According To The Natural World — Homosexuality IS Natural

We are by-products of our environment.   I think even the religious minded will agree; what differentiates us from other species of Great Ape: religion.  Because as far as any of us can see, only humans require an explanation for everything, including the great unknown.

Human beings are rather like the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, or the Cowardly Lion from “The Wizard of Oz.”  All three already had what they wanted most,  but still felt they lacked.  This is true too, for humanity.   We already had the same understanding that all or most sentient animals have.  Christians call it “the Golden Rule,” but it’s been around forever, in every human civilization that’s ever been, and in the world of animals too.   Even despite the need to compete for food, we see animals work together, forming families or communities, building connections and bonds.  Elephants grieve their dead.   Many species of whales stay their entire lives in their family pods alongside parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts.  When an animal is sick, often another of its kind, a sibling or friend, stays beside it; even after it dies you might still find its loyal friend at its side, loathe to leave it behind.

Kindness to others, helping others, doing unto others as you would have others do unto you.  This is one of the basic laws of nature.  Not all animals have  it, but many animals do.  It doesn’t come from religion.  It comes from the instinct of knowing what it takes to survive in groups and get along.  Except religion wants the credit.   Without religion we’d all be savages, or so it’s said, murdering each other, not caring for anything beyond meeting our own primal needs.

Other intelligent animals aren’t like this without religion, so why would we be?

But we are conditioned to believe our goodness can’t come from within ourselves.  It must come from without, from above, from something greater than we.  Because we believe that we, unlike every other living thing on this planet, were born broken and in need of repair.  And if we don’t desire after or seek out the one way we can be repaired, we will be punished, forever, by the god who made us broken.

How close are we to other apes?   Very close.  Genetically two genes differentiate us from our closest cousins.  And in fact human beings are more closely related to Chimpanzees (or Bonobos) than Gorillas are.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Third_Chimpanzee   (AKA humans)

http://williamcalvin.com/teaching/bonobo.htm   (Bonobos)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chimpanzee

The only apes that mate for life–Gibbon Apes and Gorillas.  And yet we are more closely related to the Chimpanzee than we are to either of these.

Animals that mate for life:

Gibbon Apes (nearest relative to humans (that mate for life)

Swans

Gorillas

Black Vultures

Wolves

French Angelfish

Albatrosses

Coyotes

Termites

Barn Owls

Beavers

Bald Eagles

Golden Eagles

Pigeons

Condors

Sandhill Cranes

Red Tailed Hawks

Ospreys

Prairie Voles

Chimpanzees do not mate for life.  Yet humans do.  I believe this is a direct result of religion.  It seems to me that the effort to stay loyal and loving to one partner all your life is a noble one, and in many cases it proves the key to a happy life . But is it natural?   Why is it so hard for 50% or more human couples to make their marriages last?   When did mating for life become the norm for human beings?   Did our prehistoric ancestors stay loyal to their mates?  If so, what encouraged this behavior?  This way of life?

It is a myth that only humans engage in sex for pleasure, just as it is a myth that homosexuality is not “natural:”

http://www.news-medical.net/news/2006/10/23/20718.aspx

1,500 animal species practice homosexuality

Published on October 23, 2006 at 4:28 PM · 290 Comments

Homosexuality is quite common in the animal kingdom, especially among herding animals. Many animals solve conflicts by practicing same gender sex.

From the middle of October until next summer the Norwegian Natural History Museum of the University of Oslo will host the first exhibition that focuses on homosexuality in the animal kingdom.

“One fundamental premise in social debates has been that homosexuality is unnatural. This premise is wrong. Homosexuality is both common and highly essential in the lives of a number of species,” explains Petter Boeckman, who is the academic advisor for the “Against Nature’s Order?” exhibition.

The most well-known homosexual animal is the dwarf chimpanzee (Bonobo), one of humanity’s closes relatives. The entire species is bisexual. Sex plays an conspicuous role in all their activities and takes the focus away from violence, which is the most typical method of solving conflicts among primates and many other animals.

“Sex among dwarf chimpanzees is in fact the business of the whole family, and the cute little ones often lend a helping hand when they engage in oral sex with each other.”

Lions are also homosexual. Male lions often band together with their brothers to lead the pride. To ensure loyalty, they strengthen the bonds by often having sex with each other.

Homosexuality is also quite common among dolphins and killer whales. The pairing of males and females is fleeting, while between males, a pair can stay together for years. Homosexual sex between different species is not unusual either. Meetings between different dolphin species can be quite violent, but the tension is often broken by a “sex orgy”.

Homosexuality is a social phenomenon and is most widespread among animals with a complex herd life.

Among the apes it is the females that create the continuity within the group. The social network is maintained not only by sharing food and the child rearing, but also by having sex. Among many of the female apes the sex organs swell up. So they rub their abdomens against each other,” explains Petter Bockman and points out that animals have sex because they have the desire to, just like we humans.

Homosexual behaviour has been observed in 1,500 animal species.

“We’re talking about everything from mammals to crabs and worms. The actual number is of course much higher. Among some animals homosexual behaviour is rare, some having sex with the same gender only a part of their life, while other animals, such as the dwarf chimpanzee, homosexuality is practiced throughout their lives.”

Animals that live a completely homosexual life can also be found. This occurs especially among birds that will pair with one partner for life, which is the case with geese and ducks. Four to five percent of the couples are homosexual. Single females will lay eggs in a homosexual pair’s nest. It has been observced that the homosexual couple are often better at raising the young than heterosexual couples.

When you see a colony of black-headed gulls, you can be sure that almost every tenth pair is lesbian. The females have no problems with being impregnated, although, according to Petter Boeckman they cannot be defined as bisexual.

“If a female has sex with a male one time, but thousands of times with another female, is she bisexual or homosexual? This is the same way to have children is not unknown among homosexual people.”

Indeed, there is a number of animals in which homosexual behaviour has never been observed, such as many insects, passerine birds and small mammals.

“To turn the approach on its head: No species has been found in which homosexual behaviour has not been shown to exist, with the exception of species that never have sex at all, such as sea urchins and aphis. Moreover, a part of the animal kingdom is hermaphroditic, truly bisexual. For them, homosexuality is not an issue.”

Petter Bockman regrets that there is too little research about homosexuality among animals.

“The theme has long been taboo. The problem is that researchers have not seen for themselves that the phenomenon exists or they have been confused when observing homosexual behaviour or that they are fearful of being ridiculed by their colleagues. Many therefore overlook the abundance of material that is found. Many researchers have described homosexuality as something altogether different from sex. They must realize that animals can have sex with who they will, when they will and without consideration to a researcher’s ethical principles.”

One example of overlooking behaviour noted by Petter Bockman is a description of mating among giraffes, when nine out of ten pairings occur between males.

“Every male that sniffed a female was reported as sex, while anal intercourse with orgasm between males was only “revolving around” dominance, competition or greetings.

Masturbation is common in the animal kingdom.

“Masturbation is the simplest method of self pleasure. We have a Darwinist mentality that all animals only have sex to procreate. But there are plenty of animals who will masturbate when they have nothing better to do. Masturbation has been observed among primates, deer, killer whales and penguins, and we’re talking about both males and females. They rub themselves against stones and roots. Orangutans are especially inventive. They make dildos of wood and bark,” says Petter Boeckman of the Norwegian Natural History Museum.

END OF ARTICLE

So back to the religion thing.  Is homosexuality “unnatural?  NO, it is not.   And the only reason human beings are under the impression that it is– religion.

