On June 1st my article entitled “Has the population bomb already exploded? Human survival: a drama in four acts?” argued that the population bomb predicted by Paul Ehrlich and others had already exploded in my lifetime from 2 billion in 1931 when I was born to nearly 8 billion today.
In sending my article to many family planning friends, I was pleased to get laudatory replies from a number of them, as most sophisticated observers have long recognized the dangers to our environment, our national security and our ability to govern as burgeoning population growth eradicates the simple pleasures of more living space untrammeled by urban growth, global warming, and countless other environmental blights.
I was reminded by such women’s rights luminaries as my friends, Gloria Feldt, former President of Planned Parenthood of America, and Barbara Crane, retired EVP of Ipas that the major credit for progress in reproductive rights was not limited to Margaret Sanger or Katherine McCormick, but also aided by many other female heroes my article failed to mention. None other than my daughter likewise noticed, so to all I say, “Mia Culpa”!
Recently here in DC, my wife and I attended a dinner party which honored a leading expert on population growth and attended by other experts where we learned that in parts of Africa women are almost as anxious as men for high numbers of children. Niger was the offered prime example.
Of course in less developed countries where automation and mechanized agriculture are not yet widely adopted one can see how child labor would seem desirable to parents. However, in seeing the widespread poverty of many in Africa and in the horrible displacements of innocent refugees from violence all over the Middle East, we know that many, perhaps a majority of us, understand that there are limits to growth and that those limits have long been breached by the legendary Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, known as pestilence, war, famine and death.
These Horsemen appear originally from the last book of New Testament called the Book of Revelation, which must have been used by church leaders then to strike fear into the hearts of the faithful who goodness knows had many reasons to fear the future as we do now.
Innumerable articles have defined the dangers of such growth but few except Dr. Stephen D. Mumford have fingered the main culprits in his many writings. Here is just one of many examples adopted from his book, American Democracy and the Vatican: Population Growth and National Security (1984) which can be read for free here.
He concludes by saying, “Whether world population growth is a serious national and global security threat is no longer debatable. It is a reality. It is also true that, if the Roman Catholic Church is not the only important opposition to population growth control, it is, at least, the most significant opposition”.
Clearly, the behavior of the Roman Catholic hierarchy is not the only factor in exacerbating the daunting world population problem, but certainly with 4 of US Supreme Court Justices male Catholics and the new member, Neil Gorsuch having clerked for Catholic Supreme Court Justices Scalia and Kennedy we can conjecture these powerful men in the most powerful country on the planet could likely continue to vote against women’s reproductive rights, as Mumford reports.
I had used some of my earlier piece on the Bomb to talk about my world and domestic travels in pursuit of spreading the family planning.
There is a striking difference in emphasis in approaches to family planning than when I began my career over 50 years ago. Talk among those international agencies mentions family planning far less than their other programs because the money is no longer there for family planning and the political climate in the USA has been carefully weaned to other focuses. The reasons are various and not all positive.
Programs of international development which then contained large efforts to promote family planning today have evolved from a main focus on supplying women with the widest possible range of contraceptive choices to a variety of attempts to encourage people of all cultures to think about family health and improving their qualities of life by having only the number of children they want and can properly foster.
Simple imprecations for having fewer children have long been perceived in the developing world as blatant efforts by rich developed nations to have fewer poor people in less developed nations, even when some, not enough, leaders in less developed countries, such as Ghana’s Dr. Fred Sai, who throughout his distinguished career, kept urging and acting to get more family planning in the developing world.
The ethnic diversity of the present US population as showcased in the Fourth of July Capital Forth program on WETA proves that the US is experimenting in melding clans, races and ideologies as perhaps no other nation has in history. How will that turn out? Well the words of the late Rodney King will be important to heed. During the riots in LA in May 1992, King sustained a nearly fatal beating by LAPD police and became a national icon against police brutality. Subsequently, King made an appearance on TV in which he said, “I just want to say—you know—can we all get along?”
That’s the symbolic question for humans on Planet Earth today. Yet world leaders seem loath to take urgent action.
