Kill a child, save the planet

Dear Hannah,

I've heard strangers say, perhaps a dozen times, that if the Native Americans had only kept control of the Americas the environment would be in much better shape.  I think this is only half a truth.  It's less that Native Americans were good at taking care of the environment, and more that they were really bad at taking care of their children. 

I say this because there's really only one thing standing between the human race and a healthy environment, and that thing is children.  Everyone knows that the more children there are, the more animals we have to eat, the more clothing we need, the more waste we produce.  The Indians were masters at skirting all of this: they preferred to remain in the stone age in nearly every respect, which meant they had terrible medicine and limited food -- or worse, shamanism and starvation, which meant they had a lot of dead children.  The Europeans had medicine, and Adam Smith said that in his day, a poor Irish woman could have twenty children in her lifetime, and only two might survive.  If this is the case, the Indians either lacked virility, or they lost far more of their children because they couldn't sustain them.

Tocqueville proves, in Democracy in America, that caring for the environment had far less to do with an environmental virtue and much more to do with a lack of ingenuity and industriousness.  When the Indians encountered White manufactures, they began to trade what little they had to get whatever they wanted -- and all they had were pelts and such.  When they had given their pelts, they went hunting for more; when they exhausted their pelts, they exhausted their food; when they exhausted their food, whites traded them guns and tools and booze for land; and when they left their land, they pillaged the new ones until they had to repeat everything over again.  Tocqueville pitied the Indians, but he said there had never been a more just acquisition of foreign territory.  The Cherokee and perhaps a few scattered others aside, none of the Indians would farm, because they found routine labor effeminate and degrading.  A man who has no interest in production is entirely at the mercy of chance; a man who is entirely dependent upon chance will never be able to support a civilization.

The only people who were perhaps worse at managing children were the major civilizations of Central and South America, who, aside from lacking medicine, deformed their children by smashing their brains -- supposedly to improve their looks.  Some might also fault the Mayans and the Aztecs and the Incas for their brutality and human sacrifice, but the truth of the matter is that we kill far more babies than they ever sacrificed their neighbors, with one major difference.  The Americans of today kill their own children, and the Mayans killed other people's children.  Some would mention that our reasons for killing children are very different.  I say they're exactly the same.  Americans kill their children because we'd much rather go to college or have a better job, the Mayans killed their neighbors because otherwise their crops would fail.  Essentially, we both kill people to make it rain.

I will leave it to you to decide whether killing to sustain everyone is more barbaric than killing to sustain only yourself.  Either way, we have already borrowed what things we could from the Native Americans, although unintentionally: we lack the willpower to reduce our pollution, so we've kept the garbage and gotten rid of our babies.

Your father,