Surprisingly, perhaps, this is actually a very archaeology-themed problem. Archaeologists, anthropologists and historians all know few people were present on the Earth prior to the last century, and we all have a good idea of how fragile the balance has been in the past.

As the Global Population Speak Out programme points out, it’s time we discussed the population problem. I know this is tough, and I know it’s scary. I know there’s lots of bull about the ‘over-population myth’, but that is based on working out how many young people you need to support your old people in each country.

Yes, you do need lots of young people, and yes, some countries (Japan) don’t have enough. But when I talk about over population, I’m referring to the idea of the number of people on the earth as a total, not per country and definitely not per age group. I’m talking about what we can actually support with this planet, without destroying it.

The problem is that if you start talking about tackling over-population – because let’s face it people, we’re probably already there  – everyone gets visions of forced sterilisation and gas chambers. Bu no, it’s not about that. Like a lot of things, over population can be tackled by education. By encouraging people to think hard about why they are having children. Come on, why are we doing it? In the past, having children created a generation that would care and look after us when we fell into fragile old-age.

We archaeologists know that, it’s as easy as one-plus-one. But now most of you reading this live in progressive democracies which won’t let us die if we get infirm. Hell, mine even supplies me with free contraception. So why do we have children? This ‘why’ is a really fundamental question, particularly if we are to work out how to encourage people to have less children. We need real, heavy-treading, rigorous academic research.

Of course, lots of kids are accidents. Fair enough. But lots of us are choosing when, how and presumably why to have children. Or are we? Are we actually thinking about the why at all?

This is the crux of what I wanted to say. Speak out, and next time you’re talking about kids, ask why? Why do we assume that because it’s ‘natural’ it’s something we should obviously do? Dying at fifty-something’s pretty damn natural, historically speaking. Having bad eye-sight is ‘natural’. Having children is something lots of us are able to choose, so why don’t we? Really choose, rather than just go along with this habit of procreation. By asking why we can start to destroy the fallacy that having children is an obvious thing to do.

I’m not saying stop having kids. I’m just saying it’s about time we approached the whole thing as adults, and worked out whether it’s actually the right thing to do. Not just for us as individuals, but for everyone on this planet.


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