May 12, 2009

Our guest tonight is David Paxson, President of World Population Balance, a Minneapolis-based organization that is dedicated to educating people about the need for population stabilization and the effects on the world if we do not take action to control population growth.

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Some Historical Perspectives on Population

From the Book of Chronicles in the Old Testament Bible:

“…And Attai begat Nathan, and Nathan begat Zabad, And Zabad begat Ephlal, and Ephlal begat Obed. And Obed begat Jehu, and Jehu begat Azariah, And Azariah begat Helez, and Helez begat Eleasah, Eleasah begat Sisamai, and Sisamai begat Shallum, And Shallum begat Jakamiah, and Jakamiah begat Elishama…”

From Thomas Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798):

I have read some of the speculations on the perfectibility of man and of society with great pleasure. I have been warmed and delighted with the enchanting picture which they hold forth. I ardently wish for such happy improvements. But I see great, and, to my understanding, unconquerable difficulties in the way to them. [,,,]

Thomas Malthus  offered two “postulata:”

First, That food is necessary to the existence of man.

Secondly, That the passion between the sexes is necessary and will remain nearly in its present state. […]   Thus the power of population is  indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man.

Malthus’ predictions have been widely debated for over two centuries now, and he still has defenders and attackers. But whether or not we accept his predictions as exact, this essay be Theodore Steck from the Encyclopedia of Earth suggests that Malthus was at least partly right:

Approximately 6.6 billion humans now inhabit the Earth. By comparison, there might be 20 million mallard ducks and, among a multitude of threatened and endangered species, perhaps 100,000 gorillas, 50,000 polar bears, and less than 10,000 tigers, 2,000 giant pandas and 200 California condors. Notably, the human population has grown nearly ten-fold over the past three centuries and has increased by a factor of four in the last century. This monumental historical development has profoundly changed the relationship of our species to its natural

A pronounced expansion began with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, about two centuries ago [which, of course was just when Thomas Malthus was writing]. Whereas tens of thousands of years passed before our species reached the one billion mark, around 1800 C.E., it took only 130, 33, 15, 13 and 12 years to add each succeeding billion. This accelerating rate of increase is what is meant by the term population explosion. Around year 1970, population growth reached a maximal rate of about 2% per year—perhaps a thousand times faster than growth in prehistoric times. The annual increment has since dropped from 2.0 to 1.1% (or, as demographers prefer, to 11 per thousand), and it is still going down. The greatest annual increment in population, about 90 million individuals, occurred in 1995, while our numbers grew by only around 76 million in 2004 Nevertheless, this cohort is comparable to adding the population of Germany to the planet each year.

[…But] Fertility is declining with time. It has now dropped to below replacement level (i.e., below 2.1 children in a woman’s lifetime) in most of the developed countries. World-wide, the average woman currently bears 2.6 live offspring. In some African nations, fertility still exceeds 7 live births. At the other extreme, the average woman in Japan and in much of Europe bears approximately 1.3 live babies.[…]

Globally, birth rates will probably continue to decline in the coming decades since, nowadays, couples are increasingly prone to limit their family size, whatever their wealth. Coercion by national governments, such as China’s one-child policy, appears to be unnecessary. If and when the global birth rate again matches death rate, we will hit zero population growth. This could occur by the year 2070 when the population might be 9.5 or 10 billion.

Our Questions for David Paxson, President of World Population Balance, which he cofounded in 1991:

· Please tell us about World Population Balance and your work educating people about the crisis.

· Earlier, we read short passages from Thomas Malthus’ Essay on the Principle of Human Population. You recently published an article in your newsletter in which Andrew Ferguson argues that Malthus’s postulates are still valid, arguing that though some aspects of the world have changed, the principles of food and population and Malthus’ warnings should still be heeded. Please explain that argument.

