I’m frankly not a fan of babies; working in a pediatric practice has cultivated a deep revulsion in me for them, and the looming threat of disastrous overconsumption, a phenomenon which their very existence precipitates, has made me genuinely fear what all these inane infants are capable of.
While declining birthrates are a hallmark of postindustrial societies and the spread of neoliberal norms, the global population is continuing to grow exponentially, threatening the ecological stability of our entire planet. The environmental situation, often confined to the discussion of greenhouse gasses and global flooding; but the most imminent effects of our unsustainable lifestyle may very well be food and water shortages, as well as scrambles for energy. Currently, a Swiss-cheese array of global leaders is convening in the Rio+20 summit to discuss potential solutions, though the outcome of such endeavors as the Kyoto Protocol and the COP17, as well as the notable absence of many important Western leaders, makes it difficult to remain optimistic about such solutions. I propose that the discussion of emissions caps (which has been a source of adversity and disagreement at prior conventions) cannot be approached without also discussing the population question.
One might note that the majority of bloated population growth, like the majority of greenhouse gas emissions, is produced by growing, industrializing economies. What is puzzling, however, is the aloof position that Western powers take with regards to proposed solutions: neither willing to discuss fossil fuel reductions, nor willing to address the population question, they seem unwilling to make peace with the situation at hand.
Indeed, the ways in which populations grow is changing the geopolitical landscape significantly: the massive influx of immigrants to postindustrial countries “weakened” (by certain conservative narratives) by population decline is raising questions about everything from national identities to economic models. Unlike greenhouse gas emissions, the population question requires countries that are not a part of the problem to lead the burgeoning developing world. This necessitates the abandonment of certain notions related to conventional patriotism and nationalism and to recognize that the fate of all of the earth’s citizens is, at this point, quite intertwined.
We need to take the progressive leap of faith and lead the world in contraception and birth-control management; I’m not talking about militant advancement of abortion, though that is what conservative thinkers will likely label this as. It is a painful truth, but it is becoming apparent that we can either come to terms with it or suffer some very serious consequences.