Thursday, November 17, 2005

Are we part of the problem?

A friend of mine asked me the following question the other day:

While you are waiting for time to pass, I thought I'd bring up one more sensitive issue. Can you comment on this? see, it's not a topic I've seen covered much on infertility blogs. I've seen one or two blogs where the author said she thought overpopulation would cause humans to go extinct but she still wanted her baby. It didn't make sense to me. I can understand if people don't agree with the basic premise and think the planet is doing OK, but not those who agree and basically just want what everyone else has.I have to say, if infertility gave me one thing, it is an understanding of how we as a species got ourselves into this mess of overpopulation. I know first hand how strong the urge to reproduce is. It is primal.

My response:

My take on it is that while I do think that we need to work on ways to use less of the world's resources, I totally don't buy the idea that we do not belong here. Yes, the world would be different without humans, but why the automatic assumption that it would be better? Why do the other species in the world have more right to it than we do? I guess you could argue because other species aren't the cause of mass extiction, but I think extinction is a natural process. Plenty of examples of species that went extinct before humans were around. And before we had all this technology at our disposal. Nature is a very fluid thing, and highly adaptable. And if we do cause a global apocalypse, whether through overcrowding or through being stupid and blowing ourselves up, I firmly believe that something else will rise from those ashes. Different, probably. But not any better or worse. And it may take millions of years to undo whatever mess we make. But that time certainly exists. How long did it take for the planet to come back after the dinosaurs were wiped out? A long long time!

What makes my existence palatable and meaningful is the relationships I have with other people. I have no illusions about leaving a legacy, making my mark on the world, blah blah blah. I want to squeeze the most happiness out of the time that I am around to enjoy it. That definitely involves having children and grandchildren (whether my own or adopted). And I'd rather have my own if I can. I like my genes, and my husband's. Selfish? Undoubtedly. But who else am I supposed to be thinking of?

I guess in a way I'm a fatalist. If overcrowding is going to cause the end of the human species, so be it. That's the way nature has always worked. I don't see the reason to deny myself something that will make me happy for the good of the species. I'm not a species, I'm an individual. I don't believe in any kind of life after death. So once I'm gone, I'm gone. No reason for me to care about what happens beyond that.

(I'll post her response back to me in the comments so this doesn't get too long.) What do you think? Have you thought about this at all while going through treatments?


Nico said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nico said...

Friend's response back to me:

Well, I did go through a year of infertility, so obviously I can relate to both sides. I understand the drive to reproduce, and I think having a child can be the most intense, rewarding experience possible in life. Having worked with many different kinds of animals, the drive to mate and raise young is almost ubiquitous-- though not all creatures are involved in

I also don't believe in life after death. But I do believe in leaving behind a better world, and for me the good in the world is found largely in nature. So I am naturally concerned about other species. Why do we have a
right to cause so many species to go extinct when it is entirely
preventable? Just because we can and there is no one to stop us? Don't they have a right to have homes in the form of habitat and to produce offspring?

I don't believe the world would necessarily be a better place if humans went extinct. I like people, at least most of the time. But I like crows equally. And cheetahs. And even gopher snakes. (OK, I"m sure to lose
people now). And for me the world would not be worth living in without these things, and if my reproducing threatens their survival then I have to seriously reconsider it.

I think it is selfish to do something just because it will make me happy, with disregard to the rest of the animals living around me. So in a way, I
am happy my attempts at conceiving failed so miserably. I don't feel any guilt about reproducing.

Although extinctions are par for the course, never before has a species been able to determine the course of so many extinctions on such a grand scale. We ain't no meteor. This is our doing, and every one of us has to take some
responsibility if there is to be any hope at all. I would think, in a way, that having children and grandchildren would make people more concerned about the fate of the planet, but perhaps it is an appreciation of all forms
of life that drives environmental concern and not worry for the future.

How's that for an answer?

Nico said...

One way to increase your comments - keep writing to yourself! hahaha.

Back to the topic at hand.

I certainly agree that we should do our best to make the world a better place while we're here, and after we're gone. And I do my best to do that. I strongly believe that we should be exploring renewable energy sources rather than digging more oil wells etc. I think we should have planned communities that minimize our impact on the world around us, definitely including conservation areas. I absolutely do not advocate destruction of other species just because we can.

I think that part of me has an enduring faith in the human spirit that we can overcome any obstacle. Maybe I've just read too many science fiction books. But I can definitely see us inhabiting other planets in the not too distant future. Probably not in our lifetimes, but not that much further beyond, either. I hope that when we do go, we take some of the lessons we've learned from destruction that we've caused here, and don't leave such a mess in other places.

I think that's another reason that I don't feel at all guilty about wanting to have my own children. None of us can see what the future will bring. Overcrowding could cause a global calamity. Or it could be the impetus that some entrepreneur needs to send us to the stars. I'm willing to take my chances. And my children's too.

Molly said...

I'm in agreement with you, Nico. I also believe that, as humans, we are at least allowed two children per couple before anyone can start haranguing us for contributing to world population problems -- we're simply replacing ourselves. Of course, if we adopt children, we're actually combating overpopulation, in a sense. I used to think about the fact that none of my aunts or uncles on my dad's side ever had children, and therefore I shouldn't feel like I'm contributing personally to overpopulation if I choose to have more than two children. Ah, those halcyon days of yore -- when I thought that children came easily.

