Today, Oct. 31, our planet becomes home to 7 billion human beings. Most Catholics I know will celebrate this event, but there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth in the headquarters of the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA).
You see, the UNFPA believes the world is already overpopulated. It even applauds China’s one-child policy, believing that the Chinese Communist Party got it exactly right by limiting most couples to one child. In fact, it actively seeks to encourage other countries to similarly limit their childbearing and turns a blind eye to the human-rights abuses that result.
What human-rights abuses?
Well, imagine that you are a young Chinese woman of, say, 21, who accidently becomes pregnant by her fiancé. When the local birth-control official discovers your condition a few months later, she declares your pregnancy to be “illegal” and orders you to report for an abortion. In desperation, you point out that the father is your fiancé and that you plan to marry as soon as you reach the minimum marriage age of 23. You argue that you are currently childless and that you should be allowed, even under the one-child policy, to bear your first and only child.
“None of this matters,” the official responds. “The only relevant fact is that you are not married now. The rules cannot be bent,” she tells you. And the rules of China’s birth-control program absolutely forbid single motherhood.
Under the double threat of losing your job and paying a huge fine (the first makes it almost impossible to do the second, of course), you report under duress to the abortion ward. Because you are already in the third trimester of pregnancy, you are given a cesarean-section abortion.
The final blow comes when your now dead baby is returned to you in a garbage bag. “The state refuses to bear the cost of your criminal misconduct,” the population-control police tell you: It is up to you to arrange a cremation or burial.
A picture of just such a single mother and her dead baby recently came to me across China’s increasingly porous Internet borders. It was difficult to look upon, in the same way that the pictures of dead bodies stacked up like cordwood at Auschwitz were difficult to look upon. But I looked upon it nonetheless and saw there the human face of China’s one-child policy, which, day after day, year after year, grinds out such tragedies with ruthless efficiency.
For the UNFPA, such forced abortions are a necessary price to pay to prevent the earth’s population from overwhelming its resources.
For me, such tragedies are not just morally repugnant; they make zero economic sense.
After all, as our numbers have grown, incomes have soared. In 1800, when there were only 1 billion of us, per-capita income worldwide was a mere $100. Today, as we pass the 7 billion mark, per-capita income has soared to $9,000.
If we really were “breeding ourselves off the face of the planet,” as the other side likes to claim, mortality rates would be climbing and life spans would be shrinking. Instead, we see the opposite:
As late as the 19th century, four out of every 10 children died before reaching age 5. Today, under-5 mortality is under 6% and falling.
Two hundred years ago, human life expectancy was under 30 years. Today it is 69 years and climbing.
As people live longer, naturally there are more of us around at any given time.
In warning us about the “dangers” of 7 billion, the UNFPA speaks of looming famines. Yet crop yields per hectare have more than kept pace with population growth. Enough grain is produced for every person
on earth to consume 3,500 calories daily. There is no need for anyone to starve in the midst of this plenty.
Economies continue to expand, productivity is up, and pollution is declining. Life spans are lengthening, poverty is down, and political freedom is growing. The human race has never been so well off.
In fact, underpopulation, not overpopulation, is the real threat that much of the world faces. Today, 80 countries representing over half the world’s population have below replacement fertility — defined as 2.1 children per woman.
Their populations are aging rapidly: The economic consequences of population aging will be closing schools, declining stock markets and moribund economies.
Countries with below-replacement-rate fertility will eventually die out; it’s just a question of time.
The rest of the world is not far behind. According to the U.N.’s “low variant projection” — historically the most accurate — the population of the world will peak at 8 billion-plus in 2040 or so, and then begin to decline.
Ignoring these inconvenient truths, the population controllers at the U.N. continue to spread their myth of overpopulation.
I believe that they are loath to report the truth about falling fertility rates worldwide because they fear their funding sources would dry up. Who needs a population-control organization if the numbers are falling anyway?
So, they continue to raise funds by frightening people with the specter of overpopulation. They continue to claim that too many babies are being born to poor people in developing
countries. This is tantamount to saying that only the wealthy should be allowed to have children — and is a new form of global racism.
We should stop funding population-control programs, and instead turn our attention to preventing and curing disease and educating the young.
Let us teach them that people are not a menace, but are our greatest resource. Let our textbooks speak not only of the extraordinarily gifted people who have helped to enrich civilization and lengthen life spans, but also of the fact that everyone, rich or poor, is a unique creation with something priceless to offer to the rest of us.
And today, let us join together in celebrating the birth of Baby 7 Billion. He or she is a sign of our future, our hope and our prosperity.
Happy birthday, baby.
Steven W. Mosher is the president of the Population Research Institute and the author of Population Control: Real Costs and Illusory Benefits.