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Urged to Multiply, Iranian Couples Are Dubious

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Should this story in Sunday’s New York Times be on the Wall of Fame because it offers good news (even though the reporter apparently didn’t see it that way)? Or should it be on the Wall of Shame because reporter Thomas Erdbrink failed to explore the view that lower fertility rates actually offer hope for future generations? I’m going with Shame because the reader is invited to interpret good news as bad, and the bad news as good:

“Worried about a steep decline in fertility rates that experts are predicting could reduce population growth to zero within 20 years, Tehran has started a broad initiative to persuade Iranian families to have more children.”

It is nothing short of flabbergasting in this day and age, knowing what we know about our state of overshoot, that policymakers anywhere would be “worried” about the prospect of an end to population growth. The good news is that couples so far aren’t responding:

“…the number of children per couple has now dwindled to 1.3…”

One intentionally childfree father was quoted, “Anybody with a lot of children is either very rich or very irresponsible.” (I would editorialize that being rich doesn't change the irresponsibility of conceiving lots of children today.) A young woman told the reporter, “I just don’t want to bring children into this hell.” Young adults in Iran are reportedly reluctant to doom children to an unpleasant life with an uncertain future:

“Like many young couples, Sherag, an architect, and Bita, a recent college graduate, cited a litany of problems as reasons for their dark outlook: an intrusive state and its conservative ideology, a sickly economy, political instability.”

I’ll grant the reporter, and the New York Times, that this story doesn’t overtly judge declining fertility rates as bad. However, this story still fails by not including any expert views about the benefits of this phenomenon.

My view, shared by the experts Erdbrink might have sought out, is that more and more often, in more and more places, a less-than-rosy economic picture (by traditional, growth-addicted standards) is going to be the rule, as we experience the end of growth. That will discourage couples from having children, which is a good thing, since overpopulation is a key contributor to our civilization’s overshoot of planetary carrying capacity.

It will apparently be some time before there is widespread understanding of this, but at least couples are responding with behavior that will eventually correct our state of overpopulation. This change in behavior needs to happen faster and more universally, something we would see with a public better informed by less-biased reporting on the subject.

It was particularly bad news when Iran’s leadership abandoned the country’s “fewer kids, better lives” campaign to slow population growth. Last month a 14-point program was announced, with the hope it would double Iran’s population by 2050. Iran joined a number of other nations now wringing their hands over fewer workers/consumers/taxpayers in the pipeline. That’s unfortunate, but there is hope in the reluctance of young adults to stoop to subsidized procreation.

This story offers quite a bit of interesting information about population policy in Iran. It’s worth a read. Just don’t base your perspective on this story alone.

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Guest Friday, 19 September 2014

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