A couple of months ago Science gave us reasons to worry about the decline of fertility in developed countries. According to Science, shrinking populations would lead to economic troubles and "greater stresses on social security and health care systems as the proportion of older citizens increases." The news item cites with a straight face a poll conducted by the European Commission that found an apparent gap of about 0.5 children "between how many children parents would ideally like to have if they felt they could manage it and how many they actually do have" - ideally under what conditions? Convinced by this and other feats of reasoning reported in the article, some people enthusiastically support government subsidies to childbearing.
Not everyone is convinced, though. Some people enthusiastically support government restrictions on childbearing. In today's letters to Science, Ben Zuckerman talks about the biosphere being "on the brink of multiple disasters or even catastrophe," including "the worst mass extinction in the entire history of life on Earth," and would welcome "a rapid and massive decline in human numbers." And Richard A. Grossman and Richard E. White soberly mention the "horrendous environmental and health impacts" of Chinese growth and the fact that "human consumption already exceeds the carrying capacity of the planet by 23%." They "view falling [fertility] as a welcome sign that the human population is undergoing detoxification from its addictive [and destructive] growth." They finally advocate "creative economic thought and political effort that focus not on maintaining impossible exponential growth of consumption, but on the steady supply across the globe of the critical goods and services that humans need to lead lives of happiness and dignity."