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Sat. Jun 15th, 2024

Opinion | Our goal should be a planet with fewer people

By meerna Jun12,2024

Regarding the June 2 editorial titled: “The Great Population Collapse”:

Instead of placing the fate of the entire economic system on women’s shoulders, we should separate the success of our economy from the birth rate. Unlimited growth – whether of population or economy – is an unattainable fantasy. Infinite growth on a finite planet is doomed to failure. If we continue to ignore this fact, we will miss the opportunity to build a fair and sustainable economy, slow the climate crisis and species extinction, and protect a future where all families can thrive.

Everyone should have the right to choose if and when they want to have children, and to have as many children as they want. This is a fundamental principle of reproductive justice. But reproductive justice also requires the right to raise our children in a healthy environment, so our obsession with endless growth is failing us on both fronts. Politicians use women’s bodies as a political tool in the fight for abortion care. Let’s not do the same by blaming the economic problems on the falling birth rate.

Stephanie Feldstein, Portland, Ore.

The author is the Director of Population and Sustainability at the Center for Biological Diversity.

The Post’s editorial on the birth rate is the latest in an endless — and unnecessary — series of alarms on the issue in recent years. In addition to briefly outlining the many benefits of falling fertility rates, the editorial assumes that there are dire consequences if we fail to convince women to reverse them.

In fact, now is not the time to double down on an ideology that elevates economic growth above all else. If the goal is human well-being, rather than enriching those already favored by an economy that has created record wealth inequality along with a major ecological disaster, then it is time to abandon growth ideology for good.

A strong social safety net should be standard in wealthy countries like the United States, and would add much less to the national debt than the billions we send into the bottomless pit of armed conflict. But we should pursue such a policy as a matter of decency, not as an attempt to increase the birth rate.

The only sensible policy in dealing with a low birth rate is to adapt to it. We continue to add about 80 million people a year to the world’s population, largely because women in some parts of the world have no reproductive choice and face enormous pressures of cultural pronatalism. These parts of the world will suffer the most from climate-induced drought, heatwaves and other extreme weather events. Our low birth rate should be seen as an opportunity to welcome the coming waves of climate refugees. If we welcome these new arrivals and devote gross military overspending to creating a humane, supportive society for all, we will be doing much more to care for our aging society than bribing women to have children they don’t want.

Kirsten Stade, Silver Spring

The author is communications manager at Population Balance.

The editors clearly intended their recent quiz as a call to increase the birth rate. But let’s take a moment to consider the consequences of our current trajectory, in which the human population has grown over thousands of years to reach 3 billion in 1960 and then exploded to over 8 billion in just over 60 years.

Along the way, there have been warning signs that despite human ingenuity, our population may exceed the Earth’s carrying capacity. The United Nations World Food Program says 783 million or more people experience chronic hunger and about 2 billion have to cope with “extremely high water stress.” One third of the world’s topsoil has been degraded, and by 2050 this could rise to 90%. The Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest in the world, was buried during the last ice age. Agricultural irrigation risks overflowing much of this vast and ancient resource. Between 1970 and 2018, the world’s animal population declined by approximately 69 percent; in Latin America and the Caribbean, they may have fallen by as much as 94 percent.

The list of attacks is long and covers a landscape crisscrossed with highways, many of them congested; almost irreversible loss of fertile farmlands to vast housing estates; loss of freedom; wars and other struggles for resources; and an atmosphere that, according to the vast majority of the world’s leading climate scientists, allows more harmful ultraviolet rays to reach us and less heat to escape due to the increasing activity of a growing, consuming population.

Simply put, we cannot continue to thrive in a finite space and must care for the natural world on which we all ultimately depend. To plan for the future, we must reduce population rather than increase it through methods such as education, family planning, fair immigration policies and women’s empowerment. We need ecotourism to help us appreciate the natural world and walk- and bike-friendly communities. We need to take our children outdoors – free from computers, television and other distractions – and immerse them in the intrigue and beauty of the natural world.

The Constitution of the Iroquois Nations committed its signatories to “seeing and listening for the good of the whole nation and always keeping in view not only the present but also future generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the earth – the unborn of the future Nation.” I suggest that we follow their example, this wise example. Our grandchildren will be happy that we found the moral courage to do what is wisest and right for this and future generations.

Peter Kleppinger McLean, Lewes, Del.

The Post’s editorial and quiz on birth rates argues that falling fertility rates threaten future economic growth and quality of life. This myopic analysis ignores the benefits for families and the prospects for the long-term sustainability of the planet.

International donors, led by the United States Agency for International Development, have been promoting family planning for decades with very positive results. Smaller families have led to improved family health and nutrition, children’s education, women’s empowerment, longer life expectancy, higher family incomes, greater labor force participation, and lower infant and maternal mortality. Fertility rates have declined in much of the world as families desire the many benefits of controlling their own fertility and being able to choose how many children they have.

Continued population growth will have serious consequences for our crowded world and its limited resources. Promoting fertility is not a wise long-term strategy. It would be much better to work on a new institutional and consumer approach leading to a stable and sustainable future for all.

While pro-natal policies highlighted in a recent Post editorial — such as the increased child tax credits proposed by Sens. Michael Bennet (Colorado) and Mitt Romney (Utah) – may seem helpful to the economy, but others who advocate for families to have more children are inhumanely ignoring what is quickly becoming a real an obstacle to increasing the birth rate. How many women will see pregnancy and childbirth as an option when reproductive health policies threaten their lives if they become pregnant incorrectly? Women and their families need to know that in the event of an ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage or other emergency, they will receive appropriate medical care.

Marilyn Coleman, Silver Spring

The increase in the paid family leave tax for businesses in the D.C. budget we’re voting on Wednesday is reckless—a warning sign that we’re headed in a dangerous financial direction.

As chairman of the DC Council committee that oversaw its implementation, I felt an obligation to the business community to ensure that the program worked well and that employers were taxed fairly. When the program’s financial reserves exceeded needs, I initiated a fiscal stimulus to increase employee benefits and reduce employer payroll taxes. Therefore, in 2022, the CFO reduced the rate from 0.62 to 0.26 percent, yet the program remains solid and fully funded.

Imagine my shock when I saw Democratic Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s proposed budget for next year restore the higher rate to nearly a quarter of a billion dollars and cover everything except paid leave. Council Speaker Phil Mendelson then proposed tripling the paid leave tax rate to 0.75 percent, which would mean $322 million more in D.C. corporate taxes.

I was even more surprised by the silence of Big Business interests and their lobbyists, who had been raising hell for years, claiming that a paid leave tax would ruin the District’s economy.

Missing from these numbers games is any serious discussion of what county taxpayers get for their money. We still can’t rely on 911 to answer calls in an emergency, many families can’t find a home they can afford in this city, and our children continue to learn in “renovated” schools with leaking roofs. However, the city will buy and renovate the National Theater for a cool $11 million.

DC’s budget is structurally unbalanced, with expenses far outpacing revenue growth.

We are living well beyond our means and not getting value for all the dollars we spend. We should meet this challenge by exercising rigorous oversight of core services, right-sizing our budget to allocate resources to areas where we can achieve a demonstrated return on investment, and focusing on what really matters. Instead, this budget is being cut and spent capriciously, with political rhetoric and nonsense in mind rather than the city’s best interests.

Elisa Silverman, Washington

The writer served as the Chief DC for two terms Ccouncil member.

By meerna

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