THE CROWDED PLANET
ZERO POPULATION GROWTH OF GREATER BOSTON
Volume 11, Issue 4 July/August 2001

Table Of Contents

In The News

Editorial

Feature Articles

About Us


Update on Contraceptive Coverage Bill

This bill is now in the Massachusetts legislature. Sharon Wilcox recently interviewed Lisa Gurgone, Legislative Aide for Rep. Anne Paulson (D-Arlington/Belmont) about the bill.

Q) What is the status of the Contraceptive Coverage bill?

A) It must be reintroduced to the Health Care Committee. There will be a public hearing.

Q) I attended a "Coalition for Choice" meeting and although it is a group of professional, able women who are working hard on this bill, they seem to be getting nowhere. My feeling is this bill is dead in the water because Rep. Finneran (Speaker of the House) is opposed to it. I hear if he doesn't like a bill, it never sees the light of day. Is this true?

A) Yes, but public opinion does influence legislators to vote a certain way. For example, he was not for the "Beaches Bill" (to test water at public beaches) but the legislators each got hundreds of letters and phone calls in support of this bill and it passed.

Q) So this is an effective strategy?

A) Yes, and I would call legislators on the day of the public hearing to support the bill.

Q) Do our governors keep leaving the state because it is run so undemocratically, and the Speaker holds the real power?

A) (smiles) The President of the Senate, Senator Birmingham, runs a very democratic Senate.

Q) I hear if you don't tow the line you end up with an office in the basement with few aides. Rep. Paulson has a reputation for being very independent and votes her conscience. Where is her office located and how many aides does she have?

A) (smiles) Her office is in the basement and she has one aide.

Q) This bill would only cover working women who have insurance, but it has been shown that the huge population increase in Massachusetts is from low income and/or non-working mothers who probably don't have insurance. Would this bill help them get birth control and if not, how will it help those most in need?

A) It would only cover those with insurance. But I see it as a civil rights issue that would give women equity. Viagra is covered by health insurance. I am unsure whether birth control is covered by Medicaid. [It is covered by Medicaid and by the Title X ("Title Ten") program, which still needs more funding. –Editor]

Q) So it would be like a domino effect, to help one segment of the population and hopefully the rest would be covered eventually?

A) Yes.

Current Status: The Contraceptive Coverage bill was heard in the Insurance Committee Wednesday, May 30. Planned Parenthood, as well as other organizations and individuals, testified at the hearing. A representative of PP said the day seemed to go quite well.


Next Meeting

The next chapter meeting of ZPG/Boston will be at the home of Sharon Wilcox, at 7:00PM on Monday, July 16. The theme of the meeting is "Coalition Building". It will be a potluck supper, so bring a dish if you can. Sharon lives at 1 Stewart Terrace in Belmont; her telephone number is 617-484-0692.


Conference Supporters Welcome

New England Coalition for a Sustainable Population (NECSP) will be having a planning meeting for a "State of the World and What You Can Do" conference at Brandeis University on Sunday, July 8, 2001. Call or email Susan Byant (781-383-9094, susangbryant@yahoo.com) if you're interested in attending.

High Female Literacy Equals Low Birthrate

Sharon Wilcox

The People's Home Library, published in 1917, was a reference book covering all aspects of life. An entire chapter was devoted to the "Women's Department", covering such topics as diseases, menopause, pregnancy, and so on. Under "Prevention of Conception", there were only two words of advice for those women who didn't want too many children. "DON'T MARRY!"
 

In 1917, women had many children because they had no choice. Fortunately, we now do have a choice. As the world becomes more and more crowded, that choice is a determining factor in the quality of life (standard of living) for people in many countries. In the year 2001, women who don't have access to information about family planning—and thus unaware of birth control—seem to be living as women did in previous centuries: having more children than they wanted because they have no other options.

I believe that when a woman knows that she has the capability to limit her pregnancies, she will. To test this hypothesis, I studied the correlation between literacy rates and birth rates in 50 countries. There is a definite link, as can be easily determined by viewing the corresponding data and chart. The countries with the higher literacy rates have lower birth and infant mortality rates. The lower the literacy rate, the higher the birth rate and infant mortality rate.

