Save the Planet, Reject the Child?

Save the Planet, Reject the Child?

As Vice President for Governmental Affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals, Rev. Richard Cizik caused controversy by fighting relentlessly but unsuccessfully to bring evangelicals on board with the battle against anthropogenic global warming and supporting same-sex unions. The former generated energetic criticisms from other evangelical leaders, who insisted Cizik didn’t speak for them. Some even urged NAE to dismiss him. The latter led to his resignation from NAE in December, 2008 — after which he went to work first for liberal media mogul, environmentalist, and population-control advocate Ted Turner’s United Nations Foundation, then for atheist, globalist, crony-capitalist George Soros’s Open Society Institute, and then founded The New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good — heavily funded by his friends on the Left.

Now Cizik has rocked the boat afresh, calling for increasing access to contraceptives around the world. Why? To protect women and reduce abortion rates, population growth, and, ultimately, global warming.

In “Family planning is both godly and green,” first published March 12 and quickly picked up by publications around the world, Cizik wrote, “Speaking on the environment at the World Bank a few years ago, I was asked why people of faith won't address population issues. ‘We've begun to address climate change,’ I replied, ‘and sooner or later, we'll have to talk honestly about population. But it's very controversial.’ Afterwards someone sent an email to evangelical leaders accusing me of support for ‘population control,’ such as China's ‘one-child’ policy. Completely false, but it happened.”

Let us first set the record straight. Perhaps Cizik quoted himself from memory and only loosely. But his actual words at that 2006 World Bank meeting, taken from an audio recording, were: “I’d like to take on the population issue, but in my community global warming is the third rail issue. I’ve touched the third rail … but still have a job. … But population is a much more dangerous issue to touch. … We need to confront population control and we can — we’re not Roman Catholics after all — but it’s too hot to handle now.”

Obviously, granted the context, by “We need to confront population control” Cizik didn’t mean “We need to reject it.” What, then, did he mean? It appears he meant we need to embrace it — even if not via a one-child policy like China’s. And anyone who thinks population control is a noble cause needs the sometimes gruesome history lessons taught in Betsy Hartman’s Reproductive Rights & Wrongs: The Global Politics of Population Control and Matthew Connelly’s Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population.

Nonetheless, Cizik wrote, “… when women have the power to plan their families, populations grow more slowly, as do greenhouse gas emissions. Providing modern contraception to all women who want it would reduce essential carbon emissions by 8–15 percent.” Not only would “family planning” reduce population growth and so greenhouse gas emissions, but also “the cost … is small compared with other carbon emission reduction strategies — about $3.7 billion annually.”

What’s nice is that Cizik admits that $3.7 billion a year is “small compared with other carbon emission reduction strategies.” For once a climate alarmist admits the costs of mitigation! And indeed $3.7 billion a year is a small fraction of the hundreds of trillions it would cost to reduce CO2 emissions by 80 percent by 2050 — all to achieve an immeasurably small reduction in global average temperature a century from now that would have no ecological benefits while the economic costs would likely generate more deaths than the mitigation prevented. If we count people only as “carbon footprints,” not as the imago Dei with dignity and brimming with potential to bless each other, perhaps Cizik’s argument makes sense.

What’s not nice is that (a) Cizik seems unaware that population shrinkage, not population growth, will be the major threat of this and probably at least the next one or two centuries, and, (b) Cizik thinks curbing population growth to reduce global warming would be a good thing.

Most demographers expect world population to peak around 2050 and then begin a decline that will continue as long as enough people continue choosing to have fewer than the 2.1 births per women necessary for replacement — a choice that seems to come almost universally with the high standards of living (and costs of child raising) expected for almost all the world by the end of this century. Indeed, as Stanley Kurtz pointed out six years ago in a masterful review of demographic scholarship, “If worldwide fertility rates reach levels now common in the developing world (and that is where they seem headed), within a few centuries, the world’s population could shrink below the level of America’s today.” Re-read that last clause and let it sink in. It implies a reduction in world population by 95 percent.

If Cizik’s discussion lacks scientific foundation, it doesn’t make up for it with Biblical basis. He appealed only once to Scripture (Genesis 2:15), and only to support the noncontroversial idea of caring for the Earth. And in citing that verse, he neglected that it applied not to the whole Earth but to the Garden of Eden.

Additionally, he neglected another verse that he might have found a little less comfortable, though it does address both humanity’s responsibility toward the whole Earth and population growth — Genesis 1:28: “God blessed [Adam and Eve] and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” Here and elsewhere Scripture presents human multiplication as a blessing, not a curse (Genesis 12:2; 15:5; 17:1–6; 26:4, 24; Deuteronomy 7:13, 14; 10:22; Psalm 127:3–5; 128:1, 3; Proverbs 14:28), and indeed as a means to the stewardship of the Earth Cizik says he supports. In contrast, the Bible views population decline as a curse (Deuteronomy 28:62–63; Leviticus 26:22).

So, while Cizik can find Biblical support for caring for the Earth, he cannot find Biblical support for contraception or family planning, much less population control — and far less for government programs of family planning rather than personal liberty.

E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., is founder and national spokesman of The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.

Publication date: March 20, 2012

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