Member Profiles

Deena Sherman
Member since: 2000


Deena Sherman first became aware of the connections between global population growth, access to comprehensive health care, and environmental sustainability in 1981, while studying the life of Margaret Sanger. When she graduated from college a few years later, she became a member of Population Connection, which was called Zero Population Growth (ZPG) at the time.

“I remember when I discovered [Population Connection] existed,” Deena recounted. “I was thrilled to know that there was a whole community of people who saw that at the root of most of the world’s challenges was overpopulation, and that this could be remedied by simply empowering women to make their own reproductive decisions. It gave me so much more hope for the world’s future.”

Deena holds a Master’s degree. She has taught theology at Valparaiso University and Aurora University. She acknowledges the tensions that exist between some religious communities and reproductive rights advocates. She explained, “I could debate biblical exegesis but prefer to simply apply the common sense lesson my mother taught: Let’s use our God-given brains first! We were commanded to be fruitful and multiply. That task has been accomplished. Now we have overrun the earth to a dangerous degree.”

Deena began volunteering with our Membership Relations team in 2017 by tabling at the Aurora GreenFest. When asked about her motivation to volunteer, Deena responded: “Educating more people is the only hope we have to solve global issues before it’s too late.” She continues volunteering to raise awareness about the implications of rapid population growth because she “[Loves] to watch the light go on for people when they realize how many issues would be addressed by simply addressing this one. So many times, people say ‘I have never thought about this before.”’

Ultimately, Deena hopes that the conversations she has with people will help to shift the voting population in favor of policies that promote reproductive justice and increased economic security for people everywhere.


 

Kelley Dennings
Member since: 2012


Kelley Dennings joined Population Connection in 2012 and quickly made herself indispensable. Not only has she engaged with Population Connection and Population Connection Action Fund, but she’s also active with the Social Marketing Association of North America, New Dream, and North American Association for Environmental Education.

Kelley told us: “I have worked in the recycling and waste field for about 20 years. My free time is spent doing similar projects with a nonprofit called New Dream, an organization that focuses on decreasing consumption. I’m also interested in social and behavioral change in general and frameworks that can get us to change our behavior, or ultimately, our social norms. I help lead a nonprofit called the Social Marketing Association of North America which focuses on social and behavior change. Aside from my heavy involvement with nonprofit work, I like to take pictures of water towers in my free time and maintain a blog with photos and stories about the water towers I encounter in my travels.”

When asked what prompted her to join Population Connection, she said: “I have lived  in the D.C. metro area for nine years and became a member soon after moving here. When I attended my first Capitol Hill Days I spoke with Brian Dixon about Population Connection’s mission. I really love the organization for the way it brings in all pieces: population, health, and the environment. Soon I began donating, became a non-formal educator with PopEd, and started volunteering with the Membership Relations Team last year.”

What resonates with her the most about our mission is the idea of “working from a multi-sectoral perspective by bringing in the elements of family planning, public health, environmental preservation and reducing consumption.” She said, “It lends itself to be of interest to various people because of that. Some people relate more to the family planning side of things and some people are into it for the environmental side of things. So, I think there is an opportunity to be more impactful because of Population Connection’s broad scope. I’m also in love with it because there are not a lot of groups doing intersectional population work and I want to support the group that is working at that intersection.”

“I’ll be honest,” she said, “[population] is not the easiest topic to talk about, and this may be true of other members, but it took me many years to gain my voice and feel confident to speak about it to other people. Because it can be controversial, I don’t want to open a can of worms and not be able to speak intelligently to defend my stance. It took attending Capitol Hill Days and reading up on the issue to feel like, ‘Ok, I think I can talk about this.’ It is an emotional topic and can be for a lot of people, and Population Connection provides me the opportunity to talk about it publicly in safe ways like through a film screening discussion, a PopEd curriculum, or Capitol Hill Days. It’s just not a topic that tends to come up naturally in conversation.”

“I am child free by choice,” Kelley said, “so a lot of my memorable conversations are very personal in nature. There are a number of reasons why I am choosing not to have kids, but it intrigued me that in the U.S., it is still a very unique choice to choose not to have children. People are very inquisitive and it sometimes seems to be difficult for them to understand why someone would actively choose not to have kids. So, those are the awkward conversations I have that make me want to make the topic more normative and ‘okay’ and not as ‘taboo’ as it still seems to be.”