While examining the countries with the lowest literacy rates, one also sees a connection between exploding population growth, loss of natural habitat and poverty.

As a case in point, I came across an excerpt from a speech given in Rwanda, Africa in 1984 by President Habyarimana. The occasion was the 15th anniversary of Akagera Park, made famous by Dian Fossey's mountain gorilla studies. The pressure was on President Habyarimana to allow the expanding human population to utilize this refuge for farming, which he refused to do. He said, in part:

"…We must participate intensely in the battle for protection of the environment. We strive to maintain the balances which we consider vital—the balance between population and food supply, the socio-ecological balance, and the cultural balance. We are handicapped by our population growth, the exhaustion of our arable land, and the modest dimensions of our territory. In the face of these challenges to develop, we risk being tempted to turn easy solutions which do not take into account ecological problems…
[If we allow human settlement] the natural balances in this region would be quickly disturbed by a massive human influx. The consequences would be incalculable, but most certainly disastrous."
Rwanda is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa. It has a population of 7.3 million in a country smaller than the state of Maryland. It has a high infant mortality rate (107 per 1000), a high birth rate (39 per 1000), and one of the lowest literacy rates (50%).

Another example of the literacy/birthrate connection can be seen if you compare the literacy and fertility rates (average number of children a women will have) of India and Italy. India has a literacy rate of 52% (37% for women) and a fertility rate of 3.1. Italy has a literacy rate of 97% (for both men and women) and a fertility rate of 1.2. The one exception is in the south Indian state of Kerala, where years of support for education of girls have led to a nearly 100% literacy rate and a fertility rate nearly the same as in the United States.

In conclusion, my research indicates that high literacy rates produce low birth rates. The chart on this page illustrates the point. The literacy rate data points are diamonds, the infant mortality rates are triangles, and the birth rates are squares. The numbers on the bottom axis are projected 2000 population change.My sources are listed below. Most of my statistical information came from the first two.


Simultaneities

Last year at about this time we conducted a stimulating interview with Eric Brown, head of communications at The Center for a New American Dream. Since then the Center has continued to grow in exciting directions. This month's Simultaneities interview is with Betsy Taylor, the Center's Executive Director. Betsy is a dedicated advocate for the environment, and an inspired speaker and writer. Here she expands further on the Center's aims, philosophy and future goals.

Betsy: So I understand from what you have told me that your audience includes not only ZPG supporters, but also the broader activist community interested in the nexus between sustainability and population at the global level, as well as in terms of what all that may mean in their own lives.

Lee: Right. And the first question that comes to mind, Betsy, is how can one even begin to measure something so amorphous as "overconsumption?"

Betsy: Well, we have found ways of measuring it. The Center now has an agenda to work both with individuals and with institutions. So some of what we're doing is broad-based with individuals, and some of it is more targeted—working, for example, with local government agencies, churches, and synagogues. Next, within that context, some of our programs focus on reducing consumption, whereas others are focused on changing people's consumption habits to include buying more grain, and more sustainable goods. We feel that the long-term vision requires us to work with a variety of sectors to reduce and shift consumption, not just reduce it. We can't all just reduce. That would undermine the economy.

Lee: I went back on to the New Dream web site today and took your puzzle tour again. There is so much there. It reminded me how much more I still have to learn.

Betsy: Yes, me too. There is such interconnection between the issues.

Lee: I couldn't help but notice that population was a major piece of the puzzle as well.

Betsy: Of course. Population is the other side of the consumption issue. The Center started out with this commitment to help individuals and institutions reduce and shift consumption to improve quality of life and protect the environment. When we began we were working a lot around raising the issue with the general public, through media campaigns and through a variety of programs and publications. During the past year we've put a new emphasis on institutional change. So I think that as a small nonprofit we see ourselves as a catalyst, helping larger institutions to embrace this work. For example, we recently began a new outreach program with institutions of faith. Similarly, we have started a program focusing on local government. We convened a meeting at the White House Conference Center with EPA and the White House Task Force on Recycling, and brought together the best local-government programs on environmental procurement.

Lee: Is that task force appointed by the President?

