I got distracted today by an email from a fellow venture investor who in response to yesterday's post asked what, in light of my pro-natalist stance, I thought about overpopulation and hence the potential moral superiority of adopting versus having own children.
First off, I think it's a very good question to address because this issue comes up again and again in the context of climate change and environmentalism. And so this is what I wrote to them in response:
I don't believe overpopulation is a real issue. The carrying capacity of the world when we were hunter-gatherers was maybe a few hundred million people. Now we're supporting 8 billion. Environmental capacity isn't the limiter; how many people we can feed is determined by technology and social systems. Just look at how much land we farm today versus at 3 billion (25% more?), productivity is just much higher. The Malthusian argument has been made again and again and it's reality that rebuts it (see https://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/14/opinion/overpopulation-is-not-the-problem.html).
We're at 25 people/km2. You can fit a few billion into Texas alone if you tried. The Israelis are farming the desert. And in any case fertility rates are approaching replacement globally. I don't think we're anywhere close to reaching the limit of human ingenuity on e.g. food tech or social systems for that matter.
What's driving this overpopulation argument is the "death cult" of environmentalism (this is an unnecessarily incendiary way to word it, but there's some truth to it). This worldview holds nature as sacred and humans as evil, when the reality is more that nature is just nature and humanity has the capacity, alone among natural beings, of choosing good versus evil. Don't get me wrong: I think we have stewardship of nature and should take good care of it. But nature is more sister than mother.
Every child is a blessing. Every child could be the next great entrepreneur, scientist, saint, explorer, etc. But the mystery of life is that all of us are called to contribute in some way to the great story that's playing out. Did de Gaulle's handicapped child, his great love, mean that he became softer at heart at the end of WW2? Does this mean that the inheritance of a peaceful Europe is the achievement really of Anne de Gaule, the child with Down syndrome? I believe a lot of this stuff is not visible, but we each play a part in it.
Our calling is to make this world such that everyone can reach their full potential, albeit not in an economic sense: "the glory of God is man fully alive"...
In that sense I love adoption. Steve Jobs was adopted. I think it might be morally superior to natural parenthood in the sense that you have to empty yourself of selfishness without the biological helpers that evolution has given us for our natural children. I think it's one of the greatest acts of charity/love you can give, it reduces suffering in the world etc. Sadly most governments make it really hard to adopt children at a young age. So that's an even bigger challenge to then take on kids that have been through neglect/abuse and some foster care. It's heartbreakingly difficult for both parents and kids.
I think adoption may be a real vocation, especially if you have the economic and emotional means. I think it takes deep discernment on the part of adoptive and biological parents to make the right call. But what a wonderful gift it can be for the world.
I hope to return to Part II of the "profound decline" thesis tomorrow.