Fri, Feb 18, 2011 - Page 8

Low birth rate not all negative

A recent editorial about Taiwan’s low birth rate (“Rabbits and reproduction,” Feb. 14, page 8) claimed that the consequences of Taiwan’s declining birth rate are “entirely negative.”

There is no doubt that Taiwan’s low birth rate will have significant social and economic impacts in the next few decades. The burden of caring for an aged population will be significant.

However, the negative impacts of a declining birth rate need to be considered in comparison with the costs and impacts of population growth.

Increasing population leads to increasing demand for resources. At both the scale of Taiwan as a nation and the Earth as a whole it is clear that increasing demand for resources is causing serious harm to ecological systems.

The editorial is correct in identifying people’s anxiety about the future as a reason why they are reluctant to make the long-term commitment to children. However, these anxieties include the spectres of climate change, peak oil and loss of biodiversity. Having more children won’t make these problems go away, but would actually exacerbate them.

Neither Taiwan nor the world can go on increasing its population indefinitely. Stabilizing or reducing the population in the long term is necessary to ensure that all people have adequate food, water and other resources for a happy and healthy life.

It is time for a more sensible debate about population based on recognition of ecological limits. The endless pursuit of growth will only hasten climate change and resource depletion, significantly harming the welfare of all people on Earth. The only sensible and sustainable long-term policy is one that recognizes the need to -stabilize -population and achieve ecological balance.

I am not advocating that people should stop having children. I am just saying that it would be best for couples to only have one or two children. There should also be more respect and support given to those people who choose not to have children.



I have to take issue with an otherwise well-written editorial on population decline, namely the assertion that “the consequences of such trends are entirely negative.”

First, it’s important to realize that any population, human or otherwise, must eventually stop growing.

This conclusion is not the product of a certain philosophical viewpoint or wishful thinking — it is a simple mathematical certainty. The Universe is finite, therefore infinite growth is impossible. Sooner or later, any physical system must stop growing. A political or economic system founded on the idea of unending population growth is merely a dressed-up Ponzi scheme.

Second, one can hardly argue that the consequences of population growth are entirely positive. Yes, it does have some positive aspects, but it just as clearly has negative aspects: overcrowding, pollution, species loss, habitat loss and so on.

Any discussion about Taiwan’s (and the world’s) demographics needs to be based on the acknowledgement that population growth will stop eventually and that even current growth is not an unalloyed good. Only then can we make thoughtful and clear decisions about how best to manage the eventual plateau and probable decrease in our population.


Calgary, Canada