Addressing overpopulation is a distraction from the real issue at hand
Alisha Samnani // Managing Editor, News Editor
Tiffany Zhong // Illustrator
The road trip: a quintessential pastime, yearned for by those hit with the travel bug during quarantine. You stock up on snacks, pile into the family car—masked up, of course—and set off for an adventure. You glance out the window at the poor souls waiting for the bus, when you spot it. A billboard, with a photo of an adorable infant gazing back at you. “The most loving gift you can give your child is to not have another.” You look over at your siblings—do they feel the same way?
Dave Gardner, Executive Director of World Population Balance, a U.S. non-profit group, asserted that the campaign goal was to get Canada talking about overpopulation. “Many don’t realize the solution to overpopulation—and much of the environmental destruction it causes—is simply to embrace the accelerating trend toward freely chosen smaller families.”
The scarcity theory promoted by these billboards has a number of issues—far too many for the scope of this article—but it can be especially alarming to people with disabilities. Capitalism often views people with disabilities as unproductive, and the effects this kind of thinking has for these individuals can be seen in things like the frailty scale used to determine health care eligibility in Ontario.
The One Child, One Planet website notes that overpopulation “…is a very real problem in the industrialized world where each new person added has an over-sized impact on the environment. Even though birth rates are already low in the ‘overdeveloped world,’ they need to be even lower in order to speed contraction back to a sustainable population level.”
The problem with Gardner’s argument is that the Canadian population isn’t exactly out of control. A national census conducted in 2016 found that Canada’s fertility rate is 1.5 children per woman—which is far below the number needed to sustain the population.
To be frank, these advertisements are disguised as a polite conversation about a highly personal decision. Not everyone chooses to have children. Some are unable to have children. In Canada, Indigenous women have been subjected to forced sterilization for decades, and as recently as 2018. The trauma people are subjected to when viewing these ads is far greater than any potential benefit.
There’s an astounding amount of evidence that indicates climate change isn’t a population issue—rather, it’s an issue of consumption. Countries in the Global North, such as Canada and the U.S, emit far more emissions per capita than those in the Global South.
Instead of overpopulation, perhaps these billboards should focus on the real issue at hand. That would be good for our planet—and its children.