the latest

Beyond 7 billion: Bending the population curve

Dec 03, 2012

The LA Times has followed up on their award winning population series, “Beyond 7 Billion”, by collecting short essays from a variety of scholars and experts, including Joseph Speidel, Martha Campbell, Malcolm Potts and Rajiv Shaw. You can review all the essays here:,0,6085735,full.story

Bill Ryerson’s contribution is below. All the essay’s are worth a look. Here is how the LA Times introduces the subject matter:

Hunger. Environmental degradation. Political instability. These were among the consequences of rapid global population growth documented in a five-part series in The Times in July. Now, Opinion has invited leading scholars to consider what, if anything, people and governments can do to address the issue

Pop culture’s role
By William N. Ryerson

As important as contraceptive supplies are to limiting population growth, they are only part of the story. We also need to address why people aren’t using birth control, even when they have access to it.

Surveys reveal that many couples in the developing world want far more than two children. In Nigeria, for example, the average married couple wants eight children. Other reasons people don’t embrace contraception include fear of health effects, spousal opposition, religious opposition and a belief that God should determine the number of children a woman has.

This situation requires education to help people understand the health and economic benefits for them and their children in limiting and spacing births. It requires modeling good family planning and overcoming fears and cultural taboos. It requires getting husbands and wives to talk to each other about contraception.

To address the cultural and informational barriers to smaller families, our organization, Population Media Center, produces locally written radio and TV serial dramas in which key characters embrace such things as family planning, schooling for girls and other social and health goals unique to each country.

The shows are gripping and entertaining, but they are also educational, and there is strong evidence of dramatic results in the 45 countries in which our programs have aired. For example, in northern Nigeria, where our radio serial was heard regularly by more than 70% of the population, a study found that about two-thirds of those seeking contraception cited the program as a motivating factor. Those who listened to the program also reported wanting fewer children. In Rwanda, listeners were 50% more likely than non-listeners to want three or fewer children. And during the 2 1/2 years our program aired in Ethiopia, 40% of listeners reported using modern contraceptive methods, compared with 25% of non-listeners.

Motivational communications, when accompanied by access to family planning services, work. We need to make this combination a high priority.