Whether various religions want to acknowledge this or not, human beings are animals and are a part of nature, part of the natural world.   Religion has taken what is natural for humans and changed the rules, directed the rules, put fear of punishment or hope for reward as motivations to bring about this change, this desire in all of us to shun our natural animal selves and behave contrary to nature.

That’s all fine and well, but not every human is the same as every other human, and not all humans are born homosexual, whereas some humans are.  And of the humans born gay, not all of them are capable of denying what and who they are, to live within the box created for all of humankind by organized religion.

So, for those people, do we have the right to punish them?  To deny them equal rights as human beings?  To judge them, label them “abominations?”  Tell them that their god (if they believe in him), or creator, hates them?  Yes, like any creator would create a thing he hates.

For this reason among many, I disagree that religious dogma and indoctrination has been healthy for humankind.  I submit that this artificial way of living that denies what nature designed us to be, causes hatred, bigotry, sexism–all manner of intolerance for our fellow human beings.   Do Bonobos shun or stone to death members of their tribes for being gay?  No.  Only humans do that.  Only humans stand up behind pulpits and preach that homosexuals are  unnatural and an abomination and evil and should be put behind fences or be killed by their own governments for being born as the natural world intended them to be!   Only humans use religion and made up doctrine as justification to kill or punish or gleefully and indignantly spread the poison of hate.

http://www.hlntv.com/video/2012/05/23/pastor-put-gays-behind-electric-fence

http://www.inquisitr.com/245722/kansas-pastor-curtis-knapp-government-should-kill-gays-audio/

The Damage Myths Cause For Our Planet & All Life

I am trying really hard to avoid this current election because it angers me.   The conservative Christian and other groups that we are being told want to discourage contraception or eliminate it completely due to their own person “moral” objections, and in doing so create more unwanted pregnancies to then force women to have to bear for nine months….WTF????  And then what?  What will happen to all those unwanted babies?  Will all these people against women controlling their own bodies line up and offer to adopt?  Or will we see more children stuck their whole first 18 years in foster care, moved from house to house, subjected to carrying their belongings in garbage bags and never knowing what it feels like (many of them) to be loved?

It just floors me that people can be soooo short sighted.   I don’t care if some people believe the myth that a god is going to destroy the earth when it all gets just too bad, then create a new earth, a new Jerusalem for Christians (only) to inhabit for a thousand years, or whatever it is they believe.  It is MY world too.  I would like to live the rest of my life without the prospect of developing worstening claustrophobia issues everywhere I go.  I would like to see the natural world be allowed to continue, and enough natural habitat for other life besides human beings, to be allowed to continue.

When I was in High School I read about a study they made on rats in a cage and overpopulation.  I remember reading, the denser the rat population, the more the rats wanted to kill each other.   Below I found the following, which explains this more.   Yes I do think human beings should wake up to the fact we are also animals.  And this increase in rage we feel on crowded roads and in long lines and over-crowded side-walks–there’s a really big reason for it.  Why do we see more and more school shootings and mall shootings and seemingly normal people suddenly turning on their families, killing their spouses and children?  Is it oh, I don’t know, SATAN????  Or could it be human beings are just as likely to behave as other animals do when conditions become too crowded?

I think religion is fine and well.  But I think just the oppressive doctrine that wants to control not only the members of that religion but EVERYONE, is causing not just women, but all of us, immense harm by hugely contributing to a very overpopulated world.

On Rats:   http://culturechange.org/issue19/overpop_terrorism.htm

Overpopulation & terrorism: rats in a cage

by John Omaha

Many people will find it difficult to compare human populations to rat populations. Many humans will suffer for that cognitive impairment. When a pair of reproductively competent rats are placed in a closed space and provided with sufficient food, they will reproduce and reproduce until the space is filled with rats. At a critical density, wars break out. Some rats, alpha males, claim territory and defend it. Others attack. Sound familiar? Only difference between rats and humans is the language-making capability of the human left brain. We humans give names to our territoriesó “World Trade Center” is one. The right brain, impelled by drives and emotions, is the fundamental force operating here. The left brain makes “reasons” for what the right brain is going to do anyway. Some of these “reasons” are: democracy, Islam, God, Allah, terrorist, Third World, globalization.

 What we are seeing is the result of an exponentially increasing population. This is population biology at work. Anthropologists and population biologists studied all the wars in history for which adequate data were available. They learned that war breaks out when the percentage of the population consisting of single males in the age range 16-26 exceeds a certain fraction of the total population. Whatever Osama bin Laden may call it, whatever Al Fatah, or the PLO, or Jonas Savimbi, or Mexican President Fox, or the Australians who refuse to allow the Indonesian refugees into their country, whatever the East Timorese may call it, the Afghanis, the Pakistanis orwhatever name it is given is not correct; the correct name is overpopulation.

 And this is just the beginning. World population stands at over 6 billion now. Projections differ on how high it will go. At one point it was projected to top out at 15 billion. Then it was reduced to 13 billion. The latest numbers I have seen are 9 billion. This will happen in the next 25 years. What happens after that? Mass die off. Itís a fact of population biology. Eventually the bacteria on the Petri dish use up all the resources and die. We live on a spherical Petri dish. As groups led by alpha males come into unavoidable contact with each other, conflict erupts. Osama bin Laden is an alpha male. Yasser Arafat is an alpha male. The clerics of the Taliban are alpha males. God help us, our alpha male is George W. Bush. The attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and whatever was going on in Pennsylvania are conflicts between population segments assembled behind alpha males in an overpopulated, confined space, in which the segments are seeking to expand into territory that is resource rich compared to their own.

 Unfortunately, all the players are thinking from inside the box. Bush tells us we wíll find the terrorists and punish them. The terrorists are only the proximate problem. The terrorists are the vanguard of the real problem: the surplus billions of people on this spherical Petri dish. Only when the true problem is identified and addressed will we escape the inevitable fate of our species–a mass die off that will sometimes look like terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and will at other times look like AIDS and at other times like “ethnic cleansing” in Serbia. 

Control of our species reproductive drive is the central survival issue our species must solve if Homo sapiens is to be a successful evolutionary experiment. Solving the issue will require the cooperation of all human beings. We are not doing very well.

 John Omaha, Ph.D., is with Chemotion Institute: Treatment, Education & Research for the Ingestive Disorders P.O. Box 528 Chico, CA 95927 530-899-7719 E-mail: jomaha@sunset.net 

 

On Everything Else:    http://www.overpopulation.org/faq.html

1/3 of the population growth in the world is the result of incidental or unwanted pregnancies. December 28, 1998   from the Germany World Population Fund doclink
If fertility remained at current levels, the population would reach the absurd figure of 296 billion in just 150 years. Even if it dropped to 2.5 children per woman and then stopped falling, the population would still reach 28 billion. May 1998   Bill McKibben – Atlantic Monthly doclink

Population (in billions)   1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Year   1804 1927 1959 1974 1987 1999 2011 2023
Elapsed   123 33 14 13 12 13 15+

doclink

At least 150 million couples throughout the world want, but do not have, access to reproductive Health Services doclink
For An Additional $1.63 Per U.S. Taxpayer Per Year, 11.7 Million More Couples Would Have Access to Modern Contraception doclink
By 2030, the world’s urban population is expected to reach 4.9 billion, while the rural population is expected to decrease by 28 million. September 2010   Population Reference Bureau doclink