Betsy: Yes. And by Fran McPoland, the chief environmental procurement officer for the federal government. We brought together many counties, cities, and states to look at how we can take the $385 billion worth of purchasing that local governments do, and redirect even a small amount of that toward sustainable products and goods. We had at least $15 billion worth of purchasing power at that meeting, and as a result of the meeting we now have a whole new network that the Center will be staffing over the next year. The network will involve state, county, and city government procurement programs dedicated to using taxpayer dollars to move markets in more sustainable directions.

Lee: Procurement means "buying things," correct?

Betsy: Yes, it's essentially looking at what the government has to buy. Part of what the Center is trying to do is help people realize that we need to challenge the "more is better" definition of the American Dream.

Lee: And I suppose we could include the number of children in a family within that traditional definition.

Betsy: Yes. Of course we see that part from the point of view of more people consuming more things. We need to consume less of the things that are causing extraordinary environmental damage. And part of it is buying differently. According to the EPA, if you combine all the things the cities, counties, and states buy in order to keep government functioning, it's about $385 billion annually.

Lee: Nationally?

Betsy: Yes. At our conference, for example, we had the states of California, Minnesota, Vermont, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and others. We had representatives from the District of Columbia, Seattle, Oakland, and others. And we had King County in Washington. When you look at the purchasing power of just those, if they all decide that their police forces and public works departments should be running with electric vehicles, the amount of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere would be phenomenal. Or, if they all decide they are going to go for 100 percent unbleached, recycled paper, we would save hundreds of thousands of trees, if not more.

And they do need paper. And they do need cars. So this is a case of buying differently. It's the same for individuals, of course. But the power of institutions doing it is significant.

Lee: Right. And this ties in with the "ecological footprint" concept. On your website you state that we would need the resources and absorptive capacity of four more earths in order for the six billion human beings now occupying the planet to live the lifestyle of the average American. What proportion of the population of this country now do you think is aware of this?

Betsy: I think it's still small. We did some focus groups and polling, and we are going to be doing some more in the next year. But from the initial research, it seems very clear that most Americans know we're wasteful. And they're very concerned about the environment. But they haven't yet made the connection between our extraordinary focus on acquisition and material goods, and the environment. They just haven't focused on consumption and the environment. However, a growing number are getting it. There are lots of polls that show a growing number of Americans are becoming conscious of both the health and environmental effects of consuming, and that they are trying to seek out green products.

Lee: This is why the name of your center is so appropriate. The continued global pursuit of the old American Dream now means certain ecological catastrophe. So, we clearly need a new one. But if you stop the average person in the street, and say, "Can we continue to consume more and more resources, increase the number of people consuming those resources, and still leave future generations a decent quality of life?" What do you think would be their most likely response? "No, but there's nothing I can do about it." Or "That's news to me." Or "You're nuts."

Betsy: What we found with our research so far is that, first, people don't know. But then, within about five minutes, they get it. When you talk about Brazil, Mexico, China, all doing what we're doing. You know, if everybody lived the way the average American lives, people get it very quickly. They know we have a throwaway culture. They know we have a culture that's built on massive packaging. Lots of stuff. And they know there's something wrong with that.

Lee: But do they see the connection between never ending growth and the loss of their political freedoms, too? Because someday it will reach the point where people will even be willing to trade those away for some measure of material security.

Betsy: I don't know how far they travel along that spectrum of understanding. But people do want to help, yet feel a little paralyzed by how big this is. And they don't want to have to do fifty things. They'd love to do three or four. So the Center is trying to focus on giving people the ability to do just that. I don't know if Eric Brown mentioned it, but we actually have a new program for individuals called "Step By Step".

Lee: Yes, he did. And I'm trying to do some of those steps myself. I'm washing clothes in cold water, anyway. On the other hand, I'm still an avid meat eater, and I suppose that's my downfall.

Betsy: Well, everybody is on the path in a different place, and you don't have to do it all at once. You can take a couple of steps, and when other people are doing it too, it begins to really make a difference. One of the things we will be coming out with this summer is a program called "Turn the Tide: Nine Actions for the Planet". These are actions that several scientists have endorsed and Rocky Mountain Institute has reviewed, to say of all the things you can do as a person looking at this relationship between consuming and earth, these are nine that really matter. If we can get millions of Americans to do them, it will have a dramatic impact. And that's what we're going to try to do. And we would love ZPG to promote them as well.

