Issue Date: 
May - June 2001
Volume and Number: 
Volume 1, No 1
Stan Becker
PDF Version: 
Information and Action Addressing Public Policy for an Ecologically Sustainable World
Volume 1, Number 1                                                                                                                                      May/June 2001
Stan Becker
The Problem
Bangladesh and Indonesia have been able to meet family plan-
The population of Homo sapiens on planet earth has
ning needs of most of the population, and thereby reduce popu-
grown very rapidly over the past century from 1.6 billion in
lation growth rates. Access to modern contraception is a prob-
1900 to 2 billion in 1930, 3 billion in 1960, 4 billion in 1974, 5
lem in some parts of the world, particularly Sub-Saharan Af-
billion in 1987 and 6 billion in 1999.  We are currently adding
rica which has the highest fertility. The U.S. and Western
75-80 million persons per year to the world.  Of this yearly
Europe have about the same levels of sexual activity among
growth, 16 million are added in India, 9 million in China, 4
teens, but the pregnancy rate in Western Europe is half that
million in Pakistan and 3 million in both Bangladesh and In-
of the U.S.; the reason is that in the U.S. we make it quite
donesia. More concretely, about 200,000 more persons need
difficult for a sexually active teenager to obtain contracep-
food and housing today than yesterday!  The United Nations
tion. Somewhere between 100 and 200 million couples in the
medium projection estimates that there will be 9.3 billion per-
world want to space their next birth or stop childbearing com-
sons on the planet in 2050.
pletely but do not have access to modern contraception. At
 Over 95% of population growth is in developing coun-
the United Nations Population Conference in 1994 in Cairo,
tries. By contrast, nearly all the developed countries have
179 nations agreed on the importance of family planning and
current fertility below replacement level (2.1 births per woman)
integrated programs of reproductive health. The UN estimates
and 18 of them had more deaths than births in 1999. The
that to provide everyone on earth with adequate reproductive
average number of children per woman in the world is 2.7
health services, it would cost $17 billion per year; $11 billion
(3.0 in developing countries and 1.6 in developed countries).
of this would come from national governments and $6 billion
 The population of the U.S. grew from 4 million in 1790
from international assistance.
to 76 million in 1900 to 151 million in 1950 and 281 million
 Unfortunately this level of funding has not been forth-
were counted in the 2000 census. The U.S. is growing by 3-4
coming, particularly the international assistance. The US is
million persons per year with approximately l/2 of that due to
giving $425 million to population assistance this year. This
more births than deaths and the other half due to (legal and
amounts to $1.52 per person per year. Compare this with about
illegal) immigration.  Fertility in the U.S. is nearly at replace-
$300 billion for the US military budget or about $1100 per
ment level, but there is still an excess of births over deaths
person per year. In Denmark, by contrast, international popu-
because there are large numbers of persons in the reproduc-
lation assistance totals $47 million or $8.90 per person per
tive ages due to higher fertility in earlier decades. Thus, even
if U.S. couples have an average of two children, population
will continue to grow for about 70 years. The medium projec-
U.S. Policy
tion of the U.S. population to 2050 is 400 million people.  In
 In his first day in office, President Bush reinstated the
short, we can expect more and more sprawl.
U.S. policy that prohibits use of any U.S. foreign assistance
monies to any family planning organization that counsels
women about the option of abortion, even in countries where
Several environmental organizations have population pro-
it is legal and even if the organization uses its own monies for
grams–typically with a major goal of educating the American
same. This policy is known as the “Mexico City Policy” be-
public about the relationship between population growth and
cause it was first announced by a delegate from the Reagan
the environment. For example some state chapters of the Si-
administration in 1984 at the United Nations Population Con-
erra Club have population committees.
ference held in Mexico City.
