Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Seven Billion and Counting

According to the U.N., our poor old tired Earth just hit the 7 billion human mark. They don't know for sure, of course, but that's the estimate. Seven billion of us! Our species seems to have been programmed with an unstoppable urge to procreate. Our DNA tells us to send our progeny out there to represent our bloodline into the far future. That was all fine and dandy when there were millions of us instead of billions but we might want to reconsider that "go forth and multiply" dictum about now.

Our intelligence has increased over the centuries but our common sense hasn't grown along with it. It used to be that Mother Nature and natural selection played their parts in the population equation. A famine here, an epidemic there and our numbers were kept to a manageable balance. In the modern world, the tens of thousands wiped out by a tsunami have been replaced, somewhere on Earth, even before the water recedes.

Self-regeneration trumps self-preservation in the over-population sweepstakes. We will bring new life into the world regardless of its prospects. Born into a filthy, teeming refugee camp? Born into a country where its likely you'll be slaughtered by a genocidal dictator? Born into poverty and homelessness. No matter. The birth is the thing. What happens after, not so much.

Religion plays a role, for sure. The Catholic Church orders its members to refrain from birth control. To the clueless old gray men ensconced in the serene luxury of the Vatican, a baby born every nine months sounds about right and the less likely you can provide for another child, the more your God demands that sacrifice, at least according to His infallible stand-in.

Fundamentalists have much the same mind-set. They place a fertilized egg higher on the scale of human sanctity than the egg's mother or father or siblings. "Every human life is precious," they intone, although all you have to do is look around to see that if there is a personal God, he hasn't exactly bought in to the the preciousness of individual humanity. In fact, the fundamentalists themselves haven't either, as they are generally opposed to the kinds of social programs designed to help those underprivileged used-to-be fetuses.

In case you hadn't noticed, it is mostly males who are in the forefront of dictating our attitudes about child birth. Male Catholic priests. Male fundamentalist ministers.  Mormon men who see their women as child-bearing vessels. Arabic men who consider their women subservient property. South American men. African men.

But it isn't fair to pile all the blame on men. Women too have a compulsion toward nurturing a child,although to give them credit, except for those like Octo Mom, they are usually content with one, or maybe two. I think there are few woman who truly desire 5 or 8 or 10 children.

For most, it has to be their very own infant so they will undergo endless stress and expense to become impregnated - tightly scripted intercourse via calendar, fertility drugs, in vitro fertilization. We are like people who go out and spend hundreds of dollars to buy a purebred dog, ignoring the millions of adorable puppies that are euthanized every year in shelters. Not that one, this one. So much for the sanctity of life.

So, it is onward and upward to eight billion and where she stops nobody knows.