Thoughts on child rearing and family planning

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

~Khalil Gibran

Newborn child, seconds after birth. The umbili...
Newborn child, seconds after birth. The umbilical cord has not yet been cut. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like this poem by Khalil Gibran. Yes, children come through their parents but not from them, and children possess their own thoughts and their own soul, not their parents. While parents can have a hand in nurturing and guiding children especially at the initial stage of their growth and development, they need to allow freedom for their children to express their own authentic self and cultivate their own ideologies and belief systems.

On a similar note, I think the proverb “train up a child in the way he should go” has sometimes been used by religious parents to control their children and impose their ideologies on them, which is unfortunate. I learnt that the proverb actually meant in the original Hebrew to bring up children according to their natural bent or inclination (or individual gift). I think this interpretation is more in line with the wisdom in Khalil Gibran’s poem as it pertains to recognising each child is unique, and giving the child the space and freedom to express his or her unique personality and individual gifts. For example, whether the child wants to be a free thinker is up to them, and I admire parents who respect children’s rights and freedom to be themselves and think for themselves.

VHEMT Volunteers love babies as much as anyone else. “Having babies” is not so much the problem—having adults is what’s causing the problems. The environmental impact of disposable diapers is heavy, but we are adults much longer than we are children.

People who envision having a baby often forget that they are creating an entirely new human being who will leave in a few years as an adult.

Youth is a wonderful phase of life, whether it’s people, panda, or panther. It’s sad to imagine there being no more of any of them. A baby condor may not be as cute as a baby human, but we must choose to forgo one if the others are to survive.

Children’s welfare will improve as there are fewer of them to care for. Considering the future world we are creating for future generations, procreation today is like renting rooms in a burning building—renting them to our children no less.

Choosing to refrain from producing another person demonstrates a profound love for all life.

The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT)

Two adult Emperor Penguins with a juvenile on ...
Two adult Emperor Penguins with a juvenile on Snow Hill Island, Antarctica. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, generally speaking, having fewer children enables parents to devote more time and resources on them and focus on providing for their needs better, given the constraints of the environment. It will also help in environmental conservation in the long run, especially when more families adopt this wise and sustainable approach to family planning. Even in the natural world, animals such as emperor penguins have built-in wisdom in family planning – they usually have only one kid during each breeding season so that the parents can devote their time and energy to look after their children until they are old enough to fend for themselves. This is vital since they live in Antarctica where food is only found in the seas, and the climate is very cold, and survival itself can be challenging. Humans can learn from the natural world and plan their own families accordingly, so as to ensure their future generations can have their needs met in the long run without putting a strain on the environment.

“The Emperor Penguin is perhaps best known for the sequence of journeys adults make each year in order to mate and to feed their offspring. The only penguin species that breeds during the Antarctic winter, it treks 50–120 km (31–75 mi) over the ice to breeding colonies which may include thousands of individuals. The female lays a single egg, which is incubated by the male while the female returns to the sea to feed; parents subsequently take turns foraging at sea and caring for their chick in the colony.”

(From Wikipedia)

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By the year 2050 the global population will have grown to about 9 billion, according to some estimates. How can Mother Earth sustain this growth?

English: World Population Growth 1950-2050Is our Planet overcrowded? Are we heading for massive extinction? How can Mother Earth sustain this growth?

I think the above questions echo the concerns of many people about the growing world population in view of the apparent limited supply of resources and hunger in many regions.

My understanding is that human ingenuity and technology have enabled people to harness energy resources, and grow more foods, and are capable of solving hunger problems. I think one area of challenge is in the distribution of food to those areas that need it the most.

According to this article “We already grow enough food for 10 billion people – and still can’t end hunger”:

“Hunger is caused by poverty and inequality, not scarcity. For the past two decades, the rate of global food production has increased faster than the rate of global population growth. The world already produces more than 1 ½ times enough food to feed everyone on the planet. That’s enough to feed 10 billion people, the population peak we expect by 2050. But the people making less than $2 a day — most of whom are resource-poor farmers cultivating unviably small plots of land — can’t afford to buy this food.

To end hunger we must end poverty and inequality. For this challenge, agroecological approaches and structural reforms that ensure that resource-poor farmers have the land and resources they need for sustainable livelihoods are the best way forward.”

I agree that sustainable farming methods (and reforms in food distribution) are necessary steps to address world hunger, as long as it does not involve any cultivation of GM food (despite its promise of higher crop yields), due to its adverse effects of human health and the environment.

World population

Since different countries experience different rates of population growth, one solution that works for one country may not work as well for another. For example, many developed countries are experiencing declining population growth and are hoping to increase population through encouraging childbirth and immigration to maintain the replacement rate of population and economic growth (assuming they still depend on the current system), Like what this article “U.N. Raises “Low” Population Projection for 2050” says:

“In the near future, however, families in wealthier countries may decide to prolong or reconsider having children due to the economic recession. “The little bit of an increase we’ve seen may peter out,” said Carl Haub, senior demographer at the Population Reference Bureau.

But Haub said the observed increases in industrialized-world fertility rates will have a relatively minor effect overall – populations are expected to decline over time if average fertility rates remain below 2.1, which demographers consider the stabilization rate, absent net migration.

“Developed countries have largely painted themselves into a corner now,” Haub said, referring to the likelihood that their low fertility will result in smaller populations in the years ahead. “All the growth will come from developing countries.”

So, many developing countries (in Africa, Asia, Oceania and South America) are still experiencing rapid population growth and need to implement family planning measures through education and policies to discourage families from having too many children.

According to this article “World population by country: UN guesses the shape of the world by 2100”:

“The big increases are coming from countries with high fertility rates – the high-fertility countries identified by the UN comprise of 39 countries in Africa, nine in Asia, six in Oceania and four in Latin America.”

On one hand, high fertility rates can be seen as a positive thing as it means better healthcare and higher standard of living has resulted in low infant mortality rate. Besides, the farming culture in developing countries usually encourages having 3 or more children to help out in farms. On the other hand, the challenge is in ensuring enough resources to support the growing population in these countries.

Usually, due to rural-urban migration in developing countries, when more people adopt city life in big cities, they will naturally tend to have smaller families, as they don’t need many helping hands since they no longer live in farms, and people living in urban areas are usually too busy with work and family life to have many kids too. So, besides education on family planning, sometimes natural forces play a part in the human evolutionary process in rural-urban migration, that result in families naturally making decisions to have fewer children due to various constraints presenting themselves over time.