Debunking the Debunkers
“Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”
~Hans Christian Anderson
The idea of overpopulation came up the other day when I was watching the Duggars, a TLC-TV program I rarely view. I had heard that the 19 and Counting couple were now expecting their 20th child* … Um … Okay. To all appearances Jim Bob, 46, and Michelle, 45—both younger than my firstborn—are doing a commendable job of feeding, housing, clothing, and rearing the 19 they have. Maybe they are up to it—not me. I agree with Ann Curry (NBC-TV): two or three children are enough for anybody.
I have reservations about the Duggars other than financial—I can see the house they live in; it appears they are making money from their TV program. What happens if the TV program ends? Well, maybe by then the children will be grown and employed. Since they’re now celebs, maybe all children will wind up with scholarships, so I’m not worried about higher education.
Don’t you see a little OCD in this couple? I fear the Duggars are as high on reproduction as an alcoholic or addict on substance abuse. Or maybe they like stardom or the money. Only time will tell—when we see how these children turn out as adults. Michelle has said that her reason for having so many children is a belief that birth control is wrong. My grandmother would have agreed with her because she did not believe in or practice birth control. Birth control (cf Genesis 38:1-10) was as sinful to her as abortion is to us: both were a refusal to bear children. My grandmother had a baker’s dozen children. Many of her contemporaries also had large families. But their children, the next generation, wanted small families. My grandmother’s children each had two to four children; some had none, giving her little more than 20 grandchildren.
I’m done with childcare and homeschooling. I homeschooled my younger children through only the primary grades (1-3). As the children aged, I tired. I was capable of teaching them—I didn’t want to. So after years of private school and homeschool, I put them in public school. Then I tired of commuting. Because there were gaps in the ages of my children—they weren’t stairsteps—I had 30 years of transporting children to and from school, scouts, football practice, music lessons, field trips, summer camp, clubs, and more. I was burned out. I think every parent reaches that stage. So, when is burnout going to hit the Duggars?
I admire the simple life of the Amish and other Anabaptists, but there is one thing missing in their lives: education. The Amish go only to elementary school (grades 1-8). No secondary school. No college. No university. No graduate school. So you won’t find an Old Order Amish physician, attorney, scientist, professor, or certified schoolteacher.
Decades ago a 14-year-old friend of mine went to ninth grade, her first year of high school. The opening day she was hazed. She walked home, crying and humiliated, and never returned to school. She dropped out—at 14. Her family were not into education, just things. They owned a spacious, well-furnished home, drove a new car, neat, clean people, but uneducated. When that high school dropout married and had children of her own, her four boys grew up in a materialistic, nonacademic home, ill prepared for today’s world. One boy was soon divorced because he did not know how to fit in with the larger culture.
That is my fear for the Duggar children. They are homeschooled and homechurched. Cloistered. All they know is the fishbowl Mom and Dad have created for them. Yes, they tour—with their parents providing commentary—but that is no substitute for serious academic study or the input of other voices. Will they be able to function outside the Duggar household? Will they assume that, like their parents, they have to spend their whole life reproducing? Are they even now, with the family growing annually, becoming sexually prococious? Do they know anything about the sociology of the family and how children from large families relate as adults? Grown siblings stay close forever (clannish), above and beyond their relationship with their own nuclear family. How will these issues impact these children?
Bradyism: A multisibling sensibility derived from having grown up in large families. Symptoms of Bradyism: a facility for mind games, emotional withdrawal in situations of overcrowding, and a deeply felt need for a well-defined personal space. ~Douglas Coupland
Jim Bob, defending his having “19 children and counting,” said that overpopulation was a myth—or was that John Stossel?—an idea spouted by prolifers. Though overpopulation-debunkers call their view science, I suspect they have no head for science or world geography. They look at a world map the way a child looks at an empty page to color: every inch has to be filled in. Some of that space is already spoken for. Further, people have to have infrastructure.
How much space each human being needs is partly personal preference. When Daniel Boone heard that someone had moved into the neighborhood 300 miles away, he moved. “That’s too close for me.” One day I was riding in the car with my mother, one of Boone’s relatives, when she remarked, “There’s too many people!” When a friend of mine is frustrated with a crowd, especially in traffic, he will say, “Don’t these people have homes!”
On the other hand, how much space each human being needs is not personal preference; it is fact.
