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Alaska 2003
  • Places: Washington State, British Columbia, Alaska
  • Time: May - August 2002
  • Vessel: "Teacup", Nordic Tug 37
  • Level of adventure: high to ridiculous
Copyright © 2003, P. Lutus. All rights reserved.

As I entered Granite Bay in Prince William Sound, I saw a nice mountain peak just to the south of the bay, one whose top wasn't covered in brush (so often the case in that part of the world), and I quickly resolved to climb it the next day. It looked as though it would be an easy climb and would give a nice view on top. All that turned out to be true — it was just the sort of wild Alaska mountain climb you might imagine, the top third of the mountain's height was brush-free and traveling proved a simple matter of hopping from rock to rock, with long sight-lines in all directions.

Near the mountaintop, in the last bit of shaded rock, I stopped and ate some snow, then climbed the final distance to the peak. This is so much like Alaska, I thought, a terrific, rocky mountain, a rewarding climb, and there are so many like it that this particular mountain doesn't even have a name. I could see almost to Whittier to the west, Valdez to the east, but closer in I was surrounded by wild country with no sign of man's presence.

I built a little rock cairn on top, jut to remind me when I next climb this peak, or perhaps to say "hello" to the next hiker that might come this way. Then I sat for a while, enjoyed the view, and thought about things.

I thought about an irony of modern times, that as the world's population spirals out of control, people are not more, but less, likely to live in the country, because the struggle to keep all those people alive at once is a difficult task more easily performed over short distances — in cities.

It seems as the years pass there are more people, each less able to live as individuals, and less in touch with nature. I wonder how many of those people think they can get along without nature, or live without paying attention to nature's requirements? How many think we can continue to double the world's population every 40-50 years (true now) without seeing more and more of the chaos and bloodshed that this population explosion must lead to?

Sunset, somewhere in Alaska.
Once I talked to a young woman who was contemplating a large family, and as usual I went on about the world's overly large population. She brightened up and said "Surplus people?" I thought that was a pretty funny expression and I used it a few times later. Obviously I don't want to be the one to decide which specific people are "surplus" (in fact I think no person has that right), only nature can make those decisions, through a cruel, natural process called "evolution." But this made me think about another natural truth — there are so many people alive now, each clamoring for a share of the same fixed quantity of natural resources, that each person's value must inevitably go down, just as when governments print too much paper money. Surplus people.

And in a much greater irony, the most intelligent, aware people, those most sensitive to the relationship between man and nature, choose to have fewer or no children in modern times (this is proven statistically), while those who are less intelligent or aware, or who live in fascist societies where women are not allowed to direct their own lives, have more children. This "intelligence paradox" means as time goes by the average IQ must drop, and this may be the single most compelling argument against a large world population — a future of more people, each more stupid and less sensitive than the people of an earlier time.

In the past, when we struggled on equal terms with other species, evolution guaranteed that intelligence would increase over time — only the smartest people survived in an environment filled with saber-toothed tigers, exploding volcanoes and periodic ice ages. Once we dominated the planet, however, the rules of evolution were suspended (no more saber-toothed tigers to catch the unwary). As a result, the upward trend in intelligence stopped and has now reversed, because of the intelligence paradox. Only the dullest people can look around themselves, at the overcrowded cities, the starving poor, terrorists more than willing to kill themselves in order to kill a few members of a hated group, and say, "Let's make more people!"

Intelligent people can see there are no easy answers to the world's problems, but they know making more people is certainly not on a humane list of answers. Only the genuinely stupid (or the trapped) can take part in an activity that so clearly adds to the world's suffering. The result is that there are more and more dull people over time.

Individuals may think of children in any way they care to, but we need to remember how politicians view children — as exploitable, expendable weapons. Why else would people be encouraged to have more children precisely when there is less food, less opportunity than before? I believe this is a case where people would vote by way of personal choice, not ballots, if only they could.

None of this reasonable banter can circumvent the intelligence paradox described above (intelligent people choose to have fewer children out of compassion for the plight of mankind, thereby decreasing the amount of compassion in the future), but this paradox cannot and should not be used to rationalize a decision to bear children regardless of any other consideration and without reflection, as I have seen countless women do during my life.

From my mountaintop aerie, thinking about this took only a few minutes. Then I got up, added one more rock to my cairn, and began to climb down from the mountain, certain that I had not really resolved anything important. It was a very nice day.


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