Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Tough One: Population

"This series of maps shows how much the landscape of the eastern United States changed between 1650 and 1992. The maps depict canopy height, the height of the tallest continuous layer of vegetation. In 1650, before colonization, most of the eastern United States was covered in tall forest, shown in dark blue-green. During the next 200 years, the forest disappeared, particularly in New England, the mid-Atlantic, and parts of the Midwest. By 1920, the tall forest was entirely gone, replaced by cities and farms. During the latter half of the twentieth century, the forest began to regrow, but the overall canopy remained much shorter than it had been before 1650. The images are based on a reconstruction of land cover made from records ranging from 1850 census data to modern satellite measurements."

If one could understand a flower as it has its being in God---this would be a higher thing than the whole world!

---Meister Eckhart

A root is a flower that disdains fame.

---Kahlil Gibran

The sound of water says what I think.


Are there too many of us? If the world's population of humans has doubled within just a portion of my lifetime, is it cause for alarm? Will God provide? Will Nature take its toll? If great masses die---and continue to die...and are predicted to die, do I shrug in hiding or subconsciously with the thought "There are too many anyway"? Do rich men plot war, famine and drought to eliminate dangerous overpopulation? Who dies? Who lives? Who decides? Does money decide?

Surely I'm not alone in finding discussion of every major problem we face in this country and in this world eventually boils to how many of us there are. George Monbiot wondered in The Guardian on Tuesday why we don't talk about this, and a great flurry of comments has followed. "I cannot avoid the subject any longer. Almost every day I receive a clutch of emails about it, asking the same question. A frightening new report has just pushed it up the political agenda: for the first time the World Food Programme is struggling to find the supplies it needs for emergency famine relief. So why, like most environmentalists, won't I mention the p-word? According to its most vociferous proponents (Paul and Anne Ehrlich), population is 'our number one environmental problem'. But most greens will not discuss it.",,2248419,00.html

In my opinion, we're silent because it's a moral question. And there's been silence for 50 years...except for occasional explosions about abortion and birth control. Laws are passed and opposed with vigor, but no resolution in the mind of the world. Take it from me, who works in public schools, a great war has been waged in the US over what to teach kids about sex and how. Without much opposition the people who teach sex in the classrooms, and during Bush with federal threats of funding cuts to enforce the morality, have frightened students with huge slides of sexually transmitted diseases. They've referred to a few fertilized cells in a woman's body as a "baby," and they refer to that woman as Mother. They've shown figures from textbooks on an overhead projector that could grow into anything from a stringbean to a gorilla, and they've said, "I know it doesn't look like a person, but that's a baby just like you and me."

Young American adults in their 20s were taught since grade school that if you're pregnant but not ready to parent for the rest of your life, you have it anyway and put it up for adoption. No mention has been made of terminating the pregnancy...and under Bush, again, with threats about funding. My daughter, who is 16, was taught "sex education," and one year in middle school in 3 different classes in a single semester, and not once was she told about birth control...except wait until you're married. How many movies came out this year, and very good ones, about pregnancy and having the baby anyway? And that's in the United States. What do young people learn in Kenya, in Iran?

I say it's morality...and it's clearest expression is Catholic. It goes like this: God creates all life and that makes creation and life Sacred. No argument there. If a person seeks to prevent that gesture, that gift, it is tantamount to rebelling against the Will of God. That is sin. To put some "protective" tissue, like a condom or a diaphragm, between the Will of God and a female womb is a sin. A pill or some other technique to prevent God's Will from having its way is also a sin. As long as that teaching persists from any Great Religion, population control itself is a sin.

But it gets worse. Once God's will has penetrated an ovary, the argument starts about when Life begins. Now we're proceeding from morality into regulation and law. Does life begin with penetration or with a beating heart? To stop a beating heart by surgery or some other means is aborting birth but is it murder? Does a fetus have rights? Are abortionists murderers? Should they be arrested, tried, executed?

For me all of this thinking is absurd. Many of us males remain quiet however because we've been told only women truly can understand these questions. Having funded an abortion in the autumn of 1962, in Massachusetts where the procedure was illegal, I claim a bit of understanding. My friend, a girl not pregnant by me, needed the money to go to another state and couldn't tell her parents, who were Catholic. Her boyfriend could afford some of the money, but I provided the rest. This was a down-the-narrow-street, up-a-flight-of-stairs, onto-a-table abortion. There was a bed for some brief recovery afterwards. There was anguish. Her relationship with the guy collapsed. This is a situation where some might say she got what she deserved. Knowing that sweet friend and knowing what a wonderful woman she is today...with a great family and, good heavens, some 40 years of marriage, I would never agree with that kind of judgment about her. Instead, I always have rejoiced over the legalization of choice for a woman and a couple who are pregnant before they're ready. And to make that choice with dignity.

