The population of the world is in the neighborhood of 5.2 billion people. and continues to increase. People react to this fact differently. Some look forward to a world where more and more of the earth's resources will be brought undo cultivation and utilized and where the likelihood of finding more great men and women of genius is increased. Others react in a negative way. They think and talk in terms of a population bomb ticking away until there is a population explosion. They view this planet earth as a lifeboat drifting in a sea of as a spaceship orbiting in a hostile universe. These people have reached the conclusion that the planet is about as full of people as it can sustain. and that drastic measures must be taken to curb any further growth in population.
I come from the state of Kansas, the heartland ofthe United States. Anyone who thinks that this country is overpopulated should take a trip across the country by air and discover the vast stretches of land where nobody lives. In my homestate alone, with a population of 2.5 million. most small towns and cities are exploring every avenue to attract more businesses to themselves and create more jobs, more homes, more local consumers for local merchants.
Social Encyclicals on Population Growth
Since the Catholic Church is located in just about every nation under the sun, it is very interested in this question. As we shall see the Church's outlook is very well informed, and very optimistic. She holds these assumptions: God created the entire universe, and this beautiful planet as well. By a special act of creation,
God calls each person into existence, while inviting parents to cooperate in using the gift of their God-given fertility to share life with the next generation. Marriage means family, and parenting is a very real part of marriage. In His providence, God has placed immense natural resources in this planet. which are necessary for sustaining life. He has also given us natural ingenuity whereby we can find better ways to utilize the goods of the earth which sustain human life.
Parents have a natural right to determine the size of their families. Numbers of children in a family is a decision for parents alone to make. The state cannot make this decision for them; neither can the Church. Parents will determine the size of their family on the basis of spiritual, economic, and social responsibilities.
The Church expresses these caveats or reservations. The end does not justify every means. Limiting the number of births does not justify using immoral means, such as abortion, sterilization. or contraception. Our fertility is a God-given gift and must be treated as such. There are very effective, as well as moral, means for planning one's family, such as natural family planning, which employs periodic abstinence. A second reservation is that a government is not to substitute abortion and sterilization for their own incompetence and mismanagement of the economy.
Good Pope John XXIII teaches in his 1961 social encyclical
188. Now to tell the truth, the interrelationships on a global scale between the number of births and available resources are such that we can infer that serious difficulties in this matter do not arise at the present, nor will they in the immediate future. The arguments advanced in this connection are so inconclusive and controversial that nothing certain can be drawn from them.
191. But whatever be the situation, we clearly affirm these problems should be posed and resolved in such a way that man does not have recourse to methods and means contrary to his dignity which are proposed by those persons who think of man and his life solely in material terms.
192. We judge that this question can be resolved only if economic and social advances preserve and augment the genuine welfare of individual citizens and of human society as a whole. Indeed, in a matter of this kind, first place must be accorded everything that pertains to the dignity of man as such, or to the life of individual men, than which nothing can be more precious. Moreover, in this matter, international cooperation is necessary, so that, conformably with the welfare of all, information, capital, and men themselves may move about among the peoples in orderly fashion.
More recently John Paul II teaches in Sollicitudo rei socialis:
25. One cannot deny the existence, especially in the southern hemisphere of a demographic problem which creates difficulties for development. One must immediately add that in the northern hemisphere the nature of this problem is reversed: here, the cause for concern is the drop in the birthrate with repercussions on the aging of the population, unable even to renew itself biologically. In itself, this is a phenomenon capable of hindering development ...
On the other hand, it is very alarming to see governments in many countries launching systematic campaigns against birth contrary not only to the cultural and religious identity of the countries themselves but also contrary to He nature of true development. It often happens that these campaigns are the result of pressure and financing coming from abroad. and in some cases they are made a condition for the granting of financial and economic aid and assistance. In any event, there is an absolute lack of respect for the freedom of choice of the parties involved, men and women often subjected to intolerable pressures, including economic ones, in order to force them to submit to this new form of oppression. It is the poorest populations which suffer such mistreatment, and this sometimes leads to a tendency towards a form of racism, or the promotion of certain equally racist forms of eugenics.
This fact too, which deserves the most forceful condemnation, is a sign of an erroneous and perverse idea of true human development.
(See also PP 35, 48-55; HV 23; and FC 30.)
Anti-Natalist Forces in the United States
Within the United States there are very well organized, and very powerful forces who are determined to use every means possible to reduce the population both here and abroad. In her book, The War Against Population The Economics and Ideology of Population Control, Dr. Jacqueline Kasun, professor of economics (at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California), investigates the role of Planned Parenthood, International Planned Parenthood, and many of its affiliates in aggressively curtailing live births. We need to look at some of the claims of those who espouse an anti-baby ideology, who claim CHURCH & SOCIETY that 'the United States government must pour millions of tax-payers' dollars every year into aggressive anti-population activities. Already much of our foreign aid has birth-control requirements. We find that our government intrudes into the private lives of people who receive American foreign aid in wags that we Americans would never tolerate forced upon us. Furthermore, it is no accident that abortions in this country, as elsewhere in the world, have "exploded" beyond the wildest imaginings of population predictions. Abortion has been promoted by Planned Parenthood among our teenagers in public schools, among minority groups in community "health centers," and especially among the poor.