The turmoil in so many countries today, even in developed countries has caused reactions which should surprise no one. The residents of poor nations reasonably see the lives of those in rich nations as vastly better and safer lives. Amidst the wars and disturbances which beset so many poor, huge growing populations, these people can see, through the vast media access so many have today, what the rich have. No surprise that they want to partake and are willing to risk life and limb to do so.
Tying the above into a readily understandable package gets tricky. No generalization can be totally correct, but linking the domination of males over females in too many cultures around the world cannot be termed an overstatement. And powerful male dominated religions play a significant role in keeping women down!
In reviewing the concerned reports about population growth, there is a depressing recitation of the ills of overpopulation. For example, in that wonderful piece just published on this site by David K. Clarke entitled, Our Civilisation is unsustainable, he cites bad effect after bad effect.
However, this author and many others who write on the Bomb make only fleeting and/or obscure mention about what needs to be done to fix this urgent, potential civilization destroying problem. Clarke says, “Of critical importance is the fact that humanity has not reacted rationally and appropriately to these problems. In response to climate change governments are doing as little as possible and the great majority of individuals are not changing their lifestyles; governments refuse to see that growth cannot continue forever and seem to not want to know about the declining petroleum supply. People live as if most of the above problems did not exist and we can continue to live the next fifty years with as little care for the environment as in the past fifty. We have become reliant on a globally integrated economy. Given the above problems, this cannot continue.”
Fortunately, appearing beneath the Clarke piece is the powerful video featuring the late Milton Siegel telling of his first hand personal knowledge of the anti-family planning/anti-womens’ actions by the Vatican. Clarke is not alone in avoiding making the confrontational statements which Dr. Mumford and few others have had the courage to make over the years. The price such commentators pay for so doing is adjudged too risky by most writers.
Yes, the mass media covered the massive story of pedophile priests and Cardinal Law’s failure to take timely action. Even the current Cardinal Pell story gets coverage. However, the chance for change in the dominance of male rule under Pope Francis or any successor seems quite remote.
And as for Islam, any criticism there has proved fraught with dangerous personal risk. Powerful religions have enormous secular power not readily unused to keep it.
The violent branches of Islam equate as we can see as terrorists. And the goal of terrorism is to create fear. While traditional Islamists are clearly not terrorists, I am guessing that not many of us non Moslems here or as tourists overseas would be willing to carry a banner or even a lapel button which said, “Islam Keeps Women Down!” To assume blind good will to powerful religions who preach against women’s rights is naïve. Such behavior remains true of the Vatican and certain other religious sects with similar anti woman practices.
Yes, anyone can believe anything they want but the major religions possess secular power which could destroy human life on Planet Earth.
It is a dangerous world we live in and getting more so all the time. However, the bias of large authoritarian religions with their huge war chests and political influence on secular governance keeps the media cowed into seldom mentioning their huge influence on dealing with women’s inferior status and their capacity to contracept at whatever level they might prefer.
The liberation of women after the Pill was FDA approved in the USA in 1960 may save us. However, the fact that women still need a prescription in some jurisdictions to obtain Pills is deplorable. And Pills are still too expensive. Medical abortions are on the rise here, but getting to use such choices in the developing world where growth is still rapid remains far from easy. Historical change seems very slow as Johnathan Eig’s masterful 2014 book, “The Birth of the Pill” tells us. The creation of the most important advance in women’s reproductive rights was fought tooth and nail by the Catholic Church.
From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013
By Donald A. Collins
Publisher: Church and State Press (July 30, 2014)
Back in 1991, the NGO Don Collins founded in 1976, International Services Assistance Fund (ISAF), co-produced a TV quality 22-minute film called “Whose Choice?” which Ted Turner arranged to broadcast on September 21, 1992 in prime time on his then independent Turner Broadcast System (TBS). Other outlets such as PBS and several of its affiliates Collins and his colleagues contacted then refused to run it because of its forthright treatment of the abortion issue, arguing for all women’s right to choose not to have a baby. ISAF has made a new edition of that DVD. The purpose for reissuing this 3rd version of “Whose Choice?” was simply to show the historical urgency that attended those times, still blocked and attacked over 40 years after the Roe v Wade decision in 1973. This video is available for public viewing for the first time.
Sir David Attenborough: an interview with the Wellcome Trust
Professor Paul Ehrlich: Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided?
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