Speaker tells Vatican conference: Reducing population is best solution to climate ‘crisis’
VATICAN, November 16, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — One of the main concerns about the Vatican’s frequent conferences on climate change in recent years has been that many of the invited speakers favor population control as a means to protecting the planet.
This became patently clear at a Pontifical Academy of Sciences seminar last week when a key speaker said “it’s a little ambitious” to think we can cut the population in half by 2050, but it is “smarter” to cull the number of people first, thereby making the move to renewable energy easier.
The November 2-4 conference, hosted at the prestigious Casina Pio IV in the Vatican Gardens, was entitled: Health of People, Health of Planet, and our responsibility: Climate change, air pollution and health.
Answering a question from the academy’s chancellor, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, on whether there should be a “hierarchy” of solutions to address the “crisis” of climate change and global warming, Taiwanese professor Dr. Yuan-Tseh Lee welcomed the fact that the number of children entering elementary school in his native land has dropped from 400,000 to 200,000 since 1994, calling it “amazing.”
Bishop Sorondo had said in his question that he thought renewable energy came first in Lee’s hierarchy of solutions, but in his answer Lee said halving the population by 2050 would be his priority as it would significantly reduce consumption. “Then we [can] talk about renewable energy,” he said, which can be “easily” achieved.
“But if we keep on saying that the population should increase, consumption and energy need will be increasing, then I don’t think we have a solution,” Dr. Lee told Bishop Sorondo. “So we really have to accede to the fact that we are overloading the earth […]. I don’t believe that the man-free car, an electric car driving all over the world is called ‘progress’. I think that we have to do something smarter than that.”
Dr. Lee’s remarks were met with silence, and the conference continued on.
In follow-up comments to LifeSite, Dr. Lee, who was appointed a member of the Academy during Benedict XVI’s pontificate, explained his position further, saying the government of Taiwan has tried to encourage couples to have more children. “But I think it’s not the right policy. I think we should let the population go down in Taiwan,” he said.
“We have too many people, 7.3 billion now,” he said. “With so many people consuming so much, it might take 1.7 earths or 2 earths to satisfy this need. So we pretend that with sustainable development we can cut the energy, and we can get there, but it is not right unless we cut down the consumption.”
Asked if he believes lowering the population across the planet is important, the University of California-Berkeley professor emeritus said: “Yes, that’s right. Yes.”
Bishop Sorondo denied Dr. Lee was advocating population control in their exchange, telling LifeSite he spoke about “education in responsibility.”
“He said you need to regulate births intelligently. It’s not that he said you need to use birth control. This is the difference,” the academy chancellor said. “The best way to keep the population low is the Christian family. This is what he says.”
But when asked what he thinks “the best means” of lowering the world’s population are, Dr. Lee told LifeSite: “It means that we really need to mobilize and help Africa,” by improving the life of the people, providing “family planning through education, and [by making] contraceptives widely available.”
“Out of five babies born [in Africa], three of them are unplanned, and so we have to change that,” Lee said, lamenting that “no action is [being] taken” by the United Nations to remedy this.
“Better planning” requires providing security, jobs, better education and infrastructure, and making contraceptives more widely available, he said. But Lee acknowledged that “would be a big thing for Catholics, if Pope Francis would say that they should accept contraceptives.”
The longtime member of the pontifical academy said he hopes Pope Francis will change the Church’s teaching on contraception, but added that he didn’t know if the pope would be open to this.
“We can try, always trying. He’s a very decent person and always with his heart in the people,” he said.
“Abortion is a different thing,” Professor Lee made clear. But the Church’s acceptance of contraception would be a “big change” that would be very welcome.
“He didn’t say it here”
But as far as Bishop Sorondo was concerned, Professor Lee’s comments to LifeSite in support of contraception were irrelevant, because “he didn’t say it here [at the conference].”
The academy chancellor argued: “The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that we have to regulate the population. […] It’s part of the social doctrine. […] And that is why I say that the Christian family is the best way to control the population. […] because it’s not only about having children but about educating them.”
