I was flipping through an English textbook and there was a page about overpopulation in which it described the growing amount of people in the world, the lack of resources and solutions to this problem, namely “family planning”. Then there was a writing prompt for an essay on how to save the planet and limit family size.
The myth of overpopulation is not as shocking as the solution which is often given as a “no-brainer” to sterilize people. Is the world really so overpopulated?
There are more people now.
This is true. There are 7 billion people today and in 1970 there were roughly half as many people as there are now (source). Africa is the region with the largest population growth, projected to increase to 2.4 billion in 2050 from 1.1 billion today, followed by Asia (source).
There are fewer resources now.
In some cases, this is also true. The earth’s forest cover shrunk by about 12%, the ocean’s biodiversity by a third and freshwater ecosystems by 55% between 1970 and 2002. African elephants have gone from 1.2 million in 1980 to half a million now (source) and the number of wild animals on Earth has halved in the past 40 years (source).
There are fewer people being born and dying now.
Europe’s declining birthrate is especially alarming, There is unprecedented aging, with only 16% of the population below the age of 15 (source). The United States is the only developed country where large population increases are still projected, but this is largely because of immigration.
There are also fewer people dying (source), which accounts for this seeming population growth. Maternal mortality ratio dropped from 380 deaths to 210 deaths per 100,000 live births between 1990 and 2013 (source).
The world is not overpopulated.
This pat and dry answer to a non-existing problem underlies the “contraceptive mentality” of our age. The truth is we are not reproducing at a rate of replacement (watch video here) and there is enough food for everyone (watch video here). Overpopulation describes a situation where the number of people exhausts the resources in a closed environment such that it can no longer support that population (source) and that is not our case.
Western society has serious problems with low rates of natality.
“Worthy of our attention also is the fact that, in the countries of the so-called Third World, families often lack both the means necessary for survival, such as food, work, housing and medicine, and the most elementary freedoms. In the richer countries, on the contrary, excessive prosperity and the consumer mentality, paradoxically joined to a certain anguish and uncertainty about the future, deprive married couples of the generosity and courage needed for raising up new human life: thus life is often perceived not as a blessing, but as a danger from which to defend oneself” (Familiaris Consortio, 6).
The world’s fastest growing population is in Africa, but contraceptives and abortion are constantly being pushed there. This brings up issues with eugenics and, as Pope Francis says, it is a type of “ideological colonization“.
We do not need to save the world from overpopulation. Being more eco-friendly has nothing to do with limiting family size. The Church teaches consistently that each life is a gift and doing everything to accept and promote that life is what will truly enrich the world. So do your part to save humanity.
“In a world often marked by egoism, a large family is a school of solidarity and of mission that’s of benefit to the entire society”, says Pope Francis. Be part of the large family that is the Catholic Church, have you own large family or support those that do.