Fundies and Environmental Peril (part 3): Depopulation

Demographic Winter

As we discussed in part 2, fundies like to deny that there is a problem with overpopulation, because traveling down that route leads to things they don’t like, such as birth control and abortion. And if stabilizing the population is bad in their eyes, imagine how bad any efforts to reduce the population must be!

Well, as if they didn’t have enough stuff to worry about, the fundies are actually looking decades out, and they think they see a depopulation boom. Here’s an email I received from Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council:

You are Cordially Invited to Family Research Council for the documentary Demographic WINTER: the decline of the human family.

If you’re in Washington on May 12, you should RSVP. Penetrate the belly of the beast! Anyway, they go on to describe this film:

Demographic Winter: the decline of the human family explores the severe economic and social consequences of family decline and plummeting birthrates worldwide. In Demographic Winter scholars from many backgrounds give economic, social scientific, demographic and historic context to population decline and the impact families have on the strength and stability of society.

As you can see, the film is about the population issue, which already has the fundies concerned. But look at that other element: family. Somehow they managed to drag families into this. That gives them a one-two punch on this issue. Because, after all, only fundies care about the family.

OK. Let’s find out more about this movie that Tony Perkins is so excited about. The trailer is on YouTube. Please take a few minutes to watch the trailer now, and then we’ll discuss it on the other side.


(YouTube page is here)

There were a lot of claims jammed into that trailer. Obviously we need to see the movie to be able to discuss these issues thoroughly. But I do want to discuss what we can now, based on what they said in the trailer. Let’s start with some of the overblown fears.

Overblown Fear #1:
Economic Prosperity Requires Population Growth

Yes, our current economic model requires population growth, but our current economic model is wrong. The current economy requires consumption. It depends on the conversion of non-renewable natural resources into consumer goods. It is actually an illusion of prosperity, because we’re living off of a savings account, in this case the accumulated resources of the Earth: Forests, fishstocks, water, minerals, etc. All of these things are extracted from the Earth, consumed, and thrown away. As long as we keep extracting resources, we can continue our current lifestyle. More people means more consumers, which accelerates the depletion of resources, but generates even more money in the process. If population reverses, consumption declines, and the amount of money being created declines.

The problem, of course, is that resources are finite. Whether the population is growing or shrinking, once a resource runs out, the money stops.

What is needed is a different approach to economics. We need to create a sustainable economy based on sustainable levels of resource consumption. In fact, having a lower global population makes this goal much easier to achieve.

Overblown Fear #2:
Nobody to Run the Trains

Because of automation, robotics, computers, and other advanced technologies, today’s worker is way more efficient than the worker of days past. Every indication is that this trend will continue. This is a non-issue.

[Semi-] Overblown Fear #3:
Too Many Old People Sucking Services;
Not Enough Young to Pay for It

This one is a legitimate concern, but it is partially the fault of weak politicians. People are living way longer than they used to, and they will probably live even longer in the future. There is absolutely no reason for the retirement age to be where it is currently. If the government would raise the retirement age now, there would be enough money in the Social Security Trust Fund to carry that program through the end of the century.

(Or maybe not. The dirty little secret is that the government has already spent that money. The Social Security surplus has been financing deficit spending for years. When that money is due to be paid back, there won’t be enough taxpayers to foot the bill. That’s the other problem with weak politicians. They’ve destroyed the system from two different directions.)

There’s more to this issue than just Social Security. Health care is probably a bigger issue than that. We’re extending the sick end of people’s lives. We’re letting people get older, but they’re doing it while consuming medical services, usually the really expensive services.

I don’t have an answer for this problem, but you can’t solve it by increasing the birth rate. What happens when these new people get old? Now you’ve got an even bigger group of people who need expensive care. This is a pyramid that will collapse.

Somebody needs to come up with a clever solution to this problem.

Overblown Fear #4:
Depopulation

This documentary pretends that there actually will be a declining global population this century. There’s not much reason to believe that’s the case. Current projections show that the population is still rising and will continue to do so until the middle of this century. The projections suggest that a gradual decline will begin after that.

