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Seven Billion Reasons

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Posted on Oct 26, 2011
Flickr/mckaysavage (CC-BY)

By Suzanne Petroni

(Page 2)

These are daunting numbers, almost as unfathomable as that looming 7 billion figure. But there’s no need to turn away because the scope of the problem is simply too large to comprehend. The fact is, we actually know how to solve these problems. The ICPD laid out a plan, and it can work.

Those 179 countries meeting in Cairo in 1994 had it right: Invest in health education and rights, especially for women and girls around the world, and millions can be lifted out of poverty and hunger. Such investments reduce maternal morbidity and mortality, prevent child marriage, end the scourge of unsafe abortion, and ensure greater equality between men and women. All it takes is some political will and a remarkably small amount of support from the U.S. government.

In other words, we can save the world but we’re not.

Why?

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U.S. support for international family-planning programs began some 50 years ago, with broad bipartisan support. Over time, however, conservatives—including Republicans in Congress—have increasingly sought to limit U.S. funding for such programs, and have successfully added a dizzying array of restrictions on how that funding can be used.

It’s not that people have changed their minds on the subject. Public opinion research has consistently shown tremendous support among Americans for accessible family-planning services, as well as investments globally in women’s health and empowerment—a critical component of U.S. foreign policy. According to American Public Opinion and Global Health (May 2009), 68 percent of Americans support “helping poor countries provide family-planning and reproductive-health services to their citizens.” Some 77 percent support “improving the health of mothers and children in poor countries.” And, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 85 percent of Americans think it is important for the U.S. government to “promote the rights of women” in developing countries.

Despite these statistics, conservatives continue to escalate their attacks on not only domestic programs but on international reproductive health. While the U.S. House vote to defund Planned Parenthood received much media attention earlier this year, similar attempts by House Republicans to defund the United Nations Population Fund have gone largely unnoticed. UNFPA works in some 150 countries, supporting programs that help women deliver healthy babies and survive delivery, enable couples to determine the number and spacing of their children, reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, and end the harmful practice of female genital mutilation.

The conservative excuse for defunding Planned Parenthood has been that part of the organization’s mission is to provide safe abortions (although not with U.S. funds). But UNFPA, even though it doesn’t promote or provide abortions, has still been the subject of a decades-long partisan game of ping-pong. Every Republican president since Ronald Reagan has withheld funding for this important agency, while every Democratic president has restored it. Employing the blatantly false pretext that UNFPA supports China’s one-child policy and condones abortions and sterilizations, conservative politicians try to score points with their constituents, while the neediest women in the world suffer very real and tragic consequences.

Meanwhile, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) has not yet done what many expect him to do this year, which is to reintroduce the “Global Gag Rule,” which prohibits U.S. funding for family-planning organizations that—with their own funds—lobby on, counsel on or provide abortion services. The rule has also been in place during every Republican administration since 1984 and rescinded by every Democratic one. In many regions of the world, those defunded groups are often the sole providers of basic health care to women, men and youth.

The facts are these:

  • Women are healthier and have fewer children when they are educated, empowered and equipped to determine the number and spacing of their offspring.
  • Fewer children means healthier children who survive at higher rates.
  • Healthier childrenand empowered girls go to school, marry later and contribute more to the development of their societies and economies.
  • And they, in turn, tend to have fewer children.
  • Women benefit, children benefit, economies benefit, societies benefit, the planet benefits.
  • So let’s meet our global commitments. Call on the U.S. to invest the $3.7 billion needed for maternal, neonatal and reproductive health programs that can end unwanted pregnancy, female genital mutilation, obstetric fistula, maternal mortality and unsafe abortion around the world.
It’s a small price to pay to ensure gender equality, slow population growth and save the planet.

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By exploitedtimes, October 31, 2011 at 4:53 am Link to this comment

@CPB,

Ha ha! No I don’t blame the dolphins! I do like dolphins.

Exactly true I believe, it’s all part of the human condition.

Happy Halloween!

Report this
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By cpb, October 30, 2011 at 12:14 pm Link to this comment

@ exploitedtimes

“My point is the human condition is what it is because of who ‘we’ are.  ...”

The human condition is what it is, in part, because of who we are.  Existentially I supposed there is no need for separating out different influences, but part of the human condition is that we do so.  I debate the ‘human condition’ with people all the time who, when confronted with some of the powers in play, have nothing more to say, contenting themselves to some extent with the notion that guerrilla societies have Silverbacks and so we have dictators.  Perhaps.  We also have rebels.  Thank dog for that.

“We can blame a few elites but like I say, they are humans so we are blaming humans.”

Yes we can.  And so I do.  Can’t blame the dolphins!

“And it’s the species as a whole that is exponentially multiplying, and whether it is is doing so based on the social constructs built by a few is merely a determining factor within the human condition itself. Heady shit huh?”

