Celebrating as Population Reaches 8 Billion
A week after Election Day, on November 15, the earth’s population is expected to reach 8 billion.
Abortion fanatics and the carbon footprint ideologues will use the occasion to issue their usual dire warnings about over-population, adding fuel to the increasingly popular movement of young people choosing to intentionally remain childless, “for the sake of the planet.”
Pro-lifers, however, proclaim that every life is a gift and believe this momentous occasion is a cause for celebration, not lamentation – especially as we face a worldwide decline in fertility and looming depopulation.
Celebrating 8 Billion
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is one of the most pro-abortion and pro-population control organizations on the planet. Surprisingly, however, even it cautioned against overpopulation fear-mongering on its interactive website called “8 billion strong.”
The executive director of the UNFPA, Dr. Natalia Kanem, even put out a statement saying that while she recognized that some might be disinclined to celebrate 8 billion humans, “I am here to say clearly that the sheer number of human lives is not a cause for fear.” (A statement that John Seager, the president of the alarmist organization Population Connection, evidently found deeply annoying.)
On the UNFPA’s website the organization asked: “Can the planet sustain such a number?” In response, it asserted, “Even amid much feverish hand-wringing in the 1960s over concerns of overpopulation, history has shown the answer is yes.”
Naturally, the UNFPA did not note that it was responsible for a large amount of the “feverish hand-wringing” that has proven to be wrong, while supporting coercive population control programs in China, India, and elsewhere. But I’m happy to see it making the admission now and urging circumspection. Indeed, it even rightly suggested that the 8th billion person is a cause for celebration.
“Turn the 8 on its side, and you see the symbol for infinity, so that a world of 8 billion could mean a world of infinite possibilities,” the UNFPA notes. “If the life of one individual can take many different routes, imagine the boundless paths 8 billion can take.”
Indeed. Against the rabid antinatalism espoused for decades by UNFPA and other anti-life groups, the Catholic Church has consistently proclaimed the truth that the only proper response to every single human life is enthusiastic welcome. While acknowledging that rapid population growth in local areas can produce challenges that require careful thought and solutions that respect human autonomy and dignity and the moral law, the Church has strongly warned that population alarmism must be eschewed.
In Familiaris consortio, for instance, Pope St. John Paul II lamented an “anti-life mentality” that is advocated by certain ecologists and futurologists who drive a “panic” by “exaggerat[ing] the danger of demographic increase to the quality of life.”
“But” the sainted pope continued,
the Church firmly believes that human life, even if weak and suffering, is always a splendid gift of God’s goodness. Against the pessimism and selfishness which cast a shadow over the world, the Church stands for life: in each human life she sees the splendor of that “Yes,” that “Amen,” who is Christ Himself. To the “No” which assails and afflicts the world, she replies with this living “Yes,” thus defending the human person and the world from all who plot against and harm life. (no. 30)
A Future Without Children
On their “8 Billion Strong” website, the UNFPA highlights the fact that demographic trends are already undergoing rapid and dramatic changes. Among eight different trends, they note that in the coming years many countries will experience “slowing [population] growth,” “fewer children,” and “aging populations.”
Quoting the World Population Prospects 2022 report, it notes that “two-thirds of the global population lives in a country or area where lifetime fertility is below 2.1 births per woman, roughly the level required for zero growth in the long run for a population with low mortality.” In as many as 61 countries, the report notes, the overall population is expected to fall between 2022 and 2050.
In 1950, the average woman gave birth to 4.7 children. Today, that number for the world is hovering at 2.4 and falling. The total fertility rate (TFR) for the U.S. is 1.64, the lowest in history. With 2.1 needed just to replace the current population, sometime this century, possibly in the next 20 years, we’ll enter a demographic winter. In many Western nations, the only thing keeping population levels stable is immigration.
The UNFPA notes that population growth globally in 1963 was 2.3% per year. That has since fallen to 0.8%, and is due to continue to decrease in coming years. The UNFPA projects that the population will peak at around 10 billion people around 2080 and begin to fall in the decades thereafter.
This means that in a growing number of countries, the number of elderly people will soon (and in some cases already does) significantly outstrip the number of young people and children. In China, for instance, where the government brutally enforced a one-child policy for decades, the population is expected to start shrinking as early as 2023. Despite efforts by the Chinese government in the past few years to encourage couples to have more children, very few are doing so, with the one-child family having become the cultural norm.
As the U.S. government put it in a recent census report:
The 2020 census will also highlight the sharp growth divide between the old and the young in America, as suggested by estimates from the Census Bureau’s National Demographic Analysis. They show that between 2010 and 2020, the number of people over age 55 grew by 27%, which is 20 times larger than the growth rate of the collective population under 55 (1.3%). The largest driver of this divide is the baby boomer generation, who passed the age of 65 during the past decade, increasing the size of the 65 to 74-year-old age group by a half.
