In a letter published in the Saturday, Oct. 7 edition of this paper, Mr. Rowlands echoes conventional wisdom that global emissions are affecting the environmental health of our planet and offers a litany of examples of environmental degradation. His contention that Catholic teachings regarding birth control are a significant contributor to this degradation, however, is clearly unsupportable.
According to Mr. Rowlands’ theory, an atheist, Communist regime such as China, which until recently strictly enforced a One Child Policy and continues to enforce birth control among its small and oppressed religious and ethnic minority populations such as Christians and Muslim Uyghurs should certainly show a significantly lower level of emissions than regions with large Catholic populations. Yet China produces the single largest share of total global emissions, at 27%. India, with a similar population to China, of which only 1.5% are Catholic, emits 7% of emissions.
By contrast, Africa has a similar population to China and India, of which about 18% are Catholic, yet contributes only 3.7% of emissions. South America, half of whose 480 million people are Catholic, contributes 3.2%. Russia, which for most of Mr. Rowlands’ lifespan was another Communist, atheist regime that encouraged birth control largely via free and widely available abortions, spews 4.7% of global emissions, more than both Africa and South America with their significantly larger populations, both Catholic and otherwise.
While global population has indeed grown during Mr. Rowlands’ admirably long life, this is as much due to increased life expectancy, lower rates of childhood mortality, and a decline in maternal death during childbirth, all signs of human progress. Additionally, population growth has been declining since its peak in 1960 at 2% per annum. Currently at 1%, the UN predicts population decline to reach negative growth by the end of the century. While the examples of Japan and Europe might cause one to question whether such decline is a net positive, for Mr. Rowlands and others who attribute global emissions to population growth, such numbers must be reassuring.
Mr. Rowlands’ concern for the health of our shared planet is admirable, and Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudate Si” offers insight into the Catholic perspective on a response to environmental concerns, but his Malthusian argument attributing global emissions to population growth, and specifically to Catholic teachings about birth control is not a helpful contribution to the search for solutions.