Lee: Well, we'll do everything we can.

Betsy: That would be a huge help. We are going to be publicizing the progress we make on the website. In fact, anybody who wants to do these nine actions will be able to have private space on our website just for them, where they can track their personal progress.

Lee: In the meantime though, anyone online can go to your website, and sign up for the Step By Step program. It's easy to do; it's free. And each month they will get something new to do that's relatively accessible and easy for them to do. If everyone is working on it at some level, that would be great.

Betsy: Yes, I think that's the critical thing. We're all in this together. Everybody needs to do something. And we need to know that we are connected to others, literally all over the world, who are beginning to take this on. And we are part of what author Joanna Macy calls "the great turning." We must figure out how to operate, in our homes and in our institutions and in our larger culture, so that our economy and our daily lives aren't undermining the ability of the earth to sustain us. And that's going to take some real behavior change.

Lee: To quote you from the web, "We must start from ourselves. The stakes may be our global environment, but the issue is fundamentally one of justice and responsibility."

Betsy: Right.

Lee: As for population, we have to learn to manage our population in such a way that everyone can have adequate access to the available resources. That would seem to be the other side of sustainability.

Betsy: Yes, it all has to happen together. It's inseparable. We must stabilize, and I would argue, reverse the trend in population. We've got to go down in numbers, I think.

Lee: But a lot of people are saying, "This isn't America's problem. The US is losing population. Some are worried now we aren't adding enough people. But apparently the President's Council on Sustainable Development in 1996 found out that we're adding the equivalent of another Connecticut to our country every year. And another California every decade.

Betsy:Yes, I don't know who thinks we're growing too slowly. I guess some people think that Germany or Italy might be in trouble.

Lee: Well, I was surprised to find out that we still have one of the highest birth rates in the industrialized world. And of course the connection with consumption here is that in their lifetime one of our children consumes more than 30 or 40 times as much as children in developing nations do.

Betsy: Yes. That is a great connection, because not only is our birth rate so high, but our impact per person is so much higher than, say, the average Indian or the average Nigerian or the average Indonesian.

Lee: And the solution lies in approaching the problem from all these different angles at once, which will include educating women and raising standards of health and so forth, in our own country and around the world.

Betsy: Yes. I also think another point of connection is just to realize that in the bigger cosmology of things we need to ask ourselves why are we here, and what is it which is most uplifting and fulfilling about being a human. I'm getting kind of theoretical here.

Lee: I don't think so. I agree with you.

Betsy: When we ask ourselves these deeper questions, and allow ourselves to surrender to the old-fashioned notion of love, that in some ways at our core our DNA tells us we should be about love. We should be about compassion and kindness. And connecting deeply with each other. Then, a lot of these issues become totally connected because then we are, out of that value, deeply committed to improving the well-being of the women and children and families that need family planning.

And on this side, if we can get to that place where we look at questions like: Why are we futilely attempting to meet so many of our nonmaterial needs materially? Why are we chasing after so much stuff, when our relationships don't have enough time, when we don't have enough time for fun, for being, for singing, for hanging out with our kids? If we could pull back from the rat race of the chase for more, and focus again on these underlying, true wants, for love, for community, for time with our families and friends, then we can disconnect from this sort of crazy, constant sense that we never have enough. When in fact we have so much. I mean, that's a theoretical connection, but I think if you look beneath the surface a bit, at the core of all this, it's about the well-being of humans, worldwide.

In the West, that means maybe our well being will be greatly increased by reducing our reliance on stuff a little bit, and increasing our reliance on each other, and our time together. In the developing world, on the other hand, it's really about investing resources and improving the material security of those who don't have enough.

Lee: But in such a way that we are not just cloning our own patterns of consumption.

Betsy: Exactly.

Lee: Do you think it's possible to really get these problems solved with the nation state system the way it is right now, with such a fragmented sense of political identity around the world? You know, I understand why we have some very arguable fears about totalitarianism and one-world government and all of that. But at the same time, how the heck do we ever get to the point of cooperation we need to reach?

Betsy: Well, it's a great question. I know a lot of people think we are out of our minds to take on the economy and culture of consumption. So we're not ready to take on the nation state structure yet.

