Friday, February 13, 2009

Japan's Cities Don’t Explain Low Birth Rate

Several times on this blog we’ve looked at the unprecedented low birth rate in Japan. The reality of a future where Japanese people may be as rare as spotted owls is beginning to make some news, and writer Rowan Hopper recently had his go at the problem in The Japan Times Online.

The article is titled “City Ecology Explains Japan's Low Birthrate,” and Hopper’s main point is that the Japanese habitation in large cities is the main reason for this decline.

Apparently Mr. Hopper has never heard of places like Mexico City, Bombay or the growing Muslim metropolises in the Middle East. Even in a tiny urban slice of chaotic land like Gaza, the Palestinian people have no problem producing plenty of children.

Hopper, like the Japanese people, puts his faith entirely in science. Science, he reasons, must be able to tell us everything. So he puts on his biological wonder suit and explains:

“This difference is explained by what is called the metabolic theory of ecology. Bigger animals have a bigger network of blood vessels that are used to deliver resources to their cells. So the efficiency of resource delivery is less in big animals. But it's not just in big animals.”

Huh? He then compares cities to big organisms that consume lots of energy, are inefficient and, as a result, produce less “products,” i.e., children.

Okay then, so how are we supposed to convince Japanese women to have more babies and solve this problem? Hopper writes:

“If we and our cities become more efficient in terms of energy use, the scientists predict, we'll have more children. That might be the only way that Japan can survive in anything like the form we know and love.”

Oh, I see! If we have lots of hybrid cars in Tokyo and we do a better job of retrofitting Japanese municipal buildings with solar panels, Japanese women will suddenly rethink the whole baby game. Got it!

Hopper’s idea is puzzling at best. What he fails to understand is that the number one factor for declining populations in the world is religion and traditional values. Declining birth rates are occurring in secular, first-world places like Europe, Canada and Japan (the U.S.’s birth rate is helped by Latin American immigrants).

Muslims, whether they live in the Arabian Desert or London, are having lots of babies. The Arab world, where religion is part of the fabric of society, has no problem with birth rates. In Africa and India where traditional morality and beliefs survive, you don’t see any population decline.

We also see that devout Christians, wherever they live, tend to have more children than their secular neighbors.

This global reality of demographics and religion is chronicled in the recent book by Mark Steyn called America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It.

In Japan, where there is absolutely no evidence of any belief, faith or religion in Japanese culture any more, we shouldn’t be surprised that the Japanese have decided to live for today only - and let’s face it - children are a lot of hard work and a drain on “resources,” to use the language of scientists.

Regardless of whether one sees religion as a force of good in the world, its believers generally have a sense of hope (in an afterlife) and this sense of optimism for the future generally manifests itself in the form of children and the investment in their future success.

The Japanese people need more hope and less of a reliance on silliness like “the metabolic theory of ecology.”

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