William N. Ryerson William N. Ryerson, 3/18/2005 [Archive]

Is There Still A Population Growth Problem You Bet There Is

Is There Still A Population Growth Problem?You Bet There Is!

By William N. Ryerson

President, Population Media Center

We sure wouldn't know it by reading some major media, but world population growth is still a catastrophe in the making.

It seems every time we turn around, there's another story on the so-called 'birth dearth.'On November 23, 1997, The New York Times Magazine proclaimed: "The Population Explosion Is Over.'The Wall Street Journal echoed this sentiment in a January 24, 2003 editorial, 'Global Baby Bust.'On August 29, 2004, the New York Times ran an editorial entitled, 'Subtract Billions: Demographic 'Bomb' May Only Go 'Pop!''Newsweek followed September 27, 2004 with 'Birth Dearth; Remember the Population Bomb?'Amazingly, one paper declared, 'Population No Longer a Worry in Poor Countries.'

These articles use various projections to predict a decline in global numbers sometime in the next 100 to 300 years.Indeed, thanks to family planning services and information, birth rates have been declining worldwide.

The problem is that the media have missed the bigger, more immediate picture.In the next half century, U.N. projections show the world's population growing by 3 billion people -- a 50 percent increase; it's like adding the entire 1960 world population in 50 years.The UN has just raised its estimates of the magnitude of this growth.This is the immediate issue at hand and a critical problem for world attention.

How did so many papers get the story wrong?They have been intentionally misled by a few right-wingers with the not-so-hidden agenda of getting family planning de-funded, if not banned around the world.

As a result of the misinformation, most people are not aware that population growth continues at a rate of 76 million persons per year globally.Many don't understand that poverty, ill health, political instability, terrorism, and much human suffering in poor countries are significantly related to early childbearing and large family size.

Many Americans don't see the impact of such growth on the global environment, including threats to energy supplies, ocean fisheries, wilderness areas, biodiversity, forests, and fresh water supplies.


Few realize that the U.S. is growing by more people per year than any country except India and China.In fact, it is growing by more than all other developed countries combined, mostly because of immigration.Growth in the number of U.S. residents, who consume and pollute at a rate roughly ten times the per capita rates in developing countries, leads to a greater environmental burden by U.S. on the rest of the world.

Here at home, population growth is leading to loss of open space, sprawl, traffic jams, air pollution, water depletion, increased dependence on foreign oil, and lower quality of life.In 1973, the U.S. had to import 38 percent of its oil.The figure now is 55 percent.Because of population growth, by 2025, the U.S. will be dependent on foreign oil for 78 percent of its needs.

Lack of concern with population issues has allowed the Bush Administration to slash funding for family planning programs in poor countries without serious backlash.For the last four years, the White House has withheld $34 million from the U.N. Population Fund and $18 million from the International Planned Parenthood Federation.These actions have had devastating effects on the health of women in developing countries.

The National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society of London have jointly issued a proclamation that global population must be stabilized as soon as possible in order to avoid catastrophic consequences.Despite the media's misleading coverage, the issue of population is as important as ever!

William Ryerson is President of Population Media Center (www.populationmedia.org), which uses specially-created radio and TV soap operas, written and produced in developing countries, to change behavior around the world with regard to family size, family planning, the status of women, avoidance of AIDS, and related issues.His email is ryerson@populationmedia.org.

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