Our Problem is not Overpopulation

All the clever people have been wrong for 40 years and the Church is right, as usual.

A fellow Seattleite writes:

I am in your debt for the endless stream of data showing how broken our politics are. I wanted to share a link to a documentary about the Detroit Fire Department. It showed at the Uptown on Queen Anne about a month ago and our union local hosted a meeting with two of the men it followed. The film is explicit about the reasons detroit is burning to the ground: rampant depopulation. The city’s population was cut in half in less than two decades.

This is going on right now in America. FEMA, Homeland Security, and the National Guard are absent. Nobody is stopping this other than a rag tag band of firemen making about $30,000 a year. They no longer expect to stop the loss of life and property like we do in Seattle. They are “managing misery.”

People are good, not a plague. Have babies. They are good and a gift of God. She is celebrating because babies are so good, even God became one. Lucy wants more playmates. Have babies.

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  • Doing my part, #6 is on the way!

  • Elaine S.

    Sure wish I could, but one baby was all I could manage and at age 48 my biological clock is closer to midnight than the Nuclear Doomsday Clock at this point. I grieved for years that I didn’t have more children, but I am grateful at least to have had my daughter. It could have been worse: a close relative of mine tried to get pregnant for years and has only repeated miscarriages to show for it. Which is another reason why, in order to maintain even a stable population, some people have to have MORE than the socially accepted “replacement” level of 2 children — to compensate for all the people who (either by choice or circumstance or no fault of their own) have only 1 child or none at all.

    • Jenesaispas2

      I know it’s not really happy experience, but at least your friend can pretty mutch know that she has little ones in heaven.

  • Elaine is right Not everyone is called to parenthood, and not all parents are blessed with more than one or two children. We need more big families just to maintain our population.

    I wonder how much of Detroit’s depopulation is due to not enough people being born and how much is due to people choosing not to live in Detroit.

    Lucy the Cuteness is a good little girl who would like her doting grandpapa to fix the img src code on her picture in this post.

    • My understanding is that it’s not just Detroit but the whole Detroit area of SE Michigan that’s depopulating. The reasons are public policy foolishness of a variety of types. Certainly abortion policy is one of them but it is hardly the only pathology walking around Detroit.

    • Dale Price

      If by “Southeastern Michigan” you mean the six counties of Metropolitan Detroit, it is not depopulating. It’s not growing fast, but it’s not declining, either.

      What you’re seeing now in Detroit is the third wave of depopulation. The first was the well-known “white flight” after the ’67 riot and ’72 election of Coleman Young.

      The second was the flight of the black professional and middle class in the 1980s to places like Southfield.

      What you’re seeing now is the flight of the black working class, especially to Macomb County. We’re still having children in Metro Detroit–but there’s no way I’d raise a family in the City proper.

      There’s no doubt Detroit’s biggest problem is the loss of people–the tax base is spiraling downward with every family that decamps to the suburbs. I believe it’s the worst example of depopulation in history not involving war or pestilence. But nobody’s coming back until security, services (read: schools), and basic necessities (grocery shopping) improve.

      • orthros

        Dale, if you don’t mind my asking, where do you live in Detroit? I moved here a few years ago and was shocked at just how bad inner city Detroit is… and I’m a Cleveland native. I live up in Orion and go to church in Warren, and Warren is a perfect example of a border city: Parts are decent but other parts are so bad I wouldn’t wander through them at night in a car if I had my druthers.

        • Dale Price

          I live on the East Side, and used to live in Warren until a little over two years ago.

          Anything north of Stephens (9 and a Half Mile) is fine in Warren, from my experience. We lived just south of Stephens. Parts of Warren are unpleasant, but the worst of Warren is preschool compared to certain Detroit zip codes.

          The thing with Detroit proper is that the best residential areas (and they are genuinely nice) hug the suburban borders, the River or Midtown. It’s the old central neighborhoods of the City that are–there’s no other word for it–a wasteland. There are entire blocks with one resident scattered throughout, which strikes me as a stressful nightmare for the unlucky resident.

          The developing problem which the City is trying to stem is that even the good neighborhoods are seeing an exodus, which turns into a spiral of abandoned houses and resultant blight. It’s a genuine tragedy all around.

      • Will

        The city of Detroit had about 1,850,000 people in 1950 and has been losing population ever since.

        • Dale Price

          He said “southeastern Michigan,” which includes Washtenaw, Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe and Livingston Counties. Detroit is located in Wayne County. It isn’t the whole region.

          • Will

            I was responding to your statement that people began to leave the city after the riots in the 1960s. People were leaving the city for the suburbs much earlier than that.

            • Dale Price

              OK, fair enough.

              But I think it’s also true that Detroit’s pre-riot exodus was in line with that experienced by other major cities.

  • David Agenw

    As to be expected, Mark shows he follows America and right-wing ideologues more than the Church. This can be found in many places — but this is one of many. The over-simplification of the question of population is one which the Church does not accept. There are many ways in which one can face over-population. Sometimes, it can be a local problem, where a certain area is overpopulated. The Vatican recognizes this problem and does not say “Well, it’s not happening in other places, so it isn’t a problem at all.” It’s like saying “My foot doesn’t have a runny nose, so there is no problem with colds.”

