December 18, 2014,
By: ZoË Schlanger and Elijah Wolfson
The problem is, too many women are faced with unintended pregnancies. Too many have unsafe abortions which they do not survive, or suffer long-lasting health problems because of them. And then there's the even greater number of young women who, because they lack resources, keep unplanned children and end up trapped in a cycle of poverty and poor health.
It's an ancient problem, with a very obvious solution: give women full reproductive rights, including easy access to contraception and other family-planning options. Family planning and reproductive health are some of the most crucial tools for reducing human suffering in a changing and increasingly crowded world.
In Kenya, at least 200,000 are crammed into the makeshift, two-square-mile shantytown called Kibera. The impact of this massing of humans is like a physical blow: The land and city infrastructure can't keep up with the people. Garbage and waste are piled high.
Kenya's population of 44 million is projected to more than double to 97 million by 2050. Over a quarter of Kenyan women are still unable to access the contraceptives they want. Even though there has been over a century of family-planning aid work, it remains one of the most misunderstood aspects of international development. This is in large part because of Western efforts to apply a coercive form of population control under the guise of "family planning."
Today worldwide birth rates are lower today than ever, and more women than ever before are masters of their own bodies. But population is still on the rise. In 1650, there were about 500 million people on Earth. By 1804, the population had doubled to 1 billion. In just 123 years, it doubled again, to 2 billion, and it doubled yet again, to 4 billion, by 1974. The world's population passed 7 billion in 2011. The latest U.N. projections suggest we'll be up to 12.3 billion by 2100, with no stabilization in sight.
Meanwhile we are in the midst of the biggest mass-extinction event since the dinosaurs were wiped out. Plant and animal species are now going extinct at least 1,000 times faster than they did before humanity's arrival, due mostly to human-caused habitat destruction and climate change.
When the global population was around 4 billion, humanity began using more resources than the Earth could replenish each year, and was producing more waste than it could absorb, pushing us all deeper and deeper into "ecological overshoot," according to the Global Footprint Network. In 2014 humans used the resources of 1.5 Earths.
Population is growing the fastest in African nations. Much of the continent is also where people are less able to adapt to the effects of overpopulation, says John Wilmoth, director of the U.N. Population Division. If the world can't meet Africa's need for family planning, the result will be more and more poor, and poorly educated, people.
As climate change turns more coasts into flood zones and more farmland to desert, the damage will be inextricably linked to population growth -- the more of us there are, the more water, food and energy we'll need to survive. In the past three years, Australia, Canada, China, Russia and the U.S. have all suffered devastating floods and droughts that severely impaired food harvests. FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization, recently said that to feed a population of 9 billion in 2050, the world must increase its food production by an average of 60% to avoid serious food shortages that could bring social unrest and civil wars. Meanwhile, wheat and rice production have grown at a rate of less than 1% for the past 20 years.
By 2050, 70% of the world's population will live in cities, the U.N. predicts. Already, 150 million people in cities around the world suffer from freshwater shortages. By 2050 the number of urbanites with inadequate water will rise by more than 1 billion and cities in certain regions "will struggle to find enough water for the needs of their residents," according to Mark Montgomery of the Population Council.
The Green Climate Fund does not say anything about population on its website. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which manages climate-focused "national adaptation programmes of action" for the least-developed countries, devotes a section of its website to the role gender plays in climate change. Women, it explains, are more vulnerable to its ravages and must be included in adaptation efforts. But family planning and contraception aren't on the official list of adaptation projects.
Columbia University history professor Matthew Connelly argues that the 20th century was filled with wrong-minded approaches to family planning ranging from using risky contraceptives on unwitting clients to offering cash incentives to poor people who agreed to be sterilized. Policies like these "made family planning seem like an imposition, rather than something that served clients' own interests," writes Connelly, and the backlash was ferocious. Revolutionary leaders worldwide (including Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in Pakistan) attacked family planning as a symbol of American imperialism. The Catholic Church helped organize a global campaign against family-planning efforts, which just happened to line up with the Church's official stance on procreation, particularly in developing countries.
In 1984, President Ronald Reagan instituted what has become known as the "global gag rule" (officially the Mexico City Policy), which stopped U.S. dollars from flowing to any international family-planning groups that provided abortions. The rule also stipulated that any organization receiving U.S. funding could not educate patients on abortion or take a stand against unsafe abortion. The gag rule was repealed by every Democratic president and reinstated by every Republican president since. Whenever the gag rule was in effect, USAID funding to family-planning organizations plummeted. Clinics providing everything from condom distribution to HIV/AIDS treatment to neonatal care cut back their staff and services, and in some cases shuttered their doors entirely. One researcher, Kelly Jones, found that in Ghana during gag rule periods, rural pregnancies increased by 12% and the rural abortion rate increased by 2.3%.
Even though up to $6 is saved on health care, immunization, education and other services for every $1 spent on family planning, U.S. funding for family planning abroad has flatlined for several years, although it would take relatively little money to make an enormous difference.
In 2012, the estimated number of unintended pregnancies was 80 million - the same number of people added to the world every year. In other words, if women all over the world had the ability to prevent the pregnancies they don't want, the world's population would stabilize.
Providing access to contraception for every woman in sub-Saharan Africa who wanted it might prevent 5 million abortions and save the lives of 48,000 women. What's more, 555,000 fewer newborns and infants would die, cutting infant mortality in the region by 22%.
Faustina Fynn-Nyame, from Ghana, and Marie Stopes's country director for Kenya, says Africans are asking for family planning. "It's not the West telling us to do something."... "We have a high unmet need," ... "20.9 percent of married women say they want to control their fertility somehow but don't have the access, money or awareness of where to go."
In the developing world, 222 million women want contraceptives but can't get them. That is more than the population of Germany, France, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands combined,. Meeting their needs would have prevented 54 million unwanted pregnancies, 26 million abortions, 79,000 deaths of mothers in pregnancy or childbirth and 1.1 million infant deaths in 2012 alone.
Plus, contraceptives let women space out births, leading to far healthier children.
The problem is that too many of these important decisions are taken out of women's hands. Over 10% of Kenyan women report being raped by their partners. "Women have very little power when they are having sex within their marriage," says Fynn-Nyame. A woman might know that she's at a fertile point in her menstrual cycle, but she won't be able to negotiate with her husband. If he wants sex, she has to give in.
Women are often been told by their husband what contraceptive to ask for -- usually they are told to avoid intrauterine devices (IUDs) because it "makes sex less fun." IUDs are one of the best forms of birth control because they have a failure rate of less than 1%, while birth control pills have a failure rate of 8-9%. Relying on a daily supply only drives up failure rates. "If you're somewhere on the pill and the pill truck doesn't show up one month, you're pregnant," says Elaine Lissner of the Male Contraception Information Project.
Bangladesh is seasonally flooded from Himalayan ice melt and is regularly bombarded by cyclones. Climate change will cause the sea level to rise enough to wipe out 17% of its landmass by 2050 and displace 18 million people. In the 1970s the government of Bangladesh concluded the country was growing too quickly -- expected to nearly triple its size in four decades. So the government made contraception free and distributed it widely. The number of women using contraception rose from 8% in 1975 to 60% in 2010. Girls' enrollment in primary school rose from 45% in 2000 to 90% in 2005. Today the fertility rate is only 2.2 children per woman -- much lower than Pakistan's. Bangladesh is now the only developing country on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals for child and maternal health.
The U.N.'s Wilmoth says. "The Bangladesh program did that community by community, with these women who would talk to people. It's amazing that [the fertility rate] has fallen that low in a country so poor. It's an example of what's possible."
Another example is Iran, which had the fastest population drop ever, faster than China's one-child policy. And it happened without coercion. Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was persuaded that the economy could not handle a bloated population and in the 1980s he issued fatwas making contraception available for free at government clinics. State-run TV broadcast information about birth control, and health workers educated patients on family planning as a means to leave more time between births. The fertility rate fell from seven births per woman in 1966 to fewer than two today. At the same time public education for girls was increasing and, as a result, more women postponed childbirth to attend college, and now the country's universities are 60% female.
But in 2006 President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called family-planning programs a "prescription for extinction," and urged Iranian girls to marry young, offered cash incentives per child, and the government recently outlawed permanent surgical contraception. However, "Iranian women are not going back," said Sussan Tahmasebi, an Iranian women's rights leader.
Women who have access to family planning have more time to pursue education and get jobs, earning money that they are more likely to invest back into their family and community than their male counterparts do. They lead healthier lives and have healthier children. Also women with more access to resources are less frequently victims of domestic violence, according to USAID.
If all women globally had access to the contraceptives they want, the reduction in unwanted pregnancies would translate into an 8 to 15% reduction in global carbon emissions, according to the Aspen Institute. Fewer people would be in harm's way as sea levels rise and farmland dries out, and less pressure on resources already stretched thin would mean less violent conflict over those resources.
Some experts argue that the real problem for the planet is overall consumption. Columbia University history professor Matthew Connelly says that ads promoting "the miracle of family planning" are saying: "If you get rid of the kids, you can have more stuff."
Connelly claims "you can't have it both ways. Either we're going to lift hundreds of millions and eventually billions of people out of poverty and make them consumers of cars and everything else, or we're going to reduce numbers of people so they will consume less. How do you reconcile these two things?"
Connelly does agree that there is no doubt the world would be a better place if women and families everywhere had access to their full reproductive rights. And the demand for contraception is there.
Fynn-Nyame sees it. "When you speak to these women, they are very angry, but at the same time, if they had different choices in life, if they knew earlier, they wouldn't wanted to have so many children, because they're worried about the future of their children. They're worried about food security, they're worried about education. If they get pregnant again and they die, what's going to happen to their children?" she asks. "Her survival is so crucial, but her ability to survive is all based on whether she can get some sort of fertility control."
83 Million People Per Year
December 22, 2015,
By: John Seager, President, Population Connection
Our planet is now struggling to support 7.3 billion people. We're adding another million people every four days. That's like adding another San Jose, California to our global population every ninety-six hours - each year amounting to 83 million more people sharing this one, small planet.
June 18, 2013,
Population and Sustainability Network
This is a well-done fact sheet with many persuasive population facts that can be used for tabling or persuading policy makers.
Here are some of the facts from the factsheet:
• There are an estimated 222 million women in developing countries with an unmet need for modern contraception.
• Worldwide only 57.4% of women aged 15-49 who are married or in a union are using modern contraception, and this figure falls to only 31.0% in the least developed countries
• Growth is expected to be most rapid in the 49 least developed countries, which are projected to double in size from around 900 million inhabitants in 2013 to 1.8 billion in 2050.
• The population of Africa is expected to more than double by mid-century, increasing from today's 1.1 billion and potentially reaching 4.2 billion by 2100.
