Don’t forget to have your spouses spayed or neutered.

Dear Citizen,

Congratulations on your first newborn!  We hope the immeasurable happiness that accompanies such a joyous occasion reaches you well.  Please be alerted that, within the proceeding 4 weeks, you must undergo assisted sterilization, as mandated by your peers.

Kind regards,

The Human Race

Dr. John Feeney, an environmental journalist residing in Colorado, authored an interesting article presented by the BBC, “Population: the elephant in the room.”  Go read it.

As Feeney explains, the carrying capacity of our species on Earth is a fickle subject to tackle. However, ecologically, it’s a fundamental law governing of organismal population growth: a definite amount of food, water, or other resource cannot sustain an infinite number of organisms.  Humans are no different from other animals in this respect.  At some point, we will overshoot our carrying capacity, and calamity beyond our wildest dreams will ensue.

Now, I think most would agree that forced sterilization or government mandated population control would be terribly unethical and unpopular.  However, at what point do the actions of the current generation of humans impose unethical constraints on future generations?  It seems to me that, collectively, we have two options: a) avoid disaster by limiting growth now via population control; or b) allow continued population growth, and let disaster be the population controlling agent.

The questions remains, however, which of the above two contingencies is more ethical?  Is it better to prevent the possible deaths of the unborn, or prevent the certain deaths of the those individuals possibly born in the future?

Frankly, I have no freaking clue.

Oh, in case some of you sci-fi lovers are thinking, “Hey, stupid, we’ll totally be warp-driving to Romulus in, like, 100 years.”  Well, check it.  The closest Earth-like planet is Gliese 581c, a mere 20.3 light years away.  Given our fastest recorded occupied vehicle travels 11 km/s (Apollo 10 – ref), it would take approximately 550,000,000 years to get there.  Even if we were to take a Helios II to Gliese 581c, the fastest spacecraft ever developed (ref), it would take 86 million years.  Shit, even if we could travel at the speed of light, barring the ridiculous amount of energy required to do so, it would take 20 freaking years to get there.  Now consider moving a 5-10 billion people those 20 light years, and the logistics get even more complicated.  In short, we’re stuck here, so let’s make the best of it.

Related Topics


Dave Semeniuk spends hours locked up in his office, thinking about the role the oceans play in controlling global climate, and unique ways of studying it. He'd also like to shamelessly plug his art practice:

6 Responses to “Don’t forget to have your spouses spayed or neutered.”

  1. David

    Tanks so much for contributing to break the taboo of overpopulation! Feeney’s article’s wonderful and I hope we’ll quickly see educated answers to this problem (since the obvious: “let’s mass kill random people!” is both freaky and inappropriate).

  2. Timon

    Couldn’t the quickest gains on this issue be realized via religious reforms on birth control, particularly by the Catholic Church? Isn’t that the biggest reason why this is a taboo issue – you have to take those guys head on? I mean, whenever I discuss this with people, we identify “sex is just for procreation/condoms are bad” doctrine as a root cause pretty quick. To address this problem, you have to take on a monolithic institution that’s very firmly entrenched in the countries with the highest birth rates. Not fun. Short of convincing celibate fogies to rewrite their laws, I guess we would have to focus our efforts on education in these places. Sounds like work.

  3. eeyun

    Haven’t you seen the documentary “Total Recall”? Governor Schwarzenegger was in it. Mars is where it’s at! I say bully to Gliese 581c.

  4. Nicholas FitzGerald

    Timon, I don’t think it’s as simple as that. Opposition to birth control and poor sex-education certainly contributes to the problem, but I doubt that the majority of births can be attributed to that. Most babies are born because people choose to have them. Even amongst highly educated people who are cognizant of the problem of overpopulation, the urge to have children is a very strong one.

    I just can’t think of a way to solve this problem ethically. I suppose something akin to China’s one-child policy is one way to go, but there’s no way it would fly in a democratic society. The only way it could be achieved would be with some form of authoritarianism. How could it even be enforced? Are there going to be enforced sterilizations as is (jokingly?) implied here? China enforces it by excluding those who violate the policy from employment and other benefits. But again, this is something that could only be achieved with a centrally-planned government.

    And how would you deal with cases like, for example, when a woman becomes pregnant without knowing who the father is? Would the woman alone be punished, while the father is free to “spread his seed”, as it were? Or would we require that citizens register their DNA with the government? Now we’re getting into some scary 1984 territory…

    Perhaps desperate times require desperate measures… but I for one won’t welcome our new baby-limiting overlords.

  5. Dave Semeniuk

    I wonder what percent of the global population accounts for the highest per capita birth rates – i.e. does 1%, or 10%, or 50% of the world’s population account for the highest fertility rate? Anyone?

Leave a Reply

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.