Population Overload



By Andrea Scarpino 


This week, 7 billion people are living on our little planet. 7 billion of us. And each wanting to eat good food, drink clean water, breathe unpolluted air. And maybe even wear interesting clothes, earn a good income, sometimes take vacations, sometimes eat food someone else has prepared.

And I’m not convinced our little planet can support us all. Many people aren’t convinced—environmentalists, scientists of all sorts, public officials. Our little planet—a star among stars/ and one of the smallest, the poet Nazim Hikmet saysis already overtaxed. 1.2 billion people already live without sanitation. 1 billion already lack access to clean water. 14% of the world’s population is already malnourished. We couldn’t successfully support 6 billion people, or even 5 billion, with enough food to eat, enough clean water to drink, basic healthcare.

So my hackles go up a little bit when I’m asked about having children, why Zac and I don’t have children. When I’m told dramatic stories of women experiencing the greatest love they’ve ever felt with the birth of their child. Which is not to say those stories aren’t true, or that parenthood—motherhood—isn’t life changing for many people. I enjoy my friends’ kids. I adore my niece. I have taught and worked with people of every age, starting with 2 ½ year olds. I love children’s books, love developing children’s book ideas. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a person who hates kids.

But birth one of my own? Add one of my own to this overpopulated world? That doesn’t interest me at all. There are so many advantages I already have, so many ways that I already use more than most of the rest of the world. Even with my vegetarian ways, my composting, my buying of recycled clothes—just by dint of a daily five-minute shower, I use more water than many people worldwide can access in a day. I am already a drain on our ecosystem—adding another human to our environmental stress? No thank you.

Do I sound self-important? Am I standing too high on my soapbox?

We all make choices—how to best use our time, our money, our individual and collective resources. How to best make our world a better place. I do many things my twenty-year-old self would have labeled “selling out.” More than one friend has called me “bougie.” And I deserve it.

But it’s just true that there are too many of us. It’s just true our planet can’t support us all—we can’t support us all. And until we can, I can think of no reason to bring a new child into the world. No reason at all. 


Andrea Scarpino is a frequent contributor to POTB. Visit her at: http://www.andreascarpino.com/

Author: skuusisto

Poet, Essayist, Blogger, Journalist, Memoirist, Disability Rights Advocate, Public Speaker, Professor, Syracuse University

0 thoughts on “Population Overload”

  1. I agree with you. Of course I never felt that tug of motherhood and never felt as if I needed to replicate myself. As the only child of an only child, I was not indoctrinated into the notion of having babies.
    I love kids. But, like you, I feel there are too many in the world for me to add to the mix.
    I always felt that somewhere in my travels if I found a needy child or ten starving children in an orphanage, I would expand my life to include them.
    But, so far that has not happened.


  2. Life, life, life, life, life, life, LIFE. We are each biologically inclined and socially indoctrinated by all of the major life philosophies that there is no other choice but LIFE. Life means that we fight to the end for even our very last breath, and we have truly died if our genes are not passed to offspring. To choose between a bad life and a good death? No, that choice does not exist. Individually and collectively, we will populate the earth until the earth can no longer tolerate our presence, and be wiped out by forces beyond our control: War, disease and various other catastrophies. Will it ever be any different? Perhaps for a few “counter-intuitive” types it always has been, but for the most, I doubt it. Lifers perpetuate themselves and their inclinations.
    For two years in college in the 90s, I was a volunteer ombudsman in a skilled nursing facility (SNF). It’s a great California program: Recruit volunteers and send them to visit the SNFs with the most egregious service records. What do the volunteers see? Hopelessly over-worked, under-staffed facilities teeming with what I can only term as people in holocaust-like circumstances. I quickly realized that I was like a beacon, a spot light, when I walked through the facility. Wherever I walked, the light of attention and concern would shine. But somewhere in the far corners where I wasn’t, others were suffering to provide the illusion of competent care. I used to come home and think of the SNF as I chopped vegetables for dinner, and darned if I don’t think of that SNF every time I’ve ever chopped vegetables since — did again this evening — chopping onions and mushrooms — can’t really shake the memory. Would any of these SNF residents choose a gentle death that is virtually indishtinguishable from falling asleep for themselves? If they did make that choice, would anyone assist them so that the person would be sure not to suffer? For the most part, not a chance. Again, both biological inclination and a lifetime of reinforcing indoctrination, still do not allow the possibility except for only a few isolated and enlightened places on earth.


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