“It doesn’t make any sense” II

The world population rose from 1.6 billion in 1900 to 7 billion in October 2011, and the U.N. projects that it will reach 9.3 billion by 2050. Achieving agreement on the “right” number of people may be impossible, but it’s hard to deny that most of the great challenges the planet faces – global warming; loss of biodiversity; dwindling energy, food and water supplies; brain drain migration and commercial development encroaching on natural habitat – can be traced, in large degree, to the enormous growth in population over the past century. Even cross-border skirmishes and wars can be tied, directly or indirectly, to rampant population growth in a particular region or country.

There was a time, in agrarian societies and the beginning of the industrial age, when large families made good economic sense. Today, research shows that large families are often a financial handicap and tend to inhibit children’s educational opportunities. Additional siblings dilute parental resources by hampering the ability to attend to the emotional and character-building needs of many children. In our ultra-competitive information age, increasing the intellectual capital of children is usually what separates the economically successful, well-adjusted offspring from those that are a financial or social strain on society.

It is estimated that more than two in five pregnancies worldwide are unintended and half or more of the resulting births fuel faster population growth. Robert Engelman, Executive Director of the Worldwatch Institute, an environmental research organization based in Washington DC, has calculated that if all women had adequate information and the capacity to decide for themselves when to become pregnant, average global childbearing would fall below the replacement value of slightly more than two children per woman. Under these circumstances population growth could peak and reverse before 2050. It is both proper and increasingly necessary that women make their own decisions about childbearing without coercion or pressure from partners, family or society.

Despite the above arguments for discouraging large families (or at least not encouraging them), the U.S. continues its long-held policy of providing financial incentives to parents with large families. Rewards include tax credits for additional children, child care tax deductions and generous family leave policies. These are policies that don’t make any sense!

Moreover, the U.S. population, unlike that of many other developed countries, is still growing relatively quickly. In the past decade the population of the U.S. grew 9.7% compared to France and England which grew at roughly 5 percent, Japan which was largely unchanged and Germany where the population declined. While the rate of growth in the U.S. slowed since 2000, this deceleration was due, at least in part, to the economic meltdown in 2008 which brought U.S. births and illegal immigration to a near standstill compared with previous years. Thus the recent slowing trend is likely to be short-lived. As Mark Mather, an executive of the Population Reference Bureau, a Washington firm that analyzes census data, notes, “We have a youthful population that will create population momentum through a large number of births, relative to deaths, for years to come.”

It is time for an honest, open discussion where old beliefs and ineffective policies give way to focusing on the best way to achieve an equitable, sustainable prosperity. If that can be done, it seems reasonable to expect that quality rather than quantity will be seen as the superior choice and policies will be aligned accordingly.

This entry was posted in Blogs On Current Affairs & Events, Environment, Money, Political and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>