Rant of the Week

I may be a bit slow off the mark here, but I’ve just come across this. Over in the God-bothering land of Arkansas, there’s a cable tv show dedicated to a family with 18 kids ‘and counting’. (I’m not even going to start with Nadya Suleman, who I think is more of a victim of bad social services.)

I really don’t know where to begin with how howl-at-the-moon stupid I think this is. I mean, first off, they’ve called them all names beginning with J and as a J myself I resent having my initial hijacked to serve the cause of rabid lunacy. (Although I am mildly impressed they managed to think up so many names. I think after the first half dozen I’d have to resort to numbers.)

Secondly, I hate people who say ‘I have a right to have children’. Being biologically capable of something does not give you an unlimited right to it – unfortunately, as I feel biologically capable of administering a couple of punches right now.

Childbearing is a responsibility, not a means of acquiring a collection. With the best will in the world these procreators – I hesitate to call them parents – cannot possibly give their children the attention they need. And their whole ‘look! We’ve made another one!’ attitude is deeply suspect. Leaving aside the obvious desire for fame, what psychological disease is driving them to have so many children? Before birth control became available huge families were a life-threatening curse on the mother, necessary, if at all, only because of high infant mortality rates. To carry over this practice into modern life is ridiculous;  as anachronistic as someone trying to drive a horse and cart down a motorway, only much more dangerous.

Of course the Catholic Church’s irresponsible attitude towards birth control doesn’t help. A general squeamishness towards sex – because God forbid you should simply enjoy yourself – would be fine if the consequences of unprotected sex weren’t so destructive. Leaving aside the devastating effect of AIDS and HIV in Africa, Russia, and the rest of the world, it’s utterly immoral to condemn birth control when the world is dangerously saturated with people – this couple should be counselled, not given their own show.

Some might argue that it’s none of our business how many kids they bash out. Sadly it is our business. Leaving aside the fact that they’ve made it a public event by having their own show, population growth is the elephant in the room of many other discussions about the earth, climate change, increasing competition for natural resources, even swine flu. In 1950 the earth’s population was 2.5 billion: now, fifty years later, it’s 6.8 billion. Every week the number grows by more than 1.5 million: that’s ten thousand every hour. This is a crisis far bigger in impact than any of the worries about swine flu and carbon footprints and everything. Unless we take serious measures to slow the rate of population expansion, soon enough there simply won’t be enough resources in the world to feed, water and clothe everyone.

You might have noticed that each natural disaster seems to have bigger and bigger death tolls. Just this week we have news of the tsunami in the South Pacific and earthquakes in Indonesia. It’s no great mystery as to why events like these, and the devastating tsunami in ’06, kill so many people: it’s simply cold mathematics. There are far more people in the world to be killed. This is one of the most awful aspects of population growth: as more and more people pop up, they have to expand into low-lying areas which are vulnerable to floods and tsunamis. They are packed into shaky high-rise blocks which tumble during earthquakes. They’re pinned closer together on public transport, so viruses spread.

In this world, deliberately having more than two children should be seen as an overindulgence, and I’m saying this as someone who loves kids and knows and likes a lot of families with more than two. The Duggars, as an extremity, should be reviled just as much as the bankers-with-a-W who have similarly contributed to fucking up the world through selfish desire.

Unless we go down the Chinese route, which, I think everyone can agree, would suck, this is a problem that can’t be solved on a national or governmental level. It’s a cultural shift that must be made: a conscious, responsible choice on the part of each one of us 6.8 billion individuals. Otherwise we’ll have screwed ourselves. Quite literally.


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