New Report on Population Asks Americans to Start Talking About What Really Matters

August 19, 2010 • United States, PMC in the News

August 19, 2010

Contact: Katie Elmore
Director of Communications
Tel: 802-985-8156 ext. 205

New Report on Population Asks Americans to Start Talking About What Really Matters

Shelburne, VT (19. August 2010) – When a man and a woman have unprotected sex, babies are quite often the result. Sexual decisions not only impact the lives of those involved, but impact the planet we all share. Currently the world’s population is growing by 80 million people every year. On a planet with finite resources this means we either take a rational approach to addressing population issues, or we ignore simple mathematics and pay the unimaginably horrific consequences. Sound bleak? Well it is. Which is why everyone needs to talk about it.

In his just-released report, “POPULATION: The Multiplier of Everything,” Post Carbon Institute Fellow and Population Media Center founder and president, William Ryerson cuts directly to the need to openly and thoughtfully address the critical issue of population growth.

In the 17-page report, Ryerson paints the big picture of population growth both in the United States and globally, details how our growing numbers impact food, water and energy supplies, addresses the belief that “technology will save us,” and explores a number of common myths and misconceptions about population growth, which are often perpetuated by the media or special interest groups.

Ryerson succinctly clears up the following common myths:

• The “Birth Dearth” Myth
• The Belief that Science and Technology will Solve All Problems.
• The Belief that there is a Problem only with Distribution of Food and other Resources
• The Belief that Religious Barriers will Prevent the Use of Family Planning
• The Myth that Economic Development is Needed to Slow Population Growth
• The Myth that Providing Contraceptives is all that is Needed

In his introduction, Ryerson lays out why the population conversation can be so difficult:

When it comes to controversial issues, population is in a class by itself. Advocates and activists working to reduce global population growth and size are attacked by the Left for supposedly ignoring human-rights issues, glossing over Western overconsumption, or even seeking to reduce the number of people of color. They are attacked by the Right for supposedly favoring widespread abortion, promoting promiscuity via sex education, or wanting to harm economic growth. Others think the problem has been solved, or believe that the real problem is that we have a shortage of people (the so-called “birth dearth”). Still others think the population problem will solve itself, or that technological innovations will make our numbers irrelevant.

One thing is certain: The planet and its resources are finite, and it cannot support an infinite population of humans or any other species. A second thing is also certain:
The issue of population is too important to avoid just because it is controversial.

William Ryerson’s report was prepared as his contribution to the Institute’s October 2010 Watershed Media/UC Press publication, The Post Carbon Reader. The new book weighs in on the key issues shaping our new century, from renewable energy and urban agriculture to social justice and community resilience. The collection of reports takes a straightforward look at the interconnected threats of our global sustainability quandary and presents some of the most promising responses.

Download the full report/chapter here: “POPULATION: The Multiplier of Everything”

See other Reader content here: The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century’s Sustainability Crises.

William Ryerson is founder and President of Population Media Center, and President of the Population Institute. He has a 39-year history of working in the field of reproductive health, including two decades of experience adapting the Sabido methodology for behavior change communications to various cultural settings worldwide. He has also been involved in the design of research to measure the effects of such projects in a number of countries, one of which led to a series of publications regarding a serialized radio drama in Tanzania and its effects on HIV/AIDS avoidance and family planning use. In 2006, he was awarded the Nafis Sadik Prize for Courage from the Rotarian Action Group on Population and Development. William received a B.A. in Biology (Magna Cum Laude) from Amherst College and an M.Phil. in Biology from Yale University.

Population Media Center (PMC) works worldwide to bring about stabilization of human population numbers at a level that can be sustained by the world’s natural resources and to lessen the harmful impact of humanity on the earth’s environment. PMC uses entertainment media to change cultural attitudes and individual behavior with regard to health and social issues. To achieve this, PMC adopted the Sabido methodology, which uses long-running serialized melodramas, written and produced in participating countries in local languages. Characters are created that gradually evolve into positive role models for the audience. The audience forms emotional bonds with these characters, which can lead to positively influencing listeners’ attitudes and behaviors. PMC’s serial dramas have addressed issues such as: the use of family planning, adoption of small family norms, avoidance of AIDS, elevation of women’s status, protection of children, and related social and health goals, depending upon the relevance of each to the policies of the country in which PMC is working.

During the past few decades, growth has become virtually the sole index of economic well-being. But at some point, humanity’s ever-increasing resource consumption will inevitably meet the very real limits of a finite planet.

The 36 co-authors of The Post Carbon Reader (Watershed Media/UC Press – October 2010) believe that this time has arrived. The authors call upon global leaders to face the need to accomplish four enormous tasks simultaneously:

1. Rapidly reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
2. Adapt to the end of economic growth.
3. Design and provide a sustainable way of life for 7 billion people.
4. Deal with the environmental consequences of the past 100 years of fossil-fueled growth.

In addition to William Ryerson, The Post Carbon Reader features the works of Wes Jackson, Bill McKibben, Erika Allen, Richard Heinberg, Gloria Flora, Sandra Postel, Nancy Lee Wood, Zenobia Barlow, Daniel Lerch, Rob Hopkins, Stephanie Mills, David Orr, Michael Shuman, Peter Whybrow, William Rees, Tom Whipple, Richard Douthwaite, Chris Martenson, David Fridley, Warren Karlenzig, John Kaufmann, Hillary Brown, Richard Gilbert, Anthony Perl, Cindy Parker, Brian Schwartz, Bill Sheehan, Helen Spiegelman, Joshua Farley, Michael Stone, Deborah & Frank Popper, Michael Bomford, David Hughes and Asher Miller.

Post Carbon Institute provides individuals, communities, businesses, and governments with the resources needed to understand and respond to the interrelated economic, energy, and environmental crises that define the 21st century. PCI envisions a world of resilient communities and re-localized economies that thrive within ecological bounds.

Tel: +1.802.985.8156 ext. 205

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