  • 1983 Year that world grain production per person began to decline(ecofuture.org)
  • 1985 Year that humanity’s demand for resources first exceeded supply(mec.ca)
  • 1989 Year that world fish catch per person began to decline(ecofuture.org)
  • 1999 Year that the world population reached 6 billion (US Census Bureau)
  • 2012 Year that the world population will reach 7 billion(US Census Bureau)
  • 2050 Year that the world population will reach 9.2 billion(US Census Bureau)
  • 3 Days for the world population to increase by that of San Francisco
  • 6 Months for the world population to increase by that of California
  • 200,000 World population growth each day
  • 70 Years for population to double, in any country, at a 1% growth rate per year 2009   doclink

  • The richest 20 percent of humanity consumes 86 percent of all goods and services, while the poorest fifth consumes just 1.3 percent.
  • Only 17% of the world’s population lives in industrialized countries
  • The average life expectancy is 61, up from 40 in just 50 years. The numbers of people 65 and older make up 10-15% of the world population today and is expected to increase to 20-30% by 2050. 2009   doclink

1) The use of contraception among couples in developing countries has increased from 10% in the early 1960’s to 60% today.2) During this period, the fertility rate fell from about six births per woman in the mid-1960’s to below three per woman in 2000.3) Global population growth has slowed to an annual rate of 1.35%, the lowest in decades.4) Uncountable numbers of women and children have lived instead of died. doclink

  • The U.S. Census Bureau reported that hunger is a daily concern for 13.8% of Americans
  • There will be 125 million births in the world this year. By the time this group is ready to start school, there will have been another 625 million births.
  • Every 20 minutes, the human population grows by about 3,000. At the same time another plant or animal becomes extinct (27,000 each year).
  • According to the U.N., if fertility were to stay constant at 1995-2000 levels, the world population would soar to 244 billion by 2150 and 134 trillion by 2300.
  • The population of the U.S. tripled during the 20th century, but the U.S. consumption of raw materials increased 17-fold. April 2004   US Census Bureau doclink
End of this page in “Factoids” section, pg 1 … Go to page 1.. 2 3 4 .. 4.6

Does It Matter to You?

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Questions on Overpopulation

February 26, 2012   WOA website1. What are the biggest issues that arise from overpopulation, and why are they so bad?

a. Food shortages and associated malnutrition, susceptibility to disease, stunted growth and stunted brain power, starvation b. Peak oil, which greatly impacts food supply. c. Per capita water shortage and poor water quality, which greatly impacts food supply and human health d Climate change which creates hotter, more hostile crop growing conditions and flooding, also hostile to crops. e. Shortage of nonrenewable resources, particularly fertilizer, necessary for crop production, but also other resources needed for manufacturing, without which our materialistic civilization will grind to a halt. f. Environmental damage caused by the quest for more fossil fuels and essential metals, destruction of animal habitat caused by urbanization.

2. In the future, do you foresee it getting worse or better, and to what degree?

Going by a. Food shortages alone, it will only get worse unless we quickly stabilize population and find some as-yet-discovered agricutural advancement. The Green Revolution has petered out.

Overpopulation causes rural farming people to outgrow their lands, so the grown children move to cities. Urbanization eats up farmland, reducing crop production. Also growing seasons are becoming hotter, so many crops fail due to heat and drought. Overuse of the soils caused by overpopulation leads poor nourishment for crops and eventually desertification. Overpopulation draws on available water to the point that there is not enough to water crops. Aquifers are overdrawn to the point where they are not replenished fast enough.

3. Is there anything that you believe we can do to help lessen the effects of overpopulation on the environment and other animals?

Voluntary family planning and reproductive health care – programs providing services for voluntary family planning and reproductive health care have existed since the 1960s and they do work, having brought the world’s fertility rates down to 2.5. Girls education, forbidding early marriages, male involvement, and women’s empowerment is also needed to stop male preference, which results in higher birth rates. But these programs need more funding and we must push for that funding.

4. Why should people be concerned about overpopulation now, as opposed to waiting until it becomes more apparent?

Slowing population growth takes time unless we resort to drastic, ugly, highly unpopular solutions. We must increase funding for family planning now, because putting babies back in the womb, or even a worse alternative, is not an acceptable solution.

5. Why do you think so many people are ignorant on the topic of overpopulation and it’s effects?

a. Resistance to contraception and the belief that sex is only for procreation by certain Christian religions. b. Belief that population stabilization requires ‘population control’ – the One Child policy in China,for example. Not understanding that there are gentle solutions that will help people live a better life, and that people actually want, and that have been proven to work. c. Inability to connect the dots when 6 billion goes to 7 billion in 12 years and then to 8 billion in 13 years. Belief that ‘God will take care of it’. Cornucopian view of the world fostered by decades of technological advances and materialistic success has caused people to think that the world’s natural resources are unlimited. Forgetting that fossil fuels have allowed the West to advance technologically and live very comfortably, and therefore not really thinking to look at the dim future of fossil fuels.

6. Do you believe overpopulation, or the way we use resources is more of a problem, and why?

There is no doubt that, if the 2 billion people living very comfortably on this earth made sacrifices, then the 2 billion living on the edge could live more comfortably – IF (a very big if) it was practical to transfer the assets of the rich to the poor, and if the rich would willingly give up their comfortable life. Unfortunately many people use the excuse that consumption is a bigger part of the problem (they believe it is) to avoid dealing with population altogether.

Most frequently we hear about overconsumption in the West measured in terms of carbon emissions. However, we must remember that the critical path for humanity is the supply of food. Arable land is fast disappearing due to urbanization, soil erosion/overuse, and water shortages in both rich and poor countries. Both rich and poor countries will suffer, the poor first, but then the poor in the richer countries. Already the middle class is fast disappearing in the U.S., due to loss of jobs to overseas employees. So the U.S. is not immune to the impacts of food shortages.

Unfortunately, population is growing so fast that, whatever advances we make by providing more food to more people eventually ends up at a point where there is not enough food and starvation is nature’s way to equalize supply and demand.

7. When do you think the world’s population will stop growing?

At current fertility rates the world’s population will only stop growing if people die at a faster rate, which is what will happen when we run out of natural resources. No one has predicted when this will happen. Malthus is reputed to believe it would happen in the 1700s (that wasn’t actually what he said); Paul Ehrlich thought it would happen in the 1970s, but both did not see the technological advances that saved the world’s growing population. Unfortunately, this time experts say, it will take a miracle for everyone to survive the perfect storm of resource depletion that is coming.

The good news is that fertility rates are coming down, just not fast enough. If they continue to come down at the same rate as they have been, then the worlds population growth rate will level off by 2010 at 10 billion. That is assuming too many people don’t die of starvation by then, in which case the population will stop growing sooner.

If fertility rates vary by just one half a child (average), we could reach 15.8 billion by 2100 and continue to grow – on the high side, or we could reach 8.1 billion by 2050 and start a decline. Since we went from 6 billion in 1999 to 7 billion in 2011 (12 years), I find it very difficult to believe we will wait until 2050 to have 8.1 billion. Unless we change our ways and increase funding for family planning programs.

8. What motivated you to become involved with the issue of overpopulation?

In the 1980s I noticed how crowded the roads were and whereas, 20 years before my family could go camping in the woods just about anywhere, we now had to make a reservation to camp. I started to become involved after my trip to China in 1995 where I noticed that the farmland I flew over had a whole village for every 40 – 100 acres, but in the U.S. there would be just one farmhouse for the same amount of land. And there were no vacant lots in cities like Shanghai – every space was taken.

