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The child-free life

Many countries are barreling down the path to self-extinction


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Sugar-free. Pesticide-free. Worry-free. Cancer-free. … Child-free.

Wait, don’t you mean childless? Doesn’t free after a hyphen mean something negative? Undesirable? I checked and sure enough, there is a growing demand for child-free flights, cruises, restaurants, and apartment complexes.

Here is my most sympathetic case for the child-free movement: I am finally of age and free to sprout my wings and live my own life—and now you expect me to throw that all away to sacrifice my potential for another human being?

But there has been a teeny-weeny oversight with this plan: human extinction.

In December Elon Musk went to Rome. The Italians doubtless sought juicy secrets to economic growth, maybe a lecture on breaking down business hierarchies and creating feedback loops. The founder of SpaceX said this instead: “I really want to emphasize that it’s impor­tant to have children and to create the next generation.”

But overpopulation is a threat, right? Ebenezer Scrooge assumed so, snarling at two gentlemen soliciting for the charities that the poor might do well to die and “decrease the surplus population” (Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol).

Planned Parenthood reps pushing birth control door to door in the 1950 film Cheaper by the Dozen assumed so. They thought the sight of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth’s dozen children sliding down the banister disgusting.

Bertrand Russell (author of Why I Am Not a Christian, which was partly responsible for my conversion to Christian faith) expressed a degrowth sentiment. He wrote in 1951: “I do not pretend that birth control is the only way in which population can be kept from increasing. … Perhaps bacteriological war may prove more effective. … Survivors could procreate freely without making the world too full” (The Impact of Science on Society). Russell recommends a world government as the best instrument for carrying out the goal of reducing population.

The Club of Rome (founded in 1968), a group of self-appointed global planners whose members include former heads of state, UN officials, economists, and ­scientists, sounded the alarm on population growth in 1972 with their first report, The Limits to Growth. They dreamed of various worldwide catastrophes to facilitate their agenda—pollution, global warming, et cetera.

An Oct. 22, 1989, Los Angeles Times book review by National Park Service ecologist David M. Graber offhandedly named a possible mechanism: “Some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.”

But Musk says this is all anachronistic thinking. The global problem we face today is not overpopulation but population free fall. Demographic studies published in British medical journal The Lancet, as well as published fertility rates from six continents in Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Population Decline, contradict the UN theories of overpopulation that underlie our aggressive global warming policies.

The boomerang of lowering birthrates will at some point turn back on us, like an expanding universe being overtaken by gravity, throwing the gears in reverse, and wiping us out in a Big Crunch. Japan, Korea, Russia, and Europe are already in chronic decline. By century’s end, Africa will be one of the only areas of the world not shrinking but growing.

Turns out a country that wants to escape the fate of self-extinction must maintain an average fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman; there is no coming back for a country that falls below that. To make it personal, the United States has a fertility rate of 1.6, down from the 1960 rate of 3.7. More people are dying than being born.

My response to the pleader in paragraph 3 who fears being robbed of his life and potential by raising children: I guess that depends on what you consider a well-lived life—making senior partner at the law firm, or raising up another resident for heaven?


Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is a senior writer for WORLD Magazine. Her columns have been compiled into three books including Won’t Let You Go Unless You Bless Me. Andrée resides near Philadelphia.

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