Christine E. Gudorf, Body, Sex, and Pleasure:
Reconstructing Christian Sexual Ethics (Pilgrim 1994) Ch. 2: 29-50.
One of the most serious enduring obstacles to a sexual ethic which is humane, just, and protects both human and non‑human creation is procreationism. Procreationism is the assumption that sex is naturally oriented toward creation of human life. This assumption remains central to most Western cultural understandings of sexual activity. Most Christians assume that procreationism is a Roman Catholic problem. Because artificial contraception has been accepted by one Protestant denomination after another over the decades, since the Anglicans at the Lambeth Conference of 1930 permitted the use of contraceptives in abnormal cases, it is generally assumed that procreationism has been overcome in Protestantism. But procreationism is a much broader and deeper phenomenon than a ban on the use of artificial contraceptives, and it is embedded in Western history and culture in ways of which we are scarcely conscious. There are at least three major areas in which procreationism is apparent in our society.
The first is the common understanding that coitus is the sexual act, with all other sexual practices understood as either perversions to be avoided, or foreplay designed to prepare for the "real" sex act. The limitation of "real sex" to penile‑vaginal intercourse has no other explanation than the assumption that "real sex" is procreative: penile‑vaginal intercourse is the only procreative sexual act. In our society this understanding of penile‑vaginal intercourse as the "real thing" is so pervasive as to be taken for granted. Some sex manuals, much of the electronic media, and even many medical institutions and personnel treat penile‑vaginal intercourse as the "main event" and describe all else as "foreplay." Many therefore take for granted that when penile‑vaginal sex is not possible/advisable, sex is ruled out altogether. Immediately after childbirth or abdominal surgery, during heavy menstrual flow, in the absence of contraceptive protection, during drug therapy which reduces erection, and in many other situations as well, much of our society understands that abstinence is required. The fact that many sexual activities are possible which do not require vaginal penetration by an erect penis is ignored. The general assumption is that such activities are not and cannot be ultimately satisfying in themselves, because they are designed only as preludes to the real thing.
The second problem with procreationism is that it denigrates sexual relationships in which coitus is not possible. From a procreationist perspective, lesbians do not have real or legitimate sex, but "only" foreplay, because real/legitimate sex requires an impregnating penis. Furthermore, this attitude is the foundation of two common pieces of misinformation about gays and lesbians: that the primary gay sexual activity is anal intercourse, and that lesbian sex centers on the use of dildos. In fact, anal intercourse is a distant third after fellatio and mutual masturbation in terms of regular sexual practice among gay men. Dildos are even rarer among lesbians; their use is a distinct minority practice.
This understanding of penile‑vaginal intercourse as the only real sex is also a source of a great deal of unnecessary sexual deprivation among the handicapped and the elderly Persons incapable of coitus—or thought to be incapable of coitus—such as the very elderly, wheelchair patients, amputees, paraplegics, and those left impotent by disease or injury, are often viewed as asexual and treated as such. Among the elderly, some persons give up on sex as not appropriate after female menopause. As erection becomes less full/reliable and traditional positions for intercourse become too demanding for stiff joints and weak muscles, many of the elderly are subtly and not so subtly coerced into unnecessarily giving up sex altogether rather than adapting sexual practice to those activities still possible and pleasurable. This is true for the physically handicapped of any age. The failure to instruct the handicapped in ways to give and receive sexual pleasure not only deprives them, but has contributed to a great deal of unnecessary stress and suffering within their relationships and would‑be relationships.
The third area in which procreationism exhibits itself in our society concerns attitudes towards contraception. Especially among the unmarried, procreationism too easily supports an understanding of children as the "cost" of sex. This understanding encourages sexual activity without contraception as more moral than sex with contraception, even when conception is neither desired nor advisable, and thus encourages irresponsible parenthood. Some unwilling parents, caught in such a situation, feel that the resulting children owe parents for the inconvenience of their rearing.
