What about Children?
It must have been 20 years ago when this subject first caught my interest. I’ve been writing and talking about fertility for years! I first looked at this question when my dad pointed out to me that the world wasn’t overpopulated. He was a science guy, so when he said that I thought I had to listen. I had just heard a radio show about the same question, so I did some math. I’ve re-checked and updated the math, and here goes!
The world’s population right now is 7.753 billion. That seems like a lot of people, and it is. At the same time, the world is a pretty big place. Even the United States is a pretty big place. Our country is 3.79 million square miles. Wow! If you do the math, it comes to 2,041 people per square mile. Is that a lot of people per square mile, or not?
Chicago’s population density is 12,000 people per square mile.
Oh… that’s interesting. Imagine a city that had the density of Chicago, but held the world’s population…how large would that city have to be? It would be a big city, about 646,000 square miles. You could put a city that size in Alaska and Texas combined, and have some room left over. To be precise, you would have 186,555 square miles left over. Ok, it’s probably impractical to have such a big city. Besides, who would want to live in Texas? (Just kidding Texans!)
The point is that instead of the world being overpopulated, we have a different problem. We are living in a time of a real fertility challenge – here in the United States and, in fact, in the whole Industrialized world. Think of a modern country – France, or Italy, or Germany. Think of Japan or Korea. Think of China. All of these countries are facing the fertility challenge. If you look up US fertility rates, you’ll find that we’re currently at 1.78. But what does that number mean?
It means that an average woman in the United States has 1.78 children. Well, it’s really not one child and then the legs and arms of another one. It’s an average. Why does that number matter? Demographers will tell you that for a culture to have replacement fertility each woman should have 2.2 children or so. Replacement fertility means that your country’s population isn’t shrinking and it isn’t growing. But we haven’t had replacement fertility here in the US for years. What has been keeping our population stable? Immigration.
Now we’re in a bit of trouble. We don’t have enough children being born, and instead of opening up the gates and welcoming immigrants we’re building walls.
So, what can you do about this at St. Paul? At the very least, we all ought to be praying for families. You can read the Pope’s letter on families Amoris Laetitia (on the Vatican website). You can encourage young people to really consider bringing children into the world, and you can support them when they do.
In our parish, I sincerely hope that we continue to reach out to families and support them as much as we can. I hope that one day we have a group of families that meets and discusses issues that impact parenting, a group that supports each other. Parenting has never been easy, but these days with what kids are exposed to online and in social media I think it has become much more difficult. I think our parish ought to sponsor a group for parents. I also hope we continue to care for our children in a very intense and focused way. They are, after all, our future.
If you are interested in a group for parents, please email me through our website. I’ll be sure to answer!