Saturday, February 28, 2009

Octuplets and More

On January 26, 2009, eight little children popped into the world, all from the same womb. Historic perhaps, but I can’t stop laughing at the incredible, beyond-belief stupidity of the event. The California mother, Nadya Suleman, already had six children of which three have disabilities. Furthermore, she is single, unemployed, in debt, lives with her parents and relies on food stamps and other government handouts. And this was before the octuplets!

Using in-vitro fertilization Suleman was impregnated with six frozen embryos, two of which split. A 50-person medical team delivered the eight babies. Not only will the brood be much more susceptible to diseases and disabilities that require expensive medical attention, but their quality of life promises to be dreadful.

But hold on, Suleman has a solution! No, she isn’t going to get a job. Instead, she has opened a website to solicit donations. You’ve got to love American entrepreneurship. I’m sure the Catholic Church and right-wing pro-lifers like Sarah Palin are busy clicking on Suleman’s website and making huge contributions.

With the world’s environment and resources stressed beyond capacity and with the US economy on life support, the last thing needed is more children, especially one who will be reliant on welfare. It’s high time that the United States (and Canada) change its reproductive laws to prohibit the emplacement of multiple embryos, in line with other nations.

I can already hear the contrarians: “But this sweet young lady should have the freedom to choose the size of her family. And the poor fertility doctor needs to make a living.” It’s the American way: Everyone for themselves and to hell with the common good.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Shout Out About Population

Twenty years ago everyone worried about, and talked about, the exploding human population. It was frightening, a problem that threatened global well being. Since then, the population has increased by two billion, a whopping 40% growth. So are we panicking?
Just the opposite. Population has fallen off the map. It’s a taboo topic. Media coverage of population is woefully lacking and, when it does happen, is often met with hostility or apathy. This in spite of many signs of approaching crisis: global warming, failing fish stocks, food riots, water shortages, loss of forests, and much more.
But there’s hope. This month a group of scientists initiated Global Population Speak Out, a project which is mobilizing scientists, writers and knowledgeable individuals to speak and write about population over the next month. It’s a simple idea. If a large number of qualified voices speak out on overpopulation all at once, perhaps people will listen. Interestingly, one of the first to add his support was Paul Ehrlich, the author of The Population Bomb, the best seller that fuelled much of the concern about population in the 1970s.
Add your voice to the movement. Visit the Global Population Speak Out website at gpso.wordpress .com and pledge your support – it’s free.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Escalator to the Abyss

My thesis is simple and unassailable: In the face of constant growth (population and economy combined) it is impossible to prevent environmental degradation and resource loss. We’re heading toward an abyss.

Consider the automobile. Over the past three decades some of the brightest minds in the world have worked to make cars cleaner and more efficient. Catalytic converters and positive crankcase ventilation have been introduced; lead has been removed, sulphur greatly reduced in fuel and vehicle fuel-efficiency has been improved.

In spite of all this, there has been no meaningful improvement in vehicle-created air pollution with all major cities still sitting under poisonous domes of smog, and more oil is being burned than ever before. Why? Because the number of cars and the distance travelled have increased faster than improvements. It’s simple: There’s more of us and we’re wealthier than in 1973.

Same thing for vehicle accidents. In spite of air bags, improved braking systems and better highways, the carnage on the roads gets bloodier each year. Today, about 3,000 people are killed worldwide in traffic accidents each day.

Ditto for waste. In spite of blue-box collection, in-vessel composting and phasing out of plastic bags in stores (finally!) and more, the amount of waste going to landfills increases each year.
And the list goes on and on.
That’s why I laugh when environmental organizations naively proclaim that if we all conserved 10% energy it would prevent dozens even hundreds of coal-fired power plants. No, no, no! It would take many years to make conservation changes. During this time the growth in population and economy would wipe out the gains made by conseration.
Yes, conservation is essential, but we’re running up a down escalator whose speed is constantly increasing. No matter how fast we run, use better running shoes and improve our running technique, the accelerating escalator soon outpaces us. There’s no escape. It’s simple, no-brainer, grade-one logic.
Wait! Here’s a revolutionary thought. Perhaps we should slow down the escalator. We need to slow population (and hence economic) growth before we reach the abyss.