Friday, October 23, 2009

The Overpopulation Elephant

In Ecology and Population  Rosa Linda G. Valenzona presents the case for regarding OVERPOPULATION as non-problem, mainly as a defense of the Catholic Church's long-standing opposition to all forms of artificial birth control and that even preventative birth control (using, pills, condoms and diaphragms) is a form of abortion.

I think that recent events brought about by Typhoons Ondoy, Pepeng and Ramil will now refocus public attention on the problem of overpopulation as we all grapple with what ought to be done for future storms.  Inevitably, the position taken by the Church pooh-poohing the impact of runaway population growth and irresponsible parenthood will now run smack into a realization that the effects of overpopulation are really what turned mere typhoons into terrible catastrophes: urban congestion and overcrowding; massive garbage and sewage problems including clogged waterways; flimsy and substandard housing for millions of poor families living in flood-prone and otherwise dangerous locations.

In trying to define the elements of long-term disaster preparedness, whether for urban or rural communities, we cannot avoid taking explicitly into account how many human beings are involved, and where they all are living, working, existing.  We cannot honestly claim we are prepared for  disaster  if our preparations are not scaled to the actual size of the population to be served.

POPULATION SIZE is clearly a prime consideration in any long term plan.  emergency rescue,  food, shelter, clothing and all the goods of households and families whenever storms like Ondoy and Pepeng come calling.

The 1987 Constitution's entire Article XV is about the family  recognizing the family as the foundation of the nation and defining the inviolable social institution of marriage as the foundation of the family (Sections 1 and 2 below).
Section 1. The State recognizes the Filipino family as the foundation of the nation. Accordingly, it shall strengthen its solidarity and actively promote its total development.

Section 2. Marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State.

Section 3. The State shall defend:

(1) The right of spouses to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions and the demands of responsible parenthood;

(2) The right of children to assistance, including proper care and nutrition, and special protection from all forms of neglect, abuse, cruelty, exploitation and other conditions prejudicial to their development;

(3) The right of the family to a family living wage and income; and

(4) The right of families or family associations to participate in the planning and implementation of policies and programs that affect them.

Section 4. The family has the duty to care for its elderly members but the State may also do so through just programs of social security.
In Section 3, four distinct "rights" are named: of spouses, children, family and associations of families. Although the word "duty" does not appear in any provision of Section 3, and only the word "right" appears, I submit that implicit in each provision is some kind of duty or obligation to society on the part of the beneficiary of the right involved.

In other words, with each right to be defended by the State,  we can associate a definite duty as follows:

(1) In Section 3(1), we can easily see that  the "right of spouses to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions"  is in fact strictly limited by "the demands of responsible parenthood".

Responsible parenthood, in my opinion, demands that every family be right sized according to its resources and disposition.  It is completely irresponsible for parents to have more children than they can feed, shelter, clothe, educate, or indeed,  prepare against disasters for, directly, themselves.  I think it is illegitimate when spouses procreate children thinking that the State or their extended family will throw them some kind of line anyway.

Strictly speaking the word "religious" in the above provision is quite superfluous, since leaving it out would not have changed the State's obligation to defend the right of spouses acting out of religious convictions, and would have included those acting simply out of their own true and heartfelt convictions, even if they themselves would not classify these convictions as "religious."

Clearly the Constitution did not intend to disqualify spouses acting out of nonreligious convictions in raising their families, from the protection of the State.

(2)  The Right of Children to assistance in food, shelter, clothing, education, protection and care, is quite naturally balanced by their duty to obey parents, caretakers, teachers.

(3) The right to a family living wage and income for all who secure jobs that pay a  family living wage.

(4) Likewise the "right of families or family associations to participate in the planning and implementation of policies and programs that affect them" might profitably be regarded as a veritable  DUTY to participate in matters that affect them, such as public emergency response and disaster preparedness.

I think too it is time for all responsible mothers and fathers to accept as their DUTY the right-sizing of their families.  We must only bring into this world as many children as we can in fact decently and responsibly feed, clothe, shelter and educate.  The government then has the associated duty to provide all the knowledge and material resources to accomplish the task of building strong, healthy families that pull their own weight and not create burdens on everyone else because they do not.

1 comment:

blackshama said...

Actually DJB it is against Catholic teaching to have more children than you can care for.

It is the responsibility of mothers and fathers to right size their families in accordance with their consciences.

You forgot the word "conscience"

The State cannot intrude into one's conscience. It has no power on heaven and earth to do so.