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Larry Wohlrabe, Moorhead, letter: In-migration is not only option for Fargo

In his article "Numbers confront F-M area" (Oct. 15), Mike Nowatzki quotes from a recent study of regional population trends, observing that "births will continue to increase through 2020 but will then decline through 2035 in the metro area. Duri...

In his article "Numbers confront F-M area" (Oct. 15), Mike Nowatzki quotes from a recent study of regional population trends, observing that "births will continue to increase through 2020 but will then decline through 2035 in the metro area. During that same time, the number of deaths - primarily in the baby-boomer generation, those born from 1946 through 1964 - will increase."

What to do? The study and Nowatzki's article apparently focus on one solution. "The only way to offset that net loss ... is to boost in-migration by having more people move into the area, less people leave the area or both." But is "in-migration" really the only solution? Aren't we overlooking an obvious, additional possibility: increasing our birth rate?

To entertain such a possibility, we will need to conceive of our population situation from cultural, moral and religious perspectives - not merely in economic, social or political terms. Does it say anything about our cultural quality of life and our hope for the future when deaths outstrip births?

Simply to maintain a stable population, we need a total fertility rate of 2.1 live births per woman. That's what America has: 2.1, give or take. Canada has 1.48 and Europe as a whole has 1.38, Japan 1.32, Russia 1.14. These countries, many would argue, are committing demographic suicide.

Such alarming depopulation statistics have led author George Weigel to conclude that Europe is in "a crisis of civilizational morale." In his 2005 book, The Cube and the Cathedral, Weigel asks: "What is happening when an entire continent, wealthier and healthier than every before, declines to create the human future in the most elemental sense, by creating a next generation?"

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We will short-circuit the kind of comprehensive discussion we need regarding area population trends if we focus exclusively on "in-migration." We also need to ask: Are we commending marriage and encouraging child-bearing among young adults? Are we pursuing policies that foster healthy, stable families? Do we have enough confidence in the future to bring into this world the members of the next generation?

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