The Catechism states that the regulation of births is one aspect of responsible parenthood, but says “legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means (for example, direct sterilization or contraception)” (CCC 2399).
It further states that, while for just reasons “spouses may wish to space the births of their children,” it is their duty to “make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood.”
In the same section on ‘the fecundity of marriage,’ the Catechism says the state “has a responsibility for its citizens’ well-being,” and “in this capacity” may legitimately “intervene to orient the demography of the population.” Such intervention can be done “by means of objective and respectful information, but certainly not by authoritarian, coercive measures. The state,” it says, “may not legitimately usurp the initiative of spouses, who have the primary responsibility for the procreation and education of their children.” (CCC 2372)
In other words, prudence requires now that one consider the common good, including population sizes, when regulating birth in a moral way. But as one moral theologian told LifeSite: “For all Western societies, this means having more babies!”
A central figure at the conference was Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, a close collaborator of George Soros and a guru on climate change and sustainable development.
LifeSite spoke with Sachs one day before Dr. Lee’s comments emerged. Sachs, who received great adulation during the conference, denied the seminar had anything to do with “population control” — a term he said he found difficult to define. “If you mean by population control access to contraceptives, you’d find that most people outside this Church, and many, many people inside, support that,” he said.
And yet according to what he wrote in 2015, Sachs believes that “reducing the fertility rates voluntarily” is “essential” to sustainable development.
“Fertility rates must decline from their current levels,” he wrote in 2015, or the “unthinkable” will happen and the earth “would not be able to sustain it.” Reducing the world’s population below current levels by the end of this century would be the “preferred” outcome, Sachs added, as it would “make it much easier to meet the social, economic, and environmental needs and goals of humanity.”
In comments to LifeSiteNews at the Vatican conference, Sachs preferred to home in on contraceptive access and welcomed lower fertility rates across the globe. The “one place” where population growth is still high, he explained, is Sub-Saharan Africa, a region where Sachs has advocated educating girls “about sexual and reproductive health, and about the options for contraception.”
Revealingly, Sachs seemed misinformed about the Church’s teaching on life and the family, even suggesting the Church supports declining fertility rates. “This Church has long understood that that is a very relevant and acceptable issue. […] Anyone can go and read Humanae Vitae and see that the Church recognizes both the importance and right of responsible parenthood. The issue for this Church has been which kind of contraceptive methods are used.”
When this reporter suggested that the Church opposes a “contraceptive mentality” regardless of the methods used, Sachs replied: “That may be your interpretation. That’s not necessarily the interpretation of many people here.”
A leading figure behind the Sustainable Development Goals, Sachs denied abortion had anything to do with the SDGs and seemed keen not to be called “pro-abortion.”
“I’m not in favor of anything that’s forced,” Sachs insisted, a statement consistent with views he expressed in 2008, when he wrote that abortion being illegal in Sub-Saharan Africa is a “problem,” as is the “strong role of leaders from many religious affiliations” who oppose the use of contraception.
For Sachs, the real evil seemed to be big oil and billions of dollars being used by a “tiny” elite to influence and “confuse the public.”
But again, for Bishop Sorondo, Jeffrey Sachs’ comments to LifeSite in support of contraception and population control didn’t matter, nor did his writings advocating legalized abortion. “Jeffrey Sachs, in public, didn’t say it,” the academy chancellor insisted. “He didn’t speak here about this. He didn’t write here anything like this.”
Ravens and Rabbits
Longtime member and key mover behind the Vatican climate conferences, Peter Raven, told LifeSite at the climate conference that “population growth is a very difficult problem for the Church.
“[Population growth] obviously has a major effect on the environment,” Raven said. “On the other hand, the Catholic Church, along with most Christian religions and many other religions, does not accept abortion … and does not accept contraception … That means clearly that it has to be a matter of choice, a matter of women’s choice. Actually, the Catholic countries of the world are the slowest growing countries of the world now.”
