Have you seen this very educational clip from National Geographic? I love how it so clearly identifies what I've often heard referred to as the environmental elephant in the room. We all know that the population is an environmental concern, but it seems that many people don't want to talk about it. Why?
I think that many Americans view reproduction as one of our inalienable rights. Take one look at China's "One Child" policy and we can see that government limits on family size can lead to unintended consequences. But when I think about slowing population growth, I don't think about telling people that they can't have children. Instead, let's give people who don't want more children the education and the contraceptives required to prevent pregnancy. Let's work towards improving quality of life for people living in poverty, empowering women to make decisions about family planning, decreasing childhood mortality, and reducing the negative impacts on the environment.
There isn't a quick fix for the problems caused by overpopulation, but there are some actions that we can take in our everyday lives. Here are the three important ways:
- Reduce your consumption... of everything. About 20% of the world's population uses 80% of the resources and has the most impact on environmental degradation. With 7 billion people on the planet, we can't afford to be so selfish. Most of us in the developed world need to reduce our energy consumption and waste, as well as conserve and protect our water and land. Much of this can be done without reducing our quality of life. In fact, many people will say their quality of life improves in unexpected ways when they reduce their consumption.
- When you need to buy something, buy fair trade. This will ensure that the people involved in the production of the goods were paid a fair wage, which leads to improved quality of life for their families. The fair trade designation enables you to know that you're not supporting sweat shops or child labor.
- Support programs and organizations, politically and/or financially, that promote women's rights, education, and family planning in the developing world. Statistics show that women who are educated and have job skills will have fewer children in their lifetimes, and their children will have better quality of life. (Check out the charts at the Population Reference Bureau.) Women who do not want to have more children should be able to access family planning services.