December 19, 2014

OPINION: Massive traffic jam highlights challenges of overpopulation

Corbin H. Crable

chcrable@gardnernews.com

And you thought I-35 during rush hour was bad.

Chinese media – with the government’s unnecessary blessing, of course – released images of a massive traffic jam on a highway in Beijing earlier this week. Motorists’ cars were at a standstill as road construction crews held up the flow of traffic. The drivers themselves, according to news reports, sat on the shoulder of the road, playing cards and buying noodles from roadside food carts. Have to use the bathroom? Start hiking toward the nearest rest stop or find a tree or bush to disappear behind.

Although the traffic jam, which began Aug. 14, stretched for 60 miles and was expected to take several weeks to clear, had all but disappeared by late Wednesday evening, it’s easy to see that this incident is a symptom of a larger problem – namely, overpopulation.

We all talk about what would happen if, in more heavily populated areas of the world, we saw a noticeable shortage of clean drinking water or other natural resources, but these hypothetical situations are too easily shrugged off.

“That would never happen to us,” we tell ourselves.

And then, to see something as real as a giant traffic jam reminds us that overpopulation is no longer a hypothetical situation – it’s a real issue, and it needs to be addressed.

I should add that I’m not sure how exactly it should be addressed. There are no easy answers to the questions surrounding this topic. But other countries have tried limiting families to having only one child per household.

Meanwhile, other countries, such as France, have such low numbers of children being born each year that the government, a few years ago, actually tried paying couples to conceive.

Media mogul Ted Turner is a known advocate for conserving Earth’s natural resources and controlling the population, although his remarks about the issue have drawn criticism. Turner, at a speech at Kansas State University in 2005, said he believed families should make a concerted effort to limit the number of children they have.

Here in the United States, where our life expectancy grows and our natural resources continue to shrink, we have a segment of the population who believe in children as meal tickets. Unfortunately, I’ve known several people who have babies as a means to continue sucking on Uncle Sam’s golden teat of welfare, who are so lazy that they would rather have children they can pawn off on family members, state agencies and taxpayers than find a job – any job – to support the very child they brought into the world. And, of course, they get financial compensation for their poor planning and being irresponsible in general.

We have reached a point in our history where it is no longer feasible to think solely of oneself when starting a family. I know I would never wish to bring a child into a world where we have stretched our resources – land, food, water – so dangerously thin.

Think it won’t happen here? Perhaps not in the foreseeable future, but it will. China and its epic traffic jam is proof that the effects of overpopulation will trickle down, and perhaps we won’t feel their effects.

But it could be your children or your grandchildren who are stuck to foot the bill of our excess. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t wish that on the most selfish welfare queen.

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