History of the Population Field

January 2, 2010 • Daily Email Recap

George Plumb of Vermonters for Sustainable Population is seeking feedback on the following brief history of the population field in the U.S. and New England. Please send your suggestions to gplumb@pshift.com.

Chronological History of the U.S. and N.E. Population Movement*
January 2010

The population movement has a long and complicated history. This brief document is intended to provide a snapshot of only the more important events that happened in the U.S and New England. It does not cover international events except for the dates of the very important international conferences of which the U.S. was a participant and often played a key role in the results. In presenting this history New England Coalition for Sustainable Population takes no position on the events. It is simply stating the history as it happened. Position statements are found on the Position Statement page of this web site.

1790 – The first U. S. census showed the population was 4 million.

1839 – With the vulcanization of rubber by Goodyear, rubber condoms became available for use.

1900 – The U.S. population was 76 million.

1910 – Emma Goldman began to speak out on the necessity of effective birth control.

1915 – Margaret Sanger brought the diaphragm from the Netherlands to the U.S. It was the first truly effective birth control device under the control of women. In 1916 she organized the first birth control clinic in Brooklyn, N.Y. In 1921 she founded the American Birth Control League which became the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 1942. She was jailed at one time for her activities by Anthony Comstock of Connecticut, author of the Comstock Laws prohibiting birth control and human sexuality education. In 1925 Sanger’s second husband financed the first manufacturing of the diaphragm in the U.S.

1950 – The U.S. population was 150 million.

1954 – The Hugh Moore Fund first used the term “population bomb” on their published pamphlet. He was a philanthropist from Pennsylvania. His mantra was “Your cause is a lost cause unless you support family planning.” The challenge of Man’s Future was authored by Harrison Brown which talked about population growth and diminishing resources.

1960 – The “pill” was invented and became available to women for contraception. Although available since the 1800’s vasectomy began to come into mass use as a birth control method in the USA during the early 1960’s after research confirmed there were no adverse effects. During the same period the era of laparoscopy began with unipolar electrocoagulation of the fallopian tube.

1965 – Congress passed the Immigration and Nationality Act, ending four decades of restricted immigration. This law, while removing limits based on country of origin, included provisions for family reunification, opening the door to “chain migration.”

1965 – The U.S. Supreme Court decision of Buxton and Griswold vs. Conn. legalized birth control for married couples offering “privacy of the bedroom.”

1967 – U.S. population reached 200 million.

1968 – The Population Bomb, by Paul R. Ehrlich was published by the Sierra Club. This book laid the foundation for widespread concern about population growth among environmentalists and others that followed in the early years of the 1970’s. The Sierra Club distributed the film “No Room for Wilderness.”

1968 – The organization Zero Population Growth (ZPG) was formed by New Haven attorney Richard Bowers, Yale biology professor Charles Remington and Paul Ehrlch with an emphasis on U.S. population growth. There were 600 local chapters and 60,000 members throughout the country. With some 600 members, Burlington, Vermont had the largest per capita chapter in the country. In 2002 ZPG changed its name to Population Connection and its focus to world population growth with the object of educating school age young people. In subsequent years many other population organizations formed including the Population Institute (PI) in 1969, Negative Population Growth (NPG) in 1972, Population-Environmental Balance (PEB) in 1973, Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) the first state population organization in 1986, Carrying Capacity Network(CCN) in 1989, Floridians for a Sustainable Population in 1994, and Numbers USA (NUSA) in 1996.

1970 – Earth Day was declared with population growth a major issue on the agenda. Dr. Mary Steichen Calderon, past medical director of the PPFA, established the Sex, Information and Education Council (SIECUS).

1972 – The Commission on Population and the American Future report, chaired by John D. Rockefeller III, stated “We have looked for, and have not found, any convincing economic argument for continued population growth. The health of our economy does not depend upon it, nor does the vitality of business, nor the welfare of the average person.” President Richard Nixon appeared to support most of its conclusions and recommendation but because of political pressure did not release it. He did support the National Security Study Memorandum 200 on population which was the definitive interagency study of world population growth and its implications for United States global security, requested by President Nixon in 1974. Among its conclusions: “World population growth is widely recognized within the Government as a current danger of the highest magnitude calling for urgent measures…. There is a major risk of severe damage [from continued rapid population growth] to world economic, political, and ecological systems and, as these systems begin to fail, to our humanitarian values.”

1972 – The Limits to Growth, was published by the Club of Rome. The book modeled the consequences of a rapidly growing population and finite resource supplies. The book was updated in 1993 and in 2004 under the name Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update. In 1996 one of the authors, Donella Meadows, founded the Sustainability Institute in Hartland, Vt.

1973 – The U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe vs. Wade affirmed a women’s the right to abortion.

1973 – The Vt. Natural Resources Council published the Population Policy Report. As far as is known Vermont was the only state to publish such a report during that era. Today the VNRC, as with some other environmental organizations, refuses to publicly acknowledge any connection between population growth and the environment.

1974 – The Population Activist’s Handbook was published by The Population Institute. It is now out of print but used copies can still be purchased.

