The Role of Motherhood in an Overpopulated World
By Karrol Steeves
As the mother of three, now grown sons. I did not know our earth was overpopulated at the time I gave
birth to my first two boys. As a child, I lived in the sparsely populated states of New Mexico and
Wyoming. Nature was abundant and thriving in northern Wyoming. We lived in a town of 200 people,
most of the roads were gravel, there were no stop lights, and no one locked their doors. Everyone one
knew one another, and as a young child, I roamed the town and the country side with my sisters or
friends without a worry or care in the natural beauty of my surrounds. I felt fully myself, and as an adult
have thought back to those times when I was happily exploring the natural world in order to find myself
again. The expansive beauty of the fields and meadows, lush summer lawns and gardens were a great
relief from the stress and overcrowding of our little home. There were six of us in a tiny two bedroom
house, but we had a big yard and a corral. Yellow roses bloomed in early June by our front door. By the
time I was 7, my younger sister and I slept in bunk beds in the kitchen to help relieve the crowded
conditions of the small bedrooms. Besides his job in construction, my father hunted elk, and trapped
animals for fur, and broke horses for riding to bring in extra money for our large family. I remember him
skinning mink in the kitchen, when I was a little girl. We had a vegetable garden, as did just about
everyone then, in the small communities that dotted the edges of the Yellowstone Park and the Big
Horn Basin. We canned our own food, there was even a community cannery, where we could go and can
large quantities of vegetables or venison at one time. I first noticed that something wasn’t right when I
returned to northern New Mexico, where I was born. I saw the poverty of the Navajo Indians, and the
hard scrabble life they eked out. We didn’t have much, but we were well off compared to them. I
remember asking my grandmother why they lived so differently than we did. I wanted to know why they
lived on something called a “reservation.” She was not able to give me a good answer to this question.
She told me that they chose to live there, but I could not imagine that was true. It bothered me that
their lives seemed so hard, and the land they lived on so desolate and unwelcoming. I didn’t realize at
the time, that I was seeing something that would become an increasing problem, all over the planet.
Growing up in small religious communities, overpopulation was not discussed as a reality, and instead
we were taught from a young age that, as females, it was imperative that we marry and have children.
Those with large families were admired. The more children there were, the more in awe others were of
your family, especially if there was also the material wealth, to support them in style. They were like
celebrities in those small communities. I spent most of my young, and adult life in the western United
States, which at the time when I was a young woman, still a place of open spaces and few people. There
were no traffic jams, or long lines for anything. Even the famous oil shortage of the 1970’s didn’t really
affect us. The only lines at the gas station were on television, so they didn’t seem real, besides, my
father claimed that the oil shortage was contrived. We lived in fossil fuel country you see, so that was
his perspective on the situation.
When I was twenty-three, I moved from Wyoming to Colorado for better opportunities, hoping it would
be easier to make a living, as a newly single mother with my first son. The coal boom was now bust, and
all of the communities in central Wyoming, where I now lived, were rapidly shrinking. While there were
more people in Colorado, it was still gloriously free of crowds and traffic. I took for granted the ease
with which going into the woods, for a camping trip, could be undertaken. No crowded camp grounds,
and it was easy to find a place of solitude for exploration, or rest and relaxation. It wasn’t until I met Bill,
who had moved from Chicago to Colorado, in order to get away from the brutal winters and hoards of
people there, that I became aware that there might be too many of us. He introduced me to the
environmental groups that I had no idea existed. Organizations like Green Peace, the Sierra Club, and
their environmental protection efforts. This opened up a startling new reality for me, and I read
everything I could get my hands on; about the horrifying environmental pollution, and abuses going on
in our country, and the rest of the world. With this search came the information on overpopulation, an
idea popular in the 60’s and 70’s — even Johnny Carson had author of the book, Population Bomb, Dr.
Paul Ehrlich, on his show several times because of the the huge initial response his first appearance
made — was now under attack. For every article I read about over population, and the degradation of
our planet, there were several more articles to dispute those facts, and called those making the claims
fear mongers, eugenics supporters, “gloom and doomers”, etc. This seems to have now grown ten fold.
The claims against over population, which is now called a racist agenda, directed at eliminating those
who are less fortunate and primarily of color largely stem from wrong efforts when forced sterilization
was a reality for people of color in many areas, including the United States. The movement for
population control through the efforts of FIGU are not directed at any particular color or race, but is
being promoted as a responsibility all of us should undertake.
Now, almost 60 years later, the West has become increasingly crowded. Where there used to be farm
land and meadows, it is now covered with acres and acres of houses, apartment buildings, retail shops,
industrial parks, office buildings, etc.. We now invade our forests and natural areas in droves, trampling
the flora, and disturbing the fauna with our sheer numbers. Bill and I live just a short distance from the
gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, and what used to be the sleepy little town of Estes Park. The
Park now gets 3.5 million visitors a year. Areas we used to casually drive to and hike about can now only
be reached by bus. The town of Estes is now so crowded in the summer, that driving through town is
nearly impossible, because of the traffic.
