Ethics in population


At Population Media Center, we appreciate every inquiry about how we address population. Below are some questions that we believe must be asked and are essential to understand our approach to population.

Does PMC promote or engage in “population control?”

No. Population Media Center (PMC) does not believe in “population control” methods or ideology. There is a long history of unethical and condemnable human rights abuses that have been carried out in the name of population and family planning programs. PMC acknowledges these for what they are: horrific. PMC does not support coercive approaches to stabilizing population because they are inhumane. There are human rights-enhancing ways to contribute toward population stabilization. PMC believes in empowering people with information and resources to make the best decision for themselves and their families. An estimated 44% of births worldwide are unplanned and 22% are unwanted, so we focus on gender equality and family planning.

If you are unaware of the many human rights abuses that have happened in the name of population stabilization or family planning, please be aware that they are numerous, have happened all around the world, and are still happening. For example, approximately 300,000 Peruvians, mostly women and most of them forced, were sterilized between 1990 and the 2000s under the guise of a national family planning program. Everyone is familiar with China’s unethical one-child policy. And numerous reports of forced sterilization in U.S. ICE detention centers continue to surface connecting to a long history of eugenics laws designed to sterilize marginalized populations in the United States. All coercive approaches to stabilizing population are horrific and need to stop.

Is overconsumption by the rich a more urgent environmental problem?

Addressing overconsumption is definitely an urgent need, and we support that work. For long-term sustainability, population must also be addressed.

We must lessen excessive ecological footprints wherever they occur, including those of corporations, governments, and individuals. However, an honest accounting of the forces that contribute to today’s incredible outstripping of the Earth’s resources and global ecological impoverishment includes both our socio-economic behaviors and the number of people. We must address both in order to live sustainably in the long term. Regardless of how little an individual might consume, or how responsibly a corporation might produce, at some point a large enough population would still outstrip available renewable resources.

How do you choose where to work? I’m concerned about racism.

People must question the intentions of groups working on demographics, and we welcome such scrutiny. Population Media Center (PMC) relies on demographic data and input from each country to determine areas of highest need. Because PMC knows that improving human health and human rights lowers fertility rates and improves the lives of individuals, the places with human health and human rights needs are the places where PMC goes to work. We want to empower all people, no matter where they are in the world, to make informed decisions about their bodies and their families to enable more people to live healthy, happy, prosperous lives.

Is PMC’s work a form of cultural colonialism?

Whenever one organization works within different cultures, a tremendous amount of care must be taken. When we say “we meet local needs for the global good,” we mean that we focus on positive impact at the local level to ultimately support greater global sustainability. That means centering the local communities to understand their unique needs, strengths, and challenges. We partner with local talent and production teams to hire all local writers, actors, and production staff to create authentic programs that are culturally specific and center the needs identified by the local community. In some programs, in-country teams do decide to address harmful traditional practices, such as female genital mutilation or domestic violence. The teams work hard to think about how to approach the topics and how to spur conversation within the audience. We know that “common” and “culture” are not synonymous. “Common” things that cause unnecessary death and suffering can and should be addressed.

Does PMC promote abortion?

Population Media Center (PMC) believes everyone should have the right to choose whether or not to follow through with a pregnancy, and abortion should be legal, accessible, and safe. PMC works hard to decrease the need for abortions by promoting family planning, use of contraception, sexual and reproductive education, and other approaches that help people plan and space out the number of children they want, if any at all.

Is population growth necessary for economic wellness?

Many believe that population growth is necessary for economic growth, which is often the opposite. The real measure of economic welfare is not gross national product (GNP), but GNP per capita. It is clear that individual incomes tend to rise as fertility rates fall. In fact, every country that has been reclassified from developing status to developed status since World War II first started with fertility reduction by promoting family planning and small family norms.

Does PMC work on immigration?

Population Media Center does not work on immigration.