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By Colin Brazier, Catholic Herald, 15 August, 2019
An angry lobby declares that we need to cut family size to save the planet. It’s time to fight back
Eighteen months ago I was having lunch with a well-known columnist and contrarian, when conversation turned to predictions. In particular, where the next front in the culture wars might open. Neither of us had foreseen the rise of militant veganism, nor the formation of a vocal lobby advocating transgender rights. So, he wondered, what engine of social upheaval was about to come puffing out of the darkened tunnel of our unknowable future? I gave him a blank look. But I think I may now be ready to un-shrug my shoulders.
Earlier this month the BBC World Service broadcast a documentary they’d asked me to present about family size. They’d liked a programme I’d done for them about how religious ceremonies help believers cope with bereavement. Did I have another idea in me? Yes, I said. I fancied revisiting a book I’d written in 2013, making the unfashionable case for larger families. I wanted to do so in light of the death of my wife last year, which seemed to confirm one of the theories advanced in the book: that children have a better chance of coping with the loss of a parent if they have siblings. “We’ve got the commission,” announced my producer. “But could you do it – as a Catholic – defending fecundity from the criticism that big broods amount to environmental vandalism?”
As a fence-sitting TV news presenter, I am wary of confrontational formats. I agreed to host the documentary and, if you have a spare 27 minutes and access to BBC Sounds, judge for yourself whether I managed to shed journalistic light without generating career-threatening levels of heat. However, the day before it aired, I got a call from another part of the Corporation. It was a guest-booker called Emma, from the PM show on Radio 4. Could I possibly do a live interview with Evan Davis in a couple of hours. Had they been bowled over by an advance copy of my documentary? No. The interest was caused by the breaking news that Prince Harry had suggested that there was such a thing as an optimal family size. He said that he and Meghan would be failing in their duty of care towards the planet, if they were to have more than two children. ….