Let us look at some of the claims by anti-naturalists and see if there are hard facts to substantiate these claims.
Is the earth a lifeboat which is already full, and from which all newcomers must be pushed away? If we were to listen to Paul Ehrlich in his 1968 The Population Bomb, we would think so. In his prologue he asserts: "The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970's the world will undergo famines—hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now." He has yet to retract that statement.
Many traveling exhibits for schoolchildren carried this same message in the 1970's, and these were designed by the National Science Foundation, using federal funds. The media carried the contrived crusade with feature stories depicting the starving masses of other lands and those obliging Americans who were childless-by-choice, career-before-home types, and responsible planners.
To the contrary, one of the world's most prominent economic demographers. Colin Clark of Oxford University published a book titled Population Growth: The advantages (Santa Anal R.L. Sassone,1972). Economists Peter Bauer and Basil Yamey of the London School of Economics discovered that the population scare "relies on misleading statistics... misunderstands the determinants of economic progress... misinterprets the causalities in changes in fertility and changes in income" and "envisages children exclusively as burdens" ("The Third World and the West: An Economic Perspective." in W. Scott Thompson, ed., The Third World: Premises of U.S. Policy (San Francisco, Institute for Contemporary Studies: 1978). p. 108).
P.T. Bauer has criticized the view that population growth retards economic growth. Finding that "rapid population growth has not been an obstacle to sustained economic advance either in the third World or in the West" [Equality, The Third World. and Economic Delusion (Cambridge, Harvard Univ. Press;: 1981), p. 43], he documents his conclusion with a wealth of case studies and statistical evidence gathered from all continents. Moreover. Julian Simon, in his major study of the Economics of Population Growth (Princeton, Princeton Univ. Press: 1977), found that population growth was economically beneficial.
How large a population could the world's agricultural resources support using presently known methods of farming? Colin Clark, former director of the Agricultural Economic Institute at Oxford University, classified world land-types by their food-raising capabilities and found that if all farmers were to use best methods, enough food could be raised to provide an American-type diet for 35.1 billion people, more than seven times the present population (ibid, p. 44). Since the American diet is a very rich one. Clark found that it would be possible to feed three times as many again, or more than twenty-two times as many as now exist, at a Japanese standard of food intake. Clark's estimate assumed that nearly half of the earth's land area would remain in conservation area. for recreation and the preservation of wildlife (ibid., 48)
Is there enough living space available for a larger population? Consider China. Many countries are more crowded than China, but few produce as little per person.
China had 280 persons per square mile in 1985 (as does the state of Pennsylvania). with a GNP per capita in 1985 dollars of $310. By comparison. France with the same density of population had a GNP per capital in 1985 dollars of $9,540.
R.L. Sassone has calculated that there would be standing room for the entire population of the world within one-quarter of the area of Jacksonville. Florida [Handbook on Population (Santa Anal R.L. Sassone: 1978), p. 99]. Evidently. if the people of the world are floating in a lifeboat, it is a mammoth one quite capable of carrying many times its present passengers. An observer, in fact, would get the impression that he was looking at an empty boat, since the present occupants take up only a fraction of I percent of the boat's space and use less than one-ninth of its ice-free land area to raise their food and other agricultural products. The feeling of the typical air passenger that he is looking down on a mostly empty earth is correct.
Will we run out of energy, oil, fuel, electricity? Summarizing the conclusions of a group of energy experts in 1984, Julian Simon and Herman Kahn wrote: "Barring extraordinary political problems, we expect the price of oil to go down ... there is no basis to conclude ... that humankind will ever face a greater shortage of oil in economic terms than it does now; rather, decreasing shortage is the more likely.. [Julian L. Simon and Herman Kahn, eds., The Resourceful Earth: A Response to Global 2000 (Oxford. England, Basil Blackwell Inc.: 1984). p. 25].
Speaking of all kinds of energy, they concluded: "The prospect of running out of energy is purely a bogeyman. The availability of energy has been increasing. and the meaningful cost has been decreasing, over the entire span of humankind's history. We expect this benign trend to continue at least until our sun ceases to shine in perhaps 7 billion years .. (ibid., p. 25). The message is clear. The boat is extremely well stocked. The industrial system will not halt for lack of supplies.
