Attempting to scare people is part and parcel of the Halloween season, but the “zero-population growth” folks have really kicked it into gear the last few weeks. “Scary stories” abound, especially since the new report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was released in late September. The report claims that scientists are 95% certain that human beings are causing global warming. (You can read rebuttals to that position here.) But this is nothing new. There is a long history of academics and individuals who believe that too many human beings are responsible for not only global warming, but for irreversible environmental destruction, war, starvation, and poverty. In short, humans are a cancer that must be slowed and eventually eradicated.
In spite of a long list of discredited doomsayers, anti-people propaganda continues to have traction. Consider these news stories:
- Eric Holthaus, former weatherman for the Wall Street Journal, announced that he was planning a vasectomy and tweeted to his followers: “No children, happy to go extinct…”
- Speaking of which, did you miss World Vasectomy Day? It was Oct 18. The website’s video states: “It all comes down to human beings… For too long, people have stopped talking about the population of the planet!” Then the video asks what you, personally, are willing to do to save Mother Earth. (Hint: it starts with a “V”)
- Bestselling author, Alan Weisman, released his new book “Countdown” (sequel to “The World Without Us”) with the basic message of “if humans want to survive, we must eliminate population.”
- In a recent interview with San Diego Charger’s quarterback Phillip Rivers, ESPN not so subtly chastised him for his large family. (Go here and here.)
Global fertility rates are half of what they were in 1970 and are continuing downward. The number of children the average woman has during her childbearing years fell from five in the mid-1960′s to 2.5 today. With the exception of some sub-Saharan nations such as Niger, Yemen and Uganda, fertility rates have fallen rather dramatically around the world. (UN, World Population Report, 2012) By 2020, for the first time, the global fertility rate will dip below the global replacement rate of 2.1.
Currently 80 countries, representing close to 50 percent of the world’s population, have below-replacement fertility rates. No industrialized nation still produces enough children to sustain its population over time or to prevent rapid population aging. This is counterintuitive, however, because even in areas where birthrates are dramatically below replacement level, the absolute number of people is often still growing–giving the appearance of rampant population growth.
If fertility rates have fallen, why have world population numbers continued to rise?
It’s because of a process called “population momentum.“ There are enough women, already born, who will probably bear children that the world’s population will continue upward for a period of time. But what the population control advocates don’t address is what happens when the population momentum stops and population growth rates become negative and eventually go into a steep free fall.
Population free fall is happening in some countries right now. When a country reaches a total fertility rate of 1.4, that country will lose one-third of its population every generation. There are over 35 countries that are in that predicament right now. Our colleagues at Population Research Institute (PRI) have put together a short, clever cartoon video that explains such things as population momentum. See it here.
Does a country’s ability to rise out of poverty depend upon reducing family size?
Try though they might, the international agencies that support population control have not been able to support their assumption that reducing family size boosts development or provides a sure rise out of poverty.
You’ll note that even in this AP article Lester Brown, a well-known environmental activist, states: “Extreme poverty and large families tend to reinforce each other.” [emphasis added] He offers this equivocating statement because there is no empirical support for the position that reducing fertility pulls a country and its people out of poverty.
It is said that modernization and development are “the best contraceptive.” As modern technologies and economic development have gained traction in developing countries, birth rates have fallen – with or without inducements to reduce family size. The statement “you won’t pull yourself out of poverty until you curtail your children” is simply unsupportable. Here’s an interesting chart; take a look and you decide: Statistics on Population and Prosperity: Is There an Effect?
Secondly, you’ll want to see another of PRI’s cartoons. It gives you “A New Way to Look at Population and Poverty.”
“There is enough food in the world today for everyone to have the nourishment necessary for a healthy and productive life.” – World Food Program.
“The world currently produces enough food for everybody, but many people do not have access to it.” -Food & Agriculture Organization of the UN.
The distribution and access to food is hampered by many things other than poverty, such as natural disasters, ineffective farming techniques and over-exploitation of land, poor infrastructure for delivery, and war. One of the biggest reasons people go hungry is because of ineffective and/or corrupt government. There is no reason to believe that reducing the number of children is going to have a major impact on the factors that are the primary drivers of world hunger. To see a list of statistics regarding population and food production, go here. You’ll also see another short, yet great PRI video: “Food: There’s lots of it.”
The problems in some countries are serious and deserve our full attention. The millions upon millions of dollars spent on population control programs, however, are better spent on such things as providing clean water, sanitation, modern medical care, education, infrastructure, and economic development. Such programs distract from real aid. For example last year, USAID requested $1,350 million for maternal and infant health, family planning and reproductive health while requesting only $670 million for malaria and $95 million for nutrition.
This is the message that United Families International will continue to deliver:
- We welcome each and every child into the world. Each is a life of significant value.
- Human ingenuity will enable mankind to meet the challenges ahead.
- Ethical behavior requires wise stewardship over the earth and its resources, but lowering the value of human life is not the answer to environmental challenges.
- Eliminating humans is not the way to eliminate poverty. “Family Planning” and “reproductive health services” are not the answer to the world’s problems.
- Parents have the right to choose their family size – large or small – and should be allowed to rear them according to their own values.