Philip P. Eapen
Copyright 2012 Philip P. Eapen
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2. Population Growth: What Does The Bible Say?
2.1 Israelite views on population growth
2.3 Israelites’ Motivations to Multiply
2.4 God’s Involvement in Maintaining Human Populations
2.5 Understanding the Multiplication of the Ungodly
3. Is the World Over-Populated?
4. Will Population Growth Cause The Collapse of Human Welfare?
5. Will a Growing Population Slow Economic Growth?
6. Human Population Growth and Extinction of Species
7. The True Face of “Family Planning” in the Majority World
8. The True Face of “Family Planning” in India
9. Are Indians Children of a ‘Lesser Monkey?’
9.1 Racial Undercurrents of the Population Control Movement
Conclusion and Recommendations
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” — Romans 12:2 NRSV
The second verse of the twelfth chapter of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans is a popular text among Bible-believing Christians. And yet, many sincere Christians think that this verse is just about fashions, hair styles and makeup, cinema, and beauty pageants. Many of us fail to see the ungodliness and foolishness inherent in the world’s current fashion of prolonging adolescence, postponing or avoiding marriage, and delaying conception. To make matters worse, we in India have accepted the myth of overpopulation as gospel truth. Population control (government imposed norms), as opposed to family planning (voluntary spacing of children), has become an unwritten doctrine. Yet, we fail to see the “worldliness” in these.
Bitten by the “population bug,” Ghulam Nabi Azad, India’s former Union Minister for Health said, “An 18-year-old girl and a 21-year-old boy who haven’t achieved anything in life are not meant to get married.”Toufiq Rashid, “Increase Marriage Age, says Azad,” [Article Online]. Indian Express, 14 July 2009. Internet. Accessed on 7 Dec 2020. The minister, like most Indian grown-ups, hasn’t realised that an 18-year-old woman is not a “girl” and that a 21-year-old man is not a “boy.” If he wants to see his sons and/or daughters as toddlers all the days of their life, he is free to do so. But if he extends that to all young adults of India, we’ll have a real problem at hand.
Moreover, marriage, according to the honourable minister, is only for those who have achieved something in life. In case you are listening, Sir, just surviving till the age of 18 or 21 in India is an achievement in itself. Marriage is not just for achievers. Obviously, the minister wants Indian families to have lesser number of children. To that end, he now recommends that young adults delay their wedding until they “achieve” something. My contention here is that we should not become ghulams, slaves, of an illusion that fertility is forever.
Ask any urban young man or woman what the ideal age for marriage is, and you will most probably get figures above twenty-five (for women) and above thirty (for men). In cosmopolitan cities of India, women, including Christians, find it difficult to think of getting married before thirty.
Is there an ideal age for a man or a woman to enter married life? Many believe that the ‘ideal’ age for entering wedlock varies from person to person. The people to whom I spoke consider several parameters or factors before arriving at a suitable age for entering wedlock. Completion of studies, financial independence through a stable job or a profitable business or profession, achievement of certain financial or career goals, et cetera. Indeed, the age at which people realize these goals vary. If an ‘ideal’ age for marriage should depend on these variables, it is difficult to arrive at a generalized figure.
There may be many who think that physical age is not what matters. They might think that a person should be ‘emotionally mature’ before they marry. At what age do people attain emotional maturity? Who defines emotional maturity and what is the standard against which we may measure our emotional maturity levels? Again, we run up against a wall that we cannot scale. Some might say that it is nonsense to talk of attaining maturity. Each individual has a certain level of maturity at each age, and they should be content with it. Who would want to be in their seventies, at the height of some abstract ‘emotional maturity’ before he considers marriage?
Education, career, ownership of a house or vehicle, financial stability … the age at which one attains these varies. For instance, a scientist may earn a Ph.D. by the age of twenty-six; however, a theologian may top-off his education with a Ph.D. at the age of forty. My contention is that we cannot and should not let educational, career or financial goals to decide the age at which we marry. There is a better indicator – a natural, scientific indicator – that should tell us when our young women and men ought to consider marriage. In a sea of variables, there is one relatively reliable parameter. And that is the biological clock that God has placed in our bodies.
The Bible clearly teaches us that one of the goals of marriage is to prevent sexual immorality. “Yes, it is good to live a celibate life. But because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband. The husband should not deprive his wife of sexual intimacy, which is her right as a married woman, nor should the wife deprive her husband.” (1 Cor. 7:1b-3 NLT)
Indeed, Apostle Paul wrote that instruction for the benefit of Corinthian Christians who lived in a society that glorified immorality. Is the society that you and I belong to any different? We live in a world that glorifies immorality. Sex is not the problem; sexual immorality is. This passage is therefore relevant to our situation too.
If a mutually satisfying marriage is the Bible’s antidote to the immorality that threatens to swallow us, why are our teachers and preachers not recommending marriage on this ground? Those of us who have worked among adolescents and youth know that one of the greatest challenges they face is to live a life of purity. “Victorious Christian Living;” “A Holy Vessel;” “How to overcome sin?” etc., are common themes in our youth camps. Preachers preach about a holy life and go home to their wives. But the young people who listen to their sermons continue to battle storms of passion that break apart their lives. They fail often in the realm of sexual purity. They walk around carrying loads of guilt, bowed down by their inability to live a “holy life.” Have you heard any preacher prescribing marriage – a mutually satisfying married life – as the medicine that will give victory and happiness to those in late teens and early twenties? I have not!
Recently a Christian technocrat in his mid-twenties wrote to me seeking counsel regarding maintaining a pure life. When I suggested marriage, he protested that it was too early for him to marry. With what do I compare such young people who turn their backs on a legitimate, God-ordained prescription for their divinely-scripted drives? They are like starving vagabonds who drool at food kept in shops or restaurants. All they need to do is return to their own homes and feast on what is legitimately their own.
Young man, young woman, what is the right age for you to consider marriage? I would say, when you are old enough to commit sexual immorality, you are old enough to consider marriage. This is why I was happy when I heard that officials at the Central government in India proposed to lower men’s legal age for marriage to eighteen.
Justice Chauhan, Chairman of the Law Commission stated thus in his report on Reform of Family Law:
If a universal age for majority is recognised, and that grants all citizens the right to choose their governments, surely, they must then be also considered capable of choosing their spouses. For equality in the true sense, the insistence on recognising different ages of marriage between consenting adults must be abolished. The age of majority must be recognised uniformly as the legal age for marriage for men and women alike as is determined by the Indian Majority Act, 1875, i.e. eighteen years of age.Law Commission of India, Consultation Paper on Reform of Family Law. New Delhi: Government of India, 31 August 2018. Available on-line..
If only our politicians and religious leaders had a fraction of Justice Chauhan’s good sense, things would have been better! The people of the world seek every impure way to satisfy their passions. A godly young person must turn to God’s way to stay pure and to appreciate God’s gifts in legitimate ways. That divine and legitimate provision is marriage.
Oh, then, what about a job? Should not a man support his family? Yes, indeed, every man ought to support his family. The problem is not that our young people cannot find a job or a means to live. The problem is that most of us are not willing to take up available jobs or economic opportunities. We push our youth to expect a “dream job.” And they pursue that jackpot at the end of some rainbow till they are old and infertile.
And that brings me to the second part of my discussion on biological clock—fertility. Theoretically, men can raise a family at any age. The ground reality may be different in most cases! How about women? Can they afford to postpone marriage and childbearing till some arbitrary age when they might fulfil their educational or career goals?
A whole generation of women (and men) is fooling itself beyond measure! An increasing number of men and women in India realise that they cannot have children when it is already too late. The rising number of fertility clinics is a testimony to that. (I do concede that all cases of infertility are not due to deliberate delays. Many are.)
Biologically speaking, the peak time of female fertility extends from late teenage to early twenties. That is the time when the best eggs are released. As most of us know, women do not produce eggs but are born with a certain set that matures and get released from time to time. There is a definite correlation between fertility and the quality of eggs. This is why it is said that the best age to have the first child is in the late teens or early twenties. Time and fertility wait for no one!
Deirdre Macken, Allen & Unwin have clearly portrayed this scenario in their candid book Oh No! We Forgot To Have Children. Let me quote them:
“The news that the fertility window is smaller than imagined – stretching little more than fifteen years after a woman’s 21st birthday – is especially hard to grasp in an era when all other life stages are getting longer. The period of adolescence, or adulescence as some refer to it, now lasts till the late twenties, with youth staying in education longer, travelling the world, dropping in and out of jobs and living at home longer. The other end of life is also elongating …
“Against these elongated life stages, it seems cruel to be told that the fertility window of opportunity is small, tighter than most imagined and that even technology won’t make it much bigger. Moreover, those 30-something-year-olds who have remained fit and healthy find it hard to believe that their reproductive fitness is not as good as their well-honed abdominal muscles. When many 30-something-year-olds can still look like a 20-something-year-old, run marathons like an East African and have a diet rich in sushi, it’s hard to convince them that their ovaries and testes aren’t as easily buffed to perfection.
“The concept that reproductive biology can be managed, scheduled, manipulated, ramped up and switched on and off as many times as you want is understandable given the sort of information in the media. … Few are told that all this wiggling and tracking down tubes had a finite life; that sperm would become weak swimmers and the egg would have trouble getting through to the uterus and that this crotchety middle age of sperm and ova would begin sooner than we thought …” Deirdre Macken, Oh No, We Forgot to Have Children, Crows Nest, Australia: Allen & Unwin, 2005. p. 29-30.
I can’t get more candid than that!
The Bible says that the primary purpose of marriage is sexual intimacy and reproduction. Yes, you heard me right. All other purposes that marriage serves – companionship, spiritual support, financial support, etc. – can be met even without marriage. This is why marriage is primarily physical. God did not make a mistake when he defined marriage in physical terms in Genesis 2:24. Besides, God told Israel that His expectation from every marriage was “a godly offspring.”“… the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have acted treacherously against her, though she was your marriage partner and your wife by covenant. Didn’t the one God make us with a remnant of His life-breath? And what does the One seek? A godly offspring. So watch yourselves carefully, and do not act treacherously against the wife of your youth.” Malachi 2:14-15. HCSB. Emphasis added.
Although the initial portion of this verse is notorious for the difficulty it poses to translators, there is a general agreement regarding the “godly offspring” that God expected when He instituted marriage. Cf. HCSB, KJV, NKJV, RSV, NRSV, NIV, and NLT. Of course, there are couples who cannot reproduce due to reasons beyond their control. But that’s the exception and not the rule. We derive our principles from the rule, not from exceptions.
If we get this principle right, then our young men and women will marry at such an age that permits each woman to have her first child in her late teens or early twenties. You can pursue higher studies at any age; you may work and study part-time. Advances in career and education can be attained in the late twenties or thirties. Money can come at any time. Healthy children won’t! Emotional maturity will eventually set in, according to the demands of life. A 22-year-old mother may be more mature than a 30-year-old single woman. Those who wait long enough to marry, till they are emotionally mature, might miss the bus of parenthood.
It is indeed surprising that the Indian government has revived its program of “population control”—as if humans are pests to be controlled. The First World worries about their declining population while we, in countries such as India, especially in crowded cities, tend to believe the lie that the globe is over-populated. Crowding is just that–crowding. Crowding is not over-population. If the world is indeed overpopulated, why is the western world giving incentives to their people for having more children? Wake up, India, and think! Jaago re, jaago!
When God created man, He created them male and female. He then blessed them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it.”Genesis 1:28 - God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” NASB This blessing gives human beings a mandate to multiply in numbers and to subdue the earth. The meaning and rationale of human dominion has received wide attention from a variety of Christian and Jewish scholars. I would like to examine the relevance of the mandate for human multiplication in the light of current concerns raised by environmentalists and economists regarding an “explosive” population growth that threatens to lead the whole world into deep trouble. These concerns and the resultant projects initiated to “control” population growth would then be examined for their relevance and credibility. Initially, this work examines the views held by God’s people on this subject as expressed in the Bible.
First, I shall attempt to identify the views held by the writers of the Bible, or Israelites in general, about human procreation, about a growing population and its economic ramifications. This is an attempt to understand Israel’s views in context and to explore Israel’s motivations behind her stated views.
The Bible, at first reading, gives the impression that the people of God portrayed in its pages counted children as a blessing. Multiplication in numbers was seen in a positive light. As a psalmist sang,
“Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate.”Psalm 127:3-5;
Also, see with Psalm 128:1-4
“How blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, Who walks in His ways.
When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands,
You will be happy and it will be well with you.
Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
Within your house,
Your children like olive plants around your table.
Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed
Who fears the Lord.”
Israelites regarded children as a national treasure. They regarded happy children at play as a symbol of national well-being just as they saw weddings as a symbol of peace and prosperity.Jeremiah 25:10 - God warned Israel that He would take away their symbols of peace and prosperity.