Lee: Yes. But can we do one without the other, in the larger context?

Betsy: Well, I think we can. I think that we are at the beginning of what's going to be a fifty- to a hundred-year turning. And that the turning will happen in many, many places. It's going to be with individual behavior, institutional change, policy change. And maybe it will also include reform of democracy and governments. I think of what happened when the astronaut—I believe his name was Charles Barney, though I'm not certain I have the name right—went up and had a transformative experience while orbiting in the shuttle. He saw there were no boundaries. And he saw that the boundaries are all artificial. And that this is an incredibly fragile, beautiful planet.

I think we have to bring that sort of vision to our work. Even if we in our lifetime can't change the nation state structure, I think we have to see in our hearts that we are all interconnected at a deep, deep level. Not only humans, but also other beings, share a profound interdependence. I think we have to approach our work that way; whether or not we have to transform the nation state structure I don't know.

At the Center, we have tried to open our doors as broadly as we can. We feel that this is a lifetime set of questions we're asking. How much is enough? How should we live so that we are living sustainably and with joy in our hearts? How do we support the institutions that we are connected to? We're encouraging people to start where they're at, and to move along a spectrum of change. Some people want to take fifty steps. Some people, for a variety of constraints, feel they can only take . . . three. But we are going to cheer them on, whether they take three or fifty. And constantly create the space for them to take one more.

Lee: Right.

Betsy: (Laughs) We're still trying to take some of them ourselves; we haven't gotten there yet either. But I think our challenge is that we may have just enough time to turn the current patterns around. I think we've already overshot the capacity of the earth in many ways. Otherwise, one in eight plant species wouldn't have already been lost. So, clearly, there is a great urgency for everyone to get involved.

On the other hand, the Center has found that people need to balance their sense of urgency with a sense of genuine hope. And so we also need to celebrate the good news. For example, the complete reinvention of building codes, and a gigantic debate right now in the construction industry about how we make buildings, because we are running out of wood.

So you can look at indicators across the board. There is good news, and there's dreadful news. But I think the critical thing is that you have to step up and say, "I'm going to be part of the solution." And not get too weighed down by the heaviness of the reality, because if more and more of us say, "I'm just going to do my part, I can't do it all," because just a couple million Americans out of the 284 million or so of us here now, that couple million can change the rules.

Lee: That would be just great.

Betsy: It can happen. It really can happen. There are so many people who want to help, and they feel a little disconnected from each other. That's one of the exciting things here at the Center. We will get up to perhaps 12 million hits on our website this year. We get enormous interest from people wanting to be part of the solution. Especially among parents, because they want their kids to have a happy future.

Lee: I just sent all your tips on kids and commercialism to my brother, who's got two little ones. It's a long email.

Betsy: (Laughs)

Lee: Well, I can't tell how much I appreciate you having given the time to do this interview. And how much I'm certain our readers will enjoy reading it. Thank you very much.

Betsy: I thank you as well. And have a great day.


Capitol Hill Days Report

Sharon Wilcox

Lee Strauss, Pam Sinotte and I spent four days representing ZPG/Boston at the Fifth Annual Capitol Hill Days in Washington D.C. on March 24-27. It was a weekend of camaraderie, with 150 fellow population activists from all over the U.S. Five groups were represented: ZPG, Sierra Club, Population Action International, National Wildlife Federation, and the National Audubon Society. It was especially pleasing to see that an increasing number of environmental groups are recognizing that overpopulation is the most important factor contributing to the degradation of the environment. John Flicker, President of National Audubon Society, says "Human population growth is the most pressing environmental problem facing the U.S. and the world." Instead of feeling like an outsider and/or a kook, I found my views being supported and confirmed. Together the groups focused on preventative measures in combating overpopulation—expanded family planning access, lessening our environmental impact—and came to Washington to share this vision with our elected officials. We urged the repeal of the "Global Gag Rule", and support for the U.N. Population Fund. Those of us from Massachusetts visited the offices of five Representatives and two Senators. Just give us half an hour with President Bush!

We had three days of intensive lectures and lobbying. It was heartening to see that so many college students had come to join us: 41 students attend this year—up from 30 last year. Their activities will hopefully change the conservative strongholds in their respective states. We need to convince more members of Congress to support family planning, both at home and abroad.

