Room for More: Population Is Declining

After years of hearing that the earth is in serious danger due to overpopulation, I've got some surprising news: the world's population will soon be shrinking.  The bad news is that because of those who swallowed "the earth won't sustain us" lie, there are a lot of people that should be here but are not.

Of course there will be no apology, but only a morphing of the original message.  One would think that groups like Zero Population Growth, who brought us cute slogans such as: "The pill in time saves nine!" and "This line is too long.  Join ZPG!" might show some remorse for brainwashing throngs of people to be more committed to trees than to parenthood.  Thirty-eight years later, ZPG hands out condoms with the wrappers embossed, "Save the world: Use a condom" and is working on a National Population Policy.  I suppose they want a pat on the back for convincing so many that the sky was falling — or at least that the earth was shrinking under the weight of humanity.  And I also suppose they see themselves as heroes for leaving holes in families where children would have been, so now there's more room for grass.

Unfortunately, the media picked up their refrain, leaving only brave, defiant or oblivious souls to dare to push their fertility beyond the acceptable number of two.  Ask any mother of three or more how many times she had people point to her pregnant belly and ask, "Don't you know what causes that?" When I was a young child, a big family was thought to be a blessing.  But by the time I was an adult, big families were seen as headed by big buffoons — ignorant, selfish, or out-of-control adults unwilling to curb their fertility for the sake of the rest of the world.  Thus it is that people began to feel free to ask rude questions in an effort to get the numbskulls to invest in birth control.

The reverse would be unthinkable.  Parents of a large family would not ask those of a small family, "Don't you two know what to do to have more children?" As the mother of ten children — eight the old-fashioned way and two brothers orphaned in Kenya — sometimes I actually enjoy unsolicited opinions.  "Boy, I'm glad it's you and not me," gives me the chance to say, "Me too," but I have never inquired as to why they were not enjoying their own children enough to have more.  I have no desire to pry into the private lives of others.  Yet thinking we are taking up too much space in this world, some people become militant and angry with those of us who opt out of the "two kids only" club.

The Earth Was Never in Trouble

 Ironically, the earth was never really in trouble to begin with.  Although the UN announced that the world's population reached 6 billion on October 12, 1999, some demographers decried this as inaccurate due to false reporting from many countries.  Whether the numbers were correct or not, growth has slowed and in some areas is reversing itself.  The United Nations reports that the 79 countries that comprise 40 percent of the world's population now have declining populations. According to Steve Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, the populations of the developed nations today are static or declining.  "The Census Bureau's figures are contradicted by those of the United Nations Population Division," Mosher states.  The UN predicts that by the year 2050, Russia's population will have declined by 21 million, Italy's by 16 million and Germany's and Spain's by 9 million.  Mosher predicts that by the year 2050, persons aged 65 and above will be almost twice as numerous as children 15 years and younger.

It has become an increasing reality for countries losing population to institute liberal immigration policies that allow for more workers to take up the slack.  Even in the developing world, family size has shrunk from an average of five children in 1900 to less than three today.  Ironically, many countries facing under-population are finally realizing that children are their most important resource.  There's even a growing trend in countries such as in Russia to offer financial incentives to families willing to have more than one child.

Dr.  Jacqueline R.  Kasun is an economist and the author of <i>The War Against Population: The Economics and Ideology of World Population Control</i> (Ignatius, 1988, 1998). According to her, regardless of what the numbers are, our earth has never been in danger of too many people.  In her book, Kasun states:

It's reported by Paul Ehrlich and others that human beings actually occupy no more than 1 to 3 percent of the earth's land surface.

If you allotted 1250 square feet to each person, all the people in the world would fit into the state of Texas.  Try the math yourself: 7,438,152,268,800 square feet in Texas, divided by the world population of 5,860,000,000, equals 1269 square feet per person.

The population density of this giant city would be about 21,000 per square mile — somewhat more than San Francisco and less than the Bronx.

Regardless, the lies have been taken as fact and the world's policy makers act accordingly.  Fueled by false information, governments are committed by law to reduce worldwide population growth.

Abortions and sterilizations are pushed and even forced on citizens with United Nations approval and often financing, while emergency aid to Third-World countries has come to include first and foremost, free and sometimes coercive birth control.

Our public schools teach kids in social studies that the earth is dying under the strain of people, then, when the bell rings, the kids file into the next class where "sex education" teaches them how the various birth controls work to curb population growth.  Even our elementary-aged children come home from school worried about our "dying" planet.  It seems the height of irresponsibility to pass on lies and frighten little children with them. The media and the education system listen to and pass along only one side of the story.  But there is another side.

