Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
March 6, 2006
The sound of silent playgrounds
From Feb. 18 through Feb. 22, the National Post gave its readers insight into tomorrow in a four-part series on Canada's "babygap." Declining birthrates will mean that by 2015, seniors will outnumber children and by mid-century, Statistics Canada projects there will be twice as many seniors as children in this country, said the series by reporters Anne Marie Owens and Heather Sokoloff.
"In a future Canada," Owens wrote, "where senior citizens drastically outnumber babies, schools will be replaced by old-age homes, neighbourhoods of single-family dwellings will make way for smaller condos and townhouses, and playgrounds will become the disused relics of the past. The sound of children's chattering voices, once common, will be rarely heard."
It is a bleak picture, one which people should have seen coming for a long time, but which the Post says, many people didn't. We knew Baby Boomers were getting older, but we didn't realize birthrates were dropping. Well, duh!
The yawning gap in the Post's reporting is the lack of any mention of abortion and artificial contraception. To forget the past is to severely limit one's imagination of the future. Prior to the 1960s, the birth control pill was not part of people's lives and until 1969, abortion was a Criminal Code offence.
How can Canada face its future if it does not come to grips with the fact that more than two million babies have been killed in utero over the last 35 years? Many of those babies, had they been allowed to be born, would by now have been parents to another generation. The demographic winter would not be upon us.
Ethicist Margaret Somerville comments in the Post's series that the decline in fertility is due to "intense individualism" that puts the right of adults to reproduce above the common good of society.
Of course, most parents in the days of larger families probably never gave much consideration to the common good in their decisions about family size. They just loved each other and were open to having children. A quaint idea, perhaps, but one that needs to be widely restored if society is serious about its future.
The Post described three governments' attempts to increase the birth rate by offering significant financial incentives - attempts that have had varying degrees of success. While families with children or with one parent staying at home to raise those children ought to be better recognized by the tax system, the notion of making babies to make money is a long-term loser.
No government can or should fully compensate parents for the enormous cost of raising a child from babyhood to adulthood. The fact that these incentive programs have any success at all shows that there exists a latent desire among at least some couples to have more babies.
Further, that the size of an average new home has skyrocketed while family sizes have shrunk shows the basic problem is one of values.
Add to this the fact of the high number of TVs and computers in children's bedrooms and one begins to see that individualism is running rampant.
The view of some that we would be spiritually richer if we were financially poorer has its merit. If we had fewer cars, TVs and computers, we would at least be forced to spend more time with each other. And if that were the case, maybe the notion of the common good would not seem so far out of reach.
To say the "babygap" boils down to self-centred adults may be simplistic, but it is not far from the truth.
If more couples loved each other without reserve and let that love be transformed into an openness to having
- Glen Argan
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