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Overpopulation, The Environment and Adoption: An Urgent Call to Action

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"I respect the secrets and magic of nature. That's why it makes me so angry when I see these things that are happening, you know, that every second, I hear, the size of a football field is torn down in the Amazon. I mean, that kind of stuff really bothers me. ... I love the planet. ... I love it. ... People are always saying, 'Oh, they'll take care of it. The government'll... Don't worry, they'll...' 'They' who? It starts with us. It's us, or else it'll never be done."
--Michael Jackson, "This Is It"

Michael Jackson's film "This Is It" astonished me. I had no idea that he was such an environmentalist, or how his creative life was fueled by his passion for Planet Earth. His posthumous film touched a place in me that instigated a call to action. Thus this short piece on how to heed M.J.'s warning: do something before it's too late.

With the advent of vaccines, technology and industrialized ways of living, life span has increased since our grandparents were kids. By 2050, it is estimated that the planet will house more than 9 billion people. Though birth control is available to those who know about it and choose to use it, it is my belief that educating our youth about creating a family must now include the topics of overpopulation, the environment and adoption. It is no longer OK to only discuss safe sex with our hormone-driven, adolescent population. We now must, if our planet is to survive, show our children how poverty, environmental disasters and garbage are a direct result of too many people living on Planet Earth, consuming -- at least in the Western world -- far more than our share of resources.

My 4-year-old, Ethiopian-born daughter lives as a privileged American, with all the perks that come with this. She uses the computer to play "Curious George" and "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" games. She eats macaroni-and-cheese for dinner, and if she swallows the broccoli on her plate, she is rewarded with an ice cream sandwich for desert -- all organic. Her best friend at preschool, the 4-year-old son of a surgeon and a scientist, got an iPad for his last birthday. His grandmother gave it to him, under the guise that she wanted to be able to Skype with him often. And, as hypocritical as this may make me sound, I thought this was really cool.

This one 4-year-old will eventually trade in his iPad for the next new thing. My daughter will, no doubt, eventually get hers, as well. The old equipment, if not disposed of consciously (and this takes some homework; ask your local Best Buy for help), will end up in a landfill. We are two families among billions who may think about where our used items end up being dumped, but may not always take the time to do the right thing. This thought alone has been enough to kick my rant about choosing adoption first into the highest gear possible.

I'm frightened about our future. And I want every child to be scared, too. Because sometimes fear is the only motivator that clicks the mind over and presents new ideas that may, generations down the road, make a difference.

Included in my book, "Finding Aster: Our Ethiopian Adoption Story" (February 2011, Inkwater Press), are three appendices, one that focuses on the topic of overpopulation. Researching for this section, I came upon a "belief" that is the basis for a movement called the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, or VHEMT. Rather than viewing human life as something to be destroyed, they actually consider their movement as "the humanitarian alternative to human disasters."

In an article published in the San Francisco Chronicle, Les Knight, the spokesperson for VHEMT, discusses his passion for Planet Earth. Reading the author's thoughts as he interviews Knight, I was struck with how similar Knight's feelings about Earth are to Michael Jackson's. But unlike Jackson, who used music and film to illustrate his point, Knight employs words. And though there is something quite powerful about seeing an image and feeling emotive music to get a message into one's consciousness, there is also strength in reading a clear and direct message. I have found a "like mind" in Knight, and know that this ideology about voluntarily deciding to stop breeding is controversial. However, it can also be a seed-planter.

Several years after this article was published, Knight provided a statement for my book, "Finding Aster." In part, it reads:

Adopting existing children avoids adding another wildlife habitat usurper to the excessive billions of us, provides parenting opportunities for couples who feel qualified, and gives life-saving care to children who would be languishing in miserable conditions. Until we eliminate the inhumane conditions which create orphans, an urgent, unfilled need for compassionate parents continues unabated. Adoption isn't a complete solution, it's simply the best we can do with a deplorable situations.

Though I did not start out on the path of adoption, or writing a book about the experience, to promote adoption as a way to help heal the planet, as Oprah often has said (quoting Maya Angelou), "When you know better, you do better." It is my greatest hope that presenting the idea of choosing adoption as a first choice rather than a last option will plant knowing seeds in fertile minds and encourage people who inhabit this planet to make choices that perhaps they might not have made.

Maybe if a woman deeply feels the desire to give birth, she will do it one time, then decide that adopting to grow her family is the most conscious choice to make. Maybe if a couple finds that they cannot sustain a pregnancy, rather than go find a fertility doctor to prescribe drugs that possibly will make her pregnant, these people will decide that adoption is the better option.

The time has come to see that choosing adoption as a first choice, not a last option, for growing your family is the right thing to do -- for the planet, for a woman's body, and for the parentless children who ache for family.