How come you are intimidated by the religion business? Why won’t you talk about the root of all our environmental problems: Overpopulation?
I see a list of environmental criminals in the latest issue of Sierra. But the most notorious environmental criminals, the Duggars, actually have their own TV show: 18 children and counting. The Duggars are thieves, stealing from the rest of us what little is left. We should launch a boycott of that show, write to the sponsors and tell them we won’t buy their product.
Sarah Palin isn't far behind, with five kids already and the next generation beginning at age 16—which will double the number of Palins living at one time. That means that we will have 500 percent more Palins on every creek and river, devouring and murdering every living thing in the name of sport . . . but thanking God for putting them there. Good thing she didn’t win.
–Cliff in San Rafael, California
That some people are actually inspired by the Duggars and their litter might qualify as America's biggest Unsolved Mystery. If you propose to initiate a boycott of their reproductive propaganda machine, I won't stand in your way. But aren't you being a bit rough on the Palin clan? Unless they brew up some in vitro octuplets, they simply can’t outbreed the Duggars.
As far as religion and population are concerned, as I've noted before, it's an oversimplification to single out religion as the cause of high birth rates. The demographics don't show a clear connection between religion and fertility. For example, relatively pious Poland has a fertility rate of 1.28 children per woman, while more secular France is at almost 2 per woman. And Iran, a strongly Muslim country, has a lower rate than France. But poverty-stricken Rwanda's rate is 5.25 per woman.
In general, poverty and lack of education are far more significant factors in high fertility rates than religion. So the real root of environmental problems is not population, but poverty and injustice. Remember, too, that people’s impact on the environment can be more serious than numbers would show. Even if a nation’s fertility rate is low, its toxic waste, sprawl, water and energy consumption, and sheer excess can create problems way out of proportion to the population numbers.
None of this lets religion off the hook. When any religious group attempts to obstruct family planning through legislation or lawsuits, it deserves to be challenged head on. But it's also important to avoid being oppositional because religion can be a strong ally for environmentalists, as you can see from the many ways in which spirituality is being integrated with environmental thought and action. For insight into this, check out the multi-faith National Religious Partnership for the Environment. Though these environmentalists aren't singing “Kumbaya” with the Duggars, they do represent a broad group of religions with a common goal of stewardship of Creation that is grounded in their faith.