Seven big problems for 7 billion people

December 6, 2011 • Daily Email Recap

Thanks to Bob Walker and Alexandra Paul for this article, which mentions the work of Population Media Center.  See  The interviews with Alexandra Paul and Bob Engelman are shown below. For the full article, see the link above.

Alexandra Paul

Actress (best known for her role as Lt. Stephanie Holden in TV series “Baywatch”) and environmental and political activist

Problem: Women’s rights and gender inequality
I believe we must work to lower the world population to 2 billion people, which was the human population of this planet only 80 years ago.

When the planet is overpopulated, the weakest in society are hurt the most because strained resources go to those with more power. In many countries, women have very low social status and few rights, but ironically, one of the most efficient ways to stabilize and lower population is to empower women. Today, the biggest barrier to lowering birth rates is gender inequality. Where girls and women are second-class citizens, where they are taken out of school early, where violence against females is accepted and where women have no say in family planning, birth rates are highest. When women have no place in society other than to have children and take care of the home, they begin having children at young ages and have larger families.

For every year a girl stays in school she’ll increase her income by at least 10 percent. She’ll get married later. She is more likely to use birth control and will have fewer children, who in turn will be more likely to attend school.

A woman’s status in a society is deeply embedded in its culture; therefore, it is vital that we support programs that influence attitudes toward women. It is important not to force change, which doesn’t stick in the long run, but to instead transform ingrained belief systems. The best way to do that is through entertainment – specifically, the soap opera. Population Media Center uses serialized dramas on radio and television to encourage positive behavior change.

These shows, which often run weekly for several years, allow time for the audience to form bonds with the characters, who are evolving in their thinking and behavior at a gradual, believable pace. Each program is first and foremost riveting drama, often taking 60 episodes before messaging storyline is subtly introduced. For example, Radio Tanzania broadcast a serial drama that attracted 58 percent of the 15- to 45-year-olds in the region. Because of the birth control issues the characters in the program tackled during the course of the show, there was a marked increase in the percentage of Tanzanians in the region who discussed family planning with their spouses and who began to use birth control themselves. Not because they were forced to, but because they wanted to.

As an actress, I appreciate the power of the media. But I especially love that soap operas are proving to be one of the most effective tools in lowering birth rates around the world, as Americans have long snickered over this form of entertainment. Now, however, the lowly telenovela is gaining respect. “All My Childrenmay have been canceled, but there’s worthy work for Susan Lucci over in Bangladesh.

Robert Engelman
President of the Worldwatch Institute and the author of the 2008 book “More: Population, Nature, and What Women Want

Problem: Aging
With 7 billion people of all ages in the world this month and a median age of about 30 we’re likely to have several billion people older than 65 late in the century. We have no experience with a vast population of older people like this one will be, and by that time climate change will have advanced significantly – and possibly catastrophically – and fossil fuels are likely to be far more expensive than they are today. The challenge of keeping these people alive and healthy will be vast.

What we should NOT do is try vainly to keep the ratio of young to old constant by attempting to convince women to have more children [than] they want to have. That will just postpone the day of reckoning and make the problem worse by continually enlarging the population of all ages. Better to prepare for this likely future with a focus on preventive health, finding better ways to take advantage of the productive and other assets of older populations, and moving toward simpler and less energy- and resource-intensive lifestyles than today’s.

To read the full article, please click here:

Current World Population


Net Growth During Your Visit