If coitus is to be a couple's preferred method of making love, it should be so because it conveys greater mutual pleasure and satisfaction, and/or because the couple is consciously trying to conceive. But it should not be assumed that because coitus can be reproductive, it is therefore the most pleasurable, natural, or appropriate act, as procreationism has implied.
None of this sexual deprivation, discrimination, or contraceptive risk is necessary or justifiable. We have a growing body of research that demonstrates that penile‑vaginal intercourse, is not the only avenue to sexual satisfaction, and may not even be the most effective avenue to sexual satisfaction, especially in women. Women report that masturbation produces stronger orgasms than penile‑vaginal intercourse, and lesbian women report higher rates of orgasm than heterosexual women. Furthermore, between 56% and 70% of women cannot reach orgasm from penile‑vaginal intercourse alone. They require direct clitoral stimulation either in cunnilingus or through manual manipulation in order to reach orgasm.
Some men report that their most frequent sexual fantasy is not of penile‑vaginal intercourse, but of fellatio. Research shows that fellatio is the most common fantasy of male college students, even during penile‑vaginal intercourse. Among men, the most frequently purchased sexual service in massage parlors (and from many streetwalkers) is fellatio, though coitus is more common with call girls and prostitutes in brothels.
Many different sexual activities have the capacity both to arouse and satisfy sexual desire, and to provide shared pleasure and the intimacy and bonding which can accompany such shared sexual pleasure. For most persons, the major disincentive to engaging in alternative sexual activities is negative attitudes strongly influenced by prevailing cultural procreationism. In an age when a majority of persons needs to seek protection not only from unwanted pregnancy but also from sexually transmitted diseases, "outercourse" (nonpenetrating sexual activities) and other non‑coital sexual activities should be promoted.
Another major indication of the continued presence of procreationism in Christian teaching is located in the sexual ethic taught even by those churches which accept artificial contraception—that is, the continued ban on nonmarital sex. Procreationism is the only support for this traditional ban. Traditional Christian sexual ethics, based in both scriptural stories and law on the one hand, and natural law interpretations on the other, predicated that sex was made for the purpose of procreation, and therefore sex belonged in marriage, where the marital union could provide for the needs of children conceived. All sex outside marriage was forbidden as irresponsible in that it either neglected the needs of children or ignored the will of God who both made sex produce children and desired the welfare of those children.
Given both effective contraception and acceptance of other ends for sex than procreation, traditional reasons for limiting sex to marriage are no longer compelling. Theoretically, then, we would have to find other reasons to prohibit sex between unmarried persons, whether that sexual activity was homosexual or heterosexual, solitary sex, as in masturbation, or noncoital sex for the married or unmarried. The continuation by the churches of traditional bans on all nonmarital sex without the construction of new arguments indicates a not‑so‑covert procreationism.
We need to shift from the traditional inseparability of sex and procreation, which the Roman Catholic Church and a very few others continue to officially teach, to the development of a new sexual ethic distinct from a reproductive ethic. This is not to say that sex and reproduction should be completely severed. Human sexual activity, and not technological intervention, should be the primary method of human reproduction for a number of reasons, as we shall see. But the general direction in which humanity needs to move is toward more pleasurable, spiritually fulfilling, frequent sex, coupled with a reduction in world population. I am not going to fully develop a new reproductive ethic here, but only sketch some preliminary suggestions for a reproductive ethic compatible with the reconstructed sexual ethic on which I will concentrate.
