Just when you thought you’d seen it all, a new study out of Denmark ludicrously claims fossil fuels may be to blame for declining fertility around the world. While environmentalists used to warn of overpopulation decimating the planet (remember “The Population Bomb”?), researchers are now beginning to show concern that there will soon be too few young people to support older generations.
But are fossil fuels really causing birth rates to plummet?
This study’s claims that infertility “may be linked to pollution” are nonsensical because, first of all, our air is cleaner than ever before, especially in America. Contrary to the widespread assumption that more fossil fuels equals more pollution, the United States has cut air pollution by 78% since 1970 even while expanding our economy, population, and energy sector. Our air is now so clean it’s almost indistinguishable from its untouched, natural state, as the COVID-19 lockdowns showed firsthand. Despite taking 40% or more of vehicle traffic off the roads, air in most U.S. cities didn’t get cleaner.
Of course, that wasn’t the case in countries like India, which burns coal willy-nilly without the advanced pollution control technology that has made America a world leader in clean air. India, incidentally, is rife with babies, with a considerably higher birth rate than the United States. Clearly fossil fuels are not to blame.
If air pollution and fertility were really linked, Westerners and especially Americans would be having more kids than ever, not less. And those children would be enjoying the cleanest air on record.
It’s far more likely that cultural factors are driving lower birth rates. Western media and culture almost exclusively portray children as burdens, not blessings. Our society has gradually but radically shifted from valuing citizenship, community, and self-sacrifice to glorifying self-interest and “you do you” libertinism — so long as your choices align with the politically correct narrative, anyway. Heaven forbid you choose to have too many children lest you destroy the planet with your family’s carbon footprint.
The anti-family messaging from the radical left has worked. Studies show that while most American women in the 1960s had more than three children, today’s young adults are far more likely to max out at one or two. People are delaying marrying and starting families later than ever, with the average age of pregnant women in developed countries rising from 27 in 1970 to over 30 in 2015. Birth rates are further suppressed by the loss of over 600,000 children’s lives to abortion every year in the United States alone.
Today, just 18% of American households are married families with children. We have become a solitary society. Sadly, it seems child-bearing and the nuclear family are no longer a high priority for the masses.
This is ironic because the children of the 2020s are blessed indeed to be born in this age of incredibly low poverty, outstanding health and life expectancy, widespread education and economic freedom, and real-life human flourishing. In both the developed and developing world, children born today can expect to live longer, healthier, freer lives than ever before.
Many of these benefits are thanks to increasing access to affordable, reliable energy around the world. More people than ever enjoy access to electricity and the benefits it provides like modern health care and sanitation, refrigeration, educational opportunities, and the ability to run a successful business uninterrupted by power outages — not to mention better health and safer air thanks to clean cooking fuels like propane rather than wood or animal dung.
Sadly, misguided energy policies from U.S. states and the federal government threaten to undo this progress by idolizing so-called “green” energy — though wind and solar are nowhere near as green as they sound — consequences be damned. Blackouts are becoming more and more commonplace, from California to New York, as politicians put too many taxpayer-funded eggs in the renewable basket without asking whether investing in wind and solar will impact reliability or affordability.
Already, 14% of American households report receiving disconnect notices and a third struggle to afford their home energy bills on a regular basis. These statistics will only worsen — here in the U.S. and in the developing world, thanks to the Biden administration’s blanket ban on foreign aid projects involving oil, natural gas, or coal — if the political war on fossil fuels carries on.
Yet despite the best attempts of progressive politicians, fossil fuels remain our most affordable, reliable, and abundant source of energy — providing 80% of the power we use — and it will remain that way for many generations.
Moms- and dads-to-be can rest easy knowing the state of our environment and of the human condition are better than ever before. If there’s any time to joyfully start a family without fear for the future, it’s now.
This commentary originally appeared in The Cannon Online on January 5, 2021.