• Niger has one of the highest population growth rate in the world (currently 4.0% a year)
and the highest fertility rate in the world (with an average of 7.8 babies born to every woman between 2010 and 2015) also has one of the lowest rates of modern contraceptive use (only 8.7% among women of reproductive age who are married or in a union).
• 80 million unintended pregnancies occur every year in developing countries, with women with an unmet need for modern contraception accounting for 79% of these unintended pregnancies.
• Worldwide an estimated 41% of pregnancies are unintended5 and over one in five of all births result from unintended pregnancies.
Fulfilling the unmet need for modern contraception in developing countries would each year:
• Save the lives of 79,000 women from pregnancy-related deaths (in addition to the 118,000 maternal deaths averted by current modern contraceptive use)
• Save the lives of 1.1 million infants that would die before the age of 1 (in addition to the 1.8 million infant deaths averted by current use)
• Avert 54 million unintended pregnancies (which would represent a decline by two-thirds and is in addition to the 218 million averted currently)
• Avert 26 million abortions, including 16 million fewer unsafe procedures (in addition to the 138 million abortions currently averted, 40 million of them unsafe)
• Avert 7 million miscarriages (in addition to the 25 million averted currently) • Avert 21 million unplanned births (in addition to the 55 million averted currently).
September 10, 2013,
By: Kate Manning
A Pathfinder article by Kate Manning quoted some humorous ads that ran the 1800's. For example: in 1839, New York papers advertised "Female Pills" that were an "infallible regulator of ****** " (which meant that they could cause a miscarriage). The same brisk sellers were also called "French Lunar Pills," or "Tablets for the Relief of Female Complaint."
According to Manning, Ann and Charles Lohman enriched themselves selling sometimes hazardous, but often effective substances like tansy oil, ergot, opium, Spanish fly, and even turpentine. If their prescriptions failed, Ann Lohman (a.k.a. Madame Restell) provided abortions, which made "Restellism" a euphemism for abortion. Although she sometimes also helped put infants up for adoption, during forty years of practice Ann Lohman was arrested several times, and the press labeled her an "evil thug," "Hag of Misery," and "strangler."
Charles Lohman transitioned from working as a printer to working as "Dr. Mauriceau." He advertised a miraculous "French" remedy for $10, and his plagiarized writings openly advocated condom use and pregnancy termination. The Lohman's practice ended after passage of the Comstock Act, when Anthony Comstock's personal crusade jailed nearly 4,000 booksellers, doctors, abortion providers, birth control advocates, and journalists. Comstock was said to have boasted that he'd driven fifteen people to suicide. In 1878 Ann Lohman killed herself after Comstock arrested her in a sting operation.
A U.S. movement to legalize contraception began in 1914. The International Committee on Planned Parenthood (founded in 1946) evolved into the International Planned Parenthood Federation. After women began using birth control pills in the 1960s, fears about overpopulation lead to well-funded birth control campaigns around the world. But it was not until 1965 that the Supreme Court ruled in Griswold v. Connecticut that the government could not prohibit married couples from using birth control. Still, unmarried women in 26 states were denied legal access to birth control. Finally, in 1970 Congress delisted contraception in federal anti-obscenity laws, and in 1972 The Eisenstadt v. Baird case legalized birth control for all Americans.
Go to this link - http://www.overpopulation.org/pdfs_documents/Overpopulation_FAQ.pdf - to download this article as a pdf for printing on 2 pages (or one 2-sided page) for student handouts.
1. What are the biggest issues that arise from overpopulation, and why are they so bad?
a. Food shortages and associated malnutrition, susceptibility to disease, stunted growth and stunted brain power, starvation b. Peak oil, which greatly impacts food supply. c. Per capita water shortage and poor water quality, which greatly impacts food supply and human health d Climate change which creates hotter, more hostile crop growing conditions and flooding, also hostile to crops. e. Shortage of nonrenewable resources, particularly fertilizer, necessary for crop production, but also other resources needed for manufacturing, without which our materialistic civilization will grind to a halt. f. Environmental damage caused by the quest for more fossil fuels and essential metals, destruction of animal habitat caused by urbanization.
2. In the future, do you foresee it getting worse or better, and to what degree?
Going by a. Food shortages alone, it will only get worse unless we quickly stabilize population and find some as-yet-discovered agricutural advancement. The Green Revolution has petered out.
Overpopulation causes rural farming people to outgrow their lands, so the grown children move to cities. Urbanization eats up farmland, reducing crop production. Also growing seasons are becoming hotter, so many crops fail due to heat and drought. Overuse of the soils caused by overpopulation leads poor nourishment for crops and eventually desertification. Overpopulation draws on available water to the point that there is not enough to water crops. Aquifers are overdrawn to the point where they are not replenished fast enough.
3. Is there anything that you believe we can do to help lessen the effects of overpopulation on the environment and other animals?
Voluntary family planning and reproductive health care - programs providing services for voluntary family planning and reproductive health care have existed since the 1960s and they do work, having brought the world's fertility rates down to 2.5. Girls education, forbidding early marriages, male involvement, and women's empowerment is also needed to stop male preference, which results in higher birth rates. But these programs need more funding and we must push for that funding.
4. Why should people be concerned about overpopulation now, as opposed to waiting until it becomes more apparent?
Slowing population growth takes time unless we resort to drastic, ugly, highly unpopular solutions. We must increase funding for family planning now, because putting babies back in the womb, or even a worse alternative, is not an acceptable solution.
5. Why do you think so many people are ignorant on the topic of overpopulation and it's effects?
a. Resistance to contraception and the belief that sex is only for procreation by certain Christian religions. b. Belief that population stabilization requires 'population control' - the One Child policy in China,for example. Not understanding that there are gentle solutions that will help people live a better life, and that people actually want, and that have been proven to work. c. Inability to connect the dots when 6 billion goes to 7 billion in 12 years and then to 8 billion in 13 years. Belief that 'God will take care of it'. Cornucopian view of the world fostered by decades of technological advances and materialistic success has caused people to think that the world's natural resources are unlimited. Forgetting that fossil fuels have allowed the West to advance technologically and live very comfortably, and therefore not really thinking to look at the dim future of fossil fuels.
6. Do you believe overpopulation, or the way we use resources is more of a problem, and why?
There is no doubt that, if the 2 billion people living very comfortably on this earth made sacrifices, then the 2 billion living on the edge could live more comfortably - IF (a very big if) it was practical to transfer the assets of the rich to the poor, and if the rich would willingly give up their comfortable life. Unfortunately many people use the excuse that consumption is a bigger part of the problem (they believe it is) to avoid dealing with population altogether.
Most frequently we hear about overconsumption in the West measured in terms of carbon emissions. However, we must remember that the critical path for humanity is the supply of food. Arable land is fast disappearing due to urbanization, soil erosion/overuse, and water shortages in both rich and poor countries. Both rich and poor countries will suffer, the poor first, but then the poor in the richer countries. Already the middle class is fast disappearing in the U.S., due to loss of jobs to overseas employees. So the U.S. is not immune to the impacts of food shortages.
Unfortunately, population is growing so fast that, whatever advances we make by providing more food to more people eventually ends up at a point where there is not enough food and starvation is nature's way to equalize supply and demand.
7. When do you think the world's population will stop growing?
At current fertility rates the world's population will only stop growing if people die at a faster rate, which is what will happen when we run out of natural resources. No one has predicted when this will happen. Malthus is reputed to believe it would happen in the 1700s (that wasn't actually what he said); Paul Ehrlich thought it would happen in the 1970s, but both did not see the technological advances that saved the world's growing population. Unfortunately, this time experts say, it will take a miracle for everyone to survive the perfect storm of resource depletion that is coming.
The good news is that fertility rates are coming down, just not fast enough. If they continue to come down at the same rate as they have been, then the worlds population growth rate will level off by 2010 at 10 billion. That is assuming too many people don't die of starvation by then, in which case the population will stop growing sooner.
If fertility rates vary by just one half a child (average), we could reach 15.8 billion by 2100 and continue to grow - on the high side, or we could reach 8.1 billion by 2050 and start a decline. Since we went from 6 billion in 1999 to 7 billion in 2011 (12 years), I find it very difficult to believe we will wait until 2050 to have 8.1 billion. Unless we change our ways and increase funding for family planning programs.
8. What motivated you to become involved with the issue of overpopulation?
In the 1980s I noticed how crowded the roads were and whereas, 20 years before my family could go camping in the woods just about anywhere, we now had to make a reservation to camp. I started to become involved after my trip to China in 1995 where I noticed that the farmland I flew over had a whole village for every 40 - 100 acres, but in the U.S. there would be just one farmhouse for the same amount of land. And there were no vacant lots in cities like Shanghai - every space was taken.
9. What do you think is the main factor/factors contributing to overpopulation?
Lack of education and economic opportunity for women; authoritarian households where women don't have a say about their own lives, their health care or how many children they have; child marriage; lack of maternal health care for women; cultural beliefs in rural areas that say many children are needed to take care of the land, not realizing that too many children will outgrow the land; male preference; contraceptive inaccessability; lack of educational opportunities to learn that smaller families are healthier and more economically feasible.
10. How does overpopulation effect a countries economy?
Overpopulated countries cannot build sufficient infrastructure or provide sufficient services for its population because there is too much competition for natural resources for people to earn enough to support a government. Over 2 billion people earn less than $2 a day.
When a population is growing, however - not yet overpopulated, and there is a high ratio of young people, and opportunities are available for these young people to become educated and have jobs, then an economy will boom. However, when these young people are old, and they will have likely lowered their fertility rate, then there will be more older people than young people, and the economy will suffer. On the other hand, if the country reaches a point where resources in the area are exhausted, and the country cannot buy its resources from other countries, then the country is overpopulated, and poverty will be the result.
11. Why do the most populated countries have their high populations?
High populations result when death rates are brought down while fertility rates remain high. Sanitation, pumping of aquifers, modern medicine, better ways of treating sick infants, and the Green Revolution have brought down mortality. Without a corresponding drop in fertility, population will grow.
12. Are there any solutions to end starvation?
The UN claims that farmers in Africa can be be taught better farm management. Africa is where the highest growth is. It remains to be seen if this will be enough to end starvation.
13. What types of diets have the least environmental impact?
Diets which use plants instead of animals; animals are ok if they feed on land or in water that cannot be used for crops. Some plant diets are better than others, using less resources.
14. Is overpopulation a problem that we need to be worrying about?
Yes, overpopulation is like a runaway train, and the longer we wait to do something about it, the harder it will be to deal with the impacts.
15. Do you feel like it is already a problem or something will happen in the future?
It is already a problem and getting worse. We need to do something about it now.
16. What is the biggest effect of overpopulation?
The most drastic impact so far is food shortages, with one billion people classified as 'undernourished' by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2009, and nearly a billion undernourished in each of 2007, 2008, and 2011. 3 billion people in the world today struggle to survive on US$2/day, and food prices are rising. The second and thirds impacts of overpopulation are Peak Oil and Climate Change. Some will argue that climate change is not man made, but it is indeed happening and causing crop failures. The world is producing less oil today than it did last year, and this trend will continue. Both peak oil and climate change result in less food to feed the world, peak oil because food depends on mechanized farm machinery and transport.
