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Family

What's most important: Economics, climate or families?

Posted February 1

Recently, as some of the world’s movers and shakers gathered for a major economic summit and others prepared for a global climate change summit, we were involved in a much less publicized and much more obscure summit focused on what may actually be on the most important topic of all.

It was called the Global Summit on Family Trends, and it took place in Sporz, Switzerland. It was chaired by a film producer who is producing a documentary film loosely based on our book "The Turning: Why the State of the Family Matters and What the World can do About It." We had the opportunity to attend and to make an opening statement to the participants in the opening session last week. We thought our family-focused readers might enjoy reading that statement.

“As we begin today, another summit is underway just down the road. The World Economic Forum is contemplating world economic trends — something they will not fully understand until they grasp the pending demographic crisis which will be caused by the family trends we are here to discuss at this summit.

“So, if you are most interested in results and effects, you should be in Davos. But if you are more interested in causes, you are at the right summit. For the economic ‘ends,’ go there; for the familial ‘means,’ come here.

“Later this year, just over the mountains in Bonn, Germany, the United Nations Climate Change Conference will convene. Its leaders will face the two-pronged challenge of: First, convincing a sometimes doubting public that global warming and climate crisis is real, and second, convincing that same public that the crisis is caused by human-responsible carbon emissions.

"We face a similar two-pronged task: First, convince a sometimes doubting public that large portions of the population face a crisis of economic insufficiency and rampant social problems, and second, convince that same world that both are caused by a breakdown of the structure and priority of family.

“So, if you believe that climate change is the most consequential challenge facing the world, you should be in Bonn. But if you think the dramatic decline in marriage, parenting and extended family priorities poses the larger threat, you are at the right summit.”

As the summit unfolded, various family trend experts, mostly Ph.D. professors at leading educational institutions and other representatives of industrialized countries in Europe, Asia and America, made their observations about marriage trends, birth rates, aging and other family and relationship topics. There were a lot of different takes on various subjects, but there seemed to be general agreement on how profoundly the trends within our most basic institution affect the well-being of all of our larger institutions, from business to government.

And, interestingly, not all of the trends or observations were gloomy and pessimistic. Many marriage trends are positive, including equal task-sharing and child-rearing partnerships and growing birthrates among college-educated sectors of the population.

But of course, there was concern about declining birthrates and population in more than half of the world's countries and about increasing cohabitation and decreasing marriage in most of the developed world.

And much of the summit centered on defining family by the indispensable societal functions that it performs: procreation, modeling of commitment, nurturing, providing an identity larger than self, instilling basic values, offering unconditional love, the earning and consuming function that family has for the economy and caring for elderly parents. The question of whether any or all of these functions can be performed by an institution other than family led to some frightening discussions about larger and larger government and various kinds of new wave technology and robotics that would perform these very personal functions in a very impersonal way.

There was also much discussion about cause and effect and conclusions focusing on family trends that influence economic trends rather than vice versa. We were proud to be from Utah where many family-decline trends are less severe and many stronger family trends are more prevalent. For those of our readers who also live in Utah, let's continue to make Utah's families even stronger as an example and a beacon to the rest of the world.

As NY Times #1 bestselling authors, The Eyres have now written 50 books and speak throughout the world on families and Life-balance. For seminars and presentations available locally go to www.lifeinfullcruise.com or www.lifeinfullonq.com.

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