Opinion | A selfish look at immigration control

It took three light changes for me to get across the 88th and State intersection. I had opted for that route because 4th Street is normally jammed up in the afternoon. Too many people. Too many cars. Not enough arterials. And there will never be enough arterials because population-growth continues to outpace development.

Those of us who remember Tom Sawyer-type childhoods like a little space around us but that kind of space has yielded to population influx. High-rises and zero lot-lines define today’s world for children who, lacking the freedom of bygone space, fill spare hours with electronic adventures. Kids are adaptable.

There were 2.1 billion people in the world the year I was born. The current global population has risen to 6.8 billion for an increase of 324 percent within less than one lifetime. Compare that with the 25 percent rise in global population between the years 1000 to 1500 when global population climbed from 400 million to 500 million. It’s a marvel that population increased at all then, considering the Black Plague, constant warring and the Little Ice Age. What if they had possessed, as we do now, disease control, relative peace, and the ability to ship foodstuffs to areas of famine?

Like everyone, I’m concerned about starving Haitians and catastrophic flooding of Bangladesh farmlands. But I’m also concerned that world population overload seems to be moving to Marysville for the express purpose of jamming up traffic (my version) or finding work so they might feed their families (their version).

Thomas Malthus (1766-1834) theorized that natural controls work to limit population. He observed that over time, population tends to increase geometrically as 1-2-4-8-16-32 while agricultural output increases in an arithmetic 1-2-3-4-5 fashion. He wrote that whenever population outpaces food-supply, starvation thins us out. He also predicted that as we grow in number, we live closer to each other which encourages epidemic disease like plague, again knocking down our numbers.

For a Christian clergyman, Malthus had no heart for helping the needy. In fact he recommended encouraging disease to control population, writing, “Instead of recommending cleanliness to the poor, we should encourage contrary habits. In our towns we should make the streets narrower, crowd more people into the houses, and court the return of the plague. In the country, we should build our villages near stagnant pools and particularly encourage settlements in all marshy and unwholesome situations.”

Malthus’ solutions are unthinkable but there are acceptable ways to reduce population growth. The branches of Christianity that historically encouraged parents to produce huge families need to back off from that. The doctor that enabled Octomom to deliver a litter of eight should be facing ethical charges. To reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, sex-education and contraception should come out from under the shadow of head-in-the-sand conservative censorship.

But most important, adopting the “It takes a village to raise a child” concept encourages childless adults to participate in the child-raising process as teachers’ aides, child-care workers, pediatric medical specialists or good neighbors. We’re seeing more transfers of children from less-capable to more-capable parents within extended families. In Hollywood and elsewhere, a wave of celebrity adoptions, foreign adoptions and gay adoptions has made adoption a popular choice for mainstream America. Interest in the adoption-option showed up on the tube with “Who’s my Daddy” and “Find my Family.”

Some weeks ago we had an opportunity to draft New Year resolutions. Ideally, resolutions should begin with inspecting things as they are and moving to make them better. Lay off the red-meat. Quit smoking. Get more exercise. Spend more time with the kids. Cut back on television and read more.

While personal resolutions are good and necessary, they ignore the huge issue of world population. What to do when there’s only so much land and natural resources and 6.8 billion people clamor for their share. At the rate we Americans consume resources, there isn’t enough to go around. While we make resolutions to be nicer to each other and treat our bodies better, a veritable tsunami of legal and illegal immigrants floods our shores. Dealing with that should be a high-priority New Year resolution.

To get a grip on the situation it’s necessary to accept the big reason so many children are being born. Where life is perilous, parents breed like crazy since children are their only form of old-age security. Where life offers unbounded opportunity and security, families are small.

So here’s the situation: If we want to keep our nation from being totally engulfed by waves of newcomers seeking work, space, food, shelter and opportunity, we’d better do what we can to help improve economic opportunity in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and elsewhere. This can’t be put off because, as you read this, a big part of that 6.8 billion people is thinking that sleeping under a bridge in America beats the hopeless grinding poverty of home.

Comments may be addressed to rgraef@frontier.com.

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