17. In what areas of the world is overpopulation having the biggest effects and how?
China, and India are seeing the biggest effects, mostly because of water shortages and deforestation. Africa will soon follow, particularly northern Africa where there is not enough water.
18. Have you been able to see the effects first hand? If so, what is it like?
I have seen deforestation in Nepal and Ethiopia. People have to walk further and further to find firewood. In Nepal they climb up in trees and chop out branches to feed the leaves to their buffalo and the wood fuels their fires. The trees look all mangled. In Ethiopia, people have to walk 3-4 miles for wood to fuel their stoves.
19. How does overpopulation differ here in the United State compared to other countries?
Overpopulation in the U.S. affects the world because the U.S. population exceeds its carrying capacity, getting many of its resources from other countries, often taking advantage of the poverty in the other countries by paying much less than the resource is worth.
20. Many people do not believe overpopulation is a problem. Do you think they are wrong? If so, why?
Many people do not understand the relationship between our Earth's finite resources and humans existence. They believe that, if we are well-off, everything is OK. They do not see that we have already heavily borrowed against the Earth's resources: water in ancient aquifers are being overpumped, oil that was stored in the ground for thousands of years is not being replenished. Ancient civilizations who became overpopulated did not see it either.
21. When do you feel overpopulation will grow to where it is affecting the lives of people all over the world?
It already is. The current economic crisis is due to our oil-based, debt-based economy having built up a large bubble and now it has burst. In addition, food prices are rising and some people cannot afford to buy sufficient food to feed their family.
22. What do you feel is the best solution for overpopulation?
Voluntary family planning and reproductive health care - programs providing services for voluntary family planning and reproductive health care have existed since the 1960s and they do work, having brought the world's fertility rates down to 2.5. Girls education, forbidding early marriages, and women's empowerment is also needed to stop male preference, which results in higher birth rates.
23. Are you doing things yourself to reduce overpopulation? If so, what are you doing?
I am doing the web page at overpopulation.org, promoting other organizations that work on overpopulation, doing slide shows, and supporting a couple of groups of population activists. I have also lobbied my federal representative and senators, and have put together a legislative briefing at the state level. I also do tabling on earth day, and I have been interviewed on internet radio. I donate to my favorite organizations that promote family planning and reproductive health.
24. What can people like me, an eighteen year old, do to help?
You can join an activist group, or do tabling alone if you can't find a group. You can educate yourself on the subject and all the arguments and issues on the subject (I hope my website will help you there), and participate in letter writing and leaving comments on online newspaper articles about population. You can find WOA's Facebook page (World Overpopulation Awareness), and share your activist activities with us there. You can look up Population Connection, and find suggestions of what to do there (one of them is making presentations to school teachers, who take the lesson to their students). You can hook up with the Sierra Club and join population activities there: http://www.sierraclub.org/population/
You can also help WOA - we have need of volunteers who do online help for WOA.
25. Why don't we hear much about this issue on the news and such? It seems like something that should be dealt with immediately, yet i don't see anyone in power taking action.
I come across over 20 articles a day on population, some of them in important places like the New York Times, the Economist, National Geographic, BBC, Scientific American, and so on. Today food and gas prices are rising, partly due to peak oil, partly due to climate change, partly due to seasonal fluctuation, but mostly due to a shortage of resources per person.
On the other hand, there are conservatives that do not believe in limited resources, overpopulation, "telling people what they should do in their private lives," contraception, and abortion. Some of these people are in places of high influence, like the U.S. Congress, which has recently contemplated removing Title X funding from Planned Parenthood, claiming the money is going for abortions, which it isn't. The money goes for family planning services (not abortion) and reproductive health services. These same conservatives control various media such as Fox News.
The United States and other countries HAVE been taking action on this issue for many years. Programs are in place for voluntary family planning and reproductive health, among others that reduce fertility rates. These programs have been instrumental in bringing down world fertility rates, which are now around 2.5 children per woman. But every year there is a battle over how much funding should be put into these programs by the U.S.
The population explosion of the past century is unlike anything the world has ever seen. The U.N. projects that the global population will top 9 billion by 2050 and 10 billion by 2100. This video, part of Science's 29 July 2011 special issue on Population, highlights demographic trends around the globe, which offer a window into what our future world may look like.
This animation shows the global pattern of human land use over the last eight thousand years, a time when human populations began expanding following the origins of agriculture. The earliest areas of human land use are in Mesopotamia and the Fertile Crescent areas of southwest Asia, followed by increasing areas of land use in China, India, and Europe.
Watch for the areas of intensive land use developing in India, especially along the Ganges River plane, and in Northern China along the lower Yellow and Yangtze rivers.
As time goes on, you will see areas of land use developing in South America, along the Andes, and in Africa, especially in the Sahel region.
By classical times, land use in Europe is very intense with up to 60% of the land under human uses, but we start to see fluctuations around this time too, with some areas abandoned corresponding with wars, famine, and other historical events that affected human populations. As time continues through the Middle Ages and Renaissance, land use in Europe and Chine increase greatly following the development of cities and towns.
Now pay careful attention to South America. Following the first contact with Europeans around 1500, nearly 90% of the indigenous people of the Americas were killed, mainly by disease. This collapse in populations led to massive regrowth of natural vegetation, especially forests in the Amazon, Andes, and Mesoamerica.
As we race towards modern times we see the settlement of the Americas and Australia by Europeans spreading across the continents, and the development of the human-dominated world we have today.
Is there a relation between religion, sex and the number of babies per woman? In this TED talk from Doha, Qatar, Hans Rosling discusses this delicate topic and explains the main reason why the world population will increase with another 3 billion people.
It's not religion; it's not income. What is it?
. http to see and explore the interactive map shown in the video.
Image from Qatar government website
Image from Gapminder World website at http://www.ted.com/talks/view/lang///id/1455
Mara Hvistendahl is the author of Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men. She puts the number of missing girls in Asia at 163 million, more than the entire female population in the U.S. The imbalance was made possible by gender-selection abortion practices not only in China, but in India and other developing countries -- and in ethnic Asian communities in the U.S.
As a result, tens of millions of men in Asia, 'surplus males,' who, without female counterparts, may purchase women from poorer countries.
Sex selection has taken hold thanks to technology, lower birth rates, and deep-seated cultural biases that require a boy to carry on a family's lineage.
Abortion is accessible and widely used in most cultures, easier to obtain than in the U.S. There are nearly three abortions for every birth in some countries. "The availability of relatively inexpensive screening with unconditional abortion is a game changer," says Nicholas Eberstadt, a demographer at American Enterprise Institute.
Falling birth rates in developing countries, which improve the health and education of mothers and children, have the unintended consequence of encouraging sex-selection abortion. When a woman gave birth to six children, the odds were 99% that one would be a boy. With two children, it's only a 24% chance. "It's not that women want more boys, they have less chance of getting them," says Hvistendahl. Eberstadt says that women will take whatever sex with the first child, but after that, it's "very apparent there?s a massive parental intervention going on."
Sex selection happens more frequently with the urban, educated middle-class, says Hvistendahl, adding that it seems paradoxical that educated women are more likely to abort a fetus. Women in China are doing better than ever before, with more women in Ph.D. programs than men. "Yet this is happening at the same time,? she says. "If you don?t have a boy, you lose status."
Demography is the study of human populations: Populations grow or decline through the interplay of three demographic processes: birth, death, and migration. The newest edition of "Population: A Lively Introduction," introduces the basics of population studies and explains how to calculate the total fertility rate (TFR) and also reviews the social and biological factors that affect when women have children and how many they will have. The study of mortality is less certain than it would seem. More and more people are living past 100, but we don't know what the upper limit to human life might be. No one has lived beyond 122 years and five months, as far as we know. Just as HIV devastated certain population groups and some entire countries, we might see unexpected medical breakthroughs that protect against HIV and slow aging.
Migration is the third demographic variable with key variables such as age structure that determine population size and change. The relationship between slow population growth and aging, between immigration and ethnic composition, are added to the basic theories of population growth and change.
This new book serves as a demography primer for anyone interested in the topic, which, according to McFalls, includes everyone.
The age-specific fertility pattern has a shape common in all human populations. Recently however, the fertility pattern in developed countries exhibits a deviation from the classical one. Data sets of United Kingdom, Ireland and US show a bulge in fertility rates of younger women. In countries with distorted fertility, the pattern of first births exhibits a hump in younger ages, stronger than that of the total pattern. This heterogeneity indicated by the recent fertility distributions of European countries and the US might be related to marital status, religion, educational level and differences in social and economic conditions. In the US this might be related to ethnic difference. In this paper, a new flexible model for describing both the old and the new patterns of fertility is proposed. Follow the link above for more detail.
'Population Bomb' Forecast Proves Wrong
August 30, 2004,
New York Times*
Predictions that the globe's population would soar to catastrophic levels are proving inaccurate, the New York Times reported. Paul Ehrlich created a scare with his book "The Population Bomb," warning of the consequences of too many people. But ever since the U.N. Population Division has regularly revised its estimates downward and now expects population to level off at 9 billion. This is attributed to declining birth rates and improved public health measures. Nearly half the world's people live in cities, and when in a city, children are not as helpful as on the farm. Barring disaster, a country needs a birthrate of 2.1 children per woman to hold steady. In 1970, the world's fertility level was 5.4, but in 2000, it was 2.9.
Planned Parenthood has been the victim of a vicious smear campaign. An anti-choice group went "undercover" and has released a pair of heavily edited, dishonest videos in an attempt to discredit an organization that has helped literally millions of women gain access to breast exams, birth control and other vital reproductive health services.
Now anti-choice politicians are seizing on these videos as their newest excuse to attack funding for Planned Parenthood. They're already preparing to vote on legislation that would cut off access to care for millions.
We know these attacks are based on lies and deceptions, and that it's really about preventing women from making choices about their lives and futures.
Pope Francis' environmental papal encyclical ("Praise Be to You", June 18, 2015) called much needed attention to climate change and strongly asserted that we all have an ethical responsibility to care for the Earth.
While we welcome the Pope's concern about consumerism and its impact on the environment and applaud his call to action on climate change, the refusal of His Holiness to address the impacts that population size and growth are having on the planet is a tragic oversight. If we are, indeed, stewards of what the Pope calls, "our Sister, Mother Earth," we have a responsibility to help prevent unintended pregnancies, and the best means of doing that is to ensure that every woman has information about, and unrestricted access to, modern methods of contraception.
In response to this Papal oversight, we are sending Pope Francis a copy of Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot (OVER). Along with the book we are sending a public appeal for the Church to end its religious prohibition on the use of contraceptives. Please join us in sending this important message to the Vatican.
