In some fashion, all world nations—and the families within them—are reconceiving their reproduction choices, for there are many historical, ancestral, and cultural understandings of what constitutes a family.  Some societies have, in the past, successfully sustained themselves by honoring the conception of multitudes of children per family.  Households of great size obviously engendered both a sense of collective inter-dependence and burden.[1]  Why have industrialized societies curtailed large families?[2]  Today, populations are fluid, and national decisions respecting optimal population sizes are confused, burdened, and influenced by migration,[3] identity politics, religious ideology, and real or imagined—or politically reimagined—measures of resource sufficiency.[4]  It is hard to fathom world population pressures being ameliorated by fanfare, grace, and the authority of international accord.[5]

            As free-market economics spread across the globe, and with them, their philosophy of fierce individualism, independence and interdependence increasingly come into conflict.  Some contend the industrialized world has conned a masquerade of self-centered and brutal fifteenth century colonialism in an effort to maximize its wealth at the continued expense of less-industrialized nations.[6] 

            One strategy used in the renewed colonial agenda is numerical population control.  With little to no regard for local family planning traditions, international agencies (which are funded and sustained by industrialized nations) create universal education programs to teach people about twentieth century contraception methods.[7]  Sadly, the agencies’ programs and solutions are near-Swiftian in their implementation.  Whereas Jonathon Swift satirically proposed turning poor Irish children into delicacies for the wealthy as a way to solve Ireland’s 18th century urban population problem,[8] the solutions that the international agencies in the 21st century currently use are implemented without satire.[9]

            A tragic consequence of an emphasis on numerical population control is infanticide.[10]  Although this phenomenon is associated most often with cultures outside the so-called Western world,[11] the fervor to have a baby of a certain sex, a certain phenotype, a certain intelligence, etc. is becoming less of a cultural issue and more of a class issue.[12]  Given the strides in human genome research, for example, couples who can afford to make these family-planning decisions may one day be able to do so without the taboo associated with “infanticide.”[13]  As scientific findings and moralistic definitions fuel the debate over what constitutes human life, the topic of infanticide will fall farther and farther from the human rights discussion table into the trough that serves up so much political debate.  In the meantime, however, the issue of infanticide as a desperate family-planning tool, aimed disproportionately at female babies,[14] receives greater attention than its underlying cause:  international and domestic pressure on and by certain states to keep their numerical population down.[15]

Rising longevity and falling fertility have also contributed to a new demographic time bomb.  For example, though China has decreased its increase in population through a pronounced policy of one-child per family—most characteristically a male child—the median age of its people will soar in the next 35 years.[16]  Biotechnology’s quickening race to find a genetic formula manipulable for sustained life will undoubtedly and haphazardly change the experience of old age.[17]  In Europe, where births have decreased from 2.38 to 1.45 children per woman over the past thirty years, nations have had to “import” population to perform certain functions of labor.[18]  In India, there was momentum to craft a national bill limiting members of Parliament and State legislatures to two children thereby provoking critical complaints of social engineering in a democracy and discrimination toward members of lower castes.[19]  As divergent and factioned are our burgeoning peoples of the world, we will all, in differing manners, feel the accelerated pressure to sustain, or even maintain, a quality of life in which food and water are not only givens, or access to a right, but for most on this planet, are luxuries.[20]

[1]  That sense of interdependence is also born from tragedy.  A large number of children born to a husband and wife is in many societies, a pretension of, or actual demarcation of prosperity.  Increased numbers also portend a sense of social security for the parents in later life, as it has been tragically expected that many children in a household would perish at a young age.  See e.g., Theodore Harney MacDonald, Third World Health:  Hostage to First World Wealth (2005).  A paradoxical consequence of allopathic medical outreach into communities that previously had no choice but to accept child death as commonplace is the survival of greater numbers of children within each family structure.  In turn, the burdens to feed each member is exacerbated.  Whether couples and communities faced with burgeoning populations in the face of compelling obstacles to nutrition, clean water, and sanitation will choose smaller family units is as much a function of personal choice as it is societal traditions, the empowerment – or lack thereof – of women to chose their family’s size, disease, the pressures of religion toward contraception, and state interference to name but a few. 

                [2] Lonnie W. Aarssen, Why Is Fertility Lower in Wealthier Countries? The Role of Relaxed Fertility-Selection, 31 Population & Dev. Rev. 113-126 (2005).  And, for an excellent, concise description of the implications of communal transformations occurring with the movement from pre-modern to modern historical conditions, see Anthony Giddens, The Consequences of Modernity (1990).

