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Society, Politics, and the Overpopulation Problem

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Mary Shaw     Permalink
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I am writing this on July 11 -- World Population Day. And I am reflecting on the fact that the world's population continues to grow year after year, even though our planet and its resources remain finite.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, new Americans are being born faster than the old ones are dying off, yielding a net gain of one person every 11 seconds in this country alone. And the population worldwide is growing even faster. This results in ongoing and ever-worsening shortages of food, clean water, shelter, and other necessities of life.

Nevertheless, the right-wing zealots continue to oppose responsible birth control programs. They like to think of themselves as "pro-life". However, they don't seem to care so much about the quality of life outside their country clubs. And, indeed, it's in the poorer neighborhoods and developing nations that overpopulation causes the greatest suffering.

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Another part of the problem exists at a societal level. As a woman who has chosen to remain child-free all my life, I am viewed by many as an anomaly. In our society, parenthood is encouraged, glorified, and glamorized (see "Jon & Kate Plus 8"). I frequently see otherwise intelligent people choosing to have three or four children -- or more. While most surely don't over-reproduce for malicious reasons, their naivete and/or thoughtlessness strike me as irresponsible, and more than a little narcissistic.

On a more positive note, President Obama has already taken some important steps in addressing family planning issues worldwide as well as domestically. He repealed the Bush administration's Global Gag Rule, which had withheld federal funds from nongovernmental health and family planning organizations that provide abortion information or referrals in other countries. And his budget for FY 2010 eliminates funding for abstinence-only sex education and instead supports a new Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative designed to "support community-based and faith-based efforts to reduce teen pregnancy using evidence-based and promising models."

But, like putting a Band-Aid on a cancer, these programs will not adequately address the underlying societal attitudes that need to change.

Just as the "green" movement has caught on in recent years, educating and inspiring ordinary people to be more environmentally responsible, we need a similar movement for population control.

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Society needs to embrace the concept that it is perfectly acceptable -- and, in fact, a positive thing -- for a couple to have only one child, or none.

And adoption should be encouraged for those who want more.

We need to get to a place where reckless over-reproduction is generally regarded as irresponsible and uncool. Because, in this day and age, it truly is.

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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)

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