Several people have stated over the years that man’s biggest problem is overpopulation. These are usually people who have propagated and have adult progeny who have also propagated. I don’t believe they were volunteering to be euthanized themselves, so the obvious question becomes one of who gets chosen to solve the overpopulation problem.
As I move through time and reach official “retirement” age, my perspective has changed. I see the uncomfortable dilemma of feeling superfluous on the planet, reinforced by a youth culture that obviously or covertly resents the Baby Boomers for having robbed the universal till to secure comfortable retirements for themselves.
If the world is overpopulated, then war, disease, and famine work to right the scales. If the mystics and other seers are right, there are many dimensions beyond the physical one, and many worlds being created all the time. Even the astrophysicists say the universe is expanding. Isaac Asimov anticipated overpopulation in his first sci-fi novel, Pebble in the Sky. In that futuristic book, entire galaxies had been colonized, and there was mandatory euthanasia on Earth at age 60. Other sci-fi novels present similar scenarios
It appears death is necessary in physical reality, to make room for new life. If everyone were physically immortal, and lacking room to expand, the Earth would become crowded with humanity, as some claim has already happened. Longevity is blamed, along with other factors.
The dilemma of immortality—or longevity—becomes one of what to do about overcrowding? Presuming people continue to be born, a race of immortal beings that requires physical space must live somewhere. Thus do the sci-fi novels delve into colonizing other places or, as in Pebble, making euthanasia mandatory.
When animal populations grow too large for their habitats, and if they can’t move, self-correcting mechanisms serve to reduce the population. In human history, wars, disease, famine, infertility, homosexuality, abortion, infanticide, human sacrifice, expulsion, and even cannibalism have served that purpose.
Few would deny that Americans are the most wasteful people on the planet. Not only is “consumerism” encouraged, but it is a source of pride for many. It comes at a huge cost, though, as we must live in the garbage dump we are creating. If overpopulation is the source of our problems–leading to war, pestilence, and all the other natural and unnatural mechanisms used to lighten the planet’s human load—then it makes social and personal sense to curb excess and waste.
My minimalist lifestyle represents a symbolic effort to curb my own excesses. I chose not to have children, for instance. I didn’t want children dependent on me, but I also recognized there are plenty of other people propagating, so my contribution in that sphere was unnecessary.
As I move through time, towards the age of superfluousness, and even towards a time of consuming more than I produce–along with my Baby Boomer cohort–I have to wonder if it becomes my social responsibility to get out of the way. The growing support for physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia seems motivated in part by the perceived burdensomeness of the elderly. The alternative, for those who still have some living to do, would naturally be to remain “productive,” useful, and to continue contributing in some way to society.
There is no cure for death, in the time-space construct we have chosen. There is hope for healthy and happy longevity, one in which age does bring wisdom, grace, depth, and understanding—valuable commodities that money can’t buy.