them equally, not just when they are cute little children.

Please also realize that just because you raise your children in a low impact lifestyle does not mean they will maintain it when they grow up and are out on their own. By necessity as well as choice I raised my 2 children in a frugal, low impact environment and was able to stay home with them so they had love and attention rather than material goods.

They are grown and on their own now, one is quite good at living a low impact lifestyle without the need of a credit card. But one has been far more influenced by peers, spouse and society and uses credit cards too much to buy stuff she cannot afford. I am very glad I did not give in to my desire to have a large family and produce 4 or 5 more consumers to create more debt, garbage and carbon to make our world a more crowded and dirty place.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

First, I feel offended that I'm being included in the "uneducated mother" group. I don't have a college degree, I do have a son, but I'm not stupid. Lack of formal education does not equate stupidity.

As for passing a test to qualify as parents, what will be on it? GED equivalent? Or will it be a test of my parental skills? I know a lot of things I do doesn't jive with the rest of America (out-of-hospital birth, co-sleeping, no vax, extended nursing, etc.), so would that keep me from being a parent?

The real problem is over-consumption. I will teach my children their responsibility of the earth. I like the idea of "rationing" consumption. If you can raise a large family with less, more power to you for having as many as you want.

By the way, I want at least five kids.

Anonymous said...

What an abhorrent suggestion. Children are miracles -- tiny gifts from God. How some people seem to put more of a premium on environmental issues, etc., than on humanity is beyond me.

Anonymous said...

"How some people seem to put more of a premium on environmental issues, etc., than on humanity is beyond me."

Are you serious? You do know that we are part of the environment, right? And if we don't stop to at least think about that, it won't matter how many precious children are born - the earth won't be habitable.

Please. Some of us see the big picture of the entire planet, not just the little window we choose to look through.

Anonymous said...

Hi Crunchy

...and I thought I was doing the proverbial "opening a can of worms"'ve gone beyond me here....advocating enforced sterilisation for those who "shouldnt" have children. Hmmmm...must confess I've never actually thought through that far on this issue. Obviously - I've often wished that those who really "shouldnt" have them didnt have them.....

I do think overall the way to go though is to cut out paying people for having children - tax benefits, etc. The main objection I have to these things is that everyone takes them - whether they need them or no. I dont know what provisions there are in America for those things. I just know the position in my own country - which is to pay £18 approx per week for the 1st child and £12 approx per week for all subsequent children and to pay Working Tax Credit out to people with children up to a very generous salary level (think its about £60,000 pa) - but childless people have to be on a very low salary indeed to get this.

There is a strong sense of injustice here about having to constantly pay out tax to support other peoples children that is felt by those of us who are childless. Certainly also - I think another way to go forward is to give people a financial incentive to get sterilised. I think that actually the people most likely to take up that incentive would be precisely those who "shouldnt" get pregnant. In Britain, for instance, I feel that sterilisation operations shoud be freely available to everyone wanting them and that those who have never had children should be given, say, £5,000 at the time they have just had that operation as a "reward" for not having children at all. I think a huge proportion of the feckless would have that operation in order to get that level of payment - result: a noticeable cut in population (as the feckless are amongst the ones most likely to have large families) and a cut in crime (less adults subsequently coming from feckless families) and a large saving on welfare bills (certainly - in Britain for instance it is not worth getting a job if one has a large family - unless you are VERY well-paid).

Very brave of you to raise this issue - you were bound to get people commenting that they have a "right" to have as many children as they want - well....we know just how high a proportion of the population are just plain selfish and "shortsighted"...



Crunchy Chicken said...

First of all, I don't want people to get confused with what I'm saying and what is done in China, I merely used that as an example of a country that has limitations set on population.

Secondly, I am in no way advocating or suggesting forced sterilization. If individuals want to get sterilized, that's fine, but forcing someone is too draconian and isn't exactly a viable option.

Since it's unlikely that any kind of population control is realistic in this country, perhaps carbon taxing is pretty much the way to go. If you want to have 10 kids, by all means, squeeze 'em out. You just have to either live very leanly (like a <4 person househould) or pay for your impact.