Raven, who has been a member of the academy since 1990, attributed the downturn to “women being more empowered and making choices about how many children to have and how to lead their lives.”
“There have to be a stable and sustainable number of people in the world,” Raven said, and the Church will “find ways to do it without embarrassing itself” or “breaking long held beliefs, except formally.”
The Church can change, we have to “find our own moral ways,” and in any case, "Francis said you don’t have to have large numbers of children to be a Christian, or he even said it’s not necessary to ‘breed like a rabbit’ to be a good Christian,” he said.
Asked what it’s like for people who don’t share the Church’s views about the family to come together to discuss these matters at the Vatican, Raven said: “We respect the beliefs of the Church, that’s all. It’s a combination of a physical necessity with a doctrinal belief, and one just has to live with that and accept it.”
LifeSite asked Bishop Sorondo why he didn’t respond to Prof. Lee’s remarks. “It wasn’t the moment,” the academy chancellor said. He wished to point out that there is no mention of population control in the final declaration, and he adamantly reiterated that he is opposed to abortion.
Although Lee’s comments at the meeting were met with silence, one member of the small Evangelical contingent participating at the Vatican conference, Mitchell Hescox, President and CEO of The Evangelical Environmental Network, told LifeSite he thought the remarks were “terrible.” In his presentation later that morning, Hescox told academy members, several US democratic politicians who were present, including keynote speaker California Governor Jerry Brown, and other participants that his community will never get on board with climate change until it becomes a “pro-life” issue.
One informed source with many years of experience working with the Vatican, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also told LifeSite: “There is clearly an issue with pro-contraception, pro-abortion population-controlling globalists wielding massive influence, strategizing at these conferences and shaping thinking. They are pursuing their climate-change agenda based on beliefs and practices diametrically opposed to God's law, scandalously exploiting the moral authority of the Church in order to impose their own agenda.”
Obianuju Ekeocha, founder and president of Culture of Life Africa, and author of the soon-to-be-released “Target Africa, Ideological Neocolonialism in the Twenty-first century,” described Dr. Lee’s comments proposing population control for Africa as “outrageous in every way.”
Children are a “gift” and a “blessing” for the African people, Ekeocha said. “And so it is always quite painful when big organizations begin to refer to African babies as an ‘increase in population.’ If for them we are only ‘extra numbers,’ that is a different perception of the human person which we are hoping will not take hold in African society.”
“Dr. Lee talks about the ‘need to mobilize and help Africa’ and he denies the inordinate amounts of resources and emphasis that the Western World and some UN agencies are making in their push for population control in Africa,” Ekeocha told LifeSite.
“To start with, every year, several family-planning conferences, summits and meetings are organized and sponsored by western stakeholders targeting African women.
“Foreign Aid has also been significantly re-structured since the mid 1990s to include population programs for developing countries and in this way many funds that would have gone to education, water, food and basic healthcare have been re-directed towards the condom and contraception programs. A real disservice to the people of Africa,” she said.
Moreover, she added: “From 1996 to 2000, Africa received an average of about 414 million donated condoms, but this number has increased exponentially to almost 2 billion condoms every year. This works out to almost $70 million spent on condoms.”
“On top of that,” she continued, “Africa has been flooded in recent years with various oral contraceptives and other forms of contraception. In 2014 alone, 77,225,741 units of unspecified birth control pills were collectively donated to African countries by the UNFPA, USAID, the IPPF, MSI, Population Services International, the German-government development bank Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau, and the British Department for International Development. So Dr. Lee would do well to familiarize himself with the well documented facts.
“Africa is inundated by western elites who want so much to depopulate our continent,” Ekeocha said. “That they have continued to fail in their attempts only shows the reluctance of the people to embrace this new culture that is being pushed on them.”
“Will world leaders now enforce this agenda while listening to population control alarmists like Dr. Lee?” Ekeocha asked. “We pray and hope that this doesn’t happen.”