“Moreover, I will take from them the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp.” NASB
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Old men and old women will again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each man with his staff in his hand because of age. And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets.’”Zechariah 8:4-5 NASB
Similarly, the presence of bridegrooms and brides indicate weddings. When God foretold the destruction of His people, He proclaimed through Jeremiah that weddings would cease.Jer. 7:34
“Then I will make to cease from the cities of Judah and from the streets of Jerusalem the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride; for the land will become a ruin.” NASB
Cf. Jeremiah 25:10. When God promised a restoration of His people, He said that weddings would once again take place in the land, and that boys and girls would once again play in the streets. Jer. 33:10-11 - “Thus says the Lord, ‘Yet again there will be heard in this place … the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride …
Cf. Zechariah 8:4-5 cited above.
Moses concluded his presentation of God’s Law to the people of Israel by motivating them to obey God. “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity… I command you today to love the LORD your God … that you may live and multiply”.Deuteronomy 30:15-16. Emphasis added. It is interesting to note that life and prosperity are clubbed together in this verse.
Similarly, in a society where barren women were vulnerable to oppression and ridicule,1 Samuel 1:6 - “… the Lord had closed [Hannah’s] womb. Her rival, however, would provoke her bitterly to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb.”
Cf. Luke 1:36 - “And behold, even your relative Elizabeth … who was called barren is now in her sixth month.” a Hebrew psalmist recounted how God blesses barren women with children.
“He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, To make them sit with princes, with the princes of His people. He makes the barren woman abide in the house as a joyful mother of children. Praise the LORD!”Ps. 113:7-9 NASB
The psalm echoes Hannah’s exultation after Samuel was born.1 Samuel 2:7-8 Here, the elevation of a barren woman to the blessed state of motherhood was considered no less an act of God compared to the elevation of a poor man from his ash heap to the portals of royal power.
Israel’s enthusiasm for a growing population was not shared by all nations of ancient times. The Atrahasis epic of the Babylonians describes how the gods considered humans as pests, and how they inflicted humankind with plagues to control their population:
“Twelve hundred years had not yet passed
When the land extended and the people multiplied.
The land was bellowing like a bull,
The god got disturbed with their uproar.
Enlil heard their noise
And addressed the great gods:
The noise of mankind has become
too much for me,
With their noise I am deprived of sleep.
Let there be a pestilence (upon mankind).”Tablet I, lines 352-60 cited in Anne D. Kilmer, “The Mesopotamian concept of overpopulation and its solution as reflected in the mythology.” Orientalia 41 (1972) 166
Cohen cites the complaint of Han Fei-Tzu, who lived in the region of modern Iraq around 500 BC:
“People at present think that five sons are not too many and each son has five sons also, and before the death of the grandfather there are already 25 descendants. Therefore people are more and wealth is less; they work hard and receive little.”Joel E. Cohen, How Many People can the Earth Support? p. 6.
The ancient Greek philosophers too preferred some degree of state control over human population. Plato was paternalistic in his attitude and wanted his ideal Republic to control marriages and procreation.Plato, The Republic of Plato, ed. and trans. Benjamin Jowett, available on-line It was proposed that people should gain the state’s permission before they married or had children; the “best” men would be paired with the “best” women.Plato, The Republic of Plato.
“And here, Glaucon, I should like to ask (as I know that you are a breeder of birds and animals), Do you not take the greatest care in the mating? ‘Certainly.’ And there is no reason to suppose that less care is required in the marriage of human beings. But then our rulers must be skilful physicians of the State, for they will often need a strong dose of falsehood in order to bring about desirable unions between their subjects. The good must be paired with the good, and the bad with the bad, and the offspring of the one must be reared, and of the other destroyed; in this way the flock will be preserved in prime condition.” Plato’s advocacy for eugenics obviously predates the spread of this detestable practice in Europe in the 20th century. There’s nothing new under the sun! Although Plato desired that the best men should have “as many sons as possible,” he wanted to “prevent the State from becoming either too large or too small.”Plato, The Republic of Plato. Aristotle, however, thought that one of Plato’s cardinal mistakes was that he had not prescribed any means to “restrict the increase of population.”Aristotle, Politica, in The Works of Aristotle Translated into English under the Editorship of W. D. Ross, M.A., Volume X, ed. Benjamin Jowett (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1921) [book online]; accessed on 22 December 2006; available on-line. Aristotle wished for a state that had “large enough” land inhabited by a population “as small as we can make it”—a desire that is not uncommon among modern people. What was the motive behind Aristotle’s prescription? An “abundance of leisure” and resources for the state’s citizens!Aristotle, Politica.
Anxiety about increasing numbers of fellow humans is clearly not a modern phenomenon. Even in ancient times when communities or individuals moaned about increasing population and about the resultant fragmentation of land holdings, Israelites held a positive attitude towards human multiplication! Therefore, Israel’s perspective should not be brushed aside as that from a primitive age when all people in all countries favoured large families. It is worthwhile to examine the reasons behind Israel’s positive attitude towards multiplication and the factors that motivated God’s people to have larger families.
The creation mandate that appears in the initial chapters of the Bible gives us a general picture of what the people of God in Old Testament times thought about an increasing population. God blessed the first man and his wife with the ability to procreate and commanded them to multiply.
“God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it.”Genesis 1:28a
A couple’s joyful decision to procreate or a community’s celebration of the arrival of a new-born was probably validated and strengthened by this cultural mandate. As a command given to the first parents, this command has universal scope and therefore is not limited to Abraham’s descendants. A desire to obey this first divine command must have under-girded Israel’s agenda for multiplication.
After the great flood, God commanded Noah and his sons, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.”Genesis 9:1b God ensured that human life was protected, through a divine legislation, from acts of murder committed by fellow humans or animals.Genesis 9:5-6 God repeated the command,
“As for you, be fruitful and multiply; populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it.”Genesis 9:7
Growth in population was of great significance to the ancient nation of Israel. This was especially because God chose one man, Abraham, and his wife, Sarah, to build a nation. God declared to Abraham that He would make him “a great nation”Genesis 12:2 and that He would give the land of Canaan to his descendants.Genesis 12:7 Many years later, God commanded Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, soon after assigning a new name “Israel” to him,
“I am God Almighty; be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come forth from you.”Genesis 35:11
The fulfilment of God’s covenant depended on the continuity of Abraham’s lineage. Therefore, it was vital for Israel to multiply and thereby to ensure their survival. Malachi, in his prophecy against post-exilic Jews who divorced their wives, insisted that God’s intention behind the institution of marriage was to give rise to a godly offspring.Malachi 2:15. See footnote 3.
While still small in number, this covenant community or family felt insecure in the midst of other numerically stronger people. Reacting strongly against Levi’s and Simeon’s violent attack on a neighbouring town, their father Jacob said:
“You have brought trouble on me by making me odious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and my men being few in number, they will gather together against me and attack me and I will be destroyed, I and my household.”Genesis 34:30. Emphasis added.
This verse clearly brings out Jacob’s insecurity and his rationale for having a large family of thirteen children. Strength in numbers mattered! By the time Jacob died in Egypt, he left behind a large family of sixty nine members excluding his daughters-in-law.Jacob and sixty six members of his family migrated to Egypt. They joined Joseph and his two sons to make the total strength seventy. Genesis 46:26-27.
This strategic military aspect of a strong population was probably the strongest motivating factor that fuelled Israel’s aggressive multiplication. David, Israel’s monarch, felt the need to find assurance in numbers.2 Samuel 24:1ff and 1 Chronicles 21:1ff
“In a multitude of people is a king’s glory, but in the dearth of people is a prince’s ruin.”Proverbs 14:28
King David commissioned a census to determine the number of “valiant men who drew the sword.”2 Sam 24:9 God counted this act a sin and punished David and his nation by slaughtering 70,000 of his men.2 Sam 24:15 This was God’s way of forcing Israel to trust in Him and not in their numbers. Besides, it highlights God’s role in sustaining and regulating a population. He does that mostly by his supreme control over the life span of every individual.
God was directly involved in the multiplication of His people and in the governance of their population. Even though God commanded His people to multiply in numbers, the Bible does not give us the impression that the domain of human multiplication is exclusively and entirely controlled by human decisions. Men and women indeed have their roles to play in reproduction, and they enjoy a certain degree of freedom to make choices. They can indeed choose to abstain from reproduction—with varying degrees of success. They also can choose a convenient time or season for reproduction unlike some forms of life that reproduce only in certain seasons. Yet, the Bible tells us that God has the ultimate control over human population at any given time through His active control over human fertility, sex ratio and over the life span of individuals.
The Blessing of Multiplication: The following passages highlight Israel’s faith in God’s direct involvement and determined will in multiplying His people who are faithful to Him. God said to Abraham:
“I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you exceedingly.”Genesis 17:2; Cf. Gen 22:17 Emphasis added.
God assured Hagar concerning Ishmael:
“I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count."Genesis 16:10; Cf. Gen 17:20 Emphasis added.
God promised Isaac:
“I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven.”Genesis 26:4a; Emphasis added.
God promised to protect Israelite women from miscarriage:
“There shall be no one miscarrying or barren in your land; I will fulfil the number of your days.”Exodus 23:26; Cf. Deut 7:14 Emphasis added.
Even though people have procreative powers, these would be useless unless God blesses them individually and takes care of all the determinants that affect their chances of multiplication. Not all of these determinants are under the direct control of individual families or communities or nations. The various determinants of human multiplication include, but are not limited to:
Unless God takes care of all these and other determinants, a couple’s decision to procreate is in vain. A Hebrew psalmist stated it succinctly:
“Unless the LORD builds the house, they labour in vain who build it.”Psalm 128:1
The understanding that God is in control over human multiplication is reflected in Israel’s prayers, blessings, and narratives too. A psalmist blessed his people saying,
“May the LORD give you increase, you and your children."Psalm 115:14; Emphasis added
Isaac blessed Jacob, fully realising God’s role in multiplying His people,
“May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples.”Genesis 28:3; Emphasis added
Boaz took Ruth as his wife and lived with her. The writer of Ruth notes that
“the LORD enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son”Ruth 4:13b; Emphasis added
instead of viewing the conception as a “natural” outcome of conjugal life.
Divine Judgement: Just as the Lord God demonstrated His power over human fertility through the blessing of children, He demonstrated his displeasure towards a disobedient people by nullifying their fertility. Hosea prophesied: “As for Ephraim, their glory will fly away like a bird—No birth, no pregnancy and no conception!”Hosea 7:11. Cf. Hosea 9:16a. God also destroyed the children of His rebellious people using wild animals,Leviticus 26:22, military siege, and famine.Hosea 9:16b God warned that a disobedient people would end up eating their own children—an act diametrically opposed to the spirit of procreation and multiplication.Deut. 28:52-57
When Israel left Egypt they had grown to the strength of six hundred thousand excluding children. Exodus and Numbers put the figure precisely at 603550 after a census in the Wilderness of Sinai.Exodus 12:37; Numbers 1:46 and 2:32 Those below the age of 20 years were excluded. Forty years later, towards the end of their wanderings in the wilderness, they numbered 601730.Numbers 26:51 This figure too excludes those under 20 years of age. There was no increase in their population because everyone among those who were counted in the previous census in the Wilderness of Sinai – except Joshua and Caleb – died in the desert as a result of their unbelief.Numbers 26:64-65
It is worth noting that God decided to kill the entire Israelite nation – save Joshua, Caleb, and those under 20 – when ten of the twelve spies gave an unfavourable report out of their unbelief.Numbers 14:30-31 And yet, God did not kill the entire community all at once. He executed his sentence over a period of forty years. As a result, those under condemnation could multiply and leave behind a replacement population. Had God killed the guilty on a single day or over a short period of time, the people of the covenant might not have had a fair chance for survival in the desert or in the land of Canaan. At the end of the forty years of their journey, therefore, the population of Israel remained almost the same as it had been when they had set out of Egypt.
This is a good example that illustrates God’s direct involvement in human affairs, even to regulate human population. It was beyond Moses or other leaders of the community to worry about the maintenance of an ideal population in the desert in the face of divine judgement. The Creator of Life, the One who has power over the life span of individuals, was in a better position to regulate and control Israel’s population than any human leader or demographer. Even today, who are the people who indulge in worrying about “population explosion”? It is those who do not have faith in an almighty God who is imminent enough to be closely involved in human affairs.
The understanding of fertility as God’s blessing might make it difficult for at least some people to comprehend how ungodly people manage to multiply themselves. David’s psalm may be cited to show how God blesses even the wicked with children who are fortunate enough to inherit treasures from their parents.