The highlight of the weekend was a speech by Abubakar Dungus, Information Officer for the U.N. Population Fund. He spoke from the heart about the horrible conditions that women face in developing countries, especially his own country of Nigeria. He empowered us by telling us how important we are: that one person can change the course of history. He affirmed our goal of curbing population growth through education and political action, and strengthened our sense of the intelligent and compassionate international vision behind it.


You Don't Know What You've Got ‘Till It's Gone

Gregory Wilcox
 
[Editor's note: I wrote this article for the Asheville Citizen-Times two years ago. It has never been published. It is printed here to raise awareness about the current extinction crisis. Biodiversity is dwindling at an unprecedented rate. The primary cause is habitat loss, due to human overpopulation and overconsumption. Much more than we comprehend or appreciate, our species is intimately dependent on the entire web of life. By crowding out other species, we are shredding that web. It's happening much more rapidly than we realize—right before our eyes. To quote Edward O. Wilson (Audubon Magazine, November/December 1999) "If we continue at the current rate of deforestation and destruction of major ecosystems like rainforests and coral reefs, where most of the biodiversity is concentrated, we will surely lose more than half of all the species of plants and animals on earth by the end of the 21st century."]
Which of the great extinctions happened the fastest? In case you don't remember from grade school, the prehistoric extinctions took place between 438 and 65 million years ago. There were five major ones, named after the periods they ended: Ordovician, Devonian, Permian, Triassic, and Cretaceous. The Permian was the worst: 95% of all animal species were wiped out. But the Cretaceous (sometimes called the K-T) is the best known, since it is the one that killed off the dinosaurs.

Oh yes, there's one more. That's the one that is going on right now.

Did you raise your left eyebrow just now? Good. If not, keep reading—it gets better (or worse, depending on how much of this regrettably true story you believe).

The current extinction is just getting started, so it's still too early to tell how it will compare with earlier ones. But it has already claimed millions of species—most during the 20th century.

All of the prehistoric extinctions happened over periods of millions of years. In most cases, they were so gradual that no perceptible change would have been observed within the lifetime of any of the animals living at the time.

However, this one is happening at a rate that is hundreds of times faster. Nobody knows for sure, since we don't know how many species are being lost. For that matter, we don't even have a good idea of how many species there are (the number is at least 10 million).

But estimates can be made. This is usually accomplished by looking at the number of known species lost within one genus (species group). If we do this for several genera and extrapolate to all of them, we can make educated guesses about the current rate of extinction. The number is startling: every year at least 25,000 species are lost forever. The process will "hit bottom" in 200 to 400 years, with about 5 percent of all species remaining.

In North Carolina, 49 species are listed as endangered, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 23 of these are animals: two bats, one butterfly, three fish, five birds, four clams, four mammals, one snail, one spider, and one turtle. Notable entries include the bald eagle and the red wolf.

One species that has not yet made the list is Eurycea junaluska. This is a salamander that is native to Western North Carolina and East Tennessee. It is extremely rare: there are only seven known populations in existence. All of these are along the Cheoah River in the Nantahala National Forest. Meanwhile, timber harvesting continues in the area, and more is planned.

The Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project (phone 828-258-2667) is fighting to save local endangered species. Their strategy is one of habitat protection: they are "working to preserve and restore native wildlands in the Southern Appalachian region". Habitat loss is perhaps the gravest threat to regional biodiversity.

The requirement for an official list was mandated by the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The intent of this law was to perform a sort of biological triage: identify the wounded and get them to the hospital. It's a good idea, at first glance. And many good things have come of it. However, more holistic thinking is needed.

All species are part of the web of life. Once it starts to unravel, it can come apart very quickly. Like a house of cards, the loss of one species can drastically affect the remaining ones. What's needed is a way to protect them all, before they become endangered.

But you will not miss them until they are gone. How will you know? It will be a very personal, individual thing. For example:

You're watching some old sitcom on TV. During an outdoor scene, you hear a familiar sound in the background. You recognize it as the song of a bird that used to visit your backyard. And you haven't heard it in a long time. Come to think of it, there haven't been many birds back there for several years. You realize that you miss that sound, in a more profound way than you would ever have thought. What you wouldn't give to hear that bird—any bird—in your backyard again!

