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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dan Savage and Recent Messaging: "Why bring a child into the World?"



Two recent images: two ways of messaging about the value of human life.

The first assumes that humans are far too fertile for earth's limited resources and that adding babies to the surface population only increases the opportunity for unequal distribution of resources. This recycled viewpoint was most recently perpetuated by Dan Savage, who proposed forced abortion for the next 30 years in America during a recent debate in Sydney. Mind you, this was in response to a question asking for a dangerous idea that would change the world for the better. But this is not coming from an exciting new idea but from a recycled idea dating to the 1960's view of the world as divided between the West and the Rest.






Forcibly limiting population, especially as proposed by a male and a homosexual at that, seems laughable. The audience could only laugh at Savage's straight-faced proposal of forced abortion. Intentionally offensive, Savage got in his laugh line as a slap down to the age old human spirit and drive to procreate.

No matter that overpopulation isn't a problem in the developed world in countries with advanced economies and is really a myth. In fact many developed countries face issues with their populations getting too old etc and America is heading into an era of slowed population growth.  Over all, it may be less a matter of the total number of people (as we have seen population increases in the past) so much as how resources are used that counts.  For instance, it is often distribution, rather than sufficient food production, that is the problem.

Moreover, forced abortion has not worked out very well, has it?   In fact, in Unnatural Selection, award winning writer Mara Hvistendahl analyzes the global gender imbalance resulting from sex- selected abortion, especially in Asia. Projections of China's future demographics show problems with their forced abortion policy, recently loosened.

The second messaging is nonverbal and makes a blatantly emotional appeal, yet also grounds the discussion of the world's dire extremes of poverty back to the imminent prospect of parenthood.
Parenting: the Unexpected


As part of a global sustainability  initiative, Unilever's Dove brand posted a short video recently, posing the question: "Why bring a child into the World?"  Pointing out that the ad makes use of a strong emotional appeal, a writer for adweek comments it may not be the place of a soap maker to field such questions.  Yet, the series of stark contrasts set up in the video provides an intriguing collection for a modernist argument on  the problematic nature of becoming a prospective parent.









Ultimately, bringing children into the world is a grand, extravagant gesture of hope and love.  Instead of hyperbolic statements on the need to stop bringing kids into the world, let's begin a new narrative that celebrates human potential.

Assisting Child survival is a just way to stabilize the population rate, according to Hans Rosling's presentation about the limits of population growth as families decline in size. Savage shouldn't worry, because projections suggest the population will level out at about 10 billion.

Watching the Dove soap video leads me to disagree with the underlying premise of Savage and his Malthusian pals.  In reality, we are just learning of the tremendous potential and enormous possibilities available to scientific discovery.  The human capacity for growth and adaptation is enormous.
Humans will adapt and the world will survive and this will continue for some time  People have the means to survive and prosper; love is big enough to contain our humanity. 

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