· Let’s explore the environmental problems that can be created by the continued population explosion:

o food supplies, factory farming

o water supplies

o the oceans

o fuel and energy supplies

o disease

o aging populations

· One of Malthus’ propositions was that the problem of overpopulation is also a problem of poverty, that, in fact, the consequences of overpopulation are more likely to be visited on the poor than the wealthy. What does your research indicate?

· We earlier read U.N. statistics that show that fertility rates are declining in the so-called developed countries, especially Europe and parts of Asia.

o Where does the U.S. fit into this pattern?

o Are we really in a position to tell countries that are poor and not industrially advanced to lay off procreation?

· In an editorial in your newsletter, Balanced View, you wrote recently:

“In a world with finite and declining vital resources, it’s not rocket science to realize that at some point resources will no longer support more people. So the far more important question is: How will it happen? Will population stabilize inhumanely—by deaths increasing to balance with births? Or will population stabilize humanely—by fewer births balancing historically low death rates?”

How do you see the problem being resolved humanely?

· Your mission statement declares: Believing strongly in democracy and individual freedom, members of World Population Balance oppose any coercive population control measures.” Is it realistic to suppose that people will come to limit the birth rate voluntarily?

· You also note that you have members who are pro-choice, others who are pro-life. How do you manage to work those two groups?

· You have also done work with the Catholic church and its leaders. Please tell us about that.

· You do a great deal of work in the public schools, helping to educate young people about population issues. What do you say about such controversial issues as abstinence and birth control?

· What role does immigration play in population growth and the availability of resources? Does your organization have a policy or recommendations regarding immigration?

· You recommend that people “meet with your elected representatives and insist that they support population stabilization policies.” What are those policies and how can the U.S. implement them?

· You write “No matter what your cause, it is a lost cause unless we stabilize and then reduce the population.” Can population become a unifying cause for progressive groups?

· What steps can the individual take to participate in the movement for humane population stabilization?


> If anything, our program on the population explosion has pointed out both the enormity of the problem and a paucity of “simple” solutions. One interesting “map” of possible solutions appears on a website called Mind Maps. Instead of presenting quick-and-easy sure-fail solutions, they draw diagrams that show some of the complexities of these relationships. Check it out at:

> Planned Parenthood has a program to Expand Global Reproductive Rights. Their key issues are:

· Keeping Birth Control Affordable

· Protecting Abortion Access Ensuring Health Care Access

· Expanding Global Reproductive Rights

· Fighting for Real Sex Ed

· Opposing Attacks on Women’s Health

When women have control of their reproductive health, it improves the overall health and economic well-being of their entire communities. Worldwide, women face the risks of unintended pregnancy, unsafe abortion, and sexually transmitted infection every day. Limited access to health services, legal restrictions, cultural taboos, and harsh gender inequality are just some of the reasons why every minute of every day a woman dies from a pregnancy-related cause.

The health and safety of women and men around the world must be protected. By increasing access to reproductive health services we can improve gender equality, maternal health, and child survival, allowing women to take control of their lives.

The PPFA International Program partners with local organizations in 17 countries around the world to expand services and pioneer efforts to improve reproductive health and rights. By accepting only private funding, we have the flexibility to carry out truly cutting-edge work.

Planned Parenthood works in Washington to change foreign health policy as well. Just days after taking office, President Obama rescinded the global gag rule, recognizing that women’s health truly matters worldwide.

Playlist for Ecotopia #32

1. Salute Your Solution 3:00 The Raconteurs Consolers Of The Lonely

2. Traffic Jam (Album Version) 2:13 James Taylor James Taylor Live

3. Supernova 4:42 Liquid Blue Supernova

4. Let’s Have A War 2:31 Fear Repo Man

5. People (Single Version) 3:43 Barbra Streisand People

6. Weave Me the Sunshine 4:28 Peter, Paul And Mary The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary

7. Laughing 3:36 Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Four Way Street [Disc 1] [Live]

8. Powerhouse 2:56 Don Byron Bug Music