Rethinking Population Growth


I love some of the insights into my childrens’ minds, that are brought on by casual conversation! My thirteen year old son, who has never been to school, is the one most often surprising me at the moment, with his comments, questions, observations and insights. Here is a current example:

Last night, on his way to bed, he came out with something like this: “I think that in a few years we will probably have exhausted the capacity of the planet to house our population growth. It’s too soon to send people off to another planet to live, so we’ll have to come up with some other ideas.”

Because he doesn’t go to school, there was no pressure to hurry him along to bed so that he could get up on time to catch the bus or whatever, so we were able to pause and chat for a bit about some ways of dealing with the problem.

His initial thought was that perhaps every country should adopt a one or two-child policy, like China. We chatted about some of the possible negative ramifications of that, and I was surprised to discover that he was quite aware of some things that people have done to enable them to comply with the law but still have the sex of baby they want, etc. Thank you Google/social media for expanding my child’s mind!

His next idea was that perhaps all people should live in cities, with REALLY tall high rise units, rather than spread out in separate houses with “wasted land” between the dwellings. He said that if the apartment buildings were really really tall, they could fit lots of people in it, and the saved land could be used for farming. He also thought that roof top gardens and vertical gardens up the wall would make a lot of sense!

Then he came up with some interesting ideas about how to make the farmland more productive, to be able to grow more food for more people. He had an idea of stacked garden beds, with each layer divided into cubed sections, each alternate cube planted out and the next one open to allow sunlight to get to the garden bed below. Then he decided it would be great to have angled walls of mirrors around the gardens to deflect sunlight into the beds from the sides, to  help things grow better.

Now I do realise that there are some holes in his ideas (not just in his garden bed design), but for a kid who says he “doesn’t like gardening” and who spends a major part of his daylight hours sitting at a gaming computer (NOT mindlessly, in case you haven’t noticed), I was quite impressed with the way he was thinking this type of situation through.

I don’t fear the future and I choose not to meditate on onerous tales of the doom that apparently awaits us all; I prefer to focus my energies on living as well as I can, learning what I can, and helping to create positive choice. My hope swells when I hear “young people” (yes, I realise that makes me sound like an old fogey) thinking laterally and coming up with creative solutions to current or projected problems. And I especially love it when those ideas aren’t given in response to a teacher-assigned school project, but are rather the workings of an imaginative, interested teenager, thinking things through just because it’s interesting, not because it’s on the test, or in the curriculum.

Whether our children and teens are at school, or homeschooled, or unschooled, our planet is in good hands while ever they are thinking like this. Sometimes it is the seemingly wackiest ideas (like stacked vegetable beds with holes in them and mirrors around the edge) that just might save the planet.

I love that unschooled kids aren’t afraid to push the envelope, to think outside the square, to express their thoughts and ideas without fear of being teased or ridiculed, because instead of having to put their hand up in the classroom, or submit an assignment that might not be what the teacher is looking for, they are free to be themselves, to explore crazy ideas, and entertain possibilities that the establishment might scoff at.

What surprising conversations have you had with your kids, that give an insight into the bigness of their thinking?

7 thoughts on “Rethinking Population Growth”

  1. It IS encouraging to hear those ideas! It’s not a cliche that the children are the future, and I believe the best ideas grow naturally. Assignments (ick) can spark an idea, but the freedom to take that idea anywhere you like is rare (in traditional settings) and golden. I love the passion and influence of self-starters like Skye Bertoli, the Irwin family (all of them) and Bethany Hamilton, to name a few! Maybe people who are today reading, surfing, building & playing computer games will have the creative and spatial skills to design solutions to the world’s resource needs.

    The title of this post really caught my interest, as two nights ago we watched a DVD called ‘Dick Smith’s Population Puzzle’. It was thought provoking, informative & challenging. I thought the DVD was ever so slightly tinged with fear, but it was creative and not politically correct, sparked by a question his adult daughter asked him, and I love the way Dick Smith digs deeply into a subject and questions the status quo.

  2. I love the way he has thought about this!! I love when they constantly amaze us with their observations. Jak’s the same – a very deep thinker and often causes to me stop and reflect on what he is saying because he often makes a lot of sense!

    We had a discussion a while back about aliens and the Canadian governments admission that they do exist (stay with me here 😉 ) and Jak has a theory that perhaps the reason governments want the people to think aliens exist is so the people will be happy to keep paying taxes to fund weapons research and development and to keep the government purse full! Whether its true or not, who knows, but he sure made a good argument!

  3. no disrespect intended, but he did not come up with any of these ideas on his own – they are ALL from the UN’s Agenda 21: ‘sustainable farming’. ‘liveable/walkable cities’, and one child policies. BTW-china et al who ‘get the gender of the child they want while complying with the law’ is through sex selective abortions, nothing else. likely he found internet articles and/or child oriented websites that discussed these principles whether they were labeled Agenda 21 or not

    1. Thanks for your comment, Susan. To be honest, I have no idea if he saw any information along the lines of what you have suggested, that influenced the things he was saying to me. I do know that he was aware of China’s one-child policy, which was part of what led to the discussion in the first place. His initial thought had been that it would be best if the whole world had that as a law, and it was in our discussion together, with me helping him to consider some of the potential ramifications of such a policy, that he started to brainstorm the other ideas that I wrote about. It seemed to me that they were being spontaneously thought of; however, he may well have been influenced by things he had read or seen, as I said. To be honest, however, it is really somewhat beside the point. He spends a lot of time using his computer, and is often sharing with me things that he has been reading or watching, and discovering. This conversation was not like that. Either way, my intent in writing this post was talking about the surprising conversations that come up at times, and the insight into our children’s minds (even if the catalyst for their thinking comes from something they’ve read or watched), and the blessing of unhurried time with unschooled kids. Thanks again for your comment. I look forward to chatting about “Agenda 21” with him when he wakes up! A springboard to more conversations….

  4. Susan,

    I have no idea who you are, but you sound really rude. This post is about how inspiring it is to hear kids thinking outside the square. You have replied as though the article was written by an academic whose claiming these ideas are all theirs. He’s just a bloody kid exploring some ideas with his mum.

    Geez, lighten up.

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