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Bye Bye, Baby

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You may have noticed the abundance of hand-wringing of late by apostles of the church of growth everlasting, over declining fertility rates throughout much of the world. The growth-pushers are concerned that women are discovering meaning in life beyond serving as baby factories pumping out cheap labor to shop at Wal-Mart and pay taxes so old folks don’t have to save for retirement.

So, imagine my delight to read Bye-Bye, Baby in Sunday’s New York Times, a fact-filled, thoughtful commentary that recommends there is no need to convince the women of the world they should return to the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant:

“Humanity has many legitimate problems to worry about. Falling fertility is not one of them.”

Michael Teitelbaum and Jay Winter do a fine job of pointing out the too-often overlooked advantages of declining fertility rates:

“…slower population growth creates enormous possibilities for human flourishing. In an era of irreversible climate change and the lingering threat from nuclear weapons, it is simply not the case that population equals power, as so many leaders have believed throughout history.”

This piece has its imperfections. Nowhere do the authors acknowledge the world is already overpopulated. And for some strange reason they just HAD to mention the “dire Malthusian projections of mass starvation” they believe have been “discredited.” That’s a premise the growth-pushers have repeated so often, it has become a wart lodged so firmly in the mythology of our modern culture that I have to work full-time to remove it. Teitelbaum and Winter appear to be firmly in control of the facts, so I can only surmise they included this legend because they felt the need to throw a bone to those hooked on growth, to keep them engaged to the end of the commentary. I hope it worked. Pretty horrific numbers of people are starving, and there is good reason to believe those numbers will yet go off the charts - especially if the birth-dearth fear-mongers have their way.

The authors’ command of the facts stems from research they did for a book, The Global Spread of Fertility Decline. I’ve not read it, but I am very much looking forward to doing so (perhaps my review copy was lost in the mail).

All in all, this is a breath of fresh air. It’s one of the most intelligent commentaries on human population and fertility rates I've seen published in the mainstream U.S. press. Kudos to the New York Times, and thank you to Michael Teitelbaum and Jay Winter. The case for celebrating (and accelerating) fertility decline needs to be made convincingly, repeatedly, and loudly. It is essential that human numbers decline to a sustainable level - so that our children and grandchildren can live good lives in a world worth inheriting.

Photo Credit: We started with a still from this brilliant animated film by Nina Paley (Creative Commons License).

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  • Peter Kelly
    Peter Kelly Monday, 07 April 2014

    The soshocku danshi (herbivore men) of Japan are leading the way. The accidental environmental heroes of our age. May the same be repeated in other countries.

    Japan's stable population is an ecological success story. Not wanting sex and by extension children is the golden jackpot prize for the environment of all golden jackpot prizes. The most environmentally friendly action anyone can perform in life is NOT to reproduce. It is hoped that this trend catches on. The planet is crying out "Childfree" and the soshoku kei are by extension childfree.

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