March 20, 2017

Sexiest Reason Why No Kids? Sex!

Condom

Image via Wikipedia

Today’s guest post is from John Davis, a wilderness explorer and writer, former Wild Earth editor, and Fellow of The Rewilding Institute. John’s previous posts, “Why Five Cats?” (a lighthearted look at the merits of nulliparity and cat ownership) and Sire of All Crises (a “no holds barred” look at human overpopulation), primed the pump for this intimate-if-lighthearted look at the childfree holy grail: sex!

What is the sexiest reason to abstain from having children?

That would be sex, of course.  All you young couples out there, wondering whether or no you should have children, ask some parents to honestly answer the question, did you have sex more or less often after you had a baby?  (You might want to choose close older friends for your focus group research, as asking random strangers about their sex lives could quickly turn awkward!)

Although much church doctrine argues against the decoupling of sex and procreation, that decoupling has been largely accomplished materially; and for the sake of this crowded world, and our own busy lives, that is for the good.  Birth control advances have allowed couples to decide whether and when they want kids.  The fewer kids you have, the more free time you’ll have to enjoy wild pursuits, including that most fun and intimate of acts.

You young folks entering an active sex life will have the greatest amount of activity over the longest run, I’ll wager, if you always practice safe sex and opt not to have children.  Or if you do really want children, have just one (read Bill McKibben’s excellent defense of the one-child family in Maybe One) or at most two (read Dave Foreman’s new book, Man Swarm, on how human over-population is smothering the natural world).  This year, the human population will top 7 billion, meaning the number of people in the world has more than tripled during my parents’ lifetime.  Why take on the difficult, time-consuming challenge of parenting when there are already more than enough kids in the world?

One of the most effective population planning programs I ever encountered was a surly and chubby child, thought of as Girtha, from the unlikeliest, nicest slimmest parents.  How these kind and fit parents suffered their unruly and sour-faced child was beyond any neighbor’s comprehension.  Most of us love most children we meet, but this round hellion was a reminder, at a time when otherwise I might have wondered about fathering a child, that not only do all children need much of their parents’ time, but some turn quite disagreeable.  I did not quite dare suggest to these parents with the patience of Job that they go on tour with their child to college campuses with a presentation, This Could Happen to You!; but I think such a show could have significantly cut fertility rates in the US for years.

Girtha was a child before the metastasis of computer games and cell phones, so I must suppose that a difficult child could be even more of a hindrance to a happy romance these days.  What a downer on a sex life it must be for couples who have children noisily playing computer games and chatting on their cell phones late into the evening – as well try to make love in a Best Buy store!

Good parenting and other forms of nurturing are among the noblest of human instincts and endeavors, undeniably.  In this crowded world, however, people do well for themselves and others by forgoing the opportunity to procreate and using their nurturing skills to help raise nieces and nephews or foster children and to provide homes for needy cats and dogs.  Be a good uncle or aunt, and you enjoy the pleasures of being with kids without the constant obligations of raising them.  Small, close families are an ideal to which our society should aspire – lest we, as cultures and as individuals, be overwhelmed by problems stemming from overshooting our carrying capacity, from crime to pollution to hunger to roadkill to war.

Along with the huge amount of time that parents must invest in their children (time that otherwise might be spent in bed or on the beach) is the hefty cost of raising children.  The average middle-class American couple invests hundreds of thousands of dollars raising a son or a daughter, and those costs are rising, with young people’s lofty expectations of material abundance.  Such investments are rewarding for many parents, but people still wondering about procreation should surely factor them into their decisions.  You’ll have more time and more money for romantic vacations and wild excursions if you opt to remain free of the obligations of parenting.

Peace activists in the 1960s righteously urged, Make love, not war!  This is a good motto, but may need updating.  Let us care lovingly and well for all children (and dependent cats & dogs, too!) the world over.  Let us not, though, bring more new children (or cats or dogs) into this world, unless we simply must, and then only in small numbers.  Make love and peace, by caring for those already here!