“Deliver my soul from the wicked with Your sword … From men of the world, whose portion is in this life, And whose belly You fill with Your treasure; They are satisfied with children, and leave their abundance to their babes.”Psalm 17:13b-14
However, this verse is a difficult text for translators.While a few versions render this verse referring to God’s decision to bless the wicked temporarily, a few other versions find it difficult to tow that line. The New American Standard Bible (NASB), New Jerusalem Bible (NJB), American Standard Version (ASV) and the New King James Version (NKJV) tend to say that God blesses the wicked with his treasures temporarily, just for this life. The translators of Revised Standard Version (RSV), New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) and the New Living Translation (NLT) feel that the “treasure” in this verse is no treasure but divine judgement. However, one is left to wonder how children can be “satisfied” with a divine judgement that is passed on to them. The New International Version and Peter C. Craigie feel that the “treasure” refers to God’s favoured people; God’s blessings are not for the wicked but for God’s favoured ones.
Craigie renders this verse as follows:
“Kill them by your hand, O Lord! Kill them from the world, their portion from among the living. But your treasured ones!—you will fill their belly, sons will be sated, and they will bequeath their surplus to their children."Peter C. Craigie, Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 19: Psalm 1-50
This rendition, along with that of the NIV, is more in line with the psalmist’s theme of vindication, and with the general Old Testament understanding about divine blessings upon God’s people.Genesis 12:2-3; Numbers 6:23-27; Deuteronomy 28:1-14.
God’s blessings related to fertility and multiplication promised to His people do not, however, prevent those outside the covenant from multiplying. One is reminded of Jesus’ statement: “[God] causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”Matthew 5:45b This general rule does not necessarily contradict God’s just decisions, from time to time, to withdraw rain from His people in order to chastise them.“Furthermore, I withheld the rain from you while there were still three months until harvest. Then I would send rain on one city and on another city I would not send rain; one part would be rained on, while the part not rained on would dry up” Amos 4:7; Cf. Deut. 28:24; 1 Kings 8:35; 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 Neither does it stifle His sovereign will to demonstrate His power through sending rain when it is least expected.1 Samuel 12:17-18 - “Is it not the wheat harvest today? I will call to the LORD, that He may send thunder and rain. Then you will know and see that your wickedness is great which you have done in the sight of the LORD by asking for yourselves a king.” So Samuel called to the LORD, and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day; and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel.
Besides, it would be inappropriate to think that every barren woman in the world is under God’s judgement—though some may be rightly so. However, nothing should prevent them from deriving comfort and encouragement from God’s promises regarding fertility or from God’s miracles that caused barren women to be happy mothers.
The Israelites of old valued children greatly and they zealously multiplied even while they struggled under the most stressful conditions of slavery.
"… the more they [the Egyptians] afflicted them, the more they [Israelites] multiplied …."Exodus 1:12a
Their multiplication caused great alarm to their Egyptian masters who eventually ordered the killing of all male babies born to the Hebrews.“Come, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply and in the event of war, they also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us, and depart from the land.” - Exodus 1:10. Cf. Exodus 1:7, 12, and 22 This probably was the earliest recorded state-level concern, coloured by racism, over the growth of a particular population. And, this probably was the first state-sponsored murderous “population control” measure and the only one of its kind recorded in the Bible.
On the whole, the Bible reveals that the Israelites had a positive outlook about human multiplication. Worry about how to provide for a growing population was probably the last thing on their minds even when they were slaves in dire straits.
I ventured to find out whether any leader Church leader or theologian was worried about human multiplication and population growth. However, I did not find many Christian thinkers of old who wrote about population growth.
It’s a shame that Tertullian, a Christian scholar who lived around AD 200, considered the population of his time a burden for the planet:
“What most frequently meets our view (and occasions complaint), is our teeming population: our numbers are burdensome to the world, which can hardly supply us from its natural elements; our wants grow more and more keen, and our complaints more bitter in all mouths, whilst Nature fails in affording us her usual sustenance. In very deed, pestilence, and famine, and wars, and earthquakes have to be regarded as a remedy for nations, as the means of pruning the luxuriance of the human race.”Tertullian, A Treatise on the Soul, trans. Peter Holmes, Ante Nicene Fathers, vol. 3, Christian Classical Ethereal Library [CD-ROM] (Illinois: Wheaton College, 1999).
Creager used this argument to promote population control.Joan Creager, “Tertullian’s Blessing,” The Reporter (Spring 2004) 10 [journal online]; available on-line; accessed on 20 December 2006.
Tertullian used the concept of human multiplication to refute Pythagorean theories of re-incarnation. His views on the growth of human population are unfortunate, to say the least. Even if it were in the context of refuting re-incarnation, how could a Christian see part of humanity as dispensable commodity? Would he have declared natural calamities and war a blessing if he were on his deathbed as a result of a famine or a pestilence?
It is estimated that the world population during Tertullian’s time was between 190McEvedy, Colin and Richard Jones, 1978, “Atlas of World Population History,” Facts on File, New York, pp. 342-351. and 256Biraben, Jean-Noel, 1980, An Essay Concerning Mankind's Evolution, Population, Selected Papers, December, table 2. million – just a fraction of today’s population. And yet, due to inadequate progress made by people of his time, life was much more difficult than it is now.Tertullian blamed “Nature” for not yielding “her usual sustenance;” he surmised that there were too many people around. What he should have done was to admit that the people of his time had not yet discovered creation’s hidden resources to make life better for more people. Herein lies a lesson for our generation too.
In this chapter, I wish to examine the trends in world population and, in the following chapters, arguments put forward by population agencies regarding “over-population.” The veracity of the claims made by doomsday predictors need to be examined before we can correctly assess the relevance of the divine mandate to multiply. It may be mentioned here that the term “over-population” defies definition. It seeks to spread the notion that there is something called an ideal or optimum human population compared to which current population is higher.Jim Peron, Exploding Population Myths, (Johannesburg/Illinois: The Free Market Foundation/The Heartland Institute, 1995), 2. Is there an optimum human population? If so, what is it? If not, why use this term at all? Does the simple fact that no one has ever devised a method to determine an optimum human population or that no one has ever defined “over-population” in concrete terms indicate that there is no such problem as “over-population?”
World population reached six billion in the year 1999United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, World Population Prospects 2019,[Online]; accessed on 12 December 2020. and an estimated 83 million people are being added to that number every year since.K. Bruce Newbold, Six Billion Plus, Population Issues in the Twenty-first Century, (Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2002), 1. In the year 2011, world population reached 7 billion (7,041,194 to be precise).United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, World Population Prospects 2019. [Online]; accessed on 12 December 2020. In 2023, according to the United Nations, world population will cross 8 billion.Ibid.
Population growth was rather slow for most of human history. Famines, war, epidemics and high infant mortality rates ensured that population growth was negligible. Advancement in agriculture, food distribution and trade in the seventeenth century gave rise to a faster population growth in Europe. World population reached one billion by the beginning of nineteenth century.Newbold, Six Billion Plus, 5. During the nineteenth century, Europe’s population doubled.Alene Gelbard, Carl Haub, and Mary M. Kent, “World Population Beyond Six Billion,” Population Bulletin 54/1 (March 1999). Europeans spilled over to North America, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and other colonies they held in Latin America and Asia. The twentieth century began with a population of 1.7 billion after which world population saw a sudden increase, reaching two billion by 1930, three billion by 1960, four billion by 1974, five billion by 1986, six billion by 1999, and seven billion by 2011.Newbold, Six Billion Plus, 5. Before you express shock at this sudden upward trajectory, let me remind you of Peter Adamson’s remarkable observation about the twentieth century: “It’s not that people suddenly started breeding like rabbits; it’s just that they stopped dying like flies.”Cited by Bjørn Lomborg in The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 45-46. Nicholas Eberstadt, the Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, therefore, preferred to use the term “Health Explosion” instead of “Population Explosion.”
The “population explosion” of the past generation — the era when the tempo of world population growth surged and then peaked before commencing its current decline — was a phenomenon widely misunderstood and misinterpreted in academic and policy circles. Population did not boom because people suddenly started breeding like rabbits, but rather because they finally stopped dying like flies: the “population explosion” was in reality a “health explosion,” with improvements in longevity driving the entirety of this increase in human numbers. This basic fact helps to explain why the alarmism about third-world population growth and a predicted upsurge in poverty and famine proved (fortunately) to be so very badly wrong.Nicholas Eberstadt, “Not a Population Explosion, but a ‘Health Explosion,’” New York Times, October 16, 2011. Online, accessed on December 12, 2020.
The distribution of world population at the beginning of the twenty-first century is given below. The name of the region and the percentage of World Population living there are as follows:Population Reference Bureau, World Data Sheet, 2001. Cited in Newbold, Six Billion Plus, 9.
Asia - 60.7%
Africa - 13.2%
Europe – 12%
Latin America - 7.9%
North America – 5%
The Caribbean - 0.6%
Oceania - 0.5%
This table clearly shows that the global human centre-of-gravity rests in Asia. The “Third World” is the “Majority World.”
Taking population density into account, we get a more accurate picture of human population distribution in relation to total available land in every country or continent. This parameter will indicate that Asian and African countries are “people rich” while North America and Australia are “land rich.” Very often, the perceived “population explosion” in Asian and African countries is about the high population density – or crowding – in these lands. Many European or ‘developed’ regions are as crowded as some Asian countries while some Asian countries that have large populations have lower population densities. For example, the United Kingdom is more crowded than China; Germany was more densely populated than Pakistan—until 2010!In 2003, population density of UK was 246 persons/sq. Km; Similarly, China had 140; Germany, 234; Pakistan, 198 persons/sq. km. United Nations Population Division, World Populations Prospects: The 2004 Revision Population Database [Online]; Internet; accessed on 20 December 2006.
According to World Population Prospects 2019, Pakistan’s population density overtook Germany’s in 2010. In 2019, Pakistan had a population density of 280.9 while Germany’s was at 239.9. The United Kingdom continued to have a higher population density than China. In 2019, the population density of the United Kingdom was 279.1; China’s was 152.7
The answer to crowding is migration. Asians should do what the Europeans did in the nineteenth century when the latter’s population doubled—migrate to land-rich continents! Nationalist political parties, white supremacists, and Neo-Nazis in the so-called First World countries – Hungary, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, France, Netherlands, and Germany, to name a few – are already up in arms against migration from Africa and Asia.BBC News, “Europe and right-wing nationalism: A country-by-country guide,” BBC.com, November 13, 2019. Accessed on December 12, 2020.
Cf. Simon Shuster, “European Politics Are Swinging to the Right,” Time, October 3, 2016. Accessed on December 12, 2020.
There are several common reasons given in support of population control operations. These will be evaluated in the light of recent findings on the state of the world’s resources, environment and on the real nature of “family planning” implemented in developing countries. The following subsection explores common reasons cited to implement control population.
An early warning about uncontrolled global population growth came from Rev. Thomas Robert Malthus, the English political economist who wrote an “Essay on the Principle of Population” in 1798.Thomas Robert Malthus, First Essay on Population 1798 (London: Macmillan, 1926). The central thesis of this essay is that “population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio; and subsistence for man, in an arithmetical ratio.”Malthus, First Essay on Population 1798, 18. He argues that unless population growth is checked, humankind would soon face starvation. His views received wide acceptance especially among the upper classes of society because these “tended to relieve the rich and powerful of responsibility for the condition of the working classes, by showing that the latter had chiefly themselves to blame …” John Kells Ingram, A History of Political Economy, (New York: Macmillan, 1894), 121. A direct consequence of Malthusian views was a decreased interest shown by rulers for uplifting the poor. The rulers of nineteenth century believed that “increased comfort would lead to an increase in numbers.”Ingram, A History of Political Economy, 121. Thus, poverty was considered to be restraining mechanism that would curb the tendency of the poor to multiply.In the twentieth century, however, developing nations considered economic development to be the best contraceptive!
Before Malthus, the Rev. Otto Diederich Lutken, in 1758, sought to dispel the idea that the prosperity of a state depended on its increasing population.It was Frederick the Great (1712-1786), a Prussian monarch, who said that “the number of the population constitutes the wealth of the State.” Catholic Encylcopedia (1911), s. v. “Theories of Population,” by John A. Ryan. Lutken wrote,
Since the circumference of the globe is given and does not expand with the increased number of its inhabitants, … since the earth’s fertility cannot be extended beyond a given point, and since human nature will presumably remain unchanged, so that a given number will hereafter require the same quantity of the fruits of the earth for their support as now, and as their rations cannot be arbitrarily reduced, it follows that … they must needs starve one another out …Arild Saether, “Otto Diederich Lutken—40 years before Malthus?” Population Studies 47/3 (1993), 511.
