If we want to survive, the nuclear family must be restored, and the wellbeing of children valued higher than the happiness of the adults
Bearing in mind the population explosion we are approaching eight billion humans on Earth one would not believe that the number of births is actually falling. The 2011 documentary Demographic Winter The decline of the human family explains the phenomenon:
the population did not explode because people suddenly started breeding like rabbits, but rather because they finally stopped dying like flies, says Nicholas Eberstadt of Harvard University.
At the same time that humans are living longer, fertility rates are dropping at an alarming pace; in 50 years they have fallen 50 percent. In order to maintain a stable population, each woman must on average give birth to 2.1 children, which ever fewer countries are managing. In northern Italy and parts of Spain, the average is now below 1 child per woman.
In Eastern Europe things are even worse; the population is already declining there. Thus in Latvia, the population declined by 13 percent from 1989 to 2002.
Most people shrug their shoulders over these numbers and do not consider them a problem. We are already too many on Earth, and immigration will solve the problem. But that is not true. The myth of the population bomb has been spread by people who are not demographers, and is loved by the media, but real demographers, who have been aware all along of the real state of things, are not heard in the public debate.
People believe that everything goes up. Property prices and world population will always increase. But things are not that way, says Harry S. Dent of Harvard University.
The change has come about quickly. In 1985, European women on average had 2.1 children, exactly what is required to maintain the population. In 2005, that figure was down to 1.38.
Low fertility means that there will be fewer persons of working age and more elderly people who depend on subsidies. How are we going to finance this? It is impossible, says Dent.
Modern economies are dependent upon a growing population. This means that all industrialized countries need immigration, but this in turn causes problems for the developing countries, which lose their young male citizens, those who would work and pay taxes to support an ageing population
What an irony of fate, what an injustice that the industrialized countries, who have not managed to maintain their populations through strong and stable families, now cause the developing countries to lose the capacity. In order for them to save us, says Alban dEntremont, Professor of Economics at the University of Navarra in Spain.
The question then, what happened, how did it go this way? In the movie Demographic Winter, scientists attempt to provide answers.
The sexual revolution is the most important explanation, says Steve Nock from the University of Virginia. Everything changed when women obtained contraceptives and equal rights.
Suddenly women could choose for themselves when and how many children they wanted. From the 1960s onwards, women in the Western world had ever more sexual partners, went through more divorces, and most now have paid work.
Nowadays women do not primarily want children, they want careers. In a very short time frame, women have become better educated than men in the US, and both women and men now desire to live their lives as individuals rather than in a group like a family, says Gary Becker, the winner of the 1992 Nobel Prize in Economics.
David Popenoe, Professor of Sociology at the American Rutgers University, lived in Stockholm, Sweden for many years, and has seen how Sweden has been at the forefront of what used to be called a Stockholm marriage, cohabitation without marriage.
Nowadays couples cohabit instead of marrying, and that is a reason that they have fewer children, says Popenoe. The standing risk of separation, the insecurity about ones partner still being there next year, is an explanation for why women wait longer before having children. Which in turn means that they cannot have as many as the did in earlier times.
Concerning men, the explanation is different. Young men do not need to marry in order to have sex, and thus their interest in marriage and building a family has declined dramatically. The world is full of man-boys, who continue living with their mother at a later age, and devote hours each day on playing computer games, without any plans to become supporters of an adult family.
Inese Slesere, a member of the Latvian parliament, explains in the movie how her country began to take family policy seriously the day it was realized and accepted that they were facing a demographic disaster.
For a small country like Latvia, the lack of children can set the survival of our entire nation at risk. Thus, we have decided to do everything we can to strengthen the family, says Slesere.
Phil Longman, the author of the 2004 book The Empty Cradle, says in the movie that he doesnt believe humankind will become extinct due to having too few children.
No, children are still being born. The problem is that these children are overwhelmingly born to very religious people. And for those of us who believe in Charles Darwin and the inherent desire of humans to multiply, it is very weird that it is precisely the intelligent people are abstaining from procreation.
Longman sees two ways to solve the fertility crisis. One is the Swedish way, to offer more child care, child subsidies and more incentives for women to combine work and children, but he rules that out as utterly insufficient. The other way is a return to traditional values and restore the nuclear family. Massive research has demonstrated that children feel and develop better in nuclear families where the mother and father stick together. These children become happier, do better at school, and have less risk of committing crimes or becoming mentally ill.
We have to convince both women and men that one does not merely acquire children without also taking care of them.
The culture of divorce has to end, that is a clear consensus among the researchers in the movie. People have to realize that we have thrown out the baby with the bathwater when we abolished the values of the nuclear family and allow moralistic reasoning to defeat the statistical.
Kay Hymowitz of the Manhattan Institute says:
The culture of divorce sends a clear signal to the child that the happiness of the adults is more important than the wellbeing of the child.