The present call for population control by secular environmental activists is not unlike the warnings sounded by Thomas Malthus in 1798, who said the world’s growing population was growing exponentially while the earth’s food supply could at best be increased only arithmetically. According to Malthus, the population would soon overtax the planet’s ability to sustain the human race. He argued for policies that would result in a decreased population among the poor classes. He warned that if both private and public policies to limit population were not enacted and wars did not decrease the population, disease and famine would. He obviously underestimated the creativity of the generations that followed him. The innovative power of those generations fueled the Industrial Revolution and increased the average agricultural yield per acre.
Similar to Malthus, Stanford University professor Paul R. Ehrlich, sounded an alarm about population control in 1968. His book, The Population Bomb, predicted millions of people would die of starvation in the 1970s and 1980s without population control. The hysteria created by Ehrlich paved the way for the United Nation’s Population Fund, which was established in 1969. Ehrlich believed that those nations who refused to institute his population controls were willing to let citizens of those nations starve to death. He also believed that Indian men who had more than three children should be sterilized by force. Global population control became a major focus of the United Nations as they projected the planet to be overrun with 11.5 billion people. Fortunately for us, Ehrlich was not a prophet. Virtually nothing he wrote came to pass. The UN now admits that the human race, which stands at 6.6 billion people, will fall far short of their projections and peak at 8.5 billion. Demographers currently say that once the population peaks, it will start a long-term decline because of falling birth rates.
Even though the fertility rate is declining across the board in Western nations, it is the most Christian nations that have the highest birth rates. Declining population may eventually become a problem in the west because we have seen children as the consumers of limited resources - rather than a reward and heritage from Lord.
While some well-meaning Christians organized a public a demonstration of solidarity with the Denmark Climate Change summit, we must all beware that we don’t miss the forest for the trees. This past Sunday David Hallman of the World Council of Churches recruited churches in Copenhagen to ring their church bells 350 times in recognition of the 350 parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere goals set by popular climatologists. Undoubtedly, these activists see the devastating ecological impacts of climate change as a death sentence on many of the world's poorest and most marginalized peoples. Unfortunately, though, they have not thought that we could use the considerable financial and scientific resources of more developed countries to help poorer nations industrialize and strategically assist their poorer citizens in moving from disaster prone regions to places of safety, obtaining better jobs and more productive lives.
We don’t need to hear any more bells of affirmation, we need to sound a meaningful alarm that says, “Human life is still important on this planet and that we will carefully, ethically, and strategically steward the earth!”
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.