Human Population Control: Background information when reading Birds of a Lesser Paradise

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Birds of a Lesser Paradise

Stories

by Megan Mayhew Bergman

Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mayhew Bergman
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2012, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2012, 256 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Morgan Macgregor

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Human Population Control

Print Review

In Bergman's story "Yesterday's Whales," Lauren faces a tough decision when she discovers she's pregnant. Lauren and her boyfriend Malachi are proponents of "voluntary human extermination," and as such have signed a "No Breeding Pledge." Malachi, in fact, is the founder of a non-profit called Enough with Us, a population control organization modeled after the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT), a group that proposes to "Phase out the human race by voluntarily ceasing to breed," so that "Earth's biosphere can return to good health."

When we think about human population control in contemporary times, we usually think of government intervention into human reproduction, like China's one-child policy. But since the 1960s, the human population control movement has become increasingly more diverse, and championed for reasons like environmental impact, infant-death rates, overcrowding, ecological scarcity, and biodiversity.

Population Bomb book jacket In 1968, Stanford University Professor Paul R. Ehrlich published The Population Bomb, in which he predicted human starvation on a massive scale within his lifetime. Ehrlich started the organization Zero Population Growth (now called Population Connection), whose mission statement is: "Overpopulation threatens the quality of life for people everywhere. Population Connection is the national grassroots population organization that educates young people and advocates progressive action to stabilize world population at a level that can be sustained by Earth's resources."

Population Connection does not call for the extinction of human life on earth, and their main thrust is, currently, "to ensure that every woman around the world who wants to delay or end her childbearing has access to the health services and contraceptive supplies she needs in order to do so." Yet, as we move into the 21st century, some streams of population control advocacy, like VHEMT, are proposing agendas that may seem, to many people, rather extreme.

Les U. Knight was a proponent of Zero Population Growth in the seventies, and went on to found VHEMT, whose motto is: "May we live long and die out." Knight says, "We're the only species evolved enough to consciously go extinct for the good of all life, or which needs to. Success would be humanity's crowning achievement."

What about low-impact living, or a one-child policy? Knight says that's not enough: "I do think that if you added up a whole lifetime of one person, even living lightly, reproducing would bump you up into the Hummer-driver category.... In light of the number of species going extinct because of our increase, and the tens of thousands of children dying every day from preventable causes, there's just no good reason to have a child. We have to ignore all those children to create another one."

Criticism of VHEMT has been sharp, and Knight's public comments tend to incite ridicule. In an interview with Macleans magazine, Brian Bethune called Knight's claim, that "the last humans could enjoy their final sunsets peacefully, knowing they have returned the planet as close as possible to the Garden of Eden," "absurd," and his stance "anti-human."

We see this issue cropping up everywhere these days, even in fiction. A good chunk of Jonathan Franzen's Freedom centers around Walter, a man seemingly obsessed with population control.

In America, the most visible population control movement centers around Negative Population Growth, an organization that, "promotes concepts such as 'the two-child family', lowered rates of migration to the United States, and the development of conceptual systems such as the steady state economy." They believe that a healthy American population would lie between 150 and 200 million, and that the ideal world population is 2-3 billion.

As we stand now, (approximately 311 million in the USA, and a global population a little more than 7 billion), it looks like all varieties of population control, from the moderate to total human extinction, have a lot of work to do.

Article by Morgan Macgregor

This article was originally published in March 2012, and has been updated for the November 2012 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access become a member today.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    My Name Is Leon
    by Kit De Waal
    Kit de Waal's striking debut, My Name is Leon, has inspired this big, long, complicated question: ...
  • Book Jacket: New People
    New People
    by Danzy Senna
    Danzy Senna has spent virtually her entire writing career exploring the complicated intersections of...
  • Book Jacket: Hunger
    Hunger
    by Roxane Gay
    In this penetrating and fearless memoir, author Roxane Gay discusses her battle with body acceptance...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt

Cruel Beautiful World examines the intricate, infinitesimal distance between seduction and love, loyalty and duty.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Young Jane Young
    by Gabrielle Zevin

    From the author of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry comes a novel that will have everyone talking.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Hame

Hame by Annalena McAfee

A rich, sultry novel about a young American fleeing a crumbling marriage for a remote Scottish island.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A F Out O W

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.