“The trouble with people is not that they don’t know, but that they know so much that ain’t so.”
– Josh Billings (1818 – 1885), humor writer
Is population a taboo topic? Sometimes, it does seem that way. It’s occurred to me that people don’t talk about overpopulation because they think they can’t talk about overpopulation. Not so.
I’ve rarely gotten a negative reaction at the hundreds of population presentations I’ve done — including those at 84 colleges and universities ranging from MIT to Purdue to UCLA. We successfully train more than 12,000 eager K-12 educators in Population Education annually. About 50,000 teachers teach some 3 million students each year about the impacts of human population growth on people and the planet through our programs. We do so all across America, including in the reddest of states.
Guess what? Most Americans agree with us when it comes to the impacts of population growth. A 2015 Pew/AAAS survey found that 59 percent of our fellow citizens believe that a growing world population will be a major problem. That’s more than the proportion who believe climate change is mostly due to human behavior. Yet human-driven climate change seems like a topic for open discussion. Why not human population?
In these times, it’s more important than ever to respect science. The role played by rapid population growth when it comes to climate change, species extinction, oceanic disruption, and so much more is well-documented. One might even call it an “inconvenient truth.”
It shouldn’t be a question of whether to talk about population growth, but how we talk about it can make all the difference. Reproductive autonomy needs to be front and center because that is non-negotiable. It’s an inalienable right for people everywhere — and it’s the key to meeting population challenges. Powerful forces oppose us, but they’ll never cause us to dial back. For half a century now, we’ve kept our population stabilization mission front and center.
The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan supposedly said, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.” Rapid human population growth is a crucial fact of life on our crowded planet.