Jan C. H. M. Hillegers, Theologian and Franciscan
Survival is a creative art. All manner of organisms, plants as well as animals, possess this skill. In order to do so, they have all developed their own particular characteristics and peculiarities, which serve to solve problems.
Whichever creature manages to solve the problems they are presented with most effectively, under changing circumstances, wins the battle for existence and survives. The ones that choose the wrong alternative, come to nothing. Whether a choice is a good or a bad one, only becomes clear after the fact. Charles Darwin studied this capacity for problem-solving.
In nature, problem-solving as a means of survival usually follows certain fixed patterns and unchanging laws. It is determined by the animal’s anatomic build, by its instincts and by the social organization of animal populations. Polar bears, for example, have developed thick coats in a colour which matches their surroundings, in order to be able to catch seals in an icy climate. Wolves work together in a pack when hunting and cacti are able to survive on the prairie because very little moisture evaporates from these plants and their needles prevent them from being eaten. Swallows migrate, spiders weave webs. These survival strategies have become etched in stone, as it were, and have taken on an independent and autonomous existence as fixed patterns. The animals and plants, the organisms in other words, have become the prisoners of the patterns they have developed over generations, through evolution. The structure has come to determine their life. The snail is “stuck with” its shell, as the peacock is with its tail. It is because the pattern has become inflexible and rigid that organisms sometimes die out when circumstances change too radically in too short a time. Adjustment or adaptation is possible only on a very limited scale. In these kinds of situations, what was the “right solution” has become a “deadly fixation”.
In an analogous way, human societies have also had to find solutions to all manner of problems in order to survive. These solutions have taken permanent and concrete forms; they are laid down in the structures, institutions, organizations and rules which together form social reality. Here too we can see evidence of fixation and inflexibility, though. Structures and institutions tend to become increasingly independent and autonomous in relation to society as a whole. They can ossify into almost unquestionable axioms, unmentionable taboos, irrational myths or “holy cows”. Man has by then become the prisoner of the structure which he once called into being himself. What was once a “good solution” can now lead to a stifling and potentially fatal situation, simply because circumstances often change drastically.
To name a few examples: once economic growth was seen as the solution to poverty. Child assistance was meant to promote the educational opportunities of children from low-income families. The car was seen as a way of improving people’s mobility. The fact that Catholics had large families was seen as a driving force behind catholic emancipation. The recruitment of “guest workers” was seen as a way of keeping prosperity on track by filling up job vacancies. The multicultural society was promoted in order to let foreigners be themselves.
Al these successful solutions do not necessarily remain successful or appropriate. Now circumstances have changed fundamentally, those solutions which were once deemed adequate or reasonable have now come to seem like rigid structures which have a stifling effect. Man, these days, sometimes seems like a spider in a wind tunnel, which keeps on trying to construct a web regardless of the fact that it is never going to succeed. A rabbit which tries to dig its warren in concrete will only end up hurting its paws. A small country which asserts the need for its population to grow from 10 to 15 million inhabitants, because it was once possible for its population to double from 5 to 10 million, is heading towards its downfall. You simply cannot continue to cover the land with concrete and asphalt indeterminately. Thankfully there are some people who realize this.
Worse still, solutions which were suitable under certain circumstances, turn out to be fatal in when circumstances change. The foundation CVTM regards people wanting to maintain a global population of six billion as just such a fatal and disastrous error. In the opinion of the foundation, it would be appropriate and responsible to actively aim for a world population of 3 billion, and a national population of 10 million or under in the case of the Netherlands.
Many politicians hold on to the solutions which proved adequate in the past and refuse to acknowledge that these might prove fatal in he present or future. It is unclear whether this obstinate, conservative attitude stems from stupidity, fear or the perverted pursuit of power. Perhaps it is a combination of these motives. From this politically conservative standpoint, superficial solutions are presented as real solutions, and bungled schemes as revolutionary innovations: allowing excessive traffic to make use of the hard shoulders of motorways; increasing the fees foreigners have to pay for residency permits by 20 percent; constructing a city on land reclaimed from the sea; spreading the school holidays in order to prevent traffic congestion; such measures as parking meters, high-rise buildings etc.
A Modified Response
We have been dealing with too much of the same here in the Netherlands. After two “purple” government coalitions - so-called because they included the labour party (red) and the liberal party (blue) - in the recent past, we are now have a cabinet which may have a different makeup but is, to all intents, a third “purple” cabinet. A change seemed to be afoot, but these hopes came to nothing when Pim Fortuyn was murdered and his followers, subsequently, destroyed his party through in-fighting. What is needed now is a form of politics which addresses overpopulation head-on. The clock is ticking, because the evolutionary answer to the changing circumstances only develops at a very slow pace. We do not have hundreds of thousands of years in which to solve the current obstacle to our survival. The price we will have to pay when our exploited and provoked planet strikes back, may well be too high. If that proves to be the case, homo sapiens will be one more on the list of extinct species, along with the dinosaurs, the mammoth and the dodo! Our rational capacities, however, are the instrument with which we can change the circumstances that have got out of control and are now threatening us. Let us then use our common sense and choose a truly appropriate course of action, namely to rigorously limit the size of the world population, starting in the Netherlands.
A number of inspiring thoughts were taken from: “Het verschijnsel wetenschap”(Science as a Phenomenon) , by H. Koningsveld. ISBN 90 6009 238 4