"Your Holiness, we applaud you for your concern about consumerism and your commitment to fighting climate change and caring for the poor, but we implore the Catholic Church to reconsider its opposition to the use of modern contraceptives.
"With 7.3 billion people on the planet and another 2.4 billion anticipated by 2050, our Sister, Mother Earth is, as you so eloquently put it, 'burdened and laid waste' and 'groans with travail.' Inspired by World Population Day 2015, we hereby present you with Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot - a photographic testimony to the tragic impact that the growth in human numbers and consumption is having on the Earth and all the creatures that call it home.
"Curbs on consumption alone will not save and restore Mother Earth; if we are, as you put it, to 'reverse the harm we have inflicted' on her, the Holy Catholic Church must reverse its stance on the use of contraceptives. We must give every woman in the world the ability to determine the number and spacing of her pregnancies. Join with us in preserving and protecting Mother Earth."
The Women's Equality Treaty (officially known as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, or CEDAW) has been languishing in the Senate for over 30 years due to a well-funded and coordinated opposition that feels threatened by international law.
This law has been used by over 180 other countries to address female illiteracy, discrimination, female genital mutilation, sex trafficking and income inequality.
But opponents are portraying it as a threat to the "traditional family" and deliberately distorting the truth about it and several other treaties. They are threatening to run against Senators who support international cooperation, leading many to keep silent on their support for ratification.
Our Senate is better than this. Our citizens deserve better. It's time our Senators went on the record about the U.S. standing up for women's equality and ratifying CEDAW.
Opponents of international cooperation are threatening any Senator who supports working with other countries to solve global problems. Help us fight this "war on international law" and recommit American leadership to engaging and shaping global norms that reflect our shared values.
Ask the California legislature to immediately pass SB 1135, a proposed law that would prohibit sterilization of prisoners for birth control or without their consent.
June 19, 2014,
Ask the California legislature to immediately pass SB 1135, a proposed law that would prohibit sterilization of prisoners for birth control or without their consent.
The State of California cares for its prisoners so badly that in 2005, a judge mandated federal oversight of their prison healthcare system after it was documented that one person dies in California prisons every day from extreme medical malpractice or neglect. But as horrific as these crimes of neglect are, it shocks the conscience anew to hear that the medical care that was provided to prisoners included forced sterilization as recently as 2010.
Eugenics is a word that sounds to too many of us like it belongs only in the history books, but the eugenics programs started in California in the 1920s were found still alive and kicking in its prisons until very recently. While mainstream, and mostly white, women's rights advocates celebrated and defended legal abortion, too little attention has been paid to genocidal medical violence practiced against members of society deemed 'unfit' parents due to poverty, mental health, or non-white ethnicity.
As Loretta Ross, an African American victim of forced sterilization at the age of 23, wrote recently, "After my sterilization, I felt empty, lost, and butchered. I was in shock and felt powerless." There is no justification for an atrocity like this and the State of California must immediately act to ensure that state power is never again abused to deprive people of their right to parent and make their own decisions about their family size.
Tell Governor Brown to ask the California legislature to act immediately to pass SB 1135 and safeguard against forced sterilization of vulnerable populations.
June 18, 2014,
Center for Health and Gender Equity
Around the world, women and girls are targeted for rape and sexual violence as a tactic of war, to tear apart and terrorize families and communities. But women and girls are taking a stand for what they need to recover and survive. We can take a stand. And the United States must take the lead. Stand with CHANGE, Global Fund for Women, and tens of thousands of women and girls. Send President Obama a strong message: act now for women and girls raped in conflict and crisis. Join us at GenderHealth.org http://www.genderhealth.org/
June 1, 2014,
Act for Women and Girls - California
Repeal the MFG rule. Stop punishing families.
California has a long history of supporting a woman's personal decisions regarding her reproductive choices. We trust women to make decisions about what's best for their families. But there is a state policy - the Maximum Family Grant rule (MFG) - that actually limits women's ability to make reproductive decisions.Tell California's lawmakers and Gov. Brown today: it's time to repeal the MFG rule.
The MFG rule is part of CalWORKs, California's program to help families in poverty. But this rule punishes poor women for their reproductive decisions by withholding aid for a newborn child. It also punishes poor children by denying them financial support and drives families deeper into poverty.
The MFG rule limits reproductive freedom by telling women how many children they should have.
The government shouldn't be intruding in families' private lives like this.
For the past 20 years, this failed state policy has made life harder for families. It's time to stop punishing children and start supporting families who are trying hard to make ends meet. It is time to tell the government out of women's decisions about when to have children.
It's time to repeal the MFG rule. Take action today.
A strong coalition led by State Senator Holly Mitchell has come together to repeal the MFG rule through a bill, SB 899, and the state budget
Let us help the 215 million women who lack access to family planning, like Georgette, a mother in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who, before she finally found access to contraception, had already been pregnant 20 times, and lost 7 of her babies to starvation because nursing was cut short by another pregnancy. With the help of the Pathfinder-trained community health worker, Georgette chose a contraceptive method and is now happy and healthy.
September 8, 2011,
Center for Biological Diversity
The Center for Biological Diversity launched a new national campaign, 7 Billion and Counting, to highlight the devastating effects of the world's exploding human population on wildlife around the globe. The PSA in Times Square will reach a million people every day over the next month. Check out the powerful ad by clicking on the headline link above -- now running hourly in one of the most crowded places on the planet.
The 7 Billion and Counting campaign is timed to raise public awareness of the world hitting its 7 billionth human being at the end of October and the impacts of that benchmark on global biodiversity and endangered plant and animal species.
The money for the ad was raised from individual contributions.
Jane Roberts was mad that the Bush administration had refused to release the funds Congress had approved for UNFPA and she set out to raise the $34 million - she would ask 34 million Americans to send $1 each to UNFPA. Lois Abraham came up with a similar idea, the U.N. agency put the two in contact and they joined forces. Together they gave birth to 34 Million Friends of the Women of the World. By May 1, 2003, the organization had raised $ 1 million and a recent tally puts the total at nearly $ 2.75 million. UNFPA has been using the money for family-planning supplies and the prevention and repair of obstetric fistula. Ted Turner's U.N. Foundation has donated grant funds and support. A first-hand account of her experiences, published by Ladybug Press is titled "34 Million Friends of the Women of the World." After co-founding the organization, Roberts began speaking around the world about the fundraising effort. Roberts and Abraham were nominated, along with 998 other women, for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize. They did not win, but their nomination brought attention to their efforts. For years she believed herself to be the lay person best informed and most passionate about women's reproductive issues and problems. "I am living in a dream world, doing what I want to do most in the latter years of my life."
We can all agree about the importance of providing voluntary family planning to women. Please take a moment to learn about an amazing organization, Peruvian Amazon Conservation, which supplies women who live along a section of the Amazon with an exceptional contraceptive service.
PAC (www.peruvianamazon.org) is based in a small village where there are no roads'all travel is along the waterways. It was a real eye-opener for me when I visited there a few years ago. The people are universally poor - too poor to afford any medical care in most cases. Although Peru has a family planning program, people would have to go to Iquitos (the nearest city) to participate; this is a journey that few of the people in this area can afford. Although population density seems low, all people live along rivers, and they are making significant changes to the rain forest by cutting down trees and "development". PAC provides basic medical care, health and environmental education as well as family planning.
The PAC family planning program is based on depo-medroxyprogesterone (Depo Provera, or DMPA). Women come to the clinic for their shots every three months. All women receive their shots during the same week so they can "carpool". (Actually, people arrive at the clinic by dugout canoe.) If a woman wants to start contraception at a time different from the shot week, she is given enough birth control pills to last until the next time shots are given.
It has been difficult and expensive to get a reliable supply of DMPA. People from my hometown, Durango, Colorado, gave over a thousand dollars last year to help pay for the medication and to support PAC. (Please note that PAC is not a slick organization with paid staff. You need to mail them a check rather than making a donation by internet). PAC is a nonprofit 501c3 tax-exempt organization, so all donations are tax deductible. The contact information is:
Peruvian Amazon Conservation 1759 Dyson Drive NE Atlanta, GA 30307 Phone: 404-378-9800 www.peruvianamazon.org
The organization is run out of the home of Eleanor Smithwick, the founder and executive director. She is often in Peru, so her husband, Ron, will answer the phone if she is not at home. Note that none of the contributions go to support Eleanor or the other USA staff.
Carlos Maza of Media Matters for America talks to Erin Matson, co-founder of Reproaction, and Hannah Groch-Begley, research director for NARAL Pro-Choice America, to help break down what abortion stigma is and how the media perpetuates it through faulty, biased coverage.
Images from the book Overdevelopment, Overpopulation Overshoot which speaks to how man once lived peacefully with all of the Earth's beauty but has quickly taken-for-granted all the resources and animals causing great environmental and sustainability issues.
World Population Awareness has produced a 45 minute video playlist combining a slide show by Karen Gaia Pitts of overpopulation.org with videos produced by others that are most relevant to population and consumption, resource depletion, and solutions.
The video focuses on two depleting resources extremely important to the survival of humanity and civilization - energy and the food supply - and, unlike many other population presentations, spends half of the presentation time on solutions.
Paving the Way: Ethiopia's Youth on the Road to Sustainability transports viewers to an innovative development project in Ethiopia's Gurage Zone where youth and their parents are working together to build a more sustainable future by connecting the dots between conservation, access to health care, and sustainable livelihoods. It is the final installment in the Wilson Center's "Healthy People, Healthy Environment" trilogy, which explores integrated population, health, and environment (PHE) projects around the world.
Can we end hunger and poverty, halt climate change and achieve gender equality in the next 15 years? The governments of the world think we can. Meeting at the UN in September 2015, they agreed to a new set of Global Goals for the development of the world to 2030. Social progress expert Michael Green invites us to imagine how these goals and their vision for a better world can be achieved.
Letter and Article Writing
LTE for World Population Day
July 3, 2015
By: Bonnie Tillery, Population Issues Coordinator, New Jersey Chapter Sierra Club
At her trial in 1917, a judge told Margaret Sanger "..if a woman isn't willing to die in childbirth, she shouldn't have sex." Most of us are shocked by these words, yet in 2015 too many women still die in childbirth, often from sexual relations they are powerless to prevent.
According to the United Nations' most recent estimate, 289,000 women around the world die every year from causes related to pregnancy or childbirth. Many of these deaths are in the United States where we have one of the highest rates of maternal mortality among developed countries. We know what to do to save women. Worldwide, 225,000 women want, but do not have access to, contraception.
On July 11th, World Population Day, think of these women and their families. Providing contraceptive education and services allows them to voluntarily choose the size family they want and to space those children for healthier outcomes. These same women generally choose smaller families which puts less stress on the dwindling resources of this planet. By insisting that our legislators fund voluntary family planning, we save women's lives and the environment.
