Imagine that you’re ten years old, you’ve got a cageful of gerbils and your weekly allowance is just big enough to feed five of them. If one of the females pops out a brood of pups, you’re in trouble. You can either try to weedle a bigger allowance out of your parents, try to give gerbils away, starve the gerbils… or start killing gerbil pups.
Now, at more than six billion people in our worldwide gerbil cage, we’ve pretty much got the same choices, only we can’t give people away — but we can control the number of pups born. And we need to. Because within the next century, our global population is going to come down one way or the other. Famine, war, pandemics — or contraception. Those are our choices.
The key thing is to make sure that next generation is smaller than the current one, and continue that way for centuries until we reach a sustainable level again. Chinese dictatorial population practices have been highly successful in this regard: on one hand, the one-child-per-couple policy (ethically defensible in my opinion), on the other the underground tendency for selective abortion of girls (ethically iffy but unintentionally very effective in curtailing population growth). We need to do even better by democratic means.
Woman or man — thy loins must never issue more than two children, preferably less! That’s the replacement rate. But by all means have a whole gerbil-like clutch of children, a full quiver, a soccer team — through adoption. Empty the world’s orphanages! And regardless of whether you decide to have kids at all — put money into the education of girls. Because one of the surest ways known to sociology of keeping nativity figures down is to give girls an education.
Putting children into the world comes with a certain responsibility. They’re not going to thank you for putting them on the planet if in 30 years their kids are dying of dysentery and malnourishment in a refugee camp. Let’s try to ease population down, and maybe we can avoid a crash.
This is my contribution to the Global Population Speak Out initiative.