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Monday, December 12, 2011

7 Billion and One

As part of a discussion of a series of videos by Jack Alpert about rapid population decline (RPD), Tim Murray shared some personal experiences of life as seen through the lens of awareness of overpopulation, overshoot, and their inevitable consequences for children born today. His comments follow - yours are welcome.

********

Nearly two years ago, I received news that there was a new addition to my
family. My niece Gethsemane had just given birth to my "grand-nephew",
Oliver. That morning, my friend Michael noticed that my face carried a
different expression than was customary. It was a blend of expression of pride
and sadness. As soon as I told him about the birth, Michael reflexively
congratulated me, and when I confessed reservations, he was perplexed. "You
should be happy!" he exclaimed. I tersely responded, "Why?" His
answer was equally terse, and I think, profoundly revealing of our predicament.
"It's renewal!", he proclaimed.

At that point I wanted to tell him the truth. I wanted to tell him that we were
already getting 350,000 cases of "renewal" every day, that we are
adding more than 150 people to our numbers every minute, and 200,000 every
day---that's right----one city the size of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
every day-----and nearly 80 million every year. I wanted to tell him that were now
more people being born every day than there are primates in the world. That we
are pushing 50 other species off the plate every day, and pushing people in our
own species off the plate every day in the competition for scarce resources. I
wanted to tell him this, but didn't. I didn't because he was among those vast
numbers of people who didn't even understand that there was a problem. So where
could I begin, and when? Certainly not on a Tuesday morning when he was busy
with so many errands.

I faced a similar situation later that month. My neighbour Peter announced that
they had a new grandson. And not long after that, another neighbour, Rob, made
a similar announcement. Both were bursting with pride. How could I dare to
introduce the topic of overpopulation?

Now, earlier this week, I received a photo of my grand-nephew, Oliver, just a
month shy of his second birthday, sitting on Santa's knee for the very first
time. It instantly reminded me of my first time some 56 years ago. The memories
are still vivid. As soon as I saw Oliver, my heart warmed with delight. My
Malthusian beliefs were instantly overwhelmed by a raw emotional bond with this
little guy. If that was my reaction, you can imagine how the rest of the people
on the email list responded. They were, for the most part, grandmothers. People
over 60. They all gushed at this cute young boy.

All of us on the list replied with our thanks for having been chosen to share
this wonderful moment. But one of them responded to me as well. She was once my
sister-in-law, now a 65 year old woman and grandmother of two. She noticed my
email address, "gloomndoom". Like Michael, she was perplexed. What
was there to be gloomy about? Doom? What doom? Am I depressed about something?
Did a friend of mine die? Did I have a breakup with someone? Do I have a severe
illness? Once again, I initially wanted to tell her the whole truth, but then I
realized that now was not the time and place, and that it would take more than
one conversation to make her understand why there was cause for gloom. I would
need to walk her through a serious of mental decompression chambers. Telling
her, from the outset, that she was a murderer, or that we were in overshoot by
a factor of 100 would not likely secure her audience. She would more than
likely take it as an insult from a madman. I am obviously deranged, or in the
depths of clinical depression.

What lesson can I draw from the forgoing experiences? Jack believes that we can
build a grass roots "belief" consensus for RPD by first targeting
grandmothers. The kind of ordinary grandmothers who look at young children like
Oliver and find in them a source of love, pride and hope. He thinks that
youtube [videos] like the ones he has made can convince them to over-ride their
natural preferences and come to accept the bitter medicine of RPD and very low
fertility rates.

We know that we have our work cut out for us, but I think that it is very much
more than the most pessimistic of us can really imagine. While many people can
agree, on an intellectual level, that we are very much in overshoot, on a
personal level, those very same people apparently find no reason not to get in
on the party. We love kids and we love the idea of leaving a legacy. It's in
our cultural and genetic DNA. It's the tragedy of the commons....

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