Life Issues Forum
People as Pollution?
By Mary McClusky
December 23, 2009
Pesticides, oil spills, litter – everyone agrees that these pollute the environment. But what about … babies? Environmental groups have long argued that population growth causes a host of environmental problems, but many of these groups have traditionally avoided the controversial promotion of birth control as a solution. Recently, though, a brazen new group of environmentalists has become more vocal in their promotion of birth control as the most efficient and cost effective means of reversing the degradation of the earth’s resources, the pollution of our water and air, and even global “warming.” People are seen as the threats to the environment instead of stewards of creation.
A writer for Canada’s Financial Post has been hailed for her candor in calling for a “planetary law, such as China's one-child policy, [as] the only way to reverse the disastrous global birthrate” and “prevent the destruction of the world's other species, vegetation, resources, oceans, arable land, water supplies and atmosphere.”
Earlier this year, the London School of Economics published a paper noting that, by breathing, human beings emit on average 2.3 pounds of carbon dioxide every day. The authors claim that the most efficient way to reduce global warming is to make “family planning” even more widely available in the developing world. In population control circles, family planning can mean forced contraception, coercive sterilization, and even coerced abortions.
Statisticians at Oregon State University have calculated that “the carbon legacy and greenhouse gas impact of an extra child is almost 20 times more important than some of the other environmentally sensitive practices people might employ their entire lives – things like driving a [fuel-efficient] car, recycling, or using energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs.” They urge Americans to take into account the global impact of an “extra child,” which they calculate to be five times higher than the impact of a child born in China because of Americans’ longer life spans and higher standard of living. Compounding the problem in their eyes, the “extra” American child – whom you should think twice about having – is likely to beget more than one future emitter of carbon dioxide (otherwise known as grandchildren).
When economists and statisticians recommend eliminating people to save the earth in which people dwell, they reveal their disturbing priorities and muddled thinking. Happily, Catholic social and moral teaching provides a clear vision to follow. Pope Benedict discussed this in his Message for the World Day of Peace (January 1, 2010):
“Our duties towards the environment flow from our duties towards the person, considered both individually and in relation to others” (no. 12). Ecological responsibility must “safeguard an authentic ‘human ecology’ and thus forcefully reaffirm the inviolability of human life at every stage and in every condition, the dignity of the person and the unique mission of the family, where one is trained in love of neighbour and respect for nature” (no. 12).
The Holy Father therefore advocates “the adoption of a model of development based on the centrality of the human person, on the promotion and sharing of the common good, on responsibility, on a realization of our need for a changed life-style, and on prudence …” (no. 9)
As we seek solutions to environmental concerns, let’s remember that we must never eliminate human problems by eliminating human beings.
Mary McClusky is Special Projects Coordinator at the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. To learn more about the bishops’ pro-life activities, go to www.usccb.org/prolife.