Re: America’s Population Could Use a Boom
Written by Olivia Nater | Published: January 6, 2023
We submitted the following letter to the editor on January 6, 2023, and are sharing it below since it wasn’t published by New York Magazine.
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Jeff Wise is very shortsighted in thinking “America’s Population Could Use a Boom.” The United States is one of the most overconsuming countries in the world — as one of your readers rightly commented, “The last thing humanity, all the non-human beings and the Earth require is more people, much less, more Americans.”
According to the Global Footprint Network, if all 8 billion of us lived like the average U.S. citizen, we’d need five Earths to avoid consuming natural resources faster than they can regenerate. The U.S. is also the second biggest national emitter of greenhouse gases, after China. The trend towards smaller families is sorely needed if we are to meet climate goals and protect what’s left of our planet’s priceless, vanishing biodiversity.
Concerns over the future state of the planet should trump economic ones, and the latter are often overblown. Japan’s population, for example, is aging rapidly and has actually been shrinking since 2010. Nevertheless, the country’s GDP per capita has remained largely the same since the early 1990s, while its purchasing power parity (PPP) per capita is still increasing. Japan also ranks higher than the U.S. for quality of life.
Mr. Wise acknowledges that declining birth rates are a result of women gaining more life choices — this is something to be celebrated. When women have fewer kids and when they have them later, they are better able to provide for their families and maximize their children’s prospects, meaning all of society benefits. Around the world, pronatalist polices that provide financial incentives for childbearing have proven rather ineffective, demonstrating that the vast majority of couples have no desire to return to historical family size norms.
Please, no more “baby bust” fearmongering, which is leading to reproductive rights violations in authoritarian countries like Iran. It’s high time to end our unhealthy growth addiction and embrace low fertility rates as a necessary pathway to a healthier, happier future.