Unfortunately, that's probably not the way it would get played out. Each person would be allotted a certain amount of carbon output, so additional "inputs" aka children into the system would still cause a higher drain on resources.

But, I'd love for some of the money coming from future carbon taxes to partly go towards free birth control and education.

Latte - How 'bout we run a reality show called "Overpopulation". You can be one of the contestants who, along with 6 billion other people, get to live in Jacksonville, FL for a year. Whoever isn't dead (from lack of water or food) or drowned in urine and shit wins 1 million dollars. Anybody else want to play?

Anonymous said...

I know this is a somewhat old post but I just wanted to say ... this is actually a far bigger issue than just the environment. All species on earth have a carrying capacity - basically the population at which they are stable, based on the resources of their environment. Once you reach it, you must stabilize or else much of the population will die out until it reaches its capacity again. We humans have reached ours quite a bit ago.

I wrote a post on it here:

It's a very terrifying thing. I'm not sure what's going to happen but I suspect something WILL happen very soon. We need to stop having so many kids. It's not just India or China or countries with large populations, but everyone. Unfortunately the consequences are very far-reaching. I'm not sure how to do this, but it needs to happen. I'm by no means a conspiracy theorist or a psychopath, just a student at a university who did a very scary class project.

Robbyn said...

I would never support a restriction on reproduction. It's a basic human right.

Anonymous said...

Cap and trade is a great idea. Not everyone wants to have kids. This is a conflict that has been around since the beginning of populations: "My genes should live and yours should die."

Where I live, deer are overtaking the roadways because builders keep stripping forest and building houses that no one can afford. So of course, I constantly hear, "There's an overpopulation of deer; we need to cull the herds." Why deer? Why not the number of cars and houses?

Fact is, humans need to cull our own herds. I do not mean to say we should pick and choose the best genetics and say that all others must die. I firmly believe that rational, grown adults with a knowledge of their family medical history tend to make extremely well-advised decisions about whether to have children who ultimately will suffer. I know many who adopt, which is what everyone should do until there are zero children in orphanages and foster care. But if we do not control our population, nature will do it for us. In the case of deer, it's automobile impacts, hunting, and state-sanctioned "culling". In the world of we humans -- right here in the United States -- population control will mean disease, lack of medical care, eating too much, starving, addictions, unprotected sex, and the weather.

Thanks to modern medicine, we can't even die from the abundant population control mechanisms by which human populations were "culled" only 70 years ago: cancer, influenza, typhoid, measles, polio, infections, TB. They all are horrendous ways to die, but now that finding a cure for death is top priority, we now live longer and have more children, we find it increasingly difficult to say, "I am going to die," and we reject it as if it does not happen, period. People don't die. In the meantime, viruses, bacteria, and diseases are becoming increasingly strong. So, universally, cancer is a horrible way to die. So was the Spanish Inquisition and the Black Death. So, too, will be MRSA or any antibiotic-resistant infection and Strep B and mad cow disease and anthrax and being unable to get treatment in the ER because we don't have health insurance. Has anyone noticed that every time we feel confident that we've won the fight against Death, something stronger and more devastating comes along? If ever more deadly diseases don't do the trick, we can count on limited food resources, environmental disasters (hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires), man's general hatred towards man, and our healthcare system to do us in.

We cannot have it all ways. We cannot live forever and fully intend for our children live forever too. We need to die. Too big a burden on our children who will have to take care of us. Too big a burden on the whole country.

Anyone who has done petri dish experiments knows that, placed in a petri dish, populations of bacteria will grow and grow and grow and -- die all at once. I am not so arrogant that I see any flaw in this analogy, that humans are better than bacteria, because bacteria outlive us, they can kill us, and it's not usually the other way around without a good bit of work and a prescription from the doctor.

And what does the above have to with population control? Well, if we don't want to die en masse, we need to slow down our growth or, just like bacteria in a petri dish, we will all drop dead from some disease that, due to concentrated human populations, spreads so quickly that no one can stop it in time before we are all gone.

These days, we have palliative care. We have pain killers. So, no matter how I die, I hope not to live until I am 90. I would like to leave some air for my only child and his children. And for your children. I hope my child and yours feel the same way when they are thinking about bringing life into this world.