Tag Archives: contraception

Population and Planet

The human population has grown at an alarming rate, and clearly puts a strain on the world. We can’t grow forever. However, it’s really important to be alert to racist thinking around this issue. We tend to blame the poorest people in the world, who consume far less than the richest 1%. 

Given information about contraception, access to contraception and support to use it, most women will choose to have smaller families. This is an approach that promotes body autonomy for women, and that reduces poverty and suffering. We need to strenuously resist the cultural and religious pressures on women around the world to have a lot of babies.

We need to support people who do not want to have children at all. We need to make it easier for people to control their fertility in any way they like. That means education, access to contraception, and access to vasectomies and tube tying, not conditional on already having had children.

We need to look at our social structures and the politics of families. We need to create environments in which people don’t feel excluded or vulnerable if they don’t have children.

We need to stop focusing on motherhood as the central experience for women. We need to stop telling people who have wombs that this is their defining feature, and that making more humans is the most important thing they can do. We need to challenge right wing thinking that wants to reduce women to wombs, and deny anyone with a womb the opportunity to do anything other than raise kids.

The best way to reduce the population would be to stop coercing people into having children they don’t want. There is nothing but good in stopping that. Give women control of their fertility and the right to choose, and the rest will tend to follow. 

Part of population growth is due to people living longer. We might also ask questions about quality of life, and what we’re prepared to do to people to keep them alive.

And at the same time, there is a much more urgent need to curtail the excesses of the super-rich and to share out resources in fairer ways. People who live lightly, and whose landscapes are not pillaged for the benefit of someone else, are not going to overburden the Earth.


The Pagan and the Pope

So, we have a new Pope. Now, as a Pagan it might seem that I shouldn’t have much to say on the subject, but the size and wealth of the Catholic Church inclines me to feel that this has at least the potential for major impact. I live in hope. From the news this morning I understand that, in his former life, Pope Francis used the bus, did his own shopping, cooked his own meals and went into slums. He spoke in favour of baptising the children of unmarried mothers. I gather he’s not pro gay marriage or women Bishops, but I can’t see they’d have let anyone that radical into the top job. By all accounts, our new Pope cares about poverty and the environment. The question is, will he act on that, or will he let the corporate Vatican tame him? Keep him in your prayers, because if he’s half of what he seems to be, he’s going to need all the well wishing he can get.

There is an issue that lies under poverty, and under environmental problems, and that issue is population. Without talking about birth rates, and the implications of those for child poverty and death in the developing world, no real change can happen. There’s the aids crisis to consider, too. Education of women, rights for women – if all you do is squeeze out babies, this is a moot point. Currently the Catholic Church does not approve of contraception.

What the world desperately needs is a Pope with the courage, compassion and humanity to get up and use that infallible Popeness to good effect. He could decide that Jesus wants us all to be a bit less fruitful so that we can properly take care of the children we’ve got. He could change much of the world, and the lives of a great many people living in it. He could give countless families opportunity to escape poverty, and to build better lives for themselves, and a more manageable, planned number of offspring. He could help reduce the spread of aids, and he could radically impact on the viability of us as a species. Not many people get that much power.

Furthermore, we all know the Catholic Church is obscenely wealthy. Here is a man who has professed that as a Christian, he chooses poverty, and who through his work has shown a willingness to try and alleviate the abject and intolerable levels of poverty others suffer. How much power does he now have? How much wealth? How far is he willing to go?

Let’s hope he’s as good as he sounds, and as able to resist the allure of power and wealth as possible. Active compassion in the Vatican could make a world of difference.