Last year, I traveled with a group of fellow physicians to the Philippines to perform anesthesia for a marathon of surgeries in a region just north of Manila. On numerous occasions while I was preparing to induce anesthesia, our patient would stop me, pull me close to her face, and quietly ask if I could have the surgeon tie her tubes during whatever unrelated operation was about to be performed. In the shadow of the most densely populated city in the world, a city within which tens of thousands of abandoned “street kids” live, the capacity of a woman to choose not to have additional children has become so politicized that her best hope is to whisper it into the ear of a foreign physician.
When I returned home and found Population Connection, I was elated to find a well-run organization that was already dedicated to addressing what is not only a foundational cause of much human suffering but an existential threat to our global civilization. In the first Population Connection magazine I received, however, I was surprised to find such a large amount of attention paid to the topic of abortion. While I am pro-choice and participate in abortions myself, it struck me as an odd strategy to focus on a method of reproductive health that is contentious, reactive instead of preventative, and relatively resource inefficient compared to other options.
As is accurately noted in many other Population Connection articles, the most efficient and effective solutions to overpopulation remain the least contentious: educate and empower women and make contraception readily available. Population Connection should concentrate on these banal solutions.
The costs of overpopulation are not political, abstract, or academic. They are as real as a street orphan, as impending as rising waters, and as heartbreaking as a whispered request for reproductive agency that has to be declined because of local politics. Population Connection seems to be the best domestic organization doing the brave and necessary work of turning the tide on these problems. But if we are to prioritize real results, we must be thoughtful with our strategy, heedful of ways in which we may unintentionally spawn opposition, and humble in our efforts to court any allies so long as they are willing to collaborate on this one particular and most pressing of issues.
Joseph Schoenfeldt, MD
I have just read the “Letters to the Editor” section in your September magazine referring to the June issue. It was heartening to see that others appreciated your June issue as much as I did, though I did not write you about it at the time. It is also heartening to realize that there are others out there who feel similarly to me about the problems our planet is facing at this time, and the connection to human overpopulation and wildlife exploitation.
In particular, one of the letters refers to the John Vidal article. I, too, read that article with great appreciation for its honesty, conciseness, and synthesis of ideas and conclusions. I even referred to it on my Facebook page, sparking a fair bit of consensus (for a change). I hope the article has been widely disseminated beyond just your magazine. The more people who can be reached and informed and even changed by the concepts Vidal puts forth, the better.
Thank you again for the work you continue to do. You tackle some of the most important issues of our time in a careful, caring, and constructive way. Kudos!