There are too many people. With the total number of us recently surpassing 7 billion, there are few who dispute that the Earth is overpopulated. The dire effects are everywhere—species extinction, climate change, resource depletion, violence—yet homo sapiens’ drive to preserve human life (or just to fuck) keeps us from conceiving of any feasible solutions to our population challenges.
Of course, we all have a blinkered view: some debate the merits of population as truly driving economic development or question overpopulation as a real threat to the environment. Others guard religious attitudes that insist fertility should be unhindered. Yet others see the benefits of a large populace as a means of achieving cultural ends. So, where do we go from here?
Matthew Fox is the author of Cities of Weather, a collection of short stories, and works as the executive editor of Torontolife.com and several other websites. He is an enthusiast of all things accumulated, assembled and aggregated. Follow him @presentingmrfox
Matthew’s five links
Loretta Lynn, with honky-tonk concision, cuts to heart with this medley on oral contraception: “One’s on the Way” and “The Pill.” Sex is a blast, but it has consequences. The performance is an excellent microcosm: The first song depicts the burden of an overpopulated household, while the second articulates the joys of sex untethered from yet another mouth to feed.
In this interview, historian Jill Lepore discusses family planning pioneer Margaret Sanger. When she opened her first clinic in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1916, Sanger started a new way of thinking about pregnancy. She created hubs of information and advice that were divorced from the medical establishment’s—and society’s—dim view of fertility rights. This community-based concept resonated with New Yorkers back then and continues to do so throughout the world thanks to networks like Planned Parenthood.
Many religiously-minded folk stand opposed to tinkering with the biological process of pregnancy, be it contraception, abortion or the morning after pill. In this masterful piece of journalism, Russel Shorto unpacks the “contra-contraception” movement in the United States and its belief that politics can create a world where the consequences of sexual liberty terrify individuals into having smaller families.
Doug Stanhope presents the case that people shouldn’t have children. He advocates simple practices that prevent the baby count from going up, and justify sanctimony in those who follow his advice. Arguing that sex will likely never go out of style, he recommends sodomy to avoid procreation altogether. If that’s not your thing, Stanhope would also like to remind you that “abortion is green.”
In her take-down of anti-abortionists, Bitch Ph.D. doesn’t mention overpopulation, but her central message correlates perfectly. Women make their own moral choices; anyone who passes judgement on how a woman deals with her own reproduction is putting up a false barrier that curtails her freedom. Women deal with procreation no matter what the legal circumstances (often with disastrous consequences), and so to trust women to make their own choices, and to create a safe way for them to carry out those choices, is an ideal way to allow individual responsibility as a fitting response to a global problem.