In fact, she first made the “population connection,” in her late 20s or early 30s, when she was choosing her family size. “That’s when it became clear to me,” she said, although she has been an environmentalist since she was twelve. “I decided that I needed to walk the talk as I was making the decisions for myself. When it isn’t someone else, but it’s me, my convictions became much stronger, I think.”

When considering the solutions to rapid population growth, she said: “I think the solution has to be access to voluntary family planning and comprehensive sex education. As a person who focuses on social and behavioral change, I see ways of getting to that through both policy and changing social norms, which is harder, than through infrastructure. I view infrastructure as the actual access to family planning, and norms as more of the community knowledge of those family planning resources. Then there is the policy work which helps create a safe space to continue to do this type of advocacy and educational work.”

As for her advice to other members looking to engage their community, she said: “For me, it’s all about finding like-minded individuals that share my views and in this world, sometimes that is hard to find. I feel like Population Connection and its members are just my ‘tribe.’ It is my safe space and it’s a wonderful group of people who can make impact and change as we work together. I think if we, as volunteers, can take these opportunities we are provided by Population Connection to get the word out, we are going to make change and reach people who may not otherwise think about the topic. That is how movements get momentum.”

What does she hope to achieve? “There are outputs, outcomes, and impacts,” she said. “My ultimate impact would be to lessen the pace of global population growth, but the outcome could be something like engaging with three new people who didn’t know about Population Connection. I’d like to try to find a way to better engage my peers, 30 and 40-somethings, who seem to have less time to do volunteer work and engage them in these issues. I just hope more folks my age and even younger become members and engage with the topic of population, health, and the environment.”

Population Connection applauds Kelley for her dedication to our cause and thanks her for her continued efforts! We are happy to work with such an inspiring individual.

If you’re ready to spread the word in your community about the importance of population stabilization, contact a membership relations coordinator at engage@popconnect.org to get started! There are many ways to be an activist for Population Connection, and this team is here to support your efforts!


 

Paul Rodgers: A Volunteer Tribute

In September of 2018, Population Connection lost a remarkable member and volunteer—Paul Rodgers of Dallas, Texas. Paul left us too soon. He joined Population Connection in 1992 and, over time, became our most active member in Dallas. His passing wasn’t just a loss for Population Connection, but for the many organizations he supported—such as his church and local food banks. An avid reader, Paul spent his spare time catching up on the latest in politics and economics.

When Population Connection launched our new membership engagement program in 2017, Paul quickly jumped in to lead our efforts in Dallas. He shared Population Connection’s message on the impacts of rapid population growth at Earth Day events, film screenings, and numerous presentations on the topics of population, health, and the environment.

Addressing population growth was always a priority for Paul. As he told us recently, he made the connection early in his life. He realized that alleviating population issues would not only help reduce pressures on our natural resources, but would improve the quality of life for people around the world.

He was enthusiastic about advocating for population stabilization through grassroots outreach and education. He said, “We have to address this problem politically and help change the laws of this country.” Volunteering with Population Connection gave Paul the platform he needed to motivate others to seek change.

Paul admitted that conversations around this topic were not always easy.  “It’s hard to motivate somebody if they are not already interested. You really have to tap in to find out what their interest is, what their concerns can be, what their ability to help out is.” That didn’t stop him from engaging those who opposed his point of view. He found that, most of the time, “people already knew the problem;” he simply helped them identify ways to solve it.

His favorite conversations were with teachers. “Most teachers are willing to talk about environmental issues,” he said, but would often run into a lack of resources. He heard teachers’ frustrations as they tried to bring up these important conversations with their students. Paul’s familiarity with Population Connection’s programs enabled him to point teachers directly to Population Education—our K-12 program aimed at increasing students’ awareness about population issues—as a valuable source for lesson plans and activities.

Paul gave generously of his time and his resources. He was a true leader on population issues, and we are grateful to have known him.


 

Dane Kamin
Member since: 2016

Dane Kamin tabling at St. Louis Earth Day in 2017.


Dane Kamin joined Population Connection in 2016 and swiftly became one of our most active volunteers, both in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri and, in fact, the entire U.S. As an environmentalist, he naturally enjoys the outdoors and staying fit, which he does by participating in a local bike club and riding at least 5,000 miles a year! Not only does he appreciate the outdoors but he does his best to preserve it. Dane’s career, hobbies, and local involvement have all played a role in increasing his awareness of environmental issues as well as the demands population growth puts on our natural resources.

