The CDC recently announced that the U.S. fertility rate has dropped, with women having on average 1.8 children each. This number is low enough for negative population growth. Many news outlets and opinion articles have portrayed this information in a negative light, to which I strongly object.
For example, CNN reports that the executive director of the American Public Health Association is “concerned” about these new statistics. A Medium subheading discusses who is to “blame” for the declining fertility rate before then going on to call out other news outlets for sensationalist headlines (for example, Insider’s “The U.S. Is in the Danger Zone for a ‘Demographic Time Bomb’”). This negative language assumes (incorrectly, in my opinion) that a drop in the U.S. fertility rate is a bad thing.
Here is why the declining U.S. fertility rate is a good thing, and why those of us who are of childbearing age should personally strive to continue to keep the birth rate low.
1. Earth can’t sustain more population growth.
We are likely getting quite close to reaching the maximum population at which the earth can continue to support humanity. Of course, it is difficult to know with any kind of certainty how many people earth can support, since the limit has not yet been realized, and since it depends not just on the number of people but also on other factors, such as the amount of resource consumption by each person and the volume of resources humanity is able to sustainably produce.
Unfortunately, the global trend (particularly in developed countries) is that individuals are using more and more resources per person. In the U.S., new houses were 38% larger in 2002 compared to 1975, even though there are fewer individuals living in each home on average. And as of 2003, there are also more privately-owned cars in the U.S. than there are licensed drivers. These are just two examples of the ways in which we are consuming more and more.
Experts in the fields of environmental studies and development estimate that the maximum population the earth can sustain is somewhere between 9-11 billion depending on how much we are each able to reduce our carbon footprints and resource consumption.
We have just about met population capacity according to these estimates. The United Nations predicts that the world’s population may reach 9.7 billion by 2050 and 11 billion by 2100. At the time of this writing, that is just 31 and 81 years from now, respectively. Only three decades from now until humanity could face a widespread collapse or even extinction due to overpopulation.
2. Populations in other countries are still expanding.
It would be easy to look at the low fertility rate in the U.S. and think that it is okay for us as Americans to have as many children as we want, since the population is declining. But while the fertility rate has declined here in the U.S., it remains high in other parts of the world. The overall global fertility rate is 2.4, meaning that on average, each woman has 2.4 children. And in some countries, the rate is higher, with Niger topping the charts at 6.49 children per woman on average.
A fertility rate of 2.4 may not seem that high, but it is huge when you consider how many people there already are in the world. At the time of this writing, there are over 7.5 billion people in the world. And population grows exponentially, meaning the growth accelerates over time as more people are born and reproduce themselves (check out this article for a helpful explanation of exponential growth). So if you have one woman who has 2.4 daughters, who also go on to have 2.4 daughters each, who then in turn each have 2.4 children, you have gone from one person to nearly 23 people in just three generations. Exponential growth is what makes it is possible (indeed, likely) for the human population to grow from 7.5 billion people to 9.7 billion people in just 31 years.
In a global economy, it is not realistic for us to compartmentalize our own country’s fertility rate and make population decisions based on our data alone. Our food and other resource systems are so interconnected with those of other countries that we have to think about the total sum of the earth’s population, not just that in the United States. High fertility rates in other countries mean global population growth, which means strain on everyone’s resources.
3. You can still have children while contributing to a lower fertility rate.
As someone who is from the South, where family is highly valued, I get it, y’all! You want to have kids! And there is no need to panic about that in the face of overpopulation. You can still realize your dream of having a family while at the same time making sure that you are not contributing to a potential human collapse or extinction problem.
Obviously, the best way to confront the overpopulation issue is to not birth children at all. There are lots of children already here on earth who don’t have parents but need them! You can be the one to provide that loving home.
There over 437,000 children right here in the U.S. child welfare system who need adoptive and/or foster parents due to abusive or neglectful home environments. There are also children both in the U.S. and abroad whose biological parents have put them up for adoption through a private or government-run agency for a variety of reasons, typically because they are not equipped to provide for that child for whatever reason. Through foster care or adoption, you have the opportunity to do so much good for children in need while at the same time realizing your dream of having a family and contributing to intentional population control. (If you are interested in learning more about adoption, visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway, which has a wealth of information as well as a directory of foster care/adoption agencies).