9. What do you think is the main factor/factors contributing to overpopulation?

Lack of education and economic opportunity for women; authoritarian households where women don’t have a say about their own lives, their health care or how many children they have; child marriage; lack of maternal health care for women; cultural beliefs in rural areas that say many children are needed to take care of the land, not realizing that too many children will outgrow the land; male preference; contraceptive inaccessability; lack of educational opportunities to learn that smaller families are healthier and more economically feasible.

10. How does overpopulation effect a countries economy?

Overpopulated countries cannot build sufficient infrastructure or provide sufficient services for its population because there is too much competition for natural resources for people to earn enough to support a government. Over 2 billion people earn less than $2 a day.

When a population is growing, however – not yet overpopulated, and there is a high ratio of young people, and opportunities are available for these young people to become educated and have jobs, then an economy will boom. However, when these young people are old, and they will have likely lowered their fertility rate, then there will be more older people than young people, and the economy will suffer. On the other hand, if the country reaches a point where resources in the area are exhausted, and the country cannot buy its resources from other countries, then the country is overpopulated, and poverty will be the result.

11. Why do the most populated countries have their high populations?

High populations result when death rates are brought down while fertility rates remain high. Sanitation, pumping of aquifers, modern medicine, better ways of treating sick infants, and the Green Revolution have brought down mortality. Without a corresponding drop in fertility, population will grow.

12. Are there any solutions to end starvation?

The UN claims that farmers in Africa can be be taught better farm management. Africa is where the highest growth is. It remains to be seen if this will be enough to end starvation.

13. What types of diets have the least environmental impact?

Diets which use plants instead of animals; animals are ok if they feed on land or in water that cannot be used for crops. Some plant diets are better than others, using less resources.

14. Is overpopulation a problem that we need to be worrying about?

Yes, overpopulation is like a runaway train, and the longer we wait to do something about it, the harder it will be to deal with the impacts.

15. Do you feel like it is already a problem or something will happen in the future?

It is already a problem and getting worse. We need to do something about it now.

16. What is the biggest effect of overpopulation?

The most drastic impact so far is food shortages, with one billion people classified as ‘undernourished’ by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2009, and nearly a billion undernourished in each of 2007, 2008, and 2011. 3 billion people in the world today struggle to survive on US$2/day, and food prices are rising. The second and thirds impacts of overpopulation are Peak Oil and Climate Change. Some will argue that climate change is not man made, but it is indeed happening and causing crop failures. The world is producing less oil today than it did last year, and this trend will continue. Both peak oil and climate change result in less food to feed the world, peak oil because food depends on mechanized farm machinery and transport.

17. In what areas of the world is overpopulation having the biggest effects and how?

China, and India are seeing the biggest effects, mostly because of water shortages and deforestation. Africa will soon follow, particularly northern Africa where there is not enough water.

18. Have you been able to see the effects first hand? If so, what is it like?

I have seen deforestation in Nepal and Ethiopia. People have to walk further and further to find firewood. In Nepal they climb up in trees and chop out branches to feed the leaves to their buffalo and the wood fuels their fires. The trees look all mangled. In Ethiopia, people have to walk 3-4 miles for wood to fuel their stoves.

19. How does overpopulation differ here in the United State compared to other countries?

Overpopulation in the U.S. affects the world because the U.S. population exceeds its carrying capacity, getting many of its resources from other countries, often taking advantage of the poverty in the other countries by paying much less than the resource is worth.

20. Many people do not believe overpopulation is a problem. Do you think they are wrong? If so, why?

Many people do not understand the relationship between our Earth’s finite resources and humans existence. They believe that, if we are well-off, everything is OK. They do not see that we have already heavily borrowed against the Earth’s resources: water in ancient aquifers are being overpumped, oil that was stored in the ground for thousands of years is not being replenished. Ancient civilizations who became overpopulated did not see it either.

21. When do you feel overpopulation will grow to where it is affecting the lives of people all over the world?

It already is. The current economic crisis is due to our oil-based, debt-based economy having built up a large bubble and now it has burst. In addition, food prices are rising and some people cannot afford to buy sufficient food to feed their family.

22. What do you feel is the best solution for overpopulation?

Voluntary family planning and reproductive health care – programs providing services for voluntary family planning and reproductive health care have existed since the 1960s and they do work, having brought the world’s fertility rates down to 2.5. Girls education, forbidding early marriages, and women’s empowerment is also needed to stop male preference, which results in higher birth rates.

23. Are you doing things yourself to reduce overpopulation? If so, what are you doing?

I am doing the web page at overpopulation.org, promoting other organizations that work on overpopulation, doing slide shows, and supporting a couple of groups of population activists. I have also lobbied my federal representative and senators, and have put together a legislative briefing at the state level. I also do tabling on earth day, and I have been interviewed on internet radio. I donate to my favorite organizations that promote family planning and reproductive health.

24. What can people like me, an eighteen year old, do to help?

You can join an activist group, or do tabling alone if you can’t find a group. You can educate yourself on the subject and all the arguments and issues on the subject (I hope my website will help you there), and participate in letter writing and leaving comments on online newspaper articles about population. You can find WOA’s Facebook page (World Overpopulation Awareness), and share your activist activities with us there. You can look up Population Connection, and find suggestions of what to do there (one of them is making presentations to school teachers, who take the lesson to their students). You can hook up with the Sierra Club and join population activities there: http://www.sierraclub.org/population/

You can also help WOA – we have need of volunteers who do online help for WOA.

25. Why don’t we hear much about this issue on the news and such? It seems like something that should be dealt with immediately, yet i don’t see anyone in power taking action.

I come across over 20 articles a day on population, some of them in important places like the New York Times, the Economist, National Geographic, BBC, Scientific American, and so on. Today food and gas prices are rising, partly due to peak oil, partly due to climate change, partly due to seasonal fluctuation, but mostly due to a shortage of resources per person.

On the other hand, there are conservatives that do not believe in limited resources, overpopulation, “telling people what they should do in their private lives,” contraception, and abortion. Some of these people are in places of high influence, like the U.S. Congress, which has recently contemplated removing Title X funding from Planned Parenthood, claiming the money is going for abortions, which it isn’t. The money goes for family planning services (not abortion) and reproductive health services. These same conservatives control various media such as Fox News.

The United States and other countries HAVE been taking action on this issue for many years. Programs are in place for voluntary family planning and reproductive health, among others that reduce fertility rates. These programs have been instrumental in bringing down world fertility rates, which are now around 2.5 children per woman. But every year there is a battle over how much funding should be put into these programs by the U.S. doclink

Karen Gaia says: any suggestions for these FAQs are welcome. Send to karen4329@karengaia.net

More Faqs

November 23, 2011   WOA!! website – Karen Gaia Pitts1. What motivated you to become involved with the issue of overpopulation?

In the 1980s I noticed how crowded the roads were and whereas, 20 years before my family could go camping in the woods just about anywhere, we now had to make a reservation to camp. I started to become involved after my trip to China in 1995 where I noticed that the farmland I flew over had a whole village for every 40 – 100 acres, but in the U.S. there would be just one farmhouse for the same amount of land. And there were no vacant lots in cities like Shanghai – every space was taken.

2. What do you believe is the worst effect of overpopulation? Why?

By far the worst effect is the inability to feed every one. Overpopulation causes rural farming people to outgrow their lands, so the grown children move to cities. Urbanization eats up farmland, reducing crop production. Also growing seasons are becoming hotter, so many crops fail due to heat and drought. Overuse of the soils caused by overpopulation leads poor nourishment for crops and eventually desertification. Overpopulation draws on available water to the point that there is not enough to water crops. Aquifers are overdrawn to the point where they are not replenished fast enough.