LTE: for Contraception Methods, Long-term Options Work Better
November 27, 2013
Bonnie Tillery, a population issues coordinator for the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club wrote this LTE which she is willing to share with anyone who wants to send it to their local paper.
For contraception methods,long-term options work better
There has been a lot of negative press about the Affordable Care Act, but here is some positive news.
The act mandates that insurance companies provide all forms of female contraception without a co-pay as part of preventive health care. This should bring down the incidence of unplanned pregnancy dramatically, as was shown in a 2007 study at Washington University in St. Louis.
According to an Oct. 23 article in The American Prospect, researchers "provided 10,000 St. Louis women with free contraception, with the goal of decreasing unintended pregnancy.... Few women ended up choosing the pill. Most went with a long-acting contraceptive method, like an IUD or an implant and the results were striking. Women who opted for a shorter-term contraceptive like the pill were 20 times more likely to have an unintended pregnancy."
Currently, about one-half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned - the largest number among countries in the developed world. By reducing dependence on the birth control pill, which is not as effective as other long-term contraceptives, the incidence of unplanned pregnancy should be greatly diminished.
Women who are able to plan their pregnancies and space their children have healthier outcomes for themselves, their families and the environment..
This month's Global development podcast looks at population growth. What questions would you like us to ask our panel?
Click on the headline link above to participate.
U.S.: How You Can Help Improve News Media Coverage of Population
May 11, 2011,
Population Media Center
While it seems the volume of news media coverage of population issues has increased significantly in the last few years, still a lot of inaccurate and biased coverage of population issues, both by the media and by institutions that favor continued population growth.
With food and energy crises, political instability, continuing loss of the biodiversity, and a growing volume of material coming from population activists, awareness has been raised among journalists that we may have overgrown the capacity of the planet to sustain our numbers and lifestyles.
An example of this problem is when the US Census Bureau characterized the US population 9% growth rate in the last decade as, "The percentage growth this last decade...is thus the second lowest of the past century," and failed to mention that the total population growth 1990's and the 2000's (60 million) was bigger than the Baby Boom of 1945 to 1965 (54 million), as reported by researcher Mark Powell of Vermonters for Sustainable Population.
Newspapers picked up on the slow growth idea and published inaccurate stories.
Population Media Center is managing a project called the Population News Strategy that seeks to educate the public about population issues both in the United States and abroad, in order to help the public understand the importance of slowing down and eventually halting both domestic and international population growth.
How you can help:
If you see a news-story which explicitly covers a population issue - accurately or inaccurately - and the email of the reporter is available, please send the hyperlink of the story to: firstname.lastname@example.org . Stories where the reporter's email is not available may be interesting, but will not help us build our database.
If you see a blogger covering population issues, please send the blog url to: email@example.com
If you personally know and can easily contact a credible and well-credentialed researcher, writer, advocate, politician, scientist, activist, etc., who is interested in sustainable population issues who you think deserves consideration for being placed on-air, please contact Joe Bish at: firstname.lastname@example.org . In your message please identify the individual and provide back-ground information on them if possible (e.g. bio or url to website).
If you have something to say about population and wish to contribute an Op-Ed to be considered for syndicated publishing, please do not hesitate to send drafts for consideration to: email@example.com
Please note these general Op-Ed guidelines: Columns should be provocative: identify a problem and identify a specific culprit (e.g. Congress, a specific person, a corporation). Aim for no more than six hundred words. Please indicate if the piece has been run in another publication before you sent it to us.
The availability, use, and funding of family planning worldwide has seen a revolution in the last 50 years, dramatically reducing fertility levels and slowing population growth in developing countries. But contraceptive use is still low and need for it high in some of the world's poorest and most populous places.
In the 1970s and 1980s family planning was in the spotlight, but recently not so much recently as as issues such as HIV/AIDS and poverty alleviation. Perhaps its success has led to its recent loss of visibility.
Recently key informants - developing-country program managers, senior staff members of nongovernmental and donor organizations, and prominent researchers - were surveyed in a study supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute of Population and Reproductive Health at Johns Hopkins University. One key informant in the study said: "When you hesitate to say the words 'family planning,' something is happening. When you say 'reproductive health' and have to be careful, something is happening."
There is a declining sense of urgency about population growth and its consequences; competing health and development priorities; rising political conservatism (especially in the United States); and a lack of international and local leadership. Poverty reduction was cited as the primary focus of current development efforts.
The agenda of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) meeting in Cairo in 1994 emphasized the welfare of individual women, the achievement of their sexual and reproductive health and rights, and gender equity. This redefinition of the social problem of population growth in terms of reproductive health, particularly for women, has caused popular consciousness about the problem to ebb, since reproductive health does not carry the same political vitality as a developmental disaster or disease epidemic.
"When reproductive health becomes too big, family planning gets lost. The trouble is that it's no longer a focused program. It's difficult for donors to see, to manage and implement." In 1995, family planning received 55% of total worldwide population-assistance expenditures, while basic research and reproductive health received 18% each and HIV/STIs received 9%. In 2003, HIV/STIs received 47% of total worldwide population-assistance expenditures, while reproductive health received 25%, basic research 15%, and family planning 13%. Compared to the magnitude of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, preventing unintended pregnancies is now perceived internationally as much less compelling and less urgent.
While there was general agreement that collaboration between family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs was appropriate, there seemed to be distinct lack of collaboration between the fields. Young people who used to be attracted to the family planning field when it was seen as a critical social need are reportedly going into fields that are perceived to be more urgent today, such as HIV/AIDS, safe motherhood, and poverty alleviation, while some older, experienced leaders who formerly worked in family planning have moved on. That and lack of funding for advanced training means that leadership in family planning is aging or lacking.
Strong opposition from abortion opponents is also a disincentive to work in the family planning field. Some respondents felt that the international family planning movement was in it's demise, but others felt that the movement would continue with the locus of action shifiting to the developing world in those countries that have major contraceptive needs, a rapidly growing population, and a policy commitment to slowing growth. Others felt that women's motivation to control fertility is so strong (and the social norm of family planning so well established) that contraceptive use will continue to rise no matter what happens to family planning programs.
Some felt the message of family planning could be recast (1) addressing an unfinished agenda of unmet contraceptive need, unwanted fertility, stalled fertility decline, and shortages of contraceptive supplies; (2) highlighting family planning's benefits for reducing abortion and improving women's status and health; and (3) demonstrating family planning's relevance in reducing social inequity. Many saw the risks of increased poverty, poor health, and higher mortality as a result of high fertility and population growth rates.
"The population theme is both a threat and an opportunity. It needs to be better utilized, not for Malthusian reasons, but in order to rise above poverty," said one respondent.
Human population growth has potentially explosive consequences for natural resources and the Izaak Walton League has released a pair of publications intended to inspire, engage, and assist outdoor journalists to reacquaint themselves with this issue. The first is a collection of essays by five prominent journalists on the effects of population growth on outdoor recreation. The second gives background information and tips on writing stories about population growth and getting them published. Chuck Clayton, national president, said that outdoor recreation enthusiasts will understand more fully the consequences of human population growth on their pursuits when a broader spectrum of journalists start addressing the issue as a matter of course. Jim Baird, director of the League's Sustainability Education Project said "Every major threat to outdoor recreation-from climate change to hunting access, from habitat loss to dying fisheries - is, at its base, an issue about how people can continue to thrive while maintaining a livable world." Outdoor journalists should embrace this topic more aggressively." In 1970 the League's members enacted a policy on carrying capacity - an evaluation of how human needs and numbers affect wildlife, their habitat and all forms of recreation that depend on the outdoors. Follow the headline link to read the two publications.
A sense of inevitability sets in as the U.N. declares not only that world population will reach 9.6 billion by 2050 but also that the U.N. has twice had to up its estimates to conform with actual counts. Most people do not list overconsumption and/or over-population on their top-ten list of political issues, and neither the Republican nor Democrat party lists these issues in their fliers. We know these issues are critically important; yet public awareness is sorely lacking. Perhaps the answer is to teach basic facts about overconsumption and over-population in our nation's schools.
Surprise! They already are part of the curriculum used by thousands of teachers. This is true because Population Connection's program called Population Education (https://www.populationeducation.org/) has developed and refined a set of curricula that apply to most public school subjects at every grade level. What's more, these curricula meet the requirements and standards relating to math, science, English and other major subjects, and they use effective student participation methods designed to maximize student involvement. Teachers learn to use these curricula by attending the standard workshops teachers are encouraged to take to keep up to date and enhance their credentials. Colleges that offer majors in education periodically offer such workshops, and Population Education routinely participates in workshops conducted by most major universities throughout the U.S.
Since Population Education recruits and certifies its workshop trainers from teachers and university faculty members who volunteer for training, almost all workshop leaders have expertise in using the latest teaching methodologies. Teachers attending the workshops not only learn about population curricula, they also get to experience model class activities, using quality lesson plans and other resources provided by the Population Education resource service. Follow-up studies indicate that 90% of teachers who attend the workshops do, in fact, use the curriculum for their subject specialty. That can continue year after year with each teacher reaching hundreds of students.
Are the U.N. population forecasts inevitable? Not if masses of young people understand the basic facts and issues that have been so long overlooked. Change begins with awareness, and classroom teachers are ideally suited to bring about that awareness. Population Education curricula do not moralize, preach, or engage in anything controversial - unless you consider providing factual information controversial. Students solving math or social studies problems can calculate for themselves the impacts that ever-expanding populations will have in shaping our future. And once they know the basic facts, they have the tools needed to make informed choices and call for appropriate actions.
This program could become a model for teacher training workshops in places like Nigeria, Pakistan, Ethiopia, and other nations that are driving the greatest increases in world population. Let's call for foundation or public grants to encourage the replication of programs like this one.
Whether you've received Endangered Species Condoms, signed up for a chance to get them in the future, or just want to know more about how you can engage people in the conversation about human population growth and the wildlife extinction crisis, we've put together downloadable resources and helpful links to help you make the most of your outreach experience (follow the link in the headline).
A visual demonstration (using an apple to represent the earth) of the limited sources of food available from Earth's land, followed by discussion of how to feed a growing population.
Only about three percent of the Earth's surface is capable of growing food. Over the past century, farming technology has made it possible to produce more food from the world's limited cropland to feed the growing world's population. However, much of this arable (farmable) land has been taken out of production for urban/suburban development and livestock grazing, or has been mismanaged leading to irreparable soil erosion. By 2030, we will need to produce 30 percent more grain to feed the expected population of 8.2 billion. Protecting our arable land resources is becoming more important than ever.
An interesting interactive global map on species loss and environmental destruction. The viewer is invited to supply his or her own 'memory' of the way things were and no longer are - i.e., what is missing.
If we don't have this little "birds and bees" conversation, there won't be too many birds or bees left. The human species has a way of life that destructively encroaches upon the habitats and prosperity of other creatures, and we just keep coming.