                [3] See World Commission on the Social Dimensions of Globalization, www.ilo.org/fairglobalization/lang--en/index.htm; World Migration Tops 120 Million, Say ILO, www.ilo.org/public/english/bureau/inf/pr/2000/2.htm; Global Commision on International Migration, www.gcim.org; OECD (www.oecd.org/topic/0,2686,en_2649_37415_|_|_|_|_37415,00.html; International Migration (Publication on behalf of the International Organization for Migration, www.iom.int/jahia/jsp/index.jsp), www.blackwellpublishing.com/journal.asp?ref=0020-7985; Global Business Network, Globalization and Migration from a Global Perspective, www.gbn.com/ArticleDisplayServlet.srv?ard=35692; Celia W. Dugger, Half the World Soon to be in Cities, U.N. Reports, www.nytimes.com/2007/06/27/world/27cnd-population.html?hp=&pagewanted=print; Roger Cohen, Migration Makes Flux the New World Order, www.nytimes.com/iht/2007/03/27/world/IHT-27globalist.1.html?pagewanted=print; Jim Yardley, In a Tidal Wave, China’s Masses Pour From Farm to City, N.Y Times, September 12, 2004; sec. wk, p. 6; Jason DeParle, Sending It All Back Home, N.Y. Times, April 22, 2007, sec. 6, p. 50; Michael Ardon, To Head Off Mass Migration, Set a Global Minimum Wage, www.commondreams.org/news02/0123-03.htm; Chris Hawley and Sergio Solache, Mexico Draws Dire Picture for Migrants, USA Today, Sec. A, p. 9; John Gallup & Jeffrey Sachs, Location, Location: Geography and Economic Development, Harvard Int’l. Rev., Winter 1998/1999.  It is not my intent to wade into the immigration debate here, though no doubt an entire year’s worth of classes could be constructed around the issue.  Consider the language surrounding the topic ([“growing the economy”]) connecting to [food subsidies, international trade agreements, export economies, technology, transfers, debt relief – to name a few.   See The Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy, Immigration Policy Program, www.udallcenter.arizona.edu/immigration; Immigration Policy Center, www.immigrationpolicy.org; National Immigration Law Center, www.nilc.org; Pew Research center reports on Immigration, www.pewresearch.org/topics/immigration; David Bacon, The Children of NAFTA: Labor Wars on the US/Mexico Border (2004); Catherine McKercher & Vincent mosco, Knowledge Workers in the Information Society 214 (2007); Roberto Cortes Conde, et al., The Latin American Economies: Growth and the Export Sector, 1880-1930 (1985); J. Edward Taylor & Philip L. Martin, The Immigrant Subsidy in US Agriculture: Farm Employment, Poverty, and Welfare, 23 Population & Dev. R. 855 (1997).

                [4] For a compendium of and links to organizations addressing overpopulation and sustainability, see www.ecofuture.org/pop/orgs.htmlSee generally State of World Population: Unleashing the Potential of Urban Growth, United Nations Population Fund, www.unfpa.org/swp; Robert Engelman, Population: What To Do When There Are Too Many Of Us, www.alternet.org/module/printversion/87520; Robert Engelman, Population and Sustainability, Scientific American Earth 3.0 22 (Summer 2009); Earth Island Journal, The Population Issue (Summer 2009); 1972 Rockefeller Commission Report:  Population and the American Future, www.population-security.org/rockefeller/001_population_growth_and_the_American_future.htm; National Security Study Memorandum 200, www.population-security.org/28-APP2.html; Population and Its Discontents, World-Watch, September/October 2004; NPG Special Report, Our Demographic Future:  Why Population Policy Matters to America, www.npg.org/specialreports/demofuture/demofuture_section2htm; www.undp.org/hdr2001/back.pdf; Population Studies:  A Journal of Demography, www.landf.co.uk/journals; Religion & Ethics, Mass Birth-Control Programs, www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/contraception/mass_birth_control_1.shtml; Rosemary Radford Ruether, Comments From a Christian Perspective on Religion and Population Policy, www.religiousconsultation.org/ruether.htm; Elaine Leeder, The Family in Global Perspective (2004).

