Like the crushing force of a tsunami from the depths of the sea, millions were to be swept away for lack of food all over the world. More mouths to feed than the earth could possibly provide, was carefully calculated and projected.
The year was 1968. The book was, “The Population Bomb.” The author was Dr. Paul Ehelich. The message was clear — anyone having children should feel some guilt of irresponsibility, contributing to the ultimate self-destruction by starvation of the human race. Numbers do not lie. The end was just a matter of time – unless we changed our ways – unless we put into place a world-wide birth control effort.
Well, what happened? Where is the population limitation or starvation? Could we believe both have happened? The earth is populated with those who have and with those who have not.
In the world (U.N. figures) there are close to 25,000 dying daily from lack of food and medicine. In contrast, the population of many nations of the world are severely shrinking, especially Russia, China, and Japan. Western Europe is gradually losing members at a rate of about 100 million every 100 years. Our U.S. population recorded its lowest birthrate ever in 2011, but the demographic factor has been masked by immigration families and their higher birth rates.
However, with less immigration coupled with recession, our U.S. birthrate fell to 1.9, below the 2.1 replacement rate – the number of children each woman must have to maintain the population at its present world level. With the continued retirement of Baby Boomers during this decade, demographers predict a nationwide shortage of workers by 2020.
The most disturbing population crunch in the U.S. is the imbalance between seniors and working-age adults (25-64) — presently at 25 retirees per 100 workers and calculated to be 40 retirees per 100 workers in 17 years.
Although there is plenty of evidence that we the people of the world have obeyed our Creator’s directive “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it” [Genesis 1:28], many factors and vicissitudes sway our willingness and ability.
Perhaps the most interesting and surprising U.S. demographic is the low birth rate of our affluent citizens and the high birth rate of our poor. This statistic validates our middle-upper class priority — a quest of seeking economic status and comfort over the unavoidable arduous and disruptive demands of child rearing; a priority out of reach for most of the poor. Perhaps the saddest take on us Americans is our maintaining an insulated distance from the starving of the world.
So, for many reasons Dr. Ehelick’s 1968 prediction could be seen as true and false.
The Rev. John Burkhart Ph.D, is a retired Episcopal priest and professor of psychology
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