- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The World Congress of Families V, an international interreligious and interracial conference on family issues, gets under way Tuesday in Amsterdam.

One of its scheduled events is the first international screening of “The Demographic Bomb: Demography is Destiny,” the follow-up documentary to “Demographic Winter: The Decline of the Human Family,” produced in 2008 on the same subject of population implosion.

I will be interested in reaction to these films, which are intended to provoke the birth-control industry and its overpopulation-minded allies.

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The premise of “Demographic Bomb,” produced by Acuity Productions, Barry McLerran and Rick Stout, is that global efforts to limit childbearing have worked too well. Millions of couples are now opting to have one child, or none at all. This, in turn, will have negative consequences for national economies.

The film reviews the history of the population-control movement, going back to Thomas Malthus, Charles Darwin, Margaret Sanger and President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

It even has an on-camera interview with Paul R. Ehrlich, author of the apocalyptic 1968 book “The Population Bomb.”

Mr. Ehrlich, now 77 and professor of population studies at Stanford University, has not changed his core views, and suggests that only the “innumerate” see a population implosion. In fact, he and wife, Anne, have penned a new book, “The Dominant Animal: Human Evolution and the Environment,” which explains that as a result of overpopulation and new technology, mankind (still) threatens to overwhelm Earths ability to sustain civilizations.

“Demographic Bomb” is ambitious. It strives in little more than an hour to explain how economics, consumerism, stock markets, real estate, birth control and social-engineering tactics, such as Chinas one-child policy, intersect with global population change.

Its a daunting task, even with lots of graphics, talking heads and subtitles.

The film makes many interesting statements, but one comment stands out. “Some demographers say it’s much easier to bring down fertility than to raise fertility,” says Joseph Chamie, former head of the United Nations Population Division. “It’s very, very difficult to raise fertility,” he says again.

Ive been intrigued with the idea that if governments and social leaders can discourage couples from having children, they should be able to encourage births as well. If that’s the case, then making population corrections, up or down, should be easy. No harm, no foul.

But Ive also been seeing scholarly articles warning that it’s quite difficult to promote childbearing once a child-free mentality has taken root.

After all, children are expensive, and their care takes up at least 20 years of life, which means personal sacrifices by their parents. Children get dirty and smelly, and some get very sick. They are disobedient and whiny. They block the TV on fourth down. They crash the car. They need love even when they are unlovable. Etc.

Who in their right mind willingly signs up for this?

We’re about to see a test-run on this reviving-fertility issue in China. Shanghai officials, worried about a future shortage of workers, recently said certain couples should feel free to have a second child.

China Daily found Xiao Wang, 25, who was happy about the news. “If family finance permits, I want to have two kids with my wife in the future,” he said.

But China Daily also found Xiao Chen, 26, who said, “I don’t think we will have a second kid. After all, it is stressful work raising a child.”

Time will tell which of these attitudes will prevail.

• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at [email protected]

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