There are tremendous dangers in this area of
reproductive ethics. To raise the topic of population
stabilization—much less reduction—in a global context is to evoke
immediate and forceful critical response. Much of that response arises
from the developing world and from subordinated races and classes in the
developed world. In the nations of the developing world the history of
developed nations'—especially the United States'—involvement in the
population issue is well known and resented. That involvement can be
divided into three stages according to the dominant motivations invoked
in the developed nations: cold war, developmentalism, and
was originally during the 1950s and 1960s that the U.S. began committing
funds to poor nations to control fertility, with the object of
controlling poverty, lest conditions of increasing poverty further
destabilize those nations and make them susceptible to communist
propaganda. Since the primary purpose of the population control measures
(preventing population explosion, consequent poverty, and communist
influence) was external to the individuals in the poor nations, it is
not surprising that their dignity, aspirations, and customs were not
central to the development of the population programs. The goals of
developed nations (thwarting the spread of Communism, which was
understood to flourish in poverty) matched well with the goals of many poor governments (lowering birth
rates so as to contain social expenditures). These goals were often most
efficiently ensured by massive campaigns for inexpensive, permanent
means of contraception such as sterilization, often using coercion at
the local level, rather than by methods which could be controlled by
individuals themselves in response to their specific circumstances.
In the second phase of the developed world's
export of population control measures from the late 1960s through the
end of the 1970s developmentalism was the rationale given for population
control in the poorer nations. Here the eradication rather than the
control of poverty was the goal. The process of First World development
was thought to be understood, and it was assumed that poorer nations
were moving along the same continuum of economic development that the
richer nations had moved along, but were only delayed. The perceived
need was to move the poorer nations more rapidly along the continuum by
attempting to create the conditions which had produced economic progress
in the richer nations. The history of the Industrial Revolution showed
that both expanding industry through investment and a falling birth rate
had been central to the growth of prosperity. So U.S. developmental
policy, called developmentalism, focused on huge commercial loans to
poor countries for the purpose of industrializing, and on programs to
lower the high birth rates characteristic of agricultural nations.
While developmentalism seemed to be more aimed at benefitting the poorer nations themselves, containing Communism continued to be an important motive for U.S. involvement. From the late 1960s until the late 1980s the cold war, while in a new stage, was not over, and the U.S. was still concerned about creating sufficient prosperity in the developing world so as to shield against communist inroads. In addition, developmentalism gave the U.S. economic interests in these nations as well, since U.S. banks, and to a lesser extent the U.S. government itself, were heavily invested in the success of developmentalist policy. Especially in the case of poor nations in Latin America and the Caribbean, the U.S. also hoped that home‑grown opportunities and prosperity would over time cut down on immigration pressures on the U.S., and especially on illegal immigration. The consequent failure to focus on the needs and aspirations of the local populations allowed and even encouraged abuse in contraceptive provision, including coercion and lack of informed consent. Many governments of poor nations deliberately used U.S.‑funded population control programs to force sterilizations on large portions of the population, regardless of the age or parental status of individuals. In other nations the provision of follow‑up medical care for sterilizations and for invasive contraceptives, such as IUDs, was practically nonexistent; in some programs basic sanitary and hygienic protections were absent. Even more common was the use of emergency food distribution, employment, or other life necessities to coerce persons into the programs.
Developmentalism has been largely discredited for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it did not fulfill its purposes. What growth occurred was distributed to the already privileged classes, and in many nations the poor majorities actually became more impoverished during the periods of greatest, economic growth. But developmentalism not only failed to alleviate individual poverty for the majority of citizens in the developing world—it also failed to alleviate national poverty in the nations of what was called the Third World. Due to external debt, most developing nations are in far worse situations today than they were at the beginning of the developmentalist period, despite the fact that many of them did significantly reduce their birth rates. A basic failure of developmentalist policy was that it ignored the population base and its connection to agriculture, especially the need to make smallholder agriculture more productive as a precondition for industrialization. For these and a number of other reasons, including corruption, graft, and diversion of loan funds to other governmental uses such as military hardware, the huge loans that poor countries floated to finance industrialization did not have the desired effect. Because the loans did not produce economic growth, nations were not able to pay them off. Today terrifically high external debt burdens are the number one economic drag on poor nations—the legacy of developmentalism.
