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We have met the enemy and he is us

The growth rates and the fertility rates of the world population are going down. The population is aging; in many countries, a replacement of the generations is no longer ensured. The 1998 Revision of the World Population Estimates and Projections published by the UN Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs confirms these claims. If nothing changes, the survival of humanity could be in jeopardy.

In 1965-1970, the world population was growing by 2 percent per year; the rate today is 1.3 percent. In 61 countries, representing almost half of the world's population, the total fertility rate (the average number of children by women in fertility age) is below replacement level. We know it takes an average of 2.1 children per woman to replace a population. In Italy and in Spain, these rates are actually 1.2 and 1.15 respectively. By 2050, these countries will have lost 20 percent of their present population force. This is a direct result of the rejection of the teaching delineated in the encyclical Humanae Vitae. The general decline of the fertility rate is universal and is the reason for the drop in the birth rate and for population's median age increase. The median age was around 23.5 years in 1950. By 2050, it should be 37.8 years for the world population as a whole; it could, however, reach 45.6 years in the developed countries!

Truth and consequences

One could point out the fact that marriages are less frequent and that people are older when they do get married. We must also factor in contraception, abortion, and sterilization.

As for the consequences, the United Nations' Revision points out that 56 countries will have a negative growth rate by the year 2050. Among the 61 countries with an insufficient replacement rate, 30 will have a declining population by 2050. Greater life expectancy will continue to be the main cause of population growth; this phenomenon will be particularly apparent in the Third World. From 1998 to 2050, the population of 60-year-olds will increase nine-fold in the underdeveloped countries! The population decline will also cause uncontrollable migrations, a collapse of social security and education systems, conflicts between the younger and older generations, and imbalances in the age structures between different countries.

The U.N.'s responsibility

Coming from one of the most respected authorities of the UN, the 1998 Revision reveals that we must radically re-evaluate the 20-year plan of action developed at Cairo, a plan committed to controlling the growth rate of the world population at all costs. The plan's alarmist remarks about the danger of "overpopulation" must not only be denounced as scientifically untenable, but also be suspected of ideological intoxication. It is not the sovereign nations that must be pressed by the UN to account for what they have been doing "to fulfill the commitments of Cairo." It is the UN agencies that must account for their sponsoring of hefty programs of population control. Those agencies must explain where these "messianic" impulses are coming from - impulses that prompt them to reduce the family to a simple case of precarious cohabitation, and to make so-called "new human rights" of abortion, sterilization, etc.

The UN Population Division therefore has reasons to be concerned about the perverse use of scientific data from her own scientists. One of the primary causes of the decline of the world population is the misunderstanding of population data, or in unacceptable interpretations of these data. "New ethics," which undermines the family, ruins natural solidarity and corrupts the fabric of human society, is another cause.

Every agency involved must take into account the truths brought to light by a science of population. They must then return to the moral principles that justified the creation of the UN, and which alone can continue to legitimate its mission.

Article published in Celebrate Life, July-August 1999.

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