Upon waking this morning, the first of January, I expect the media to lead off with what has become a tiresome ritual. Declaring the "winner" of the First-Baby-Of-The-Year Derby. Or should it be called "The Race To Extinction Derby"? Is there anything more symbolic of our collective stupidity and denial as celebrating the addition of the earliest born human being to a species that has rocketed to nearly 7 billion? I think it is timely then to reprise something I wrote a year and a half ago. I have not flinched in my fealty to these sentiments. It is something, which, if it appeared in the local community magazine, would ensure my lynching. That it would inspire such a reaction is proof, I think, of its veracity.
This morning I noticed that a particularly beautiful flower had erupted in unison across the bank on my land facing the ocean. Its brilliant white blossom reflected the piercing morning sun which confronted it from the east. And yet this resplendent flower, and the plant it issues from, is not treated with the dignity or praise that its beauty might warrant. In fact, it is not even regarded as a flower, but a pernicious and troublesome “weed” whose appetite for lebensraum apparently knows no limit. It advances like a blitzkrieg, enveloping all foliage in its path, and before you know it, it crosses the boundary of designated wild growth into the pampered territory of tended plants and flowers, wrapping its invidious stems around them like a python, choking them to death. Soon its numbers overwhelm the garden, and other flowers of no greater splendour are mourned as victims.
What is a weed? What is a flower?
What criteria determines its categorization as a “weed” while those it displaces are labelled as “flowers”? It is the simple fact that they threaten to be ubiquitous at the expense of plants who are in danger of extinction in the teeth of their relentless onslaught. Weeds are weeds because there are too many to be valued. Flowers are flowers because their fragility requires consistent attendance, while weeds enjoy a flourishing presence despite neglect and a competitive advantage.
If there were a billion roses and but a dozen weeds of the kind I mentioned, it would be more likely that the rose would be designated as the weed rather than the plant with the brilliant white flowers.
Far too many rogue apes
There are currently 2.2 billion children in the world, and there numbers grow like yeast in a vat. According to ecologist Richard Cincotta, “There are more human babies born each day ---about 380,000---than there are individuals left in all the great ape species combined, including gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangatuns like this one.” 380,000 or 200,000 per day---the exact figure is not material. What is relevant is that some 78-80 million rogue primates----homo sapiens---are added annually, 214,000 per day and 152 per minute, to a human population already close to 7 billion in number. And it is that growing number which is killing off some 100 non-human species a day, upon which even these arrogant and intelligent apes ultimately depend upon for their survival. For well over 90% of our existence, there were never more than 5-10 million human beings on the entire planet. As hunter-gatherers we lived sustainably, and then we made a 10,000 year mistake----we practiced cultivation agriculture—and our numbers exploded. We mined the soils to exhaustion, then discovered fossil fuels to temporarily revive them. The next die-off will be unimaginable in scope if we do not reign in our numbers.
It has been argued that we are a species that is so very different than the rest. Spiritual beings whose children are of such divine vintage that each and every one of them is God’s Precious Gift. After all, what other species could paint the Mona Lisa, write Hamlet, build the Taj Mahal or design an MIR machine? And among the added billions there could be another Einstein or Picasso. True. But we are also a species that built Hydrogen bombs and chemical weapons, laid waste to rain forests and killed coral reefs. And for every Einstein or Picasso there are thousands who deploy their genius to exploitation and ruin. We are programmed to exploit a habitat beyond repair, then expand and move on to despoil more that have not yet been ravaged, rarely content to live within limits.
Our genius is a double-edged sword
I would therefore submit that we are the weeds, and our children are like the white “Morning Glory” blossoms that invade my garden. Beautiful---but greedy, voracious and epidemic. Their collective value is inversely proportional to their number. “The more people there are, the less one person matters.” (Bill Moyers). I have no regard for their “right” to exist in the context of the threat they now pose to other life forms and therefore to humanity itself. Nature does not exist for humankind. Man is not, as Democritus believed, “the measure of all things”. We are game wardens who blew our assignment. Too incompetent and ignorant to manage complex systems that defy our understanding. And too reckless and avaricious to live within the limits of our environment and with little ability to acknowledge those boundaries. Children have our “bad seed”. They are congenitally flawed by the same predispositions that we were born with. The fault lies not with the stars, or with a given political or economic arrangement. It lies within our brains. Like the dinosaurs, we have design limits. Too much armour, not enough intelligence. We are rigged for denial and like a super-tanker with a myopic captain, we need to take evasive actions to avoid dangers that loom far ahead before we are upon them, but we are unable to see them. And some, most especially the captains of mainstream environmental organizations, are paid by corporate donations not to see them.
Environmentalists in denial
One of the greatest mysteries that might confound those who might autopsy our civilization is how environmentalists of the 21st century could accuse so many of being in denial of anthropogenic global warming, but remain in almost total denial of human overpopulation. They might ask how the Canadian environmental establishment could believe that we could add the equivalent of another Metro Toronto to our population each decade without it having profoundly negative ecological consequences, or that their American counterparts could think that the United States could grow its population by 30 million people every decade without causing farmland and species loss, critically depleted aquifers or more green house gas emissions.
Why must the world need your genes? Why not adopt?
Obviously I am not vested with the maternal (or paternal) instinct. I fail to understand why people feel the need to replicate themselves, or why they have to have a child with the same pair of eyes or ears as they have, or why they believe that the world is in critical need of their genes. Neither do I understand why they would not instead choose to adopt one of the 36,000 children in Canada without parents who are waiting for a loving home. Cannot one love an adopted child as much as one genetically related?
Who is misanthropic?
I do not nor could not hate children anymore than I would contrive to hate tropical fish or penguins. Each child is beautiful in his or her own way, but we do not need another 380,000 beautiful children every day, especially when each must then share a small slice of a non-renewable resource pie that is set to contract dramatically. I merely have the cold reptilian attitude of a surgeon whose patient has an infected leg that must be amputated to prevent gangrene from overtaking his body and killing him. The leg must be removed forthwith by the least inhumane of effective measures. This is not the surgery performed by someone who hates the patient but on the contrary, it would be action of someone who cares for the patient’s life. Those who advocate rapid population decline do not hate people. In fact, the most authentically misanthropic approach would be to celebrate human life to the extent of allowing it to continue unchecked to displace all other vital life forms, and confuse the “quantity of life” with the quality of life.
We need pruning
“Pro-life” then is actually “pro-death”, and in this light Dr. Henry Morgenthaler, the pioneer abortionist, remains the greatest Canadian environmentalist to ever live. For if the truth be known, we are the gangrene. The weed that is genetically fated to spread without inhibition. If we do not perform emergency surgery soon, nature will most assuredly do so---and without anesthetic. The results will not necessarily be optimal.