Since the publication of Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb in the mid-1960s, the continued growth of the human population worldwide has been a major environmental and economic development issue. Every basic environmental science textbook has a chapter on the subject, as do most introductory volumes on environmental ethics. The literature on contemporary changes in human demography is now massive, and numerous academic institutes, environmental and women’s organizations, and international agencies wrestle with population topics.
The Christian voice on population, however, has been very limited and has largely rejected the importance of growing human numbers. With the exception of a handful of environmental and women’s advocates, most Christians have either had little to say or they have spoken out against international family planning programs.
Since Christians from affluent nations tend to limit their concern for sanctity of life to contesting abortion, they are poorly informed about the relationship of human demography (the structure of human populations) to such problems as child mortality and environmental degradation. If we stop thinking about what happens to the child after his mother decides to carry him to term, we miss the question of whether he will survive to adulthood and what his quality of life will be like if he does.
We also need to recognize that in the United States and Europe a majority of Christians have medical services easily available, and can obtain family planning information from a personal physician. In contrast, in many regions with high population growth rates, maternal care is poor and what services there are may be crowded and understaffed. A woman who is not in good health and has a new baby is at a much-elevated risk for a problem pregnancy if she conceives again within the next year or two.