The issue of this planet’s global, human population divided my beloved progressive, morning radio show host and some of his listeners, including me about a month ago. It occurred during a discussion of mass transit, which included his remark of our need to prepare for what soon will be five million people in this metro area, from today’s three million. That prompted a caller to remark that population growth is a root problem. He seemed impatient with her at first, perhaps because she was taking him off topic, but I sensed there was more to it. And when she began her sentence, ”Let’s start with a population of three billion,” he ended her call in what seemed mid-sentence and suggested she was implying mass genocide. He continued to comment about her poorly phrased remark as extreme and her position unsound. I could hear the passion in his voice as he defended his interpretation of the caller’s words.
He began the following day’s show on the same topic. I listened very carefully. I heard his passion. Perhaps I have never heard him so passionate. He read several tweets of support of his dismissal of the caller’s impassioned words and agreement that she wanted to annihilate four billion people, calling it “scary stuff, controlling of the population, …supporting surgical radiating” and “forced abortions” and “…die offs of black death magnitude.” Gee, he seemed upset.
He asked, “Where does this global mentality come from?” adding, “The worst laws [sic] worldwide, is a one child law,” adding he didn’t want to be taxed more “because I want three kids.” (He has three kids.) He adamantly contended the planet could “easy” sustain “seven billion and more” and surmised any mitigating problems now seen as a result of global population by many experts were only because of human greed. He did not broach whether curtailing population growth was a valid point of view, but rather contended the planet will “welcome” another billion “easily.” I’ve never heard him stop his ordinarily nuanced reasoning on a major issue – major issue for many – with the notion that we just needed to remove human greed. He said he closed discussion with a tweeter who defended the caller. He didn’t block my tweets because I wasn’t confrontational. What good would that do, anyway? And I respect him and do not want to lose civility or our friendship.
Even on that second day, it seemed he had not researched the topic, or he would have seen pretty quickly that experts who contend many global problems are caused by too many people have well established “three billion” is the maximum, sustainable number to prevent the global problems. Those of us who are closely engaged with this issue understand the “three billion” number and I believe the caller meant, “Let’s start the discussion” of the population topic, not, “Let’s start by wiping out four billion people.” Had she been able to finish her premise, she might have said something about how many problems would disappear or be greatly alleviated. We will never know. And I’ve heard a lot of suggestions for how to reduce population growth from http://www.populationmatters.org/ but never proactive human extinction! Reducing birth death rates through health care and vaccinations, increasing opportunity for women to financially support themselves, sex education and reducing poverty and starvation and the wars they cause, yes, but never mass kills.
I agree with him on practically every other issue he has discussed and appreciate his well thought ideas. He believes the easy access to firearms is wrong and dangerous. Check. He opposes puppy mills and animal abuse. Check. He opposes taxes funding professional sports’ facilities. Check. He believes taxes should go to infrastructure, health and education and not foreign wars and the military. Check, check, check and check. And on these other topics, his position may include or imply greed as a root factor, but he never makes that a cornerstone of his position and always includes thoughtful discussions of policy and personal behavior as solutions, like invest in green energy, strengthen gun laws, increase penalties for animal abuse, etc. Perhaps in a moment of missed phallic irony, he did say because wealthy people make money off gun sales, we have “all our gun shootings…instead of going out and solving the problem.” If he contends the rich and powerful don’t want to help the human suffering caused by people shooting their guns, you would think he could see a parallel to seven billion people shooting baby seeds! Maybe it’s just me. I think that’s hilarious!
The radio host didn’t say what we should do about human suffering while we work on eliminating greed, but I suspect he would suggest or has suggested taxes on fossil fuels (Ironically because the excess is damaging), incentives for clean energy, improving agriculture efficiency and building mass transit, among other things. I believe changing the hearts and minds of those driven by greed is far more challenging and daunting than we have time to correct. I also believe people are the single factor that exacerbates all other problems, including but not limited to famine, disease, deforestation, fossil fuel use, global warming, traffic jams, high unemployment, low wages, excessive manufacturing, overcrowding, infrastructure, prisons, schools, bridges, roads, urban sprawl, poverty, war and greed.
But I already knew where he stood on this topic long before that day. I didn’t know he would be quite so reactionary but I am not surprised. I have faced much more extreme remarks dozens of times throughout my life, as an outspoken, anti-genocide, zero population growth supporter. So why did I know in advance this day would come when the subject of human population would prompt the position he gave? First, I knew where he stood because of his life experience and his personal filters. We all have them. At least once a month, he will preface a statement with, “I’m Catholic but you do or don’t do what you do or don’t want to do,” honestly disclosing what some may see as his bias. He is also married and has fathered three children. His role as a father is paramount, as it should be. He shares stories of his love for his family and his role as husband and father. He’s a good guy! But his remark about being taxed “because I want three kids,” made his life filter very clear.
Like people who have babies, he is rewarded by the status quo in our tax system which encourages reproduction with tax deductions. Further, his remark that the worst law is a one child law, presumably referring to China, also revealed his position that people who reproduce should be rewarded through tax incentives. Instead of tax breaks for each baby born, China taxes per person, applying the logic that more people use more resources. They were overwhelmed with people! It was crushing them. They would not agree that they could handle unfettered human multiplying through changing the hearts and minds of the greedy wealthy.
Now, as a child-free person, I think my taxes are unfair but I accept that I pay taxes for an educated populace, even though I would prefer we prevent more births so we’d need fewer schools and could spend more per kid! But if I applied his logic to not penalizing him because he “want[s} three kids,” should I not be as upset by being taxed the same as he when I have no kids using schools, playgrounds, resources, fuel and roads to be driven places? I suspect he sees his kids a great value to society, which justifies needing and using more resources and the tax break. No offense to anyone’s kids, but I don’t. I don’t think more is the answer. More, untethered growth in nature is called cancer. No, I am not calling your kids a cancer. But I am calling our overpopulated planet a cancer to the planet.
Be fruitful and multiply is not a well-kept secret quote from the Bible. Mission accomplished.