Richard Grossman is a Quaker in Durango, Colorado. He recounts how, at the age of 11, he was walking along a dirt track in South America with his father. They passed a young woman holding an infant, who asked, in English, ‘Wanna buy baby?’. When he later asked his mother why, she explained to him that not all children were planned and wanted.
Another influential experience occurred during his subsequent training. On one occasion, he assisted in delivering a child to a poor woman who already had five children. As he held up the baby for her to see, she turned her back on it, and sobbed.
He has been engaged in persuading Quakers in the US of the need to consider population, and has set up a body called Population-Matters, not to be confused with the UK organisation Population Matters. I have been in contact with him for some years. Do have a look at his website: it is on www.population-matters.org, not to be confused with www.populationmatters.org, which is the UK organization.
We thank him for this article, which he has written especially for this website
for Quaker Concern Over Population
I became concerned about human population when I was a student at Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia. Politics are not my forte but I’m pretty good at science. Wanting to work for peace, I chose medicine to work in the field of family planning. After all, isn’t overpopulation a cause of armed conflict? Doesn’t family planning save money as well as save lives? Don’t women who postpone childbearing have a better chance of higher education and a better life? After serving as a conscientious objector to war I trained as an obstetrician/gynecologist, the medical specialty best able to help people have control over their fertility.
I knew a few other people who were concerned about population, but felt somewhat isolated in the town in which we chose to live almost 40 years ago. That changed, however, when I went to my first meeting of Friends Committee on Unity with Nature (now called Quaker Earthcare Witness—www.quakerearthcare.org). There were other Friends there who were concerned about population issues! No longer did I feel like “the lone ranger”; indeed, I had found my spiritual home.
Through the years we in QEW have tried various ways to inform people about population issues. We have written a series of pamphlets on this and many other environmental subjects. Population titles include “Adoption, An Earth-Friendly Alternative”, “Friends Witness on Population” and “A Witness on Sexuality for Friends”. Many of these have recently been revised and are available in .pdf format on the QEW website. People are encouraged to print them out for tabling or to have on hand in meeting houses.
In addition to pamphlets we have tried other ways of communicating the importance of human population. “Quaker Condoms” were the “real thing” that also carried messages about population. They raised a few eyebrows! The “Men 4 Men” program was a fund to help pay for vasectomies.
QEW has just formed a new Population Working Group with over 20 people on the listserv. Although QEW is a North American group, we have had input from other geographic areas including New Zealand and Costa Rica. If one were truly interested, we could add Friends from across the Atlantic. In addition to the listserv, we have decided to work on two new projects.
Internationally, what action can help women and children to be healthier and can also slow population growth? Empowering women! Women who are better educated and who have control over finances and their lives are much more likely to have fewer children. A small group in the Population Working Group of QEW is working on writing a new pamphlet on this subject.
We are also working on an idea borrowed from Population Matters. (As an aside, Population Matters is the preeminent British organization dealing with issues of human population, formerly called “The Optimum Population Trust”. Their website is: www.populationmatters.org, It should not be confused with my blog: www.population-matters.org . The addition or subtraction of a hyphen might have you end up in the wrong country!)
Population Matters has a program to help people slow climate change by donating money to offset carbon emissions. The money is used to support family planning programs. It has been shown that the most efficient and least expensive way to slow carbon emissions is with family planning! This finding is supported by “…slowing population growth could provide 16–29% of the emissions reductions suggested to be necessary by 2050 to avoid dangerous climate change.”
According to its coordinator, John Carnock-Wilson, PopOffsets is the only program in the world that uses offset donations to support family planning. The advantage of this is cost: because smaller families mean less carbon, the estimated cost to offset 1 tonne of carbon emissions is just £5! Other schemes cost much more to offset a tonne. The website for PopOffsets is: www.popoffsets.org.
Back to QEW. The other project that the Population Working Group is working on is a program similar to PopOffsets for Friends and others in the USA.
It has been a delight to make contact with one of the originators of Quaker Concern Over Population, Roger Plenty! We have communicated over the years and I share his excitement that QCOP is gaining status as a Listed Informal Group. [This is pending]. It is important that the issue of human population be brought to the forefront; without proper attention, all that we Friends stand for will come to naught.
An absent human being — an avoided birth — cannot produce carbon dioxode — nor can nonexistent descendants.
Smaller families, less carbon.
Links: Quaker Earthcare Witness, www.quakerearthcare.org
Population Matters (Richard’s organisation), www.population-matters.org (with hyphen)
Population Matters (the UK organization), www.populationmatters.org (without hyphen)