Globally, the percentage of people who are 65 and older rose from 5% in 1950 to 10% in 2022, and according to the UNFPA is expected to rise to 16% by 2050. As economists and sociologists have increasingly warned in recent years, that means that a shrinking working age population will be tasked with supporting a rapidly growing population of elderly people, posing a significant threat to economic and social stability. Without doubt this demographic reality, and the economic and social challenges it poses, is a driving force behind the push for legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide in developed nations.
The Population Controllers March On
However, even as many parts of the globe face the likelihood of a rapid and potentially painful population implosion, pro-abortion forces continue their mission to spread abortion and contraception as widely as possible, apparently not satisfied with the mess they have already made. It often seems as if many population alarmists won’t be satisfied until there are no human beings left, and nature is left unencumbered by the humans that they seem to hate so much.
Take, for instance, the recent announcement by the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) that it is launching an online course on the use of abortion pills. The course is based on guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) and is being launched in collaboration with a website that promotes “medication” abortion even where it is illegal. In other words, IPPF and WHO are trying to bypass the sovereign laws of pro-life nations, and help women abort their unborn children.
This is the same tactic being used by pro-abortion activists in the United States, who have responded to the overturning of Roe v. Wade by promoting abortion pills in states where abortion is illegal. With a total disregard not only for the life of the unborn child, but also for the health and life of the mother, they are encouraging women to illegally obtain powerful medications, and to undergo painful and lonely abortions at home.
Or consider the announcement last year by the UNFPA and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that they would be spending $3.1 billion on “family planning” services around the world in coming years.
Pope St. John Paul II did not mince words in the face of these merchants of death. In Evangelium vitae he denounced the “conspiracy against life” involving “international Institutions, engaged in encouraging and carrying out actual campaigns to make contraception, sterilization and abortion widely available” (no. 17).
In Familiaris consortio the Holy Father condemned those governments and public authorities “which attempt to limit in any way the freedom of couples in deciding about children” (no. 30) and which might even use “violence” to promote contraception, sterilization, and abortion. Similarly, he condemned as “gravely unjust” cases in which economic help is offered to developing nations on condition that they promote contraception and abortion in their countries.
In Evangelium vitae, Pope St. John Paul II compared such as these to Pharoah, who viewed the children of the Israelites as competitors to be eliminated. “Today,” he said,
not a few of the powerful of the earth act in the same way. They too are haunted by the current demographic growth, and fear that the most prolific and poorest peoples represent a threat for the well-being and peace of their own countries. Consequently, rather than wishing to face and solve these serious problems with respect for the dignity of individuals and families and for every person’s inviolable right to life, they prefer to promote and impose by whatever means a massive program of birth control. Even the economic help which they would be ready to give is unjustly made conditional on the acceptance of an anti-birth policy. (no. 16)
Against such cynical anti-life machinations, he said in Familiaris consortio, “The Church is called upon to manifest anew to everyone, with clear and stronger conviction, her will to promote human life by every means and to defend it against all attacks, in whatever condition or state of development it is found” (no. 30).
The Gift of 8 Billion
Despite decades of fear-mongering from anti-life population control advocates, the world is far from overpopulated. In the late 1960s, in his best-seller The Population Bomb, Paul Ehrlich predicted mass starvation, social upheaval, and wars in the 1970s as a consequence of a rapidly growing population.
His doomsday predictions never came true. Instead, poverty and hunger have fallen to their lowest levels in recent decades, while childhood mortality has plummeted, and average lifespans have extended.
What Ehrlich and the other population controllers consistently fail to understand is that humans are not merely consumers, they are also infinitely creative producers. Every human being born is not just another mouth to feed. He or she is also another mind, another soul, another life, with gifts and potential to offer the world.
Many of those “extra” children that Ehrlich and his ilk fretted were contributing to overpopulation, are those who are now solving the problems posed by a large population, making advances in farming technologies, energy technologies, political solutions, etc.
Every human being is a gift. Every human is made in the image and likeness of God. The only correct and humane response to the advent of the 8 billionth human being on planet earth, whoever he or she may be, is to welcome him or her with open arms, in the conviction that human life is an immeasurable good.
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Father Shenan J. Boquet was ordained in 1993 and is a priest of the Houma-Thibodaux Roman Catholic Diocese in Louisiana, his home state, where he served before joining HLI as its President in August 2011. Father Boquet earned a BA from Saint Joseph Seminary College, a Master of Divinity (MDiv) from Notre Dame Seminary Graduate School of Theology, a Certification Program in Health Care Ethics from the National Catholic Bioethics Center, and a Master of Science in Bioethics (MSBe) from the University of Mary in Bismarck. In 2018, Father Boquet was awarded an honorary visiting professorship by the Benedict XVI Catholic University in Trujillo, Peru. He is available for interviews and bookings on behalf of HLI by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.