The newest First World rationale for birth limitation programs in the developing world is environmental concern. The environment is now cited as a basic reason for birth limitation programs not only in some population journals, but even in medical literature. From the point of view of many peoples of the developing world, First World interests in birth control in the poor world have been self‑serving, and this latest cause for First World interest is no exception. The First World position gets argued like this to developing nations like Brazil: "The earth has reached the level of population that it can afford. We in the developed world have just about reached a replacement‑only birth rate, but yours is much higher. As your population expands, you progressively destroy the Amazon jungle, which provides a major part of the earth's oxygen and contains a significant proportion of all the plant and animal species on the face of the earth. Every new factory or electric plant you build spews more carbon dioxide, sulfur, and other polluting chemicals into an atmosphere that has already reached its limit. You do not have the right to endanger the survival of the entire planet by irresponsibly expanding your present levels of pollution in order to accommodate either a larger population or a higher standard of living."
But from the Brazilian point of view, the same argument sounds like this: "We of the First World have already completed the cycle of industrialization which made us rich, but in so doing we have produced tremendous environmental ills. We have wiped out the majority of our forests, wetlands, jungles and rain forests, as well as many species of plants and animals. We have endangered the oceans and the very atmosphere, which now are so fragile that they cannot stand more abuse. Present levels of pollution cannot be exceeded without danger to the whole planet. We of the First World produce 80% of that pollution, and despite the fact that we only have 20% of the world's population, and you 80%, you will just have to make do with your present rate of producing 20% of the earth's pollution. Your process of industrialization will be much slower and more expensive than ours; the planet cannot afford for you to achieve prosperity at the cost of the planet, as we did. Your jungles and wetlands, rain forests, plant and animal diversity are essential for the well‑being of the earth as we know it, and for all human life. Your poor billions in poverty will just have to stay poor longer. It's a shame that you can't be as comfortable as we, but then we got ours before the piper had to be paid."
To put it bluntly, the insistence that ecological responsibility demands population reduction (not to mention slower and more costly industrialization) from the developing nations is interpreted as an attempt of the earth's North to invoke the common good in what is really an attempt to preserve its privileges and options at the expense of the basic survival needs of the South.
Given this history, to even raise the topic of population control in many parts of the world is to be associated with this record of abuse and insensitivity. There is great fear that economic and power realities are such in many developing nations that any legitimation of population control measures will inevitably lead to the kind of massive and systematic abuses of contraception, sterilization, and abortion, described by Hartman, as perpetrated by governments in poor nations who accept help from the population establishment (USAID, First World foundations, and the centers they fund) as a condition for securing other necessary or desired funding or favor from First World nations. Many women's groups in both poor nations and rich nations insist that we must continue to proclaim and defend the primary right of individuals within their own communities to control fertility. Any erosion of that primary right—any legitimation of education, persuasion, or incentives (even excluding coercion)—endangers human dignity. Susan Power Bratton's discussion of positive and negative incentives which have been used/proposed for population limitation in poor nations points out that while many positive as well as negative incentives promote injustice, in that the burdens of differential resource allotment often fall on the innocent, negative incentives to limit population have the added problem of contravening basic human dignity and rights, such as privacy and individual integrity.
Nevertheless, and without
either minimizing or ignoring the very real dangers which exist in
reducing overpopulation, we must insist, with Bratton and many others,
that overpopulation is a real and serious problem about which something
must be done. The earth is overpopulated because present levels of
population cannot be sustained alongside any process toward just
distribution of the resources of the earth. The North is right that the
common good demands that injury to the environment be reduced rather
than increased, but is wrong that the burden of that reduction should be allowed to
exacerbate present unjust patterns of distribution. The South is right
to insist on more just distribution, but it cannot legitimately ignore
the need to protect the environment on which we all depend. These are
the two criteria—justice and sustainability—which must be kept side
When we consider these two criteria, we see that not only must rates of population expansion decrease, but in many parts of the world population levels—absolute numbers—must decrease. Consider the U.S. We have tremendous problems now in our country with levels of air, water, and land pollution. The ongoing pace of development leads us to cut down more forests, fill in more wetlands, develop cities in deserts, build apartment complexes and power plants on prime farmland, plow up grasslands, and bring up ground water to irrigate arid plains. Together these activities are causing a terrible loss of land and water: falling water tables, soil erosion, and loss of topsoi1. But there is more. The industrial and energy production which sustains our lifestyle causes destruction of forests and lakes due to acid rains; devastating oil spills in oceans and bays; holes in the ozone layer, which protects plant, animal, and human life from destructive solar rays; the rise in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere (greenhouse effect); toxic chemical pollution of land and water throughout the nation; and the rapid increase of nuclear waste for which we have not yet found safe disposal.
