Be Fruitful & Multiply
May 1994By Will Hoyt
Will Hoyt is a Berkeley carpenter, and farms a sixteenth of an acre in his backyard.
The world is a strange place, and nowhere, it seems, is this better on view than in the positions various groups have adopted regarding what once was called population control but now is called population stabilization. The Sierra Club, for example, recently filed papers with the U.S. Supreme Court in order to bolster support for abortion. This occurred in 1992, when Roe v. Wade was under attack in Pennsylvania, and it got quite a lot of press. Unremarked incidents can be no less eye-opening, however. About a year after the Sierra Club took its stand, the small West Coast environmentalist publication Terrain could be seen running a cover story on the dangers of overpopulation and the consequent need for the widespread availability of condoms ("even if you're expecting a child, pledge to make her your last child"), and then blithely, just two issues later, printing another cover story on the importance of Pacific salmon runs and the consequent need to oppose other de facto contraceptive measures like hydroelectric dams. Or take the spectacle now looming large in the midwifery community. One would think that midwives, long known for their wariness of technological and pharmacological intrusion, would avoid dispensing any drug for which the book on associated side effects is as thick as a fetal monitor tape is long. But there it is: Midwives regularly prescribe the pill!
Until recently, I confess, news items like these probably would not have caught my eye. Their contradictory aspects would in all likelihood have gone unnoticed. But now? Now such items positively glint with inconsistency.
About a year ago, right as my wife and I were expecting our fourth child, our mailbox began to fill up with all kinds of letters, broadsides, and even telegrams about how the world was getting overpopulated. Thanks to a recent fit of good will (not to speak of a desire to honor the great John Muir) we had joined the Sierra Club, and so we had evidently got on some kind of master list. Planned Parenthood, the League of Conservation Voters, Negative Population Growth, the National Audubon Society -- everybody was suddenly writing to tell us that birth control was a pressing issue, and, needless to say, I found the notices relevant. When organizations spoke of human fertility as "the single most important issue of our time," I tended to agree. Hence I started collecting these communiqués, just as (earlier) I had collected the disapproving glances of ecologically correct neighbors. When the pile was high enough, I sat down and thought it all through. The result? I was surprised. I became firmly convinced that the raising of large families (like the raising of small ones) is unqualifiedly and in every instance good.
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