As a follow up to Phil Nuytten’s tribute article in the current issue of DIVER, below is a reprint of dive pioneer Hans Hass’ 2007 open letter to the women of the world.
Human reproduction and the threat of self destruction
Dear women all over the world!
Let me introduce myself. I’m a natural scientist, am currently 88 years old, and spent the first half of my life as a marine biologist, where I led numerous expeditions to tropical seas. Back then I was mostly interested in behaviour of fishes in coral reefs, especially of sharks, which even today most people consider to be dangerous. In 1960 my interest shifted to the study of evolution, to the origin of humans, their economies and political organisations.
In recent years I have come to realise that unchecked population growth has become a real danger. Man once reproduced gradually. Whereas the human population remained relatively stable from the beginning of time until the bringing of the early 19th century, it reached 1 billion by the late 19th century. In the 20th century the increase was explosive; by 1950 we numbered 2 billion, by 2000 we reached 6 billion. This dangerous trend is set to continue.
The surface of planet Earth is a limited size and only provides a limited amount of habitable space. Our technological advances have become so overwhelming that we have displaced the plants and animals that form the basis of our own lives, a recipe for disaster.
I have thought a lot about how we could dampen this population explosion. All organisms strive to reproduce. It is very difficult to confront this fundamental principle. Nonetheless, I do have a proposal to help solve overpopulation. In three simple sentences these are:
1) Every woman on our planet has the right to give birth to two children – but not more.
2) If one child dies before the age of 12, then a women can have an additional, third child.
3) A woman who wants and has the means to properly feed and raise yet another child can still do so under these terms. If there is another woman who, for health or other reasons, wishes not to have children, she can relinquish her right to the other; this can involve an amicable agreement or an appropriate payment.
The three rules would have to be legally binding in every country in the world.
What are the objections? The first is that giving birth is a personal affair that should not be regulated by state law. However, we face severe crises today, potential conflicts that could come to war and the use of horrible new weapons. Nuclear power is a case in point. While it can be source of energy, it is also the technology behind thousands of missiles pointed at every city. This invalidates any objection based on privacy.
Another conceivable objection is our innate, powerful sexual dive. In animals this manifests periodically, but we remain sexually active throughout most of our lives. The answer lies in well managed planning, which would be controlled by the woman.
I’m convinced that most of us understand and would endorse the need for modifying our behaviour. We must avoid the self-destruction that would wipe out all our discoveries and all our technological and cultural advances. I would be glad if would give my approach some thought and you would pass it on.
With kind regards,
To read Phil Nuytten’s article on Hans Hass grab a copy of the current issue if DIVER.
To read our short Obit on Hass, click here.
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