Myths of Overpopulation

Although you would never know this by listening to the evening news, the scientific community is in great disagreement over whether global warming is attributable to human activity and if there is a connection to so-called "overpopulation."  Another scare comes to us from tree-huggers.  Overpopulation is being blamed for the deforestation of the planet.  Yet according to Kasun, thirty percent of the earth is covered in trees, the same figure as in the 1950s. 

Another fact: Trees are growing 33 percent faster than they are being cut….  There has also been great agitation about the destruction of the tropical rainforests.  Someone has claimed that an area twice the size of Belgium is now being logged worldwide each year, but people don't realize Belgium could fit into the world's tropical forests 500 times, and in the meantime, the rest of the world's trees — 99.6 percent of them — are continuing to grow.

I wish Kasun could convince the people of Oregon of this fact.  When I was there last spring, I read an article in the Oregonian newspaper, lamenting the cutting down of one particular old growth tree on someone's private property.  Twenty-one of his neighbors had tried to stop him by getting his permit revoked.  In a state where euthanasia and abortion draw little attention from the general public, the death of this tree caused great mourning.

Air pollution and acid rain are also blamed on overpopulation.  Air pollution is largely a result of how industries do business.  Due to better emission controls, it is declining significantly in the United States.  Blaming it on more babies being born is a cop-out.

During the sixties and seventies, massive famine due to our dwindling ability to feed ourselves was supposed to be just around the corner.  Today, food supplies have never been more abundant or less expensive.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, world food supplies exceed requirements in all world areas, amounting to a surplus approaching 50 percent in 1990 in the developed countries, and 17 percent in the developing regions.  Our own government actually pays farmers over a billion dollars not to farm 33.5 million acres.

News coverage of famines provide tragic photo opportunities for the media to massage the overpopulation myth.  But famines are caused by extreme droughts, war, ineptitude, or corrupt governments, not because there are too many people to feed. Kasun reports:

Western journalists blamed the Ethiopian famine on "overpopulation," but that was simply not true.  The Ethiopian government caused it by confiscating the food stocks of traders and farmers and exporting them to buy arms.  That country's leftist regime, not its population, caused the tragedy.

In fact, Africa, beset with problems often blamed on "overpopulation," has only one-fifth the population density of Europe….

The cry that our natural resources are in short supply has an ebb and flow to it.  Some may remember the "energy crises" in the seventies.  It was a year that people stopped hanging outdoor Christmas lights because our energy was in short supply.  I lived in the Detroit area and our family tradition of driving around to look at lights came to an abrupt halt.  No one dared to waste energy on something as frivolous as Christmas lights.  Oddly enough, thirty years later there seems to be ample energy for all our lights.

The Question of Poverty

But doesn't overpopulation cause poverty?  In reality, when the supposed 6 billionth baby was born, he was born into a world that has never been more prosperous.  According to the World Bank, average income in the developing world has doubled since 1960.  And behind the population explosion is the explosion in health.  Two hundred years ago, global average human life expectancy was under thirty years.  Today it is more than sixty-five years.

I am not arguing that social, economic and environmental problems do not exist.  I am simply stating that overpopulation is not the problem.  Modern societies are forgetting that children are a blessing.  Fortunately, it's just a matter of time before the tide turns.  Those intent on "saving the planet" have lower fertility rates than couples that see children as a blessing.  Do the math.

Several years ago, I heard a radio report to the effect that the most requested gift from children to in-store Santa Clauses was for little brothers or sisters.  For them, it's the best gift they can imagine.  Some moms and dads have forgotten this or been scared away from the blessing.

I am no scientist, but it only seems logical that if there's room in heaven for one more soul, then God must have arranged for there to be enough room on the earth for more.  After all, the planet is passing away.  We are not.

Patti Maguire Armstrong


Patti Maguire Armstrong and her husband have ten children. She is an award-winning author and was managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press’s Amazing Grace Series. She has appeared on TV and radio stations across the country.  Her latest books, Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories from Everyday Families and children’s book, Dear God, I Don’t Get It are both available now. To read more, visit Patti’s Catholic News and Inspiration site. Follow her on Facebook at Big Hearted Families and Dear God Books.

