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Published February 24, 2012, 12:00 AM

Val Farmer: Fewer children hurts future of our society

When I was in graduate school in the early ’70s, zero population growth was the secular religion of the day. Parents with big families were accused of polluting the earth. Paul Ehrlich and his environmentalist friends couldn’t have been more wrong.

By: By Val Farmer, INFORUM

When I was in graduate school in the early ’70s, zero population growth was the secular religion of the day. Parents with big families were accused of polluting the earth. Paul Ehrlich and his environmentalist friends couldn’t have been more wrong.

In the ’70s who knew:

- That the western world with all its cultural and economic advantages would choose career, lifestyle and consumption over children and family life?

- That the women’s revolution, sexual revolution (contraception), cohabitation and divorce revolution would result in fewer marriages, later marriages, fewer children and more unstable and broken families?

- That individualism, cultural relativism, self-absorption and narcissism would erode traditional religious and family values in pursuit of freedom, consumption, travel, personal growth and comfort?

- That popular culture, the media and the advertising world would incessantly promote ego-driven instant gratification and individualism while portraying children as expensive burdens and that marital commitment or parenthood are unnecessary to the fun of sex?

- That having a replacement birthrate was and is the key to sustainable economies?

We have come full circle. The biggest problem facing western economies today is not overpopulation, but that there are not enough people to sustain their growth. Why? According to demographers, beginning around 2050 world population will start a steep, irreversible, exponential decline.

Why? Because of something happening right now under our noses. Ninety countries currently have sub-replacement birth rates well below 2.1 children per woman. When a country has below 1.3 children per woman, it will lose half of its population every 45 years.

Demographers say 1.3 births per couple is the “lowest-low” fertility rate from which no human society has ever recovered. Even in overcrowded places like Japan (1.23), the economy is tottering under the weight of their geriatric population and minuscule birthrates.

Russia has a birthrate of 1.14 in a country with a huge land mass and sparse populations as it is. Eastern European countries are close behind with comparable declining birthrates.

Catholic countries of Spain (1.15), Italy (1.23) and Greece (1.3), where large families were once the norm, have voted with their personal lives not to have children, and their economies suffer. The birthrates for France (1.89), Germany (1.35), Canada (1.48), and the United Kingdom (1.6) are inflated by the birthrates of their large populations of Muslim immigrants.

The United States enjoys 2.11 live births per woman, just at the replacement fertility rate for a stable population. This figure is inflated by the birthrates of Hispanic immigrants who will become the majority population by 2050.

“The on-going global decline in human birthrates is the most single powerful force affecting the fate of nations and the future of society in the 21st century.” – Philip Longman, American demographer

What will be the effects of population decline? Economies need workers and consumers. There are no instances of economic growth accompanied by population decline. The result will be a far bleaker and chaotic environment than any doomsayer environmentalist could conjure up.

There will be political, economic and social disruption. The competition for scant resources will be extreme.

Our grandchildren will mature into a lonely, aging world bereft of siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles. There will be far more grandparents and parents than there are children. The comforts and security of marriage and family life will be elusive for those too wary of its obligations. Not enough children will grow up in families where they learn morality, cooperation and trust.

Adolescent self-absorption extends well into the 30s. Young people engage in premarital sex, delay marriage, live together without commitment, delay childbirth or choose not to marry or be parents at all. Their reproductive heritage will shrink with each succeeding generation.

We need to have a counter-cultural movement to counteract media, affluence and pop culture. These forces glorify wealth, self-gratification and career achievement at the expense of forming new families.

We need a pro-life, pro-family agenda of valuing marriage, motherhood, fatherhood, children and family values. We need to value and defend our religious values, traditional marriage and morality.

People of faith

The families who will thrive in 2050 and beyond will be people of faith. They will be the children and grandchildren of married couples today with strong religious convictions and traditional morality. They are the ones who through their lives of optimism, dedication and sacrifice will bring children into the world and nurture them properly. Their children will be the ones to resist the blandishments of self in favor of stable marriages and having children of their own. Their faith and values will protect them. They are the ones who will inherit the earth.

Val Farmer is a clinical psychologist specializing in family business consultation and mediation with farm families. He lives in Wildwood, Mo., and can be contacted through his website.