The fall of communist regimes in eastern Europe
has revealed to the world a much worse ecological situation than had
been suspected. Devastation from acid rain, from intensive
industrialization totally devoid of pollution controls, extends not only
to forests and lakes but to the human populations as well. When the air
and water are so toxic that in some places rain eats through car paint
in a year and melts the features off new sandstone monuments in a
decade, it is not difficult to understand why there are
above‑normal rates of emphysema, birth defects, and lung, skin,
and other cancers in the human population in heavy industrial centers.
Moreover, it has been made clear in the process of reunifying Germany
that for a number of reasons reunification will not rectify some major
problems. The former West has more than enough industrial capacity to
supply the former East. Though the government is subsidizing many
projects and groups in the East, and many corporations have bought
Eastern facilities, Germany does not need to recreate its efficient and
more or less environmentally responsible production facilities in the
The government has closed toxic waste dumps in the East, but has
not addressed their clean‑up.
Companies which have bought the outdated plants in the East have
often preferred to close them rather than invest in new production
processes and undertake the delicate work of monitoring and reclaiming
the environment from its devastated shape. But for a united Germany to
accept ongoing high rates of unemployment in the East violates the
ethical requirement that governments secure some approximation of equal
distribution of resources for its citizens, and risks political
instability as the cost of popular discontent. The fact that Germany
neither needs Eastern production nor can easily afford to redress the
ecological damage already done in the East allows a situation in which
extreme poverty, bolstered by the Eastern populations' psychological
need for productive work, may well produce decisions to use parts of the
East as a low‑risk production site for dangerous industries,
and/or as a toxic dumping ground. We see this pattern in poor areas of
the globe—where the need for income is so acute that poor
nations—and poor neighborhoods in rich nations—agree to become
dumping grounds for toxic wastes of various sorts.
But it is not only in eastern Europe that we have combinations of ecological and population problems. Try to drive the German autobahns on weekday afternoons, or during vacation periods in the summer. It can routinely take two hours to move 50 kilometers around Frankfurt, and that is without accidents. The volume of traffic waiting on the entrance ramps can be so great as to bring autobahn traffic to virtual standstills. This in the nation with perhaps the best‑developed highway system in the world, and one of the best (perhaps second only to France) passenger rail systems in the world. It is important to understand that the frightening anti‑immigrant sentiment breaking into violence all over Germany, and also in other western European nations, over the last few years is due not only to the pressures of‑diversity in historically homogeneous populations, but also to perceptions of overcrowding. Though the size of the West German citizenry has actually been decreasing slightly from a 1981 high of 61 million, and is expected to stabilize at 52 million sometime within the next decade, the expansion of drivers on the road, autobahn truck traffic, and the appropriation of farm and unimproved land for development continues apace, as in the U.S.