The children in your life may also come in the form of nieces, nephews, students, or friends’ children. There are many ways to experience the joys (and trials!) of parenting children without actually becoming a parent yourself.
If forgoing biological children is not something you consider an option, you can still contribute to negative population growth. By having just one child, the population will, in theory, decrease, since there will be just one person replacing two once you and your partner have departed this earth. And while having two children is a “replacement” rate for you and your partner and doesn’t help decrease the population at all, at least it does not help to grow the population.
Of course, lowering our own personal birth rate isn’t the only way we can help contribute in a positive way toward the current population crisis. In addition to not having children or having fewer children, here are other ways we can help:
1. Provide access to birth control.
There are many developing countries in which contraceptives are not readily available. According to the U.N., 12% of women worldwide have an unmet need for contraception. 350 million women in the poorest countries did not have access to pregnancy prevention methods when they had their most recent child, despite not wanting to have a child at that time. By simply giving these women access to contraceptives, we can gain a greater handle on population explosion.
Outside of advocating for birth control access at a policy level, we can also donate to nonprofits who are providing contraceptives to women in need. Some examples of such nonprofits are the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Pathfinder International, and the United Nations Population Fund.
2. Elevate the status of women.
In cultures that see a woman’s purpose as being primarily to serve a husband and bear children, women may have little to no say in their reproductive health and are often expected to birth as many healthy children as possible. By advocating for women’s rights, agency over their own bodies, and vocational options outside of homemaking, we give women choices about their lives, including when and if they will have children. In addition to being the right thing to do period, this can be an effective method for population control. Some organizations that work for women’s rights around the world are Human Rights Watch and the Global Fund for Women.
3. Decrease your carbon footprint.
By consuming less and producing fewer greenhouse gases, we make it possible for more people to live on our planet. It is doubly unfair to hog more than our fair share of the earth’s resources (the U.S. makes up less than 5% of the world’s population while consuming 25% of fossil fuels worldwide–yikes!) while also expecting the planet to be able to support more and more people. There is a wealth of information available on the Internet about how to decrease your consumption and live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Some good starting places are: Global Stewards, COTAP, Huffington Post, Good Energy, and of course, eco-focused posts here on Fairly Southern.
4. Spread the word.
In our culture, it is often taboo to talk about birth and reproductive issues. We don’t want to be seen as meddling in others’ personal lives. But there is nothing wrong with starting honest, nonjudgemental conversations with our family and friends about overpopulation. Continuing to sweep the issue under the rug isn’t going to help anyone.
To Sum Things Up…
I believe that the low U.S. fertility rate should be celebrated, not mourned. Continued worldwide population growth has the potential to be catastrophic for humanity and our planet. By continuing a downward fertility trend, we may be able to positively impact the future of generations to come. And thankfully, there are still ways to realize our dreams of kids and family without contributing to a burgeoning population. Let’s do it, friends!
Love that you tackled a hard topic. Thank you for sharing!
Thank you, Marissa!!
Thanks so much for covering this topic, Laura! It is definitely a taboo one, but something that is super important that all couples who want to start a family should consider.
Although I am not at the point where I am ready to be a mother (to a human :)), I know many friends for whom the adoption process has been very draining both emotionally and financially. I would love to go this route if I decide to have a family but (from my understanding) it is simply out of reach for many families once legal and adoption fees, travel costs, and/or healthcare costs for the biological mother are paid. I will definitely look into the Child Welfare Information Gateway, as I could very well be misinformed! But based on the information I have now, it just breaks my heart because I definitely feel like adoptions and non-biological families would be way more common and less taboo!
Also, just something to think about when considering the environment/carbon footprint/resources- plant-based diets reduce an individual’s (or a family’s) carbon footprint by 50%! Encouraging people to birth less children and encouraging people to eat a plant-based diet are both hard to do because they are not the current status quo, but it is something to think about as it could radically reduce our resource usage and therefore relieve us somewhat of our overpopulation.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic and these resources, Laura!
You are right that adoption definitely has its challenges! I actually worked briefly in the NC public child welfare system and am not an expert, but know a little bit about it. From a financial perspective, there is a huge difference between private and public adoption. Adopting through the public U.S. child welfare system is not costly at all (I hesitate to say “free” because of course there are all of the normal costs associated with having a child, such as food/clothing/childcare, but there are no adoption or legal fees). In fact, many states provide subsidies to help assist families with the cost of fostering/adopting a child. On the other hand, private adoption can be astronomically expensive–and sometimes for good reason, as the social workers and lawyers involved to make it happen certainly need to be paid a fair wage!
