Exposing the Big Game

Forget Hunters' Feeble Rationalizations and Trust Your Gut Feelings: Making Sport of Killing Is Not Healthy Human Behavior

Exposing the Big Game

Do Humans Have a Moral Duty to Stop Procreating?

by Natalie Shoemaker

Whenever any animal population gets out of control, whether it be an overrun of deer or geese, humans usually step in and make plans to curb it through hunting or damaging nests. It seems cruel, but without natural predators to bring the population down, overpopulation could have devastating effects on the local environment. Yet, humans have shown themselves to be far more destructive than any other animal on this planet, so why don’t we offer ourselves the same consideration? I’m talking about anti-natalism here, the philosophical position that opposes procreation.

“If that level of destruction were caused by another species we would rapidly recommend that new members of that species not be brought into existence,” writes philosopher David Benatar.

There’s a fair argument to be made for anti-natalism that tears at most people’s desire to reproduce and a moral responsibility that few of us consider. This planet is overpopulated and we’re consuming more resources than the Earth can reproduce. You may not know this, but last week featured Earth Overshoot Day — the day when the Global Footprint Network announced that we’ve consumed a year’s worth of resources. The GFN estimates that the first Overshoot Day may have been back in the 1970s “due to the growth in the global population alongside the expansion of consumption around the world,” wrote Emma Howard from The Guardian.

“If that level of destruction were caused by another species, we would rapidly recommend that new members of that species not be brought into existence,” writes philosopher David Benatar, author of the anti-natalist book, Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence.

“Nothing is lost by never coming into existence. By contrast, ceasing to exist does have costs.”





6 thoughts on “Do Humans Have a Moral Duty to Stop Procreating?

  1. Absolutely, people have a moral responsibility to curb breeding. However most humans have no idea of the mess we continue to create on this frail planet and the other species we continue to devastate.

  2. I sent this one before, but it is relevant here also.

    In 1968 Paul Ehrlich published his book “The Population Bomb,” warning about the dangers of the burgeoning numbers of human beings on this earth. The author was seen on multiple TV shows, and his book was received with great interest. However, soon the whole topic of the human birth rate was becoming politicized. Anti-abortion/anti-contraception religions made the topic politically incorrect to discuss.

    As a result, in his 1977 book “The Limits of Altruism,” Garrett Hardin noted the following: “But in the modern press, nobody ever dies of overpopulation: It is unthinkable. So we say people die of starvation, drowning, disease, civil disorder, and countless other acceptable ’causes.’” Taboo determines language, and language controls perception.” (p. 94)

    The discussion has become more dire, causing ecologist like Hardin to suggest that if countries allow their population to grow beyond the carrying capacity of their land, other countries whose own resources are stretched, may no longer be able or obligated to come to the rescue. Ethical philosopher Herschel Elliott also notes that the usual rules of humanitarian morality may be irrelevant in the face of mass overpopulation and its problems.

    So far, though, most of the human race has escaped the worse consequences of its arrogant and irresponsible overbreeding. The rest of the creatures on this earth have had to bear the burden. We hunt them into extinction for food and take their habitat until they starve or are driven into human communities, where they are killed as pests and competitors for resources. Even the megafauna of Africa are fighting for their lives and their species, as the long-gone mammoths and mastodons did. The article above suggests that we are annihilating 30,000 species a year.

    I wonder if our species will ever have the humility and wisdom to regret what we have done are and are doing. I wonder when we will realize that our moral obligation is NOT to reproduce. Even when we are warned about the hazards of climate change to all life, many deny it. Even when we know of the tragic consequences of our overbreeding and have the ability to control it, we allow Religion to make the rules. To many in that community, a whole species is less important than one human fertilized egg.

    So our numbers grow. But species who have evolved with us over millions of years and who have earned the right to live on this earth with us are being driven to extinction. How sad is it that many of them will be gone before we even knew who they were or that they were here. How sad that we will even deny them their place in the record of life on the planet.

  3. There is no possibility that humans will make a conscious collective effort to stop breeding, because our Humanist framework is far too ingrained in everything, to allow for such a concept. Yes, there are some of us humans who understand this imperative, but our social/economic/religious systems have built-in endless growth ideologies.
    John A. Livingston discussed at great length the human condition and ideology , in which “growth-progress” and the idea of human immortality become a part of every facet of human society. This is our ultimate downfall. The “human immortality” concept in religion has been terrible for this planet. Humans can do whatever they want to this world, because there will be an “afterlife” for them, a heaven, so we have created a hell on Earth.
    Nature, however, has other plans. There simply are no more pieces of the planetary pie to give out.

    Paul Ehrlich was right, and so was John Livingston.


  4. Let’s not paint everyone with a broad brush. Having many children until a woman bears a male child is customary in a number of cultures. Also having many children so parents can see them to adulthood and be taken care of as old parents is customary. A hundred years ago, Americans had 5 or more children because childhood diseases would take their children early. Today, with our medicines, having 5 children means you’d have 5 bratty teenagers not just 2 whom parents hope stay alive. The “be fruitful and multiply” Biblical concept can’t be taken literally anymore. This is what American bishops refuse to accept.

  5. “Whenever any animal population gets out of control, whether it be an overrun of deer or geese, humans usually step in and make plans to curb it through hunting or damaging nests.”

    The above line is so wrong. The author assumes that without human intervention, animals would overtake our spaces. It’s actually the other way around. Nature balances animal populations with land carrying capacity.

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