By Obianuju Ekeocha
ENUGU, Nigeria (Catholic Online) – Some days ago, a good friend of mine brought to my attention a recent article published by the Telegraph on Sir David Attenborough’s thoughts and opinion on the topical issue of hunger in Africa. For people who do not know him, Sir David is a highly respected and celebrated broadcaster in the UK who has been featured in many documentaries on nature and life science.
So as anyone would expect, I was very eager to glean his thoughts and insights especially as it pertains to the alleviation of hunger and poverty among my people. But, with all due respect to this highly respected Englishman, I was sorely disappointed at both his condescension towards the people of Africa and his lack of understanding of the African reality which was evident in his assertions and assessments.
Many of his comments were predicated on blatant inaccuracies and common stereotypes out there about Africa. So I thought I should respond to Sir David’s population control philosophy which is spreading, like toxic smoke, throughout the western world and even now to the developing world where many of our leaders are constantly being reminded (by the likes of Sir David) of the “threat” of the ticking population bomb which is the carelessly reproducing masses of people that they govern.
This was the exact alarmist mindset and philosophy that set the Chinese government on the painful path of extreme population control , a path now paved with the blood of millions of innocent unborn babies and soaked with the tears of millions of women coercively deprived of the joy of motherhood.
In the Telegraph article, Sir David Attenborough spoke of a “frightening explosion in human numbers” and the need for investment in sex education and other voluntary means of limiting population in developing countries.
He also said, that the famines in Ethiopia, where about (or because of) too many people for too little piece of land. He also pointed out as a concern that the Catholic Church doesn’t accept that one should control the population. All in all, he warned that if humans do not act soon, the “natural world will do something”.
This is neither new nor fresh, for it is the same old population-bomb theory that many before him have flaunted. The bogus menace of the ticking population time bomb which is bound to explode if the fertility rate in developing world is not reduced right away.
I am no demographer, but I do not need to be one to notice the undeniable demographic decline which is now occurring in many western countries where the fertility rate has dropped below replacement rate, thereby creating all sorts of complex fiscal and economic difficulties associated with population aging, labour shortage, loss of tax revenues, collapse of social welfare systems and general economic decline.
As many respectable scholars and demographers have pointed out, this is a real demographic dilemma with real consequences that are now slowly but surely paralyzing some of the most powerful countries in the world.
Beyond the economic implications of population decline, are the difficult social and cultural changes that are inevitable and inescapable in societies where the median age is constantly rising. Case in point Japan. The ramifications are profound for both young and old in the society. One small but concrete example of this is in the unavoidable fate of most retired people in the developed world who are having to move into the (often) lonely world of the nursing home.
This is simply not the case in the developing world, where there are enough children and grandchildren to care for the elderly parents in warm and loving multigenerational households. For many of the elderly ones in Africa, their children and grandchildren are a sure and steady source of tender loving care in old age, even though they may be seen by population control enthusiasts like Sir David, as nothing more than sources of CO2 emission and pollution.
Yes, without apologies, Africans encourage marriage, celebrate motherhood and welcome babies because they are a sign of hope for the future. Even in poverty, there is an awareness that a child is not just a mouth to feed, but a specially unique individual with incredible potentials to learn, love and live a life of service to the family and community.
Another thought from the article that I would object to is the ambiguous and unfounded notion that the famine and hunger in Africa is attributable to “increased or high population”.
Sir David asserts that in order to end the famine and hunger crisis in Ethiopia, the Ethiopians should stop having babies. In his assessment and judgment, there are too many Ethiopians scrambling over very little piece of land.
As a well documented fact, the population density of Ethiopia is 82.6/km2, whereas the population density of Sir David’s Great Britain is 302/km2.
And so we ask , where are more people likely to scramble for less land? The facts and figures are eloquent enough. With more than three times the population density of Ethiopia, how can anyone in Great Britain point to the Ethiopians to control their wildly reproducing population or face the famine?
Dear Sir David Attenborough, the reason why your population control recommendation is being rejected by the Catholic Church is probably because from your clearly articulated views, needy nations must overcome hunger by eliminating the hungry through extensive population and birth control mechanisms.
This is unfortunately the tone of advice that is now ringing louder and louder in the ears of the African leaders who are constantly seeking help and hope from the elite crowd of the developed world.
To most of this powerful elite group, the higher fertility rate of the African women is a “source of concern“, the number of unplanned pregnancies in Africa is a “major threat” to development, the new births in Africa are hypothetically the cause of global warming, and in Sir David’s words, investment in the developing world should be in the area of sex education and other voluntary means of limiting population.
This is a terrible disappointment! A condescension towards the Africans! A disregard for the prevalent culture of the people.
And so we appeal, to all the population control enthusiasts of the western world ,who are propagating and pushing their philosophy to the ends of the earth, to please respect the African people in their quest for sustainable authentic growth and development that is consistent and compatible with their Culture of Life.
[Obianuju Ekeocha is originally from Nigeria, but has for the past six years has been living and working in the United Kingdom as a biomedical scientist. Her work, including the recent An Open Letter to Melinda Gates, has been published in The Catholic Herald UK and other Catholic news outlets. Obianuju is also part of Culture of Life Africa, an initiative dedicated to the promotion and propagation of the Gospel of Life in Africa through the dissemination of good information, sensitization and education. This essay appeared at Catholic Online.]