Updated 20 March 2016
We now have a new pope in the Vatican, Pope Francis, who has a much more realistic view of the world in the 21st Century than did his predecessor. He is after all a scientist. Pope Francis is advising world leaders to do something about climate change and rampant capitalism which is putting our planet at risk of destruction. But he is ignoring another potent danger to our planet; overpopulation!
“One of the things we could do about it is to change the technologies, to put out less of this pollution, to stabilize the population, and one of the principal ways of doing that is to empower and educate girls and women. You have to have ubiquitous availability of fertility management so women can choose how many children to have, the spacing of the children. You have to lift child-survival rates so that parents feel comfortable having small families. And most important, you have to educate girls and empower women. And that’s the most powerful leveraging factor, and when that happens, then the population begins to stabilize and societies begin to make better choices and more balanced choices”. -Al Gore. Sourced from Grist.org
Women of our grandmothers’ and great-grandmothers’ generations gave birth to many children. For instance, in my family history, my maternal Italian great-grandmother gave birth to seventeen children, and my paternal Lebanese grandmother, twelve children. Many women died in childbirth and the ones that didn’t die that way, died from self-inflicted abortions, or sheer exhaustion. Young girls in these large families were like little slaves helping to cook and clean, and look after the steady stream of siblings. This prepared them well for their own marriages where the whole cycle would be repeated again and again. Child marriages are still the norm in Muslim countries and other developing nations.
So many children and babies died, that women felt the need to have large families. The important point here, is that there was no safe and reliable contraception, so women could not space the births of their children. Women’s role in historical and ancient societies was to produce many offspring and be sexually available to their husbands. Pagan societies valued fertility and the mother goddess. In Christian societies you had the choice of becoming a nun or marrying and producing many children. The Catholic Church still bans contraception and while modern wealthy Catholic societies ignore this ban, in many poor Catholic countries women continue to have very large families.
The majority of women in patriarchal societies have very few choices available to them. In those societies where women are uneducated and have no power over their own lives, or their children’s lives, the women rely on their husbands for everything from food and shelter, to protection. Most do not have the means to an education to enable them to better themselves and so rise above the poverty they live in.
In societies where women are empowered and educated, and they have access to contraception, the whole family unit benefits, and in turn, the wider society. The mother is healthier, and she has more energy to devote to her smaller family. This can only benefit humanity and the planet we live on.
There are too many human beings on this planet using up the earth’s resources, and too little biodiversity, which scientists tell us is diminishing by the day. Cutting down on pollution is a good start, but we must also curtail the growing global human population. As in nurturing a healthy body and mind in a holistic approach, so we must look to caring for the planet we live on by conserving all resources and that means having fewer children while giving each child a chance to develop to his or her full potential.