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CALUMET . intercultural law and humanities review
ISSN 2465-0145 (on-line)
Clashing Overpopulation(s): The Religious, the Secular, and the Unnatural “Conception” of Human Multitudes with Rights
Vazquez M.
Overpopulation is a fraught concept because it immediately involves several competing ideas. First, the primary objectives of the human race vis a vis reproduction. Second, conflicting ecological understandings of the planet and the human impact on it, and finally, complex contradictions regarding what humans can and should “do” about all these conflicts. At the heart of the ensuing conflicts is the impossibility of definitively casting the issue of overpopulation as an exclusively natural/biological problem or instead a social/cultural problem: population straddles these domains at every angle. Discussions of “human nature,” as something internal and inexorable slide messily into discourse regarding “Nature,” intended as something outside, surrounding us. Any decision taken in an attempt to solve population excesses collides headlong into “natural” circumstances alongside those which are manmade. “Preserving” land or planting trees are often accompanied by the evacuation of people. Clearing land for industrial production similarly produces the displacement of people or the compromising of their living conditions, and then pollution and resource extraction with a broad negative impact on humans. Using medically assisted means to produce children currently results in thousands of “excess” embryos. The choice to avoid all “intervention” in support of “natural” reproduction has similarly led to bourgeoning populations. These contradictions demonstrate how it is impossible to cleanly separate (or universally define) “human nature” and “planetary/outside nature” because both are continuously built, or constructed, in evident but also more subtle ways. There is no pre-existing singular “nature” inside nor outside that exists without our inventions and interventions. The positive side of this conundrum is that we have creative tools available to invent and intervene. Both religious and secular approaches to the challenges of “nature” have cognitive as well as ethical/moral contributions that can be leveraged toward the construction of new solutions. We must compare these dimensions meaningfully if we are to have any hope of solving an increasingly cramped ecological coexistence. If we can unpack the components of a wider span of ideas about Nature and its contrasting legitimations, we may find possibilities for categorical openings, ways of seeing that reveal new creative approaches to realizing human needs and desires while simultaneously attending to steadily growing and ever more urgent environmental concerns.




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