Friday, January 04, 2008

Another Reaction to Sterilization for Environment

"Child-Free" Follies

In the fecund Fifties, childlessness was rare, and generally considered tragic. The childless woman was either a pitiful spinster (unwed motherhood was not yet a respectable "lifestyle") or else presumed to suffer some medical disorder that deprived her of the ability to bear children.

Half a century on, the cultural revolution has upended the old assumptions.
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Statistical norms have a way of becoming cultural norms, especially when these norms involve the educated, affluent, and influential, and Census data show that childlessness is most common among women in households with incomes over $100,000.
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Some adamant non-mothers have turned their barrenness into a political statement. Most commonly, this takes the form of a feminist disdain for the "trap" of motherhood, based on the belief that motherhood abets patriarchal oppression and requires the obliteration of selfhood. One young lady recently informed me that she plans to remain childless because she cannot reduce herself to being a "mere vessel" of procreation.

More unusual is the assertion that by avoiding motherhood, the childless-by-choice are somehow saving the planet. An extreme example of this phenomenon was profiled last week by the London Daily Mail . . .

"Having children is selfish. It's all about maintaining your genetic line at the expense of the planet," Ms. Vernelli, now 35, told the Daily Mail. "Every person who is born uses more food, more water, more land, more fossil fuels, more trees and produces more rubbish, more pollution, more greenhouse gases, and adds to the problem of over-population."
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The human mind is the ultimate natural resource, and it is unfortunate that eco-fanaticism has led Ms. Vernelli to diminish the potential supply of this resource. While many bloggers reacted to the Daily Mail article with vicious sarcasm -- several urged Ms. Vernelli to follow her argument to its logical conclusion and reduce her "carbon footprint" to zero by committing suicide -- in truth, this poor woman is a victim of misanthropic propaganda that perversely devalues humanity.

What really plagues the Toni Vernellis of the world is not a lack of resources, but a shortage of hope. If you're looking for reasons to despair, the prophets of gloom and doom will always oblige. In the face of this tide of negativity, to have a child -- to bring forth a new human life -- is the ultimate act of optimism.
Most of the article was actually rhetoric attempting to debunk the overpopulation "myth" - a position even most environmentalists parents refuse to adopt. As to the mind being a "natural resource", perhaps the author overlooks the fact that more of those minds will probably think of new ways to destroy the environment than will work toward means of preserving it. After all, it is that same human mind that conceived of Hummers, the atom bomb, and Quiverfull, to name a few examples.
I also wonder if the author thinks that trotting out the phrase "optimism" works some rhetorical magic. In the right context, one could substitute that term for "victim" and "fool" if his use is valid. Optimism is a boon when it means the presence of hope in the face of measured odds. When "optimism" means continuing to destroy the planet while foolishly clinging to the idea that human nature will take a miraculous turn and somehow reverse the predictable outcome, it might well be a pejorative.
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