3. What has been done/is being done to slow overpopulation? What would you do to slow overpopulation?

Voluntary family planning and reproductive health care – programs providing services for voluntary family planning and reproductive health care have existed since the 1960s and they do work, having brought the world’s fertility rates down to 2.5. Girls education, forbidding early marriages, and women’s empowerment is also needed to stop male preference, which results in higher birth rates.

4. When do you think the world’s population will stop growing?

At current fertility rates the world’s population will only stop growing if people die at a faster rate, which is what will happen when we run out of natural resources. No one has predicted when this will happen. Malthus thought it would happen in the 1700s; Paul Ehrlich thought it would happen in the 1970s, but both did not see the technological advances that saved the world’s growing population. Unfortunately, this time experts say, it will take a miracle for everyone to survive the perfect storm of resource depletion that is coming.

The good news is that fertility rates are coming down, just not fast enough. If they continue to come down at the same rate as they have been, then the worlds population growth rate will level off by 2010 at 10 billion. That is assuming too many people don’t die of starvation by then, in which case the population will stop growing sooner.

If fertility rates vary by just one half a child (average), we could reach 15.8 billion by 2100 and continue to grow – on the high side, or we could reach 8.1 billion by 2050 and start a decline. Since we went from 6 billion in 1999 to 7 billion in 2011 (12 years), I find it very difficult to believe we will wait until 2050 to have 8.1 billion. Unless we change our ways and increase funding for family planning programs.

5. What do you think is the main factor/factors contributing to overpopulation?

Lack of education and economic opportunity for women; authoritarian households where women don’t have a say about their own lives, their health care or how many children they have; child marriage; lack of maternal health care for women; cultural beliefs in rural areas that say many children are needed to take care of the land, not realizing that too many children will outgrow the land; male preference; contraceptive inaccessability; lack of educational opportunities to learn that smaller families are healthier and more economically feasible.

6. How does overpopulation effect a countries economy?

Overpopulated countries cannot build sufficient infrastructure or provide sufficient services for its population because there is too much competition for natural resources for people to earn enough to support a government. Over 2 billion people earn less than $2 a day.

When a population is growing, however – not yet overpopulated, and there is a high ratio of young people, and opportunities are available for these young people to become educated and have jobs, then an economy will boom. However, when these young people are old, and they will have likely lowered their fertility rate, then there will be more older people than young people, and the economy will suffer. On the other hand, if the country reaches a point where resources in the area are exhausted, and the country cannot buy its resources from other countries, then the country is overpopulated, and poverty will be the result.

7. Why do the most populated countries have their high populations?

High populations result when death rates are brought down while fertility rates remain high. Sanitation, pumping of aquifers, modern medicine, better ways of treating sick infants, and the Green Revolution have brought down mortality. Without a corresponding drop in fertility, population will grow. doclink

Questions on Food

November 21, 2011   WOA!! website – Karen Gaia Pitts1. How does overpopulation affect the food industry?

Overpopulation causes rural farming people to outgrow their lands, so the grown children move to cities. Urbanization eats up farmland, reducing crop production. Also growing seasons are becoming hotter, so many crops fail due to heat and drought. Overuse of the soils caused by overpopulation leads poor nourishment for crops and eventually desertification. Overpopulation draws on available water to the point that there is not enough to water crops. Aquifers are overdrawn to the point where they are not replenished fast enough.

2. Are there any foods that are able to feed the world?

Grains are usually the staple used to feed the world: rice, wheat, and corn in particular. But new strains are needed to grow in hotter climates, less water, and/or poor soil. If these strains are not developed by technology, there will not be enough food to feed the world. Today there are 1 billion underfed people in the world. This number is likely to grow if population continues to grow and a solution is not found.

3. Are there any solutions to end starvation?

The UN claims that farmers in Africa can be be taught better farm management. Africa is where the highest growth is. It remains to be seen if this will be enough to end starvation.

4. What types of diets have the least environmental impact?

Diets which use plants instead of animals; animals are ok if they feed on land or in water that cannot be used for crops. Some plant diets are better than others, using less resources. doclink

Population Control?

September 26, 2011   WOA websiteThe world is headed for disaster. If we don’t do something, nature will do something for us. Shouldn’t we be doing some sort of population control like what China did? Maybe a two child or one child policy for the world? doclink

It appears that the three of us are in agreement about the impending consequences of overpopulation.But we must understand the solutions.Fertility rates have been coming down for many years. They are continuing to come down. We are experiencing population momentum, which means that reductions in population growth lag behind reductions in fertility rates. China’s population growth rate is only 0.47%, and its population expected to peak in 2030 at 1.4 billion, then decline.The UN population projections had low, medium, and high scenarios, with the difference between medium and high or low only half a child in fertility rates.So it is EXTREMELY important to sufficiently fund efforts to make contraception accessible to all women of child-bearing age, and at the same time to empower women to make health decisions for themselves, because reproductive health is very closely tied to contraceptive usage. The latter includes such measures as eliminating child marriages, girls education, micro credit, and male involvement.All of these things are being done, and have been done, worldwide, since the 1950s, and have been very successful, but have lacked sufficient funding, which is frequently blocked by conservatives in the U.S. administration and legislature. This year funding is again being attacked by our very conservative legislature.Some people argue that these contraceptives are being forced upon third world women, but in 1994 it was decided that all attempts to meet targets and all coersion would be stopped and women would be encouraged to choose their own family size. It works out because women, on average, do not want large families as long as they can be assured there will be enough children surviving to replacement. In developed countries many women seem to want even fewer than the replacement level number of children. Women in the U.S. are producing 2.09 children on average, just a tad below replacement level, while women in other developed countries considerably fewer. The overall world wide average is 2.52 and comes down every year. Replacement level for all but countries with very female death rates is 2.1

Why is Population Ignored by Human Rights Groups and Democrats?

August 28, 2011   WOA websiteRebecca wrote:

I agree with you about overpopulation. I have no children and have my animals spayed and eat no meat, pork or chicken, leave my car parked, keep lights off, don’t heat or air condition (live in So Cal so that is possible) and don’t buy products excessively, try not to buy products that were tested on animals, clean with baking soda, put groceries in canvas bags etc- so in addition to not adding to population try to be fair about reducing my portion of carbon footprint.

But whenever I bring up overpopulation at Democratic or Labor meetings (not abortion, birth control, which is a two-fer because it also helps prevent spread of STDs in many cases) I get a stunned silence and no one will discuss it thinking they must have a white supremist in their midsts…though the competition for air,water,food, jobs and land has become fierce and is beyond a political party problem, has to have an economic impact too due to “supply and demand”.

I have written to television stations and asked them not to feature “octomom”, “kate plus 8” “19 and counting” etc and they ignore me too.

