Shrinking the Footprint Ecotheology of human fertility and population

17 February 2012

Rick Santorum : dangerous natalism

Filed under: Natalism — John McKeown @ 1:59 pm

Two of the leading Republican candidates to become U.S. President in 2012 are pronatalist (advocates of higher birth rates). Rick Santorum in his book “It Takes A Family…” claims that “Europeans appear firmly committed to the most disastrous family trend of all: they are simply not having children. … What all of this means is that the nations of Europe are slowly dying off – sometimes not so slowly.” Another leader in Republican polls, Mitt Romney, in his speech exiting from the previous elections in 2008 similarly claimed that “Europe is facing a demographic disaster.”

These claims are perverse: Europe’s population is not only growing, but also currently has more births than deaths (EuroStat data is 5.36 million births and 4.84 million deaths, for EU-27 in 2010). Europe’s near-stable population is regarded by Santorum and Romney as a “demographic disaster” and a “dying off”. I can understand why Romney might be discontent with anything less than a Mormon rate of reproduction, but Santorum is a mainstream U.S. Christian so his ideas trouble me more. Europe’s total ecological footprint is already double its biocapacity (GFN 2011) so if there was population shrinkage it would be good, but so far Europe as a whole is not achieving that.

U.S. commentators are interested in Santorum’s opposition to federal support for family planning, and his view (unremarkable for a Catholic) that contraception is “harmful”, but [most] have not noticed that Santorum is also a natalist, just like many conservative Protestants and Southern Baptists. Update: I added [most] after seeing Politico’s report [below] that Santorum wants U.S. birth rates to rise and plans to increase Tax Credits for that purpose. I am disturbed by Santorum’s intention. The U.S. population already exceeds 300 million (back in 1900 it was 76 million). Also there is no lack of births in the USA: for example in 2008 there were 4.25 million births compared to 2.47 million deaths (Census Bureau), and even in 2011 (after a drop caused by recession) there were still 3.95 million births compared to 2.51 million deaths. Santorum’s policy would hurt America (by worsening its ecological overshoot) and the world.

Politico reporting Santorum’s desire for a higher U.S. birth rate, January 2012

Huffington Post on Santorum and birth control, 15 February 2012

Rush Limbaugh discusses Santorum and contraception, 16 February 2012

Mitt Romney’s exit speech from the 2008 presidential primaries

EuroStat data on births and deaths

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