The real fear today is not that there is a population explosion. but that some countries are not replacing themselves. In the industrialized countries population growth rates are now below replacement levels and population is declining in several of them. Fertility has been below replacement levels in the United States since 1972 (see U.S. Bureau of the Census. Statistical Abstract of the United States: 1980. p. 61).
U.S. foreign Aid
A few remarks need to be made about U.S foreign aid and its bias against population growth. Since 1965 the United States has contributed more to foreign population-control programs than an other nations combined, and has pressured other countries and international agencies to back the programs (see Kasun. p.79). We must ask ourselves on what grounds may our government demand, as a condition for receiving American aid, that a country reduce the size of their families to an average of two children. Under the terms of the International Development and Food Assistance Act of 1978 (Sections 102 and 104d), the entire foreign aid program must be geared to encourage smaller families in all countries receiving U.S aid. U.S. appropriations explicitly designated for foreign population assistance amounted to $185 million in fiscal 1980. $290 million in 1985, and $230 million in 1987. Implicitly, of course, the full amount spent on foreign aid—$12 billion in 1985—is tainted by the antinatalist ideology (Kasun. p. 166)
A Birth Dearth In the U.S.
Let us look briefly now at our own country. In 1987 Ben Wattenberg published his The Birth Dearth: What Happens When People in Free Countries Don't Have Enough Babies? (Pharos Books. New York.1987). He warns that people in the Soviet bloc and the Third World are reproducing much more rapidly than the "free world," which made up about 22 percent of the global population in 1950, is down to 15 percent and heading as low as 5 percent by the end of He next century. As early as the 1990's, Wattenberg claims, the U. S. will see the first effects of the "birth dearth." The number of Americans in their late 20's and 30's will fall by almost 20 percent, with negative implications reaching every facet of American life.
This has serious implications for the U.S. economically, socially, and spiritually. Fewer babies today means fewer workers tomorrow, and greater difficulties in sustaining production. Trained technicians and blue collar workers will be in short supply, and even those industries that employ unskilled laborers will feel the crunch. And fewer consumers means less needs and a smaller market base for cars, TV sets, microwave ovens, and so forth. Another problem will be the support and care of the constantly expanding elderly population. Most elderly people live on fixed incomes, and many are retiring at earlier ages. Not only is their number increasing, but the cost of Social Security and Medicare is borne by those in the work force, and the work force is decreasing. The proposed solution is increased taxes to carry the costs.
The Real Question
A final question we must ask ourselves is "Who has been promoting this war against population here at home and abroad?" Who has propagandized the U.S. government and convinced it that we taxpayers must fund millions of dollars to sex-education classes from the early grade schools to the universities; that we must provide free contraceptives to our youth, without parental consultation; that we must provide abortion upon demand for any woman seeking one: that good sex is impossible for our youth so we must provide for their safe, and recreational, sex; that a preborn child has no right to its natural life unless its mother agrees to this; and that men and fathers have no say in deciding such matters?
The group who champions all these pseudorights does not hide from public view; indeed it is the strongest advocate of abortion. Planned Parenthood, International Planned Parenthood, and its scores of affiliates have been promoting population control, as well as eugenics, since it was founded by Margaret Sanger. If you want to review the history, growth, and effectiveness of Planned Parenthood, read Jacqueline Kasun's The War Against Population or George Grant's Grand Illusions: The Legacy of Planned Parenthood (Wolgemuth & Hyatt Brentwood. Tenn.: 1988)
Planned Parenthood's nationwide commitment to cut, curb, and control the populace was thorough— reaching into the schools where teachers and textbooks naively persuaded the nation's young against the evils of littering—i e., "too many children spoil the earth." The National Education Association's strong political influence favoring legalized abortion-on-demand and contraceptive counseling to minor children without parental "interference" was seen by most supportive members as "patriotic" at the least. Such "values-free" counseling has witnessed a rise in unwed teen pregnancy no previous generation has matched.
Should a campaign so authoritarian as to impose the ideology of a select group on the general population be stamped with a government's approval and promoted with all its resources arid power? Since World War II the number of organizations devoted to limiting the population has multiplied. U.S. government transfusions of money for birth-control services and research pump the lifeblood of the worldwide network. Unquenched, the proliferating "private, non profit" population agencies prod and plead, immerse Congress, the media, and the public in statistics at politically strategic moments. Is this what we want?
Children are not possessions. nor are men and · women breeders, to be manipulated at the whim of the latest poll, trend, or columnist. Only a return to the Judeo-Christian ethic in America will restore the view that each child (born or preborn), no matter its age, race. or condition, is deserving of the right to life and respect; that no child should ever be abused, abandoned, or aborted.
Then will we become again a great country, caring more about children than commodities, with couples eager to have babies, not for fiscal, but rather familial reasons—because they know from experience that no car, no boat, no vast estate, could ever bring to a marriage what another pair of grimey hands can.
1. A good Scripture source is Matthew 6: 25-34.