There is a great deal of debate about whether population growth is good for the planet. This debate is not new. Questions about continued population growth were raised by Thomas Malthus in his famous 1789 “Essay on Population” and they remain a contestable topic in American politics today.
The concerns tend to center around the depletion of resources alongside a growing population. And in fact it would be a great cause for concern if population growth diminished available resources, as it did for most of human history. But the emergence of global markets over the past 250 years has changed all of that.
Earlier this year, the economists at the Cato Institute released the Simon-Abundance Index. It reveals that as population growth increases, so do available resources. For example, the Index reveals that commodity prices fell 64.7 percent from 1980 to 2017 and in that same time period, the planet’s resources became 379.6 percent more abundant. As Christians, we should celebrate this because it confirms everything we learn in the book of Genesis about God’s created order and his desire for us to flourish.
While the debate is not new, its implications are just as dangerous now as they have always been. If people are bad for the planet then someone needs to control procreation. And that someone would be the state.
Were the state to control population, in an effort to conserve scarce resources, we would enter into an ethical quagmire about who gets to have children and how many, and misanthropic questions about what to do with undesirable children, likely based on gender or any other condition, become matters of policy. Christians should recoil at these questions — because they should be off the table.
Christians possess the moral authority of Scripture, which provides the theology to answer these questions. Genesis instructs us about God’s design of and desires for his creation. Why did God create the world? For his own glory. Its existence and ours glorifies God, and when the created order operates as God designed it, we flourish.
A careful reading of Genesis offers an understanding of our purposes: We are here to care for his creation and to work (Gen 2:15). We need each other so we must work together to innovate, create, and serve each other. This was not only applicable to life in the Garden but to life in the 21st century. In a fallen world, creating flourishing is harder than it otherwise would be, but the mandate we are given to flourish in the first chapter of Genesis remains.
The Simon-Abundance Index demonstrates that in the world we live in today, population growth is good for the planet. It demonstrates that every person born adds to the abundance of resources available to everyone. Because of this, prices and labor hours to acquire goods and services are decreasing. In a world where we can work as God has created us, human beings are not a drain on the planet but rather a blessing. We are hands to work and minds to think and have ideas about how to innovate — and that is precisely what God desires.