Poor, planet, pope, and poppycock

When Jesus walked the earth, only about 200 million other people were doing the same.  The entire Earth held fewer people than the US does today.  But even this small population had already turned vast areas of the Middle East and Central Asia into desert.

9780753464595.IN02Today, Jesus’ reputed messenger, the pope, is walking the earth with more than 7 billion other people.  There is no newspaper delivery or TV at Meadowcreek, but we have heard that the world is fascinated with the pope’s visit to the US.  His message, we’re told, is to save the poor and the planet.  He doesn’t mention overpopulation.  He values human life from conception to as long as we can prolong it.  He doesn’t mention any other species–not one of the thousands humans are driving into extinction.

Every resilient species tries to overpopulate its world.  The white pine lays down masses of needles which create acid conditions that most other plants can’t stand.  Then it drops multitudes of pine cones.  If every seed in every pine cone survived, the entire planet would be covered with pines in no time.   One pair of rabbits could easily produce millions of offspring in a few years.  A single frog can lay 20,000 eggs.  If each was cared for and turned into a tadpole and then another frog, how long would it take to cover the plant with frogs?

Every resilient species produces as many offspring as it can.  Most species care for and protect their young ferociously.  Try to get between a mama bear and its cub.  All normal humans like little babies and respond to a baby’s cry.  Any who don’t are viewed as inhuman.  Growing up the oldest of eight, I took care of lots of babies.  I still want to help whenever I hear a baby’s cry.

So the pope’s message tugs at the heart strings of most everyone.  Of course, we should cherish our children.  Of course we should help the poor and disabled.  We are like every other species, we want to protect our own and help them flourish.

The coyotes at Meadowcreek are also glad to see lots of little bunnies.  Rabbits need to produce lots of offspring because disease and coyotes will get most of them.  Many human tribes are still producing lots of offspring because the same forces of disease and predators have shaped our attitudes and behavior.

Even in the most densely populated regions, people want to have children and lots of them.  In one of the most densely populated countries, Uganda, village chiefs bragged to me about their twenty-plus children with more expected from their three to five wives.

The problem is that we have conquered many diseases and all predators.  In the world where Jesus walked, having lots of children was required so that at least some would survive.  Most people in the world still want lots of children and grandchildren and nearly all survive and reproduce.

But the pope is concerned about the planet, especially climate change, he tells us.  Concern for the environment has joined caring for little babies, the poor and the hungry as one of the warm fuzzies we hope our children learn early in life.

The pope’s message is great for Sunday School.  Little children need to hear it.  Some will repeat the sonorous platitudes over and over.  That’s fine and creates a thick blanket of good will.

When we wake up from the sermon, we realize it contains two opposing messages: help everyone have lots of children and consume lots of resources and somehow also save the planet.

We’d like him to tell us how to do both.  And how peace is maintained when people fight over limited resources.  But he gathers up his richly brocaded robes and his gold incense pots and goes back to Rome.


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