1974 – The first United Nation International Conference on Population was held in Bucharest, Romania, bringing thousands from around the world to concentrate on this issue. It produced a Plan of Action.

1977 – Steady-State Economics was published by Herman Daly. This was the first book to prominently link the destructiveness of the growth economy with ever increasing growth in population and consumption. The Center for the Advancement of a Steady State Economy was founded in 2004.

1980’s – Environmental organizations and leaders began their retreat from dealing with the population issue. They were now large professional organizations, instead of volunteer organizations, and being largely dependent on fund raising, eschewed being labeled as racist, pro-abortion, or against immigration and/or large families.

1981 – President Jimmy Carter’s massive Global 2000 Report to the President stated: “The United States should: Develop a U.S. national population policy that includes attention to issues such as population stabilization … and just, consistent and workable immigration laws.” The report was released in January, just before Carter was replaced by Ronald Reagan, who ignored virtually every recommendation in the report because they were contrary to his “bigger is better,” and “morning in America” views of the environment.

1984 – President Ronald Reagan commissioned Senator James Buckley of New York State to carry his anti-abortion message called The Mexico City Policy to the United Nations International Conference on Population, the second of its kind.

1986 – Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act granting amnesty to almost three million illegal immigrants. It included provisions for workplace enforcement of immigration status requirements, but with mixed results. A new wave of illegal immigration followed.

1990 – Congress passed a law, in response to warnings of an “impending labor shortage”, which essentially doubled legal immigration into the U.S. This led to unprecedented growth in the U.S. population.

1991 – The New Hampshire Citizens for Sustainable Population was organized by that state’s environmental champion Annette Cottrell. This was the first New England state to have a state level population organization. In 1994 Vermont followed suit with Vermont Citizens for Sustainable Population founded by George Plumb, Barbara Duncan, Kathy Kashanski, and Douglas Kivet-Kylar. It became the Vt. Earth Institute (VEI) in 1999 and shifted its focus to sustainable living. It folded in 2009 due the economic situation

1994 – The third United Nations International Conference on Population and Development was held in Cairo, Egypt, resulting in its Programme of Action that shifted the emphasis of population policies from primarily family planning programs to a comprehensive reproductive health and development approach.

1996 – The Population and Consumption Task Force, headed by Tim Wirth, of the Presidents Council on Sustainable Development, established after the 1992 Earth Summit by President Clinton, stated, “‘We believe that reducing current immigration levels is a necessary part of working toward sustainability in the United States.”

1996 – The New England Coalition for a Sustainable Population (NECSP) was organized by Anita King and Barbara Duncan. In 1996 Annie Faulkner volunteered as coordinator and raised funds for her salary and NECSP. In 2006, thanks to the Boston Foundation, Joe Bish and Rachael Zegarius were hired as its part time staff. In 2007 Joe was appointed Executive Director. In 2008 the New Hampshire Citizens for a Sustainable Population elected the board members of the NECSP to its own board and changed its name to the New England Coalition for a Sustainable Population. In 2008 the Massachusetts Slow Growth Initiative became a project of NECSP.

1998 – The Population Media Center was founded by Bill Ryerson with its main offices in Shelburne, Vt. The organization produces family planning soap operas for the developing world.

1999 – The Center for the Environment and Population (CEP) was formed by Victoria Markham in New Hampshire. Its office is now in New Canaan, Ct.

2002 – The Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population (ASAP) was formed in Charlottesville, Virginia. This is the first of efforts at the local/community level to provide an alternative to development pressures and to identify, reach and maintain a sustainable population size. The Massachusetts Slow Growth Initiative (MSGI) was formed in 2008 with similar goals.

2005 – Vermonters for Sustainable Population (VSP) was organized by George Plumb, Phil Dodd, Thomas McKenna, and Mark Powell to continue the work which VEI dropped.

2006 – The Population Fix: Breaking America’s Addiction to Population Growth, by Edward C. Hartman was published by Think Population Press. Mr. Hartman later traveled across the country to deliver the population message, speaking all over New England.

2006 – U.S. population reached 300 million.

2009 – The Montpelier Bridge newspaper held a public forum on population and followed this with a special supplement titled Speaking Out on Population. As far as is known this is the first time any newspaper in the world has done either of these activities.

2010 – A Pivotal Moment: Population, Justice & the Environmental Challenge, edited by Laurie Mazur, was published by Island Press. This is perhaps the most comprehensive book on population published in several years. In recent years many prominent environmental leaders have also written books which predict a collapse or disaster of some form unless we address our environmental problems soon including a strong emphasis on stabilizing population. These include Al Gore, Gus Speth, Thom Hartmann, Richard Heinberg, Derrick Jensen, Lester Brown, and James Howard Kunstler.

2039 – The U.S. Census Bureau projects the population will reach 400 million if present trends continue.
* Compiled by George Plumb, Chair of the New England Coalition for Sustainable Population and Executive Director of Vermonters for Sustainable Population. If you have any suggested additions/corrections please send to gplumb@pshift.com

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