Heady shit indeed!  So much to parse out if we want to explain ‘how we got here’.  Good vs evil?  Black and white of the Yin/Yang?  I see grey everywhere.  Those social constructs certainly may be shown to have some validity based on the human condition, but the desire to tear those constructs apart is equally valid. 

Cheers et

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By exploitedtimes, October 30, 2011 at 3:37 am Link to this comment

@CPB,

Wow, that’s true. I wouldn’t argue against those points, especially your last paragraph. I agree the average human has been marginalized throughout history, but still, those ‘making the rules’ are part of the species as well. Biologically one could argue any hierarchy is part of natural evolution. Biologically, humans extract resources and reproduce, these activities are a given regardless of social constructs etc. Yes we acknowledge that our economic constructs are predicated on endless growth and the average human didn’t/doesn’t control these constructs, but biologically operates within it. I guess one could say the social economic constructs controlled by few steered the species to its condition, I could accept that, but again those elites are humans too and thus part of human evolution. My point is the human condition is what it is because of who ‘we’ are. ‘We’ may not be what the average human consciously wants to be or thinks he is, but the human condition is what it is, can’t be denied. We can blame a few elites but like I say, they are humans so we are blaming humans. And it’s the species as a whole that is exponentially multiplying, and whether it is is doing so based on the social constructs built by a few is merely a determining factor within the human condition itself. Heady shit huh? With respect to the average human, I don’t believe most can get their heads around these concepts, a strong reason why exploitation and denial reign. But the words ‘intent and capability’ are too general and not really appropriate here; I concede that.

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By cpb, October 29, 2011 at 7:49 pm Link to this comment

“Fear and negativity, perhaps, but objective science, certainly. Please note my previous posts allow for pop. reduction possibilities, though reduction is considered less likely than increase. The existing growth data and associated evolutionary patterns suggest the quote you selected, exactly and in real terms.”

- exploitedtimes

Hi ET.  I am happy that you responded, and thoughtfully rather than… well, posters seem to have numerous options.

I endorse the points you make for the most part.  I specifically chose to isolate your point as I did, to question the underlying assumptions that pervade the dominant worldview that seems to come through via so many different channels, and one to which I believe peeps are very vulnerable to, given the status quo, media-wise.

One cannot make broad statements about the tendencies or nature of ‘humanity’ based on the evidence that the past provides unless one also appropriately considers the dominant forces and societal control mechanisms in play over the period of time discussed.  I did accuse you of guilt in this regard, but it’s not something I consider a crime.  Still possible I have merely misread you of course…

There are so many pervasive myths in the dominant culture, and also these strange tendencies to acknowledge two conflicting arguments that cannot both be true, as if neither has a better claim on truth than the other, thus killing any rational or objective conclusion because it is discounted before it can be discussed.

Our current dominant culture tells us that the way things are is a result of the way humans are.  It overlooks the power relationships at play, almost entirely.  You can see the same at work right here on TruthDig.  In one thread peeps are dealing with and debating the machinations and corruption of the political system, and yet on a different page, a different article, a different take on a similar theme and what are we discussing? - a different framework is at play, and the conlusion seems to blame the people who, in the simplest form of the argument, make poor decisions at the polls..  We travel quickly between a debate that points fingers and a debate that wants to redefine the terms so as to mask or shield from view those that make decisions in the first place.

If I believed that your average human had more than a .500 batting average in terms of genuine agency over their lives, then I might agree with you about the ‘intent’ or ‘capability’ of all those humans, collectively.  But I don’t believe they are batting 500.  I believe they are under a continuous siege.  The results, in short, do not express anything significant about the collective will or capability or ambition of ‘humanity’.  Rather, they speak to the motivations of those making, and enforcing, the rules.

Cheers.

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By exploitedtimes, October 29, 2011 at 6:30 am Link to this comment

@ CPB,

Hi there. I am surprised at your remark following your previous post, which basically echoed my sentiments.

While I don’t pretend to know the future, I feel quite comfortable with the quote you chose, particularly since it begins with the limiting phrase, “At this point in human evolution..” indicating what follows is predicated on history up to this point.

Fear and negativity, perhaps, but objective science, certainly. Please note my previous posts allow for pop. reduction possibilities, though reduction is considered less likely than increase. The existing growth data and associated evolutionary patterns suggest the quote you selected, exactly and in real terms.

You note it is profound and broad and I absolutely concur, though it not a generalization. I say humans have no ‘intention or capability,’ based on the historical data up to this point. This presumes nothing but is derived from historical growth data. Again I don’t predict the future. Someone or thing could pop up with the solution(s) to everything 5 seconds from now. Indeed the author of this article or FRTothus may already have the solutions, and bravo if so. My posts and positions are based on biological evolution and the history of civilization and the scientific data which exists today.