                [5] See Garrett Hardin, The Tragedy of Commons, 162 Science 1243-1248 (1968), available at http://dieoff.org/pages95.htm.  I begin with Garrett Hardin not out of complete obeisance, but because he is regarded as western media’s iconic flashpoint.  Like us all, he has sympathizers and detractors.  See, e.g., Gregg Easterbrook, The Tragedy of Garrett Hardin, Wall St. J., Oct. 21, 2003, at A26 (Op. Ed. Obituary).  Though hardly without controversy in his views on government-imposed population control, his commentary on how people behave relative to our commons is highly instructive.  (“He spoke wisely of the need to temper materialism.: ‘The maximum is not the optimum’ was Hardin’s best aphorism.  He insisted that future generations make a legitimate claim on us today.”  Id.)  What glares at me is the fact that the United States has not debated nor declared a policy on an ultimate numerical population in relation to sustaining its current levels of consumption.  Perhaps, the absence of such national thinking comes from a perspective of empire, manifest destiny, and a choice to ignore natural limits.  That has been the idea of America fondly recalled and practiced.  See Frederick Jackson Turner, The Frontier in American History (1920); Richard Slotkin, Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier (2000); Richard Drinnon: The Metaphysics of Indian Hating and Empire Building (1997).  Rather, the dialogue here gravitates to abortion, contraception, and immigration.  See also Betsy Hartmann, Population Control in the New World Order, 2 Dev. in Prac. 210 (1992); Population Reference Bureau, www.prb.org.  The turbidity of international trade wars over subsidies and claimed unfair trade practices is exemplicative.  See generally Paul Hawken, N30: Skeleton Woman in Seattle, The Sun, Apr. 2000.; Elizabeth Becker, U.S. Subsidizes Companies to Buy Subsidized Cotton, N.Y. Times, Nov. 4, 2003, at C1, 2; Editorial, Welfare Reform for Farmers, N.Y. Times, Nov. 10, 2003, at A22 (Harvesting Poverty Series, www.nytimes.com/harvestingpoverty).  See also the discordant behavior of nations over the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, Andy Stone & Brian Wingfield, Don’t Expect Much From the Next Kyoto, www.forbes.com/2009/04/10/Kyoto-Copenhagen-climate-change-business-washington-energy.html.

[6]  Obviously, this statement has been the subject of great debate and rancor.  Compare Goldsmith, Edward Goldsmith, Development as Colonialism, in The Case Against the Global Economy 253 (Jerry Mander & Edward Goldsmith eds., 1996); Life and Debt (2001); with Joseph Stiglitz, Globalization and its Discontents (2002); Jagdish N. Bhagwati, In Defense of Globalization (2007); Zygmunt Bauman, Globalization: The Human Consequences (2000).  There is a growing awareness that the modern global agenda has not simply been about progress.  Instead, colonial rule has given way to post-colonial relations, often raising the contention that the developed world has encroached on the less developed world for its own benefit.  See David Bacon, DAVID BACON, THE CHILDREN OF NAFTA: LABOR WARS ON THE US/MEXICO BORDER (2004); Kenneth E. Bauzon, Development and Democratization in the Third World: Myths, Hopes, and Realities 42 (1992).

[7]  The People Bomb:  When Will Overpopulation Explode? (Turner/CNN Special Reports 1992).

[8]  Jonathan Swift, A Modest Proposal, in Responding to Literature 1521-1527 (J. Stanford ed., 1992).

[9] I don’t mean to condemn all international family planning outreach nor deny developing nations their constructive population control techniques.  See World Health Organization, Reproductive Health, www.who.int/reproductive-health/family_planning/index.html; Guttmacher Institute, www.guttmacher.org/guidelines/guidelines_ipsrh.html; International Planned Parenthood Federation, www.ippf.org/en; Population Matters: Policy Brief (Rand Program of Policy-Relevant Research Communication ), www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB5063/indexl.html; Population Action International, www.populationaction.org; [China]: Family Planning Policy and Practice in the People’s Republic of China, www.uscis.gov/files/nativedocuments/prchn95-001.pdf; Family Planning in China, www.news.xinhuanet.com/zhengfu/2002=11/18/content_63386.htm; Database of Population and Family Planning Laws, Policies and Regulations – China, www.unescap.org/esid/psis/population/database/poplaws/law_china/chtitle.htm; Government White Papers, www.china.org.cn/e-white/familypanning/index.htm; National Population and Family Planning Commission of China, www.npfpc.gov.cn/en/index.htm; [India]: Population and Family Planning Policy, www.countrystudies.us/india/34.htm; India and Family Planning: An Overview, www.searo.who.int/linkfiles/family_planning_fact_sheets_india.pdf; FPA India, www.fpaindia.org; [Indonesia]: Family Health International, www.fhi.org/en/RH/Pubs/wsp/fctshts/Indonesia.htm; Indonesia and Family Planning: An Overview, www.searo.who.int/LinkFiles/Family_Planning_Fact_Sheets_indonesia.pdf; Political Management on the Indonesian Family Planning Program, www.gutmacher.org/pubs/journals/3002704.html; [Philippines]: Family Health International, www.fhi.org/en/RH/Pubs/wsp/fctshts/Philippines3.htm; Population Action International: Famil Planning in the Philippines, www.populationaction.org/Press_Room/viewpoints_and_statements/2008/04_24_P

[10]  The People Bomb:  When Will Overpopulation Explode? (Turner/CNN Special Reports 1992).  See also Gendercide Watch, Case Study:  Female Infanticide, available at http://www.gendercide.org/case_infanticide.html , (last visited Mar. 5, 2004) (defining female infanticide as “the intentional killing of baby girls due to the preference for male babies and from the low value associated with the birth of females”); David Rohde, India Steps Up Effort to Halt Abortions of Female Fetuses, N.Y. Times, Oct. 26, 2003, at A3.