Women’s level of education is the strongest single back-
But cutting off funds for contraception, will lead to more
ground predictor of population fertility levels.   While educa-
abortions, not less. Some of the U.S. media confused the is-
tion is a long-term solution, access to family planning allows a
sue by saying that funds were being cut off for abortions, but
woman to immediately delay or limit births and thereby gives
there has not been U.S. assistance for abortions overseas
her an opportunity for other activities.  For example, intensive
since the 1970s.
government family planning programs in countries like
Quaker Eco-Bulletin      May/June 2001

Quaker Eco-Bulletin (QEB) is published bi-
Role of Friends
monthly as an insert in BeFriending Creation
 As Friends we are concerned about the future of our species as well
by  Quaker Eco-Witness, a project of
as other species and the natural environment generally. Human encroach-
Friends Committee on Unity with Nature
ment and resultant habitat destruction have put us in an age of mass extinc-
tion of other species. For example, in California, of 286 species that are
Quaker Eco-Witness (QEW) will promote
listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, ur-
US government and corporate policies to
ban sprawl is a contributing cause in 188 (66%) of cases.  Those who
help restore and protect Earth’s biological
estimate the earth’s carrying capacity point out that as standards of living
integrity. It will work within and through the
increase around the world, we can anticipate further ecological disasters. It
Religious Society of Friends for policies that
is estimated that if all 6 billion of us had a lifestyle like that of North Ameri-
enable human communities to relate in mu-
tually enhancing ways to the ecosystems of
cans, it would take three “planets earth” to support the current world popu-
which they are a part. This witness will seek
lation. It is clear that the population numbers must level off soon or there
to be guided by the Spirit and grounded in
will be more irreparable damage to the earth’s natural systems as well as
reverence for Earth’s communities of life as
negative consequences for our own species, such as increased violence as
God’s creation.
populations fight for scarce resources like water.
Some Friends feel that, given the disproportionate use of resources by
QEB’s purpose is to inform the QEW net-
persons in developed countries, and given our simple living testimony, it is
work to advance Friends’ witness on gov-
ernment and corporate policy as it relates to
more important for Friends to work on decreasing consumption here rather
the ecosystems that sustains us. Each issue
than on stabilizing population elsewhere. The truth is that it is very important
is an article about timely legislative or cor-
to work on both matters and that they are linked, but separate. Specifically,
porate policy issues affecting our society’s
our living simply does not necessarily provide the option of modern contra-
relationship to the earth.
ception for women in rural Africa who want to stop bearing children, but
our working to increase family planning assistance can.
Friends are invited to contact us about writ-
With regard to Friends’ organizations, AFSC does not presently have
ing an article for QEB. Submissions are sub-
ject to editing and should:
programs where the main purpose is providing contraceptive services. How-
•  Provide background information that re-
ever, they are provided in several health projects that AFSC assists. FCNL
flects the complexity of the issue and is
staff cover legislation concerning population as time permits but it is not a
respectful toward other points of view.
legislative priority as determined by Friends through the priority-setting in
•  Explain why the issue is a Friends’ con-
their Monthly Meetings. Several yearly meetings have approved minutes on
population concerns (Baltimore, Illinois, SAYMA). These are available
•  Describe the positions of other faith-based
and secular environmental groups on the
through the FCUN office.
Friends can help by actively supporting legislation and public policy
•  Relate the issue to legislation or corporate
1) increase funding for international population assistance,
•  Provide sources for additional informa-
2) make contraceptives available in school-based clinics in the U.S,
3) develop a U.S. population policy, and
4) allow advertising of contraceptives, and especially condoms, in the
QEB Editorial Committee:
Judy Lumb, Kim Carlyle
To receive QEB:
For more information:
via email, write QEW@FCUN.org.
· Zero Population Growth gives a monthly update on legislative mat-
via the Internet, visit www.FCUN.org.
ters: <heather@zpg.org>.
via mail, write to QEW c/o FCUN
· Information on U.S. population is available through the U.S. Cen-
sus Bureau <www.census.gov/people/estimate> (or projections).
Contributionsare welcome.
· The United Nations population projections and other reports can be
Quaker Eco-Witness
found at <www.un.org/esa/population>.
c/o FCUN,
· U.S. vital statistics are available at <www.cdc.gov/nchs>.
173-B N Prospect Street
Burlington VT 05401
Quaker Eco-Bulletin      May/June 2001

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