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What is your position on population control?

I would probably have had a different answer to that question had I not just read a stunning article in the June issue of Mother Jones Magazine The cover reads: WHO’S TO BLAME FOR THE POPULATION CRISIS? A) THE VATICAN; B) WASHINGTON; C) YOU.

The answer of course is all of the above plus plenty of unresolved and unaddressed global issues. But there’s no question about the fact that we all contribute to the problem in one way or another. For one thing, 139 million new people are added to the planet every year, which is more than the population of Japan (and almost an entire Russia.) That amounts to “…83 million extra people every year, the equivalent of another Iran.” Countering that, the number of yearly deaths is 56 million. This information is not meaningful unless you also know that we are actually “running out of topsoil 10 times faster than it can be replenished,” as well as running out of farmlands and the chemicals we use in fertilizers. Because of that, our national and global crop yield is expected to decline 20-30% over the next 80 years while the population increases dramatically.

Although news of this crisis has certainly popped up here and there on a slow day, I find it appalling that it has not been the top issue of the last two decades. I guess we are so distracted, myself included, by what appear to be more immediate (or entertaining) political and personal issues. And then, of course, there’s the big elephant in the room about the inalienable human right to reproduce as we see fit. (But in light of all this, do we really have that right? And how would you define it exactly?) Obviously China does not share that philosophy, and I have read stories of occurring and anticipated gender-imbalance in that nation.

We can toss this issue into buckets of religion, economics, or race, but it transcends all of these, and to isolate it would be inaccurate and even arrogant. For instance, we could blame countries like India for their out-of-control population, but the fact is—one American mom with two kids produces the same carbon imprint as 337 Bangladesh families of the same size. So affluence, consumerism and/or carbon imprint are a big part of the problem.

You may be surprised by this: “Whether we are a world of 8, 9.1, or 10.5 billion people in 2050 will be decided in no small part by the number of illiterate women on Earth. Of the more than 1 in 10 people who can’t read or write today, two-thirds of them are female. Locate them, and you’ll find an uncannily accurate roadmap of societal strife—of civil wars, foreign wars, the wars against reason embedded in religiosity, the wars against equality ingrained in patriarchal systems.” This is apparently because educated women naturally want to and try to control the size of their families. Though this does not address the issue of consumerism.

I could go on… but for me, this raises at least two critical questions of women like us who are already educated. First, did you understand the size and immediacy of the global population crisis and how it does and will effect us here in the U.S. as well as globally? And second, what are your (emotional and cerebral) thoughts on population control?

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