When there were 6.0 billion people in the world, someone calculated that they all could stand (SRO) in Jacksonville, Florida, the largest city, areawide, in the contiguous USA. Someone else played with it and figured they’d all fit comfortably in Montana, better Texas. Has anyone calculated with 7.0 billion?
My guess is that, being that densely compacted, they’d all fall down from lack of oxygen. People need trees and plants to live. Plants absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen. How many trees does Planet Earth need to refresh the air around us? The more people or animals on the planet, the more trees you need.
Surrounded by forests, some people assume we have enough trees. I was surprised when I heard a music professor, back East, skeptical of the environmentalists, say: “See any shortage of trees? They don’t know what they’re talking about.” And he had a doctorate. Obviously not in science. And he must have been untraveled too. Yes, New England, eastern New York (Adirondacks), and the Appalachians do have trees; but beginning with Ohio, much of the Midwest, the Great Plains, and the desert Southwest does not.
Most of Planet Earth is covered with water: seawater or saltwater. Less than 3 percent of the water is fresh water, and most of that is stored in glaciers. So you have less than 1 percent fresh water available for drinking, cooking, daily showers, washing clothes, etc. Where does that water come from? Yes, from rain, watertables or watersheds, and aquifers. Drinking water cannot have run through groundwater (cemeteries, outhouses, sewers, graywater, etc). Most water treatment plants provide tapwater from underground springs or rivers. If you live in the country, along the back roads, your well has to be 100 feet from your sewer line. Even then, county officials have to come out to your house and do a perk test to make sure your ground is fit for water and sewer. What if your land is no good and fails the perk test?
Singapore, the most densely populated city in the world, is now recycling graywater for tapwater. This is dangerous. Water treatment plants cannot filter out every germ. Bleach cannot kill every germ. A can of disinfectant spray reads “kills 99.9% germs.” That less than 1 percent of residual germs can kill you, which is the reason that even in the USA people have been known to contract such deadly diseases as meningitis from tapwater. So you do not want recycled graywater (sewerage) for drinking water. Yet within the next five years, one-third to one-half of the States may have to resort to that option. Such is the scarcity of fresh water.
Right now, the Danube River, the second-longest river in Europe, is experiencing the worst drought in 200 years. Because of a lack of rain in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, near 100 cargo ships are stranded on the Hungary-Serbian border. The first week of December, 2011, the port of Budapest was closed, and passengers on cruise ships, on the Danube and the Rhine, were being rerouted via bus.
Jordan is one of the four thirstiest countries in the world. Foremost among the Middle East’s solutions is the desalination of seawater. Jonathan Falwell, pastor Thomas Road Baptist Church and executive VP of Spiritual Affairs at Liberty University, is trying to raise money to bring water to Israel. “Without water, everyone will die. The dream will be over” (Jonathan Falwell).
As for land itself, remember that there is less of it than there is of ocean, and much of the land is uninhabitable. Masses of people cannot live in the highest peaks of the Himalayas, Alps, Andes, Rockies, Sierras, Cascades, Wrangle-St Elias, Denali, etc. Yes, some people are like mountain goats: they climb up there—to a point. After a point, they need oxygen tanks. Large numbers of people cannot live in mountains. Then they talk Montana. Ever driven through Montana? Western Montana is the home of the Bitterroot Mountains. Eastern Montana is just north of Yellowstone. Montana is home to 77 named ridges of the Rocky Mountains. Where do these prolifers and overpopulation-debunkers plan to squat in Montana?
Neither can people live in deserts. Meaning the Sahara, Arabian, Kalahari, Gobi, Great Victoria, Mojave, Great Basin, Death Valley, etc. Have you driven through Nevada? It’s brown. I thought, Why doesn’t someone plant some trees here. Wonderful place for a forest! So vast. So empty. It’s desert. You cannot grow trees on those brown hills in Nevada. You cannot build cities there because nobody can live there. The only way Las Vegas can exist is piped-in water from Lake Mead. What happens if that source does dry? Vegas ceases to exist. Some Western states—dry states—ban individuals from collecting rainwater because that water belongs to everyone in the watershed. Did you know that not until recently could people even travel south to north across Australia because there was no railroad from Adelaide to Darwin? Central Australia is uninhabited desert. The people live along the coasts. You want to live in inner Australia? Go right ahead, but you’ll be lonely. Furthermore, in Australia, you can take only a 5-minute shower: water restrictions.
