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Educate the Girls, Lower the Population

Today’s question is: Are there too many people on the planet, or are some of them/us using far too many resources, and we would do just fine with 6.7 billion people if our (as in, most Americans’) consumption was decreased (more drastically in some cases, less in others)? Maybe the answer is both.

"Do We Need Population Control?" by Katharine Mieszkowski over at tackles the population question, including whether or not we should have population control policies (and how well the ones that exist are working, and you might be surprised by what a group of highly-educated women in China, speaking anonymously, had to say about China’s one-child policy).

As I’m sure you know, overpopulation isn’t just a matter of, well, the number of people. Professor of History at Columbia University and author of "Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population" (get it? mis-conception?) Matthew Connelly says:

Reducing the size of a population can mean that you increase the number of households because people are living by ones and twos and threes. When people live in smaller households they tend to consume more of everything. That’s why it’s terribly deceptive to think that we can address the environmental problems of overconsumption just by getting people to have fewer kids. It’s more complicated than that.

He later says:

Far from calling for larger populations, what I am calling for is that we trust parents to make sensible choices. We have to trust that women, when they’re given the means to control their own fertility, are going to make smart choices for themselves, and for their children. The idea of population control is a dangerous illusion.

And finally (not for Connelly, but for me, as this is my point for today):

education of women is far and away the most important factor in
explaining how it is that fertility rates have fallen worldwide, even
in countries where there were no organized family-planning services.
The reason is simply that women, when they become educated, when they
realize that they have choices in life, when there are other ways to
gain status, to improve their welfare, they typically choose to have
fewer children, and they avail themselves of whatever means available.

Now, that didn’t go without partial objection from another expert interviewed for this article, but it does bring me to the Education for All Act (S1259 and HR2092), which is a plan to provide basic education for all children around the world.

There’s also a Members Project (an American Express contest) in the Top 25 called "6,000 Girls’ Scholarships in the Developing World" that you can vote for:

million would fund 6,000 holistic scholarships for young girls in the
developing world. The scholarships not only cover school fees, but also
include academic tutoring, life skills workshops, parent workshops,
medical coverage, and female mentoring. By providing access to
education, we can empower girls to seek the increased opportunities
that only education can provide, and ultimately to create a better life
for themselves, their families, and their communities.

Back to the beginning: Do you believe in population control policies?

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Nick #

    Sometimes I wish we could implement a world-wide one-child-only policy like in China, but I also believe in reproductive freedom as a human right.

    I hate it when people in America have their own children. There is no way to justify having your own kids when there are so many in need of adoption–especially during this population explosion. Can you imagine an American generation consisting only of adopted children? It would be remarkable. It would be one of the biggest steps toward improving the world ever taken.

    I agree that education is essential. Educated people are less likely to have (as many) children. I think that in addition to launching massive humanitarian efforts around the world, the US should start a world-wide reproductive education fund, drop millions of condoms out of helicopters, etc.

    September 18, 2008
  2. Dan #

    The biggest problem with humans is not consumption (although that is a problem, too), but population. The only way the population problem will be solved is either through the traditional trio (war, famine, and disease) or through a big, happy goon of an asteroid over a mile or so wide walloping Earth.

    The fact that our killing technology gets better every decade while our moral stupidity remains about even means that, instead of killing tens of millions as we did during the 20th century, we ought to be able to kill hundreds of millions and perhaps even billions with nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons before the century is over. Either that, or famine and disease from a polluted environment will decrease our numbers. Either way, population decline is inevitable, and it’s not going to be pretty (because it’s not going to be voluntary).

    September 18, 2008
  3. Bea Elliott #

    I don't think there's too many people *right now*. But it's *this* population and the growing ones thereafter, that fortell an unsustainable future. Given current consumption and waste… *they* will run out of resources and room. And as we've seen, the wealthier the world becomes the more is consumed… In time it (oil, land, water, food, air) will all run out.

    I like programs that educate sexually active kids that there are many good reasons for birth-control. By all means – choose a career, explore your world a little… discover who you are before you decide on a child… And then if you do… keep it small 🙂

    Mandatory birth control is just out of the question for me… But I'm also not in favor of "incentives" like tax deductions for those who choose to have a child. That's not equitable at all… or smart.

    The population today (which some theorize is greatly underestimated) predicts the unimaginable numbers of tomorrow. based on "exponential growth". I'm not a mathematician but it makes sense to me:

    And if expodential growth is valid… what then is earth's "carrying capacity"?

    It might be a world of "more" people with "less" happiness… less of what makes for the "quality" of life. They who inherit this planet will have less of nature… less time to enjoy it, and less autonomy.

    And on we race to a boom, boom, booming population!

    September 18, 2008
  4. "Do you believe in population control policies?"

    September 21, 2008

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