Paul Ehlrich’s The Population Bomb popularised Malthusian fears and predicted that the world would witness large scale starvation deaths in the 1970s.Paul E. Ehrlich, The Population Bomb (New York: Ballantine Books, 1968). Ehrlich’s words in its prologue are by now famous: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate …” Ehlrich favoured coercive measures to control the “cancer” of human multiplication.
A cancer is an uncontrolled multiplication of cells; the population explosion is an uncontrolled multiplication of people. … We must shift our efforts from treatment of the symptoms to the cutting out of the cancer. The operation will demand many apparently brutal and heartless decisions. The pain may be intense. But the disease is so far advanced that only with radical surgery does the patient have a chance of survival.Ehrlich, The Population Bomb, 152.
Environmental agencies carry forward the Malthusian hypothesis with great zeal. An ardent supporter of Malthusian predictions once exclaimed, “If you are not hysterical, that just shows that you do not understand the problem.”William P. Andrews, “Facing the Malthusian Threat: Some Implications of the World Population Explosion,” Mankind Quarterly 33/1 (Fall 1992), 121.
The US Government organised an exhibition in the 1970s for school children in various parts of the country. It sought to spread this message:
There are too many people in the world. We are running out of space. We are running out of energy. We are running out of food. And, although too few people seem to realize it, we are running out of time.Jacqueline Kasun, The War Against Population (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1988), 21. Cited in Peron, Exploding Population Myths, 5.
The World Watch State of the World report of 1998 expressed fears that the world is on the threshold of a large scale shortage of grain.Lester R. Brown, “Struggling to Raise Cropland Productivity,” in State of the World 1998 ed. Linda Starke (New York/London: W.W. Norton & Co., 1998), passim. It claimed that the world grain productivity slowed down in the 1990s; a bleak picture of scarcity is portrayed in the report. Brown called for major investments in agriculture as well as in population control.
Closely related to the worry about shortage of food is the worry about running short of resources such as forests, energy, mineral resources, and water. Rev. Lutken had mentioned this in his writing on the adverse effects of a growing population—the “other necessarily attendant inconveniences, to wit, a lack of the other comforts of life, wool, flax, timber, fuel, and so on.”Arild Saether, “Otto Diederich Lfitken—40 years before Malthus?” 511. Therefore, he concludes that “… the wise Creator who commanded men in the beginning to be fruitful and multiply, did not intend, since He set limits to their habitation and sustenance, that multiplication should continue without limit.”Saether, “Otto Diederich Lfitken—40 years before Malthus?” 511.
Over the past years there has been no dearth for doomsday predictions. The message that the world is going from bad to worse is so widespread and taken for granted in many quarters. The pertinent question is, how sure are we about our estimates of the carrying capacity of planet Earth? How true are these doomsday predictions?
Worldwatch Institute presents a gloomy picture of the world in its State of the World report:
While economic indicators … are consistently positive, the key environmental indicators are increasingly negative. Forests are shrinking, water tables are falling, soils are eroding, wetlands are disappearing, fisheries are collapsing, range-lands are deteriorating, rivers are running dry, temperatures are rising, coral reefs are dying, and plant and animal species are disappearing.”Lester R. Brown, “The Future of Growth,” in State of the World 1998 ed. Linda Starke (New York/London: W.W. Norton & Co., 1998), 4.
Bjørn Lomborg, after careful research, points out that the doomsday predictions made by environmental agencies such as the Worldwatch Institute, Green Peace, and the World Wildlife Fund, which then are echoed by popular media, lack integrity.Bjørn Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 12f. Lomborg belongs to the school of Julian Simon who wrote extensively to expose various doomsday predictions related to human population growth.Julian L. Simon has authored several books on this subject. A few are Population Matters: People, Resources, Environment, and Immigration (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transactions Press, 1990); Theory of Population and Economic Growth, (New York: Basil Blackwell, 1986); The Resourceful Earth: A Response to the Global 2000 Report, Ed. with Herman Kahn (New York: Basil Blackwell, 1984). Contrary to the constant litany of doom, Simon’s main argument is that things are getting better for mankind:
“My central proposition here is simply stated: Almost every trend that affects human welfare points in a positive direction, as long as we consider a reasonably long period of time and hence grasp the overall trend.”Norman Myers and Julian L. Simon, Scarcity or Abundance? A Debate on the Environment (New York/London: W. W. Norton & Company, 1990), 6.
It is important to get global trends if we should eliminate the dangers of generalising some aberrant local figures.
Lomborg agrees with Simon: “… by far the majority of indicators show that mankind’s lot has vastly improved.”Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist, 4. Emphasis in original. There are numerous indicators developed by the UN and the World Bank that can give us a fair idea about the state of a nation or the world.These indicators are the Human Development Indicators of the UN and the World Development Indicators of the World Bank. World Bank, World Development Indicators 2006 [book online]; accessed on 9 November 2006; Internet. Before we look at any of these indicators, it is important to understand the nature of population “explosion” in the twentieth century.
The sudden increase in world population in the twentieth century is primarily due to advances in medical care that brought down infant mortality and increased human life-expectancy.Myers and Simon, Scarcity or Abundance? 6-7. Contrary to what is popularly believed, “the increase is not, on the other hand, due to people in developing countries having more and more children.”Lomborg, Skeptical Environmentalist, 45-46. Emphasis in original. Lomborg cites a UN consultant Peter Adamson’s memorable words, “It’s not that people suddenly started breeding like rabbits; it’s just that they stopped dying like flies.”Lomborg, Skeptical Environmentalist, 46.
This, then, is not a problem but an achievement. Simon observes that while it took thousands of years for human life expectancy in the developed world to increase from twenty years to the high twenties, it took just two centuries for them to increase it to seventy-five years.Myers and Simon, Scarcity or Abundance? 7. Most of this increase took place in the twentieth century and Simon considers this as the “greatest human achievement in history.”Myers and Simon, Scarcity or Abundance? 7.
In the developing world, in the beginning of twentieth century, average life expectancy was below 30 years.Lomborg, Skeptical Environmentalist, 51. Life expectancy has risen so rapidly in these countries that it is projected to cross the 70 year mark by 2020.United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, World Population Prospects: The 1998 Revision, vol.1, Comprehensive Tables (New York: United Nations Publications, 1999), 4, 8-12, 18. Cited in Lomborg, 52.
However, the good news of increased life-expectancy has become bad news for those who are interested only in the relative populations of “Whites” and “Blacks,” or, for that matter, the relative populations of the developed world and of the still-developing world.Myers and Simon, Scarcity or Abundance? 5. The issue then is not that there are too many people but that there are too many of them. This too is a pointer to a deeper spiritual disease that underlies modern anti-natalist claims.
An important human welfare parameter that contributed to the rise in life expectancy is infant mortality. In the developed world, the percentage of infants that did not survive fell from six percent in 1950 to less than one percent in 2000.United Nations Population Division, World Population Prospects: The 1998 Revision, 4, 8-12, 18. Although Less Developing Countries were reported to have an infant mortality of six percent in 2000, it was expected to halve by 2020.World Population Prospects: The 1998 Revision, 4, 8-12, 18. UN data pertaining to the period 2015-2020 shows that infant mortality in Less Developed Countries did indeed come down to 3.2 percent.United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, World Population Prospects 2019. [Online]; accessed on 14 December 2020. Thus, the “scary” population explosion in the Majority World is a direct result of the advances these societies achieved in terms of primary health care.
Malthus and his supporters were wrong in assuming that food production would not keep in step with human multiplication. If resources were finite, and if there was no possibility for increasing a resource base, then the doomsday predictions of Malthus and his supporters would have come to pass. The resource base, however, kept increasing with increasing population. Babies came – with hands to work and minds to innovate – not just with mouths to consume resources. Ehlrich’s warning that “the chances of successfully feeding and otherwise caring for an expanding population are being continuously diminished” does not stand up to facts.Paul R. Ehlrich and Anne H. Ehlrich, “The Population Explosion: Why we should care and what we should do about it,” Environmental Law 27/4 (1997) 1187-1208 [journal online]; available from www.questia.com; Internet; accessed on 3 November 2006.
An FAO study had this to report about global food production/consumption:
“How has agriculture responded to these increases in world population? … Production grew faster than population. Per caput production is today about 18 percent above that of 30 years ago. Food availabilities for the world as a whole are today equivalent to some 2700 kilocalories per person per day … up from 2300 calories 30 years ago. And this is counting only food consumed directly by human beings. In addition, some 640 million tonnes of cereals are fed to animals for producing the livestock products which people consume.”FAO, World Agriculture: Towards 2010, ed. Nikos Alexandratos (New York: FAO Publications, 1995) [book online]; accessed on 9 November 2006; Internet.
Not only are we living longer; we are better fed now than was a smaller global population several decades ago.The Worldwatch Institute’s arguments to the contrary, published in its State of the World reports, are refuted successfully with sound data and argument by Bjørn Lomborg in The Skeptical Environmentalist, 93-109. For instance, take the World Food Summit findings about the number of people who are starving today in the world.A person is said to starve if his/her daily food intake is not sufficient to sustain light physical activity. The percentage of starving people in ninety-three developing countries decreased from 35% in 1970 to 18% in 1996, and was expected to drop to 12% by 2010.WFS 2006, World Food Summit: Technical Background Documents, vol.1, table 3 [book online]; accessed on 9 November 2006. Even though things can and ought to get better, the trend shows that things are getting better. This improvement has occurred in spite of the doubling of the world population during this period. Julian Simon is jubilant about this development:
“In the early nineteenth century the planet Earth could sustain only 1 billion people. Ten thousand years ago, only 4 million could keep themselves alive. Now, 5 billion people are living longer and healthier than ever before. This increase in the world’s population represents our triumph over death. I would expect lovers of humanity to jump with joy at this triumph of human mind and organization over the raw forces of nature. But many people lament that there are so many humans alive to enjoy the gift of life.”Myers and Simon, Scarcity or Abundance? 33. Emphasis added.
Simon’s observation is on the mark. Among those who complain or worry about rising population, few complain about their own arrival on earth; neither do they think of making an early exit to light Earth’s burden. Instead, they moan about the gift of life that God has bestowed on each new child!
The costs of minerals and other raw materials indicate that we are not running short of these resources.Myers and Simon, Scarcity or Abundance? 12. Although economists had shown beyond all doubt that we are not running out of fuel, minerals or food, environmentalists’ claims to the contrary led Julian Simon to challenge such claims with a bet.Myers and Simon, Scarcity or Abundance? 20-21. Simon wanted his opponents to choose the resources of their choice and observe prices for a period of ten years. If any of the prices showed an increase, Simon was willing to pay $10,000.Julian L. Simon, The Ultimate Resource 2 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), 35-6. Although his opponents, all environmentalists from Stanford University, desired to win easy money, they lost the bet. All the resources that they had chosen – chromium, copper, nickel, tin and tungsten – and others that they left out, such as petroleum, wool, cotton, minerals and food became cheaper.Julian L. Simon, The Ultimate Resource 2 35-6. Moffett comments that the improved methods of detecting mineral reserve ensured that mineral reserves increased despite ever increasing demand for these resources.George Moffett, “The Population Question Revisited,” The Wilson Quarterly 18/3 (1994) [journal online]; Internet; accessed on 2 January 2007. He cites UN statistics to show how known copper reserves grew from 91 million tons in 1950 to 555 million tons in early 1980s.George Moffett, “The Population Question Revisited” So successful were Simon’s arguments that, Moffett notes, the supporters of Malthus are now guarded in their use of the word “crisis” while referring to the effects of population growth!George Moffett, “The Population Question Revisited”
Price of a commodity is an indicator of its scarcity or availability. The assumptions of doomsday predictors are proving to be false. The World Bank’s World Development Report 1984 too did not find resources to be at risk as a result of rising population.Dennis A. Ahlburg, “Julian Simon and the Population Growth Debate,” Population and Development Review 24/2 (1998) 317ff [journal online]; Internet; accessed on 18 November 2006.
Related to the claim that a robust population growth rate will usher in famines and resource crunch is the claim that rapidly growing populations will suffer poverty and slow economic growth. Rich nations or communities may find it easy to blame the high fertility of poorer nations or communities for the latter’s poverty. Politicians find “population explosion” a welcome excuse for failed economic policies.A good example is China, after the failure of Mao’s policies in the 1960s. Whelan, Choices in Childbearing. Governments therefore pursued population control policies to ensure a better future for their people.
However, in the 1980s, there came about a great change in the field of economics. Economists discovered that there was no scientific basis to link population growth negatively with economic development.Myers and Simon, Scarcity or Abundance, 23. According to Simon, such a sea change came about in economics with the publication of Population Growth and Economic Development—a report of the National Research Council (NRC) and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in 1986.Myers and Simon, Scarcity or Abundance, 25. Contrary to what was reported in 1971 – that population growth would adversely affect “savings, investment, food supplies, unemployment, modernization, technological change, industrialization, social areas, education, health and child development, and the environment”Myers and Simon, Scarcity or Abundance, 24. – the 1986 report concluded that “the concern about the impact of rapid population growth on resource exhaustion has often been exaggerated.”National Research Council, Population Growth and Economic Development: Policy Questions (Washington D.C.: National Academy Press, 1986), 17 [book online]; accessed on 19 November 2006; Internet. This report thus differed from all previous economic reports that portrayed population growth as a deterrent to economic development.