But back to the Will of God. People want to argue about when Life begins. Why presume it begins only after penetration? Why doesn't it begin when I see an alluring woman and I desire her? I'm the mighty man and that version of the Will of God seems pretty male to me. Why isn't the Will of God at work in a guy as soon as he desires a woman? Maybe it's God Who's at work in my loins. If that's the case, a woman who rejects my advances is a sinner too. A murderess preventing access to God's seed! It must be God's inspiration that brings me to write this essay. God's fingers are doing the typing. Gadzooks, I'm a prophet!

We need to tackle these ethical questions and be ready to go toe-to-toe with religions and denominations...and assemblies or whatever else the Evangelicals call themselves...and debate these propositions. We need political candidates ready to voice such problems out loud...and prepared to deal successfully with the consequences, which even may border on the violent. We have let this issue drag on, without addressing it, for a dangerously long time. Coincidentally also on Tuesday, Truthout's environmental editor, Kelpie Lewis, wrote a brilliant, well argued, and quite different defense of abortion. I urge you to read it.

I know any number of people who voted for Bush...not because they were voting FOR Bush, but because they were voting against abortion. And that meant voting AGAINST Gore. It was the single issue. They agreed with Gore about the environment 8 years ago, but they had to vote against abortion. And they aren't Catholic. I wonder if any has changed her mind. We're moving towards another election. It COULD happen again!


Quinty said...

I like that argument. Why isn't it that if a man is turned on by a woman and that woman wants nothing to do with him she isn't thwarting the will of God?

Perhaps because she represents “the Devil?” We all know that women have been seen as the source of "pollution" and "filth" and “ sin” throughout the ages. As the “evil temptress.” Expressing, perhaps, the fear men have of women. Here in our own republic it wasn’t until 1920 that women could even vote. It’s been a long struggle for them to obtain their rights. Marital, legal, in the workplace. Now we may have our first woman president, though I think gender or “identity” politics should stay out this particular race.

I can recall that when I was young, in school, there were some girls we looked at differently because they had sex. That they were known as “bad girls.” One of whom was the daughter of a very famous writer.

What did she do that was so wrong? She liked sex, that’s all. And she occasionally had sex with boys she liked. For this she was stigmatized. I should think that once the hormones go into action and shake things up a bit that seeking satisfaction and relief, even in one’s teens, would be quite normal. And natural. And that since kids are going to have sex together anyway the sensible thing to do would be to impart upon them some adult wisdom. Like showing them safe sex. Without hysterics, fear, or a sense of “sin” and loathing, as if sex were filthy.

There is much kids can learn from wise adults. For the heart “is a lonely hunter” and there are also many dangers there. But I don’t know why all this can’t be taught with a smile.

Let’s ask ourselves a simple question. Who are these people who insist life begins at conception? Are they forcing upon the rest of us their deeply held religious beliefs? Or are they neutral on religion, coldly advancing hard facts and their scientific knowledge onto the rest of us?

I think we know the answer to that question.

I remember that when the Pope was Italian we would sometimes say: “You no playa the game you no makea the rules.”

George Bush has given much to the Christian right. Though I somehow doubt if he had knocked up a New Haven chorus girl when he was at Yale that he would have ruined his life by marrying her. And if she and George had wanted an abortion on this one issue I would have been on George's side.

jazzolog said...

Ah yes, of course...those ferocious she-devils. We should be thankful they rejected us, eh Paul? And we could have heeded instead those teenage urges to take the cloth. (That means going into the priesthood folks, not some masturbatory equipment.) Marvelous comment, dear friend.

Teaching in middle school as I do, where kids are ages 12-14, I'm reminded nearly every day that in tribal times this was the ideal mating age. And so what is one of the functions of school in our civilized times? To keep children out of "trouble." We need to direct those lithe, young bodies into athletics...especially for those cash-paying parents to be thrilled by prowess every Friday night.

The troubled kids of course go into the arts...and the really bad ones are in the Drama Club. You know what theatre can do. It's even been known to creep into the rituals of religion! We must be on guard always...and listen intently for the voice of the Lord to guide us.

jazzolog said...