Somehow the idea of caring for elderly (albeit healthy) persons in excess in the population is considered anethma though one would assume excess children in the population also are being cared for..and also no one seems to get it that if elderly persons were spending less on chidlren being raised during their working years they could save more to take care of themselves in ol d age…

Anyway how do we get this idea across and make it “cool” like recycling to say “three is the new large family” and encourage people to stop at one or two?

~~~

Dear Rebecca,

Thank you for your thoughtful remarks and commend you on your lowered footprint.

Overpopulation has certainly acquired a dirty name, and I think due to lies spread by religious conservatives who believe sex is for procreation, contraceptives are abortifacient, and abstinence is the only good birth control. They think anyone who promotes family planning is evil and must be racist, and they make huge efforts to spread that opinion far and wide. On the other hand, the women of these same religions are using contraception, almost as much as the general population, so maybe we can push for a connect between these women and their priests and husbands.

So I always examine religious objections and detractors and am always looking for evidence to counter whatever misrepresentations they may put out.

In addition, most people do not see the big picture, or at least do not want to think about it. Peak oil and food shortages will affect us all, but people tend to think that their life is secure and nothing will happen to them, so we sound like we are Chicken Little saying the sky is falling.

Then there are those who blame the huge consumption of the Western world for the world’s problems, but in fact, even poor rural people’s lives are not sustainable unless some miracle of technology comes along (the Green Revolution is done what it can, mostly). And it isn’t a problem of distribution because a) it has been found that if you feed a population, that population grows some more (it is only sustainable if people can feed themselves), b) transporting food to famine areas is good for real emergencies, but because of peak oil, is not sustainable as a long term practice.

And where population is growing the fastest – in Sub-Saharan Africa for example, it can be seen that life is already unsustainable in many areas there and I print stories about that.

And I always find new and interesting articles on sustainability (there are plenty of them) that will help prove the point that humanity’s footprint is not sustainable.

I am happy to find so many news articles that reinforce the idea that we are indeed headed for trouble — I am not happy about the bad news, but glad that there are so much in the news.

I agree with you about the elderly. I am a senior myself, but longevity is part of the problem – it adds to the number of people on the planet. If people continue to live longer and longer, at some point we would have to give up having children altogether. Personally I would prefer to give up when I get past a certain point of decrepitude, and let some youngster take my place. We can’t afford to nurture young children and educate them in order to pass on our civilization (hopefully a less destructive one), if at the same time we taking care of so many old ones – I’m thinking of the large number of baby boomers the U.S. now has, compared to the number of working people.

I would not focus on the octomoms because the fertility rate is coming down in the world, and has been at replacement level for some time in the U.S. Instead I would work on the large numbers of unintended pregnancies and meeting the unmet need for contraception, and teen pregnancies, and child brides in the developing countries, and educational soap operas in areas where fertility rates are high due to cultural preferences, and male responsibility.

Fertility rates are coming down due to efforts starting back in the 1950s, and continuing today. Average today is 2.5. But funding has not been adequate and we now need to put about $12 billion towards the areas mentioned in the preceeding paragraph.

Karen Gaia doclink

On Expecting People to Have Fewer Children

May 16, 2011   WOA websiteI have been thinking a lot about population issues lately, and wanted to hear some advice from you. The single worst thing someone in America can do for the environment is to have a child. How can you reconcile talking about this with people without offending them and making them feel persecuted for having children? I feel like this issue really should be discussed more, but I am afraid to say something and hurt someone’s feelings.

I know you have done population activism for a while, so I was wondering if you might have any advice for discussing the subject without acrimony.

Thanks,

Autumn

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hi Autumn,

The average fertility rate in this country is about at replacement level. Immigration is the biggest contributing factor to U.S. population, but that does not add anything to the worldwide population, except where it takes the pressure off the resources in Mexico and Central America, which leads to higher birth rates there. Also, immigrants soon assume consumption levels higher than where they come from, but it is difficult to fault people for wanting to achieve a ‘good’ life. If it were not for immigration, our growth rate would be zero, and our population stabilized.

It would be good if Americans dipped down to below replacement level, but this can best be done by addressing the unmet need for contraception. 1/3 of the births in the U.S. are unintended. The teen birth rate in the U.S. is the highest in the developed world. Concentrating on teen pregnancy and fighting the abstinence-only mentality, and using more role models (both good and bad – if done the right way) on television – this will go a long way towards reducing our birth rate.

I no longer get excited about people having 6 or 13 or so kids. They are in a very small minority. Many people have only 1 or even none. It averages out. Many developed countries have such a low birthrate (Spain has a fertility rate of 1.4) that there is concern that they will be sustainable economically. Some even fear that their country will become one of old people, with not enough young people to reproduce. This is a real concern.

In the U.S., our baby boomers are retiring. We will have a huge amount of resources going to old people, and maybe not enough going to the education of our future adults. But of course, having larger families to take care of all these seniors would be a disaster – a giant Ponzi scheme.

Recently attempts have been made to defund Planned Parenthood because some legislators think it does abortions on federal money. The federal program Title X grants money to Planned Parenthood to be used for family planning, but excluding abortions. Planned Parenthood gets less money from Title X than their costs for family planning (excluding abortions), so none of Title X money goes for abortions. There are many Catholic and Evangelical Christians who are against contraception. It is their hidden agenda to make contraception illegal.

So I think where we can do the best good in the U.S. is by making sure that there is sufficient funding for programs that provide contraception, family planning, sex ed, girls self esteem, and male responsibility, which is what Planned Parenthood does. Also social media role models, like televisions’ ’16 and Pregnant’, should continue.

The biggest population growth is in Africa and Central America. Africa’s population is expected to triple by 2100. This is where we need to concentrate with programs like the ones suggested for the U.S. above. Because they are developing countries we also need to add education for girls, raise the age of marriage, and provide microcredit for women.

These programs have already been successful for over 50 years, but funding is inadequate. We need about $2 billion a year for these programs, so little if you compare it to the $2 billion a week that we spend on war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The same kinds of people who stand in the way of contraception and sex ed in the U.S. are the ones who stand in the way of funding for international family planning.

Regarding reproductive health: when more women survive childbirth, they are less likely to think of themselves as baby machines. It gives them some respect getting health care, which saves many lives. Also, when a woman has her postnatal visit, the midwife asks if she wants to space her births, which she almost always does, so that’s when she receives contraception. In, fact, that is almost the same way I got started on contraception, after Rose was born and modern contraception was new.

Anyway, what we need is advocacy for funding – there are many opportunities if you are interested. doclink

Frequently Asked Questions

May 2011   WOA website – asked by Codey1. Is overpopulation a problem that we need to be worrying about?

Yes, overpopulation is like a runaway train, and the longer we wait to do something about it, the harder it will be to deal with the impacts.

2. Do you feel like it is already a problem or something will happen in the future?

It is already a problem and getting worse. We need to do something about it now.

3. What is the biggest effect of overpopulation?

The most drastic impact so far is food shortages, with one billion people classified as ‘undernourished’ by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2009, and nearly a billion undernourished in each of 2007, 2008, and 2011. 3 billion people in the world today struggle to survive on US$2/day, and food prices are rising. The second and thirds impacts of overpopulation are Peak Oil and Climate Change. Some will argue that climate change is not man made, but it is indeed happening and causing crop failures. The world is producing less oil today than it did last year, and this trend will continue. Both peak oil and climate change result in less food to feed the world, peak oil because food depends on mechanized farm machinery and transport.