However, the effects of population growth depend on various factors such as the economic system and efficiency of a country, political stability, rate of population growth, population structure, etc. While population growth may favour a country that enjoys economic freedom and political stability, it may result in adverse effects in a country that has a centrally planned economy and/or political instability. This was conclusively proved in a study that compared the development of pairs of countries such as East and West Germany, North and South Korea, and China and Taiwan.Myers and Simon, Scarcity or Abundance, 26. These paired countries differed mainly in the economic system that they followed—one was capitalistic while the other was communist. They started out with comparable birth rates. However, over a period of time, it was noted that the countries that followed a free market system outperformed their counterpart that had planned economies.Myers and Simon, Scarcity or Abundance, 27-30. Poverty and slow economic progress that countries such as India, North Korea, China, and other socialist or communist countries experience (in comparison with similar countries that chose a capitalistic economy) cannot now be ascribed to “population explosion.”
A recent study on the economic future of four highly fertile countries – Brazil, Russia, Indian and China (BRIC) – brought forth astonishing results.Dominic Wilson and Roopa Purushothaman, “Dreaming with BRICs: The Path to 2050,” Goldman Sachs Global Economics Paper No. 99 (1 October 2003) [article online]; Internet; accessed on 14 November 2006. This book has mapped out the GDP, per capita income and currency movements in these BRIC countries till the year AD 2050. They have concluded that:Dominic Wilson and Roopa Purushothaman, “Dreaming with BRICs: The Path to 2050.” The points that follow summarise the relevant findings of the BRIC report.
Many years before the BRIC study was done, The Economist had predicted a windfall of fortune for Asian countries that achieved a rapid demographic transition and attained a favourable population structure with higher proportion of working people.“Demographic transition” here refers to the change in the structure of a country’s population from that which has a large dependent population (both younger and older) to that which has a greater productive population. “Asia’s Population Advantage,” The Economist, 11 September 1997 [book online]; Internet; accessed on 28 March 2005.
On the other hand, many European countries are facing grave economic problems due to declining fertility rates.“Europe’s Population Implosion,” The Economist, 17 July 2003 [online]; Internet; accessed on 28 March 2005. Low fertility rate resulted in a skewed population structure with lesser number of earning members having to support a larger number of ageing pensioners. Judging by the trends that prevailed in early 2000s continues, it was calculated that, by 2050, Europe will have to support 75 pensioners out of the earnings of every 100 workers.“Europe’s Population Implosion,” The Economist, 17 July 2003. Currently, as workers in Germany and Italy pay close to a third of their earnings to government pension accounts, it is not surprising that these countries faced labour unrest.“Europe’s Population Implosion,” The Economist, 17 July 2003 European countries such as France and Sweden now offer financial incentives to families that choose to have more children.“Europe’s Population Implosion,” The Economist, 17 July 2003 In spite of local opposition to immigration of skilled workers from Asian countries, the United Kingdom, like other European countries, promoted immigration in order to sustain economic growth.Minister McNulty said, “We need the numbers that the country needs for economic success.” “British Immigration Map Revealed,” BBC News, 7 September 2005 [online] Internet; accessed on 20 May 2006.
It is commonly thought that the population of a society will remain stable with no growth or decline if every couple in that community has just two children. Thus a fertility of two is considered to be the “replacement” level.“Population” The Economist,, 12 March 1998 [online] Internet; accessed on 28 March 2005. In developed countries, replacement level is achieved by maintaining a Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of 2.1; in the still developing Majority World, the TFR should be 2.5 “because of the higher infant death rates.”Frances Moore Lappé and Rachel Schurman, Taking Population Seriously, (London: Earthscan Publications, 1989), 5.
Even if this argument is accepted at face value, women in the Majority World and in the First World should consider having at least three children in order to maintain their respective populations. This is because fraction and decimals in TFR exist only in a demographer’s book. In the real world it is not possible to ask one in ten women to have a third child in order to attain a TFR of 2.1. Similarly, there is not going to be any arrangement in the Majority World to make every other woman to have a third child to maintain a TFR of 2.5. Therefore, for achieving a replacement level as envisioned by Lappé and Schurman, every woman should be encouraged to have three children; many of them might settle for two eventually.
Another objection that I have is that Lappé and Schurman take into consideration just two factors – infant deaths and female infertility – while coming up with 0.1 births or 0.5 births in addition to a minimum TFR of 2. There may be scores of other factors that need consideration. In any society, several people die before they ever get to marry or reproduce; several are handicapped and are therefore incapable of procreation. Several men, apart from women, are infertile. Due to these factors, if every couple in a population has just two children, that population will decline.
Arguments to support population control keep changing. When one set of arguments fail, proponents of population control seek out new arguments. Latest in the line of evolving arguments is the ecological one. This argument is different from all the previous arguments in that its appeal is not based just on human welfare or prosperity but also on the welfare of other creatures.
“We must halt human population growth not just to ensure the well-being of humanity but to restore the interdependent biotic community in which we human beings must learn to see ourselves as members not masters.”Lappé and Schurman, Taking Population Seriously, 14-15.
Humans are thus seen as pollutants on earth—pests that devour resources, destroy habitats, and drive various species to extermination. People are also described as a cancer on planet earth.Lappé and Schurman, Taking Population Seriously, 14-15. Lappé and Schurman cite the The Gaia Peace Atlas (ed. Frank Barnaby Pan, 1988) and The Gaia Atlas of Planet Management (ed. Norman Myers Pan, 1985). At best, humans share the worth attributed to the rest of creatures.
In 1979, The Sinking Ark by Norman Myers highlighted species loss as a major adverse effect of the human encroachment into wildlife habitats.Norman Myers, The Sinking Ark: A New Look at the Problem of Disappearing Species (New York: Pergammon Press, 1979), passim. In it, Myers claimed that we were losing 40,000 species every year, over a 100 species every day.Myers, The Sinking Ark, 4-5. These claims found a place in the report Global 2000 prepared for the President of the USA and thus was widely circulated and accepted as the truth.Gerald O. Barney, ed., The Global 2000 Report to the President of the U.S.:Entering the Twenty-first Century, vol. I-III (New York: Pergamon Press, 1980).
Alan Lovejoy’s predictions on an ecological disaster caused great alarm. The report said:
“What then is a reasonable estimate of global extinctions by 2000? In the low deforestation case, approximately 15 percent of the planet’s species can be expected to be lost. In the high deforestation case, perhaps as much as 20 percent will be lost. This means that of the 3-10 million species now present on the earth, at least 500,000-600,000 will be extinguished during the next two decades.”Barney, ed., The Global 2000, 133
US vice-president Al Gore, Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson, and Professor Paul Ehrlich quoted these and larger figures to get their message of conservation across.Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist, 249.
According to Wilson, we are losing 27,000 to 100,000 species a year. Ehrlich raised the figure to 250,000 a year and predicted that all of Earth’s species would vanish by 2010-’25. Nigel E. Stork, “Measuring Global Biodiversity and its Decline,” in Biodiversity II ed. Marjorie Reaka-Kudla and Don E. Wilson (Washington DC: Joseph Henry Press, 1997), 41-68.
Simon asserts that the data on species loss projected by these biologists have nothing to do with reality.Myers and Simon, Scarcity or Abundance, 36. Lomborg’s research too reveals the same thing. The only publishedLomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist, 248ff. work that is cited is Myers’ Sinking Ark in which Myers bases his argument on guesses and suppositions—that the extinction rate might have reached a 100 species a year.Myers, The Sinking Ark, 4-5. Myers then makes a further leap in conjecture and arrives at a conclusion that the earth would lose a 100 species a day, during the latter part of twentieth century, due to “man-handling of natural environments.”Myers, The Sinking Ark, 5. Myers arrived at this figure by assuming that the final 25 years of the 20th century would witness the extinction of a million species. Thus, his argument is entirely circular—“if you assume 40,000, then you get 40,000,” as Lomborg states it.Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist, 248ff. Myers’ figure is “40,000 times greater than his own data, [and] 10,000 times the latest observed rate.”Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist, 252.
Scientists aver that there is no precise way of determining the exact number of species on earth let alone determining the rate of species extinction. Myers admits that there is “no way of knowing the actual extinction rate in the tropical forests, let alone an approximate guess.”Myers, The Sinking Ark, 43. Yet, this does not stop Myers or other research biologists from making wild guesses. Lomborg cites examples of scientists who were worried about lack of sound data but did not dare to question the unscientific claims of senior scientists. He then concludes that these scientists are driven not by scientific temper but by desire to salvage their career through research grants.Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist, 254.
The findings of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources are sufficient to bring about a change in the minds of those biologists who claim that we are losing species at a high rate. IUCN found that only a “very small” number of mammals and birds have become extinct.V. H. Heywood and S. N. Stuart, “Species Extinctions in Tropical Forests,” in Tropical Deforestation and Species Extinction ed. T. C. Whitmore and J. A. Sayer (London: Chapman and Hall, 1992), 93. These researchers have also found that there is “no clear-cut evidence” to prove that loss of 20 percent of the world’s rainforests since 1830s has resulted in the extinction of large number of species.Tropical Deforestation and Species Extinction ed. T. C. Whitmore and J. A. Sayer (London: Chapman and Hall, 1992), 96.
Documented Extinctions From The Year AD 1600Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist, 250. Table 6.
|Taxa||Approx. Number of Species||Total Extinctions since 1600|
In spite of these and other findings, doomsday predictors have not been discouraged. Myers continued to stick to his figure of “50-150” extinctions per day even in 1999.Norman Myers and Frans Lanting, “What we must do to counter the biotic holocaust,” International Wildlife 29/2 (1999) 30-9. Worse still, these biologists feel that they “don’t need to know how many species there are, how they are related to one another, or how many disappear annually to recognise that Earth’s biota is entering a gigantic spasm of extinction.”Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich Betrayal of Science and Reason: How Anti-Environmental Rhetoric Threatens Our Future (Washington, DC: Island Press, 1996), 112-13. Ironically, this statement that rejects the importance of facts and figures appears in a book titled Betrayal of Science and Reason! Biologists can indeed do a lot better with a little help from observed facts and reason!
Another facet of the world’s conservation movement is that the animals or plants that are highlighted as those in need for protection are very often those that enjoy human appeal. These could be the Asian elephant,Cf. World Conservation Society the blue whale,Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society or the Bengal tiger.Project Tiger of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India. We do not hear much about the need to conserve the majority of species in rainforests—beetles, insects, fungi, or bacteria. Conservationists might claim that the large mammals act as flagship species, and that their protection ensures the protection of other smaller, inconspicuous species. Interestingly, the highlighting of these large and appealing animals reveals the predominance of human interests over that of the interests of other species though we may be quick to disown any anthropocentric tendencies.
One of the arguments against human multiplication and expansion is that humans destroy wilderness and forest areas. The tropical rainforests are rich in biodiversity. Conservationists have therefore lobbied for the protection of rainforests. The theory that linked habitat area with the number of species was authored by biologist E. O. Wilson.Ehrlich and Ehrlich Betrayal of Science and Reason: How Anti-Environmental Rhetoric Threatens Our Future, 253. According to this theory, if a habitat is reduced by 90 percent, the number of species will be cut down to 50 percent. This theory was first formulated for islands but was indiscriminately used for other ecosystems as well.Ehrlich and Ehrlich Betrayal of Science and Reason: How Anti-Environmental Rhetoric Threatens Our Future, 253.
The largest study of tropical biodiversity conducted in Puerto Rico by the US Department of Agriculture reveals how Wilson’s theory cannot be applied in every ecosystem. Ninety nine percent of the primary forest in Puerto Rico had been destroyed over a period of 400 years; yet, contrary to Wilson’s theory, only seven out of 60 bird species became extinct.Ehrlich and Ehrlich Betrayal of Science and Reason: How Anti-Environmental Rhetoric Threatens Our Future, 254. In the case of Brazilian Atlantic rainforest, we are left with just twelve percent of what was in place two centuries ago. Wilson’s theory would predict the loss of fifty percent of all species. Yet, not a single plant or animal species became extinct as a result of this habitat loss.K. S. Brown and G. G. Brown, “Habitat alteration and species loss in Brazilian forests,” in Tropical Deforestation and Species Extinction ed. T. C. Whitmore and J. A. Sayer (London: Chapman and Hall, 1992), 127. 119-42.