Not to say that I'm judging people who choose to have more than 2 children. I certainly don't feel it's a bad thing, especially if they're the right type of people. My dad once said regarding a very talented, kind-hearted family that just had their fourth child, "Well, if some families choose to have a lot of children, they're the type of family who should do it." On the other hand, there are the Jim Bob Duggars of the world . . .

Nicole said...

I'm sorry to say this, but reading that article just about made all of my brain cells die in about 2 minutes time frame.

Personally, this is the cycle of the earth. We are as much a part of the "cycle of life" as anything else is. To say that we don't belong here or to say that we shouldn't be reproducing is just as much as saying that God's will for us doesn't matter. Providing, of course, that you believe in Adam and Eve, or any religion for that matter. Humans are just as much a part of creationism. God gave us all free agency to choose what to do with ourselves. Of course, my church (and I) believe that there are worlds without end, and that our earth is just a version of something that happened at a different time, and a different place. We are doing that which has been done before. That being said, I don't believe that our earth was supposed to go on indefinitely. If you look at anything in this world, it all ends somehow, sometime. In its turn, the earth will cease to exist, as will we. That is just the natural cycle of everything. I don't know where I am going with this, or even if I have articulated my idea, so I am sorry if this didn't make too much sense to you.

S. said...

Ok, WOW! Still trying to wrap my head around this and may comment more later, but...
Why would anyone feel guilty for having children? IMO, it's as much a part of the "natural process" as leaves falling in autumn and growing in the spring. Even if you have to have help (IVF, etc) to do it.

I agree w/you Nico in that things will be what they will be. I think that fate, if you will, can be influenced by our personal decisions/actions - but everything happens for a reason whether we understand it fully or not. I guess that's a mix of fatalism and certain religions.

Ok, back to think about this some more.

Stephanie said...

Hey Nico,
Sorry that I have to ask this through a comment..but i don't know how to get in touch with you otherwise. First, thank you so much for your sweet encouraging words on my blog. I was wondering how to set up links to other sites on my blog. I have no idea how to get them on the sidebar. Can you help?

S. said...

Not Nico, but I left a comment on your blog to help. :)
(You caught me by surprise because there were 2 Stephanie's posted in a row! LOL).

pixi said...

As I was driving to school yesterday morning, a thought flashed in my mind, one that was probably brought on by reading this post a day or two earlier. I starting thinking of how in the big picture of the world, my infertility is not a crisis. We don't come here with a guarantee or a "right" to reproduce (and bear with me, because I'm not going down the "shut up and accept God's will" path). Some people die well before they get the chance. Some people never find the mate or the means to do it in their lifetime. And that probably helps to keep the world in balance. The "world" (or the Earth) does not care about my infertility. It probably thanks me for not producing the four little consumers I had envisioned at one point. That being said, I'm still charging ahead with the hopes of adding one or two.

I think what's more important, perhaps, is for those who bring new life into the world to recognize the responsibility of it. And that includes the responsibility to teach one's offspring to value the earth and take care of it. It may be foolish of me, but I'd like to think that my husband and I could raise children whose presence will actually bring benefit to the world. And the more people who raise children with that goal in mind, the better off the world will be. And the bottom line is that my primal instinct to reproduce is trumping everything right now. Somehow the "satisfaction" of knowing that I'm not contributing to the world's overpopulation problem is not consolation enough. Selfish, perhaps, but that's where I am right now. It would, however, be interesting for me to revisit this issue, should my husband and I decide to go the adoption route to parenthood. Then, of course, I'd embrace your friend's point of view whole-heartedly ;o)

Calliope said...

wow. My brain is a bit fried at trying to process. In all this time of trying to get pregnant I never once considered issues such as over populating.
I think it is human nature to want to reproduce. It is part of our make up.
interested to keep up with views of others!

k #2 said...

What an interesting discussion....I guess I don't feel that ME hoping for 2 children (even with IF treatments) will add to overpopulation. I agree with your friend that we should work to leave the earth a better place; thus, the reason I recycle and reuse everything that I can. But any suggestion that infertility is "nature's way" of reducing overpopulation is ridiculous. That goes along with people who say AIDS was developed to bring down the population size.

It's great that your friend feels open to discuss this with you. If your friend really wants to make the world a better place, has she looked into adoption?

fisher queen said...

I didn't read the article you linked, just to avoid any potential drivebys, but just wanted to say that I have heard that if every person had one child (two per couple), the earth's population would not grow any larger than it is today, as those children would replace their parents.

elle said...

Being in the env field, I can tell you this. It's NOT the number of people - it's the amount of resources they use. We in the US use abt 25% of the planet's resources. Now the rest of the 6 billion want to be like us - see China, India. That is going to be scary. I don't think you can say "f-it, what will be, will be"...unless that attitude extends to everything (voting, social contracts, etc.). We each have our own weight to pull, there are things we can do to minimize our env footprint. And yeah, I still want my replacements (2 kids). I don't see how those two feelings need to cancel each other out - they come from different places.

Your friend is right, what is happening now isn't "natural" or "inevitable" - it is the direct result of human greed and selfishness. Why we think we dictate the fate of the hundreds of thousands of other species on the planet is beyond me.