By: Karen I. Shragg
– CAPS Executive Board Secretary
“A finite world can support only a finite population; therefore, population growth must eventually equal zero.”– Garrett Hardin
We now live in a world that is so polarized that it’s hard to navigate complex issues with tools of nuance and well-established evidence. It is even more challenging to have difficult discussions when we can all live in our own ‘news’ bubbles and miss out on the kind of truth which is always more complicated than presented on bumper stickers and sound bites.
It is an either/or landscape and rarely a narrative that can accommodate two seemingly opposing truths. We want to know if something or someone is good or bad and the answer is often YES. As Ken Burns in this latest documentary, “The US and the Holocaust” articulated, some of our most favored heroes were also virulent antisemites.
Fortunately, several leaders are trying to carve out a new way forward. Andrew Yang and Christy Todd Whitman have actually formed a political party called ‘Forward’, trying to chip away at the entrenched two-party system with more moderate views. Author and podcaster Sam Harris suggests we discard the duality of the right and the left framework and create what he calls the “Radical Center.” In 2017 Harris posted a definition of Radical Centrism on Reddit, “Being a Radical Centrist is not about hitting the middle of both sides. It’s about being open to ideas from either side and not wasting time with unpractical discussions.”
It is time to bring this concept to the overpopulation beast. We are all victims of overpopulation’s reach, every single one of the 8 billion we are just about ready to ‘welcome’ to our rapidly overheating planet. Still we are not having the difficult discussions about the way we all suffer because of our numerical success. Whether you have to walk more miles to access fresh water, suffer from flooding or wildfires, or spend much of your week in a traffic jam, we experience overpopulation’s wrath every day and it’s just getting warmed up, literally.
Human rights, especially for those with the least resources and respect, is also vital for a world that is worth occupying. Each person no matter their ethnicity needs to have his/her humanity respected. Hatred of the other, based on made up nonsense of inferiority has no place in a world I want to live in. So how do we reconcile these two truths? As individuals we need respect but as a whole, our species is just too big. We begin this arduous task by unbolting the doors to difficult discussions. We elevate the significance of ecological understanding through an ethical lens with no hatred in our hearts.
Mention how we mostly grow in the US and other developed countries which is by immigration, and watch the doors close to all but xenophobic platforms leaving me politically homeless. That is why I am creating a new acronym for myself. I am calling myself a D.A.R.E. activist. That stands for Degrowth Anti-Racist Environmentalist. I am not an advocate that we de-grow the human enterprise because I hate people, I am an advocate for lower population numbers because I love them. I am not against individual immigrants; I am for them. I am however against mass immigration at this point in our history because of where we are climate-wise and numbers-wise. To invite people into your home you had better be prepared to give them all that they need. We can no longer guarantee there will be an America left when we go so far over our carrying capacity, especially our water supply. In the western and southwestern states water is already precious, drying up due to climate change and in the Midwest, where I live, we are over-pumping our aquifers beyond their rate of recharge due to overpopulation’s demands.Other resources in short supply already include these and many more: open space, aka room for wildlife, health care services, and roads without heavy traffic. As a D.A.R.E. activist I can straddle the fine line of human rights and monitoring of carrying capacity, because to do anything else is to give in to either the jaws of hatred or the poison of creating further ecological and economic instability. Neither choice is acceptable to me.
While I am busy inventing acronyms, I have one more. In the name of all that is sacred, water, land, freedom, job security, wildlife, lower crime rates, less homelessness and more, we must become “H.E.R.B.alists’ too. That is, we must rally to demand Humanely and Ecologically Restrained Borders. Only when we recognize that taming the overpopulation beast must be done where and when we can, and without an ounce of hatred in our hearts we will be on the right track, the one that runs right down the middle.