The West German constitution promulgated after World War II understood citizenship in very traditional terms—as more or less limited to Germans—even though it was extremely liberal in offering asylum to virtually all groups, and generously supported asylum seekers. But not only are the Turkish immigrant worker population and the African and Romanian Gypsy immigrants not, for the most part, eligible for eventual citizenship, but growing anti‑immigrant sentiment has revived violent sentiment against Jews, and increased support for ending the constitutional right of return of Germans and those of German descent from other nations, such as the former Soviet Union. Most of the anti‑immigrant violence has been aimed at those who are understood as racially different. But racism is not the sole, and perhaps not the principal, cause of anti‑immigrant sentiment. Contemporary waves of immigrants from other nations to Germany take place in a no-growth economy, not in the high‑growth period of economic rebuilding after World War II. There are simply lower profits and fewer jobs to go around. In addition to economic pressure, there is also simple space pressure. To live in Germany is to understand the historic pressures on the largest group of European people, who are confined to a space significantly smaller than France or Spain. Germans do not have any of the American sense of wide‑open, unpopulated spaces left in their country. This is certainly not to excuse either historic German expansion attempts, such as Hitler's demand for lebensraum in the East, or current violence against foreigners in Germany. It is only to suggest that population pressures do influence conditions for social justice and cooperation.
Another perspective on the problem is provided by a look at an area of social life in the U.S. which is commonly agreed to exhibit unjust distribution of resources: health care. The richest nation on earth spends billions of dollars on expensive organ transplants every year, while in its capital, Washington, D.C., the infant mortality rate is in a class with some of the poorest nations of the world. At its most basic level, the U.S. problem with health care has been that it eats up larger and larger shares of the national wealth every year, despite the terribly unjust pattern of distribution. The pervading sense of hopefulness mixed with suspicion concerning the Clinton‑proposed health care system arises from an often unarticulated understanding that while justice demands more equity between the health care given the rich and the poor, the rich cannot be, and perhaps should not be, forced to surrender significant access to organ transplants, experimental drugs and surgeries, plastic/cosmetic surgery or other expensive therapies that escalate costs. The only way to move toward equity seems to entail providing for the poor the entire spectrum of health care provided for the rich‑at eventually ruinous expense to all the other aspects of the national budget, including environment.
If we have not been able to find a just and
sustainable solution which is acceptable to all parties within the U.S.
health care system, then the possibilities for a global solution to the
need for just and sustainable lifestyles seem infinitesimally small. How
can we imagine providing equitable distribution of all
resources over the
global population? Providing resources at the rate the world's rich
consume them would violate sustainability, even if it were possible in
the short term. But getting the rich to agree to any standard
significantly below what they now receive seems equally doubtful.
is important to understand that the overpopulation argument is
significantly different now than it was in the 1960s and 1970s. Then the
basic question was what was the largest population which could be fed.
Whenever alarms went up about increasing hunger due to overpopulation,
the answer from many was always that the earth did produce and could
continue produce enough to eat, that distribution
was the problem.
Most of those who discouraged population control measures based
on the adequacy of the earth's resources emphasized the promise of
technology. Julian Simon, author of The Ultimate Resource, which
understood increased population as a good, wrote: "So the
major constraint upon the human capacity to enjoy unlimited minerals,
energy, and other raw materials at acceptable prices is knowledge. And
the source of knowledge is the human mind. Ultimately, then, the key
constraint is human imagination acting together with educated skills.
This is why an increase of human beings, along with causing an
additional consumption of resources, constitutes a crucial addition to
the stock of natural resources."
And Jerrie DeHoogh and his colleagues in the Netherlands reported
from their research that "there are many technological methods by
which food production in the world can be increased. On the basis of a
detailed inventory of soil characteristics, rainfall, temperature, and
sunshine . . . it is
calculated that—depending upon natural restrictions to the growth of
agricultural crops—the earth is capable of producing 25 times the
present amount of food. A great deal of agriculturally suitable land is
not yet used; but above all production per hectare could be considerably
increased. According to these data, there ought to be sufficient food
both now and in the future; the world food supply is thus not primarily
threatened by the finiteness of the earth."