    The Vatican, as GS 47 acknowledges the concern of overpopulation. GS 87 points to the need to deal with rapid growth in populations. And it says that the state is right to deal with it, “Governments undoubtedly have rights and duties, within the limits of their proper competency, regarding the population problem in their respective countries, for instance, in the line of social and family life legislation, or regarding the migration of country-dwellers to the cities, or with respect to information concerning the condition and needs of the country.” But it continues, the solution is not an “any means necessary” solution. Thus, abortion is not right, nor is arbitrary abuse of immigrants. And it pointed out: “Men should discreetly be informed, furthermore, of scientific advances in exploring methods whereby spouses can be helped in regulating the number of their children and whose safeness has been well proven and whose harmony with the moral order has been ascertained.” The fact that there has been abuse does not say the issue is not to be addressed, nor is it to say, as Mark here implies, the Church rejects the problems associated with overpopulation. The Church acknowledges it, but also says it must be dealt with morally.

    • ivan_the_mad

      “As to be expected, Mark shows he follows America and right-wing ideologues more than the Church.” You really are all things to all people, Mark.

      • Mark Shea


      • Brandon Jaloway

        LOL! That is really funny!

    • Scott W.

      I think David you agree more with Mark than you disagree. If Mark sometimes goes over the top, I think we can chalk that up as a reasonable reaction to the overwhelming ideological juggernaut in which overpopulation is really a cover for misanthropy.

    • Mark Shea

      As to be expected, Mark shows he follows America and right-wing ideologues more than the Church.

      [Insert Willie Wonka poster here] Clearly you have a penetrating insight into my *true* motivations. Tell me more about… me.

      • Brandon Jaloway

        Mark, haven’t you noticed all the overwhelming warmth being shown to you lately by the “right-wing ideologues” since you so clearly “follow” them? LOL!

        • Mark Shea

          Yeah. There’s no epistemic closure bubble quite so airtight as that of the smug progressive. The FOX News epistemic closure bubble leaks because the right is under continual assault from both reality and a lefty media. So there’s always the chance some air will get in. But the Lefty always has the complete smug approval of their own superiority reaffirmed to them by a comforting blanket of cultural reinforcers. It’s where you get fatuities like “I can’t believe Reagan won by a landslide. Nobody I know voted for him.”

    • I won’t speak to Mark’s position in this comment but I have to say you don’t particularly seem to understand what right wing policy is in the US. By no means is it go have children tra la la and ignore everything else. Right wing policy prescriptions would include lowering the regulatory burden so more businesses could start and create jobs, an emphasis on law and order so fewer people commit crimes such as burning down buildings, and working on revitalizing the bonds of voluntary civic community instead of piling all responsibilities on government.

      The sad truth is that if liberal basket case municipalities like Detroit disincorporated, they would immediately have rises in property values and the number of people in the area would rise.

    • Dale Price

      But Detroit is depopulating, so your commentary does not apply.

  • Marion (Mael Muire)

    Elaine is right Not everyone is called to parenthood, and not all parents are blessed with more than one or two children.

    This is true, I think. Some of my siblings have medium to large families; my husband and I, although always open to life, had none. This meant that my husband and I were able to devote more than the usual amount of time to my late Mom during her final years, as well as to a childless aunt who is ill, and now, it is getting to be time for us to devote more and more time to his parents, who are in their 80s. The sibs with little ones, of course, thought of and prayed for their frail elderly relatives and visited when they could, but they weren’t in any position to take charge, if needed. There is also an alcoholic, mentally ill brother who lives alone not far from us, and although we don’t see much of him – he likes his own space – we are very much “on tap” for him day or night, and he knows this.

    The Good Lord knows what He is doing.

    Sometimes families with young children report that they don’t feel welcome at Holy Mass; that others in the congregation sniff, or turn around and glare at them if their little one so much as sneezes during the service. At our parish, we have a large vestibule separated from the sanctuary by a row of glass doors, and furnished with a long wooden pew that faces the altar. It has become the custom for young families with squawky little ones to come out into the vestibule where all but the loudest shreiks are inaudible to the rest of the congregation. Some young Moms and couples end up staying in the vestibule throughout the entire liturgy, day in and day out, because their little ones like to glorify God by singing at the top of their lungs for the entire hour.

    Our pastor has asked one or two of the ladies who come to daily Mass regularly, to sit in the vestibule with the young Moms and babies and with the young families, and before and after the liturgy to greet the families, to welcome the little ones in particular, and to choose to spend their time with them. Especially during the handshake of peace we share a smile and a word of welcome to the little ones in particular. These babies catch on very quickly – it is so cute to see an 18-month old toddler approach one with his or her hand out. They know when it is time for handshakes or hugs. Anyway, the young families tell us that they no longer feel “relegated to the back”, but that they and their children feel welcomed at the parish. This is a great ministry, I think, for women who think of themselves as “childless Moms”, as I do of myself.

