The Elephant and the Third Rail

Kudos to the author of the letter to the Independent about human overpopulation, “Babies?” chiding the Indy for avoiding the “elephant in the room” as the dominant factor causing pollution and climate change. I agree with the elephant metaphor but (somewhat) defend the newspaper’s silence.

The Indy‘s newsroom is hardly alone in elephantless-ness. One web-searches in vain for articles that, in addressing the pollution/climate-change matrix, confront (or even mention) the impact of the increase in number of Earth’s dominant animal. While diligent assessments are made of the smothering of our planet with chemical and carbon-based output — invariably cautioning that this output must be curtailed — not a whisper is heard about curtailing offspring from us seven billion folks.

Why is this? In part because it’s much easier — culturally cozier — to preach that people should stop using plastic bags and straws than that they should stop procreating. Indeed, calling for wiser consumption merely plucks the low-hanging fruit of the problem while providing little effect except instant gratification. No, the solution is to reduce the number — certainly the increase in the number — of humans on the planet, which is where one encounters the problem’s “third rail.”

No matter the approach to our overpopulation problem — from voluntary to involuntary contraception; from education to indoctrination; from taxation to legislation, to name the most obvious — the debate invariably slides into explosive issues, insoluble topics of freedoms, religious beliefs, governmental intrusion, racialism/genetics, immigration/migration — issues preferably, conveniently, avoided.

Hence, the elephant abides.


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