it is not enough to look to technology to ensure sufficient food for the
future. Over the long haul it is not enough simply to eat. Families who
have been in refugee camps, for example, are clear that having enough to
eat is a necessary condition for life to be human, but it is not at all
a sufficient condition for human life. Nor are food, clothing, and
shelter enough. Human life demands that we live in a community, and that
we all have work—human activity which contributes to our own
personhood and through which we contribute to our community and our
world. Human dignity demands that our communities approximate justice in
the distribution of resources and activities. We cannot feed, house,
clothe, and provide basic health care and work to the six billion
persons who will soon inhabit this world without devastating the planet
to the point that it cannot recover as a human habitat. John Cobb and
Herman Daly remind us that "in the past 36 years (1950—1986)
population has doubled (from 2.5 billion to 5.0 billion). Over the same
period gross world product and fossil fuel consumption have each roughly
One major reason that we cannot care for six billion people
without this fundamental injury to the earth is that, as we have come to
understand, the production of food, clothing, shelter, health care, and
work requires energy, and our methods of energy production are, for the
most part, toxic.
Most of our energy comes from fossil fuels—from burning wood,
coal, oil, and natural gas. Most of these are non‑renewable, like
coal, oil, and natural gas, and therefore reliance on them violates a
commitment to sustainability. But all fossil fuels, including wood or
animal dung, produce dangers to the air quality, especially in the
volume necessary for the global population.
Nuclear power has the terrible problem of waste disposal—that is, the absence of any safe method of waste disposal—as well as the potential for catastrophic accidents, as Chernobyl symbolizes. Nuclear accidents must be put within the proper context for comparison, however. If construction of nuclear plants were as safe as the best of the current plans for nuclear plants, the death and injury ratio from accidents would compare well with the continuous damages from pollution by coal‑fired plants, for example. However, the fact is that many plants are plagued by problems rooted in inadequate plans, poor construction, and many other pitfalls. The Chernobyl disaster was an example of plans which were unsafe to begin with. Unless there is some solution to the waste disposal problem in nuclear plants, we need not even debate the comparative safety of conventional and nuclear energy plants.
Other sources of energy, such as hydroelectric power, wind power, and solar power, offer promise for the future, but have not as yet been developed to the point that they could provide the massive amounts of energy required to support the earth's soon‑to‑be six billion human inhabitants. In fact, many analysts think it impossible for them to ever provide the amounts of energy necessary to sustain the numbers of persons at the level of energy consumption now characteristic of densely populated areas of the First World. Even if they can do so in the future, the fact that their development has not been made cost‑effective over the last few decades means that their availability for the global task is not near.
Some persons would say: "Well, if these methods of energy production can in the future produce enough for all of us without reducing the world's population, then there is no real reason to reduce the population." This is irresponsible thinking. We have no real sign of political will in the nations of the earth to develop sustainable, non‑toxic energy production methods. The nations of the Middle East, supported by other oil‑producing nations of the world, supported by the automotive industry and all the suppliers of the automotive industry (tires, batteries, highways, etc.), and supported by the coal and natural gas industries and all the nations in which those industries are powerful, have a strong self-interest in continuing the exploitation of fossil fuels. In the U.S. we have not even been able to raise the gas price enough to make it pay to drill our own oil rather than import. The political will to make gas cost enough that there is incentive to develop non‑fossil fuel energy alternatives is totally absent, as the spring 1993 opposition in Congress to President Clinton's proposed energy tax has made clear.
For this reason we must make what progress we can
simultaneously on all fronts. The process of building political will
for changes in energy policy is no less slow and gradual than that of
building support for further slowing population growth, with all the
cultural change which that entails. We cannot afford to insist on one or
the other. We in the developed world must begin to build the political
will to 1) cut consumption of fossil fuels (and all resources), 2)
eliminate waste in energy (and all resource) production and delivery,
and 3) develop energy alternatives, while we simultaneously 4) teach new
cultural approaches to reproduction which support birth reduction in all
sectors of our populations. The same agenda cannot be justly suggested
to the developing world. While
they, too, should concern themselves with elimination of waste in energy
production and delivery, and with new cultural approaches to birth
reduction toward a stable, sustainable population, they should not be
expected to reduce already very low per capita energy use rates, nor
should they be expected to heavily invest in developing energy
alternatives, though they have the responsibility to use what local
energy alternatives are known and available.