    • kmk

      God bless you, Marion–we have a large family, and it is very painful when it seems like it’s a contest. I have a number of friends who were open to more (or any) children. I hate when someone says that they “only” have 1 or 2. Each soul is a gift from God, and you and your husband obviously have many spiritual children, no matter how old they are. Thank you for the extra work you do in your parish, etc. (This goes for Elaine, above, as well!)

      • Elaine S.

        Thank you! I don’t do as much for others as Marion does because 1) my daughter is autistic and although she’s now 16 and fairly high functioning, she still needs a lot of one on one attention, and 2) we are kind of socially isolated and don’t live near our families of origin (probably because hubby and I are a bit on the autism spectrum ourselves but never realized it until we had a child). But if there is anything I can do to pick up the slack for someone who has a larger family — e.g. I’ll stay longer at work to cover for a colleague who has to tend to younger or sick children — I will gladly do so.

  • Marion (Mael Muire)

    ” . . . many spiritual children, no matter how old they are.”

    Thank you, kmk! That is beautifully put, and much appreciated. God bless you, too!

  • Will

    People familiar with Detroit know that the “depopulation” of Detroit has nothing to do with the birth rate. It has to do with crime, the problems with the city schools, the lack of city services, etc.

    • Will

      I should add to the list unemployment (of course) and a poor public transportation system.

    • dpt

      What has occurred in Detriot has also happened–to varying degrees– in other formerly great rust belt cities such as Cleveland, Buffalo, Rochester, etc.

      Several years ago, the NY Times had an article discussing the brain drain out of NY state, especially upstate NY. NY spends billions and billions educating people from kindergarten through college (SUNY schools are quite good), yet then thousands each year need to leave the state upon graduating to find work. It has happened in my family (including yours truly).

    • Kristen inDallas

      population changes are a result of 4 factors: in-migration, out-migration, birth-rate and death rate. While it’s true that detroit’s out-migration is dwarfing it’s in-migration, the fact is that the birthrate is also down considerably: http://www.mlive.com/business/index.ssf/2010/06/michigan_birth_rate_down_21_pe.html

      Birthrates tend to slow when the economy gets rough and people fall on hard times. Of course it’s not just happening in Michigan: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-204_162-57524977/decline-in-u.s-birth-rates-slows/

  • Mike in KC, MO

    Not having seen the film, I might point out that the problem in Detroit is not depopulation.

    Afterall, it’s not like everyone died off and didn’t have kids. There was a massive number of people who LEFT the city. That’s what caused the depopulation.

    Why did they leave? Ah… now THAT is the question to ask.

    • Kristen inDallas

      Half right, a massive number of people left the city AND people are dying off without having as many kids. See links in my reply to Will above.

  • Marthe Lépine

    I don’t know if the problem is my computer or Mark’s blog, but it seems that there was supposed to be a photo of the Cuteness somewhere, and I do not see it…

  • Chris M

    I don’t think Mark is saying that Detroit aborted itself into this situation. He’s just using the depopulation of the city to make the broader point that human life and its continuation by procreation is essentially a good thing.

  • Ted Seeber

    My wife and I wish we could do our part. We try every month. Have for 9 years. But God keeps telling us no.

    We didn’t want Christopher to be a 9 year old Only Child, and at this point, he’ll be 10 before we have another one.

    I think that’s part of the reason I’m so pro-life.

    Oh, and from a ritually impure organization, comes these infographics:

    It ain’t how many of us there are, it is how greedy we are that counts. I say they’re ritually impure because the second set of graphics takes carbon/energy footprint into account.

    Still, I’d like to point out that Uganda is a Catholic Country right now, with both birth control and abortion outlawed.

  • Will

    Detroit and Michigan DO have the American League Champion DETROIT TIGERS!!!

  • j. blum

    And Pittsurgh had a Fish that Saved it. Detroit is the poster child, but depopulation has occurred in cities all over the Northeast and Midwest. Check the census figures for Hartford, Philadelphia, Gary, Cairo (Illinois), East St. Louis, Wausau (WI), Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula…

  • Daniel Collins

    I am taking the train across America right now. Trust me, there is room for every homeless person, every African refugee, ever crowded tenement. I went half an hour at 90 miles an hour and did not see a single building. The only person was a guy on a horse. We have plenty of room. An Acre and a Cow…… it will work.

    • Will

      Per the US Census, the population of the US continues to increase and will be about 450 million by 2050. The country needs to spend more money on infrastructure fo that large increase. That is something I have not heard discussed by politicians or in blogs.

      • Ted Seeber

        Dig a little deeper into that US Census, and you’ll find some surprising differences between immigrant populations and people born in the United States.

        • Will

          450 million is 450 million. It does not matter where they come from.

    • Penta

      Except that you need at least two acres per cow, and even the Amish need a few dozen cattle.

      • Ted Seeber

        An Acre per cow per person.