Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Environmental Price of Reality Fame

by Cassie Nelson 

Who knew it was so easy to be famous? Just get knocked up in your teens, and you too can be on TV and in entertainment magazines! Already an adult? It’s not too late. Just keep on having those kids, one every year or, to be famous faster, have a whole litter of children! Never mind the medical risks to you and the babies. Never mind that you don’t have an education or a job to support them. Never mind that you lack parenting skills.

That’s today's reality. We are talking TV here. News shows have a saying: If it bleeds, it leads. It seems reality television now has its own motto: If it’s cute we shoot. 

What could be cuter than a line-up of picture-perfect infants or toddlers? I have always loved babies, but not when they come in six-packs, eight-packs or 12-packs. Unlike me, though, the production people at TLC love the baby swarms. The public apparently agrees with them. 

It may be, however, that what the public really likes is to watch and wait for the inevitable catastrophe. In a typical household with kids, there is the occasional spilled milk, wet bed or hurt feelings. On these shows there are major meltdowns, by the parents. They snipe at each other, then argue, then shout and finally break up. Or, they never bother to marry or even try to raise the children as a parenting unit, as the unwed teen moms on “16 and Pregnant” illustrate.

Not all of these shows focus on dysfunctional parents. In “18 Kids and Counting,” the very fertile family founders decided to forget about birth control and have a child nearly every year, with the older ones already adding grandchildren. While the parents are loving and kind and their household amazingly well organized, I am completely appalled at the publicity they receive for their massive consumption of natural resources and enormous ecological footprint, instead of helpful accomplishments.

High-school students like me have been bombarded with terms such as "carrying capacity," "total fertility rate," and "global warming." They've been continuously reiterated and carved into our minds. To maintain population growth, but not overdo it, parents must give birth to at least two children to replace themselves after death, thus maintaining a steady population. However, exceeding that fertility rate by six or 16 children can severely damage the planet. Having so many children results in the need for large transportation, such as the van in “Jon and Kate plus 8,” or the bus in “18 Kids and Counting,” leads to the release of excessive amounts of carbon dioxide, and strains already scarce natural resources.

 I see the effects of excessive population growth first-hand every day when I am swept along by the crowds changing classes. My school was built to hold 3,000 students but was overcrowded by its second year of operation. What chance do the conservation efforts of nonprofit organizations or government have when faced with competition from reality shows that glorify population explosion and massive consumerism? It isn’t necessary to even remove these shows completely. If the producers only gave a little thought to the effect they may be having on the behavior of their viewers, perhaps they could offer some balance. 

For instance, the massive families could maintain gardens, lessening their impact on the environment by growing their own fruits and vegetables. At a time when inflation is high and job availability low, young children and adults should be taught perseverance and determination instead of giving birth to numerous children -- or even one as a high-school student -- in hopes of acquiring a television show or publicity. During these times, education is crucial, and for some, mimicking Jon and Kate, or Jim Bob and Michelle Duggard, may seem an easier way to get by. This mindset must be changed immediately. How about a show that celebrates quality of life, not quantity of lives?


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately The Duggars did not go into this for fame. They already had 15 kids when TLC did a blurb on them. It garnered a great audience.

And I hardly think that being a Quiverful Christian is a good thing. Eventually Jim Bob will kill Michelle, because her body is going to give out (its already happening obv. from baby # 19, and the oldest daughter will have to take over all the other children.

Leah said...

I don't understand the need for so many children myself but as long as they are able to support themselves with out public assistance, I don't see anything wrong with it. I believe the Duggars do just that and grow their own food, etc. And you don't see Michelle having psychotic breakdowns on tv the way Kate Gosselin does when the stress gets overwhelming. I do feel for the Duggar's children having to take care of the smaller ones. They claim they love it but they don't know anything else. Ignorance is bliss.

What truly baffles me is why any woman would want to put her body through so may pregnancies and multiple births. That is just so dangerous for mother and babies and very irresponsible on the part of both parents.

Anonymous said...

If you see nothing wrong with it maybe you should look up this site.

Michelle will keep on having babies because that is what she is supposed to do. Jim Bob is the Patriarch and the head of the family. If Michelle dies, then she will be a Martyr.

Anonymous said...

Oh and check out this link in support of the "Quiverfull Movement" and tell me if it doesnt make you shudder.

Anonymous said...

I have seen those sites and others. The number of children we have is a personal choice, unless and until laws change to dictate the number of children we can have. That isn't likely to happen. I cannot bear their burden of raising all those kids so I decline to judge these parents for their choice of having so many. I had all the kids I could handle - one. I know my limits and I trust others to know theirs.

Anonymous said...

Subjection of women is ok with you?

California Girl said...

When the natural resources of this planet give out and the water wars start, the Quiverful people will tell us ITS GODS WILL!

cheryl said...

Yes, and an extremely small minority these people are. That's why they get the attention they do. I doubt they are swaying very many people to emulate them.

Hollywood PI Becky said...

I agree completely. It upsets me when I see these shows or stories like Octomom. I believe it gives a negative impact on our children. My agent has been pitching a new realty show about a female PI, which would allow us the opportunity to show real cases and real stories, however it seems the networks are looking for Jon and Kate or Dog, the bounty hunter. Don’t get me wrong, I like Dog but the show is not real. I personally would like to see more shows like “The locator” or “Find my family.”

Anonymous said...

To quote Margaret Sanger, "womankind shall not be crucified upon a cross of uncontrolled fecundity."

cheryl said...

Anonymous, you DON'T want to get into a Margaret Sanger "quotations war". She may have said a few intelligent things, but she was not someone to emulate either.

California Girl said...

Anonymous, you DON'T want to get into a Margaret Sanger "quotations war". She may have said a few intelligent things, but she was not someone to emulate either.

HUH???? Teaching women that they have the choice of NOT having children makes her someone not to emulate?

cheryl said...

"Eugenic sterilization is an urgent need. We must prevent multiplication of this bad stock."
Margaret Sanger, April 1933 Birth Control Review

"Eugenics is the most adequate and thorough avenue to the solution of racial, political, and social problems" from "The Eugenic value of Birth Control Propaganda" Birth Control Review Oct. 1921 page 5.

Read her book "The pivot of Civilization" which is available in it's entirety, free on the web.

As far as these large "celebrity" families go, Mrs. Sanger would have approved, because they have the money to support these children. It was the poor that she was most concerned about reproducing. And the "inferior races".

cheryl said...

Water wars? How many people do YOU think are part of this "quiverful" gang? You're being a bit paranoid. No one is going to take away your rights. If these people want to reproduce, let them. They'll go the way of the transcendentalists.