Last year, the world’s population reached 8 billion. And with a climate-change-stricken future looming, many are worried about high population levels – but not everyone. A small but growing group of ‘pronatalists’ are encouraging people – especially citizens of Western countries – to prioritise having more children, fearing population collapse is humanity’s most urgent threat. Surprisingly, the movement is especially gaining traction among Silicon Valley’s elite.
Contemporary pronatalism is a movement at the extremes of what’s known as Effective Altruism – a future-oriented, utilitarian measure of philanthropic impact. Elon Musk is perhaps the most famous figure associated with contemporary pronatalist beliefs – he has ten kids himself, and has tweeted dramatic prophecies of population collapse several times.
Another couple devoted to leading the charge are Simone and Malcolm Collins. The pair are Silicon Valley techies-turned-pronatalists, and currently have three children; though they plan on having seven all up. The pronatalism the Collinses are associated with springs from a concern with falling birth rates worldwide.
A ‘replacement level’ is a figure representing the point at which a country’s population exactly replaces itself from one generation to the next, without migration. For most countries, the replacement level is 2.1 children per woman. But today, approximately 60% of the global population lives in places where fertility rates have dropped below this figure.
Last year set a fifth consecutive record low for birth rates in China, with just 10.62 million births in a total population of 1.4 billion. The issue of falling birth rates was placed on the European Council’s strategic agenda back in 2020, and by 2050, populations will be declining in over half of all European countries.
States are well-aware of this trend, and many have implemented policies to try and encourage their citizens to have more children. Many countries have extended extra benefits to single mothers, and introduced legislation to support families with multiple children.
Unfortunately, the way in which governments go about encouraging population regrowth can often be coercive, and driven by a conservative agenda. Abortion access has been heavily restricted worldwide, and LGBT+ rights are seeing similar threats.
In Hungary for example, while Prime Minister Viktor Orbán enacted a swath of positive maternity reforms in 2019, he also heavily restricted abortion access and platformed anti-abortion activists at state-hosted conferences.
Furthermore, Orbán made explicit the often implied racism behind such pronatalist policies, stating that “There are fewer and fewer children born in Europe…We do not need numbers. We need Hungarian children…Migration for us is surrender.” In China, while the state has pushed for more children, stories out of Xinjiang speak of forced sterilisation and IUDs for Uyghur Muslim women.
But while many have accused the Collinses and their sympathisers of being ‘hipster eugenicists’, the pair insist they don’t support the proliferation of any one race or lifestyle. They claim to support the rights of women and LGBT+ people, and are not against immigration, despite defining themselves as politically conservative.
Still, the problem with their brand of pronatalism is that it’s an ideology only really applicable to the very wealthy and successful. While many might agree with some of the Collinses’ views, or just want more kids as a personal preference, the majority can’t afford to actually have them.
The majority of contemporary pronatalists aren’t the extremist eugenicists of yore. But the fact of the matter is that those who can afford to pop out multiple kids to save humanity, are overwhelmingly white, middle- or upper-class, cisgender and heterosexual couples.
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