On October 31st, Halloween, the world’s population will reach 7 billion people. In the coming week there will be an onslaught of stories in the news around the world that will range from “the end is nigh” to “here’s to 7 billion more” and everything in between. With so many stories to read saying so many different things it may be hard to get a clear grasp on what 7 billion really means and why you should care.
Luckily Grist, the popular on-line environmental magazine, has found a fun and informative way to break down what 7 billion really means without being overly simplistic. “7 Billion, Unpacked—A Comic” does a masterful job of laying out why the 7 billion milestone is important and what needs to be done. By focusing on both the population growth expected in the developing world and the much larger impact of population growth in the developed world, the Grist comic talks about population and consumption in a balanced and insightful way.
While recognizing the challenge posed by population growth, it focuses primarily on the successes of the past and the benefits of continuing to expand family planning options for women. It notes that fertility rates fell from 5 children per woman in 1950 to 2.5 per woman today because of the smart investments that were made in girls’ education, family planning, reproductive health care, and the economic empowerment of women.
The comic notes that birth rates will continue to fall if we make the right investments. First, we must make sure that the 215 million women in the developing world who don’t want to get pregnant—and who are not using a modern method of birth control—get the family planning services and information they need. Second we must work to reduce unintended pregnancies in the U.S., where nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended. The comic says we can so by reducing the price of prescription birth control and providing comprehensive sex education, rather than abstinence-only instruction. If we make these investments we will produce smaller and healthier families…and help to save the planet at the same time.
Best of all, the comic tells the reader what he or she can do:
- Push your leaders to support family planning and abroad. (You can start by signing our Million for a Billion petition to tell Congress and world leaders to boost support for international family planning.)
- Be conscientious in deciding how many kids to have—no decision you’ll ever make has larger environmental implications.
- Don’t pressure other people to have kids. Give everyone the space to decide what is right for them.
- Push for better sex education in schools, and be frank with teens about sex and birth control.
- Don’t be afraid to talk about population. It’s time to bust through that taboo. (One place to do that is Population 7 Billion, It’s Time to Talk.)
So check out the great comic and then take action!
Posted by Jennie Wetter, Program Manager