A Modest Proposal

If you have children, then you’re condemning them, and their descendants, to consume the Earth’s resources. That wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, except that the world’s population is currently over-consuming. The total load on the planet is now about 1.5 times what it can sustain indefinitely. Technological improvements may close the gap somewhat, but it’s a big challenge even to run fast enough to stay in one place.

Because it’s everyone’s ambition to live a life like the people in Western-type countries. If everyone lived like Europeans, the consumption of the planet’s resources would not be 1.5 times over, it would be 3. The American lifestyle is even worse. It rates over 5.

ecological footprintLess developed countries are using up less than their share, at the cost of widespread miserable poverty. One country falls on the 1.0 point — whose citizens, on average, have a sustainable level of consumption. That’s Cuba; so if everyone in the world lived like a Cuban, there would currently be enough to go round. And we’d have an excellent, free medical service and a fine education system. It wouldn’t be so bad. And rum. And great cigars. And the music.

On the other hand, everybody could have the American life if there weren’t so many of us. Current predictions show the global population topping out during the next century, but without active measures it will take many hundreds of years to fall to a sustainable level, if it ever does.

There are some organizations which advocate population reduction. For example, the Church of Euthanasia recommends suicide and cannibalism (although not necessarily in that order), while the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement settles for a universal abstention from reproduction until humans become extinct.

Although I personally have decided not to breed, I think extinction is excessive. The planet could comfortably support half a billion humans comfortably I’m sure. (A seventeenth-century number.) You could say I’m comfortable about that idea.

If you do have children and you now feel guilty about the ongoing burden you have placed on the planet, you have a few options. First, and probably the best solution, is to send them to Cuba. Excellent education system, although there may be political issues to do with free expression and so on. However, they will be educated to accept that, and soon they will be calling you a “capitalist lackey”, that is, if they speak to you at all.

If you don’t like the idea of Cuba, you could always take the hit on the current generation, but ensure that it stops there. It’s a simple medical procedure — my cat can explain. They will thank you for it in the long run, honestly. Or, finally, there’s the Jonathan Swift proposal. Swift suggests “stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled”.


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