Population Matters

It’s Time to Talk

September 29th, 2011

In a media environment filled with startling new developments ranging from the truly bizarre to the truly catastrophic, the fact that population is growing is hardly news.  It’s hard to compete for airtime with the arrest of a terrorist wannabe, the release of the new Kindle Fire, or another possible government shutdown.

Nevertheless, population matters, and today we are releasing a report, “From 6 Billion to 7 Billion:  How Population Growth is Changing and Challenging our World,” on a subject that—we believe–deserves serious media attention.  And the reason is simple:  the world is changing in ways that raise serious doubts about our ability to sustain projected population growth while also improving the human condition.  The gains that we have made in reducing severe poverty, eliminating hunger, and improving health outcomes in the developing world may not be sustainable, unless more is done to empower women, educate girls, and expand the availability of contraceptives.

Twelve years ago, when world population reached the 6 billion milestone, the human prospect looked immeasurably brighter than it does today. The prices of energy and food were at or near historic lows.  As a consequence, hunger and severe poverty were on the run, and many thought that we could virtually eliminate them in twenty or thirty years.  The world was already warming, but hopes were high that the nations of the world would soon act to reduce the level of greenhouse gas emissions and avert the worst effects of climate change.  The global economy was booming, and it appeared that the U.S. and other donor nations would provide the foreign assistance that would be needed to accelerate human and economic development.  And, while there was growing concern about humanity’s impact on the global environment, many believed that world population would start to decline by mid-century and that, long before then, advances in the use of renewable energy and green technologies would reduce humanity’s ecological footprint.

But over the past 12 years, the trends have not gone according to script.  Over the past decade, food and energy prices have soared to record highs; hunger and severe poverty have made a comeback; the fight against climate change has been nearly abandoned; the global economy has been battered; economic development assistance has fallen short of expectations; water scarcity and resource limitations have become more acute; and the transition to a green economy has not been as swift as many hoped. And, in the meantime, world population keeps on growing with no end in sight.

There always have been compelling reasons for making family planning services and reproductive health services more widely available to women in the developing world.  Access to contraceptives lowers maternal and infant mortality. It increases the chances that girls will stay in school longer and that parents will send their children to school.  It allows women to enter the workforce, and for families to save and, hopefully, prosper. It improves reproductive health, and lowers the chances that family members will acquire HIV/AIDS.  Similarly, there always have been strong reasons for investing more in girls, keeping them in school longer, and delaying age of marriage.  Female empowerment and gender equality have been, and remain, moral and social imperatives.

But despite the manifest benefits and the moral imperatives the world has moved too slowly to fulfill the pledges made at the International Conference on Population and Development that was held in Cairo in 1994.  And while MDG5(b) sets 2015 as the target year for achieving universal access to family planning and other reproductive health services, that target is far from being met.

The events of the past decade should have lent more urgency to family planning and investment in girls and reproductive health, but so far they have not.  It’s our hope that our report and the observance of the 7 billion population mark will help to create that sense of urgency.  That’s why we are joining with other organizations in declaring that “It’s time to talk.”

The world largest generation ever of young people is now entering its prime reproductive years.  We owe it to them, and their posterity, to provide them with the reproductive health and rights that they desire.  But it won’t happen without a greater sense of urgency and commitment from the U.S. and other donor nations.

Posted by Robert J. Walker, Executive Vice President

5 Responses to “It’s Time to Talk”

  1. Steven Earl Salmony Says:

    Despite all the vendors of words, please now, hark the deafening silence regarding the science of human creatureliness and human population dynamics.

  2. Alan Stedall Says:

    I wholeheartedly endorse the entire content and sentiment of this article.

    However, before gaining “time to talk” we need to have this vital issue placed on agendas at the right (international) levels.

    We face a **global** threat, very possibly the greatest in the entire history of our species, yet those environmental groups dedicated to the issue of population concern remain nationally based and largely nationally focused.

    A good start point to “raise the game” on this issue would be to create a pan-national “umbrella” Population Concern organisation, to which relevant national organisations could affiliate, thereby to pool resources, avoid duplication of effort and permit orchestratation of international campaigns at national levels.

    Which national population concern organisation is best placed to take such the lead in setting up such an umbrella organisation ?

  3. Steven Earl Salmony Says:

    Perhaps our problem is derived from having a corporate plutocracy and not a democratic country. We face a colossal, human-induced global predicament. Emerging and converging ecological challenges, that we have chosen to ignore rather than acknowledge during my lifetime, are in large part the result of the way either silence or else politically correct BS has been and continues to be employed by ‘the powers that be’ and their many absurdly enriched minions in the mass media to prevail over science. Hysterical blindness, willful deafness and elective mutism of knowledgeable human beings with feet of clay rule the world every bit as much as malignant narcissism, pathological arrogance and extreme foolishness of greedmongering masters of the universe and their overly educated sycophants rule the world. This pernicious situation is as intolerable as it is dangerous to future human well being and environmental health.