The problem is that we really don’t know what’s going to happen in the latter half of this century. You can only make projections so far out. We don’t know what economic, social, and scientific changes will occur in the future. The population could rise as easily as it might fall. Even if it does fall, as I pointed out above, that is not a problem.

How Does the Family Fit Into This?

One subject they focussed on was the family. Their experts said that the traditional family structure is the strongest, and it’s the best environment for children to grow up in.

I have seen data that suggests there is at least a little truth in these statements. The problem is, that one structure of the father, mother, and children is not realistic. Humans are more complex than that, and it’s naive to think you can force that structure onto every member of society.

This part of the documentary really appeals to the fundies, though. They can use this as a new way to attack all of those things they don’t like: women’s liberation; gay rights; divorce; pre-, post-, and extra-marital sex; etc.

It’s Not That There Won’t Be Enough People,
It’s That There Won’t Be Enough of the Right Type of People!

Much of the fear of declining birthrates is that it is the wrong people whose fertility is declining. They said in the trailer that it is only the developed nations whose rates were dropping.

That one guy said that there would be no native-born French who come from the traditional French population. He didn’t say there would be no native-born French. The country isn’t going to disappear. The demographic makeup of France will be very different. That’s what they don’t like.

The Nation magazine has a video, which discusses this aspect further. Check it out:


(YouTube page is here)

Then you’ll want to read the Nation article.

8 Responses to “Fundies and Environmental Peril (part 3): Depopulation”

  1. Parrotlover77 Says:

    The sad and somber tone of the trailer to me was amusing. Yes, white people are on the decline. So fricking what? I’m white and I couldn’t care less. In fact I’m contributing to the problem because I’m not going to ever have children. 🙂 Fundie racism knows no bounds.

    I have a few comments about your points, Ron.

    Overblown Fear #1: Economic Prosperity Requires Population Growth

    In addition to all that you said, which was spot on, what will in fact be impacted by a population decline is the mega-corporations. They are constantly in need of growth in order to survive in the stock market. That’s why in an unregulated economy, consolidation and buy-outs are SO common. But the truth is that a population does better overall consuming from many smaller companies than with fewer huge companies. Sure, we might see GE or Microsoft or whatever fall (or drastically change). And there will be a short-term major impact. But small and smart entrepreneurs will pick up the slack and everybody else will be better off in the long run. The only reason constant growth happens is because consumers increase in number. But why does an economy have to grow? If it stays the same and all in the population are doing well, that’s a happy situation.

    [Semi-] Overblown Fear #3: Too Many Old People Sucking Services; Not Enough Young to Pay for It

    This is a pet-peeve of mine. There is no social security crisis. There’s certainly no need to raise the retirement age. Honestly, I think we should reduce it (my opinion). Social Security is stable through 2050, at which point it will pay out more than it brings in. This problem can EASILY be solved by eliminating the social security tax cap. Right now social security is a regressive tax. The middle class pay far more of a portion of their income than the rich do. Remove the cap — problem solved until like 2100 (unless you reduce the retirement age, which again I personally advocate for), at which point you can borrow from the (hopefully by this point) budget surplus from other taxes to pay for any “surges” in populations that may happen from time to time. If we can borrow from the Chinese to pay for our wars, we can borrow from the treasury (in a budget surplus situation) to pay for our elderly.

    The truth is, there’s no social security crisis. It is made up by the right wingers as an excuse to divert public money into their private investments. Think about it. Are there any other aspects of the budget politicians are planning PAST 2050 for? None! It’s an excuse. Can you imagine if social security was tied up in investments in the current housing mess?! The REAL financial crisis is deficit spending due to the war in Iraq and unnecessary tax cuts for the uber-wealthy.

    As for the borrowing against social security to pay for other things… That IS a problem. But our elderly and disabled should NOT bear the burden of asshole politicians cooking the books.

  2. RayCeeYa Says:

    That one guy said that there would be no native-born French who come from the traditional French population. He didn’t say there would be no native-born French. The country isn’t going to disappear. The demographic makeup of France will be very different. That’s what they don’t like.

