Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 9
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

High Consumption Demands Tough Choices

Earth’s human population is 7,075,228,550 and growing by the second. Americans constitute five percent of the world’s population but consume 24 percent of the world’s energy. The relationship between population rise and the demand for food, water and resources is unavoidable. In the midst of environmental havoc, it is a popular argument to refer to overpopulation as a driving cause.

But the case has been made against over-emphasizing population growth in the developing world. Unless we can significantly reduce our resource and consumption use at home, it is an unethical cop-out to blame environmental issues on overpopulation. Therefore, we as Americans have two hard choices: to stop having kids like we suggest to the third world, or to consume less.

For the first time in history, humans’ six basic necessities (food, water, shelter, space, air and reproduction) are simultaneously threatened. The excuse of biological reproduction as imperative is no longer an acceptable justification in our country. American consumption rates, resource use, access to contraceptives and educational standing put us in a tough place. To maintain our six human necessities for our lifetimes and for generations to come, we must realize our place in the threats. Americans consume 200 billion more calories a day than needed, throw out 200,000 tons of edible food each day, generate 52 tons of garbage by age 75 and use well over 300 liters of water per day. Environmentally speaking, it is America‘s responsibility to withhold from reproducing.

Over 150 million non-American women worldwide who need birth control lack access. Forty percent of births are unintended. Countries in the global south bear an average four children per family compared to Americans’ two children average. These statistics have caused Americans to blame others for overpopulation, leaving consumption out of the picture. In reality, the number of humans is insignificant unless energy use is part of the debate. Each person in the industrialized world uses as much commercial energy as 10 people in the developing world. That means our birthing children has far greater of a footprint than that in any of the countries in the global south that we point the finger at. Overconsumption needs to replace overpopulation as the spotlight concern for the state of Earth’s future.

If overpopulation remains the consistent argument for resource scarcity, reproduction in the United States is hypocritical, cruel and ignorant. We cannot keep hoarding and stuffing ourselves with finite energy and resources, blame overpopulation as the driving cause of global disasters and then increase our population. The rationale of comparing various countries’ reproduction rates completely sidesteps the root of the issue. It is time to put our money where our mouth is in terms of limiting energy use and consider not having children.

We have hit a critical peak. Unless Americans can drastically alter our current convenient consumption rates, it is hypocritical and unethical to bring children into this unstable world. Our children’s lives would inevitably be wrought with the challenges we are trying poorly to solve today. It would be a way of handing a silver platter into the arms of our newborns, politely whispering, “Good luck.” Let’s stop blaming the global south, stop pointing our fingers and begin taking responsibility for the reality of overpopulation.

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    IOct 31, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Another complicating (and controversial) factor to think about when considering the ethics of reproducing: Would it be better for society and the environment if certain populations curbed their growth rates more than others? One might argue that well-educated, worldly-minded people from stable backgrounds SHOULD have kids, because their offspring will more often be the globally aware, educated citizens that will make a positive change in the world.

    But unfortunately it seems that it’s the poor, uneducated, broken families lacking the necessary access to birth control who reproduce at higher rates (citation needed).

    It’s tough to take this argument too much further without getting into dangerous eugenic territory. Just something to think about though. (Nice article, D)