The July 25 column “Overpopulation off radar, but on warpath” deserves comment. Despite the authors’ self-righteous tone, every paragraph of their column can be debated or refuted.

For example, the column mentions that birthrates are down, but fails to recognize that birthrates in most industrial countries — e.g. Japan, and those in Europe and North America — have been chronically low for several decades. In most of Europe, the birthrate averages only 1.3 children per woman — far below the replacement rate — which will cause a precipitous decline of population in coming decades. Indeed Russia’s population is already declining. In addition, Japan’s population is declining. North America’s population would be declining if not for immigration. It’s not a matter of “too many babies”; it’s a matter of birth dearth.

As to developing countries, birthrates are higher, but this is necessitated by ecology and economy, which the columnists fail to mention. For example, in Africa — where I have traveled many times — 3,000 children under age 5 die of malaria every day! Higher birthrates are needed to make up for such losses. In addition, African labor-intensive agrarian economies require large families. As Malian farmers told me: large families prosper, small families starve. Family planning — a euphemism for reducing family size — would promote labor shortages and poverty.

There’s much more that can be said, but suffice it to say that, as the father of four children, I find that the column’s authors are far off the mark.

Ralph Groves

RAF Alconbury, United Kingdom

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