Several years ago after I had my first child, I was facilitation a discussion during a Yoga Teacher Training course. One of the participants put forward the motion: “Yoga people should choose not to birth children; having children in an over-populated world is selfish”. Lately there has been a lot of mention in the media of adoption from the Global South (aka the Third World). Although I absolutely support educational and medical initiatives and grass-roots development project etc., I find the idea of adoption to reduce overpopulation a problematic one.
Firstly, only recently is the media actively covering the looming and very problematic phenomena of underpopulation in the Global North (aka Developed World). Under population is such a critical issue in countries like Japan, Korea, Italy, and Spain that in a few generations MOST people will have no brothers, no sisters, no aunts, no uncles, and no cousins. So our concept of family as one of the cohesive threads of society will severely tested. Of course, we are already seeing a move towards “chosen families”, and people who create family-like units and joint, creative families. But under population will also severely cripple the social system that many of us so value – universal medical care, successful public education, a safety net etc.
The decreasing birthrate already shows that many of us are choosing not to parent children at all, birthed or adopted. This makes it even less likely that mass adoption would equal out the population crisis. So rather than depending on continued and vastly increased immigration and the challenges of displacement, and vastly increased Third World adoption, would not increasing education for women in the Third World (proven to decrease overpopulation), access to planned parenthood, and on our side of the globe, a more family-friendly society that would encourage new generations to take on the task of parenting again, be preferable, simpler and more viable long-term options? How coy – this is not really a question. If left un-addressed, over-population in Africa and India will not be solved by adoption or immigration. If left un-addressed, under-population in Canada will not be solved by adoption or immigration alone.
Suffice it to say that I do not think it is selfish in our world to give birth to our own children in the West. Rather, I believe that our society needs us to continue to re-invent what it means to us to be mothers (parents) in the modern world. Many people having spent years in universities and/or in downtown corporations where there was little interactions with children and families, who did not grow up in a large family themselves, are removed from the experience of life with children, breast feeding women, babies in slings. It is simply a symptom of how removed we are from nature in general. Can families again become more integrated into the fabric of our society? Can we learn to better support families as they navigate childcare and work? I do hope so.