Room for More: Population Is Declining
By Patti Maguire Armstrong
January 19, 2007
After years of hearing that the earth is in serious danger due to overpopulation, I've got some surprising news: the world's population will soon be shrinking. The bad news is that because of those who swallowed "the earth won't sustain us" lie, there are a lot of people that should be here but are not.
Of course there will be no apology, but only a morphing of the original message. One would think that groups like Zero Population Growth, who brought us cute slogans such as: "The pill in time saves nine!" and "This line is too long. Join ZPG!" might show some remorse for brainwashing throngs of people to be more committed to trees than to parenthood. Thirty-eight years later, ZPG hands out condoms with the wrappers embossed, "Save the world: Use a condom" and is working on a National Population Policy. I suppose they want a pat on the back for convincing so many that the sky was falling -- or at least that the earth was shrinking under the weight of humanity. And I also suppose they see themselves as heroes for leaving holes in families where children would have been, so now there's more room for grass.
Unfortunately, the media picked up their refrain, leaving only brave, defiant or oblivious souls to dare to push their fertility beyond the acceptable number of two. Ask any mother of three or more how many times she had people point to her pregnant belly and ask, "Don't you know what causes that?" When I was a young child, a big family was thought to be a blessing. But by the time I was an adult, big families were seen as headed by big buffoons — ignorant, selfish, or out-of-control adults unwilling to curb their fertility for the sake of the rest of the world. Thus it is that people began to feel free to ask rude questions in an effort to get the numbskulls to invest in birth control.
The reverse would be unthinkable. Parents of a large family would not ask those of a small family, "Don't you two know what to do to have more children?" As the mother of ten children — eight the old-fashioned way and two brothers orphaned in Kenya — sometimes I actually enjoy unsolicited opinions. "Boy, I'm glad it's you and not me," gives me the chance to say, "Me too," but I have never inquired as to why they were not enjoying their own children enough to have more. I have no desire to pry into the private lives of others. Yet thinking we are taking up too much space in this world, some people become militant and angry with those of us who opt out of the "two kids only" club.
The Earth Was Never in Trouble
Ironically, the earth was never really in trouble to begin with. Although the UN announced that the world's population reached 6 billion on October 12, 1999, some demographers decried this as inaccurate due to false reporting from many countries. Whether the numbers were correct or not, growth has slowed and in some areas is reversing itself. The United Nations reports that the 79 countries that comprise 40 percent of the world's population now have declining populations. According to Steve Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, the populations of the developed nations today are static or declining. "The Census Bureau's figures are contradicted by those of the United Nations Population Division," Mosher states. The UN predicts that by the year 2050, Russia's population will have declined by 21 million, Italy's by 16 million and Germany's and Spain's by 9 million. Mosher predicts that by the year 2050, persons aged 65 and above will be almost twice as numerous as children 15 years and younger.
It has become an increasing reality for countries losing population to institute liberal immigration policies that allow for more workers to take up the slack. Even in the developing world, family size has shrunk from an average of five children in 1900 to less than three today. Ironically, many countries facing under-population are finally realizing that children are their most important resource. There's even a growing trend in countries such as in Russia to offer financial incentives to families willing to have more than one child.
Dr. Jacqueline R. Kasun is an economist and the author of The War Against Population: The Economics and Ideology of World Population Control (Ignatius, 1988, 1998). According to her, regardless of what the numbers are, our earth has never been in danger of too many people. In her book, Kasun states:
It's reported by Paul Ehrlich and others that human beings actually occupy no more than 1 to 3 percent of the earth's land surface.
If you allotted 1250 square feet to each person, all the people in the world would fit into the state of Texas. Try the math yourself: 7,438,152,268,800 square feet in Texas, divided by the world population of 5,860,000,000, equals 1269 square feet per person.
The population density of this giant city would be about 21,000 per square mile — somewhat more than San Francisco and less than the Bronx.
Regardless, the lies have been taken as fact and the world's policy makers act accordingly. Fueled by false information, governments are committed by law to reduce worldwide population growth.
Abortions and sterilizations are pushed and even forced on citizens with United Nations approval and often financing, while emergency aid to Third-World countries has come to include first and foremost, free and sometimes coercive birth control.
