Time and again society is stuck with variously identifying people as variously
'unfit parents'. We 'breed' -most of us, because it's 'the natural thing to do'
-not exactly unattached with 'care in our old age'.
More or less clearly then, 'voting one's ignorance' -democracy, is most unlikely to 'optimize' attrition
from unsustainable overpopulation before irreversible corruption of the
That said, along with 'slamming down the gates of immigration', I also suggested offering life-long
stipends of a sort to 'unfit parents' in exchange for sterilization -only a
matter of time in any case. -The main column here is a measure of that.
The article below that is not unrelated.
March 21, 2010 Los Angeles Times
Family planning effort
Colombian peasants wooed with land to adopt family planning
Erwin Goggel, heir to a dairy fortune, is offering land, rent-free, to peasants
who undergo sterilization. He hopes to break the cycle he believes is
perpetuated by large families.
By Chris Kraul -Reporting from Abibe, Colombia
Think of the 10 women who just had their fallopian tubes tied at a clinic in
northern Colombia as foot soldiers in Erwin Goggel's lonely war on
overpopulation and poverty.
A film producer and heir to a dairy fortune, Goggel is
offering nine-acre plots rent-free to poor men and women who agree to have
vasectomies and tubal ligations. He pays for all the surgical procedures,
including the 10 operations performed late last month in Monteria, the capital
of Cordoba state, about 30 miles south of here.
Goggel, a 61-year-old father of two who had a vasectomy 10
years ago, says his offer is aimed at alleviating Colombia's grinding poverty,
which he insists is directly proportional to the size of peasant families. If
population growth trends persist, he predicts an apocalyptic future for
Colombia and the planet.
"The middle-class lifestyle as we know it, with a car, a
refrigerator and a good education for the kids, is out of the question for
these people," said Goggel, whose shock of gray curly hair hints at his hippie
past. "They are in a vicious cycle that a high rate of reproduction
perpetuates. Big, poor families are in an economic hole that they can't see out
So far about 46 couples, the majority with three or four
children, have taken him up on the offer. Most are landless sharecroppers or
day laborers native to the region who have settled in this village and grow
subsistence crops of plantain, beans and sesame seeds. Goggel is distributing
25 more parcels this month.
"It was not a hard decision at all. Before Erwin, every day
was a struggle to survive. Now I can live on what I produce," said Anibal Del
Rio, 34, father of four. "More than one guy has made fun of me, saying I've
been castrated, that I'll leave women behind. But I don't mind. What matters is
what I think, not what others say."
Goggel acknowledges that the response has been less than
overwhelming to the offer he first made in 2002. He blames "machismo and
ignorance" about vasectomies and the fact that he doesn't give the peasants who
take up his offer title to the land, allowing instead "sanctioned
Vasectomies and tubal ligations are legal in Colombia, but
the Roman Catholic Church, a powerful social force, frowns upon them. So far,
however, Goggel said, the church hasn't put any obstacles in his way.
"We are still very small scale," he said. "The church
probably figures, why make a fuss?"
Public health professor Gloria Garay agrees with Goggel to a
point, but worries that focusing on reproductive habits deflects attention from
the responsibilities of the state to provide for its poorest citizens.
"It's not just individual behavior but also social policy
that sometimes keeps us from maintaining conditions of human dignity," said
Garay, who is with the National University of Colombia in the capital, Bogota.
"Keep in mind that as much as we've reduced the birthrate in recent decades,
half the country still lives in poverty."
Goggel's hopes that other landowners and even the Colombian
government would embrace his idea have so far come to nothing. Ricardo
Gonzalez, the director of Goggel's House and Land Foundation, said one
neighboring landowner responded to Goggel's request that he give land to the
poor by saying: "The only thing I'll give you is a bullet in the head."
Still, Goggel, who has spent more than $500,000 to buy 900
acres for the program, says he will press on. He will not change his current
practice of not transferring deeds to the families, fearing some would sell the
property and revert to the rootless lifestyles many led.
That would defeat one purpose of his program: to provide a
stable environment for the children of the poor couples, Goggel said. So,
instead his foundation holds the title to the parcels.
"We're trying to give the country an idea how to approach the
problem, hoping for a snowball effect," Goggel said. "But most people don't see
the planet is doomed. They are face down in their own bowl of soup and can't
see any farther."
Even those who do not share Goggel's apocalyptic view of the
future agree that Colombia's birthrate is high and contributes to the poverty
According to a United Nations survey, Colombia has a
birthrate of 20.6 annual births per 1,000 inhabitants, above the relatively
high Latin American average of 19.1 births, and 50% higher than the United
States' rate of 13.83.
More distressing, said Garay, the public health professor, is
the surge in teenage pregnancies to 90 births per 1,000 girls in 2005 from 70
"This is causing alarm, above all because the girls are
getting pregnant despite knowing all the consequences that early maternity
brings," said Garay, who maintains that sex education has improved in recent
Goggel's late father, Walter, emigrated from Switzerland and
founded the Alpina dairy company near Bogota in 1945. The company since has
grown into one of Latin America's largest dairy producers. But Erwin showed
little interest in business. He pursued social causes and a career in theater
and film production.
A self-described former Maoist, Goggel said it was his effort
to establish an ecological reserve near here that opened his eyes to the
region's grinding poverty. When wild animals such as armadillos, iguanas and
herons kept disappearing, he discovered that peasants were capturing and eating
them to survive.
Further investigation showed that peasant families, often
with six, seven or eight children, "were living in terrifying misery and that
their vision of the future extended no farther than avoiding hunger for a
Each generation was worse off. "It was the exception to come
across sons who were better off than their fathers."
Asked how she and her husband had made out since accepting
Goggel's offer last June, Marta Acosta, a 26-year-old mother of two, said life
"Even with the two children we have, it's still a battle
against hunger. But I didn't want to reach the point of choosing which child to
give Christmas presents to," she said.
"How many more children does the world need, or must God
Kraul is a special correspondent.