No. 5, March 18, 2011
In This Issue:
Australian Population Politics
This issue of Pop X comes to you from Australia, where I've been traveling the past few weeks. Despite a population of only 22 million people spread across a land area roughly equivalent to the size of the continental United States, Australia is beset with the consequences of unsustainable population growth. That's especially true in urban areas, where the vast majority of Australians live. Rapid growth overwhelms infrastructure, strains resources, and presents a huge challenge to governmental and other institutions.
The difference here in Australia is that the government actually acknowledges the problem and is working to address it -- unlike in U.S. politics, where the prevalent mindset is one of obsessive devotion to growth. Population growth has become a matter of spirited public debate in Australia to the point of being a defining issue in recent elections. The current prime minister, Julia Gillard, openly rejected the notion of a "Big Australia" put forward by her opponent, and won handily. She then appointed a cabinet-level "minister of population" to address the many problems and challenges raised by Australia's growth. And Kelvin Thompson, a member of Parliament whom I met at last year's Population Strategy Meeting in Washington, D.C., has made the issue a central part of his platform, delivering major papers and speeches on the subject. The Australian government is even developing its own "sustainable population strategy."
Now if we can just get someone -- anyone -- in the U.S. political world to start talking sense like that, we could make some real progress. Help us make that happen by writing your local paper and urging it to cover population issues. Check out our toolkit for ideas and sample letters.
The Costs of Overpopulation in the Wild
Closer to home, it was disheartening to see the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service earlier this month declare the eastern cougar officially extinct. Even though this big, majestic cat probably truly disappeared back in the 1930s, some held out hope that a small, remnant population still existed. What does this have to do with overpopulation? The disappearance of the eastern cougar is yet another stark reminder that our species, Homo sapiens, wields a staggering amount of influence over plants and animals, especially as our population grows exponentially, devours natural resources and lays claim to more and more wild habitat. Too often, when people talk about the plight of threatened or endangered species, only the most acute threats are mentioned -- disappearing habitat, toxic poisonings, climate change -- but rarely does the discussion get at the root of the problem: a human population growing unsustainably that's likely to hit 7 billion later this year. The Center is working to change that, and with a growing group of people like you, we will.
Because, sadly, there's already a long list of species that have disappeared under the growing human footprint. Just in North America, species once abundant two centuries ago -- from the woodlands bison of West Virginia to Arizona's Merriam's elk to the Rocky Mountain grasshopper -- have been wiped out by growing human numbers.
Writer Elizabeth Kolbert has an interesting meditation on our outsized influence on the planet and whether it's finally time for geologists to officially designate this chapter in Earth's history the "anthropocene." It's worth reading as part of National Geographic's year-long focus on overpopulation, Population 7 Billion.
Women's Health Care Still Under Fire
Last month's Global Population Speak Out was a great opportunity for citizens to raise their voices about the perils of overpopulation and overconsumption, and the importance of productive steps to keep population growth in check. In the February edition of Pop X, we highlighted troubling efforts by some in Congress to cut funds that support women's health clinics around the country (and help provide important family planning decisions that also help our planet.)
Fortunately -- after we and you and scores of others -- spoke out, the U.S. Senate voted down House Republicans' spending bill that included those disastrous measures. Still, some lawmakers have vowed not to give up, so this fight is going to continue.
Subsidized community health programs, such as those provided by Planned Parenthood, are for some women the only access available to reproductive services, family planning and birth control. Millions of women could lose that access -- and their means to manage their family size -- if these kinds of measures pass.
For the health of women, and indeed our planet that's already heaving under the weight of so many people, it's vital that these services remain intact. Contact your congressional representative and ask them to oppose any attempts to cut Title X funding, or any other funds that support women's health and reproductive services.
Until next month,
Overpopulation Campaign Coordinator
Center for Biological Diversity | P.O. Box 710, Tucson, AZ 85702-0710
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Bondi Beach photo courtesy Flickr Commons/mamamusings.