Monday, May 14, 2012

Does the world need more children? (or "way too many of you, just enough of me")

Note: I was writing a post about population growth/decline and related issues on a public message board that I frequent. After reading through what I had written, I thought, "why not present it as a post on my blog as well?" I normally post only videos here, but I hope my readers (viewers?) will not mind if I interrupt the normal flow of videos with a more traditional blog post. Here is the post, with some slight edits to make it fit better in a blog setting:

Before I get to my main point, let me explain that the second part of the title of this post pokes a bit of fun at the attitude of some who promote population control -- particularly the idea that contraception, sterilization, and abortion should be pushed heavily on poor people in third world countries.

On a message board that I post on, I had mentioned my opinion that the world needs more children. Another participant expressed skepticism of this idea, so I tried to explain why I think that the world does need more children.

We first touched on Russia's declining population, which he agreed may be a problem.  But it isn't only Russia. Japan is another example of a country whose population is already declining, due to an extremely low fertility rate, and low immigration. And Japan's fertility rate shows no signs of recovering. The article that I linked a couple of sentences ago details some of the social and economic problems that Japan is already experiencing and is expected to experience as a result of a declining and aging population. One obvious and major problem is the strain on health care and pension systems, as fewer young workers support more elderly retirees.

And in fact, the fertility rate is already below replacement in many countries besides Japan and Russia, including most European countries. (You can see fertility rates by country here.) That means that the populations of these countries will begin to age and to decline too (if they have not begun already), unless their fertility rates rise substantially, or unless they have significant levels of immigration.

But even immigration can prop up below-replacement fertility rates only in the short-term, because the fertility rate of the entire world is going down year after year, and is already not much above replacement level. (This chart shows that the world fertility rate was 2.5 children per woman in 2009, and trending downward. Replacement level is about 2.1 children per woman.) If the world fertility rate sinks significantly below replacement (as many predict that it will) and stays there, then the entire world, on average, will soon be in the same situation that Japan is facing now. We will have a world population that is both aging and declining, with the serious economic and social problems that that situation entails.

So that is the practical reason why I say that the world needs more children.

There is also a more spiritual or humanistic reason why I think that the world needs more children. Namely, I see people as a good thing, as a net positive for the world. I acknowledge that there must be some point at which the world nears the limit of how many people it can sustain, but I don't think that we are anywhere near that limit yet.

Another thing that is relevant to this discussion is a movement that could be termed anti-humanism. This episode of Kresta in the Afternoon features an interview (starting at 5:40) with Dr. Robert Zubrin, who has written a book on the subject. Dr. Zubrin defines anti-humanism as "the belief that the human race is a criminal species, which if left unconfined will destroy the world . . . it's fundamentally an argument for tyranny." He contrasts this view with humanism, which he says means that "humans are fundamentally creators . . . every new person in the world on net is a benefit to all the rest of us . . . and human liberty is a necessity."

Dr. Zubrin presents many interesting (and sometimes appalling) facts, including the way that anti-humanist attitudes have led to pushing contraception, sterilization, and abortion (sometimes forced contraception, sterilization, and abortion) on poor people in third world countries. (And for anyone who is skeptical about western nations funding forced sterilization programs, here is one example.)

Ultimately, my view, and I would say the Catholic view, is much more in line with humanism, and I adamantly disagree with anti-humanism, as defined by Dr. Zubrin. So that is another reason why I think that the world needs more children.

For further reference, I have posted some helpful videos about population issues here on the blog.

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