Monday, September 14, 2009

The Population Problem

I saw 9 on the weekend. It's a great apocalyptic film, a warning about the dangers of technology, but the ending isn't clearly positive. Monsters are tricked and killed, but there's still no life as we define it - the type that eats, reproduces, etc. For a real happy ending I needed a little plant to struggle up through the rubble like in Wall-E.

Both films made me think of Alan Weisman's book The World Without Us which is the subject of an article in bitch this month. The book documents the probable outcome if people suddenly ceased to be. According to this book the world will take relatively little time to regenerate without people in the way trashing the place. The visual I had in my head when I read it was the Manhattan of I Am Legend, with deer running through a forest sprouting up through asphalt, but without all the zombies. We do not need to save the planet for its own sake; it will be fine on its own. We need to save it for our survival.

I loved the book until I got to his final conclusion: to save the world, we must regulate childbirth - one child per woman, no exceptions. Now that we are considering covering assisted reproductive services under Medicare in Canada, it has become a hot issue.

The problem with limiting women to one child in order to save the planet is that many people in the western world have few children already, the Canadian average is 1.6 children, yet we produce the most greenhouse gases - far more than parts of the world with a child per woman average closer to 5 or 6.

I think if I had fewer children I might have spent my excess cash on stuff for myself. I might actually have a car. We tend to spend what we make - at least - and without RESPs taking up a chunk of my pay, I could possibly be a much larger environmental problem. I would like to think that I would use my time and money for good, buy land and plant a mixed forest for instance, but, unfortunately, I am a pretty typical human being.

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