The Playing Field

Sport and culture through the lens of science

The Five Year Ban: Because A Billion Less People Is A Great Place To Start

The Five Year Ban: Because A Billion Less People Is A Great Place To Start!


Want to hear an unpopular opinion: I think we should put Nadya Suleman in jail. Perhaps you don’t recall the name. Perhaps you don’t even believe a crime has been committed. Perhaps you think I should be locked up along the way. Fine. But someone has to start saying things aloud, so here goes:

STOP HAVING CHILDREN.

Nadya Suleman had 14. And they should all be taken from her and raised by fit parents. Seriously, I could care less about the fact that she’s unmarried, unemployed, unable to convince herself that she’s not Angelina Jolie.

Here’s the truth: we are running out of resources and we are running out of time. The International Committee on Climate Change has said we have thee to five years to curb our ways or the current environmental disaster is irreversible. Irreversible means that the little economic hiccup we’re feeling today isn’t even the warn up round. It’s T-ball compared to the major leagues.

You think the economy is bad now—wait a few years. Wait until we’re almost completely out of oil and food and water and available land and really I could go on for two more pages listing everything we’re running out of. Why? Because we are quite literally running out of everything.

So how long do you have to wait to be starving, thirsty, and all the rest?

Truthfully, it shouldn’t be long now.

And the main reason it shouldn’t be long now is because there are already way too many of us. By now, everyone knows the current population stats. The earth is close to holding 7 billion people. If things don’t stop soon, by 2050, conservative estimates put the number at 9.2 billion.

I’ve written it before and I’ll write it again. Scientists studying the carrying capacity of the earth—that is how many of us can live here sustainably—have fluctuated massively. Wild-eyed optimists believe it’s close to 2 billion. Dour pessimists say 300 million. The point is that—and I’m going by the best of those figures—we need to lose 4.4 billion people and we need to lose them fast.

I'm not advocating murder or euthanasia or anything along those lines, but something needs to be done. Not too long ago, one of my readers pointed out that I’m pretty good at pointing out what’s wrong in the world and lousy about pointing out solutions. So here’s my simple solution: Stop Having Children.

I call it the 5 Year Ban. For the next five years let’s not have any kids. All of us. The whole freaking planet.

I don’t think this should be a top down approach. I don’t mean a literal government ban. I mean a grassroots movement of responsible adults behaving like responsible adults. I mean a populist moratorium on childbirth.

Why 5 years? Because it’s a manageable number. Because it would mean a billion less people. Because a billion less people is a good place to start.

If everyone living on the planet today were really serious about, well, there being a planet left to live on, a planet left for our children to actually occupy, a planet that can actually sustain life. If we were serious then we would all be using birth control.

All the time. And we would never stop using it.

Don’t give me this nonsense about replacement children. About declining populations in Europe. What about Africa or Asia?

See All Stories In

A Better Tomorrow

The world our children face

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

The downstream corollary to Thomas Freidman’s Flat Earth idea is, well, the world is flat. It’s small, it’s hot, and it’s crowded. What I do at my home in New Mexico effects not just my neighbors or my countrymen. It effects the whole world. Why? Because resources—the things we’re running out of—don’t give a damn for geography.

The water coming out of the tap doesn’t care if it’s a Persian or a Nigerian who’s drinking it. There’s only so much to go around.

We have spent the past 4000 years trying to shrug off the nightmare that is Biblical advice. We no longer sanction slavery or believe it okay to stone a woman to death for wearing sexy clothing or any of that other nonsense—but go forth and multiply?

Got to be the worst advice in the history of the world.

And sure, a five year ban won’t fix all of this and it raises some questions as well—like how do we insure that year six won’t produce an influx of offspring?

So here’s my answer: Personal responsibility. A grassroots movement means we mean it. It means people having children in year six would feel shame and embarrassment at their unbelievable selfishness.

And yeah, if you are having children right now you are being selfish. You’re stealing. Stealing from the future. Stealing from the rest of humanity. Stealing from every living thing on the earth right now.

The current planetary die off rate—meaning the rate at which species are going extinct—is a 1000 times greater than ever before in history. Why? Because humans—one species among millions—have stolen the food, the water, the space.

And every time we bring more life into this world we’re increasing that theft exponentially.

How do we stop a massive influx of kids in year six? Well, let’s not only stop having kids, let’s create adoption incentives.

There are tons of kids who need parents right now. A lot of them come from parts of the world where the main employment opportunities they’ll be offered in the future are criminal, soldier or terrorist, or some combination of the three.

So we can adopt these kids now or fight them later—that’s the only choice here. Because that’s the other thing resource scarcity guarantees: war.

We are soon going to be killing each other over resources, just like we’ve always killed each other over resources—only this next time it won’t be over something to put in our gas tanks. It’ll be over something to put in our belly.

And it won't be an isolated incident, it'll be a global catastrophe.

That’s our future. That’s what happens if we don’t stop having children. In fact, if we don’t stop having children then we’re going to get to meet another bad Biblical idea head on: the four horseman of the apocalypse.

Pestilence, War, Famine, Death.

When John Kennedy said: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” he was trying to usher in an era of duty and sacrifice and real responsibility. We need another era like that, only we need this next one to be global.

And this time, it’s a little easier. You don’t need to ask what you need to do for the world. You already know.

Stop having children. It’s that easy.



Steven Kotler is an author and journalist. His most recent works include: Abundance, A Small Furry Prayer  and West of Jesus.

more...

Subscribe to The Playing Field

Current Issue

Dreams of Glory

Daydreaming: How the best ideas emerge from the ether.