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  • Guest

    It’s refreshing to hear from someone who appreciates her kids. The author is right; our society forgets that children are a blessing. Last week at work I overheard a pregnant woman in the elevator joking about how hard it is to grow a baby, and if her husband wants any more they’ll have to adopt because she’s not getting pregnant again. I wanted to shake her and tell her that she’s crazy if she thinks adoption is so much easier than being pregnant. As an infertile woman, it is so upsetting to hear comments like that from people who take their fertility for granted and don’t realize what a gift it is. And the opposite side of the coin is that a lot of people like me who are unable to conceive, rather than seeing children as a gift they see them as a commodity and they think they have the right to do whatever it takes to have a baby, even if that means creating and destroying embryos through barbaric procedures.

  • Guest

    What a refreshing change to hear the truth! As a happy mother of seven (so far) I hear all the comments from the “other side”. Most commonly, “Are they all yours?” My reply of “I haven’t met one yet that I don’t like!” sends them spinning. They just can’t believe we want to torture ourselves with so many children. Each one is such a gift, it saddens me when I see single, or “perfect pairs” of children dripping with material posessions, when each one of them would probably love a sibling more than another video game. Thanks for your article. I plan to pass it on to my ten brothers and sisters. I thank God my parents didn’t think the earth was about to crack under the weight of too many bodies! My mother to this day is pleased she has each and every one of us (and her twenty-five grandchildren). We need to set that example of pro-family thinking for our children!

  • Guest

    Ave Maria!


    One of my dear friends just had her 10th!  And to visit her home filled with love and joy is a great pleasure. She homeschools too! And they pray a family rosary.  The oldest kids, including twins, are holding their own in a 'catholic' college.  They are an example to their peers.


    This morning after Mass a young couple told us they are expecting their 4th and the oldest is 5.  They are getting comments such as , "Did you plan this?"  The husband says yes, we did–WE GOT MARRIED!

    And they accept God's plan . This family is the only one like it in the large parish.

    Myself, I bought into the BIG LIE and planned my two children.  I would not go that route if I could do it over; I would have more children.

  • Guest

    I think it’s important to remember that those of us who are not blessed with children are also following God’s plan by remaining open to life without giving in to procedures which separate the unitive and procreative aspects of marriage, and which create embryos which are later destroyed.

  • Guest

    We just had our third boy. I am glad to see people bucking the population control tendencies also. I get concerned that some people may come across a little cavalier in doing so however. We do have some serious and mounting environmental problems, and I find it difficult to bridge the gap between the realistic concerns of both environmentalists and traditional religious groups (usually conservatives). As my best man would say, both groups are too busy pointing out the sticks in the other groups’ eyes.
    True, the world can obviously support more people right now, and the size of the population is not itself responsible for the environmental concerns or humanitarian tradgedies. On the other hand, there is an ultimate limit to how many people we can support (sorry Patti, there is infinitely more room in heaven than on earth), and a lot of our food supply is produced by methods that are not sustainable in the long run, very detrimental to many other species and ultimately ourselves. My sister, who has chosen to leave the Church, asks why Christians don’t approach creation with more respect and humility? A good question!
    One of the best stances of Christianity in this respect is our stand against materialism and wastefulness which is so prevalent today. Perhaps this is one way to bridge the gap. I think that we need to be reaching out to and listening to these people with different stances than our own. For one thing, their souls are in serious peril! Also, we may out-reproduce them, but if they control our schools and government, then our children our grandchildren may end up switching camps, as we’ve seen so much of in recent decades. I am the only one of nine children to my parents to have a family in the Church (after my own prodigal era).
    So, lets keep bringing new lives into the world to honor God, and lets also make real sacrifices for the protection of the environment, also to honor God.
    God Bless,

  • Guest

    I am glad that Patti does not ask aouples with just 1 or 2 children why they are not enjoying their children more…or even those with no children… because it may be that they cannot have children. I think that it is important never to look down on anyone for the size of their family… one just never knows.

    I love the picture with this article. What a beautiful Family!

  • Guest

    Thank you sflynch! While I agree with some of what the author was saying, I was a bit upset with the third paragraph that states, “…leaving the brave, defiant, or oblivious souls to dare push their fertility beyond the acceptable number of two.” I hope people don’t look at my family and assume that we were so overly concerned about over-populating the earth that we weren’t open to God’s gifts. We received three precious gifts from Our Lord, one of whom He has already called home. Did He give us any more? No, but that was His will not ours. Sometimes His will isn’t the easiest thing to accept but through His grace comes acceptance.