Despite the conservationists propaganda to the contrary, there is mounting evidence to prove that the world’s forest cover is improving. FAO’s Production Yearbook is the only work to have calculated the area of forest cover from 1949 to 1994. According to the FAO, the global forest cover had increased from 40.24 million square kilometres in 1950 to 43.04 million square kilometres in 1994.K. S. Brown and G. G. Brown, “Habitat alteration and species loss in Brazilian forests,” 30. Eighty percent of Brazilian Amazon rainforest is well preserved.K. S. Brown and G. G. Brown, “Habitat alteration and species loss in Brazilian forests,” 121.
These facts should make us question the wisdom of allocating the world’s scarce resources for costly conservation projects when more urgent human development projects are delayed due to lack of funds. Large tracts of forests are declared as reserves. As a result, tribal societies and villagers who lived in forests and off forest resources for centuries are denied access to forests. In the name of biodiversity, people are portrayed as pests; without adequate facts to support claims of species extinction, human multiplication and expansion are condemned.
Before we examine the case for population control, it is vital to get a clear picture of what is happening in the world, especially in the Majority World, in the name of “family planning.” It is also important to perceive the real reasons that drive the population control movement. I shall first state a conclusion and then marshal premises that help me to reach the stated conclusion.
What an Indian or an Asian understands by the phrase “family planning” is different from what a person from the developed world understands by the same phrase. “Family planning,” for the westerner, is best expressed by Malcolm Potts’ definition: “Family planning begins and ends with individual couples choosing when to have children.”Malcolm Potts, “Turning Dreams into Real,” People 16/4 (1989). Accordingly to Robert Whelan, “family planning is the decision taken by couples, in the light of their own beliefs and circumstances, as to the number and spacing of their own children.”Robert Whelan, Choices in Childbearing: When Does Family Planning become Population Control? (London: Committee on Population Control and the Economy, 1992), 2.
The successive governments in India encouraged and practised “population control” instead of “family planning.” The people of India in general do not understand the difference between the two. They’ve mistakenly believed that they were being taught “family planning” even though it was the government that prescribed the number of children they must have. This misunderstanding exists because western population control agencies sold the concept of “population control” to less developed countries under the label of “family planning.” Thus, in one stroke, these agencies misled people in the developed world as well as people in the Majority World.Just how this was done is explained below. The developed world funded these agencies thinking that they were promoting “family planning.” The developing world was fooled into thinking that they were being taught “family planning” when in reality they were being seduced into “population control.”
“Population control” is fundamentally different from “family planning.” In Whelan’s words:
“Population control is the decision taken by governments or other agencies that couples should have no more than a certain number of children, followed by measures to enforce this. One gives freedom while the other takes it away. To determine which one of these is in operation, one only has to ask, ‘Who is making the choices or decisions regarding the number of children?’”Whelan, Choices in Childbearing, 2.
Without understanding this fundamental difference between family planning and population control, almost every Indian refers to the government’s population control programme as “family planning.”References such as this are so ubiquitous that the citation of one particular source may be misleading. Similarly, people in developed countries too may be mistaken in referring to the population control programmes in China, India and other countries as “family planning” programmes. Robert Whelan was one of those who brought to light this deception adopted by population control agencies.Whelan, Choices in Childbearing, passim. He states the central purpose of his book in these words:
“… The public have been misled concerning the nature and impact of population control programmes on parents, particularly women, in the developing countries. This has been achieved by distorting the use of the term ‘family planning’ until it ceases to represent what we would understand by it in the rich nations of the west.”Whelan, Choices in Childbearing, 2.
Whelan proves his point by citing evidence to show that governments in the Majority World deny parents the right to decide the number of children they should have.Examples of countries that do not trust parents with the task of determining the size of families and of countries that use coercive methods are given below. Some of them use coercive methods to sterilise people or to terminate pregnancies. In countries that fight shy of using coercive methods, elaborate systems of incentives and disincentives are in place in order to motivate people to adopt “family planning” methods.In India, common people equate the phrase “family planning” with contraception or sterilisation. At the same time, western governments that funded projects in the Majority World lost no opportunity to declare their support to parents’ right to freely determine the size of individual families.“To help assure others of our intentions we should indicate our emphasis on the right of individuals and couples to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children and to have information, education and means to do so, and our continued interest in improving the overall general welfare. We should use the authority provided by the World Population Plan of Action to advance the principles that 1) responsibility in parenthood includes responsibility to the children and the community and 2) that nations in exercising their sovereignty to set population policies should take into account the welfare of their neighbors and the world.”
National Security Council of U. S. A, National Security Study Memorandum 200 [book online] (Washington, D.C.: White House, 1974 accessed 20 October 2006); Internet. Such declarations are quickly followed by a reminder to couples and their respective governments to exercise responsibility in the interest of their community and of the world.Ibid. Apart from the fact that the so called “right” is nullified, a question arises here. If the U.S. in the NSSM200 was concerned only about “U. S. interests” why should they require other nations to be mindful of interests other than their own? For more about “U.S. interests”, please refer to the following section on “Strategic and Racial Reasons Driving Population Control.” Thus, parents’ “right” is virtually nullified. In other words, the population control agencies and the governments that supported them were convinced that people in the Majority World lacked the ability and wisdom to decide the size of their own families. It is not difficult to understand the desperation of these anti-natalists; their leaders came up with suggestions as described below.
In the early years of the population control movement, Kingsley Davis doubted the effectiveness of non-coercive methods. His suggestions for the introduction of coercive methods reveal a sinister design:
“… the government could pay people to permit themselves to be sterilized; all costs of abortion could be paid by the government; a substantial fee could be charged for a marriage license; a ‘child tax’ could be levied … governments could … cease taxing single persons more than married ones; stop giving parents special tax exemptions; abandon income tax policy that discriminates against couples when the wife works; stop giving parents special tax exemptions … stop awarding public housing on the basis of family size … women could be required to work outside the home, or compelled by circumstances to do so. If, at the same time, women were paid as well as men and given equal educational and occupational opportunities … many women would develop interests that would compete with family interests.”Kingsley Davis, “Population Policy: Will Current Programs Succeed?” Science (10 November 1967), 738.
Over the past decades, Davis’ radical suggestions to destabilise the traditional family were effectively implemented in several developed countries. What is disturbing is that these changes in social and family life did not happen by chance but by design. In 1969, Frederick Jaffe, the Vice President of Planned Parenthood, listed steps attaining significant reduction of fertility. He desired that young people would postpone or avoid marriage; that local governments would add contraceptives to drinking water supply; and that homosexuality would increase.Frederick S. Jaffe, to Bernard Berelson, 11 March 1969, Memorandum titled “Activities Relevant to the Study of Population Policy for the U. S.” Originally printed in Family Planning Perspectives, October, 1970.
Berelson used Kingsley Davis’ and Jaffe’s suggestions along with his own in his speech titled “Beyond Family Planning” delivered to the Population Conference in Dhakka in 1969.Whelan, Choices in Childbearing, 5. Berelson suggested a number of “involuntary” methods of population control such as:
i. Sterilise all females using time-capsule contraceptives, reversible only after government approval;
ii. Issuing of licenses to have children;
iii. The compulsory sterilisation of men with three or more children;
iv. The addition of a sterilising agent in the water supply.Whelan, Choices in Childbearing, 5-6. Whelan notes that N. C. Wright (the Deputy Director General of FAO) recommended, in 1963, the addition of contraceptives to cooking salt; Sir Graham Hills, the Principal of Strathclyde University recommended the addition of heat resistant contraceptives to milled cereals to make selected populations infertile.
Berelson justified these methods thus: “… the worse the problem, the more one is willing to ‘give up’ in ethical position in order to attain ‘a solution.’”Whelan, Choices in Childbearing, 5-6.
The methods of population control movement may be understood as a combination of “push-and-pull” methods—methods of coercion and methods of inducement through the offer of incentives. Through these methods, population control agencies violated people’s freedom and exploited their vulnerability. Poor people in the Majority World did not wait for any incentive before they adopted modern medical treatments or vaccinations for the eradication of communicable diseases. When offered incentives for getting sterilised, they failed to perceive that they were being robbed in broad daylight; that the incentives were far too small in comparison with what they were asked to part with.
Indonesia: Indonesia is regarded as a “textbook example of the violation of an individual’s right to choose by government’s population programmes.”Whelan, Choices in Childbearing, 22. In Padang Panjang, a Muslim village, children were denied report cards until they produced their mother’s identity card that showed the mother’s compliance with the official population programme.Margot Cohen, “New Strategies in Indonesia,” People 18/2 (1991), 13. Villages and communities were given extra food supplementsThe Population Council, Studies in Family Planning 9/9 (Sept 1978), 235-237. or granted road repairs or public amenitiesS. Surjaningrat and R H Pardoko, “Review of some of the management aspects of the Indonesian Population and Family Planning Programme.” Technical Report Series of the National Family Planning Co-ordination Board, Monograph No. 37, Indonesia, (1983), 3. based on the achievement of a set fertility target by all residents. If one family did not fall in line, the entire community was denied these incentives. Peer pressure thus played a major role in Indonesian population control. In spite of the use of these unethical means, the masters of the population control movement were satisfied with the results. In June 1989, President Suharto received the United Nations Population AwardUnited Nations Populations Fund, “United Nations Population Award Laureates,” [online]; accessed on 25 October 2006; Internet. “in recognition of outstanding contributions to increasing the awareness of population questions and to their solution.”United Nations Populations Fund, “United Nations Population Award Laureates,” [online]; accessed on 25 October 2006);
China: China adopted a merciless “one couple, one child” population control policy after Mao’s “Great Leap Forward” and wayward policies such as the collectivisation of land resulted in the death of 10 to 20 million people.Stephen Moore, “Don’t Fund UNFPA Population Control,” [article online] (Washington D.C.: Cato Institute, 15 May 1999), accessed on 25 October 2006; Internet. Cf. Whelan, Choices in Childbearing, 30. Chairman Mao had once declared that, “Of all things in the world, people are the most precious. … Before long there will arise a new China with a big population and a great wealth of products, where life will be abundant and culture will flourish. All pessimistic views are utterly groundless.”Mao Tse-Tung, “The Bankruptcy of the Idealist Conception of History,” 16 September 1949. The Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung Volume IV [book online] (Washington: U.S. Government's Joint Publications Research Service, 1978); accessed on 25 October 2006; Internet.
Yet, politicians in China found an easy scapegoat in women who had large families to save Mao’s name after his policies failed.Whelan, Choices in Childbearing, 30. China opted for a harsh population control programme with financial assistance from United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).Stephen Moore, “Don’t Fund UNFPA Population Control”. The gross violations of human rights in China were first brought to light by Steven MosherSteven Mosher, Broken Earth: The Rural Chinese, (London: Collier MacMillan, 1983), passim. Cf. Steve Mosher, “The Case Against UNFPA Funding,” [article online]; Population Research Institute Weekly Briefing 4/2 (11 January 2002), accessed on 25 October 2006; Internet. and John S. Aird.John S. Aird, Slaughter of the Innocents: Coercive Birth Control in China (Washington: AEI Press, 1990), passim.
Lin Yin, a Chinese journalist, reports of her experience at a Chinese abortion clinic where government “task force” detained pregnant women:
“Hundreds of women – some more than six months pregnant – were packed in dark corridors and makeshift tents, waiting to be operated on in the ‘abortion centre’ in the hospital courtyard. Next to it was a public toilet. I went in. There was simply nowhere you could put your feet; it was filled with blood soaked toilet paper. Behind the toilet stood a line of waste bins. The aborted babies – some as old as eight months – were put there, and then dumped somewhere else.”Lin Yin, “China’s Unwanted Children,” The Independent 11 Sep 1991, cited by Whelan, Choices in Childbearing, 33.
The horrors of the Chinese 5.programme made the U. S. government to adopt the Kemp-Kasten Amendment of the Foreign Assistance Act that states that “no U.S. Government funds be used in a program that ‘supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.’”It was not until mid-2002 that the U. S. cut off its funds for UNFPA for its support of the gross violations of human rights in China. Sichan Siv, to the President of UNFPA, 24 September 2002, Letter released by U.S. Mission to the United Nations, [online]; U.S. Department of State Website; accessed on 25 October 2006; Internet. This came after they received sufficient evidence to prove that what went on in the name of “family planning” in China was indeed “population control.” Citizens in western nations were kept in the dark by population control agencies about the real nature of their programmes in the Majority World.
