Monday, July 27, 2009

Asimov on Human Dignity

The immense number of humans in the world (approaching 7 billion) is causing many problems including peak oil, global warming, declining fisheries and loss of species. However, there is something far less sensational—but just as important—that is quietly eroding away. It is quality of life, a constant diminishing of our dignity and self worth.

Isaac Asimov was a brilliant science-fiction writer and a prescient thinker on the future. Here’s what he said in 1989: “... democracy cannot survive overpopulation. Human dignity cannot survive. Convenience and decency cannot survive. As you put more and more people onto the world, the value of life not only declines, it disappears ... the more people there are, the less one person matters.”

One example is government. The twin growths of technology and population call for more regulations. After all, synthetic chemicals, assault rifles, genetically modified foods and cell phones need to be controlled to ensure safety and the orderly functioning of society. Governments, in turn, must become larger and spend more time dealing with a morass of details. The increasing regulations hem us in and increase our taxes. And as our numbers increase we get less input to government decisions.

Perhaps saddest is that as our numbers increase the sense of community declines. We lose the feeling of belonging, of helping one another, of friendships. Personal liberty and dignity quietly disappear. Virtually every facet of our lives is degraded. It’s a tragic situation. Yet politicians and economists will not take action. They continue to ignore the fundamental problem of overpopulation.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Light from the Christian Right

Recently I suffered a perplexing and, frankly, difficult situation. I asked a lady acquaintance how she justifies having six children in this age of degrading environment and dwindling resources. “Think of the stress it places on an already over-crowded world,” I stated.

“Jesus guides my life. He wants me to have children,” she countered. “I’d like to have even more,” she smiled, gently patting her tummy and looking at me with pitying disdain as though I was a piece of flotsam adrift without a moral compass.

I was floored. “Jesus told you to have six children?” I asked.

“The Bible says we should go forth and multiply,” she responded with the smug sanctimony of one who has multiplied more than average.

I pointed out that religion teaches that we should love and help our neighbours. But when we in the rich nations over-multiply and over-consume it causes our “neighbours” in the poor nations to starve, live in squalid conditions and suffer desperate wars over resources.

“Oh, that doesn’t matter, they’re not Christians,” she responded righteously.

“What about global warming and energy and water shortages?” I asked desperately. “Your grandchildren will face horrible conditions.”

“Not to worry, the Lord will look after them,” she smiled beatifically.

As I spluttered, trying to find a response, she said, “Sorry, I’d love to stay and help show you the light but I’ve got to run to the ‘Ban Teaching of Evolution’ meeting.” With that she climbed into her Hummer and roared off.