A contrary opinion from Rwanda:
It appears that Rwanda is headed toward a population crisis, and I do not mean my usual panic about depopulation.  (Crowd Control in Rwanda Josh Ruxin and Anoinetter Habinshti NATURE vol. 474 no. 7353 June 30, 2011 page 572) 

The article features this picture of some children.  I suppose they are Rwandan and I suspect the expected reaction is meant to be, “Oh how dreadful.  They’re cute but that’s too many.”  Personally I find the picture to be irresistible.  After all these years of saying, “Yes, but don’t you want to have SOME children,” I find them a breath of fresh air.

The article is about the ever popular theme of population control.  It hits the usual hot buttons of education, international indifference, large numbers, infant mortality, limited land, gorillas, tourism and so forth.  It is quite a strong plea for birth control, and hard to argue against.  Indeed looking at its history of fertility versus age of marriage, it appears almost untouched by the sterilizing wind of the modern. 

But as I look at it, infant mortality was never all that high.  I mean not 50% by any stretch of the imagination.  So if the average woman in rural areas is having 6.3 children, and if this pattern goes back to the dawn of history, we ought to be standing nose deep in Rwandan babies.  We are not.  So where did this sudden burst in population growth come from?  The obvious thought is that until recently each community was so tight knit that inbreeding depression was keeping the population stable.  Such a high birth rate then is to be thought of as abnormal and to be an early result of the relaxation of social rules and a fall in consanguinity.  The late result is of course going to be the opposite, but that may not come for a few generations yet. 

So here is a population that appears to be salvageable.  Of course nowhere in the article is there a call for going back to tighter gene pools as a way toward stability.  That would be directly contrary to modern international prejudice which always demands that the old fashioned way of doing things is always wrong, even if it worked and even if the modern strategy is a manifest disaster. 

“Prosperity through infertility.”  The psalm is raised again.  At the same time we still hear, “Massive immigration is good for the economy.  In fact we cannot afford to do without it.”  These two opinions cannot both be true for all times and all places. 

So, yes there are two sides to the issue.  You can have too many children (I concede grudgingly as a theoretical possibility) and you can have too few.  It is a pity that both sides do not get discussed in what purports to be a professional state of the art consideration of what is going on in a real country. 

Likewise you can have a gene pool that is too big and one that is too small.  It is a greater pity that only one side of that tension ever sees the light of day at all. 

M. Linton Herbert MD

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