Laudato Si 50: Birthrates

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website.

50. Instead of resolving the problems of the poor and thinking of how the world can be different, some can only propose a reduction in the birth rate. At times, developing countries face forms of international pressure which make economic assistance contingent on certain policies of “reproductive health”. Yet “while it is true that an unequal distribution of the population and of available resources creates obstacles to development and a sustainable use of the environment, it must nonetheless be recognized that demographic growth is fully compatible with an integral and shared development”.[Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 483]

We’ve had this problem at least since the 60’s. Politics has always been the enemy of providing for the poor. More people, as such, do not damage the environment. But people shunted to the margins, and thrown to the dogs–this is part of the harm perpetrated on the environment. Pope Francis is right: this is one problem, not competing paradigms.

This is an accurate diagnosis, that complaints about overpopulation serve the interests of the privileged, because of course wealthy persons do not live on the very edge of survival.

To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues. It is an attempt to legitimize the present model of distribution, where a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized, since the planet could not even contain the waste products of such consumption.

Ponder the truth: it’s not about consumption, but about waste and poor distribution:

Besides, we know that approximately a third of all food produced is discarded, and “whenever food is thrown out it is as if it were stolen from the table of the poor”.[Catechesis (5 June 2013): Insegnamenti 1/1 (2013), 280] Still, attention needs to be paid to imbalances in population density, on both national and global levels, since a rise in consumption would lead to complex regional situations, as a result of the interplay between problems linked to environmental pollution, transport, waste treatment, loss of resources and quality of life.

However, Pope Francis does recognize that population density in certain places is part of the problem. When people have no choice but to crowd into shantytowns because the wealthy have coopted lands traditionally farmed or hunted, it is indeed a travesty of both human and environmental aspects.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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