I have never been an expert at anything, apart from eating and sleeping. But, since I became active in the pro-life movement some years ago, I have taken a special interest in the question of world population. The obvious reason for this is the effect which abortion and contraception must have on the number of new human beings.
Having read the 19th-century predictions of Thomas Malthus, that the population growth would outrun the food growth and the world would die of hunger, and the theory of Harvard scholar, Paul Ehrlich, who in his 1968 book The Population Bomb forecast that “the world would breed itself into oblivion,” I decided to do some research every now and then on how the world is faring.
In 1997 an article appeared in the New York Times Magazine under the title, “Birth Dearth” and written by a Mr. Ben Wattenburg. Mr. Wattenburg is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. The article is frightening, not because of population “explosion,” but because of population “implosion.” Having referred to Mr. Ehrlich’s book and the statement by the Club of Rome – later retracted, that we would soon run out of resources – Mr. Wattenburg proceeds to give the truth about the present population of the world. I shall give only the more salient facts.
In 1950, the global fertility rate was five children per woman. This was well above the 2.1 children per woman necessary to replace the population of a country. By 1980 fertility had fallen to four children per woman. Fifteen years later it had fallen to three and in 1997 it was 2.8 children per woman and continuing to sink. But, one might ask, what about the population birth rate in the less developed countries? Is it not teeming? Even there, according to the article, “the fuse is sputtering.” By 1979 it was reduced to three and falling more rapidly than ever before.
According to Mr. Wattenberg’s research, European countries, already at a record low, fell by 20 per cent since 1980, to 1.4 children per woman. Italy, a Catholic country, has a fertility rate of 1.2 children, the lowest in the world and the lowest national rate ever recorded. A few years ago it was reported that, for the first time in history, Italy had more coffins than cradles in the previous year. Japanese and Russian birth rates are 1.4 and, surprisingly, over three decades Muslim Tunisia has fallen from 7.2 to 2.9. Fertility rates are falling in many, though not all of the sub-Saharan African nations, including Kenya, which was once regarded as the premier democratic show country.
In the United States, the birth rates have been below replacement level for 25 years. There was a slight increase in the 1980s, but rates have fallen since then. In the U.S. in 1790 women were bearing an average of 7.7 children. Since 1972 the average has been 1.9.
I thought I had read all the recent information regarding the “birth dearth,” but only two days ago I came across a very significant quote from the January 16 issue of Britain’s prestigious London Times: “The White European is a vanishing species and 150 million immigrants will be needed in the next 25 years in order to support Europe’s aging population. Last year, Europe needed to import nearly 800,000 workers – 43 per cent from Asia, 23 per cent from Africa, and 10 per cent from Eastern Europe – to fill jobs.”
As one of the main factors causing smaller families, “urbanization” is often mentioned, reflecting the shift from wanting more children to help on the farm to wanting fewer mouths to feed in the city. Other factors are: more married people not wanting the trouble of raising more than two children; abortion; more “effective” contraception, especially the “morning-after pill”; later marriage; and more divorce. It has even been suggested – but I hope it is not true – that when parents realize that their children will survive because there is a much lower infant mortality rate, fertility rates plummet.
Here is a very significant quote from a secular newspaper a few years ago on the subject of falling population: “Eventually demography blends into psychology. There is likely to be a lot more personal sadness ahead. There will be missing children and missing grandchildren. Lots of people without brothers or sisters, uncles or aunts, children or grandchildren – lonelier people. During the most affluent moment in history many young people say they can’t afford to raise more than two children. People well into their sixties look vainly for grandchildren. Clergymen say the saddest funerals are those in which the deceased have no offspring.”
To answer the question I shall have to quote from an article which I wrote for The Interimmore than 10 years ago, under the title, “Population is not the problem.” Quote: “Has the Creator given us natural resources to feed this vast population or has He not?” The best place to find the answer to that question is from the reports from the various departments of the United Nations. Having read a number of these reports, one concludes that population increase is not the problem. The problem lies in the areas of production and distribution.
An article entitled, “Inside Oxfam” says, “It is a deception to make people believe that it is possible to solve problems of underdevelopment through birth control systems. The source of underdevelopment must be located in a world system which operates for the loss of the many and the profit of the few.” The fact of the matter is that only the poor starve. Poverty, not lack of food, is the root of the problem. Both actually and potentially there is plenty of food to supply the present population and any foreseen increase. The population of the world is divided into two kinds – The “haves” and the “have-nots.”
Is there any solution? Yes, but, like the food in the ground, we have to dig for it. Take your copy of the Gospel and consult St. Matthew, 25: 31- 46. The solution is 2000 years old and needs some dusting off.