By John Seager
President, Population Connection
It was nice to see Slate clear up some misunderstandings about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s views on abortion and feminism (Talking to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Oct. 19). Unfortunately, the explanation might have engendered some new misunderstandings – about my organization.
First of all, Zero Population Growth didn’t disappear with the VW buses and Birkenstocks. We still exist – both as a nonprofit organization and a movement. We’re now called Population Connection, and the movement is centered on expanding human rights – making sure every person who wants it has access to voluntary family planning, fighting for social justice and protecting the planet we all depend upon. We are a pro-choice organization not out of some drive to reduce “certain populations,” but because we support women’s rights. Period.
However, two things have changed since the heyday of interest in population growth. Number one: The world’s population has nearly doubled. Number two: Nobody wants to talk about it. Any suggestion that the planet has limits tends to brand one as some sort of eugenicist, as Jonah Goldberg so ably demonstrated.
Currently, our Earth’s population stands at more than 7 billion. Count noses in 1974, and there were 4 billion of us. The United Nations projects that by 2050, we could have anywhere from 8.1 billion (if contraception access is expanded) to 10.6 billion.
Perhaps that eye-popping number wouldn’t be an issue if it weren’t for several inconvenient truths. One is that growth in agriculture yields is not keeping pace with population growth – meaning a lot more hungry people in the future. Another is that clean water is already a scarce commodity in many areas experiencing rapid population growth.
The third is that women around the world still lack the basic ability to decide on the trajectory of their own lives. That’s wrong, and it needs to change.
Around 222 million women in the developing world want to delay or end childbearing but lack access to contraception. In the United States, nearly every other pregnancy is unplanned. Those unplanned pregnancies that result in births have lasting consequences far beyond overtaxed resources. Women drop out of school. Their health is compromised. Their potential earnings diminish. Their families struggle. Entire economies are affected when only half of us – the male half – are able to reach our full potential and achieve our dreams.
We can change that. And that’s what Population Connection – Zero Population Growth – fights for.
So yes, Bader Ginsburg is right. There was a group called Zero Population Growth in the 1970s. And we’re still around today. By simply ensuring that every woman who wants to avoid pregnancy can do so, we can help our population peak at a billion more than we have today. And that’s good news, not just for women, but for all of us who share this little planet.
It’s not controversial. It’s common sense.
John Seager is President of Population Connection, formerly known as Zero Population Growth. The organization’s website is populationconnection.org.