No doubt, there are emotional challenges that come along with adoption, for everyone involved–the adoptive parents, adoptees, and biological families. It isn’t something to enter into flippantly, and it’s not for everyone, which is okay!
And thanks for the plug about the plant-based diet! I definitely have plans to write in more depth about that topic on the blog in the future. 🙂
Laura, I am a big fan and promoter of your blog, but this time I am afraid I have to disagree. That I come from an opposite viewpoint on this issue is obvious since I have six kids. But I am not here to defend why I have so many children. That was my own decision and I have no regrets. I just want to explain why I believe you are wrong on this issue and why that matters, because I know you are a sweet person with a heart to make a difference in the world!
First of all, if, like me, you are coming from a Biblical worldview, then you believe that God created this beautiful planet with all its resources and also created the people and animals who live on it. He said that humans should “be fruitful and increase in number” and gave us the plants and animals for food and to take care of. While the statistics you quoted above show humans are doing a pretty good job on the being “fruitful” part, we obviously are not doing so good at taking care of the planet!. I can join you in preaching against greed, over consumption and wastefulness at the expense of others and the planet and strive to be a more ethical consumer myself. But I cannot join you in preaching against having more children. You said yourself that the number of people this planet can sustain is unknown. But if God created it, He knows very well the number and also completely understands population growth since He created us with the ability to reproduce. He says “children are a blessing” from Him. I believe with all my heart that He is the Giver of Life, so who am I to say who should or should not be born? I trust that God knew what He was doing from the beginning. After all, He created human ingenuity, which I will get to in a second.
Secondly, if you are coming from a secular worldview, than you most likely hold to evolutionary theory, which teaches “survival of the fittest.” In that case, why would people not just have children to make sure their line is among the “fit” that survives? Now, that would be a rather selfish viewpoint, and you obviously are a very unselfish person. So unselfish that you would even consider forgoing the joy of having children to avoid causing causing pain to future generations. If only there were more people in the world as unselfish as you, this world would be a much better place!!! But I ask you to reconsider, and here is my reasons why:
If you are a student of history, like I am, then you know the population of this planet has grown exponentially in the past few centuries. But if you look at what things were like here a few centuries ago, you quickly realize the world back then would have been unable to keep 7.5 billion people alive. Yet we do today. And I have seen plenty of studies which show there is more than enough resources to feed everyone (even if the future is unsure.) And that there is far less people in extreme poverty today than there were in the past, in spite of the population growth. (Most of those still trapped in poverty are there because of lack of education, opportunity, access to world markets, etc., which, I know, you are one of those working to see that changed.) So how did that happen? Human ingenuity. The inventions and discoveries of the past few centuries have drastically changed how many people this planet can sustain. And if we restrict how many children are born, we take the chance of restricting human ingenuity. One person can affect millions. Think Martin Luther King Jr, William Wilberforce, Louis Pasteur, etc. And some people have drastically increased the sustainability of our food production. Think George Washington Carver, Cyrus McCormick (inventor of the mechanical reaper), Norman Borlaug (winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and credited with saving hundreds of millions of people from starving.) Would we really have wanted to encourage the parents of any of the above mentioned people to have less children because of fears of overpopulation? The experts may say the planet currently cannot sustain more than 11 billion, but what will the future bring? We are already talking about colonizing Mars. It no longer feels so hard to believe that we may even learn to terraform planets! Or find new ways to make our own planet more sustainable. But, in order for that to happen, we need those scientists and inventors and political activists of the future to be born!
Which brings me to another point. I know that you and those who read your blog fall into the category of people who do care about the planet and making a difference in the world. Are those really the people we want discourage from having more children? When I said the world needs more people like you, I meant it. And the best chance we have of that happening is if you reproduce! (The best hope I see for the future is for there to be lots of “little Lauras”!!!! 🙂 We exert the most influence over our own children. My oldest is 11 and wants to be a scientist and make a difference. I hope and pray he has the opportunity to do so and that all my children will grab on to the values I try to teach them and have an impact on the next generation! If we want to change the world, instead of having less children, I think we should have more (and adopt some to boot!) and raise up world changers!