  • Guest

    First, I second Andrew’s comment.
    >it saddens me when I see single, or “perfect pairs” of children dripping with >material posessions, when each one of them would probably love a sibling more >than another video game.
    Doesn’t that sort of depend on what the siblings are like ? (I’m asking as an only child, whose best friend often fled to my house to get away from her ‘bossy’ older brother, her ‘nitpicking’ older sisters, and her ‘pestering’ little brother….)

  • Guest

    I was a student local pastor in the United Methodist Church before I converted. Student local pastors were appointed to churches that were unable to pay a full time or in their words, “real pastor” to serve them. Many of these churches were just a remnant of what they used to be with only the profoundly loyal members who remain even if the devil himself were appointed as their pastor, the extremely stubborn who remain because no one will make them leave “their” church Great-Grandfather so-in-so helped build with his own two hands, and “old money” members whose Great-Grandfather so-in-so paid the others to build the church back in the day. All 7 – 10 of these people came to Church every Sunday and that’s all they wanted. “Preach to me on Sunday, and you come and visit during the week as long as you don’t preach to me then.” “And if you don’t visit often enough, we’ll fire ya and get a new pastor.”

    When I would talk to young couples with small children, they would tell me that they would come to church, but their children are just too loud and won’t sit still for more than a minute, and the baby is teething and won’t keep quiet either. I would tell them, they need to all come to church anyway so that when their children get older, they will continue to come to church as adults. I’d tell them that the noise of the children playing in the pews and the babies whaling louder than my preaching was the sound of the future of the church making its approach. So they would come to church that Sunday. Mrs. “I run this Church” who has been the Chairperson of the board ever since they started letting women be board members, would approach them during the “passing of the peace” just before the offering and communion and tell them that if they couldn’t keep their children under control, they should leave them at home with a babysitter. The following week, the pew they would have sat in would be empty, and they would tell me later, that they just weren’t made to feel welcome. This broke my heart every time it happened. Churches died and stayed the same because children were not welcome in the church service, and no one wanted to sit with them in a nursery or “children’s church”.< --pagebreak-->

    One of the things that amazed me when I started attending Mass services before I converted, was that no matter where I attended Sunday Mass, so many people attended that if you didn’t get there early, you just had to stand or sit in the back. I think this is how ushers get recruited in some churches. If you are going to have to stand, you may as well make yourself useful.

    Anyway, last evening, a young couple with (I think) four children and a baby just a few months old sat right behind me on mommy’s lap. I think this child will grow up to be a Priest, Choir Director, Opera Singer, or Auctioneer, because he had a set of pipes that would put a jack-hammer to shame.

    So, while recovering some of what remained of my hearing I realized that this is what I had been wanting for so many years. I wanted to hear the future of the Church announcing its arrival. I may have missed most of what our Priest said, but perhaps for me, the baby’s homily is what I most needed to hear.

    Anyway, I appreciate articles like these because they encourage growth in the Church by welcoming the little children as Jesus did 2000+ years ago.(Cf.Mt.19:14)

    So, let the world fill up. As it looks from this perspective, at least we’ll all be Catholic.;-)



  • Guest

    Thank you to sflynch for pointing out that it is not right to look down on someone for the size of their family without knowing the whole story. It’s great that the author is speaking the truth about the myth of overpopulation, but there is an imbalance in the Church over applauding those with big families while investing very little focus on those of us who can’t have children, but, as I mentioned before, are faithful to the Church’s teachings against immoral fertility procedures.

  • Guest

    You aren’t looking down on someone because of the size of their family. You are looking down on them because they made a rude comment to you. :o)

  • Guest

    I would like to comment on the story about large families – I am a mother of 10 and I don’t understand why either side has to question the motives of the other.
    I truly believe one of the most precious gifts God gives to us is our children. I know that other people think my husband and I are nuts but I respond to them with kindness and I don’t feel the need to defend our choice nor do I feel as though I am in the position to judge others. The greatest commandment is to love one another and that perhaps is one of the biggest challenges we face. I say hooray for all families big and small.

