People, made in God’s image, can be creative and productive stewards, making more resources than they consume…
(E. Calvin Beisner, CornwallAlliance.org) You’d have thought congratulations were in order when HGTV’s Chip and Joanna Gaines, of Fixer Upper, announced they’re expecting their fifth child.
Some congratulations did come, but so did some nasty criticism.
The gist: With four, they have too many already.
The world’s overpopulated, and it’s selfish of them to add more children.
US Magazine headlined its story, “Some People Are Pissed About Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Baby News: ‘I Hope This One Will Be Your Last’,” and quoted from some social media responses:
I like them ok but enough with the kids already. Their own children begged them not to have any more children on a previous episode already+overpopulation= 😶.
Thank you for contributing to the over population of the planet. I hope this one will be your last and you will use wiser judgement.
Here’s how Kristen Pyszczyk, writing for CBCNews, put her complaint:
While having a child or five is a very personal choice, it’s also a choice that affects everyone who inhabits our planet.
So while many people might find the backlash unwarranted, it’s actually a conversation we need to have in order to challenge our uncritical acceptance of the life-fulfillment-through-procreation story.
Population control is a fraught topic, and carries with it associations with eugenics and other nasty historical events.
But we still need to talk about it, and people who reacted strongly to the Gaines’ pregnancy announcement know this on some level.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that the survival of our species depends on it. …
In the global West, where the environmental footprint of one person is far larger than in developing nations, it’s crucial that we begin to present all people with alternatives to the traditional nuclear family.
This inevitably involves calling out people who have kids like they’re going out of style.
Shame is a powerful tool for changing behaviour: it’s how we introduce new and existing social conventions.
It’s unfortunate that Chip and Joanna bore the brunt of changing attitudes, but let’s learn from the reaction and examine our own actions.
Climate change is getting measurably worse, populations are multiplying exponentially and economic inequality is not getting better.
And to top it off, Prince is dead.
Don’t bring a child into this.
Procreation is becoming a global public health concern, rather than a personal decision.
So when people do irresponsible things like having five children, we absolutely need to be calling them out.
Pyszczyk, identified as “a writer and IT communications professional living in Toronto” whose “areas of focus include feminism, mental health, addiction, pop culture and digital media,” doesn’t appear to have much expertise in the economics, science, or ethics of demography (population dynamics).
But that happens to be an area of expertise for me, having written a whole book on it 30 years ago.
As I argued there and in chapter 7 of my book Where Garden Meets Wilderness: Evangelical Entry into the Environmental Debate, people, made in God’s image, can be creative and productive stewards, making more resources than they consume.
Julian Simon made the case thoroughly in The Ultimate Resource 2.
So here are some facts:
- The Bible teaches that God created people in His own image, to be creative and productive as He is (Genesis 1:26–28).
- The Bible also teaches that children are a gift from the Lord, that the fruit of the womb is His reward, that they’re like arrows in the hand of a mighty man, and that he whose quiver is full of them is happy (Psalm 127), and that they’re like olive trees around one’s table (Psalm 128). The Gaineses, an outspokenly Christian couple, probably know these passages and rejoice in them as do millions of other Christians.
- Rather than depleting the earth’s resources, as some fear, people make resources—and on average they make more than they consume. That’s why each new generation tends to be richer than the last, as people leave inheritances to their children.
- The history of resource abundance confirms this. The long-term inflation-adjusted price trend of all extractive resources (mineral, vegetable, and animal) is downward, and since price is a measure of scarcity, the falling price means falling scarcity, i.e., rising abundance. The fears of running out of resources are based on bad theory, not good theory, or for that matter good empirical observation.
- Except—the long-term inflation-adjusted price trend of one other resource, people, is rising, not falling, demonstrating that people are getting more and more scarce, not less and less, even while their absolute numbers are rising.
- There is no objective, empirical definition of “overpopulation” or population growth that is “too fast.” Those concepts can’t be defined by population density, population growth rate, or age distribution—the demographic factors that matter. Instead people tend to think of a place as “overpopulated” because it’s poor. But there is no statistically significant correlation between high population density and poverty; in fact, if anything the opposite correlation is true. Because people make wealth, and they make it better when they’re working together, high-density places tend to be wealthier than low-density places.
- Higher population density correlates with better health, not worse, so population wouldn’t be a “global public health concern” if it weren’t for the anti-human attitudes of population fear mongers.
- Although population has grown rapidly for the last three centuries, the reason isn’t that people are multiplying like rabbits but that they’re not dying like flies. Declining death rates brought on the upswing, not rising birth rates.
- Indeed, birth rates are falling all over the world. Nearly every highly developed country’s total fertility rate is too low to sustain population. Until immigration rates rose, Europe was losing nearly 900,000 people per year. Russia, a million. Japan’s population, too, has been falling. And China’s and India’s? Though still growing, they’re set to peak and begin declining in the next decade or two, respectively. The U.S. would be declining in population if not for immigration.
- Based on trends in total fertility rates—driven downward by rising prosperity and the consequently rising costs of raising a child to adulthood—global population is likely to peak around mid-century and begin a steady decline after that. The only way that decline will stop is if something happens to drastically change the way people respond to the rising costs of child raising—and so far that hasn’t happened in any country. (Christian revival is the most likely way to bring about that change.)
- In the absence of that turnaround, total world population could fall as low as 300 million—about 95 percent less than today’s—in the next two to three centuries.
- The big challenge facing the world so far as population is concerned is how to take care of a rapidly aging population. Life expectancy is rising rapidly all over the world, even while fertility rates are falling. The result is a declining ratio of workers to retired people, making old-age retirement programs increasingly difficult to fund.
The reality is that the Gaineses should be not only congratulated but also thanked for having another child.
Won’t it be ironic when those who criticize them for it reach their retirements and are supported, in part, by the Gaineses’ children’s taxes?
To learn more about population, its growth, and whether the world is overpopulated, see “Total Takedown on Paul Ehrlich and Fears of Overpopulation,” “The Haunt of Jackals,” and—on whether population growth should be controlled in the name of preventing global warming, “Is Pope Francis Contributing to Human Trafficking?”