Population (part 2)

Population, a highly controversial subject rarely talked about in green circles has been raised on the “Seedbed” website. I have a number of criticisms of this article some of which were raised in a previous post.

As well as the criticisms made in the previous blog post I did not agree with biblical assumptions made in the article.  Whilst its true that in the old testament there a number of encouragements to multiply (Genesis 1v28, 9:7, 17v2, 22v17 and some verses in Proverbs for example) there is nothing in the new testament at all that suggests this (or to be fair the opposite).  Jesus blessed the children and told us to be like them in our faith, but despite what Dan Brown and others have written he never had any of his own.  I would describe the new testament as being neutral on the issue.  We are told, however, to care for creation  (Genesis 2:15) which is difficult to do with so many of us stripping the planet of its resources.  We had a post from someone who did their doctoral thesis on this very issue after the first blog post.  To read the thesis and look at this issue from a far deeper theological perspective follow this link.

The main reason given in the article for Christians having bigger families seems to be that Christians need to multiply to maintain church numbers

Very simply, it is hard to hold onto children in a congregation if Christian husbands and wives are not conceiving children.”

This in my view is both a highly simplistic and unrealistic way of looking at things.  My understanding from my minister (who had contacts with the Billy Graham organisation on this) and others is that the church in the US is concerned they may be at the start of a decline in the church to European levels of secularisation.  If this is so then this is not the biblical way to reverse this (1Peter2v12).  I belong to a large UK church that although not mega church sized by US standards has hundreds of primary aged children.  The numbers drop off dramatically as they hit teenage years.  We loose those children for a variety of reasons, some out-with our control.

Another assumption made in the article was that not having children makes us more materialist since we would have more disposable income.  This might be true but what is almost certainly true is that if families have more children they will work longer hours to maintain that income.  I don’t like the idea that its women who bear the children and will do most of the childcare (and surveys suggest most of the housework).  I’m very uncomfortable with implying that women should do this.  Its indicative of an increasingly conservative view on the role of women in the US church circles and its not one I share. Finally the fact that Wesleys had loads of children is irrelevant as an argument.  They had no access to contraception.

There some other reasons not mentioned in the article as to why having bigger families is not a good idea.  Immigration is a big issue in the US and UK at the moment.  In the UK we are struggling to fit everyone in (with a surprise increase in the birth rate).  This has led to a high unwelcoming atmosphere with government sponsored vans going around telling illegal immigrants to go home. I’m not happy with this and believe we should welcome those from abroad- but overcrowding gives those who don’t an excuse.

Of course there are many, many issues for the population control lobby to face as well.  The UK pressure group population matters wants the UK to reduce its population by around 2/3.  This is cloud cuckoo land.  The problem is whilst I agree that we should try to do this the policy levers in a democracy are very limited and the lag period makes it too late for this in terms of peak oil and climate change.

Lastly I should add I have 3 children.  In some ways I feel guilty about this and I try constantly to keep my ecological footprint to a minimum.  The reasons for this family size are private.

Please feel to explore this issue more not least in our book/ebook.


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4 Responses to Population (part 2)

  1. George minbiot wrote a very good article on how population increases don’t cause nearly as much damage as wealthy consumers or the super rich (who generally aren’t having big families):


    And yes, I’ve got three children myself, but as we use less energy than the ‘average’ single person in Germany and live in anapartment normally used by young couples, I don’t feel any guilt whatsoever.

  2. John McKeown says:

    Andy > population increase causing less damage than wealthy consumers

    Problem is wealthy consumers are increasing in number, for example look at USA, e.g. in 2011, births = 3.95 million, far more than deaths = 2.51 million (a U.S. “natural increase” that has more climate impact than all Africa’s population growth).

    I usually agree with George Monbiot but not his dichotomy of population and consumption. It’s both. He rightly notes huge difference in carbon emissions, but environment is not just climate; the ecological footprint (GFN) gives bigger picture (land-use, deforestation, etc.) and for example UK uses 4.9 gHa (hectares) per person, while Madagascar is 1.8 gHa. That’s still unfair, but the ratio is around 3:1 (or for poorest nations 4:1) – different to Monbiot’s huge carbon-only ratio that he uses to claim that population growth is environmentally insignificant.

    Looking at recent changes in footprint per person (maybe I should look at affluence instead), my impression is that in recent years population growth has contributed at least as much to ecological damage as rising affluence?

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