In spite of the U. S. government’s warning, the UNFPA and IPPF continue to fund the Chinese government’s programme.Whelan, Choices in Childbearing, 35. More people have been killed in China as a result of the “Great Leap Forward” and the “one child” policy than in any part of the world.Stephen Moore, “Don’t Fund UNFPA Population Control”. Mao’s “Great Leap Forward” killed 10-20 million people; the “one child” policy resulted in 5 to 10 million deaths through forced abortions, selective abortion/killing of the female foetus/child. Amnesty International Report 2005 indicates that the Chinese government continues with forced abortions.Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2005 [book online]; accessed on 25 October 2006. Internet. The report describes the fate of a young woman who dared to protest against a forced abortion that she had to endure:
“Mao Hengfeng was sent to a labour camp for 18 months’ ‘Re-education through Labour’ in April  for persistently petitioning the authorities over a forced abortion 15 years earlier when she became pregnant in violation of China’s family planning policy. She was reportedly tied up, suspended from the ceiling and severely beaten in the labour camp. She had been detained several times in the past in psychiatric units where she had been forced to undergo shock therapy.”Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2005.
Yet, women members of the U.S. Congress, who are “pro-choice” activists, who strive to uphold women’s right to get an abortion, are demanding that the U.S. reinstate funding the UNFPA!Stephen Moore, “Don’t Fund UNFPA Population Control”. Certainly, “reproductive rights” mean different things to women in China and for their counterparts in the U.S.
Population control programmes in India began in 1951 with the first Five Year Plan.Planning Commission of India, First Five Year Plan, [online] accessed on 26-10-2006; Internet. “Family Planning and Population Control” were mentioned as priorities in Chapter 32 on Health. These programmes gained momentum in the second, third and subsequent Plans.“During the First Five Year Plan, 126 family planning clinics were set-up in urban areas and 21 in rural areas. In the course of the Second Plan, the number of clinics increased to 549 in urban and 1100 in rural areas. … for the Third Plan, the number of family planning clinics is likely to increase from about 1800 at the end of the Second Plan to about 8200. Over the past five years [1956-1961], … about 125,000 operations have been carried out.”
Planning Commission of India, Third Five Year Plan, [online]; accessed on 26-10-2006; Internet. Reviews of the programme in the Five Year Plans show that the programme depended on voluntary participation of men and women. As the years passed by, there was increasing alarm in the government at the rapid growth in India’s population.
“The increase in population from 365 million in 1951 to 445 million in 1961 and 527 million in 1968 has been the result of a sharp fall in mortality rate without any significant changs [sic] in the fertility rate.
The birth rate appears to have remained unchanged around 41 per thousand population during the greater part of the past two decades up to 1965-66. … In order to make economic development yield tangible benefits for the ordinary people, it is necessary tliat [sic] the birth rate be brought down substantially as early as possible.”Planning Commission of India, Fourth Five Year Plan, [online]; accessed on 26-10-2006; Internet.
It is interesting to note that a “sharp fall” in the mortality rate was responsible for the steep increase in Indian population. By all means, a fall in mortality is good news! However, the political masters and their bureaucratic stooges were dissatisfied because rising numbers made it difficult for them to highlight their achievements as “tangible benefits for the ordinary people.”Planning Commission of India, Fourth Five Year Plan, [online]; accessed on 26-10-2006; Internet.
By the latter part of 1975, the India government panicked—a desirable fall in mortality rate resulted in the undesirable fallout of rising population! In October, the Union Health Minister, Dr Karan Singh sent this note to the Prime Minister: “The problem is now so serious that there seems to be no alternative to think in terms of introduction of some element of compulsion in the larger national interest.”Shah Commission of Enquiry, Third and Final Report, (New Delhi: Ministry of Home Affairs, 1978), 153. The Shah Commission inquired into the excesses committed by the Indira Gandhi government during the days of Emergency. The Shah Commission inquired into the excesses committed by the Indira Gandhi government during the days of Emergency. The state of Emergency declared on 26 June 1975 gave the Indian government an opportunity to show its true colours in the area of population control. During this dark period, the fundamental rights of citizens remained suspended. The government was free to exercise coercion. Without losing this golden opportunity the government machinery swung into action. The Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared:
“We must now act decisively and bring down the birth rate speedily. We should not hesitate to take steps which might be described as drastic. Some personal rights have to be kept in abeyance for the human rights of the nation.”V. A. Pai Panandiker, P. K. Umashankar, “Fertility Control-Induced Politics of India,” Population and Development Review, Vol. 20, Supplement: The New Politics of Population: Conflict and Consensus in Family Planning (1994), pp. 89-104; [journal online]; Internet; accessed on 27 October 2006.
The head of USAID in India, John Lewis, had extended full support to the Indian government by saying that he “would press [population] funds on the Indian government whether it wants them or not.”Meredith Minkler, “Consultants or Colleagues: the role of the U. S. Population advisers in India” Population and Development Review (December 1971), cited in Whelan, Choices in Childbearing, 28. In 1976, the government pushed a constitutional amendment through parliament to bring population under the concurrent list so that the central government could legislate in the area of population control.This was the forty second constitutional amendment. V. A. Pai Panandiker, P. K. Umashankar, “Fertility Control-Induced Politics of India,” Population and Development Review, Vol. 20, Supplement: The New Politics of Population: Conflict and Consensus in Family Planning (1994), pp. 89-104. With no financial or administrative hurdles in its way, the government set high targets for sterilising men. Muslim men were rounded up and forcibly sterilised.For instance, police raided a Muslim village called Uttawar and arrested 550 men; 150 of them were forcibly sterilised. Shah Commission of Enquiry, Third and Final Report, 207. In the state of Uttar Pradesh, the government forcibly sterilised policemen and personnel in the prisons department to achieve set targets.Shah Commission of Enquiry, Third and Final Report, 193-95. Uttar Pradesh, which failed to achieve a target of 175,000 sterilisations in 1975-76, performed 837,000 sterilisations in 1976-’77.Shah Commission of Enquiry, Third and Final Report, 193. Nation-wide, the number of sterilisations shot up from 1.3 million in 1974-’75 to 2.6 million in 1975-’76, and again to 8.1 million in 1976-’77.Shah Commission of Enquiry, Third and Final Report, 195. Justice Krishna Iyer recounts a bizarre incident:
“… A chartered bus carrying professors for a seminar was diverted to a hospital and all the learned participants in the seminar were forced to undergo vasectomy despite their protest. These were orders perhaps from Sanjay Gandhi. The Governor was against it. Many women from villages fled to the hills for fear of the police carrying away people for sterilisation by force. There was a sense of terror throughout the country”V. R. Krishna Iyer, “Emergency – the Darkest Hour in India’s Judicial History” Indian Express, 26 June 2000 [online]; Internet; accessed on 11 October 2006; Indira Gandhi declared a state of Emergency a day after Justice Krishna Iyer of Allahabad High Court had ruled that her election to the Parliament was invalid.
Forcible sterilisation probably was one of the strongest factors that brought down the Indira government in early 1977.For a common man in India, sterilisation is equivalent to castration that can make him a eunuch. Even to date, the government campaigns against false notions that surround vasectomy. After this change, the number of sterilisations for the year 1977-’78 dropped to “barely 1 million.”V. A. Pai Panandiker, P. K. Umashankar, “Fertility Control-Induced Politics of India,” Population and Development Review, Vol. 20, Supplement: The New Politics of Population: Conflict and Consensus in Family Planning (1994), pp. 89-104. Political parties have ever since publicly distanced themselves from coercive measures in population control.V. A. Pai Panandiker, P. K. Umashankar, “Fertility Control-Induced Politics of India,” Population and Development Review, Vol. 20, Supplement: The New Politics of Population: Conflict and Consensus in Family Planning (1994), pp. 89-104. The “family planning” programme was renamed as “family welfare” programme. However, the population control programme in India remained alive and well in government records and plans. The government’s focus remained on raising the minimum age for marriage, creating opportunities for women to work outside their homes, research in the area of contraception, awareness campaigns to spread the “norm” of small families, and on offering incentives to those who maintained a small family.Planning Commission of India, Fifth Five Year Plan [online]; accessed on 28-10-2006. Internet. It is surprising to see that planners of the Fifth Plan, unlike politicians, still considered “permitting State Legislatures to enact legislation for compulsory sterilization.”Ibid. The Fifth Plan is for the period 1977-1982. The sixth Five Year Plan for 1982-’87 lamented that the Medical Termination Act did not consider abortion as population control measure and recommends that abortion be regarded as a “corrective method for failure of contraceptives.”Planning Commission of India, Sixth Five Year Plan [online]; accessed on 28-10-2006. Internet.
Following the International Conference on Population and Development 1994 at Cairo, India and other 178 nations signed an agreement to end coercive population control and to opt for a milder way to keep population under control, namely, the empowerment of women and promotion of reproductive health.Betsy Hartmann, “Too Heavy a Price to Pay: India’s Two-Child Norm Hurts Women, Girls and the Poor,” Znet Daily Commentaries (4 January 2006) [article online]; Internet; accessed on 20 January 2007. Accordingly, the Indian government came up with a new National Population Policy that gave priority to “voluntary and informed choice and consent” of citizens while promoting “reproductive health care services.”National Commission on Population, “National Population Policy 2000,” [online]; Internet; accessed on 22 January 2007. This policy opposed coercion and the use of incentives or disincentives. This policy was not given a fair chance to run its course; instead, policy-makers grew impatient and decided to give “teeth to the programme.”Mohan Rao, “Cairo Door Ast? Population Policies and their Context in India after ICPD,” Indian Journal of Gender Studies 13/2 (2006) 247.274.
Contrary to the Cairo agreement, ten Indian states enforced a “two child norm” through various means.Betsy Hartmann, “Too Heavy a Price to Pay: India’s Two-Child Norm Hurts Women, Girls and the Poor,” Znet Daily Commentaries (4 January 2006). Some states reserve their welfare programmes for those families that have limited their size to two children by accepting tubectomy or vasectomy; some others deny food rations to the third and subsequent children.Betsy Hartmann, “Too Heavy a Price to Pay: India’s Two-Child Norm Hurts Women, Girls and the Poor,” Znet Daily Commentaries (4 January 2006). Hartmann’s says:
“In Tamil Nadu, agricultural labourers who lose a limb can only receive insurance compensation if they have no more than two children; in Maharashtra farmers with more than two children have to pay higher rates for irrigation facilities. Uttar Pradesh has gone so far as to make gun licenses contingent on ‘motivating’ five cases for sterilization. To get his revolver license, one rich landowner drugged five of his workers and had them sterilized without their consent.”Betsy Hartmann, “Too Heavy a Price to Pay: India’s Two-Child Norm Hurts Women, Girls and the Poor,” Znet Daily Commentaries (4 January 2006).
The Indian government offers incentives not only to those who adopt sterilisation but also to those who perform it. Two Indian doctors reported to The Lancet about this:
“Local authorities are under pressure to achieve set targets and the doctors are paid on a case basis … inducements (cash or otherwise) are routinely sanctioned to candidates for sterilisation, and the motivator is similarly rewarded; the organizational structure is insufficient, and informed consent is certainly not obtained. Many gynaecologists pride themselves on the number of sterilisations they do.”S. G. Kabra and Narayanan R. ‘Sterilisation camps in India’ The Lancet 335/8683 (27 January 1990), 224-5.
Similar to these incentives, there are tax benefits too for small families. Tuition fees paid for just two children per family is exempted from tax calculations.Income Tax Act 1961 as Amended by Finance Act 2006, chapter VIII, sec. 88 para. Xiv-b (2006) [online]; accessed on 28 October 2006. Internet. Several states such as Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan enacted laws that disqualify parents of three or more children from contesting in elections to local bodies; these were upheld by the Supreme Court.Zile Singh v. State of Haryana 2004 SC-JUDIS [online]; accessed on 28 October 2006. Internet. Several women, especially those from the lower strata of society, have lost their offices as a result of these laws; husbands have forced their wives to go for abortion or to give away their children—just to retain office. To make matters worse, the two-child norm forged a deadly nexus with the Indian preference for sons; this resulted in increased female foeticides, upsetting sex ratio in several states.“The sex ratio in the age group of 0 to 6 has decreased at a much faster pace than the overall sex ratio of the country after 1981. From 945 in 1991, the child sex ratio has declined to 927 in 2001.”
Gargi Parsai, “India Should Have 35 million more Women,” The Hindu, 22 October 2003, 12. Betsy Hartmann rightly concludes that India’s unprivileged women and children are the most affected by such coercive measures.Gargi Parsai, “India Should Have 35 million more Women,” The Hindu, 22 October 2003, 12.
As long as the Indian government offers incentives to those who adopt sterilisation or to those who have just two children, its “family welfare programme” cannot be called “family planning;” it remains a “population control programme.”
Agencies or governments that do not promote coercive measures adopt means to change the lifestyle of their people; they may address social factors such as preference for sons or health factors such as high infant mortality to bring down fertility; they may also promote factors that directly compete with a woman’s time and/or resources to have/nurture children.“When women have access to education (particularly secondary school and more), when their infants and toddlers survive, when they have options and value beyond childbearing, women want and have fewer children. This creates demand for family planning.”
