In the New York Times, David Brooks wrote a speculative piece about what would happen if there were some kind of crazy solar activity that caused the instant and immediate sterilization of everyone who was on the side of the planet facing the sun at the time.
Ignoring the likelihood that we’re in deep doo-doo because presumably all of our domestic animals such as cattle, chicken, and pigs are now also sterile, Brooks goes into speculating what would happen if it happened to be the US side of the world at the time. Bascially he comes to the conclusion that society would almost immediately collapse, because people would cease to have any interest in the future. (I could quote from the article, but it’s not very long, so go ahead and follow the link.)
Let me state up front that I childless, beyond child-bearing, and have never had any interest in having a child. I am also a liberal and something of an idealist, and while I would certainly go farther to protect my own family and friends than to protect strangers, I’ve never been one to view big issues on the basis of how they would affect me and mine more than how they would affect the nation as a whole, or even the people of the world as a whole. That strikes me as a fairly liberal viewpoint, and Brooks is, although moderate, a conservative.
But it seems to me that he misreads the situation. People of all ages would still be alive and unharmed, from the elderly to babes in arms. They might not be able to directly reproduce, but they could still raise their children, and they could still raise children from elsewhere. Immigrants would stream in at whatever rate our laws allowed, and those would almost certainly be relaxed to allow more as our current population decreased.
When I view posterity, I view it as people, not just my own descendants. And if I’d been a parent, I think I still would have; my own kids would obviously have been more important to me than others, but I’d still think in terms of everyone. Otherwise, why would I give a darn about environmental issues? I’m 53, and I not only have no children, I have no nieces or nephews. Basically, my “blood” interest in the future is non-existent; I’m the youngest of my cousins on either side, and have very little aquaintance with the next generation. I haven’t any friends who are or have children. But I care about the future very much.
So what do you think, Dopers? Would sudden mass sterilization of the Western Hemisphere lead to near immediate social collapse? Or would people continue to care about the future anyway?
I have to leave the discussion for a while, so please pardon me if I don’t get back for a few hours.