Population Matters

Day 9: From Mother Earth to Mothers 17 Days of Action

April 30th, 2011

Day 9 – Follow @million4billion

If you have signed the “Million for a Billion” petition that’s great, but if you want to stay engaged, you need to stay informed.  You need to know what’s the U.S. and other donor nations are doing about family planning and reproductive health.  And you need to know what others are doing to build public support for the petition.  The best way to do that is to receive automatic updates.  Be sure to sign up http://www.twitter.com/million4billion.

The Great Indian Paradox

April 30th, 2011

India, as the world’s second most populous nation, is a land of great paradox. Few nations hold as much promise as India, but few face challenges that loom as large as India’s. Tomorrow’s India, to paraphrase Charles Dickens, may be the best of times, or the worst of times. On my visit this week to Mumbai, the paradox is evident. India’s rising prosperity is clearly visible in the new construction that is turning this city, once known as Bombay, into an impressive gleaming mega-city at its core. But Mumbai, like much of urban India, is still struggling to meet the needs of a large and growing population of urban poor. 

The key question, the question that is at the heart of this rapidly emerging nation, is whether its impressive economic growth can keep pace with the needs and demands of a still rapidly growing population. 

A few weeks ago, India released the preliminary results of a decennial census that indicated that its population has reached the 1.2 billion mark, an increase of 181 million in the last decade. That’s still short of the 1.34 billion reported earlier this month by China, but the gap is rapidly closing. By 2025, it’s currently projected that India’s population, at 1.4 billion, will surpass China’s. And many demographers believe that India‘s population, despite a continuing decline in its fertility rate, will not stabilize its population until 2050 or later. 

It matters not whether India will soon lay claim title to being the most populous nation in the world, but it matters a lot whether India’s population growth will overtake its ability to feed its people, and whether its continued prosperity is sustainable. 

There are some disturbing signs that India may be starting to lose the race. Its Economic Survey reported earlier this year that the per capita availability of cereal grains was 423 grams per day in 2000, but only 407 in 2009. And in recent months, India–like many other nations in Asia–has been fighting a furious battle with food inflation. 

While India’s grain reserves remain ample, its consumers have not been immune from the worldwide jump in food prices. Domestic food prices in India have increased at a double-digit rate, straining the budgets of the urban poor,many of whom  live on less than $1.25 a day. Thus far those strains have been manageable, but many experts believe that the current bump-up in food prices is just the latest chapter in an emerging–and chronic–global food crisis that could grow far worse in the decades ahead. 

Looking ahead, India’s farmers face a daunting challenge. The gains of the “green revolution” will be imperiled by falling water levels, declining runoff from melting glaciers, loss of farmland to urbanization, the effects of climate change, and the ever rising price of fuel and fertilizer. 

India, like the rest of the world, needs to find its own formula for food security and sustainable prosperity. And in India, as in much of the developing world, a lot depends on the welfare and status of women and girls. If girls can be kept in schools longer, if the age of marriage can be delayed, and if girls and women can be given the access they want to family planning and reproductive health services, then there is every reason to hope that India’s future is bright. 

But the treatment of girls and women in rural India, particularly in the north, while improved in recent decades, still has a long ways to go. One indicator of the status of women in India is found in the declining sex ratio, as couples elect to abort girl fetuses. Another is found in the child mortality rate. Between birth and age four, girls die at a rate that is about one-third higher than boys. 

Fortunately, the welfare of the “girl-child” in India is not being ignored. I met earlier this week in Mumbai with S.V. Sista, the founder of Population First, and Dr. A. L. Sharada, the organization’s program director, to talk about their valiant efforts to improve the status of women in India and ultimately stabilize India’s population. While acknowledging the enormity of the challenge, they maintain a determined optimism. They hope that by raising public awareness, enlisting the support of news and entertainment media, and working at the community level to cultivate the leadership of women, that rapid gains can be made. 

Let’s hope so. As India’s status in the world rises, so do the global stakes. India’s quest for sustainable prosperity is now the world’s quest. If India’s quest for continued prosperity is overtaken by a global food crisis, it’s not just India’s urban poor that will suffer, the whole world will suffer. India’s paradox is the world’s paradox. The future still holds a lot of promise, but it also holds great peril. And much depends on whether India–and the rest of the world–can continue to improve the welfare and status of girls and women. 