Philosophically, I don’t believe I consciously feel any immediate fear, but confess it is difficult (at least for me) to read positives in this data, so would have to confess to some negative philosophy, with regard to the “Malthusian garbage,” FRTothus mentions, referring to available resources.

With respect to available resources, it is known that many suffer for lack of water, food, and fuel. My philosophy is I view this as negative; I take a negative view of suffering. FRTothus contends it is an issue of distribution and there are plenty of resources; a common stance. Even if we accept this variable theoretically, the fact remains that many DO suffer from lack of resources, regardless of availability, thus supporting the intention/capability argument. Again however, current data analysis of these resources reveals deficiencies in supply; not merely a distribution problem. Reliable research indicates global fresh water deficiencies currently in the area of 10% of the pop. without, with data suggesting 20% of the pop. without fresh water in 2030. This is an existing condition, not a philosophy.

Malthusian? Sure. Garbage? Only when in denial, and denial is the prevailing state of mind, which also supports the ‘intention and capability’ argument.

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By cpb, October 28, 2011 at 3:59 pm Link to this comment

“At this point in human evolution it is quite apparent humans have no intention of, nor the capability to, address the fate of the species in real terms.”

- exploitedtimes

That, good sir, is your fear and negativity expressing itself.  No intention or capability?  Presumes much.  Overlooks much more.  I recommend you try to limit such profoundly broad generalisations, plagued as they are with mines you may inevitably stumble upon.

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By exploitedtimes, October 28, 2011 at 3:32 pm Link to this comment

@FRTothus,

A Ha! So the author is not the only one with the magic solution.

Raise living standards.

I suppose your solution for the poor is to have more money.

Perhaps I am dense; care to elaborate?

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By FRTothus, October 28, 2011 at 11:47 am Link to this comment

Carrying capacity?  Population bomb?

Malthusian garbage! 

The issue is and always has been one of distribution and the lack of profitability.

There is one sure way to reduce population: increase living standards.

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By truedigger3, October 28, 2011 at 4:58 am Link to this comment

The writer of this article is putting the carriage before the horses. In many countries, there are no resources to raise the living standards and educate so many people, and consequently empowering women, due to population explosion in these countries and due to exploitation and greed by both local oligarchies, transnational corporations and transnational banks. Also, add to that, in many religions and cultures, birth control is not accepted.
In my humble opinion, people will continue to increase until they hit the wall of not enough resources to sustain all of them and conseqently people will start killing each other or may be nature and fate interfere to cull the population some how. That is sad and depressing but it is very probable.

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By exploitedtimes, October 27, 2011 at 3:39 pm Link to this comment

@Suzi,

Those are by far the lowest and most conservative figures I have heard. Bear in mind the world pop. has approx. DOUBLED in the last 50 years and many scholars in this field expect it to do the same in the coming 50. Merely adding 2 billion in 39 years would severely defy existing growth trends.

This only amplifies the alarm. but as I have written before, it is great news for economists.

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By Suzi Bristol, October 27, 2011 at 12:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I find it mind-boggling that the world is poised to add 2 billion more people, from 7 to 9 billion, in just the next 39 years—unless some disaster occurs on the scale of the disease-driven population collapse of the Americas on first contact with Europeans.

And it is important to realize this is not just Third World countries.  The USA is the third most populous country in the world at 312 million and we are projected to grow by over 110 million in the next 39 year, to increase by one-third!  Consider how many more resources are consumed, directly and indirectly, by the typical American and you know it spells disaster, even though almost impossible to truly comprehend the suffering that is coming.

Anyone who expects to still be living in 2050 should be very afraid.

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By berniem, October 27, 2011 at 9:48 am Link to this comment

Bible-thumping theocratic nonsense as well as hypothetical social and political philosophising aside, we humans need to come to grips with the reality that we are as the bacterium introduced upon the agar on the petri dish. If we continue to behave as such we will ultimately find that we have consumed ourselves into oblivion.

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By exploitedtimes, October 27, 2011 at 5:10 am Link to this comment

@ cpb,

Perfectly correct. Prevailing global economic practice is predicated on infinite growth.

But Earth is finite.

However incredibly, the economic leaders who run the show disagree with this concept. They maintain that the resources available to humans are, in fact, infinite. Larry Summers is quoted saying, “There is no reason….to believe there are any limits to the resources,” that can be extracted.

I note that prevailing economic practice depends on the infinite variable. This is true of the theory as well. As you mention, the system demands growth. Without it global economic theory collapses; all economies are measured by growth. That’s why population arguments and carbon reduction arguments, etc., or any argument regarding reductions (forget about leveling off, it’s always straight to reduction targets) are so utterly unrealistic.

Evolutionary, biological, scientific goals can certainly cannot be attained if they cannot even be recognized or addressed realistically.

