Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Too Many of Us ? What's to be done?

Overpopulation - of planet Earth: a delicate, yet important, subject. Articles pushing the need for population control are persuasive, but without much searching, an article dismissing those needs can be found. I have to remain a don't know on this issue, though I do lean towards voluntary control of family size. In truth, nobody knows for sure how the matter of overpopulation will develop; in known history, on an Earth-wide scale, overpopulation hasn't happened before. In extremity, would nature itself step in? I do wonder!
Sir David Attenborough, naturalist (born 1926):
“The human population can no longer be allowed to grow in the same old uncontrolled way. If we do not take charge of our population size, then nature will do it for us.”
It makes sense that couples ought to voluntarily limit the size of their families, for numerous reasons, and not only environmental. This has happened in recent history already, without regulation being needed. Families of 10 or more were not uncommon a century or so ago. Life spans were considerably shorter then, even for those who survived childbirth, childhood diseases, and went on to live a reasonably healthy life. My father's parents brought forth 10 children, but none of those ten have parented more than two offspring apiece. As a very loose pattern I'd guess broadly similar applies generally, both in the UK and in the USA ( excluding families whose religion dictates life choices).

Also, on this topic, an archived post from 2012:
Every Sperm is Sacred - or so they say.

Overpopulation is a concern oft approached by writers of dystopian speculative fiction, and film makers of that ilk. We watched one such movie, via Netlix last week :
What Happened to Monday? In that movie, set in the year 2073, the world is in turmoil, a Child Alloocation Act dictates and enforces (without pity, and with Gestapo-style tactics) a one child per family mandate. Any surplus children are rounded up to be (euphemistically)"cryogenically frozen until overpopulation is solved"...for "frozen" read the opposite! Glenn Close plays the evil leader in charge of all this unpleasantness.

What Happened to Monday proved to be something of a collage of ideas already used in several other movies in the dystopian genre. This movie's trade mark, though, is somewhat shared with a TV series, Orphan Black, in that one actress, in this film Noomi Rapace, plays several different personalities of identical physical appearance. She plays seven siblings, septuplets born during a spate of multiple births thought brought about by various environmental or food-related factors. The seven girls' grandfather has named them after days of the week - Monday is girl number one, and she goes missing.

I found the movie interesting, but suspension of disbelief was severely taxed, particularly in the premise that, in order to protect themselves, the seven girls could act as if they were the same person, while undertaking the same employment, one day at a time. Passing on necessary information on work and relationship issues, by word of mouth, to one another each evening. In my view that was just, well, silly - far beyond belief that such a plan could be workable.

Afterwards, I got to remembering a couple of other overpopulation tales in film. First to come to mind, one from the 1970s Logan's Run (my blog post here is relevant). That film could sorely use a good re-make! In the year 2274, the remnants of human civilization live in a sealed city contained beneath a cluster of geodesic domes, a utopia run by a computer that takes care of all aspects of their life, including reproduction. The citizens live a hedonistic life but, to maintain the city, at age 30 all must undergo a ritual, when they are "renewed" a.k.a. vaporized. Population size and consumption of resources are maintained by killing everyone who reaches age 30.

Also from the 1970s, Soylent Green, set in 2022 (today that's just around the corner!) Dying oceans and year-round humidity due to the greenhouse effect, result in suffering from pollution, poverty, overpopulation, euthanasia and depleted resources. 40 million people live in New York City; housing is dilapidated; homeless people fill the streets; many are unemployed; those few with jobs are only barely scraping by and food and working technology are scarce with most of the population surviving on rations produced by the Soylent Corporation. Their latest product is Soylent Green, a green wafer advertised to contain "high-energy plankton" from the World Ocean, more nutritious and palatable than its predecessors "Red" and "Yellow" but in short supply. Most passing readers will know the true content of the green wafer!

There's also The Thinning (2016) I've yet to see this one. Synopsis tells that in the year 2039, Earth's resources are nearly depleted by overpopulation, so the United Nations declares that all nations must cut their population by 5% each year. While some countries remove their elderly, others enforce a one-child policy. The United States implements a policy known as 10-241 or the "Thinning", a standardized test taken from first grade to twelfth grade. Those who pass continue to the next grade, while those who fail are executed. This film's story is set in Austin, Texas.

Margaret Atwood, novelist (born 1939):
“The world is finite. For everybody in the world to have the same lifestyle that we [in the West] have now, at only six billion people, would take four additional Earths [in resources].”


Sackerson said...

You may know "Little Father Time" from Hardy's "Jude the Obscure", the gloomy child who kills his siblings and himself leaving a note saying "done because we are too menny"? Memory tells me Hardy got the idea from a newspaper cutting but I can't find that connection online. It's all connected with loss of a sense of meaning - Hardy uses his fictions to broadcast his vision of an uncaring, senseless universe. There are modern counterparts, including some children's authors.

Twilight said...

Sackerson ~ Hey there! I've not read "Jude the Obscure", the title is familiar, though. ("Far from the Madding...." was my only excursion into Hardy's offerings). My curiosity was aroused though, so I've enlightened myself this morning by reading a few net articles about the book. Oh dear - it does sound to be a depressing tale!

Yes, I see what you're saying about loss of a sense of meaning. I suppose the book could be read as an analogy, if one squinted a little - but equally as a straightforward story of misfortune in the Victorian era.

In this 21st century we still experience the raging inequality prevalent in Victorian times. These days there's so much media focus on the issues of race, class, and gender that an overall contributing issue to those matters, (as well as to raging inequality) - continuing population growth - is pushed into the background. I wonder who, or what, will become our very own Little Father Time? :-/

Wisewebwoman said...

Interesting post T. Did you ever read The Lottery? One of the best short stories of all time,IMO. Fits in with your theme today.

Yes Gaia is in trouble. Houston++. Capitalism pushes consumerism to feed it's voracious appetite. Thus unsustainable population. And the 1 child policy of China has created its own nightmares.

My guess is well.muss the big culling in pure lifespan.


Twilight said...

Wisewebwoman ~ No, that's a new one to me, but I've just spent an interesting half hour reading about it at Goodreads comment threads and elsewhere.

At first the story's theme reminded me of the ancient custom of human sacrifice (which I've never been able quite to fathom - nor animal sacrifice either.) Then I thought of another short story, mentioned on this blog in the past, more than once, "The Ones Who Walked Away from Omelas", by Ursula Le Guin. Different yet similar - that one has stayed in my mind over many years.

Though neither story has, at its core, a culling for reasons of overpopulation, they do underline how we learn, without realising that we are learning, to accept things that are inherently wrong and degrading to humanity's ability to apply logic to what we're doing, as well as the human ability to *feel*. I guess couples who blithely decide to have large families now, in the 21st century are, with all good intention, assisting in humanity's doom - though all of us, even the best of us, are doing much the same in many different ways.