You said that population growth is much lower in developed countries as opposed to countries with lack of access to education and contraceptives. But, if we work to decrease the population growth in our country to make up for less developed countries, the ratio of uneducated people to educated people would most likely increase and would that not just compound the problem? Not that I would encourage anyone to avoid having children, no matter where they live. I have read too many stories of people overcoming poverty, horrible family situations, disabilities and much more who rise above to make a difference in the world, to believe that anyone should be denied the opportunity for life.
Anyway, all that to say I appreciate you and your unselfishness and your heart to make a difference. I just wanted to give you some thoughts to consider…
LeeAnne – I really appreciate your comment! It is rare these days for people to disagree with each other kindly like you have.
I do believe in God (and evolution too!). I am familiar with the point of view that God knows best and will take care of it, that God will provide for us as our population grows. The main problem I have with that idea is that God does not generally protect us from disasters, both those outside of our control and those of our own doing. We have free will, and God allows us to exercise that even if we make choices that may not be the best for ourselves, others, and the planet. God allows bad things to happen us, including physical suffering and death (there’s tons of that in the Bible!) and even extinction events (i.e. Pompeii). So, from what I see in the world and in scripture, I do not believe that God would necessarily protect us from bringing upon ourselves mass starvation and death from a self-created overpopulation problem. We have the knowledge of how to stop overpopulation and the tools to do so, and God has given us free will to decide what we do with that knowledge and resources. To me, refusing to take steps against overpopulation is like saying that I believe God will let me lose weight if that is God’s will, all the while refusing to eat healthy food and exercise, despite knowing that those things would help me lose weight. Except the stakes are much higher, because we are talking about billions of people who might suffer and die because of our inaction.
You are right that with innovation, we are able to produce more food than the planet produces naturally on its own. But, sometimes these innovations end up doing more harm to our environment than good. For example, pesticides allow us to produce more food but contaminate our water supply, cause human illness, and kill insects and other animals that play important roles in our ecosystems. That’s not necessarily a win or long-term solution. I also think it is unwise to gamble that we will create new innovations within the next century that will support an exponentially larger population. What if those innovations do not come? We may have as little as 30 estimated years to figure out a way to cultivate life on other planets or exponentially increase our food supply here on earth. Further, do we really believe that our capacity to invent and produce more is boundless? Won’t there eventually come a point, whether in 10 years or 10,000, where we have truly reached the capacity at which we can maximize earth’s limited resources? That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t still try to innovate and increase our capacity–we absolutely should! I just don’t think it is wise to gamble human lives, or possibly even the survival of the human race, on innovations not yet invented.
I do hear what you are saying about how we need children to be born in order to produce more forward thinkers. I certainly don’t advocate for everyone to stop having children completely–we don’t necessarily need negative worldwide population growth, we just need to stop increasing. Certainly, there will be those of us who care and are educated who will have children. And those who do not have children will still have the opportunity to influence other compassionate leaders. One could spend the time and money they would have spent on more children to help better the lives of those already existing in underdeveloped countries, to equip them with the tools and influence they need to also become world changers. One could argue that having fewer born in developed countries increases the chance that those in developing nations will have greater access to resources, since there would be fewer people in developed nations over-consuming and hoarding privilege. There are likely plenty of Louis Pasteurs and MLKs in developing nations who aren’t realizing their full potential because they don’t have access to the needed resources.
While in theory I like the idea of having more and more children to increase diversity of ideas and as well as the chances for human ingenuity, the bottom line is that the earth just can’t support that many people in its current state, and I personally don’t feel comfortable banking on innovations not yet realized when the projected timeline of overpopulation is approaching so rapidly.
Please hear me when I say that I do not think having children is a bad thing in and of itself–I myself plan to be a parent one day! It makes me terribly sad that we even have to have this conversation. I wish it wasn’t an issue and that we could all have as many or few children as we want without it having an impact on our environment. However, that isn’t the situation in which we find ourselves. Unless we do come up with miraculous innovations that allow us unlimited resources, either on this planet or on another, it seems to me the only way to ensure human survival and enough to go around for everyone is to have fewer children.
To echo you–I also appreciate you and your heart for change! We may not see eye to eye on this, but I respect you (perhaps even more so because you are passionate enough to speak up and compassionate in your disagreement) and look forward to continuing to work with you to advocate for positive purchasing and other good changes!
