Page 42 - Foreign Service Journal - April 2012

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demographic and health trends affect a
wide range of vital U.S. foreign policy
interests. These include the desire to
promote healthy, productive families
and communities, prosperous and sta-
ble societies, resource and food secu-
rity, and environmental sustainability.”
The CFR report concludes: “Inter-
national family planning is one inter-
vention that can advance all these
interests in a cost-effective manner.”
Good News and Bad
Our reaching the seven billion mark
does not mean family planning cam-
paigns have failed. Indeed, we might
have exceeded that figure many years
earlier were it not for the efforts already
made. But the time it takes for the cur-
rent rate of growth to fall to zero — the
point of equilibrium at which births
equal deaths — will determine how
much more crowded the planet be-
comes.
Some population experts point with
pride to the fact that we are only adding
80 million people a year to the planet
(above deaths), a significant fall from
the 90 million a year at the peak of
growth a decade ago. They also note
that the use of family planning in de-
veloping countries leapt from 10 per-
cent of women in 1965 to 53 percent in
2005. Worldwide, mothers now have
an average of three children, down
from six in the 1960s.
We have long heard that the popu-
lation explosion might lead to disaster.
The classic dystopian film “Soylent
Green” describes an American city
overwhelmed by people sleeping in
stairwells and churches and living off
government rations —which, we learn
at the end, are made fromdead people.
For now, such a fate is still fiction.
But the many instances of conflict over
land, resources and ethnicity — along
with the specter of more than 160,000
children dying each day of hunger —
should remind us of the urgency of an
issue first aired half a century ago.
Fortunately, there is still time to de-
cide whether we’ll live on a decent, sus-
tainable planet with six or seven billion
people — or a teeming, swarming
world of 15 billion, most of them con-
demned to permanent poverty and
early death.
42
F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / A P R I L 2 0 1 2
The tragic impact
of overpopulation is
becoming more and
more apparent all
over the world.