"Wrap with care, save a polar bear" and "In the sack, save a leatherback" are just two of the environmentally savvy messages printed on the Center for Biological Diversity's (CBD) latest series of endangered species condoms, set to be distributed on Earth Day.
"We got to a point in our work where we realized there was one link between the (environmental) issues we are seeing today, and that's overpopulation" explains Amy Harwood, human overpopulation organizer at CBD, who says the endangered species condoms are a form of direct action.
"We're hoping that these condoms go out into the community and help start conversations about population growth," Harwood says, "they're great tools for that."
On the condom packaging endangered animals such as Florida panthers, spotted owls and hellbender salamanders are colorfully depicts alongside catchy conservation slogans.
Harwood says the main problem presented by human overpopulation is the amount of resources we consume. The more of us there are, the more we need to survive. The Earth's population has nearly doubled since the inaugural Earth Day in 1970. The group says that overpopulation and overconsumption are the root causes of environmental destruction, and that human overpopulation has led to the extinction of the woodland bison of West Virginia, Arizona's Merriam's elk and the Rocky Mountain grasshopper.
CBD isn't advocating that people cease reproducing; rather, they want folks to have the resources and information needed to make responsible decisions. Harwood says that having a kid is everyone's right, but half of the pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended.
Condoms aren't the only means of safe sex. If you are a man who is not a fan of condoms, and is not stoked on getting a vasectomy you might check out RISUG (reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance), a 15-minute procedure (done under very localized anesthesia) involves a doctor injecting your vas deferens with a polymer gel that deactivates sperm on the way out.
Infographic. UNICEF , with the help of design studio Periscopic, released "An Urban World" to answer this question. It's an interactive, HTML5 visualization of the world from the years 1950-2050. But rather than showing our geographic boundaries, every country is depicted only by their population living in urban environments.
"Now, whether this ends up being a good or bad thing--whether we're talking about urban slums or smartly scaled communities, loosely populated expanses of efficient agriculture, or underdeveloped countrysides stricken by poverty--none of that is written on this map because none of that is written just yet. But it's hard to watch these bubbles grow, expanding into one another in a battle for your mere vision (let alone food, housing, and wages) and earnestly expect that everything is just going to be all right."
Literature, Parables, Poems
Eve and the Fall
By: Roger Martin, Chair of Population Matters
In ancient Africa, the Lord of Earth,
The Gaia, keeper of the sacred flame
Of life upon this favoured speck of dust,
Spoke to the ape-girl, Lucy, in a dream.
"You have done well. That brain is growing fast.
Time to become a human. Listen hard,
And tell the others, and the ones to come.
Throughout this Eden I have given you
You shall be matriarch of beasts undreamt.
They'll live a life of eagles, always fed,
And see all things, and roam the earth and sky,
And read the seas and stars, and want for nought,
Provided that they follow this command.
Already you can feed of plants and flesh,
And only two fruits grow beyond your reach.
Both now I give you. But remember this:
You must eat both together, or else none.
The tree of Knowledge has the sweetest fruit;
The fruit of Wisdom's bitter, green and hard.
But if you gorge upon the first alone,
Without the second fruit to balance it,
Your offspring shall be locusts in the spring.
They'll breed, and swarm, and feed, till, numberless,
They've stripped the land of everything that grows,
And, Earth once made a desert, die in heaps.
That brain will free you from my disciplines
Of claw and dearth and sickness for a time.
Control your numbers only, now you can,
And Earth shall always be your Paradise."
And Lucy, awe-struck, grunted in her sleep;
And half-awoke, and jabbered to her mate,
And told him all that lingered from the dream.
"We'll eat the fruit of Knowledge, and we'll live
Like eagles, and like locusts numberless.
The Earth is ours."
And so the legend passed.
And so the Fall of Man, a few years on,
Took place exactly as the Lord had said.
Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot (OVER) contains powerful and evocative images showing the ecological and social tragedies of humanity's ballooning numbers and consumption. It retails for $50, but as part of Speak Out you can request free books to use raising awareness about these important and urgent issues.
With a title including the word "depopulation," I expected to find many points of disagreement with Wattenberg's book, but Wattenberg actually says very little that I haven't read and said myself. However, the one thing Wattenberg fails to mention could lead the reader to a false sense that all is well. Wattenberg never says that we have a serious population problem now or that, if demographic forecasts are correct, overpopulation and over-consumption will continue to worsen.
Wattenberg says that Total Fertility Rates (TFRs) have been falling in most nations around the world (true). In most prosperous nations TFRs have been falling for more than forty years (true). The TFRs for most prosperous nations are currently below replacement levels (true). The TFRs for most lesser-developed nations are currently falling (true). The world-wide TFR is 2.5 - 2.7 births per woman, the lowest it has been (true). Most demographers estimate that the world population will exceed nine billion by 2050, but estimates differ (true). At that point, if TFRs continue falling at current rates, the population will peak (true, and hopefully they will). Nations with low TFRs and long life expectancies will need to import workers or will face higher costs per worker to care for the aged (true). Many nations dislike taking immigrants, so they will face a dilemma (true).
What about species extinctions, world-wide fish stock depletions, over-forestation, desertification, over-tapped aquifers, river mouth dead zones, dying reefs, toxic air, ocean acidification, climate change? These are serious problems now, so even a world population of 7.17 billion is unsustainable. And if Wattenberg and his demographer sources have it right, the population will increase by 28% and per-capita consumption rates will increase possibly more than that for a combined consumption increase of more than 50% by 2050. Wattenberg predicts that population growth will reverse automatically after 2050 - decades after most of the horses have left the barn. All told, Mr. Wattenberg told only half of the story, but documented that part very well.
Earlier this week, Worldwatch launched State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible? to a crowded room of friends and supporters. If you were unable to participate in the event, we will have videos of the symposium available shortly.
To commemorate the launch, the e-book versions of the report are now available for only US$3.99, for a limited time only - http://www.amazon.com/State-World-2013-Sustainability-ebook/dp/B00C4Y9AYM/ref=dp_kinw_strp_1 . And you can still purchase hard copies of the report from our bookstore ($22) http://www.worldwatch.org/bookstore/publication/state-world-2013-sustainability-still-possible
January 18, 2013,
By: Suzanne York, howmany.org
Suzanne York, of HowMany.org describes a new book, Enough is Enough: Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources, which constructs a realistic and actionable plan that should guide all of us as we confront increasingly dire and critical issues facing the planet. The book describes how we can transition from a global economic system dependent upon unsustainable and endless growth to a steady-state, prosperous, yet non-growing economy, where there are "stable or mildly fluctuating levels in population and consumption of energy and material."
Solutions include: establishing more worker-owned companies, prohibiting banks from issuing money as debt, local currencies, and work-time reduction.
Proposed policies include: limit the use of materials and energy to sustainable levels; stabilize population through compassionate and non-coercive means; achieve a fair distribution of income and wealth; reform monetary and financial systems for stability; change the way we measure progress.
The authors recognize that "hidden in population numbers are real people." Unless compassionate, non-coercive policies are devised, any population policy will ultimately not work. Successful policies include actions such as educating girls, empowering women, and providing family planning services.
As for admitting foreign workers with specific skills to fill jobs, the authors suggest that "Instead of recruiting educated and entrepreneurial people from abroad, wealthy nations should cultivate talent at home and encourage nations abroad to retain their most capable workers."
Life on The Brink: Environmentalists Confront Overpopulation, published by the University of Georgia Press earlier in December, is an anthology edited by Eileen Crist (Virginia Tech) and Phil Cafaro (Colorado State).
Contributors include PMC's Bill Ryerson, Joe Bish, Albert Bartlett, Lester Brown, Tom Butler, Philip Cafaro, Martha Campbell, William R. Catton Jr., Eileen Crist, Anne Ehrlich, Paul Ehrlich, Robert Engelman, Dave Foreman, Amy Gulick, Ronnie Hawkins, Leon Kolankiewicz, Richard Lamm, Jeffrey McKee, Stephanie Mills, Roderick Nash, Tim Palmer, Charmayne Palomba, Winthrop Staples III, Captain Paul Watson, Don Weeden, George Wuerthner.
Life on the Brink aspires to reignite a robust discussion of population issues among environmentalists, environmental studies scholars, policymakers, and the general public. The book makes the case that population growth is a major force behind many of our most serious ecological problems, including global climate change, habitat loss and species extinctions, air and water pollution, and food and water scarcity. As we surpass seven billion world inhabitants, contributors argue that ending population growth worldwide and in the United States is a moral imperative that deserves renewed commitment.
Hailing from a range of disciplines and offering varied perspectives, these essays hold in common a commitment to sharing resources with other species and a willingness to consider what will be necessary to do so. In defense of nature and of a vibrant human future, contributors confront hard issues regarding contraception, abortion, immigration, and limits to growth that many environmentalists have become too timid or politically correct to address in recent years.
Ending population growth will not happen easily. Creating genuinely sustainable societies requires major change to economic systems and ethical values coupled with clear thinking and hard work. Life on the Brink is an invitation to join the discussion about the great work of building a better future.
One of the reviews: "For decades, overpopulation deniers have claimed that those who advocate population stabilization or reduction do so to retain privileges; are motivated by racist, sexist, or colonialist views; or do not understand economics. Life on the Brink courageously argues that intelligent and compassionate action in our world demands that we reduce our numbers as quickly and humanely as possible. Its urgent message should be widely read and acted upon."-Bron Taylor, author of Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future
The grocery delivery program Door To Door Organics, report that Americans eat at least 12 ounces of meat per day, almost 50% more than the recommend daily amount.
One 2011 study found eating less meat could double the world's food supply.
A March study published by the Archives of Internal Medicine through Harvard University found eating too much red meat can shorten one's lifespan. Also eating too much meat can lead to kidney stones, dehydration and calcium loss.
Dieticians of Canada recommend 75 g or 2 1/2 ounces of meat every day, along with a meat alternative to make up the recommended daily intake of five ounces of protein.
November 14, 2013,
Population Action International
Spending $1 and getting $4 back sounds like a good deal, doesn't it? Well for every $1 we invest in family planning, we save $4 in other areas like education, public health, and water and sanitation.
It's time to cash in on this deal, and invest in family planning worldwide. When women are able to plan their pregnancies, they live longer, they have smaller families, and they're better able to participate in the workforce. In fact, women who have access to contraception typically make 40% more than those without access - and that economic success is good for the whole country.
"Through the empowerment of women, education of all people, universal access to birth control, and a societal commitment to ensuring that all species are given a chance to live and thrive, we can reduce our own population to an ecologically sustainable level. This will decrease human poverty and crowding, increase our standard of living, and sustain the lives of plants, animals, and ecosystems everywhere." .... Follow the link to a beautiful presentation on Overpopulation.
Click on the link in the headline to see this super set of clocks showing population globally as well as by region and also many other statistic odometers.