Cartoon by David Barbour


Healthy Habitats Are Disappearing For Man And Beast

Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Country conversation & feedback
West 1154 Highway 64
Withee, WI 54498
csymag@tds.net

The following letter was published in the March/April 2001 issue of Countryside. It was in their "Country conversation & feedback" section. It is reprinted with permission of the author's widow, Lif Strand.

Dear Countryside:

Some people don't mind living crowded together. Some people do. This aspect of population density is not very important. However, there can be no doubt that the quantity of resources on this planet is dwindling. There are clearly less fish in the ocean, less virgin forest to lumber, less ore to mine, less oil to be pumped and possibly most important of all, less clean fresh water available. To dismiss the connection between human population and these dwindling resources as conspiracy theory, or as a political, racial or religious issue is truly the last straw.

A smaller human population has a smaller impact on the planet. This is simple logic, not subject to research or opinion. The common denominator of all the world's problems, human and otherwise, is simply too many people. This is not the same as too many people for the planet to support at this time or in the next number of years, but too many people for the planet to support without a negative impact on everything other than humans.

Healthy habitats that have existed since the birth of this planet—including ours—are disappearing at an alarming rate. I am not just talking about the human environments that are in bad shape, such as Mexico City or Cairo. Respiratory illness in Los Angeles is on the rise. The Colorado River is now a polluted trickle emptying into the Gulf of California. We have viruses and bacteria that are mutating beyond existing medicine's ability to keep up. Not only that, but we also have the speed of jet travel that allows a person carrying a disease to spread it before even coming down with the symptoms.

You don't have to take my word for it, or even that of some "expert". Do your own homework. Try to find one body of fresh water on this planet that a human dares drink out of without filtering. Go talk to fishermen all along our oceans, not only in the USA. Talk to a building contractor about the quality of lumber from today's trees vs. what was available only two decades ago. Go to Africa and talk to the people who live in the deserts, who have watched that desert grow beyond their village in one or two generations. Don't pass on the words of some "expert" just because he or she is telling the world what you want to hear.

We all have to lend a hand to try to fix the situation, and the first step is to acknowledge the true cause of the problem. If we had half of today's world population we would have half the pollution, half the draw on resources, and be twice as far towards a healthy planet again. I am not suggesting that everyone take a number and all those with odd numbers march over a cliff. All children—all people—are precious. We can't halve our population but we can take steps to limit its future growth.

The Lord may have given mankind dominion over this Earth, but He did not say to trash it.

Paul Strand
Quemado, NM
fasterhorses@gilanet.com
http://www.fasterhorses.com/

 

Annual Banquet and Election Results

Pamela Sinotte

On the evening of May 21, 2001, Zero Population Growth of Greater Boston's Annual Banquet was held at John Harvard's Brew House in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This year's guest speaker was naturalist and author Peter Alden.

Alden, who is currently with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, organizing the state's third annual Biodiversity Days for Bob Durand, treated us to a presentation that was as enlightening as it was visually stunning. Beginning at the North Pole, Alden took us through cities, towns and wilderness areas from the Canadian Artic and Latin America south to Tierra del Fuego. Through his words and slides, he helped us gain a deeper understanding of both the causes and effects of unsustainable human population growth. He emphasized especially the connection between poverty and overpopulation. Alden is the author of more than 14 books, ranging from field guides to Africa to the National Audubon Field Guide to New England.

After the presentation, Lee Strauss, acting Chairman, summarized Chapter events of the past year and talked briefly about some of our plans for the coming year. Chapter elections were then held. Lee Strauss, Sharon Wilcox, and Pamela Sinotte were elected to serve as a team and will be the Chapter's Co-Chairpersons. Pam will continue to also serve as Secretary. Walter Branson was re-elected Treasurer. All ran unopposed.
 

As always, the company was great and the food, delicious!


Not Going Ape

"There are now more human babies born each day—about 350,000—than there are individuals left in all the great ape species combined, including gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans."
Richard Cincotta, ecologist and senior researcher, Population Action International
 
POPULATION FORECAST
Increased Crowdiness