Roger Marolt: Roger This |

Roger Marolt: Roger This

Roger Marolt
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

OK, we all know that the eventual demise of the planet through overpopulation by the human race is caused by the pope and the uneducated masses in Third-World nations. It’s obvious. If you don’t believe the use of contraceptives is morally justified, if you can’t figure out how a condom works, or even if you simply believe that having children is a vocation of some sort, you are definitely not part of the solution in trying to convert the world into the ultimate gated community.

Given this inarguable observation, though, wouldn’t it be a fun to try to challenge it, just for kicks? It’s what columnists on deadline do for a living. For laughs, and my paycheck, let’s take a ridiculous position on the subject. How about we posit that the global overpopulation threat is actually the result of the secular contributions from science and education instead of from ambivalent ignoramuses and religious fanatics? Come on, it’ll be a blast.

I suppose we could point out the obvious first. Science and education have enabled people to live longer. Improvements in everything from sanitation to food production to medicine have allowed the life expectancy to nearly double in the United States since the beginning of the 20th century. Many other parts of the developing world are experiencing more dramatic gains in extending human tenure on this ball, as we speak.

If you define a generation as about 20 years and assume that each person replaces their self once in their lifetime, by increasing the average life expectancy from 40 years to 80 years, the population of the planet has increased by a factor of five. It is important to note here that the Catholic Church had nothing to do with this expansion of life.

But, the argument condemning science, technology and innovation in its ceaseless quest to exterminate the human race through crowding doesn’t end here. The argument about overpopulation isn’t really about having enough elbow room at the picnic table in the park when we are trying to read our paperbacks. It is about having enough resources at our disposal to ensure a comfortable existence. The issue, then, is all about eventually running out of stuff we need, or probably more accurately for the immediate discussion, what we want.

Looking back over the past century or so, again, some estimates conclude that citizens of this country are now consuming almost nine times as many resources during our lives than did our great-great grandparents. Check my math on this one, but I think that is the equivalent of increasing the population nine-fold.

How did this dramatic increase occur? It was through intelligence, innovation and education. It was by progress made with new technologies. Science played a huge part. The greatest minds in the world are responsible for all types of consumptive conveniences, from light bulbs to telephones to flat-screen television sets. Sure, certain stockholders and venture capitalists might have been praying for companies using all varieties of new technologies to succeed in developing these products that we all use, but I think that’s the extent to which we can blame this phenomenon of effective population growth on religion.

To cut to the chase then, between science enabling us to live twice as long as our ancestors did at the beginning of the previous century and technology allowing us to consume nine times more resources, on average, per life today than we did in 1900, intellect and education have increased the effective population of our country by 4,500 percent in just 100 years! Project this growth rate out to the rest of the emerging nations of the planet and you can see that we had all better start praying. It’s the equivalent of every family in America having seven kids over the past century.

The long and short of it is that, in the debate about shouldering responsibility for the explosion of population growth in the world, I think an honest person would have a difficult time casting more blame on Pope Benedict XVI than Henry Ford. Sure, you can argue that people who don’t use birth control or engage in modern family planning because of religious beliefs are idiots. But, they might turn around and say that people who work 60 hours per week to buy SUVs so that they can commute two hours a day to the suburbs where they spend whatever free-time they have left staring at high-definition television because it’s so life-like, are, too. Who’s right? It depends on what you believe in.

So, who is responsible for the earth’s population growth? Quakers who don’t use condoms or yuppies who do? The truth is that there is enough responsibility to go around … for all of us.

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