Many folks I work with think the globe's population is the elephant in the room--the overwhelming cause of pressures on our world's resources and obstacle to preventing global climate change. I think we can do more than refrain from personally contributing more children to the planet.

It's well documented that as standard of living increases, family size decreases. So wouldn't it make sense to work ever harder to help raise families out of poverty?

And wouldn't it make sense to make family planning services more widely available? Even if our government won't, what keeps us from opening our checkbooks?

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this friend speaks my mind!
When I worked in El Salvador, most of the families were large. When I mentioned wanting to have 1 child, the immediate response was "what will you do if she dies?". That is life in poor countries.

I also know that my daughter and I contribute more to global warming than any of those families.

We need to support groups like Right Sharing of World Resources while working to decrease our own carbon footprint.
I support Right Sharing. It's a fine group. I agree about decreasing our carbon footprint, too.
Thanks so much. I have been trying to reduce the meat in my family's diet and am more motivated now.
I agree, changing poverty is probably more important than even family planning programs. And, changing lifestyles in the US particularly is paramount. I can't stand the racist notion that Mexicans coming here is a population/envrionmental issue because they will use more stuff like all Americans once they've settled - there is so much wrong with that notion, as if it's fine that white people (mostly) are using it, but becomes a problem when brown people do.

I don't know how we change that though. There's much we can do as individuals (like drive less, bike more, eat less meat, buy secondhand, etc) but the culture needs to shift radically, and much of it we can't help but be complicit with.
I agree wholeheartedly with this post. However, I think the word "overpopulation" is a problem, despite the undeniable condition we're in of human beings straining the world's resources way past breaking point. It's an inherently violent idea. It implies that "we" (who is we?) would be better off if half the world's population didn't exist. I don't say this as an accusation. I used to go around talking about overpopulation all the time. I was haunted by it as a young adult. I resolved never to have children. Then I wrote my dissertation about it and learned what a complicated and counter-intuitive problem it is.

The old idea of Malthus was that if you feed people they just breed and then you have more problems. Of course, no one here is suggesting anything like that, but libertarians still admire Malthus, and his ideas are taught in economics and public policy courses in universities. But the problem is that he was completely wrong. Poverty causes population growth, as everyone here has said. Educating women and making sure they have access to contraception and good health care, preventing infant mortality, these are the ways to reduce population growth. So why not approach the issue with these goals alone, because talking about "overpopulation" is a third rail politically anyway. Conservative Christians think you want to force people to have abortions, and some progressives think it is inherently imperialist because the rich (who have low or no population growth) contribute far more to fossil fuel emissions.

Because that raises the second issue. As a nation becomes wealthier and family size diminishes, fossil fuel emissions increase. China's fossil fuel emissions are rising a lot faster than population these days. So even if we achieve the end of poverty by educating and caring for women and children, and population growth declines or ends, we still have to teach humanity to stop polluting and conserve resources. There's many facets to the diamond, but all of them can be approached through positive life-affirming language and projects rather than the counter-productive concept of "overpopulation."


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