Elaine Murphy, “Cairo: A Needed Course Correction,” Population Today, 23/11 November 1995 [journal online]; Internet; accessed on 29 October 2006. Whichever way population control is done, the basic assumption is that parents in the Majority World are irresponsible and inept at deciding the size of their families.
If I should assert that the population control movement initiated by some people in the West has racial underpinnings, it might sound preposterous at first reading. However, a few promoters of “population control” are candid about this dark underside of their movement!
Instead of expressing a general concern about global human population growth, lobbyists moan about the rise in “third world” populations. Population growth rates in the third world are historically unprecedented.”Lappé and Schurmann, Taking Population Seriously, 1989, 1. Lappé and Schurman buttress their point using graphs that compare the population growth in the developed West with that of the developing countries in the Majority World.Lappé and Schurmann, Taking Population Seriously, 1989, 1. What might be the reasons behind this undue concern about the population growth in the Majority World? Such a distressing concern about “third world” population swell is best understood from a strategic military or economic point of view. Philanthropic explanations are just a pretention. If ever there will be a global democracy, the Majority World will stand to benefit! That could be a major cause of concern for the rich First World.
What makes the picture murkier is their firm belief in the theory of evolution.An evaluation of the theory of organic or inorganic evolution is beyond the scope of this research project. This researcher wishes to cite a necessarily corollary of this theory—the genetic disunity of humans. Traditionally, evangelical Christians have believed that all humans are children of an original human couple—Adam and Eve. The Judeo-Christian view is expressed in St Paul’s words: “And he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation …” Acts 17:26 RSV. The different races that we see are by-products of geographical separation of various human families and the resultant genetic isolation from each other.
Evolutionists, unlike these Christians, do not believe that the all humans came from one human couple; in other words, they do not believe in the genetic unity of the global human community. They believe that different human races have different evolutionary histories.William P. Andrews, “Facing the Malthusian Threat,” 121. Even “evangelical” Christians such as Jeeves and Berry, who bend backwards to reconcile their allegiance to the Bible with their faith in the theory of evolution, reach a similar conclusion.Malcolm A. Jeeves and R. J. Berry, Science, Life and Christian Belief, A Survey and Assessment (Leicester: Apollos, 1998), 111-12. In their own words,
“A Neolithic Adam and Eve could not be the physical ancestors to the whole human species. … The Bible insists on the spiritual unity of the human race (Acts 17:26; Romans 5:12-14). This does not necessarily mean a genetic unity.”Jeeves and Berry, Science, Life and Christian Belief, A Survey and Assessment, 111-12.
In other words, evolutionists believe that humans in Europe came from a species of monkeys while humans in other parts of the world came from various other monkeys! It is not clear how these Christian scientists classify humans of diverse genetic origins as one species called homo sapiens on the basis of some nebulous “spiritual unity.”
The necessary corollary of this viewpoint is the fundamental disunity of global humanity. Thus, the theory of evolution provides the “superior” races a justification for the practice of racial discrimination, inter-racial competitions, and for the classification of global humanity into different sub-species.
With such a faulty understanding of different human races, it is not surprising that Andrews expresses an alarm at the rising population of Asians/Africans in the following words:
“But the reality as provided to us by evolution is a variety of different populations, some of which are still segregated into more or less homogeneous political states, and others mixed together in multi-racial political units. Consider a multi-racial state made up of blues and reds. Suppose that blues were reproducing faster than the reds, and the reds, to control excessive growth decided to restrict their own reproduction rate. This would help ameliorate the problem for a while, but only until, at long last, there were no more reds, only blues.”William P. Andrews, “Facing the Malthusian Threat,” 121.
The author’s careful choice of non-human colours such as “red” and “blue” to represent people of different human races does not help to make this extremely racist statement sound a little less weird. The benevolent “reds” – in the above illustration – who “restrict their own reproduction rate” in the interest of global humanity clearly represents the developed West! However, their protest against Asian “population explosion” betrays a lack of such benevolence in real life.
Andrews is also desperate because the “blues” will not learn “restraint” until it is too late.William P. Andrews, “Facing the Malthusian Threat,” 121. In a democratic multiracial country, Andrew moans, there is no way to “legislate parity of ethnic reproduction” due to a hurdle called “freedom of reproductive choice.”William P. Andrews, “Facing the Malthusian Threat,” 121. It is clear that Andrews, given a choice, would scrap this offending “freedom of reproductive choice” from civil societies!
It is distressing to know that racial undercurrents influenced vile practices such as the dumping of banned contraceptives on non-Caucasian women. For instance, Depo-provera, a hazardous contraceptive that was banned by the Federal Drug Authority of the USA, was used by the Indian Health Service agency to temporarily sterilise American Indian women for three to six months.Associated Press, “Indian Health Services Dispenses Banned Contraceptive Drug to 35,” New York Times 17 August 1987, [online]; Internet; accessed on 30 October 2006. Philippino women were not educated about the adverse effects of this dangerous drug.Frances Moore Lappé and Rachel Schurman, Taking Population Seriously, 45. Lappe and Schurman also note that black women in South Africa were selectively subjected to sterilisation by Depo-Provera, often without their consent or knowledge.Frances Moore Lappé and Rachel Schurman, Taking Population Seriously, 45.
The documentary La Operación exposed the scandalous sterilisation unleashed in Puerto Rico in the 1950s.Ana Maria Garcia, prod./dir., La Operacion, (New York: The Cinema Guild, 1982). More than a third of Puerto Rican women were encouraged to undergo a fashionable operation—an irreversible sterilisation procedure which the perpetrators never explained to them. Some women were sterilised while under anaesthesia for another operation!Ana Maria Garcia, prod./dir., La Operacion, (New York: The Cinema Guild, 1982). The same film documents how, in the 1960s, Puerto Rican women were used as guinea pigs to test the contraceptive pill.
Strategic economic and military reasons too played an important role in the promotion of “population control” in the guise of “family planning.” Henry Kissinger commissioned a study of the “impact of world population growth on U.S. security and overseas interests” in 1974.Henry A. Kissinger, to The Secretary of Defense et. al., 24 April 1974 National Security Study Memorandum 200 [book online] (Washington, D.C.: National Security Council, 1974 accessed 20 October 2006); Internet. This letter and the NSSM 200 report were classified documents until these were declassified on 31 December 1980. The resultant report, the NSSM 200, expressed fears that rapid population growth in developing countries would cause civil unrest and that “these effects may ultimately be the most important of those arising from population factors, most harmful to the countries where they occur and seriously affecting U.S. interests.”National Security Council of USA, National Security Study Memorandum 200. The “U.S. interests” mentioned here is explained in the same document as the unhindered availability of resources from the Majority World. Therefore, the report advised the President, the Secretary of State and the Cabinet take special interest in selling the concept to the American public and to the nations of the world.National Security Council of USA, National Security Study Memorandum 200.
Among the National Security Council’s various interesting suggestions to the U. S. government, the most outrageous one is its demand that the U. S. support and fund abortion as a tool for population control internationally.National Security Council of USA, National Security Study Memorandum 200.
“No country has reduced its population growth without resorting to abortion.” “Indeed, abortion, legal and illegal, now has become the most widespread fertility control method in use in the world today.” Accordingly, U. S. funds sponsored the extermination of millions of babiesFrom 1971 to 1985, around 379 million birth control surgeries were performed in China alone. These were a part of the Chinese government’s repressive and coercive measures to contain China’s population growth. Yet, western agencies believed Chinese official lies and upheld China as a model for other nations to follow. John S. Aird, Slaughter of the Innocents, passim. in several countries through the agency of United Nations Populations Fund (UNPFA) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) until Steven MosherSteven Mosher, Broken Earth: The Rural Chinese, passim. exposed the brutality of population control programmes in China.Robert Whelan, Choices in Childbearing, 31-32.
The implementation of population control programmes was clearly in the strategic interest of the developed countries. This explains why they pumped millions of dollars into these programmes in various countries. The developed countries also were careful to keep the Majority World – pejoratively called ‘LDC’ or Less Developed Countries – in the dark about their real intentions. To quote the NSSM 200:
“It is vital that the effort to develop and strengthen a commitment on the part of the LDC leaders not be seen by them as an industrialized country policy to keep their strength down or to reserve resources for use by the ‘rich’ countries. Development of such a perception could create a serious backlash adverse to the cause of population stability.”National Security Council of USA, National Security Study Memorandum 200.
The real reasons behind these population control programmes are revealed here—to keep the Majority World’s “strength down” and to “reserve resources [of Asia and Africa] for use by the ‘rich’ countries.”
With memories of Third World leaders’ protests at the Bucharest International Conference on Population (1974) fresh in their minds, the authors of NSSM 200 included the following recommendation too:
“The U.S. can help to minimize charges of imperialist motivation behind its support of population activities by repeatedly asserting that such concern derives from a concern with: (a) the right of the individual to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of children … and (b) the fundamental social and economic development of poor countries.”National Security Council of USA, National Security Study Memorandum 200.
Does anyone need more than these statements to call the bluff of the “developed” countries? Under the guise of protecting the right of women world-wide to protect their health and to space their children, the developed world found a “brilliantly successful technique for meddling with the fertility of Third World women without incurring charges of imperialism and unwarranted interference in the affairs of another country.”Robert Whelan, Choices in Childbearing, 9. If the U.S. indeed believes in the “right of the individual to determine freely and responsibly” the size of his or her family, as stated above, then why did it interfere in the lives of other people?
To perfect the art of deception, the NSSM 200 recommends that “credit should go to local leaders for the success of projects.”Robert Whelan, Choices in Childbearing, 9. When their political leaders win awards for the success of “family planning” projects, people in developing countries will naturally assume that the projects were conceived and implemented at the local level without any international instigation! True to this guideline, the President of the World Bank Robert McNamara called on the Indian Health and Family Planning Minister in November 1976, during the darkest hours of Indian Emergency marked by compulsory sterilisation of men, to “congratulate him for the Indian government’s ‘political will and determination’ in popularizing family planning.”J. Hanlon and A. Agrawal, “Mass Sterilisation at Gunpoint,” New Scientist, London, (5 May 1977) cited in Whelan, Choices in Childbearing, 29. McNamara could not have misjudged the mood of India in a worse manner!It is common knowledge that the very “achievement” that McNamara congratulated the government for was the common man’s greatest ire against Indira Gandhi and her cronies. The compulsory vasectomy programme was the primary factor that defeated Indira Gandhi at the polls in January 1977.
In this book, I have examined the relevance of the creation mandate for human beings to multiply and fill the earth in the light of international propaganda against “overpopulation.” It is clear that God’s people, portrayed in the Bible, had a very positive attitude towards human multiplication. They considered children a blessing even though the nations around them complained about “overpopulation.” Thus, they serve as a worthy example for the Church and the rest of humanity in the twenty first century.
I have also examined arguments put forward by those who believe that the world is overpopulated. It was found that economic, ecological, and social reasons cited for “population control” did not match up with available evidence. Doomsday predictions related to human “population explosion” do not stand up to scientific scrutiny; neither are proponents of these views willing to retract their statements in the light of recent research and evidence.
What happens in the name of “family planning” in Asian countries is nothing but coercive “population control” that has brought suffering to thousands of women and children, not to mention the deaths of millions of unborn babies. It is my conclusion that people are the greatest wealth of any nation; that “family planning” should be the domain of married couples; and governments should trust their own people with the right to decide the size of their families.
Arguments in favour of keeping the human population under control are based on false information, vested interests, and human selfishness. The biblical mandate for human multiplication continues to be relevant in the twentieth century, even in developing countries such as India. No one needs to impose on a married couple his/her views about the “right size” for their family. Instead, every couple should plan their family. Family planning is more than just deciding the size of one’s family. It takes into account the health and welfare of entire family, especially of the mother and children. Even though the fertility of a woman is limited by her physiology, a family may need to exercise added discretion and care in this regard. (Debates about artificial methods of contraception, commonly known as “family planning” methods, usually accompany any discussion on “overpopulation.” However, a discussion on the morality of contraceptive methods is beyond the scope of this book.)
India, specifically, can be optimistic about its growing population considering the predictions about a good future for the country’s economy. Indian states should repeal all incentives or disincentives based on family size. Instead of deciding the size of each family, the government must focus on human resource development. Indian Christians and their fellow citizens should rise above the tide of ill-advised doomsday predictions about population explosion and should continue their valuable contributions in the field of nation building.
Philip Eapen, an environmental scientist by training, devoted his life to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ ever since he realised that the world needs Jesus Christ more than anyone or anything else. Apart from sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, Philip also teaches Christians in order to equip them for service.