I participated in an interesting discussion on the Simple Living Forums, which brought up the much-debated question of Should Birth Rates Be Reduced In Order To Save The Planet? The moderators eventually closed the topic on account of it being too emotionally/morally charged, but I felt so much dissatisfaction with the general spirit of the discussion that I thought I'd bring it here, to my humble blog.
One point which I contributed to the debate, and which people often forget, is that generally - generally! - speaking, large families live more frugally. Of course someone might say, "this isn't true, I know a family that has ten kids and they are all extremely wasteful", but statistically, at least in Israel, large families own less vehicles per person - Charedi families often forego car ownership altogether - travel less by car and much less often by plane, have smaller houses (if you count space per person), buy less new clothes per child, and generally live a more frugal, sustainable life. Some will, because of this, define large families as "poor". I disagree. Sure, you usually need to be more economically savvy to raise a large family, but so what? If a large family has enough to feed, clothe and educate their children, to live debt-free and put something into savings, but not enough for luxuries such as trips abroad and lots of new gadgets, well, I think it's all to the good of both that family and the planet.
Another point is that though the population of our planet is growing, this isn't happening at an equal rate at all regions. While some countries experience a growth burst, others are in a population decline - and ironically, those who propose to reduce birth rates, and indeed boast of doing so themselves, are often precisely those who live in countries where the population either hovers around the same number or is even in decline. There won't be more food in Africa if there are less children born in Sweden.
In fact, I would argue that there might be less food in under-developed countries if more cradles in the West remain empty. A country with a dwindling slice of young working population is a country heading for a serious economical crisis. It is a country struggling to fulfill its obligations towards the elderly population, which requires proper care - which is supposed to be funded by taxes paid by those who work. Countries which are experiencing an economical crisis won't have much to spare for the Third World. Not much can be accomplished without manpower. Just an example: not too long ago, Israel and other countries voluntarily sent forces to the Philippines after the natural disaster that struck there. It wouldn't have been possible if we simply didn't have enough people to go around!
Very importantly, even in one country there may be over-populated regions and other areas which are severely population-deprived. This is true for Israel as well. The center is very densely populated, while the north and south are far less so, which leads to certain Bedouin tribes illegally taking over lands with no government control. The solution wouldn't be to have less children, but rather, to encourage people to move into areas which are less densely populated. If the government sees this as a goal, it can be accomplished by reducing housing prices and creating places of employment, such as, a fund for high-tech centers which are willing to move away from the densely populated areas. Just an idea.
Someone argued along the lines of, "well, if developed countries reduce their birth rates, they can fill the empty slots of their work force by immigrants from over-populated under-developed countries". De facto, this really is what is happening all over Europe. You tell me how well it is working out. I see a flow of poorly controlled massive immigration from Third World countries as a potential disaster. Such immigration can cause an already weak economy to topple over altogether. Currently, Israel is suffering the consequences of a feeble-handed government which let in a flow of so-called refugees (but for the most part really immigrants seeking a better fate) from Sudan and Erithrea. Why is this a bad thing? Because we are over-populated? No; because these people are an anti-social element which drains, rather than replenishes, our country's resources, at the same time increasing levels of crime. If we had less people of our own, our situation would have been even far worse, because we'd have less hands to cope with this unsavory lot of illegal immigrants.
Statistically, the more educated women are, the less children they have. In the Western world, this statement is defied only by a small population slice of religious Jewish and Christian women who, by choice, have large families though they are in possession of a good education and access to birth control. Such women, instead of being condemned as a burden on the planet's dwindling resouces, should be applauded for raising a morally sound, resourceful, sustainable, well-rounded and hard-working generation.