[11]  Gendercide Watch, Case Study:  Female Infanticide, available at http://www.gendercide.org/case_infanticide.html, (last visited Mar. 5, 2004) (asserting that female infanticide “remains a critical concern in a number of ‘Third World’ countries today”).

[12]  See generally Elaine Leeder, The Family in Global Perspective: A Gendered Journey (2003) (also at http://books.google.com/books?id=G3v2rSiGFxoC&printsec=frontcover&dq=elaine+leeder).

[13]  Bill McKibben, Enough:  Staying Human in an Engineered Age (2003); Allen Buchanan, From Chance to Choice:  Genetics and Justice (2000); Rebecca Leung, Change the Sex of Your Baby; New Technology May Allow Couples to Design the Perfect Baby, CBS News (Aug. 11, 2004), available at http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/04/13/60II/main611618.shtml; Controversial Study Allows Parents to Pick Baby’s Sex, ABC News (Oct. 26, 2005), available at http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/Health/Story?id=1253458.  The social challenges of genetic selection will be discussed further along in the text.

[14]  Gendercide Watch, Case Study:  Female Infanticide, available at http://www.gendercide.org/case_infanticide.html, (last visited Mar. 5, 2004) (arguing, “in all cases, specifically female infanticide reflects the low status accorded to women in most parts of the world; it is arguably the most brutal and destructive manifestation of the anti-female bias that pervades ‘patriarchal’ societies”).

[15]  The dogma and doctrines of religious orthodoxies play a vital, compounding and confounding role in the formulation of state sanctioned population control.  See, e.g., Matthew Connelly, Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population (2008); Rosemary Radford Ruether, Comments from a Christian Perspective on Religion and Population Policy, www.religiousconsultation.org/ruether.htm.

[16]  See Joseph Kahn, The Most Populous Nation Faces a Population Crisis, N.Y. Times, May 30, 2004, at sec. 4, p. 5 (“China’s aging will lop multiple percentage points off its [economic] growth rate, [its] growing surplus of men will produce severe social stress, creating an army of bachelors that some believe could be more welcomed to commit crimes or even wage wars….”); see also Sharon LaFraniere, Chinese Bias for Baby Boys Creates a Gap of 32 Million, NY Times, April 11, 2009 at Sec. A, p. 5; Louisa Lim, China Demographic Crisis: Too Many Boys, Elderly, www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyID=89572563; Tyrene White, China’s Longest Campaign: Birth Planning in the People’s Republic, 1949-2005; Valerie M. Hudson & Andrea M. Den Boer, Bare Branches:  The Security Implications of Asia’s Surplus Male Population (2005).  Once again, these demographic conclusions are overshadowed by contemporary economic measurements of progress, discussed above.   The recent erosion of population controls and migrations from the countryside caused by economic forces has led China to experiment with abolishing the legal distinctions between urban residents and peasants.  Access to housing rights, education, medical care and Social Security had, since the 1950’s, been tied to a system of residence permits known as hukowSee Joseph Kahn, “China to Drop Urbanite-Peasant Legal Differences”, N.Y. Times, Nov. 3, 2005, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/03/international/asia/03china.html?pagewanted=print.

[17] See Susan Dominus, Life in the Age of Old, Old Age, N.Y. Times Mag., Feb. 22, 2004, at sec. 6, p. 26; Gregory M. Fahy, M.D., Cellular Immortality:  An Exclusive Interview with Stem Cell Pioneer Michael D. West, Ph.D., Life Extension, Nov. 2003, at 72.

[18] Kevin Sullivan, Booming Ireland Plays Catch-up:  Influx of Immigrants Strains its Schools, Other Infrastructure, Chi. Trib., Oct. 28, 2007, at 16; Elizabeth Rosenthal, European Union’s Plunging Birthrates Spread Eastward, N.Y. Times, Sept. 4, 2006, at A3.  See also Russell Shorto, Childless Europe: What Happens to a Continent When It Stops Making Babies?, N.Y. Times, June 29, 2008, Magazine, p. 34; Sharon Lerner, The Motherhood Experiment, N.Y. Times, March 4, 2007, Magazine, p. 20.

[19] Amy Waldman, States in India Take New Steps to Limit Births, N.Y. Times, Nov. 7, 2003, at A1. 

                [20] See generally Richard P. Cincotta, Robert Engelman, Daniele Anastasion, The Security Demographic: Population and Civil Conflict After the Cold War (Population Action International, Special Edition for Woldwatch Institute State of the World Library Subscribers 2003), www.populationaction.org