I've been wondering whether anyone else felt this way, particularly a birth mother who decided against terminating an unchosen pregnancy and for donating the baby to adoption. Now here one is, and a registered nurse at that, in an opinion piece in the Valentine's Day edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer. I've written before on the emphasis in the public schools, and particularly the one I work in (and now I hear there's a "part-time" teacher at the Athens High School pushing the same agenda), on abstinence or adoption as the only two viable sexual choices for young people not married. I happened to walk past the Athens Middle School "life skills" classroom on Monday, and heard the teacher exhorting upon the students that a choice to abort would heap upon them colossal and unavoidable "religious issues." I suppose if one can shrug off that fear, a girl---and to varying degrees her partner at the time---must always deal with the sense of loss from not carrying through a pregnancy to full term. But we do tend to concentrate exclusively on those problems, and it is rare to hear of a birth mother's psychological difficulties and regrets after the child no longer is with her.

Lately we've seen Hollywood and the indies giving us a bunch of films about teenage mothers. I've been saying that movies are the only place to which Americans can turn anymore for reality---which is rather a switch---particularly about Iraq and political corruption. But strangely, in these bubbling movies on pregnancy, no mention is made of a world population of 7 billion (twice what it was when I was a teenager), diminishing resources and consequential wars that are ensuing. I think "Juno" is a wonderfully clever movie, and I enjoyed it almost thoroughly---and here it is up for some Oscars! But this is a review from someone who already has lived through the sequel. Perhaps here is the real "Juno 2"~~~

Cincinnati.Com The Enquirer
Last Updated: 12:35 am | Thursday, February 14, 2008

'Juno' skips over angst birth mother feels
I watched the movie "Juno" with interest, since I placed a baby for adoption in 1971. This movie is a lovely tribute to the devotion and motivation of adoptive mothers, but does little to accurately depict the birth mother's situation.

A real birth mother would agonize over the decision. After the adoption, no day would pass without thoughts of her son. She would no longer be a typical teenage girl, and the interests of her former life would no longer fit. She would suffer from regret and grief, even if she felt she was doing the right thing for the child.

The cavalier and superficial way in which Juno acted during and after her pregnancy does not do justice to the soul-searching and the heartrending losses that take place.

In my case, I did not "make an adoption plan." Euphemisms such as these do not reflect the sacrifice and pain that accompany this process for the birth mother.

I belong to a group of birth mothers who "gave up" babies for adoption, from 45 to 19 years ago. We meet monthly for support, because we still grieve the loss of our children and deal with related issues.

In the end, Juno is happy and carefree, in love and going on with her life as if nothing had happened. This could not be further from the truth.

I take issue with this movie, because one is left with the feeling that an unpleasant situation has been successfully resolved, leaving Juno better off and happier than before.

This is inaccurate and dangerous, because it leaves one with the impression that an inconvenient pregnancy can be easily "taken care of" by quickly passing the child to another mother. This is an unacceptable message to send to young women of today.

Cheryl A. Rush, a registered nurse, lives in Pleasant Ridge.

Copyright 2008,

jazzolog said...

"Nearly 40% of U.S. babies in 2006 were born outside of marriage."

That's the stunning headline on page 14 in this morning's USA Weekend, a sorta magazine supplement in millions of American Sunday papers each week. That was an all-time high, and must be the latest "government statistic" available, according to the magazine. (Anyone know if it's going up or down?)

"That's more than twice the rate in 1980, when 18% of children were born outside of marriage.

"The fastest-growing group of unwed mothers: women 25 to 29."

USA Weekend is a Gannett publication out of McLean, Virginia, and the article's analysis, by Rochelle Sharpe, isn't particularly profound and shies away from anything but good news. Women are delaying marriage for careers, it says, but don't want to sacrifice child-bearing years. How about parenting years...or do we leave all that to sitters and care centers? By "parent" I mean somebody at HOME, like a mom or a dad. I did it. Well, the article doesn't go there...or ensuing sex education by all sorts of people in the public schools.

"Many unmarried women are ambivalent about their relationships, however, they are not willing to give up on the dream of having a child, Stephanie Coontz, professor at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., and research director for the Council on Contemporary Families, says. 'They are more afraid of marrying the wrong man and experiencing a divorce than of being an unwed mom,' she says."

The most shocking news is at the very end~~~

"Although out-of-wedlock births are growing fastest among women who are in their late 20s, younger women still have the most babies out of wedlock.

"More than 80% of babies delivered by teen mothers were born outside of marriage in 2006, while nearly 60% of those delivered to women ages 20 to 24 were out of wedlock."

Eighty percent!

The USA Weekend study is online at