I am glad we can disagree, yet still remain friends and work together for the things we agree on. (There is far too much name-calling and mud-slinging going on from people on all sides of the issues dividing our nation right now. There is no point in adding more to the mix!)
I have had a busy week, but I have been thinking a lot about our discussion and doing some research on overpopulation. I wanted to understand the source of your beliefs on the issue. I have been hearing the warnings about overpopulation since I was a kid, when there was only around 5 billion people in the world. That the population has grown to well over 7 billion just in my lifetime is mind-boggling. So, what I expected to find, especially among major news media sites normally concerned about sustainability, was some sort of agreement on the problem of overpopulation. I found no such thing. Even a simple Google search quickly showed there was a wide variety of opinions among the experts on the issue, on whether it even is an issue, and on the solutions. Even those I read who were most adamant about the danger of overpopulation and advocating radical steps to ensure our future survival, admitted they really did not know what the future might bring. I checked the article you cited above from BBC and it was full of language like “we don’t know,” “might be,” “difficult to say,” and “it seems.”
I have only been alive on this planet for forty years, but that is long enough to watch many “doomsday” predictions come and go. I was a kid during the Cold War when fears of a nuclear war wiping out life on this planet seemed very real. But the Cold War ended and we are still here. I read the predictions by economists in the early 90’s who believed our financial system was destined for an imminent fatal collapse. Everything they said made perfect sense, but nothing happened. (Even the recession of 2008 was for different reasons and not nearly as brutal as their predictions!) I watched Y2K come and go without so much as a hiccup in technology, despite all the hype. It is easy to laugh at those predictions now, but I watched so many people change their lifestyle based on realistic fears of what seemed a probable future calamity. Only, they were wrong. Now, you are asking me to change my lifestyle based on another prediction of future calamity, this time due to overpopulation, and, I have to admit, I am skeptical.
I am simply a student of history, not a scientist, economist, or any other kind of expert. But I do not even have to pull examples from history (of which there are many!), just simply from my own life experience to know that the “experts” are often wrong, especially when it comes to predicting the future. (Come to think of it, I have seen far more “predictions” come true from science fiction story writers than by the experts!) Thus the reason for all the ambiguous language regarding the future ramifications of overpopulation. BBC and other media outlets have been around long enough to know what they print about the future could come back to haunt them. Because, as we all know, for all the scientific expertise out there, they cannot always accurately predict tomorrow’s weather, let alone what is going to happen decades from now!
Doomsday predictions make great headlines, but the only things the sources I read seemed to agree on are that the big issue is really overconsumption and that the world’s population will probably reach 9 billion within the next 30 years. Predicting what will happen with world population after 2050 is merely speculation. Some think it will keep growing. Some think it will start shrinking. I have watched the world completely change in the past 30 years. Which makes it not so hard to believe that it will completely change again in the next 30 years. But what those changes will be remains to be seen.
We have no historical precedent to look to for how well the earth will sustain 9 billion people, but we can look at history to see what happens when people try to control population growth. A recent article in Forbes magazine (https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2018/07/30/how-big-of-a-problem-is-overpopulation/#1c28b96c216a)
talked about the negative effects of efforts to reduce population growth. I have read enough about China to know their one-child-policy (mentioned in the article) led to infanticide, forced abortions, overcrowded orphanages full of abandoned babies (especially girls and the disabled) and a complete unbalance between the male and female population. The results were so bad, that even China, the nation with the arguably the most to worry about from overpopulation, has now changed their policy to allow two children. Even in other nations where population was reduced simply by societal pressure rather than law, according to an article in The Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/blog/concern-overpopulation-red-herring-consumption-problem-sustainability),
they are now ready to pay people to have more children because they need them to maintain a healthy economy! Children are the future. And I am not the only one who thinks the world needs more and not less of them.
You mentioned how God allows us free will and often does not intervene when humans bring destruction upon themselves and others. I agree. (Your diet illustration I can relate to as I struggle with my weight, but I know it is my own fault and do not expect God to miraculously fix me!) But none of that relates to our current discussion. People make bad decisions or do horrible things that cause suffering and often innocent people suffer for those wrongs. But having children is not wrong. Quite the opposite. We were created with the ability and desire to have children, commanded to have children and God desires and loves children. I cannot believe that something God created to be beautiful and good would bring destruction upon the world. He gave us free will, not free reign. The attempts people have made to control population growth have been disastrous and often morally reprehensible. Maybe God really does know best. Which means would He not also have planned for this planet to be as big and sustainable as it needed to be to hold us all?