John Davis is a wilderness explorer and writer, former Wild Earth editor, and Fellow of The Rewilding Institute.

Sire of All Crises

"The Blue Marble" is a famous photog...

Our world’s travails and torments (Image via Wikipedia)

Today’s guest post is from John Davis, a wilderness explorer and writer, former Wild Earth editor, and Fellow of The Rewilding Institute. John’s previous post, “Why Five Cats?“, took a lighthearted look at the merits of nulliparity and cat ownership. Today’s post is excerpted from an essay that will appear in a forthcoming population anthology, Apply the Breaks! Environmentalists Confront Population Growth, edited by Eileen Crist and Philip Cafaro, University of Georgia Press. We’re hoping to review the anthology on Why No Kids? when it is published.

Virtually every major problem in the world today is caused or exacerbated by human overpopulation.  From famine and disease to war and extinction (the overarching crisis of our time), the main driving force is the exploding human population.  Planet Earth is being wrecked by too many people consuming too much of the natural world through technologies too harmful.

The litany of overpopulation’s problems is the list of the world’s travails and torments: habitat fragmentation and destruction, species extirpation and extinction; air, land, and water pollution; global climate chaos, extreme storm damage, killing droughts; unemployment, declines in social services, poverty, starvation, disease, epidemic; degradation of natural and cultural amenities, such as trails, parks, and gardens; loss of individual meaning, influence, and opportunity; ennui, angst, and mental disorders; congestion, noise, traffic, road rage, crime; exploitation, imperialism, war …   If our civilization is to have a prayer of persistence, we must face the huge challenge of humanely, peacefully reducing our numbers – probably several orders of magnitude, over many decades – to within biological carrying capacity, to a level compatible with the long-term well-being of all our fellow denizens on this sensitive planet.

With good reason, the hot topic of the day is just that – global overheating.  Obviously, the problem is not just that we drive gas guzzlers, overheat our poorly insulated houses, and waste too much paper.  The problem is also that too many people are driving; too many people are heating their homes with fossil fuels; and too many people are consuming natural resources and supplanting natural, carbon-storing habitats with crops, cows, lawns, and houses.

In the United States at least, demographic and economic trends of recent years strongly, if surprisingly, suggest that fertility is more amenable to reconsideration than is consumption:  People will apparently more easily accept a smaller family than they will a smaller energy budget.  Americans would rather have fewer children than stop driving their cars and running their air conditioners.  So, while we must also confront the problems of excessive consumption and harmful technologies, we will likely make the greatest strides toward saving the world from disaster by instituting educational, financial, and cultural incentives for lower birth rates.

A central tenet of sensible population planning is the education and empowerment (social, political, and financial) of women.  From my recent experiences out exploring North America’s endangered but not lost wildways, often guided by great naturalists, let me humbly suggest a complementary strategy, one already being promoted well but not widely enough by environmental educators: immersion of young people in wild Nature.  Get kids out roaming the woods, paddling the creeks, snorkeling the ponds, looking at birds and flowers and trees and frogs and butterflies …  Help them see how wondrous and exciting and beautiful our wild neighbors are and help them understand the connections between land and wildlife, between land and people, and between the actions we take as people and the consequences to the land and wildlife.  Go forth and don’t multiply, young people!

The Inconvenient Truth of human-caused planetary overheating may best be met with the more convenient truth that by peacefully and voluntarily reducing our numbers, we not only help stabilize the climate and abate the extinction crisis, we also treat virtually every ecological, social, and cultural ill in the world today.  Then, rather than our many descendants cursing us for condemning them to a world of poverty, pestilence, and war, our small number of offspring would thank us for recognizing just in time the moral imperative of ending humanity’s march against the natural world, for rejoining the biotic community and celebrating our connections with land and wildlife.

John Davis is a wilderness explorer and writer, former Wild Earth editor, and Fellow of The Rewilding Institute. A longer version of this essay will appear in a population anthology, Apply the Breaks! Environmentalists Confront Population Growth, edited by Eileen Crist and Philip Cafaro, University of Georgia Press.