Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Today, our final installment of...


Treading on a taboo

Somehow and for some reason, it’s almost taboo to talk about population, or more specifically limiting population growth. I know why some politicians and some businessmen favor it; growth has been good for the bottom line. What I don’t understand is how in a world where it’s estimated that 25,000 people starve to death every single day, where jobs are getting scarcer and it takes all adults in a household to work to be comfortable, when the environment is getting ever more polluted and depleted, when the gap between the fabulously wealthy and the fabulously poor widens, when we’re putting rations on water and we have people dying due to lack of basic health care among other things-- it’s taboo to talk about it.

I do see a change creeping in but still the first thing that comes to some people’s minds is a sci-fi movie or book, or China. But here we are and though I think we’re on the brink, I believe we have time to do it in a way that doesn’t mandate family size or take on desperate measures.

Other countries are taking up population policies. Egypt is encouraging a two child policy and is using a slogan that says: “Before you add another baby, make sure his needs are secured”.

In some parts of India, they’re paying young women a modest sum to wait until they’re 19 to marry and another small sum if she waits until she’s 21 to have a baby.

Yemen has approved a plan to implement a national population strategy to reduce their fertility rate (one of the highest in the world).

A number of Muslim-majority states are issuing calls for more family planning. Even Iran has a population policy. Their fertility rate is at replacement level.

In the United States our population grows faster than some of the countries we send aid to in the form of birth control. In 2007, we broke our record for the number of births since the height of the baby boom (1957). But the main driver of our growth is immigration- and the higher fertility rates of new immigrants. And yet we don’t have a population policy and we rarely bring it up other than to cite statistics. I think that needs to change- and soon. (Incidentally, I read somewhere that adding one person to the population in the U.S. is like adding 15 people to a 3rd world country.)

I think the first thing we could do as a country is enact a moratorium on all immigration for 5 years or until we come up with a better policy. (But still allow 100,000 a year for humanitarian reasons, etc.) This will be challenging as I believe president-elect Obama supports amnesty though he is calling for reforming our immigration laws. The trouble with amnesty is two-fold. First, it was the amnesty in the 80’s that led mostly to the millions that came illegally since. Also, the way our reunification laws work, once you give citizenship to one person it opens the door to the rest of his/her family. Therefore unless we change our laws, granting amnesty to 10 or 20 million illegal immigrants could open the door to 5 or 10 times that many legal ones. Besides, amnesty will do nothing to change the reasons people cross our border illegally.

Above I mentioned some countries that were taking up population policies through promoting family planning. But also noteworthy is quite a few countries mostly throughout Europe have already or are starting to restrict immigration too. France, Denmark and Austria have all tightened up their reunification laws and Norway and Sweden are working on it as are a couple of others.

The 2nd thing we could do is encourage making access to birth control affordable for all men and women who wish to use them at home and abroad. (Including permanent forms of birth control.) We’ll have an easier time of that with president-elect Obama. I think the other things that need to take place will happen once we have time to stop and re-collect ourselves. (Like improving education and opportunities, etc.)

There are many ways to get involved if you feel it's time to make population growth an issue. It can be as easy as typing in your name and address on a pre-written letter to our elected officials and hitting the send button. Check out some groups and sign up for their e-mail action alerts.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform has started a website called They want to start a national debate about population growth and point out the link between immigration, over population and environmental degradation.

Negative Population Growth (NPG) is an organization working to get the U.S. to create a Commission on Population Growth “that will help steer our nation toward a more sustainable population and a livable future”.

Population Connection is another organization working to help people see the connection between most any issue and population growth.

NumbersUSA works mainly on reducing immigration. There are many, many others working to reduce immigration but NumbersUSA seems to be the most grounded. (They’ve been cited by a pro-amnesty group as not being bigoted or racist- which is the right way to be because our melting pot heritage is one to be proud of and the effects of illegal and mass immigration hurts us all equally.)

For further reading, a web page titled “Why Population Matters”:

The Census Bureau’s U.S. and World Population Clock:]

The Population Media Center website with links to NPG, Population Connection and a lot of other related organizations:

Numbers USA:

TTFN, LDouglas

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