Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Plea To Populate Ignores The Big Picture

Sydney’s Archbishop, Cardinal George Pell, has taken the opportunity of the World Youth Day festivities to tell the faithful that they should go forth and multiply. Those weren’t exactly his words, but then neither were the ones used by the Sydney Morning Herald in its headline “Populate or Perish”. The Archbishop observed that Australia is not alone among Western Nations is failing to produce enough babies to maintain a stable population. In Australia, the balance is made up by an immigration program.

But what exactly does he mean by “Western Nations”?

While I can’t speak for the Archbishop, I suspect that his remarks may be directed at Christians generally, and Catholics specifically. In a world where other religions are growing in numbers, it would be important for the survival of the church to continue to produce members. In the same way it is important for Western Culture to continue to produce members to ensure its survival. With declining birthrates and increasing immigration the result is a growing population with a dramatically changing cultural balance. In Britain and Europe immigration has already had a massive impact on culture, and not everyone is happy about it. France in particular is struggling with its national identity.

Even taking religion out of the argument and focusing on purely national or cultural issues, the nature of communities around the world is changing. Globalism means that the balance is shifting. But whether we are talking about cultural or religious differences, there is another, bigger picture to be considered.

The world is already burdened with more than 6 billion people. More than half of them are poor, and around one billion are in such abject poverty that they barely survive. The question of environmental survival is also at stake. To call for greater population growth ignores the bigger picture, despite the fact that within the world there are pockets of population decline.

I fear that the Archbishop may be speaking outside his area of expertise. His argument seems to be formed within the context of an “us and them” outlook, when the truth is that we are all in this together.

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