At this point in human evolution it is quite apparent humans have no intention of, nor the capability to, address the fate of the species in real terms. Given existing data and barring unforeseen events, profound denial will continue to dominate the status quo. The infinitesimal few who take the broad view are marginalized and ignored, as broad views of evolution do not pay short term in the marketplace.

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By cpb, October 26, 2011 at 9:34 pm Link to this comment

Peeps might get around to controlling themselves appropriately if they only had genuine agency over their lives.  So long as individuals matter more as taxpayers and consumers the sick and twisted system that currently oversees macro-economic policy-making will demand ‘growth’. 

Seriously, aren’t you aware of the direct link within current ‘Western’ economies between economic and population growth?  Immigrants are good for the economy, remember?  Immigrants are good for leveling the playing field, despite their perfectly just intentions. 

The system that dominates our economic lives demands growth and sees no fork in the road ahead.  We live on a finite island, yet we govern ourselves as if we can ignore any/all limitations.

Something has to give.

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By gerard, October 26, 2011 at 6:49 pm Link to this comment

It is hard not to assume that arguing that birth control cannot significantly decrease world population increase soon translates from “Too many people” to “People don’t matter anyway”, then on to “So it’s okay to get rid of large numbers of them via exploitation,poverty,disease,suffering, starvation and—as hinted previously here—by dropping A-bombs or promoting weapons of mass destruction.
  Doubtless many people have already come to this perverse view—at the expense of their own ethical decency.

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By exploitedtimes, October 26, 2011 at 6:14 pm Link to this comment

I’m all for educating women and providing birth control; a noble pursuit, but can’t claim to tackle the pop.boom.

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By Seattle Undertaker, October 26, 2011 at 5:58 pm Link to this comment

I’m quite sympathetic to ExploitedTimes argument above. The fact is if we wait for
enlightened policies to lead to a pro-feminist reduction in the population (which is
what the author explicitly calls for), we’re going to see a whole lot of starvation,
disease, and death among both men AND women.  Would she be happy if the
population contracted in that fashion just because men are equally affected as
women?  How droll.

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By exploitedtimes, October 26, 2011 at 5:06 pm Link to this comment

Gotta love the optimism in spite of the numbers, huh? The population will expand until resources expire; this is the human condition as evidenced to this point in history.

It is comforting to know that this author and her sources possess the data to prevent this. Even more impressive and comforting to know we’ve had the data for decades (probably longer). Less comforting, though, are the existing facts and the existing numbers. Even less comforting is the concept associated with word EXPONENTIAL.

Theories are so awesome on paper, where they don’t have to live, breathe, or work.

The only realistic imminent possibility for population reduction is a modern apocalypse of nuclear or biological variety - both conceivable - or an unforeseen geo-type event.

Anyone believing the population explosion has a chance of being thwarted by other means including those mentioned in this piece is suffering from a Theoretical God Complex. So go ahead and reduce away in software and on paper, but never on Earth.

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By balkas, October 26, 2011 at 4:00 pm Link to this comment

no one can know how many people we cld house on this planet if we’d end once
for all time personal supremacism.
or if we wld destroy all tanks, warships, warjets, airplanes, wmd, artillery; ?all cars;
all mowers, golf carts, electric gadgets, hair dryers;
and provide free schooling/healthcare/other education, etcetc., for everyone.

but more people, fed-taught-cared for medicly properly—wld produce more
geniuses and we owe all progress to geniuses like copernicus, galileo, pithagoras,
pavlov, newton, planck, tesla, watts, pasteur, and countless other scientists.

and we cld make progress and not cause regress. but as long personal
supremacists, an extreme reality people, keep on dehumanizing 99.99999% of
people on earth, we can expect only worsenings.

vast number of people becoming human enough [not in utopian way] and as we
were once, wld ensure adequate life for animals and people.

there is no way of knowing that we cld not even have 100bn people on this planet
and have peace and prosperity.

but building ten-room mansions for two or three people, yachts; manufacturing
5k heavy cars [carrying 80 k], tanks, warships; going to moon, etc.,
does not make any sense. tnx

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By gerard, October 26, 2011 at 3:40 pm Link to this comment

Truthdig:  Just a little editing would make this article have impact far beyond the very worthwhile verbalizing.
1.  Include the video of the beautiful song attached to the original, to move people to take action.
2.  Provide an address or email to the United Nations agency concerned, briefly stated as UNFPA, and/or to the U.S. government agency concerned with “paying our dues” on this one, as the UN generally gets very short shrift from the US and needs prodding. Most people reading the article will not make effort to research these agencies.
  Certainly, population control is a number one necessity deserving of wide support.  Help make it possible.  Don’t just tell us about it without directions of what to do. Indications of vague possibilities without specific directions are very sterile.

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