-40 years ago, a new generation of people emerged from the world’s mass. The people that understood population growth can be stopped and in order to ensure a future for the entire planet, took the decision not to have kids and instead adopt or simply not raise children at all. I was one of them and this is the story I was asked to share with you today.
My audience was all ears. It was like telling a bedtime story, with a soft and deep voice.
-In 2018, the world was truly desperate and more crowded than ever. There was pressure on access to water, food supply, land use and housing for 9 billion people. The edge of wars and survival of the fittest was near. Small corruption was everywhere as limited resources could barely ensure the needs of the many — so each family had to care for their own, in their own ways. This was a sign that changed everything.
When someone has to take responsibility, but no one wants to do it, what is there to be done? A compromise, or a craziness.
We knew colonizing Mars was a premature plan and we were running out of time. Our planet could not hold us any longer under those certain conditions. The solution was there, but maybe painful to admit. In 2018, we launched a global red alarm for voluntarily giving up the choice of having kids — for both men and women. There were already people who took the decision long before, so we wanted to see how many exactly, and build a mathematical growth model from there. At first, there were 100 000 000 from all over the world who subscribed to their local city halls on an evidence list. We wanted to base this on trust, as we fiercely discussed this at the Headquarters. No rewards, no incentives, and definitely no punishments. Surprisingly, the process was peaceful, saddening, but also a starting point.
As the initiative raised increased awareness and the reality of suffocation in the crowded urban landscape with all those megalopolises linked among each other like monsters was inevitable, more and more joined. The church, the mosque, the synagogue were also very supportive, and I am grateful for that. Strange how people consider not having children as a sin towards God. Well there wouldn’t have been a God with all the people gone — or something like that. Humanity was not defined by procreating anymore.
The entire perspective on what makes a human, human changed drastically. We were creating something even bigger: a true legacy, beyond a primitive meaning and old-fashioned human nature.
To our awe, not having the pressure of establishing families with children, people were finding purpose in other things. It was incredible. They made time for arts and music and love and raising orphans if they so wanted. Divorce rates went down in a few years — we did not want it to become a new normal, but just until there was enough balance to support a new era of children. Having a child is not a burden necessarily, but imagine: without constraints from the church and judgment from society, people felt a sort of freedom in their lives. Freedom to take care of themselves only, or their partners, and also be more involved in the community, adopting stray dogs, cats and even volunteering to help neighbours with kids. People who were not judged by their sexual orientation choice anymore and did not have to pay huge tuition fees for their heirs. Soon, more than half of the population adhered to the programme.
In the meantime, we launched a funding programme for massively investing in accelerating the population process of Mars. A very lengthy process indeed, but we thought if we correlated slowing the population growth down and advancing technological research and experiments for inhabiting another planet, we might have a chance at survival. Nevertheless, even our initiative was slow. By 2030, death rates stabilised because as I said, the community came together in a different way. People lived longer, were healthier and dedicated themselves to all these changes in food security and nutrition. Less people also meant less people to feed. It brought relief to soils and crops and forests. Technically, people were not “dying” young anymore as they did at the rates of 2018, and that was a steady point in the population growth formula. Taking people who still had children, people who lived longer and people who decided not to have children was still a big number. That’s how sustainability works, anyway. But we were on the right track.
By 2045, total population decreased to levels of 2010 and did not show signs of growing. Even new born children were educated as adults with these two choices. In our times, we knew since kids that we need to marry and have other kids ourselves, because that’s what society does. But in 2045, the world was so different and it was looking at itself with new eyes.
Symbolically, we called ourselves the Sacrificers. We gave up our choice of having children in order for children of humanity to survive in the future. In order for a future to exist at all. In a peaceful way. With 10 billion people and a growing rage in the very next years, violence and death would have been a solution back then. We did not want that. To let triviality decide the fate of the people of the Earth would have been an act of cowardice. The question “What was needed?” was not enough. We had to do what was needed, what was ethical, and what was responsible.
Perhaps you, kids, define morality in a different way now, and at my age, I know for sure we’ve been through several definitions in time. :) And now here we are, in 2060, talking as if we’re next to each other, but close enough through a virtual reality. We’ve come an unbelievably long way.
A thin hand raised in the air.
-Professor, could there have been another way? Depriving oneself of having children should be terribly cruel. How do you know it was the right choice?
I took a moment to look outside the window door, through my garden and beyond, as you often see actors do that in the movies, to add a dramatic touch to a moment. I saw a tall silhouette reflected in the mirror, with white long and wavy hair. No, it was not Dumbledore, it was me. How could I have explained my belief in the greater good?
-Because it was the hard choice. Once you let emotions aside and see there’s more to life, from a rational perspective, but also an ethical one considering the alternatives of violence, crime and murders, we reached this decision. The good news is that you, dears, will be the first generation who, if so wishes, in 10 years could bring new babies to a better world. By the time they grow into young adults ready to have a family, Mars will be a valid option for humans. Well, they’ll be called Martians I guess.
-Let’s take a break, shall we? I’d be glad to discuss other compelling ideas and questions after the recess.
I turned off my transmission and went outside. I was a bit old, but did not feel like it. Still, I could not help but wonder if by the time Mars would be populated, I’d still be alive to witness it. But that was alright. I had done enough for moment being and contributed my part, alongside other Sacrificers who had understood the mission and had seen the bigger, longer-term future. Turns out when you believe long enough in people and hold on to that belief, that people are inherently good and have good intentions, they act accordingly.
Those children were my children too. I gave my womb not to one child, or two, but to humanity. Together, we offered the gift of life to life itself.
***This is the first time I write a story like this. Hope you liked it. There’s a plot twist if you’d like to know, but you have to ask for it in the comments. :)