As I mentioned above, all the sources I read, and I am sure you would agree, stated that the real problem is overconsumption. And on that subject, you and I can agree. Because it is easy to see that overconsumption and exploitation are the result of greed and selfishness. Even many who do not believe the Bible would agree that those are wrong!! Greed often has led to destruction, starvation and other suffering.
So, having children is both a good thing and unselfish (it’s not easy!). Overconsumption stems from greed and selfishness and causes suffering. Which should we be preaching against?
I will admit my argument about lowering population in educated countries decreasing education growth around the world was weak as current education programs in developing countries could continue to grow regardless. And many, like you, look to education as the key to reducing future overpopulation. But some say that strategy might hurt more than it helps. Because developing countries use proportionally so very much less resources than we do, if we educate them, will they not then want to be like us and consume as much as we do? (Actually, that is not a theoretical argument, it is happening around the world!) So then, we teach them to use birth control and have less children, but then they also copy us and use way more resources than they need and far more than when they had large families! Perhaps it is us in the developed countries who need to be reeducated by them so we can learn to live, like them, with much less, sustaining rather than destroying the earth!
And, maybe, living more sustainably is just one of many lessons we could learn from developing countries. We also could learn lessons on being content and happy with less and on the value of children. I do not believe the only reason people in developing countries have more children is because of lack of access to birth control. Some cultures simply place more value on children. Yet, I am thankful our country still does place more value on children than others do. I have a friend from France who was surprised at the number of down syndrome children in the U.S. In France, they have all but disappeared because they are routinely aborted before they are born. When population control is pushed, and people only have one or two children, they want only perfect, healthy children and only the sex they prefer. We have so much to learn from the disabled, everything from gratefulness, to how to overcome obstacles to unselfishness. Do we really want them to “disappear”? But watch this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQJEoRhkapw), because he says it ever so much better than I can!
You said you do not want to bank on innovation being our hope for the future. Granted, that is risky. But bringing children into an unknown future has always been risky for every parent in every time period. And, I, for one, am glad that our ancestors (and my parents!) chose to do so. Innovation over the past couple of centuries has exponentially changed how many people our world could feed, so much so that the equally exponential population growth still has not prevented innovation from reducing extreme poverty to an all-time low! And, even though, like you said, some innovations have also had negative effects, more and more people are caring about sustainability and researching and creating more sustainable methods of production all the time. All it would take to change the future is for someone who cared to come up with a sustainable way to turn salt water into fresh water or make the dessert bloom in Africa and a major charity or corporation to fund it and millions or even billions could benefit. I can believe that such a thing could happen.
But the alternative you propose is pushing for reeducation and changing the hearts and minds of billions of people to care about population control. Is such a thing possible? And, if it is, do we want to live in a world where children are devalued and only those deemed valuable enough are given a chance at life? Where we deliberately target certain cultures viewed as having “too many children” and try to reduce their numbers? When people start deciding who should live and who should not, who should reproduce and who should not, things tend to get pretty ugly. Is such a future even worth fighting for?
You mentioned that reducing our numbers in this country could leave more resources available for the rest of the world. But our country historically, and to this day, has had way more resources, wealth and land than we need, yet we routinely close our borders to more immigrants and refugees. We fear sharing what we have will cause us to lose our jobs and our wealth and so limit how many we share it with. If our numbers were fewer and resources scarcer in the rest of the world, would we suddenly become more unselfish than we currently are? Or would we not just continue to take care of ourselves and hoard what we have even more? I tend to believe the latter.
But you are proposing the we, as a global world, should do the same thing. Out of fear of running out of the abundance of resources we have, we should figuratively “close our borders” and only allow a limited number of children into the future. We should selfishly hoard what we have rather than freely share it with the next generation. Those who have more than one or two children would be viewed suspiciously as using up more than their share of the world resources, just as immigrants are often viewed.
I say, let the next generation be born. And let us teach them to value all life, as God does. Instead of teaching them to control population growth, let us teach them to take care of this beautiful planet God gave us and take care of the people He put on it. The future is still unknown and will always be a scary thing. But I still say, the best hope for the future lies with our children!!!
