The Vasectomy Project is encouraging men to join forces and take responsibly for family planning. This is an opportunity to bring people together to talk about our collective responsibility while offering men a concrete way to contribute towards a solution by having a vasectomy.
Fertility, by definition, is a highly personal matter that demands sensitivity, but the situation on the planet has become so bad that to avoid a conversation about humanity’s growing numbers out of sensitivity is worse than not talking about it at all.
As the campaign to get men to open their minds to the idea of vasectomies begins to grow and the conversation engages more people, I am well aware that there is going to be opposition to our cause. Plain and simple, there are people who find what we are doing offensive. I get it. Fertility, by definition, is a highly personal matter that demands sensitivity. We agree that the state imposing laws or rules on our choice to make life is scary. We also recognize that the history of population control, including forced sterilization, eugenics and racial cleansing is so horrific that anyone who knowingly dips their toes into this space does so at their own peril.
We are jumping in because we believe there is no choice.
The bottom line is that the situation on the planet has become so bad that to avoid a conversation about humanity’s growing numbers out of sensitivity is worse than not talking about it at all. The time for political correctness and with it, stagnation, has passed. We all know the source of the problem, we’ve pointed out the culprits and even come up with some smart solutions. All of this work is important and it all needs to continue, but our project is about each of us individually taking responsibility for our collective impact.
Look in the mirror. Take a long gaze. Be certain of one thing, standing before you is both the problem and the solution. The consequence of further denial, avoidance and ignorance is so damning to our future that to ignore the truth about humanity’s catastrophic impact on the planet is unacceptable.
Should a man who has 26 children and is incapable of taking care of them have the right to a 27th? I guess so, although I would certainly question the wisdom of his choice. Should he have the option to get a vasectomy? Absolutely. And if the only way he’ll do it is through incentives because, he can’t afford to risk post-operative interruptions in employment, than I certainly don’t think there’s a major moral dilemma here.
Is it right that billions of people go to sleep hungry while others are purchasing a third and forth home? Is it a safe world where the distance between the “haves” and “have nots” is so far apart that we live in fear and envy rather than in brotherhood and grace. I personally don’t believe it is right, but more importantly, I am certain it is not healthy for future generations.
It’s easy to criticize Doug, but I see him as a modern day Don Quixote, a person embarking on an impossible mission that may seem absurd, but whose efforts represent hope and whose journey helps inspire dialogue and deeds by and amongst others. And while most of us sit back and either pretend there are no problems or complain that there are too many problems, he’s actually out there doing something. Is it uncomfortable to talk to men about getting engaged in family planning? You bet, which makes what Doug is doing so much more impressive.
Which do you find more disgraceful, Doug going to a Third World country to encourage men to take responsibility for family planning, even offering them incentives—or the staggering truth that maternal mortality is the highest killer of women aged 15-35 in many parts of the world? Yes, we have to be sure that the men who choose to have a vasectomy understand the process and the consequences, but to do nothing to engage men in family planning is to continue to condemn many women to an early death.
The mark of a successful family planning program is when more men get vasectomies than women get tubal ligations. This doesn’t happen, anywhere in the world, despite the fact that tubal ligations are much more painful, invasive and ultimately dangerous. Sadly, Doug finds himself having to offer incentives to get men to do a vasectomy while women find ways to pay for tubal ligations. They pay to suffer to avoid even greater suffering, while men hold onto an antiquated notion of virility. I believe that the greater problem is not Doug enticing men to do the smart and right thing, but the fact that men everywhere, rich and poor, black and white, old and young, are just being too lazy and selfish to stand up for their women.
Doug is very cautious about offering vasectomies to men who have no children. He spends a lot of time on the phone playing devil’s advocate, offering alternatives and presenting scenarios that acknowledge that circumstances might change and that over time a man could come to regret his vasectomy. That said, at the end of the day, if a man is insistent that it is what he wants, then Doug will proceed. As he says, “if a man is old enough to make the decision to risk life and limb to defend his country, then certainly he should have the right to not have children.”
At the end of the day, vasectomy is male choice. It gives us control over our “fertility” in the most absolute manner possible (short of abstinence or homosexuality). Without it “accidents” happen and as soon as they do, we have, as it should be, lost ultimate control over the most important decision a human can make. A vasectomy puts the power squarely in our hands. And for those who are virulently opposed to abortions, vasectomies are your best friend. You don’t like women having control over their own womb? Get a vasectomy and support others getting them too.
Someone actually asked me why should anyone care about our campaign? I answered how could they not? If you care about your children’s future, if you care about biodiversity or poverty or global warming or hunger or water or the quality of human life or life itself, than you must care about both a growing population and exponential increase in consumption.
When levels of carbon dioxide, the most important heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere reaches a concentration not seen in millions of years and every credible scientist in the world expresses profound worry, and the only reason for this is an increase in numbers and levels of consumption, how can we not react?
We don’t claim that the answer to all of humanity’s problems lies in vasectomies. Nor do we think that simply having less people will make the quality of life better for the majority of humanity. But, certainly having more mouths to feed only makes achieving that goal harder to accomplish.
At our evolutionary core we are a small group species of 75-150 individuals whose success was due to principles of cooperation and empathy. Today, we are a small group species of seven billion (and counting … ) where a relative few live like kings and vast numbers go to sleep hungry.
That said, is life better now than it has ever been for many people? For sure. And indeed, extraordinary progress in science and technology offers great reason for continued optimism. Yet, there’s something terribly ominous and ethically corrupt about one species thriving while overall extinction rates for other life forms is higher than they’ve been in 65 million years.
Any conscious person knows the planet is in trouble. We just don’t have an easy way to talk about it. How bad is it? Environmentally themed projects have almost a zero chance of getting on television. The E word is almost as taboo as the N word.
For me, consciously chosen vasectomies undergone in service to yourself, your family, your wife, your community and your planet is about as smart and empathic a choice as we men can make. Does it make a difference? Every child not born in the US saves an estimated 10,000 cubic tons of CO2, more than 20 Americans would save in a lifetime of recycling, reducing and reusing and more than 200 Bangladeshis.
The great news is that humans are amazingly resilient and at our core, filled with the potential to be kind and caring. Follow that path and we’ll be fine.
We want you to join in a new conversation about over-population and over-consumption, by asking men to take a very personal action to change the world. For weekly updates and announcements, please subscribe to our Campaign News.