Too Many People

//Too Many People

Too Many People

The news we hear is full of grief for that future,
but the real news inside here
is there’s no news at all.

What troubles you these days? As daylight hours lengthen, mercury rises and purple crocuses burst like joy through softening earth, there shouldn’t be much. 

I mean, here we are celebrating . . . honouring . . . observing that an entire year (I know, feels like five) has passed since coronavirus first rolled into to town. Problem is, now IT and all of IT’s “variant” buddies seem supremely jazzed to pandemic-party on, much like that contaminator friend we all recall from parties of old, foisting too much whisky and rye on everyone and singing “Bye bye Miss American pie” off-key and way too loud.

At least the US is kicking a** at shots in arms. Canada is . . . I dunno? Just kicking its own a**? Although, in recent good news, our PM says we’re set to receive one million Pfizer doses/week until early May. Hopefully there’s a cohesive plan to administer them.

And while we can all boast about surviving a pandemic, so far, one doesn’t spend a full year (that feels like five) becoming the best doomscroller on the planet then just STOP. I mean, there’s still bad stuff going on “out there”, yes? Political grievances. Racial disparity. Job and financial woes.

As a gf and I went on about this the other day, her husband simply shrugged, said, “Too many people.” Hmmm. Then he said, “You have Stingray music? It’s 999. The spa channel.” Hmmm again. I checked, though, and I see it’s 406 on Rogers and 950 on Hay Communications, so maybe he doesn’t have all the answers? 

I have Alexa, so I don’t need to know the channel. She’s so obedient. Aware of my doomscrolling-induced anxiety, I’ve often said throughout the past year, “Alexa, play that spa music.” And she says, “There’s a station for spa music on Amazon music.” And the soft, sweet sounds play. Ah. Then, when I tire of her, or need to focus, or am leaving the room, I say, “Alexa, stop.” If I were a non-emotional artificially intelligent disc like Alexa, my husband B could say to me, when he saw me doomscrolling, “Rita, stop.” It would be so easy. But I’m an emotional non-artificially intelligent human, so I cannot.

Getting back to “too many people”, when my mom was born in 1929? There were approximately two billion people on the planet. She grew up in Sydney, Cape Breton where her playground consisted of the coal bins that surrounded the houses then. “We would play inside them in the summer,” she wrote, making me cringe at how dirty that would be, to skin, clothes. “And jump off them in winter. We would play kick-the-can, hoister sale, skip, ball, glass alleys and marbles, you name it, plus sit on top of them, dream into the future. Those were great times for us kids, but I imagine our parents detested these surroundings.”

“Those were great times for us kids . . .” I recall Mom sharing childhood stories and lamenting, later in life, for all of us inheriting her beautiful blue planet, that there were “too many people”. “I was lucky,” she’d say. Despite growing up during a depression, to her, childhood was idyllic.

My own childhood, when there were three billion people on the planet? Idyllic too. I had loving parents who gave me freedom to roam, explore, make mistakes, mostly involving stitches. I had a bike with a banana seat, Brownies, dance lessons and dinner at 5 pm sharp. What more could I want?

You ask my kids about their childhood, when world population was five billion? They’ll say idyllic. They grew up in the country with lots of cousins around, chores to do. Freedom to roam, explore, make mistakes, mostly involving police officers. (Maybe that’s why my oldest daughter married one?)

Perhaps all of us raised in loving homes recall an idyllic childhood? At what age does idyll devolve into the song of the witches: “Double, double toil and trouble”?

There’s no denying it. There are eight billion people on the planet now, a population that has quadrupled in less than 100 years. So many people, of different shapes, sizes, colours, beliefs, speaking so many different languages. And they’re moving around the globe, filling in the open spaces, trying to find resources, room to roam, explore, make mistakes.

Last summer I read this great book, Biased, by a Black woman, Jennifer L. Eberhardt, PhD. The thing I found fascinating was that Eberhardt was part way through her elementary school education when she moved from a Black community and school to a white community and school. As expected she was nervous, but do you know what became problematic for her? Because our brains work in a way that distinguishes the faces of “our people” and she’d only been exposed to Black people? She could not tell her new white friends apart. Try as she might, the hair, the faces, blended and, while memorizing the clothes they were wearing helped for a day? They’d inevitably wear something different the next day and she’d mess up the names.

It made me recall how I’d stare into my niece’s eyes when she was small, how I felt this strong, loving connection with her, and I’d think, She just naturally loves me. And why not? We’re the same. Pale skin, freckles, blue-green eyes, blond hair.

But were I Black, Brown or Red, staring with love into her face when she was a small child? Her brain would have mapped it all out, all the nooks and crannies and crinkles, smiling eyes, generous smile. And she would love me, know me, remember my name, regardless of skin colour.

There are too many people, all bumping into one another, wondering (or fearful) of others’ motives. Tolerance, kindness and curiosity will come in handy. As will regard for our dwindling resources and the health of our shared home.

Oh, and keep in mind, like Rumi wrote centuries ago, “the real news inside here is there’s no news at all.” Put down the phone often. And enjoy the soothing sounds of spa music often, on whatever channel or device you find it.

Website photo: Cool water colour figures by artist Hilary Slater, who also happens to be my sister-in-law and art teacher.



  1. Hilary Slater March 15, 2021 at 6:10 pm - Reply

    Wow 2 billion in your Mother’s era?
    It’s true our planet is like a balloon about to burst with humans..
    Covid might have been natures way of decreasing ‘the infestation?’
    My dad once said that the trend to not have children was also nature balancing things out .. but I think it will take more than all that…
    But thanks for posting my ‘cool people’ .. and for writing your blog!

    • Rita Hartley March 15, 2021 at 6:42 pm - Reply

      It is remarkable how fast world population has exploded! Like coronavirus, I suppose, it’s exponential growth right? Thx for the “cool people” – so perfect for this blog!

  2. Brenda Rogers March 16, 2021 at 11:22 am - Reply

    I love the cool people! And your mom was definitely one. I will always remember her zest for life and stories of her childhood. Her observation was spot on – too many people, especially in today’s climate when we are keeping our distance and trying to stay safe.

    • Rita Hartley March 16, 2021 at 12:25 pm - Reply

      She did have a great “zest for life”. I’m so grateful that she left me with some stories of her childhood. With great care, patience and attention we will get through this test – humanity has survived many plagues. But more and more, as population increases, we must be united in our approach 🙏

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