4. In what areas of the world is overpopulation having the biggest effects and how?

China, and India are seeing the biggest effects, mostly because of water shortages and deforestation. Africa will soon follow, particularly northern Africa where there is not enough water.

5. Have you been able to see the effects first hand? If so, what is it like?

I have seen deforestation in Nepal and Ethiopia. People have to walk further and further to find firewood. In Nepal they climb up in trees and chop out branches to feed the leaves to their buffalo and the wood fuels their fires. The trees look all mangled. In Ethiopia, people have to walk 3-4 miles for wood to fuel their stoves.

6. How does overpopulation differ here in the United State compared to other countries?

Overpopulation in the U.S. affects the world because the U.S. population exceeds its carrying capacity, getting many of its resources from other countries, often taking advantage of the poverty in the other countries by paying much less than the resource is worth.

7. Many people do not believe overpopulation is a problem. Do you think they are wrong? If so, why?

Many people do not understand the relationship between our Earth’s finite resources and humans existence. They believe that, if we are well-off, everything is OK. They do not see that we have already heavily borrowed against the Earth’s resources: water in ancient aquifers are being overpumped, oil that was stored in the ground for thousands of years is not being replenished. Ancient civilizations who became overpopulated did not see it either.

8. When do you feel overpopulation will grow to where it is affecting the lives of people all over the world?

It already is. The current economic crisis is due to our oil-based, debt-based economy having built up a large bubble and now it has burst. In addition, food prices are rising and some people cannot afford to buy sufficient food to feed their family.

9. What do you feel is the best solution for overpopulation?

Voluntary family planning and reproductive health care – programs providing services for voluntary family planning and reproductive health care have existed since the 1960s and they do work, having brought the world’s fertility rates down to 2.5. Girls education, forbidding early marriages, and women’s empowerment is also needed to stop male preference, which results in higher birth rates.

10. Are you doing things yourself to reduce overpopulation? If so, what are you doing?

I am doing the web page at overpopulation.org, promoting other organizations that work on overpopulation, doing slide shows, and supporting a couple of groups of population activists. I have also lobbied my federal representative and senators, and have put together a legislative briefing at the state level. I also do tabling on earth day, and I have been interviewed on internet radio. I donate to my favorite organizations that promote family planning and reproductive health.

11. What can people like me, an eighteen year old, do to help?

You can join an activist group, or do tabling alone if you can’t find a group. You can educate yourself on the subject and all the arguments and issues on the subject (I hope my website will help you there), and participate in letter writing and leaving comments on online newspaper articles about population. You can find WOA’s Facebook page (World Overpopulation Awareness), and share your activist activities with us there. You can look up Population Connection, and find suggestions of what to do there (one of them is making presentations to school teachers, who take the lesson to their students).

You can also help WOA – we have need of volunteers who do online help for WOA.

I hope I have been of help.

Depression & Addiction. Would Die To Make Them Stop.

Making it stop, making an end.  Every day that crosses my mind.    Being atheist removes the unnatural dread of death for me that religion creates.  i was hit on the head with ice-skates once and I remember how that was.  I fell, saw my older brother fall to try to avoid hitting me, his skate came up–darkness.  That was it.  I didn’t feel the cut of the blades across my forehead, leaving a -1 scar that would last for many years.   I don’t recall the throng of people who gathered around or my Aunt Eve placing my head in her lap.  What I do remember is waking with blood in my eyes and wondering where all the people had come from.

In that moment of black out, time stopped for me.  The time it took for those people to gather round, and for my Aunt who was an RN, to show up.   There was no pain from the blow, no fear or distress.  I was completely unaware.   And now I’m thinking, that is death.  Or that is how death is if in fact all the hopes in an afterlife we humans like to hold dear, are false.

Is that so bad?   One friend put it very well.   “I didn’t mind not existing all the millions of years before I was born, why should i mind not existing after I die?”  

Or if there’s an afterlife, and evidence doesn’t disprove it any more than it proves it, I really do think it’s a natural condition same as our physical life is a natural condition.  There are no hoops to jump through.  No holy rituals one must complete.  No giant man god in the sky who’s unending ego must be appeased.   It’s just something that comes after the darkness, after the body shuts down, when the energy leaves the body and who knows, perhaps takes with it a little echo of what we are.

Why do I sometimes wish to die?   Because I have depression, and because people with depression are subjected to a stigma.  Now if I had cancer, or heart disease or any other physical illness, I am quite sure my friends or the people who cared, would still be there for me.  But any form of mental illness, which, by the way, is just as much a physical illness people can’t help as cancer or heart disease or anything else, is not the same.   Having any sort of mental illness effects the way your brain works. It effects the way your thoughts come across in your head.   Mental illness distorts your thoughts, or makes your brain less efficient at processing them.   Little problems seem huge.   Or at least that’s how it is with depression and anxiety disorders.   The person with these illnesses, reacts differently than people without them.  And in doing so, drives friends away at the precise time encouragement, support, and kindess would help the most.

I used to love my life.  I used to laugh and look forward to new experiences.  I engaged in the world around me.   Since depression has cost me the few friends I have, and left me feeling outcast and unwanted at a time I could really use some support, I find myself with nothing to look forward to.  The friends i miss, do not miss me.  Because I was a burden to them.  I didn’t mean to be, but I was and people do get tired, even nice, well meaning people.   But unlike them I am unable to abandon myself, and so on I must plod mostly alone, understanding that my illness is punishing me by taking away my already small ability to have/keep friends. 

Or so it seems.    So every day I must fight to find reasons to get out of bed.  This is what depression is.   I find there are a lot of addictions in the world that hide behind labels calling them something else.  In addition to the known addictions like cigarette smoking and alcohol abuse, there is also addiction to anything else that we might use as a crutch to get through our day.  Many people are addicted to work, and the feeling of success and worth it brings.  Or people can be addicted to people, which I was.  I was addicted to how wonderful it made me feel being around people who treated me like I was okay too, like I was wanted and liked and cared for.  I loved how that felt.  I loved how it made me feel.  I didn’t want to lose that, and when I did it tore me apart; what little I had left of happiness fell to pieces, and why is that?  Because I had a dependency on other people to give me that warm fuzzy feeling I loved so much.   I went years hoping to have the company of people I respected who seemed to actually like me and accept me flaws and all, and having people like that, knowing people like that, gave me happiness I hadn’t felt for a very long time, if ever.

This was a nice thing for me at the time, but it had a negative side.  Without knowing it, I became addicted to that.  I never developed any ability to make my happiness on my own.  I needed something on the outside to make it for me, other people to make it for me.   And people get tired of making happiness for someone else.  It’s hard enough learning how to make happiness just for yourself–but to have someone else dependent on you for their happiness–that gets very tiresome after awhile.

So that was my addiction, and it helped ease my depression having those people, and then when I lost the support of those people, I fell to pieces, just as much as any heroin addict or alcoholic would fall to pieces cut off from his/her drug.

Another addiction of course, is religion.   That crutch that people need to feel good about themselves.   Doesn’t matter if no one else likes me, Jesus is always there–he will never forsake me.   Or…I wouldn’t be such a loving person as I am if I didn’t have Jesus.  Because of Jesus I am saved, because of Jesus I am not an abomination in god’s eyes anymore–a sinner.  I am a new being, born again.  I am saved.

See, I had that addiction too, but losing the people in my life I thought cared for me because I developed this illness, made me realize or become aware that people are not reliable or dependable.  Sometimes they’re not even what they seem to be.  And learning this about people I had grown to care for very much, made me want to remove any other falsehoods I didn’t realize existed, from my life.   Any crutch I might turn to like so many alcoholics turn from one addiction–alcohol–to another–religion. 

