|On tWowoWow: Can families be too big?
||[Aug. 26th, 2008|10:43 am]
Contented Aunts and Uncles
When is a Big Family Too Big?|
Whoopi Goldberg, Lily Tomlin, others join the debate.
wowOwow.com is a party ... disguised as a website. Created, run and written by 16 independent-minded women -- including Candice Bergen, Liz Smith, Whoopi Goldberg, Peggy Noonan, Lesley Stahl and more -- who have been talking to each other for decades. They now want you to join the conversation.
Angelina Jolie recently gave birth to twins, and she and Brad Pitt already have four other children. While many argue one-half a dozen children is more than a handful, one American family would say six is not enough.
If you haven't heard their story yet: meet the Duggars. The family recently was 'grateful' to announce they are expecting their 18th child in January 2009. What are your thoughts on this? Is there a specific number that crosses the line from happy family to unhealthy nightmare? Or, is it to each their own and none of our business?
Whoopi Goldberg: I think it's to each their own and none of our business. If people want to have 30 kids and can afford it, it's none of our business. Some people are very wealthy, only have one child and that's too much for them. Some people have 18 children and they have it together. Who is to judge?
Liz Smith: Doesn't the number of children a family chooses to have fall under the "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" clause? Isn't it a private matter, so long as a family can cope, care for and control in a healthy manner? I wouldn't think of interfering with this important liberty, though I may have a personal point of view in that I doubt that 18 children are financially or emotionally feasible. And I am gung ho, personally, for Planned Parenthood and serious birth control. I don't see these as religious or spiritual matters, but as important practicality and welfare issues.
As for Brad & Angelina -- they are a dazzling exception in their adopting and birthing lots of diverse children "act." They can afford it, God knows, and their multi-national family is an inspiration. Their money to charity is also a great lesson. But they hardly count in the realistic scheme of things.
My only caveat would be -- when do Mommy and Daddy know there are too many kids for them to pay acute emotional attention to?
Also, I have never understood why nations want to keep the birth rate booming when the world is about to run out of food, water and sustainable climate. But they seem to want to. Natural disasters, wars and pandemics, however, do keep decimating populations and maybe in that horrible way, nature does take care of itself.
It just seems to me the ultimate responsibility of adults is to know, realize and make certain that they have a shot at really taking care of the number of children they bring into the world -- and, to take some charitable responsibility for the huge numbers of children brought into that same world by other irresponsible people. We need to be worrying everyday about those needy little souls.
Joan Ganz Cooney: There's nothing in the Western world that can be done to stop a family from having 18 children, or 10, or 5, or none. What alarms me is the much larger and more serious question of how large a population the earth can really support. For sure it cannot support a much larger population without straining the world's resources to the breaking point. We simply don't have enough water, food, energy and land to handle many more people without irrevocably harming the environment. Humans are taking over lands that used to feed animals in the wild and the population situation in Africa and other places is a terrible threat to the survival of many species. But we humans don't seem to care about such matters so it's on to having as many children as each family wants.
Jane Wagner: When is a big family too big? "When it's dysfunctional."
Lily Tomlin: I've seen it written in information about overpopulation that "People are a good thing. Overpopulation isn't."
Forget individual families. The human family is too big and getting bigger. There are too many of us humans on our planet and, unfortunately, even individually we are growing bigger. And the bigger the number and size, the more resources used and the more waste produced. We're going to have to start polluting Mars or maybe shoot the waste into the sun and vaporize it. (Is that feasible? I may have just solved all our recycling challenges!)
There are too many of our family members already living lives of bare substance. We need a global effort to reduce population and to develop sustainable energy sources. The future of any human family depends on it. Maybe.
Sheila Nevins: Children are necessary to the perpetuation of the species. Not as trinkets and narcissistic expressions of self. During the early formation of America, children were needed to work in the fields, factories, and homes since the early death rate was high and large families would be decreased by natural attrition. In third world countries this may still be true. However in highly industrialized countries that have increasing survival rates, overpopulation is a serious issue and must be seen in an "Alive" scenario in light of scarcity of resources. The human species is consuming natural resources to the detriment of their very being. The fundamentalist religions' ban on birth control is unconscionable. The one-child policy in China brutally limits individual behavior.
Thus the answers to population control fall back on individual responsibility to an over-production of the species. It is hard to see Mother Earth as a force to be reckoned with in daily living, as a living breathing endangered entity. Yet until we see the planet's dire situation as individual responsibility -- starvation, drought, and ultimate extinction seem inevitable as a result of overpopulation.
(In school, my zoology teacher, James Schooley, used to end every lecture with the word 'Maybe'. I've always thought it was a smart thing to do when it comes to life.)
Mary Wells: The media suggests that people are in pain from what the shortages of resources do to them personally. But different countries have different awareness's and attitudes and there are enlightened people in all countries. But we are running out of everything partly because we heedlessly build more golf courses and swimming pools than necessary, dirty our waters with just about everything, cut down productive trees without anything but selfish or commercial thought, ignore the environment of most animals and care little about their lives. The polar bear and the Orca whale are top of the line in the animal food chain and they are seriously endangered – we tend to think those animals are cute and want them to survive but seldom really think about what they do to balance world resources. We don't care enough. We aren't taught to care enough and we don't teach our children to care enough. So the growth of the number of humans on earth is much greater than most of us focus on and the impact on resources has become misunderstood and a bore to people. I have a friend who will tell us what she and the groups she works with are doing about the essential and practical goal of moving to live on the moon in 20 to 40 years or less. And then on to other planets. They believe earth is "over." They think it can not handle the vast number of people like us projected to populate earth in 10 years let alone 20 because of growing families. They have been working on a planet world for us to live on for a long time and it will require much more focus from us, much less self interest, but will be a much healthier place to live.
So as much I sympathize with people wanting children I think – for children's sake – the time has come to put the limitations of our earth ahead of anything else and to wake up and join in the movements that are growing to learn how to live a new wide-awake way in a new environment aware that a lot of the disappearing earth wealth is disappearing because of each one of us. We could start with smaller families needing less of the earth's resources. There are so many references to God's displeasure with selfishness in the Bible – whatever God turns out to be – we should all be able to show a list of our unselfish choices that saved humans, animals and life of all kinds – and in this world at this time large families are selfish choices that are everybody's business and everybody's problem.
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Overpopulation is a big problem, and it's why I would like to be sterilized when time/money permit it. I love being an aunt. I love children. However, I know that the Gods did not intend me to be a parent. (I'm on medication that can cause birth defects).
The pro-breeding faction screams to the hills that those who decide against parenthood are "selfish." Yet, I typically see more thought and compassion going into the decision not to have children. People's reasoning to have children often include VERY selfish ideas like:
"I want someone to love ME unconditionally."
"I want someone to take care of ME when I'm old."
"I want to create something that's a part of ME and my partner."
"I want to carry on MY genes/family name."
Parenting is a big, important job. I admire my spirit-sister for raising a great kid on her own after her husband was killed by a drunk driver. I also admire her for opening her heart and home to many two and four legged strays over the years. However, there are very few maladies and sorrows facing humanity and the planet we live on that cannot be alleviated by reducing our fertility rate. The greatest negative would be having to address the Ponzi scheme keeping Social Security propped up.