WHEN?

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By Anne T. Sulton, Ph.D., J.D.
JA Senior International Correspondent

The world’s population in 1900 was less than 2.0 billion. In 2000, it was 6.1 billion. By 2100, it is projected to be nearly 11 billion.

The population increases increasingly are being identified as a factor associated with or causing climate change. This is a sensitive issue.

For example, the Center for Biological Diversity argues that “unsustainable human population growth” leads them “to conclude that we not only need smaller footprints, but fewer feet.”

In a paper published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Wolfgang Lutz, while referring to a population projection model with fewer people, states: “I would much rather see my great grandchildren living in such a world …even if the absolute number of decedents carrying my genes should be smaller.”

D. Pimentel, in an abstract published at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12344889/, contends that “We must cut down our consumption of fossil fuel, reduce deforestation, … The most important action we need to take, however, is to check population growth.”

William J. Ripple, et al., maintain that “fundamental overexploitation” of the earth’s resources is causing an “accelerating environmental crisis”. They too suggest, among their recommended six steps that the world must take now to save the planet, is “stabilizing and gradually reducing the population by providing voluntary family planning and supporting education and rights for all girls and young women, which has been proven to lower fertility rates.”

According to Judith Stephenson, et al. in an article published by the Journal of Public Health, “Rapid population growth endangers human development, provision of basic services and poverty eradication and weakens the capacity of poor communities to adapt to climate change. … Linking population dynamics with climate change is a sensitive issue, but family planning programmes that respect and protect human rights can bring a remarkable range of benefits.”

Apparently, a suggested strategy to deal with climate change is to enable and encourage women in poor nations to reduce the number of children they have. The methods include birth control education and family planning services. Presumably, these previously “uneducated poor” women will decide to have fewer babies.

Certainly, this is a sensitive issue. Unquestionably, the few rich nations on the planet consume most of the planet’s resources and produce most of the planet-harming substances. Yet, they have the audacity to go beyond even whispered suggestions that one way out of this climate change mess is to dramatically reduce the planet’s population, particularly in poor nations.

When – by what date certain – will we realize that rich nations’ century-long excesses are primarily responsible for climate change and not “uneducated” women living in poor nations having too many babies?