But I am not writing about religion.  I am writing about dependency and how easy it is to fall to addiction and dependency when you have depression, because with depression you will do and try anything to feel good.  To have a reason to get out of bed.  To not step in front of a train once you discover how to get on the tracks.   To not OD or jump off bridges or in front of Metro buses. 

People think it’s selfish and cowardice to comit suicide.  I submit that no one does so lightly.   The people who kill themselves have very likely gotten tired of trying and failing all the time, tired of succeeding and having no one notice.  Because really, it’s only the failures people notice who want to find fault with you–see only the disappointments in us to justify their actions in turning their backs when we needed them most.   And it’s the aloneness people can’t bear.  The feeling like nothing they do will ever be enough or help enough.  Death is scary–thanks to threats of hellfire or the fear of not existing anymore or…whatever, and many religions even threaten mentally ill people who die because of their mental illness are going straight to hell, so….it takes a lot of desperation to make someone, esp. a religious someone, suicidal.  It’s only when life is scarier and the pain becomes so unbearable that people want to kill themselves–just to make it stop, nevermind whatever fears they have.

It is hard work to love and care for a depressed person.  But it’s even harder work being in our shoes.  Because depression isn’t like a lot of other illnesses.  Many people don’t understand they have it.  Many people who do, don’t know how to regain control of their thoughts they can’t seem to manage anymore.  Everything seems huge.  Overwhelming.  You walk around feeling like a shattered vase just barely holding itself together–and if a strong wind comes you’ll fly to pieces across the road.  That’s depression.  When you want and need a loving heart to hold you, help you glue the cracks so you don’t fall apart, so you can at least function again even if you’ll never again look brand new.

But it’s work to care for someone with depression, or any mental illness.  It’s work.  Because just like AIDS or Hepatitis C or cancer or heart disease, depression isn’t fun, and it isn’t pretty, and it isn’t easy.  It hurts, and it kills just as readily as these other illnesses, and the person inflicted is just as wanting to be cured, to feel well again, as any other sick person.  But they have to go every day completely alone, feeling completely like they will never measure up or be loved or wanted or accepted or cared for–that they’ll never be whole enough again for such things.

Sometimes death seems better.  Sometimes I wish for the black oblivion I felt when those ice skates hit my face.  Even non-existence would be a gentle peace and an ending to a hurt I often find unbearable.  

And I could deny it that I think of death.  I could deny it to keep my friends from having to worry.  But that would be a falsehood too.  So instead I say every day I have to struggle to get out of bed, find a reason.  My reasons are my animals.  I have little animals who need me to go to work so I can feed and shelter and care for them.  These are my reasons, and really my only reasons.  Because my animals love me even when I’m struggling.  Even when I’m in pain.  Even when I’m damaged and I don’t know yet how to make me better.  My animals do not turn their back or judge me, and they are always there.  I can’t disappoint them.  I can’t let them down.  And they, in turn, are honest with me.  They never give me false hopes, or false caring.  They simply are what they are, and they love me.

This is my reason–because of my little animals.  I do not put my hopes in some world yet to come.  I don’t believe there is such a place.  And I do not turn to Jesus to make me happy, because that’s just one more crutch, one more addiction, one more hoping for something outside myself to make my world right for me.

Happiness, real happiness, doesn’t depend on things, or imaginary friends, or other people, or such and such working out just right.  Happiness is a decision.  A choice we must learn to make.  Those thoughts that seem so big and terrible, that the depressed or anxious person must battle every single day just to get through from dawn to dusk–only we can decide which ones to believe and which ones to reject, which ones we want to attach to and let them control our mood, our emotions, our life, and which ones we decide aren’t worthy of us.

Everyone hates me.  No one loves me.  All my friends were fake.  I’m not worth anyone standing up for and supporting me.   These are the thoughts I get every day that make me want to shrivel up and die.  Every single day.  These are the foes I battle.  And don’t talk religion with me.  It’s because of religion I have many of these thoughts now.  This programming I can’t be whole and healthy and good without the help of some god.  See, that’s not true.  I was born beautiful, and good, and perfect, and exactly what nature meant me to be.  I am a happy and wonderful, loving and good person.  All I have to do is believe it about myself.  Really believe it.  And not look outside myself for other things to make my happiness for me.

That is the key to survival for me.  The key to finding reasons to get through each day.  The reasons must come from within, from myself.  Not from drugs.  Not from therapy.  Not from self help books.  But from me.  Every day I need to make the decision which forces inside I want to control me–which thoughts I want to take seriously and which ones I want to recognize are just the bullshit religion I was fed or the negative  messages I let myself believe all my life from my mother or the people I liked who couldn’t like me.

Love. What can Animals or Atheists Know of It?

The goodness of human beings…sad thing is so many of us are taught from infancy that we are born evil, corrupted, inheriting a burden of sins from our parents and their parents before.  We are a wrong in the eyes of some supposedly benevolent God until we lay down our lives and say “here, God, take me,” and only then are we saved, only then are we whole and good, beautiful creations.

I beg to differ.  It is not this sacrifice that cleanses us and makes us kinder, gentler, more loving, more forgiving, more gracious, generous, no.   I have walked “in the light,” and I have walked outside it.  I have not been any more of these things as a Christian than I am now, as an atheist.   I still love my fellow humans.  I still care very deeply for my friends.  I still think myself capable of throwing my life away to save a friend’s life.  I think if I saw someone dear to me in danger, I don’t think I could think beyond my desire to keep them safe, because they are so special to me.   And that means I love them.  I love my friends.  The same can be said for the animals that come to love us. How many times have we read or heard of a trusted pet saving his master, even at the cost of that animal’s own life?

But some Christians will say God is love, and some even say that people can’t know love until they are Christians.   So what does that mean then?  If the godless are able to love, if those of us separated from the wellspring from which all love must flow, are able to love, where does it come from?  How do we get it?   Is it not love to care for someone so much you’re pretty sure you’d die for them, do something crazy like jump in front of a car to save them–when under normal circumstances you’d be too afraid?

My feeling is if a being can love another, that being has worth.  I see love for me shining in my cats’ eyes.  They are cats, and some Christians would say they are soulless and there is no place for animals in heaven.  Like their loving and gracious God would create soulless living, breathing shells for us to do with as we please, disposable life that has less value than we do for us to use up and throw away.

Can human beings love deeply, and in some cases love as deeply as some love children, something soulless?  I can say I love my car, or my motorcycle, or the coat I just got.  I can say I love the new shiny nick-knack on my shelf, or I love my new cell phone, or my IPAD.   But would I hurt in my heart for days or weeks or even years if I lost these things?  Probably not.  Do these things come to me when I’m hurting and press against me, comfort me?   Definitely not.   So why do we respond so differently to animals than we do to these other things?   Could it be because animals do have souls and love us back?  And there’s that L word again that we godless are not supposed to understand or know about.

Honestly, I think anyone who has had any kind of close attachment to animals knows better.  if there’s such a thing as souls, certainly animals have them just as we would, because they can love, and in many cases it seems animals know more about how to love than some human beings.   Animals don’t question love, and aren’t shy at or embarrassed about showing it.  It simply is for them.  And I’m pretty sure animals don’t attribute their ability to feel love to any deity.  They love what matters to them or cares for them, what makes them feel loved, what holds them and nurtures them, just as people do.  They learn about love from being loved, just as we all do.

I think love comes from our hearts when we are given the things it takes to grow it.  i don’t think it comes from any god, or any sacrifice of ourselves we must make first.   I think all people have the capacity for love, and to love, but I think some of us have more than others.  Just like some people can run faster, or jump higher, or lift more weight, I think some of us can love more completely, more deeply, more lastingly, than others.

I know I love my friends.  I know I have never been able to stop loving anyone; even friends who have turned on me or betrayed me, always down the road I find room in my heart to forgive them and care still.   This is my strength, and not everyone understands it.  And certainly it has caused me some trouble in the past, trouble letting go of a friend dear to me.  But it’s a part of me, my capacity to love, and I have not lost one bit of it, or any other so-called “fruits of the Spirit,”  by becoming atheist.