Earth Day Unmentionable: The Inexplicable Absence of Family-Planning Promotion
Tuesday, 22 April 2014 00:00  |  Written by Jessica Keith | Blog Entry

Condoms Photo by Courtney WalkerOn Earth Day this year, amidst all of the celebrating, we will add more than 275,000 people to the planet's population—as we do every day. By the time Earth Day 2015 rolls around, we’ll have tossed at least another 100 million humans into the mix. But I’m not supposed to talk about that, because reproduction is a private affair

I’m not supposed to mention that all of mankind’s most pressing environmental issues—deforestation, food and water shortages and climate change—are intensified by the Earth’s growing population. I’m not supposed to talk about the fact that we live in a closed system, where there are only so many resources to go around and that if we haven’t already hit our carrying capacity, well, we’re darn near close.

Nope, I’m not supposed to talk about family planning. I and other environmentalists are allowed to frown upon other personal choices, like buying Hummers or super-sized homes, or even taking too long of a hot shower, but family planning talk just crosses the line?

Few environments will broach the sensitive subject for fear of backlash. Instead, they focus on all the other ways in which mankind can curb environmental degradation and let the huge elephant in the room continue to walk around banging into things.

So I guess I’ll avoid the topic family planning, too, and will blog about all the cool green products that have been manufactured recently, ready for their Earth Day roll-out to the market. Hey, why not? That’s what Oprah did on her big 2009 Earth Day show. The private-jet-flying, multi-home-owning talk show queen dedicated nearly a full hour to “saving green by going green,” during which her studio and television audience saw a host of green products paraded before them.

Now I’m not nay-saying buying green products; that’s definitely a good start. But if all you’re doing is adding “buy green products” to your to-do list, then we won’t make too much headway in abating our biggest environmental dilemmas.

So if you’re pumped to celebrate Earth Day and want to add a substantial action item to your to-do list, write down this: Support zero population growth.

Not sure what I’m talking about? Start here:

  • Population Connection: “We are the national grassroots population organization that educates young people and advocates progressive action to stabilize world population at a level that can be sustained by Earth's resources.”
  • Negative Population Growth: “Negative Population Growth is a national membership organization founded in 1972 to educate the American public and political leaders about the detrimental effects of overpopulation on our environment, resources and quality of life.”

EcoHearth’s Op-Ed Editor Steven Kotler wrote a fascinating opinion piece on the subject. It's called The Five-Year Baby Ban. Also, check out Carol Rich's very informative talk with Eco Hero John Feeney: The Overpopulation Taboo: The John Feeney Interview.

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Comments (2)add
Written by John , May 02, 2012
I agree completely that population growth is by far mankind's biggest problem, and will probably cancel out all other attempts to live "sustainably".

Our attitudes to the creation of life and the denial of death need to be revised. However that is easier said than done. Logically a true environmentalist would choose not to have children, as this would be the biggest environmental saving they could make during their lifetime. Yet how many of us choose to do this?

My wife and I seem to be in a minority by choosing to have one child based on these and many other considerations. We all have a wonderful life. So I know if it can work for us, it can work for others. The question is whether enough people care about this issue, and whether natural maternal instincts can generally be shaped by such concerns.
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Written by Cicada Brokaw , April 26, 2011
Glad to see an article about the need to stop the expansion of the human population. I would also point people to the Center for Biological Diversity. They have a campaign on overpopulation: http://www.biologicaldiversity...index.html

It is well past time for action on this issue!
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Become a vegetarian or vegan, or at least eat less meat. Meat is a big waster of water and energy—and generator of greenhouse gasses. It also exacerbates world hunger. One acre of land yields almost 18 times as much usable protein from plant versus animal sources—356 pounds if used to grow soybeans, 20 pounds if used to raise cattle for slaughter. More tips...

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