Neither can people live in rocks or gorges. Meaning the Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon, Kali Gandaki Gorge, Tsangpo Canyon, Copper Canyon, Grand Canyon, Provo Canyon, Yosemite, the Badlands, slot canyons, cliffs, ravines, rocky fields, bedrock, etc. Ever watch IRT Deadliest Roads (History Channel TV)? Third-World countries. Much of that land is not only undeveloped, but uninhabitable treacherous terrain.
Neither can people live in lakes, rivers, swamps, and waterways. That rules out the Dead Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea, Caspian Sea, Lake Baikal, Lake Tanganyika, Lake Manasarovar, Lake Titicaca, Nile River, Amazon River, Mississippi River, Missouri River, Lake Tahoe, Finger Lakes, Great Lakes-St Lawrence Seaway, including Niagara Falls, Great Salt Lake, Everglades, Okefenokee Swamp, Atchafalaya Basin, etc. So when you overpopulation-debunkers are calculating land, make sure you substract the wetlands.
Neither can people live on icecaps or in extreme cold places. That rules out Antarctica, Greenland, Patagonia, South Georgia, Siberia…A road cannot be constructed behind Juneau, Alaska, because of the Juneau Icefield and the Mendenhall Glacier. The northern territories of Canada are barely touched with people. One territory—one of the most remote, sparsely settled regions in the world—belongs to the Nunavuts because they are the only ones who know how to live there.
If you plan to build houses and furniture, sleep in a warm bed, and drive a car, then there are the needs of raw materials—industry. You cannot live atop quarries, mines, industrial plants, nuclear plants, power plants, railway or bus stations, airports, dams, factories, prisons, schools, libraries, courthouses, hospitals, clinics, highways, equipment, service stations, shipyards, docks, golf courses, etc. Or currently occupied houses, neighborhoods, and cities.
If you plan to eat, some arable land has to be set aside for wheatfields, cornfields, soybeans, fresh vegetables, orange groves, apple orchards, almonds, pecans, farm machinery, even barns, grocery stores, and restaurants. Each decade, because of the encroachment of cities and neighborhoods (houses), agriculture loses as much arable land as the State of Ohio. Once arable land is gone—even if land is used to grow corn for ethanol—how do you expect to eat?
Our current ethanol production represents only 3.5 percent of our gasoline consumption, yet it consumes 20 percent of the entire US corn crop, causing the price of corn to double in the last two years and raising the threat of hunger in the Third World. ~Jeff Goodell
Transforming food into fuels is a monstrosity… [It is] killing the poor masses through hunger. ~Fidel Castro
And I imagine when you were driving through Kansas and Nebraska, you were thinking unoccupied. Dormant. No. Kansas and Nebraska are very busy. Can’t halt there.
How about cattle and sheep, deer and elk, not to mention lions and tigers? They need grazing land. I, for one, have no idea of sitting up housekeeping in the unfenced zoos of Africa. I intend to give those animals plenty of elbow room.
How about government land, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the World Heritage Sites of the UN, and National Parks? That land is earmarked. Just try touching it. You’ll find “Keep out. This means you.”
Well, I could go on, but the idea is that oxygen and fresh water are in short supply, sanitation is absolutely necessary, not every piece of land on the globe is inhabitable, much is already deeded to someone else or otherwise restricted; and if you want to eat and sleep, room and board, you’re going to have to come up with a new idea. Land and resources are limited.
Well, I’m almost certain overpopulation-debunkers are clueless about overcrowding. When a church is overcrowded, people will quit coming; the size of the congregation will inevitably conform to the size of the facilities. When a population is overcrowded, people will become hostile and unfeeling; maybe, again, they are conforming to the size of the facilities. These are known facts. Consider the situation with Abraham and Lot. “The land was not able to bear them … for their substance was great” (Genesis 13:6). If you want people to be comfortable and happy, you have to give them breathing room: personal space.
“As you put more and more people into the world, the value of life not only declines, it disappears.” ~Isaac Asimov
Copyright © 2011 Alexandra Lee
* Michelle Duggar has since experienced an untimely birth and the loss of her 20th child. I admire the family’s showing photos of the premature infant and having the courage to tell their story.