Just some food for thought. I still think this world needs more little Lauras 🙂 I appreciate your attitude and willingness to listen. I hope we both can have a positive impact on the future!!
LeeAnne, thanks for digging in deeper on this topic and bringing up some really good points! I do want to clarify a couple of things after reading your comment…these are in no particular order:
I do acknowledge in my blog post that no one knows exactly when we will reach the “maximum capacity” for human population. I am personally glad that past predictions have been “wrong” (i.e. weren’t able to account for the future advances we were going to make in crop production, etc.) because otherwise I wouldn’t be here to discuss this! While we don’t know an exact number or date at which we will reach overpopulation, what we do know is that the effects of our large population are already being felt, and there is legitimate reason to be concerned that we will feel even greater effects as our population continues to grow rapidly (see sources below). I can understand why you might feel that experts have been crying wolf, since you have seen several alleged disasters not come to pass. But, we shouldn’t let that distract us from the time when an actual wolf might be coming.
You mentioned that you wanted to seek out the source of my concerns about overpopulation. I am happy to try to share those with you. Many of the sources that have informed my concern over the past decade or two are textbooks and articles that I have not kept/tracked. But, I will paste a few easily accessible sources below:
1) The BBC article mentioned in my blog post (I know you’ve already read this one): http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20160311-how-many-people-can-our-planet-really-support
2) By the numbers/effects: https://www.mphonline.org/overpopulation-public-health/
7) TedEx talk, discusses some effects of overpopulation we are already feeling: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNsQwZaTw1Q
9) This article discusses the logic of saying that overpopulation will never be a problem (which, in my mind and the author’s mind, is incredibly illogical): https://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-walker/overpopulation_b_3942740.html
10) This article talks about why we can’t with any certainty know earth’s carrying capacity and suggests why we should take action before we realize it: https://www.populationconnection.org/carrying-capacity-earth/
Okay, moving on to a couple of other things I wanted to clarify:
I am in no way anti-child, nor do I advocate for devaluing children, being selective about which children are “valuable” enough to live, or selfishly hoarding resources for ourselves. I would argue that taking a stance against overpopulation is the most pro-child (or, to be more inclusive, pro-human) and UNselfish thing one could do. I want to see the children of today and of the next generation and of the one after that, and so on, live full lives, free from starvation and untimely death. Working to prevent overpopulation ensures quality life for the children we do have, and for the generations of children and people to come. And it should be done in a judgement-free and inclusive way.
I do not advocate for taking away a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have a child. Rather than advocating for the government to take away a woman’s choice, I am encouraging women to carefully consider and make the choice themselves.
I do not believe or see any evidence that God commands us to have children. People generally use the “be fruitful and multiply” text from Genesis to justify that, but I do not believe that text is meant to be taken as a personal commandment to every person (this article does a pretty good job of summing up my views on that: http://www.howardischwartz.com/be-fruitful-and-multiply-did-god-really-mean-for-us-to-overpopulate-the-planet/). Additionally, God created lots of beautiful things that are still best when exercised with moderation (God created us to be able to eat and enjoy food, which is a GOOD thing. But, it can become bad if we overeat to the point of our own detriment). I see the creation of children in a similar way: a beautiful thing, to be done in moderation out of respect for God’s creation, which to me includes our planet and the people/animals inhabiting it.
I completely agree that overconsumption is a huge problem, and it is one that I am personally trying to work on as well as speak out against, including in this particular blog post (point #3 under “Other Considerations”). And yes, I agree that we could learn a thing or two from people in developing countries who live much more sustainably than we! But even if we reduce consumption to the bare minimum per person, there will still eventually come a point when the number of people is too great for what the earth can produce. From what I have read, it seems that we will still likely reach the earth’s carrying capacity soon even if we do drastically curb consumption, due to projected population growth. So, while addressing overconsumption is critically important, I believe it must also be coupled with addressing overpopulation.
Finally, I hear you re: the negative impacts of slowing population growth. Dealing with shifts in population demographics, aging populations, economic issues, etc. are definite issues we will have to confront as the fertility rate (hopefully) continues to decline worldwide. There will be consequences, to be sure, and some will be negative. But, I personally think it is much better to have to deal with figuring out these issues, which to me seem solvable, versus billions of people (and possibly lots of animal species, too) suffering from mass starvation/death.