Posted by Robert J. Walker, Executive Vice President

Day 8: From Mother Earth to Mothers 17 Days of Action

April 29th, 2011

Day 8 – Tell Congress You Support Family Planning

The United Nations has set 2015 as the target year for achieving universal access to family planning and reproductive health services, but if that target is to be reached the U.S. and other donor nations need to boost their financial support.  The U.S., for its part, needs to increase its annual commitment to $1 billion.  We’re not there yet.  This year, the U.S. is spending only $715 million.  If you think family planning and reproductive health care is essential to the health and wellbeing of being women and their families in the developing world, it’s time to let your Representatives in Congress know how you feel. So write, tweet your Representatives or post on your Representatives Facebook pages. Let them know it’s important!

Day 7: From Mother Earth to Mothers 17 Days of Action

April 28th, 2011

Day 7: Show You are One in a Million

If you have already signed the “Million for a Billion” petition campaign, which seeks to boost support for family planning and reproductive health care services, that’s great!  But don’t stop there.  The campaign’s goal of collecting one million signatures in 2011 is not going to be achieved unless you and others signers spread the word to your friends.  So go ahead and let all your Facebook and Twitter friends know that you “One of a Million for a Billion” by changing your profile picture. You can post a picture of yourself holding a sign saying “One of a Million for a Billion” or use of the pictures below.  It might just change the world.

Day 6: From Mother Earth to Mothers 17 Days of Action

April 27th, 2011

Day 6: Sign the Petition and Become One in a Million for a Billion

If you believe that everyone should have access to contraceptives and reproductive health services you are not alone.  More than 20 organizations advocating for international family planning assistance have joined together in an effort to collect a million signatures this year in support of a $1 billion U.S. appropriation for international family planning assistance.  That’s the minimum investment that’s need if the world is going to achieve universal access of family planning and reproductive health services by 2015 (the target year set the U.N. as part of the Millennium Development Goals).  Sign the petition and help us collect a million signatures this year.


Day 5: From Mother Earth to Mothers 17 Days of Action

April 26th, 2011

Day 5 – Watch “Empty Handed”

The United Nations estimates that there are 215 million women in the development world who want to avoid a pregnancy, but who are not currently using a modern method of birth control.  The reasons for this vary, but in some developing countries, women have to travel long distances to obtain family planning services, and when the clinic may be out of contraceptives supplies.  Population Action International, with the support of the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition, last year produced a powerful and compelling video in Uganda that puts a very human face on this very serious problem.  Watch the movie.


Day 4: From Mother Earth to Mothers 17 Days of Action

April 25th, 2011

Day 4 – Tell Us Why Family Planning is Important to the Planet

Preventing unwanted and unintended pregnancies is important to the health and welfare of women and their families, but it’s also important in many cases to the health of the environment.  In some developing countries, for example, population pressures are contributing to deforestation.  Tell us (via Twitter (#mil4bil), Facebook, blog comments, or YouTube video) why you think family planning is important to the future of the planet.

Day 3: From Mother Earth to Mothers 17 Days of Action

April 24th, 2011

Day Three – Find Your Impact on the Planet

Every human on the planet has an ecological footprint (EF), but they are not all the same size.   Environment impact is a product of both human numbers and the level of human consumption. People living in an industrialized country, like the United States, have a much larger EF than people living in the developed world.  That’s because we consume on average a lot more of the world’s resources.  The Global Footprint Network has developed a tool that allows you to measure your own footprint. Measuring your footprint is only one step, but an important step in assessing how human activity is affecting the planet.

Calculate your footprint: http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/calculators/

Day 2: From Mother Earth to Mothers 17 Days of Action

April 23rd, 2011

Day Two – See How Population and Climate Change Relate

Climate change and population dynamics interact in profound ways and will continue to do so over the next decades. Population Action International has created an amazing interactive mapping tool that will enable you to see how climate change will affect people and the environment, and how the projected population will change in both the short and long term. By looking at this tool you are able to gain an understanding as to the importance of including family planning and reproductive health care in any climate change response. As part of the 17 days of action linking Earth Day (April 22) to Mother’s Day (May 8), endorsers and supporters of the “Million for a Billion” are encouraging people to take the guided tour of the Population Action International population and climate change map.

Take a guided tour:  http://www.populationaction.org/Publications/Interactive_Databases/climate_map.shtml

Day 1: From Mother Earth to Mothers 17 Days of Action

April 22nd, 2011

Day 1–Read an Earth Day Blog

Earth Day is a time to reflect on Mother Earth, but it’s also a good time to reflect on how the treatment of women, girls and mothers is inextricably linked to the environment.  Family planning and reproductive health care is essential for healthy mothers, healthy families, and, ultimately, a healthy planet.  They are inseparable.  As part of the 17 days of action linking Earth Day (April 22) to Mother’s Day (May 8), endorsers and supporters of the “Million for a Billion” petition campaign are taking this message to the blogosphere.

Read here:

Population, Climate Change, and Women

The Revolution We Need in Food Security and Population

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