Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Population Problems

Writing in First Things Susan Yoshihara begins with the chilling statement that: "Right now, in any corner of the World, a baby girl is being killed just because she is a girl." The author goes on to explain:

Throughout human history, demographers tell us, nature has provided about 105 male births for every 100 females. This “sex ratio at birth”—stable across generations and ethnic boundaries—may range from 103 to as high as 106 boys for every 100 girls. In only one generation, that ratio has come unglued.
A Chinese census reports ratios as high as 120–136 boys born for every 100 girls; in Taiwan, ratios of 119 boys to 100 girls; in Singapore 118 boys per 100 girls; South Korea 112 boys per 100 girls; and in India, where the practice was outlawed in 1994, the ratio continues to exceed 120 boys for every 100 girls in some areas. Countries such as Greece, Luxembourg, El Salvador, the Philippines, Cape Verde, and Egypt, even among some ethnic groups in the United States (Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino), are showing the same deadly discrimination against daughters

Basically what seems to be happening is that modern "reproductive technology" (especially pre-natal gender determination and, of course, selective abortion) has enabled people having fewer and fewer children to be very selective about the children they do choose to have. The statistics point to a sharp preference for boy babies in such circumstances. Now of course, "reproductive freedom" implies that couples ought to be able to make such choices for themselves. However, the cumulative effect on the future (like the cumulative effect of couples choosing to not have children) can have unfortunate consequences for society.

What will some of these societies be like twenty short years from now when these short sighted practices result in a dramatic shortage of females able to be married? These choices (whether to have children and the gender of those children), even though they seem to be personal relate to the future of the society. Increasingly we seem to be inclined to make these choices simply on these personal motives and preferences. Our ancestors, when they migrated from Europe for example, did so largely because they looked forward to a better future for their descendants. I know they did not have the same "reproductive technology" and so they did not have the temptation that we have yet the reality is that they were focused on the future. Do we look forward to the future in everything we do? Will the future be better because of our decisions?

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