The Economics of Birth Control
Spending $1 and getting $4 back sounds like a good deal, doesn't it? Well for every $1 we invest in family planning, we save $4 in other areas like education, public health, and water and sanitation.
It's time to cash in on this deal, and invest in family planning worldwide. When women are able to plan their pregnancies, they live longer, they have smaller families, and they're better able to participate in the workforce. In fact, women who have access to contraception typically make 40% more than those without access - and that economic success is good for the whole country.
Worldwatch Paper 143 by Lester R. Brown, Gary Gardner, Brian Halweil. The
unprecedented surge in population,
combined with rising individual consumption, is pushing our claims on
the planet beyond its natural limits.
Empowering women and girls around the world to take part in global decision-making is the first step toward reaching a new standard of human and global development. http to see a beautiful, colorful supplement published in USA Today.
Are You in the Know About Contraception, Pregnancy, Abortion and Teens?
The Guttmacher Institute has launched "Are you IN THE KNOW?", a new set of resources designed to inform a broad range of audiences to increase public awareness about sexual and reproductive health issues in a simple, compelling and fun format.
Are you IN THE KNOW? comprises a Web site, a mobile-friendly quiz, a vibrant set of flash cards and a booklet that lay out the top questions and answers on contraception, pregnancy, abortion and teens. Visit the Web site -http://www.guttmacher.org/catalog/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=36 - to browse the set of 110 questions and answers that provide you with the most up-to-date and accurate research available.
With your smart phone, check out the Are you IN THE KNOW? mobile-friendly Web site - http://www.guttmacher.org/mobile/in-the-know/ - the first of its kind for the Institute: By visiting the mobile site, you can take a fun quiz or browse the top 40 questions and answers by subject and access references for each answer, all from wherever you may be.
In addition to these helpful online resources, we have also created a new set of flash cards containing the 20 most frequently asked questions and answers - http://www.guttmacher.org/catalog/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=36 The flashcards utilize infographics and visual aids to better elucidate and enhance the science-based answers behind them.
Vallentyne was Right: Part 2 - History of the Population Movementby William N. Ryerson, Population Institute and Population Media Center
The failure of political leaders to address population and consumption issues over the last half century has generally not been the result of lack of access to information about the problem. Indeed, there have been a series of high-level warnings to global leaders that many have heard but have chosen to ignore, hoping to duck the controversy or extend the profits of population growth realized by a few business leaders who were contributors to their political campaigns. Here is a sampling of the warnings given to American leaders and to the world.
(1) The work of Paul and Anne Ehrlich, including The Population Bomb
In 1968, the Sierra Club and Ballantine Books published The Population Bomb, which was a joint effort of Stanford biologists Paul and Anne Ehrlich (Ehrlich 1968). It became an instant bestseller. Combined with speeches given by Paul Ehrlich all over the USA and extensive media interviews (including more than 20 interviews on the Tonight Show with Johnny Car- son), the 'Bomb' was responsible for launching the modern population movement and for making population a central focus of the first Earth Day in 1970.
Ehrlich, Yale biologist Charles Remington, and Connecticut attorney Dick Bowers founded Zero Population Growth (ZPG) following a talk Ehrlich gave at Yale in 1968. The organization (now called Population Connection) grew at its height to 60000 members and 600 chapters. In the mid-1980s the national board of ZPG decided it did not want to advocate for lower immigration levels and so gave up advocacy for US population stabilization. The board of the California chapter dissented, however, and split off to form Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), for which Stuart Hurlbert has served as board secretary since 2001.
The Ehrlichs' book was attacked when it was published and has regularly been ridiculed since that time. However, the warnings it contained were all couched in hedged terms common to scientific authors, indicating that the possible outcomes of overpopulation were not so much firm predictions as they were likely to occur if population growth remained at 1968 levels. The alarm raised helped to move the US government and other donor countries to invest large sums in making family planning services available around the world, which led to reductions in fertility rates and slowed the growth of world population. At the same time, the Green Revolution of the 1970s led to dramatic increases in grain production in countries like India and China, averting the immediate threat of massive starvation. However, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Norman Borlaug stated clearly that the Green Revolution he led would only buy the world community 30 yr in which to stop the 'population monster' or the developing world would face even greater famines than the one he had helped to avert.
In retrospect, the Ehrlichs believe The Population Bomb was too optimistic (Ehrlich & Ehrlich 2009, Turner 2009). For while the Green Revolution averted a global catastrophe at the time, about 300 million people have died of malnutrition since then. The Green Revolution crops, depending as they do on petroleum-based pesticides and fertilizers and large quantities of fresh water, face an uncertain future as all 3 of these resources become less available.
(2) Publication of The Limits to Growth
Many corporate leaders and politicians scoffed when The Limits to Growth was published (Meadows et al. 1972). A careful analysis of the trends in utilization of resources, the Club of Rome-sponsored publication gave clear evidence that humanity was on a collision course with resource exhaustion. In 2009, Dennis Meadows, one of the co-authors of the report, said that human civilization is following the projections the authors forecast in 1972 (also see Turner 2008). However, except for the scientific community, the report generated no discernable action by world leaders.
(3) President's Commission on Population Growth and the American Future
In July 1969, President Nixon proposed the creation of a Commission on Population Growth and the American Future (CPGAF). At the time, he stated, 'One of the most serious challenges to human destiny in the last third of this century will be the growth of the population. Whether man's response to that challenge will be a cause for pride or for despair in the year 2000 will depend very much on what we do today' (CPGAF 1972, p. 3)
In 1972, the Commission released its final report urging the country to move quickly toward population stabilization (CPGAF 1972). Headed by John D. Rockefeller III, the 'Rockefeller Commission' strongly urged that America give up its addiction to growth. While many Americans heeded the message and the fertility rate fell to replacement level within a year of the report's presentation, policy makers did not pay much attention. The President had other things on his mind, and 2 yr later, he resigned from office because of the Watergate scandal. Since that time, the US population has grown by over 100 million people, in significant part because of immigration.
The CPGAF recommended, among other things, that America act to end illegal immigration and to set legal immigration at 400000 people per year. The CPGAF determined that 'the health of our country does not depend on [population growth], nor does the vitality of business, nor the welfare of the average person.' (J. D. Rockefeller, letter to President Nixon, available at www.population-security.org/rockefeller/ 001_population_growth_and_the_american_future. htm) Since the report was issued, annual legal immigration has quadrupled, and illegal immigration has mushroomed.
In the opening paragraph of its first chapter, the CPGAF (1972) report said, In the brief history of this nation, we have always assumed that progress and 'the good life' are connected with population growth. In fact, population growth has frequently been regarded as a measure of our progress. If that were ever the case, it is not now. There is hardly any social problem confronting this nation whose solution would be easier if our population were larger. Even now, the dreams of too many Americans are not being realized; others are being fulfilled at too high a cost. Accordingly, this Commission has concluded that our country can no longer afford the uncritical acceptance of the popul tion growth ethic that 'more is better.' And beyond that, after two years of concentrated effort, we have concluded that no substantial benefits would result from continued growth of the nation's population.
Perhaps the CPAFG most widely cited recommendation read, 'Recognizing that our population cannot grow indefinitely, and appreciating the advantages of moving now toward the stabilization of population, the Commission recommends that the nation welcome and plan for a stabilized population.' The CPAFG report goes on to state, 'In short, we find no convincing economic argument for continued national population growth.'
(4) The 'Warning to Humanity'
If we don't halt population growth with justice and compassion, it will be done for us by nature, brutally and without pity - and we will leave a ravaged world. ...Henry Kendall
In 1992, 1700 of the world's scientists, including the majority of Nobel Laureates in the sciences, signed a 'Warning to Humanity' written by the late Henry Kendall, chair of the Union of Concerned Scientists (Kendall 1992). For the full text, see www.ucsusa. org/about/1992-world-scientists.html.
The 'Warning to Humanity' stated clearly the need to stabilize population numbers and change the course of human civilization. The 'Warning' identifies a range of critical stresses on the environment, including the atmosphere, water resources, oceans, soil, forests, living species, and population. Following are the highlights of the statement on population and the conclusion:
The earth is finite. Its ability to absorb wastes and destructive effluent is finite. Its ability to provide food and energy is finite. Its ability to provide for growing numbers of people is finite. And we are fast approaching many of the earth's limits. Current economic practices which damage the environment, in both developed and underdeveloped nations, cannot be continued without the risk that vital global systems will be damaged beyond repair.
Pressures resulting from unrestrained population growth put demands on the natural world that can over-
whelm any efforts to achieve a sustainable future. If we are to halt the destruction of our environment, we must accept limits to that growth.
No more than one or a few decades remain before the chance to avert the threats we now confront will be lost and the prospects for humanity immeasurably diminished.
We the undersigned, senior members of the world's scientific community, hereby warn all humanity of what lies ahead. A great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated.
(5) Statement by the National Academies of Sciences of 58 nations
In 1994 the scientific academies of 58 nations came together to warn that humankind must stop looking to science alone to solve problems caused by over population (Science Summit on World Population 1994). The full statement can be found at http:// dieoff.org/page75.htm. Highlights of the academies' statement follow:
Population growth, resource consumption, and the environment As human numbers further increase, the potential for irreversible changes of far reaching magnitude also increases. Indicators of severe environmental stress include the growing loss of biodiversity, increasing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing deforestation worldwide, stratospheric ozone depletion, acid rain, loss of topsoil, and shortages of water, food, and fuel-wood in many parts of the world.
The earth is finite
The growth of population over the last half century was for a time matched by similar world-wide increases in utilizable resources. However, in the last decade food production from both land and sea has declined relative to population growth. The area of agricultural land has shrunk, both through soil erosion and reduced possibilities of irrigation. The availability of water is already a constraint in some countries. These are warnings that the earth is finite, and that natural systems are being pushed ever closer to their limits.
But time is short and appropriate policy decisions are urgently needed. In our judgment, humanity's ability to deal successfully with its social, economic, and environmental problems will require the achievement of zero population growth within the lifetime of our children.
Reducing fertility rates, however, cannot be achieved merely by providing more contraceptives. The demand for these services has to be addressed. Even when family planning and other reproductive health services are widely available, the social and economic status of women affects individual decisions to use them. The ability of women to make decisions about family size is greatly affected by gender roles within society and in sexual relationships. Ensuring equal opportunity for women in all aspects of society is crucial.
Action is needed now
Humanity is approaching a crisis point with respect to the interlocking issues of population, environment, and development. Scientists today have the opportunity and responsibility to mount a concerted effort to confront our human predicament. But science and technology can only provide tools and blueprints for action and social change. It is the governments and international decision-makers ... who hold the key to our future. We urge them to take incisive action now and to adopt an integrated policy on population and sustainable development on a global scale. With each year's delay the problems become more acute. Let 1994 be remembered as the year when the people of the world decided to act together for the benefit of future generations.
