The Population Debate

There is a rather one-sided article in this morning’s Age “World’s future is a crowded place”. It’s basic argument is that while world population growth is slowing, we will still reach a peak of about 10.5 billion by 2050. The argument continues that the world will have difficulty sustaining this kind of population, and that the secret to success is “empowering women” through education, which means largely artificial contraception. The effect of abortion isn’t even mentioned.

This is a one-sided presentation on many different levels. For a start, the world can easily produce the amount of food required for a population of this level – war and conflict and selfishness and greed and bad management on the part of many nations (including our own) are to blame if we cannot achieve this. Secondly, if eduction of women and raising their status is key to balancing population growth, then natural family planning would be a sensible part of this education and “empowerment”.

But most seriously, the article fails to address the fact that there is actually negative population growth in many “developed”, Western countries, especially in Europe. There is a side article by Nicky Phillips (“Growing pains and gains” – not available online) in which she writes: “The final stage occurs when a country’s birth and death rate come into balance and the population stabilises, a situation that is occurring in most developed countries – including Australia.”

Actually, the “final stage” is not this at all, as I have pointed out. The “final stage” is when our birth rate drops below our death rate, a stage which has, as I said, already been reached in many countries.

Recently we held a successful (if poorly attended due to external circumstances) Catholic Muslim Symposium here in Melbourne on Marriage and Family life. The next Catholic Muslim Symposium, planned for late June or early July, will precisely be on this topic of Population. It should be interesting. I will let you know when we have a date. It’s a fair bet that both Catholic and Muslim speakers at the Symposium will differ largely from the standard Fairfax line on this topic…

About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
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