Our public schools teach kids in social studies that the earth is dying under the strain of people, then, when the bell rings, the kids file into the next class where "sex education" teaches them how the various birth controls work to curb population growth. Even our elementary-aged children come home from school worried about our "dying" planet. It seems the height of irresponsibility to pass on lies and frighten little children with them. The media and the education system listen to and pass along only one side of the story. But there is another side.
Myths of Overpopulation
Although you would never know this by listening to the evening news, the scientific community is in great disagreement over whether global warming is attributable to human activity and if there is a connection to so-called "overpopulation." Another scare comes to us from tree-huggers. Overpopulation is being blamed for the deforestation of the planet. Yet according to Kasun, thirty percent of the earth is covered in trees, the same figure as in the 1950s.
Another fact: Trees are growing 33 percent faster than they are being cut.... There has also been great agitation about the destruction of the tropical rainforests. Someone has claimed that an area twice the size of Belgium is now being logged worldwide each year, but people don't realize Belgium could fit into the world's tropical forests 500 times, and in the meantime, the rest of the world's trees — 99.6 percent of them — are continuing to grow.
I wish Kasun could convince the people of Oregon of this fact. When I was there last spring, I read an article in the Oregonian newspaper, lamenting the cutting down of one particular old growth tree on someone's private property. Twenty-one of his neighbors had tried to stop him by getting his permit revoked. In a state where euthanasia and abortion draw little attention from the general public, the death of this tree caused great mourning.
Air pollution and acid rain are also blamed on overpopulation. Air pollution is largely a result of how industries do business. Due to better emission controls, it is declining significantly in the United States. Blaming it on more babies being born is a cop-out.
During the sixties and seventies, massive famine due to our dwindling ability to feed ourselves was supposed to be just around the corner. Today, food supplies have never been more abundant or less expensive.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, world food supplies exceed requirements in all world areas, amounting to a surplus approaching 50 percent in 1990 in the developed countries, and 17 percent in the developing regions. Our own government actually pays farmers over a billion dollars not to farm 33.5 million acres.
News coverage of famines provide tragic photo opportunities for the media to massage the overpopulation myth. But famines are caused by extreme droughts, war, ineptitude, or corrupt governments, not because there are too many people to feed. Kasun reports:
Western journalists blamed the Ethiopian famine on "overpopulation," but that was simply not true. The Ethiopian government caused it by confiscating the food stocks of traders and farmers and exporting them to buy arms. That country's leftist regime, not its population, caused the tragedy.
In fact, Africa, beset with problems often blamed on "overpopulation," has only one-fifth the population density of Europe....
The cry that our natural resources are in short supply has an ebb and flow to it. Some may remember the "energy crises" in the seventies. It was a year that people stopped hanging outdoor Christmas lights because our energy was in short supply. I lived in the Detroit area and our family tradition of driving around to look at lights came to an abrupt halt. No one dared to waste energy on something as frivolous as Christmas lights. Oddly enough, thirty years later there seems to be ample energy for all our lights.
The Question of Poverty
But doesn't overpopulation cause poverty? In reality, when the supposed 6 billionth baby was born, he was born into a world that has never been more prosperous. According to the World Bank, average income in the developing world has doubled since 1960. And behind the population explosion is the explosion in health. Two hundred years ago, global average human life expectancy was under thirty years. Today it is more than sixty-five years.
I am not arguing that social, economic and environmental problems do not exist. I am simply stating that overpopulation is not the problem. Modern societies are forgetting that children are a blessing. Fortunately, it's just a matter of time before the tide turns. Those intent on "saving the planet" have lower fertility rates than couples that see children as a blessing. Do the math.
Several years ago, I heard a radio report to the effect that the most requested gift from children to in-store Santa Clauses was for little brothers or sisters. For them, it's the best gift they can imagine. Some moms and dads have forgotten this or been scared away from the blessing.
I am no scientist, but it only seems logical that if there's room in heaven for one more soul, then God must have arranged for there to be enough room on the earth for more. After all, the planet is passing away. We are not.
Patti Maguire Armstrong is the mother of ten children including two Kenyan AIDS orphans. She is a speaker and the author of Catholic Truths for Our Children: A Parent's Guide (Scepter). She is also the managing editor of Ascension Press's Amazing Grace book series. Her website is RaisingCatholicKids.com.