  4. Steven Earl Salmony Says:

    For human beings to count human population numbers is simple, really simple. The population dynamics of human beings with feet of clay are obvious and fully comprehensible. We have allowed ourselves to be dazzled by the BS of demographers just the way human beings have been deceived and victimized by the economists on Wall Street. Demographers and economists are not scientists. ‘The brightest and the best’ have sold their souls to greedmongers, duped the rest of us, made it difficult to see what is real, proclaimed what is known to be knowable as unknowable, engaged in the their own brands of alchemy. In their dishonest and duplicitous efforts to please the self-proclaimed masters of the universe, also known as the keepers of the ‘golden calf’ (a symbol now easily visible as the “raging bull” on Wall Street), they perpetrate frauds at everyone else’s expense, threaten the children’s future, put life as we know it at risk, and are consciously, deliberately, actively precipitating the destruction of Earth as a fit place for human habitation. Never in the course of human events have so few taken so much from so many and left so little for others.

    There are many too many overly educated “wise guys” among us who see the blessed world we inhabit through the lens of their own hubris and selfishness, and see themselves somehow as Homo sapiens sapiens and masters of the universe, as corporate kings and emperor’s with clothes. They supposedly are the brightest and best, the smartest guys in the room, like the guy who used to run the global political economy without recognizing that there was an “ideological flaw” in his economic theories and models, the same guy who reported he could not name 5 guys smarter than himself. These are the guys who have sold their souls, denied science, abjectly failed humanity, forsaken life as we know it, the Earth and God. These ideologues rule the world now and can best be characterized by their malignant narcissism, pathological arrogance, risky addictions, extreme foolishness and wanton greed.

  5. Steven Earl Salmony Says:

    Much more intellectual honesty, moral courage and humane action is needed. We are about to become a species of 7 billion overconsumers, overproducers and overpopulaters on a finite and frangible planet where its resources are dissipating and environs degrading rapidly.

    During my lifetime, when human numbers explode from less than 3 bn to 7+ bn worldwide, many experts may not have known enough about what they were talking about when they spoke of human population dynamics and all causes of the human overpopulation of Earth. Their research appears not to be scientific, but rather issues from ideological or totalitarian thinking, or from specious group-think consensus. Their all-too-attractive thinking, as viewed by greedmongers, is willfully derived from what is politically convenient, economically expedient, socially agreeable, religiously tolerable and culturally prescribed. Widely broadcast and long-accepted thinking of a surprisingly large number of so-called experts in the field of population dynamics appears to have an unscientific foundation and is likely wrong. Their preternatural theorizing about the population dynamics of the human species appears to be both incomplete and misleading. Most disturbing of all, a widely shared and consensually validated theory about a “demographic transition” four decades from now is directly contradicted by unchallenged scientific research. As a consequence, and it is a pernicious consequence, a woefully inadequate thinking and fundamentally flawed theory was broadcast during my lifetime and continues to be broadcast everywhere by the mainstream media as if it is not only science but the best available scientific evidence. The implications of this unfortunate behavior, inasmuch as it appears to be based upon a colossal misperception of what could somehow be real regarding the human population, appear profound. This failure of nerve has slowed the momentum needed to confront a formidable, human-driven global predicament.

    In their elective mutism regarding an astonishing error, are first class professional researchers with expertise in population dynamics behaving badly by allowing the “ninety-nine percenters” to be misguided and led down a primrose path by the “one percenters”? The power of silence on the part of knowledgeable human beings with feet of clay is dangerous because research is being denied that appears to shed light upon a dark, non-recursive biological problem, the understanding of which appears vital to future human well being and environmental health. Too many experts appear to be ignoring science regarding the human population and instead consciously through their silence consenting to the leviathan scale and unbridled expansion of global overproduction, overconsumption and overpopulation activities that are being adamantly advocated and relentlessly pursued by greedmongering masters of the universe, the tiny minority among us who are primarily responsible for ravaging the Earth, ruining its environs and reducing its fitness for habitation by the children. If this assessment of human behavior is indeed a fair representation of what is happening on our watch, then the desire to preserve the status quo, mainly the selfish interests of ‘the powers that be’, could be at least one basis for so much intellectually dishonest and morally bereft behavior. Could it be that the outrageous per capita overconsumption, large-scale corporate overproduction and unrestricted overpopulation activities of the human species worldwide cannot continue much longer on a planet with the size, composition and ecology of a finite and frangible planet like Earth?

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