(6) The President's Council on Sustainable Development
In 1993, President Clinton established the President's Council on Sustainable Development (PCSD) to advise him on sustainable development and create 'bold, new approaches to achieve our economic, environmental, and equity goals'. The Council served from 1993 to 1999. Among the recommendations of the PCSD was a move toward the stabiliza- tion of the US population (PCSD 1999).
In the 1990s, the USA was the only major industrialized country experiencing significant population growth. The PCSD (1999, Ch. 1, p. 3) report stated:
Annual growth figures of ... 1.0 percent may seem small, but they are not. Persistent 1.0 percent growth translates into a doubling time - the time it takes a population to double in size - of 70 years. This is an enormous increase when the population that is doubling is the United States, the third largest country in the world. Also, given the numeric size of the country, even apparently small percentage increases produce large increases in numbers.
The PCSD's recommendations about immigration policy included the development of comprehensive and responsible immigration and foreign policies that reduce illegal immigration and mitigate the factors that encourage immigration. The report stated (PCSD 1999 Ch. 1, p. 4):
Continued population growth in the United States, particularly on the scale envisioned by the medium and high projections, has enormous implications. Coupled with the technologies and resource consumption patterns that underlie the U.S. standard of living, population growth in America produces an environmental impact unparalleled by any other country at this time.
Continued population growth also has the potential to overwhelm efficiency and productivity gains, negating technology-based efforts to reduce U.S. environmental impact. Population growth also challenges industry's best efforts to provide new, higher quality jobs for all Americans and to improve real wages for American workers - which have been stagnant for 22 years. It similarly adds to the nation's needs to reduce poverty, improve education, and provide health care for all Americans. In short, the United States is already severely challenged by the need to provide better opportunities for millions of disadvantaged citizens, and continued population growth will exacerbate those challenges.
The PCSD's final report to the President in May 1999 added a paragraph on the desires of the American public with regard to population (PCSD 1999, Ch. 1, p. 5):
For decades, Americans have not had a desire for an ever-larger population. This is suggested by polls over the years. In 1974, 87 percent of respondents to a Roper poll said they did not wish the country had more people. A 1971 poll by the US Commission on Population Growth and the American Future found that 22 percent felt US population should be smaller than it was then, which was close to 200 million. As long ago as 1947, when U.S. population was 140 million, Gallup found that 55 percent of Americans believed the country would be 'worse off' with more people.
The PCSD (1999, Ch 1, p. 20) report concluded with a series of recommendations, the first of which read,
Stabilize U.S. population as early as possible in the next century as part of similar worldwide efforts, by providing universal access to a broad range of information, services, and opportunities so that individuals may plan responsibly and voluntarily the number and spacing of their children. These include: high-quality family planning and other basic and reproductive health services; equitable educational, economic, social, and political opportunities, particularly for women; reduction of infant mortality; and the increase of male responsibility for family planning and childrearing. This goal also entails targeted actions to eradicate poverty. While fertility is the largest contributor to U.S. population growth, responsible immigration policies that respect American traditions of fairness, freedom, and asylum will also contribute to voluntary population stabilization in the United States.
Of course, looking forward to 2050, immigration and births to immigrants are expected to exceed natural increase by 4-fold as a driver of US population growth, as projected by the Pew Hispanic Center (Passel & Cohn 2008).
Vallentyne was Right: Achieving Sustainability Requires Accounting for All Relevant Factorsby William N. Ryerson, Population Institute and Population Media Center(Editor's note: I have broken this article into three parts. Parts 2 (History of the Population Movement) and 3 (Things are Getting Worse) will be done at a later time.
Population has waxed and waned as an issue of public consciousness and action by policymakers. The issue is on the ascendancy again in part because of climate change and food crises caused by escalating food prices, the energy crisis and growing shortages of fresh water. In the face of these problems, attempts of some governments to stimulate higher birth rates, over concern with aging populations, are misplaced and counterproductive. Vallentyne's long-neglected 'demotechnic index' holds new promise for considering both population numbers and consumption rates when evaluating the impact of humans on the environment. Its appearance in publication now is all the more important because of the failure of political leaders to act on the numerous expert warnings issued over several decades regarding the impact of human population growth and expanding utilization of resources. Thus, the world community needs to act urgently to utilize the demotechnic index of Jack Vallentyne to look holistically at ways to achieve a sustainable society.
(Editor's note: The demotechnic index is simply the ratio of technological energy consumption to the energy required for physiological subsistence alone, which is estimated to be 3.57 gigajoules per capita year. Canadians and Americans have huge demothechnic indices, 118 and 91 respectively, meaninng that each North American uses about one hundred times more energy than required for subsistence alone.)
Jack Vallentyne originally presented his demotechnic index at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo. It is an important contribution to the cause of achieving global sustainability.
Indeed, achieving global sustainability has been a central concern of many ecologists and other scientists during the last 50 years. The pillars of sustainability - population, consumption, waste patterns, and technology - have waxed and waned in the public consciousness. In the 1970s, population was often seen as the central issue, but Jack Vallentyne also called on scientists to recognize the importance of consumption. His work today calls on the global community not to forget the population factor and to take a balanced approach in looking at all relevant factors that will ultimately determine whether human civilization is sustainable over many more millennia or is a short-term experiment gone awry.
Indeed, the number of people on the planet would not matter if we were ethereal beings. Our economic activity, i.e. our consumption of resources and our production of wastes, makes our numbers matter.
In the 1970s, population was a visible issue. The concern with the number of humans focused on developing countries in part because of the evidence that large family size was a leading cause of poverty and thus that rapid population growth would prevent economic development. Environmental concerns centered on deforestation and loss of the biodiversity found in many developing countries.
Because developed countries had the resources to address pollution problems and since most had undertaken significant pollution abatement efforts starting in the 1960s, there was relatively little concern in the 1970s about population growth in developed countries. In part, this was the case because many developed countries had achieved very low fertility rates. Migration from developing to developed countries was relatively small as a contributor to population growth of the latter and was seen by many as having zero net environmental impact. In addition, since the goal of most societies was, first and foremost, economic growth, migration was often viewed as an unmitigated positive because of the impact it had on the economic status of migrants and, more broadly, on corporate profits.
Along the way, population became taboo. President Reagan declared that population was, at worst, a neutral factor. That position, plus the backlash against legalized abortion in the United States, made concern with population issues politically incorrect. By the time of the second world population conference in Mexico City in 1994, discussion of population had all but disappeared from consideration by those working in the environmental sustainability arena.
More recently, concern about climate change, combined with the prospect of peak oil and fresh water shortages, has led some environmentalists to conclude that the only environmental concern of merit was high (read 'excessive') consumption and waste by developed countries. Reducing the ecological footprint of individuals in developed countries, but not the number of footprints, became a new mantra that still dominates the materials produced by many environmental organizations. This concern was expressed in ways that steered clear of two important sustainability factors: population growth and economic growth. The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo reinforced the belief that concern with population per se could lead to loss of a rights-based approach to women's reproductive health.
In the last few years, the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE), the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont, the Institute for Sustainable Solutions at Portland State University, and other groups have attempted to draw the public's attention to the fact that resource limitations must lead to a state of non-growth of the global economy, even as developing countries struggle to increase per capita incomes. Selling the idea of global economic stagnation is certainly an uphill battle, but these organizations are trying to force those who lament 'overconsumption' to look at the drivers of such consumption found within economic systems.
At the same time, the food crises of 2008 and 2011 have helped to spark a resurgence of interest in the population factor. The IPAT (impact = population × affluence × technology) formula (Ehrlich & Holdren 1972) and the ecological footprint concept have continued to point to the fact that population, consumption (or affluence), and technology are all factors in environmental impact and that omitting any one from consideration is a recipe for failing to take the steps necessary to achieve national or global sustainability.
Even so, despite growing evidence of global overshoot, many developed countries have acted as if there were no limits to growth of numbers or economic activity, offering financial incentives to people to have babies and increasing flows of immigration while simultaneously rationing use of water or other resources because of growing shortages, urging employers to stagger working hours because of worsening traffic jams, and taking extraordinary steps to obtain increasingly scarce, risky, and expensive energy resources.
Indeed, many economists try to scare the public in developed countries into thinking that aging populations are a problem. They describe how aging will make a nation's populace less innovative and vibrant. They wring their collective hands over the impact on the working population of having to care for so many retirees. Ultimately, they urge incentives for population growth, both to increase the birth rate and net immigration. These arguments are based on a view of the future that is, in reality, a Ponzi scheme. Endless growth of the population is impossible, and additional young people and working age immigrants will grow older and need support.
In fact, incentive programs like those in Australia, France, and Germany that rely on ever-increasing numbers of people to support the elderly or to maintain economic welfare, if they are successful, will only make the 'dependency ratio' worse by adding babies (who are 100% dependent) to the burden on the working population. Many of the elderly in most developed countries have savings that make them able to live independently for many years of retirement. More important, raising retirement ages to reflect greater longevity and working capability of the elderly and making adjustments to pension program formulas are a much faster fix for the pension burden than trying to add more children, who likely won't become productive economically for a couple of decades.
In short, we need to plan for non-growing and probably shrinking populations and not try to postpone the day when those goals are achieved. Otherwise, we face serious environmental and social problems. Indeed, if we have a climate crisis, a biodiversity crisis, a water crisis, an energy crisis, and a food crisis, no country should be trying to stimulate higher birth rates.
Vallentyne to the rescue
The demotechnic index of Vallentyne is a useful contribution to the field of sustainability because it helps one to focus on the fact that both numbers of people and their economic activities are important factors in determining whether a society can achieve sustainability. It allows quantification via energy use rather than the less easily quantified concepts of affluence, technology, and consumption. His D-index is a useful improvement on the IPAT formula.
By the 1990 D-index values presented by Mata et al. (2012), we find that the USA is the most planet-damaging country and Canada is close behind India as the sixth and fifth most damaging, respectively, when population numbers are adjusted by energy consumption.
The need to act on Vallentyne's D-index for policy purposes
The scientific evidence is clear. Humanity has a serious and complex problem. It is not just a problem of population, nor of consumption, nor of climate change, nor of peak oil, nor of fresh water scarcity, nor of food insecurity, nor of loss of biodiversity in the oceans and on land. It is all of these. Indeed, mankind's problem is that human activity has out- grown the capacity of the planet to provide the necessary resources in a sustainable way. We are drawing down capital instead of living on the interest generated by renewable resources, and we have built much of modern civilization on the basis of non- renewable resources. We now need to take steps to reduce human demands on the biosphere to sustainable levels. Vallentyne's D-index is a key tool to demonstrate the extent to which each nation must take immediate action to achieve national and global sustainability.
Because of his untimely death, Vallentyne's work is not widely known. Through this series of papers, the authors hope to change that situation.
For the complete paper, see http://www.int-res.com/articles/esep2012/12/e012p005.pdf