  • Guest

    To Harlequin:
    I agree that those comments targeted toward the author are very rude and uncalled for. However, I still applaud her for holding her tongue and responding in kind to those people. My main point is that I think that faithful Catholics spend a lot of time commending people with large families, and very little time commending those of us who are unable to have children yet refuse to give in to our desperation for a child by engaging in immoral fertility procedures. The Church rightfully sings the praises of women who are open to life and have lots of children, but virtually ignores the huge sacrifice that people like me make by remaining faithful to Church teaching regarding infertility treatments. My sister-in-law just gave birth today to a beautiful baby girl that was conceived by IVF (and has 16 embryo siblings who are being “stored” and will likely never see the light of day). My new neice is a reminder of the huge sacrifice I have made; I could be a mother too if I were willing to ignore Church teaching. But yet sometimes I feel like a bad Catholic because in the eyes of the Church I don’t seem to measure up to mothers with big families, even though I can’t help the fact that I can’t conceive.

  • Guest

    The reverse would be unthinkable. Parents of a large family would not ask those of a small family, “Don’t you two know what to do to have more children?”

    My girlfriend of 37 is constantly asked very similar questions by the older generation. They seem to think it is her womanly duty to procreate even though she has zero desire for children and never has wanted them. Your unthinkable is actually far more common than the other way around from what I have seen.

    And we don’t need more people on this planet. It costs a huge amount of money and time to educate and it will only cost more in the future because of the amount of time needed to do so. Now if you have lots of money to throw around great, but most young people I know can’t even afford to survive with two incomes so why add another mouth to feed?

  • Guest

    Claire, It is true that it is much more difficult to find a lot of consolation from Catholics when it is not possible to have children (in fact, many of them do turn to morally unacceptable methods). I just wanted to transcribe this for you in an interview with St. Josemaria Escriva. You can find it in the book, “Conversations with Josemaria Escriva” point 96.

    The frustration caused by not being able to have children leads at times to discord and misunderstanding. In your opinion, what meaning should Christian couples who are childless give to their married life?

    Actually it is a little long, so I made the question hyperlink to the response. It is just beautiful.

  • Guest

    To JakeAberton:

    You stated: “we don’t need more people on this planet. It costs a huge amount of money and time to educate and it will only cost more in the future because of the amount of time needed to do so.”

    This viewpoint is morally repugnant! You are arguing that a value of a life is based on money. Two of my children have special needs that not only will preclude their ability to contribute positively in an economic sense to society, but they will be unable to be educated or to be self sufficient. Do you propose that their lives shouldn’t exist?

    You also stated: “if you have lots of money to throw around great, but most young people I know can’t even afford to survive with two incomes so why add another mouth to feed.”

    This is a lie propagated by the culture of death. Statistically speaking, at least some of your young friends have a cell phone, TV, cable, Internet access, an iPod, DVDs, and other Western indulgences. At least 1/3 of the people you know consume too much food. If you choose to give up indulgences in the world, large families ARE ACHIEVABLE. Large families teach the concepts of sharing, sacrifice, and conservation. The very reason the Western world is raping the world of its resources is that our culture teaches self-indulgence, a value reinforced by deliberately restricting family size without grave reasons to do so.

    The world doesn’t need less people, IT NEEDS LESS SELFISH PEOPLE!

    John C. Walker, Software Architect, Charlotte, NC

  • Guest


  • Guest

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I really needed that today; it’s been a tough day for me with my conflicting emotions about my SIL’s delivery (given the circumstances of how this baby was conceived and all the frozen embryos, and the fact that I wish I were the one delivering a baby). I have a great deal of admiration for St. Jose Maria Escriva. It’s a shame that Dan Brown has given such a bad reputation to Opus Dei.

  • Guest

    You are absolutely right that the Church does not hold up couples enough who are unable to have children and avoid immoral practices. Are there even any support groups? I will start adding you and all couples who choose your path to my prayers. Your witness is truly a blessing to the whole world.

  • Guest

    I’m not from the older generation, but I do believe that it is the duty of married couples to be open to the possibility of new life. Why? Because if they are not, then humanity disappears. Rapidly declining birth rates puts obvious strains on social security systems which rely on younger workers to provide for the older ones. If married couples don’t have kids, then they rob the next generation of the ability to care for the previous one.

    You start with the assumption that children are a financial burden. But in truth, children are an investment. Financially, they usually produce far more for society than they cost society to raise them. This is why our ecomonies grow. Second, overpopulation concerns general ignore the incredible creativity of humanity. Today, food, energy, and trees are all more plentiful than 100 years ago despite the growth of the population. This is because more people = more creative solutions to the problems that face us. Third, I believe you are overlooking the sheer joy children bring to families and to the world. The greatest need is not money, food, shelter, or clothing, but that of love. And more children means more love for each family and for the world.

    May God bless you.