Wednesday, January 6, 2010
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?Tweet