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God vs Overpopulation

“And God blessed them, saying : increase and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and rule over the fishes of the sea and the fowls of the air and all living creatures that move upon the earth.”

Genesis 1:28

I recently travelled to Mississippi (for the first time) to visit my husband who is temporarily stationed there. On the second stretch of my journey, a flight out of Charlotte, my seatmate was looking for conversation.

He started with the usual litany: Are you coming or going? Have you been here before? What brings you down south? Are you married? Any kids?

My husband and I recently decided that when asked if we had any children we would answer honestly “We had a daughter but she died.

We did not make this decision lightly as the answer is unavoidably personal and makes many people uncomfortable, however, we felt it was necessary because she did exist and we hope that it will be a positive witness for being open to life. (I’ll do a separate post for this one day soon.)

I answered my seatmate honestly and continued, saying, “We hope she was the first of many and that we’ll have another one soon.” He callously told me that I might change my mind once I got one home.

*Cue the Holy Spirit*

I managed to not punch him in the face and in fact responded –I think – quite gracefully with, “I doubt it as my husband is the eldest of eight and I’ve wanted ten kids since I was little. There is no such thing as too many babies.”

“Except in places like China where they are overpopulated and overcrowded,” was his reply.

“Well,” said I, “My husband has been to China and though the cities are in fact quite populous, there are vast stretches of open countryside. Furthermore, I’m actually Canadian and we have the second largest country in the world with the population of Mexico City.” (around 36 million in case you were wondering)

At this point he changed the subject.

Still the thought of overpopulation danced in the back of my head. Children are not products that can be made and destroyed in response to supply and demand. They are living breathing human beings with eternal souls. Every child that comes into being is a direct act of God. To even entertain the idea that overpopulation is possible would be to say that it is possible for God to err. The problems we face in third world countries are due to poor distribution of resources and the problems looming ahead for the western world are due to a lack, not of resources, but of new people.

In 1797, Thomas Malthus published “An Essay on the Principles of Population” in which he predicted mass starvation – by the year 1890 – as Earth’s population increased exponentially and food production remained the same. Paul Ehrlich forecast a similar fate in his book “The Population Bomb” published in 1968 wherein he claimed that millions if not billions of people would be dying of starvation by 1995. In 1994, the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology said that farmers were using less than half of the world’s arable land and land conversions for urban development would use up less than 2%.

Fred Pearce has written books on what he calls the coming population crash you can read a little about his thoughts here. (be aware that this is a secular link)

From 1960 to 2009 average world fertility rates plummeted from almost 5 to 2.5. In countries, such as Japan, where the fertility rate is 1.2 in 4 generations they will have only one tenth of the population they have now. That’s 90% shrinkage.

The necessary replacement rate (to maintain a population) is 2.1 and many Western nations have fallen below that benchmark. Once a population’s fertility rates fall below a certain point it has been seen historically that that culture can never recover. Check out www.overpopulationisamyth.com and the Population Research Institute (www.pop.org )

While the world at large seems to have bought into the overpopulation myth, we as Catholics are called to be open to life. Have you ever had to deal with strangers (or family and friends) who feel your fertility rate is a cause for world panic?

“Saying there are too many children is like saying there are too many flowers.” -Mother Theresa