The need for population
Problems of poverty, hunger,
and environmental degradation in developing countries will never
be solved without greater efforts to check population increase.
I have forcefully argued this in publications
and on this site.
Why are the for reduction of hunger and poverty, set at the Millennium,
not being met, despite much national and international effort?
Why is degradation of the land on which most poor people depend
continuing? It is because efforts to develop agriculture and the
rural sector are constantly nullified by population increase.
Population policy: a
But there is a problem.
To advocate population reduction, or even to talk of population
policy, is political suicide. No politician is going to stand
up and say, "We need fewer people in our country". Still
less is it acceptable for Westerners to tell developing countries
that they should do something about their population increase.
This would be regarded as the worst form of paternalism or 'neo-colonialism'.
A way out: give women
what they want
There is a way out of this
Go into a family planning
clinic in the developing world. No-one is talking about population.
What do the women there want? They want to avoid having a child
when they don't want one. When they are ready for it, they want
to have a healthy baby. And they want to stay healthy themselves,
avoiding complications in pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and other sexually-transmitted
These objectives will not
be attained unless women can control their own lives. For this
they must have education, and a rightful position in the community,
to make up their own minds. Where women's status approaches that
of men, reproduction rates are everywhere close to the sustainable,
This was the
package of ethically acceptable measures put forward at the 1993
UN Population conference. These were: provision of access to family
planning services for all, improvements in reproductive health,
and improving the education and status of women.
Yet to date,
international investment in family planning services, at one time
a priority for the US and UK (whre it was once called the "Children
by choice not chance" policy), has recently taken a low priority.
We have lost 15 years in which investment to reduce population increase
could have been started.
The new way
of looking at it
There is a new
way of looking at the situation (a new paradigm if you like the
term). Stand the previous argument on its head:
way of looking at it:
- We must reduce the rate
of population increase.
- So we need to improve
women's status and education, and to provide reproductive health
and family planning services for all.
The new way
of looking at it:
- Work to improve women's
status and education, and to provide them with reproductive
health and family planning services.
- Then reduction in the
rate of population growth will follow.
WOMEN WHAT THEY WANT
learn more, read
Robert Engleman's book, More:
Population, Nature, and what women want. In family planning
clinics, he says, "The pervasive message is that staying healthy
and making life plans are good...So here's help." Read a Worldwatch
magazine special issue, Women:
population's once and future key. Look at the arguments
by People and Planet and