My boys were each born about 7 years apart, and when each son came into the world, I was, to some
extent, a different person. By the time I became pregnant with my youngest son, I had begun to suspect
that we should be adopting children that needed homes instead of having more of our own. My
husband, Bill, and I were looking into the process of adoption, and were stunned by how expensive the
adoption process was even back then. I remember the day when I consciously decided that three
children was the limit, and that to have more would not only place a burden on me, that would diminish
my ability to be a good parent, but also, it would put a burden on our current financial situation, and
create more pressure for us to earn more money. I am glad I had this strong realization, which Bill
readily agreed with, so we took steps to ensure we would not have anymore children. It was only many
years later that I would learn that, mathematically, in order to maintain the proper carrying capacity of
our planet at around 500 million people, no more than three children should be born to each woman.
And, really this is only applicable during times when the earth’s population would already be in balance,
to maintain the status quo. In our current situation of gross overpopulation, more stringent measures
are needed, if we are going to mitigate both the psychological and ecological catastrophe that is our
Since the time when I fully realized how serious the threat of overpopulation is to our planet, I have had
the desire to support FIGU in its efforts, and help educate my fellow human beings concerning the
threats all living things on our planet face when there are too many people, and not enough resources.
My efforts to support the documentary, The Way to Live, is part of that effort.
Referring back to adoption as a viable alternative to giving birth to biological children: According to
adoptionnetwork.com, there are currently 107,918 children in the foster care system, waiting to be
adopted, in the United States. Babies are the most desired and are in short supply, but there are many
older children who need homes. Many are hard to place because they have conditions, such as: fetal
alcohol syndrome, birth defects and cognitive problems, impaired growth, etc., caused from drug
addiction in utero, or suffered from abuse or neglect, or both, and so have behavioral problems, that
many perspective parents either, cannot cope with, or have no desire to deal with. Then, there are
those who will not adopt, but insist on having children of their own because they claim they “cannot
love a child that is not theirs biologically”. I suspect that it is a rude awakening, when their own
biological child does not possess the physical attributes or personality that the parent likes or approves.
And so, these children may also go unloved, because truly, these parents do not know what love is.
There are also still other wrong ways of thinking, and financial barriers that prevent, or make it difficult
for, many who want to adopt and raise children, who need homes. There is the pressure and disapproval
from those around the biological parents, to keep a child they feel incapable of raising, which often
causes children to be brought up in an atmosphere of resentment, deprivation, and neglect.
Consciously, or unconsciously, children are often still seen by many as “possessions”. Because of this,
little thought is given to the fact that each child is a unique human being, an individual with needs for
protection, stability, love, encouragement, comfort, attention, and the freedom to express themselves,
and be who they are. Any attempts to “mold” a child, instead of encouraging, leading and guiding them,
is a form of oppression.
The families that Bill and I both come from, had five or more children. I have noticed though, that, with a
few exceptions, our family size, and those of our siblings and cousins, are much smaller than the
previous generation. This is encouraging, and I hope it will be a continuing trend. We are not
grandparents, and there is a very good chance that this is a permanent situation for us. We never
pressure our children to give us grandchildren. Our boys know and understand the planet is seriously
overpopulated. It is up to them to decide, of course, whether they want to have, and raise children, or
It is undeniable that many women possess strong nurturing urges, a biological imperative if the children
we give birth to, or adopt, are to survive and thrive, but it is not necessarily true that, just because we
feel a strong need to nurture, that it has to be satisfied by having children, especially if there really is no
desire for them. Women can also “give birth” to and nurture creative projects that enrich our own lives
and improve our communities. This nurturing energy, combined with our specific kind of intelligence,
can be directed toward our various professions, there is no vocation out there that could do without a
woman’s touch. For instance, a focus on developing birth control that is more reliable and does not
damage the health of women, like our current oral and injectable contraception does. Directing our
scientific development, away from the constant creation of weapons of mass destruction, toward
technologies that support and protect life, instead of destroying it. Creating leadership that works for
peace and cooperation with other nations, instead of a world of competition and domination. Caring for
our parents, or those who need assistance, and teaching and mentoring programs are also areas in
which we women already bring our more developed sensitivity and understanding, which helps to
create a more humane environment. Our nurturing energy can be directed toward our natural world;
through the education, understanding, and encouragement to the young ones, so that they grasp the
true nature of the root our problems here on earth, that our world is being destroyed, not just because
we are overly materialistic, but also because there are too many of us; to help them understand that all
life needs proper room, clean air, and water, to enjoy a healthy lifespan, free from the diseases and
suffering that overpopulation causes. And, first and foremost, we can also nurture ourselves; shed our
own ignorance and build up our own consciousness, develop our own knowledge, and gain wisdom so
that we are up to task that is ahead of us, so that we, as truemothers, live what we encourage
in other human beings: peace, freedom, love, order, and harmony.
What we imagine, we create. Let it be a world of thoughts aligned with the laws of Nature.
To learn more about the Overpopulation crisis we face. Check out the new film. The Way to Live