Baby CryingFor many of us born after World War II, the idea that America depends on its citizens to procreate in order to maintain its status as a world power seems a bit archaic. Sure, we recognize that somebody has to do it, but propagation is hardly seen as the patriotic obligation it once was. If you grew up during the Reagan/Bush years, for example, memories of massive unemployment scares might logically eclipse fears of a waning population too small to fill the jobs that make society function. But dwindling population levels have actually been a major threat to American dominance in the global marketplace, at least according to an article in the Washington Post. So it is with a palpable sense of relief that the Post reports that, for the first time since 1971, the United States has reached a fertility rate above the coveted population replacement milestone, a level where the number of children reaching adolescence is equal to the death rate. This is pretty good news for the country, the article suggests.

The San Francisco Bay Guardian offers a decidedly different response to the news of U.S. population growth in a blog posting by Amanda Witherell. The world’s resources are already stretched dangerously thin sustaining our present population, Witherell points out. An increase in population—particularly in an über-consumerist society like ours, where the increase would have an exponentially more drastic environmental impact than in a developing nation—would be unconscionable.

According to the Post article, “the ‘replacement rate’ is generally considered desirable by demographers and sociologists because it means a country is producing enough young people to replace and support aging workers....” This positive perception of the replacement rate, of course, presumes that our present population is ideal and, consequently, that changes in the size of our population and necessary workforce are unfavorable alternatives to some other, yet-to-be-discovered solution to our environmental problems. Witherell points out in another article that limiting the population is an obvious step toward corralling carbon emissions and the burden we put on natural resources. Too obvious a step, apparently. This preference for an abstract, or even nonexistent, solution reminds us that, at least in America, the simple answer is hardly ever the right answer. Better to offer our children a shot at the great legacy of solving global warming. They’ll thank us, I’m sure. Every single, last one of them.

Morgan Winters

Photo by Jenn Rensel, licensed under Creative Commons.

1/30/2008 11:43:07 AM

We are not an overpopulated kind of animal. We can fit all the people in the world in seminole county florida

Kate Mossman
1/29/2008 3:07:15 PM

At last some people are starting to put two and two together... our population explosion is the elephant in the room... i'm not just talking about here in North America, the entire world is out of control.. we have to look at total sustainability of the land and OTHER species...amount of farmland needed, pasture land needed... we've got our heads buried in the sand to think anyother way...We should all be restricted to maximum one child per family and get bonuses for choosing not to add to the population problem..I not only believe, but I know that cutting down the population of the planet by a few hundred million would surely be the place to start!!

1/29/2008 2:57:56 PM

I love kids, but couldn't agree more. I am a 38 year old mother of two, and I am bombarded daily with inquiries from my peers about when I am going to have my third. "Three is the new two" seems to be the catch phrase of my generation; and children, for many, are no more than the latest accessory to show off to suburbia.

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