Being born and brought up in India, seeing small kids living off the streets and begging was not an uncommon sight. So even though I was just a kid myself, I always wondered why do people want to bring a new life on earth when there are so many kids who don’t have a home? Why can’t they just adopt those who don’t have a family? Even though I didn’t understand much about marriage, family and relationship back then, this kind of injustice always disturbed me and I promised myself that when I grow up I will choose to adopt.
As a grown-up now my belief only stands reaffirmed stronger than ever and I still don’t understand why one needs to bring another soul on this planet – when you can make a difference in so many others’ lives who need it more.
When I am asked about my plans about having a kid and I share my belief I am often met with a perplexed look that turns into an expression of horror that normally concludes with a long lecture about the need to have your own kids. The normal arguments are “Don’t you want to experience how it feels to create a new life” and “Seeing your own flesh and blood in the form of a child growing before your eyes would change your life” and of course the classic “It’s not the same thing”. People immediately conclude that I am hesitant I can’t handle the whole pregnancy and birth thing or that I am scared it will ruin my career or worse that I don’t want to sidestep the self-centred indulgences that parents are often required to. Again not true. I’ve always believed in adopting as far back as I can remember. Those who knew about this around me assumed that when I’ll get older and eventually married, my desire for biological children would replace this. Unfortunately, they still do.
Recently, I came across an article written by Dr. Rashmi Menon, a physician who is also a holistic practitioner and Founder of Ray of Happiness, on the subject of population and compassion and why being a vegan means choosing to be aware of your contribution to the population explosion, I couldn’t help but share my story and her thoughts so that people can see things from a different perspective.
As a doctor, Dr. Menon regularly interacts with couples with infertility issues and through counselling she often learns that while the couple are not mentally or physically in a position to support a child, they still want one. She says, “What is more interesting here is that their cause of agony over not being able to get pregnant is not because they ‘really want a child’, but because they feel guilty of not being able to have one”.
The harsh truth is, that after you spend a certain amount of time in a relationship, especially if you are married, everyone starts barraging you with the question of having a kid. In fact, even to date many societies still consider a female complete only after she can bear a child. This creates pressure on couples, leading to an irrational urge to make one, even if they don’t want to, as not wanting kids makes them feel they are being selfish.
Dr. Menon and her then husband were of the opinion that the world does not need another mouth to feed. However, God had different plans for them. A contraceptive failure lead to the birth of their child. Since then she pledged to raise him as a socially aware individual and ensured her home is as sustainable as they can make it. Today this 15-year-old is one of the most socially aware and compassionate teens around. She says, “It is an ongoing process with new information and awareness coming in every day.”
Much has been written about population growth and environmental catastrophe. As per Wikipedia, there are over 7.4 billion people on this planet today, and the irony is the twentieth century saw the biggest increase in the world’s population in human history. Having to provide for so many humans has a major impact on the planet, it means:
- consumption of resources such as land, food, water, air, fossil fuels and minerals
- the huge amount of waste generated because of consumption such as water pollutants, toxic materials and greenhouse gases
It’s funny that when you bring up the topic of veganism, the classic meat-eater argument will be “but if we stop eating chickens and cows, they’ll overrun us and take over the world!” However, when it comes to human breeding they never think about it this way, argues Dr. Menon.
Irony is, in case of chickens and cows, their argument is not even true because they exist in large numbers because farmers overbreed them for meat and dairy. If they are left on their own, they certainly wouldn’t breed at the speeds we’re forcing them to now. They have shorter life spans than humans, and nature will keep a check on them. On the contrary, the simple solution to keeping a check on human population is – stop breeding.
Dr. Menon’s article explained why population explosion is not compassionate and explained various effects of overpopulation including depletion of natural resources, degradation of environment, extinction of other species, environmental changes due to global warming and human intrusion in nature and potential for world destruction.
She also touched on why population control matters to a vegan and an environmentalist? Here are a few arguments:
- It is unfair to grab more than our share of earth resources, land or otherwise.
- More population means more mouths to feed. Means more animal exploitation.
- It’s in our frenzy to feed the human population that we are working on optimizing seeds by altering with nature. This means less scope for other lifeforms to survive on what was their original natural food.
- The more the human population grows, the more boisterous we become. The more we lord over animals.
- Ahimsa: Less resources mean more fights driven by survival instincts. More selfishness, more violence.
- More and more rainforests and natural habitats of wild animals are being cleared for our food and housing needs. Even the ocean is not spared, with huge reclamation in progress.
The good news is with some strong measures population growth can be curtailed. Here are a few solutions proposed by Dr. Menon:
Education: Not just limited to reducing population, but actually talking about not having kids as a healthy and noble choice.
Beliefs: Banishing the belief that being child-free means selfish, which is only possible through positive campaigning of the idea.
Work on traditions: Where emphasis is on progeny—whether male or female.
Bio Equation: We can’t just talk about male female equation being skewed. There is a need to educate on how even the human and other species equation is skewed. And why that matters.
Awareness: People need to be made aware of what kind of a future the proposed child and his future generation will have with further depletion of resources. How we would be doing the soul a disservice by bring it into this imbalanced, violent world with continually diminishing food and potable water.
Adoption: For the natural parenting instincts inherent in every being, one can always adopt a child-whether human or non-human. Big measures need to be taken to make adoption as the number one choice, over creating own child. Making it morally and socially a normal and appreciable act.
Sustainable child rearing: For those who already have a child, or are planning a well-informed pregnancy, we need to educate them about limiting to one child per couple. If everyone follows it, the world population could be cut by half over a period of time. There will also be a need to teach future parents about sustainable living as a family and bringing about a well-balanced child connected with nature and animals. This means focus on a vegan and zero-waste lifestyle, spending on eco-friendly products including ethical fashion and organic produce.
After reading this, many of you might be at the edge of lashing out and arguing about how if we all stop having kids, the world will come to an end. Or that how bringing a new life on this planet is God’s gift and this argument is wrong in every way. Sorry people, this article is not for you. This article is not to offend anyone – in fact hats off to all the mothers who brought a new life to this world!
We need to have an open mind. I am sure most people will not see this eye-to-eye. But even if one person changes, it can make a huge difference. This is just like the cause of veganism. I am myself a vegan and a big optimist but I am also a realist. I know no matter how much effort we make the whole world will never turn vegan. But I also know many would. Every single person’s decision to change to a more compassionate lifestyle matters, because it means a few less animals killed.
There are all sorts of people in the world, and everyone has a different thought process and way of looking and interpreting things. Who would have thought that the egomaniac and the man who stands for everything that is wrong with this society will win the election and become the President of the most powerful nation of this planet? But he did. While this is a negative example, all I am saying is while many people will probably never understand this argument, as it shakes their complete belief system and changes everything they thought about families and love, it doesn’t mean it is wrong. In fact, now the need to adopt and stop bringing new lives on this planet is more than ever.
I am also not against those who want their own biological children. But I also believe that parenting is much larger than an egg and a sperm and creating a life. It is not about genetics but about opening your heart, loving and caring for someone as ours, unconditionally – biological or not.
P.S. You don’t have to be a vegan or an environmentalist to adopt, but if you are it is all the more reason to do so!
Shruti Jain is the Founder and Editor of Address Chic and this article expresses her personal opinion and the argument shared by Dr. Rashmi Menon.
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