When people see an article headed “birth control” or “population crisis” I imagine they immediately think of the teaching of the Catholic Church. If the writer is a priest, the suspicion is strengthened. I am not only a catholic, but a priest and I am, here and now, writing an article on the falling population in Canada and all over the Western world. But I shall confine myself entirely to statements found in the secular press and non-religious articles.
The London Free Press
An article which appeared in the London (Ontario) Free Press October 4, is not only interesting; it is deeply disturbing. The writer is Alan Bass and the caption is, “Drop in births sparks fears.” Using Statistics Canada as his source, Mr. Bass gives a very clear graph indicating the fall of fertility rates in Canada from 1921 to 1981. He defines fertility rate as the number of children born to women of child-bearing age.
According to the graph, the average number of children born per woman in 1921 was 3.5. In 1981 the average was 1.7. Today the average is 1.5. According to statisticians, 2.1 is the bare replacement rate. So, Canada is far from replacing her population.
From what follows in the article, one gathers that Mr. Bass interviewed Professor Carl Grindstaff of the University of Western Ontario, an expert on population trends and population issues. The professor’s predictions are grim. He is quoted as saying that Canadian society could wither and die unless the government begins paying people to raise children! He says, “Unless you are prepared to let the species die, you will have to make some element of force involved.”
He continues, “Society must have children.” Canada’s fertility rate dropped 75 per cent in the last 100 years from an estimated five or six children in the 19th century to 1.5 today. This is far below replacement level.
“A society with too few children cannot replace its adult population – not enough workers, not enough taxpayers. It’s easy to see why population experts like Prof. Grindstaff are worried,” Mr. Bass concludes.
Not Canada alone
But Canada is by no means the only country in the Western world that is suffering from a population decline. Here are the official statistics for some of the European countries. It is based on the number of babies born annually per 1000 of the population.
In 1966, the first year for the statistical study, the United Kingdom had 17.1 births per 1,000 population; in 1988, the last year of the study, the number was 13.8. In Denmark for 1966,15.9; by 1988 it was 11.5. France, 1966- 16.9; 1988- 13.8;The Irish Republic dropped from 21.4 in 1966 to 15,3 for 1988. The Netherlands slumped from 18.9 in 1966 to 12.6 in 1988. And so it goes for all the European countries. Not one is replacing its population.
These population problems were recently analyzes by historian Allan Carlston in the Washington Post.
Observes the writer, “While literate Americans were lying awake worrying about global overpopulation, another threat was gaining momentum: a collapse of birthrates in the industrial democracies. The issue has become a major one for European leaders. At stake are great power status, the philosophy of the welfare state and the status of immigrants who could arouse native backlash in countries where the original stock is dwindling.
“Never before, in long history of demographic change,” Dr. Carlston states, “had multiple populations stopped growing in normal times because of deficient fertility. What has changed? The answer is the new technologies of contraception and the legislation of abortion, the ongoing divorce of fertility from marriage, the incentives not to have babies because of the change from a one-income to a two-income family norm.”
Here is a quote that is germane to the subject of this article: “Nothing will create such a tragic and simply insoluble problem for mankind as the totally fruitless attempt to separate sexuality from reproduction – senseless, meaningless and loveless sexuality has a destructive effect.”
Who said that? A pope, a bishop, a priest? No, it was none other than Sigmund Freud, generally regarded as the beginner of the current vogue of sexual freedom! The above statement was quoted in 1974 by Dr. Heinz Brenneeke at a symposium in the Royal Society of Medicine.
History repeats itself
It was the Spanish philosopher George Santayana (1863-1952), who gave us the famous saying, “Those who do not learn from the errors of history are bound to repeat them.” Those words can be applied to many situations, but seldom more aptly than to the present population crisis. History is a great teacher. But, unlike many other great teachers, she is seldom listened to in the clamour of life and in our frantic efforts to turn our ‘wants’ into ‘needs.’
The following quotation from Will Durant’s The Story of Civilization (Vol. III), on the fall of the Roman Empire should give us food for thought. He writes, “In Greece, the depopulation had been going on for centuries. In Alexandria, which had boasted of its numbers, Dionysius calculated that the population had, in his time (250 A.D.) been halved. Only the barbarians and Orientals were increasing, outside the Empire and within. What caused this fall in population? Above all, family limitation. Practised first by the educated classes, it had now seeped down to the proletariat, named for its fertility. By A.D. 100 it had reached the agricultural classes, as shown in the imperial ‘alimenta’ to encourage rural parentage. By the third century it had overrun the western provinces and was lowering the manpower of Gaul.” And so the greatest empire the world has ever known collapsed!
I read somewhere that since history began to be written, the world has known twenty-one empires, all of which have ceased to exist. Nineteen of them were “conquered,” not by outside forces but because of internal corruption. Might be worth thinking about!
Professor Tremblay of the University of Paris has estimated that by the year 2036 (46 years from today), France will be a Moslem country. Because of the drop in population, France has been bringing in Moslems from her former colonies of Algiers and Morocco to supplement the work force. The Moslems, who do not believe in contraception or abortion, increase at 4 to 1 the rate of the “Christians.” At present, according to Dr. Tremblay, there are more Moslem children in French schools than Christian.
Nature always strikes back. If we smoke too much we damage our lungs. If we drink too much we damage our liver. If we abuse the life-giving appetite for sex, we damage society. Nature is the home team – and nature bats last!