    And there the truth is exposed. The anti-population control movement is really about racism. The population in places like Africa, India and Indonesia (the country with the largest Muslim population on the planet) is exploding so we all have to be good white Christian soldiers and breed like rabbits so that our children can fight in God’s holy war against these heretics.

    The BS and hubris of the modern day Christian Fundamentalist movement these days is so deep it’s a wonder they can even breath. They’re putting the entire world on a railroad straight to hell and they don’t care because at the last minute Jesus is going to rapture all the believers up to heaven anyway.

    Fundamental Christianity has become nothing more than another suicide cult in my mind. The only difference between them and Heaven’s Gate is that they want to bring the rest of the world down with them.

  3. Snowe Says:

    Whenever the fundies start complaining about the Southwest and California heading towards a majority-Hispanic population, it makes me laugh because…that’s who we stole it from after the Mexican-American War. So, it’s really just the native population reclaiming their territory after a century or so of occupation.

    Not that I’m saying we should give it back–it’s a settled matter now, no matter how it happened. And as far as I know, there’s no racial requirement to be an American.

    Feminism really is the best answer to overpopulation. On the whole, if WOMEN are in charge of their fertility, and have access to education, they’ll CHOOSE to have smaller families. (Not that I’m condemning having lots of children, but it’s certainly not for everyone)

  4. Ron Britton Says:

    Parrotlover:

    The statistics on Social Security I saw once indicated that there would be a bit of a problem paying for all of the retirees. I don’t remember that source. It certainly wasn’t on the scale that the Republicans like to portray. Eliminating the cap would help.

    I also don’t see why retirement age shouldn’t keep pace with life extension, at least to some extent.

  5. Bunkie Says:

    I would like to see no limit on the pretax money one can set aside for retirement (in 401Ks and such). My intent is to stash enough money away to be able to support myself, without social security, when I retire. That way, if there isn’t any social security, I am OK. If there is, then that is pretty much a bonus.

    I would like to retire while I am still able to enjoy retirement. My Mom worked to somewhere in her 70s – not because she wanted to, but because expenses pretty much forced her to. Then she had to quit because of poor health and even poorer eyesight. So now she doesn’t get to enjoy retirement either.

  6. The Watcher Says:

    All right, I’m confused. Where did the switcheroo happen from “population declining” to “nuclear family is best?” Those are two COMPLETELY separate concepts, that have nothing to do with each other.

    If the problem is declining population, why would these crazy fundies care about who’s following the rules? It’s well known that poorer people, NOT in the traditional stable, nuclear family, have more kids. You’d think they’d be begging for people to stop using birth control and start humping like rabbits. I don’t even get where traditional families comes into this.

  7. Ron Britton Says:

    According to the trailer, non-traditional family structures are common in the developed Western nations. Birthrates are below replacement levels in the developed Western nations. Ergo, women’s liberation and gay rights are responsible for the decline of Western Civilization.

  8. Parrotlover77 Says:

    The statistics on Social Security I saw once indicated that there would be a bit of a problem paying for all of the retirees. I don’t remember that source. It certainly wasn’t on the scale that the Republicans like to portray. Eliminating the cap would help.

    I also don’t see why retirement age shouldn’t keep pace with life extension, at least to some extent.

    I still maintain that borrowing FOR Social Security from a budget surplus (like we had in 2000) during population “bubbles” like the boomer generation, is preferable to moving the retirement age.

    I see your point on moving the age based on life expectancy, but I guess I measure social security based on how much time you put into the system, not how much time you will draw out of it. It may be a financially unsolvent way to look at it, but it’s my opinion that it’s the “fair” way to do it. Increasing benefits based on when you start claiming (which they do now to some extent) is a better way to go about it. If you give people a larger reward for waiting, you may come out ahead in the long run due to the fact that some of them may die before claiming.

    Also, speaking from personal experience, the $255 spousal death benefit is a joke. That should be raised to at least $1500, if not more, to help with final expenses.

    The important thing to remember is that the nation is in massive debt right now and social security is one of the few systems in the black. So it probably makes more sense to work on the government budget before social sec. For instance, how about we stop giving massive tax breaks to megachurches that have giant projector screens and recording studio systems and gyms? That’s crazy!!