To breed or not to breed?
BY C. L. BOTHWELL
There is a clan of Australian aborigines which is leaving this planet and I'm going with them. I haven't told them yet, but I don't need to. I'm sure they understand why I intend to join them, and I don't think they'll object.
No, they haven't commandeered a Space Shuttle, and if their travel agent has made regular contact with a flying saucer pilot, they haven't talked about it. They don't plan to levitate, catapult, fling, fly or rocket themselves into orbit. My fellow travellers and I are leaving by the simple expedient of not reproducing.
In my case, I reached that decision 27 years ago, more or less. A combination of my love of wild places, the devastating impact of Disney World and its coterie of developers on my then-home of Orlando, and stories about the impending population boom instilled a certainty that I did not want to make babies. The world was too crowded and the pavement advanc-ing too quickly. Native vegetation was being poisoned and bulldozed, and auto exhaust burned my eyes. Many species were becoming extinct and even the vast oceans couldn't swallow all of our industrial sludge. There were too many of us already. I would not contribute to the problem. I had a vasectomy three years later when I turned 21.
The aborigines were older and wiser, lived far from plastic mouse ears and traffic jams, possessed simpler technologies and different myths, but arrived at a similar conclusion during the same decade. Their explanation is that mutants have taken over the planet and that it is time for the real people to leave. You can read about them in a fascinating autobiographical book called Mutant Message Downunder, by Marlo Morgan. To effect their departure they chose celibacy.
It is no small thing to pack one's genetic tent and scram. That runs against several billion years of a biologic inclination to self-replicate, as well as the cultural bias to make more delightful People Like Us. It has disappointed my parents, and will color my old age no children to help out or baby pictures to share. Extinction, of course, is not unique to my family line or that outback aboriginal group, as Cole Porter might have reminded us,
"Mastodons do it, wallabies do it, pterodactyls in the trees do it," and so on.
What sets us apart from others in the earthly menagerie is our cleverness and enthusiasm for ignoring biological codes and limits adhered to by the rest of the natural world. That willy-nilly willingness to ignore limits makes us dangerous "mutants" to the Australians. No other creatures have insisted on exceeding the land's carrying capacity or avoiding the food supply-predator-prey cycles that maintain a healthy balance.
With agriculture we have bent vast ecosystems to feed us, with mining we have harvested the mineral wealth of millennia to shield us against the elements and with medicine we have thwarted the action of biologic curbs to growth. Through all that we haven't paid much attention to our procreation.
Not making babies is a clear acceptance of limits. This is it. This is as far as this set of genetic information is going. Three score and ten and I'm outta here!
I live in a small passive solar, photovoltaic house with a composting toilet, recycle everything I possibly can, eat low on the food chain and try to minimize my driving. I produce less than a third of the pollution, waste and garbage churned out by an average American, but being child-free is the single biggest contribution I have made to the environment. My non-kids have me beat hands down on creating a low impact, sustainable economy.
Maybe I'll print a bumper sticker that says "Proud non-parent of an Eco-Whiz at Virtual More Science High." Hey, I could get rich selling them to aborigines! Then I can get really rich when I sell the abos some bumpers.
C.L. Bothwell hails from the other Carolina. Duck Soup is also served up twice every Tuesday on WNCW-88.7FM.
It is no small thing to pack one's genetic tent and scram. That runs against several billion years of a biologic inclination to self-replicate, as well as the cultural bias to make more delightful People Like Us.