Conversations with colleagues in the financial investment field, as well as with others involved in environmental advocacy and academia, have helped Dane recognize the complexity surrounding environmental issues. He started with a concern over the high demands for oil around the world and soon realized that developing countries’ appetite for oil was growing. In his mind, this was just one drop in the ocean of problems to tackle. Global warming, a lack of clean drinking water, air pollution … How could he address all of these issues that mattered to him?

Through his involvement with The Sierra Club, Dane encountered Population Connection at a shared tabling event.  Eager to learn more about our organization, Dane registered for Capital Hill Days —an intensive, three-day training and advocacy event in Washington, D.C. Through this event, Dane learned more about our role in addressing environmental issues by advocating full, voluntary access to family planning and reproductive health care. He was thoroughly impressed and inspired by all of the like-minded individuals. It was at this event that he made the “Population Connection.” With natural resources stretched thin, Population Connection’s mission of zero population growth appealed to Dane’s desire to get to the root of our world’s environmental problems.

Dane knew that raising awareness about each individual environmental issue would not be enough. With population growth as the fundamental issue, Dane agreed with Population Connection that the solution centered on empowering women. He saw the domino effect: educating and empowering women to make their own reproductive choices would result in eventual population stabilization.

There are 214 million women in the developing world who aren’t using modern contraceptives and don’t want to get pregnant right now. If every one of these women had access to modern contraceptives and the full spectrum of basic reproductive health care, there would be an estimated 67 million fewer unintended pregnancies a year. By empowering women to have the number of children they desire—if any at all—we can ease the pressure that rapid population growth puts on the Earth’s resources.

Dane soon became a consistent volunteer with Population Connection. He has hosted many film screenings in his community and tabled at a variety of events, including VegFests, sustainability festivals, and Earth Day. He enjoys educating people about population, championing women rights, and advocating for increased access to contraceptives. He believes that “education, tabling, and regular day-to-day conversations are the most effective way” to participate in ending rapid population growth.

“Conversations around rapid population growth are scarce. People are aware of environmental problems, they know that climate change is a threat, and they also recognize that women’s rights must be upheld. What they don’t always have is a conversation about population. You’re running in circles if you don’t talk about population,” said Dane. Even though conversations about rapid population growth are fairly new to Dane’s community, people have been very receptive to it. Dane focuses on connecting with people at a personal level, discovering what issues are important to them, and then helping them make the population connection.

We applaud Dane for his dedication to our cause and his continued efforts! We are happy to work with such an inspiring individual.

If you’re ready to spread the word in your community about the importance of population stabilization, contact a membership relations coordinator at engage@popconnect.org to get started! There are many ways to be an activist for Population Connection, and this team is here to support your efforts!


 

Rob Meyer
Member since: 2014

 

Population Connection member Rob Meyer.


Rob Meyer is an active member of Population Connection and represents one of the hundreds of members in the Minneapolis region. Rob’s passion for population came at a very young age, when he identified that many of the environmental problems he witnessed, such as loss of natural lands and urban sprawl, were a direct consequence of rapid human population growth. As Rob grew older, he would recall various projections related to the earth’s carrying capacity and remembers a time when population stabilization was at the forefront of environmental and political agendas. “Now,” he says, “All such projections have been surpassed. Most talk now about 10 billion people on the planet.”

While he has consistently supported several environmental organizations, mainly via monetary contributions, Rob has become increasingly wary of the dichotomy that oftentimes exists between efforts in favor of environmental sustainability and those focused on population stabilization. The way he sees it, one of the major foundational issues related both to environmental destruction and societal imbalance, such as access to resources, is undeniably population. In this way, making the connection between population, health, and the environment is absolutely vital in effectively advocating for a more sustainable future.

That’s why, in 2014, Rob decided to become a member of Population Connection. “I like Pop Connect because they are doing things. They have some tables and charts and graphs, but they are not a think tank. They are difference makers specifically addressing the population problem at its core.”

Rob got involved in January 2018 when Population Connection hosted a screening of the short film, “Not Yet Rain,” which ethnographically investigates the importance of access to abortion in Ethiopia. Rob was actively engaged in the discussion that followed, and posed many interesting and relevant questions ranging from the US’s role in international family planning to the many cultural and geographically specific barriers women face when confronting the need for increased access to family planning services. It was clear then that Rob would be a great activist! And, sure enough, Rob has since expressed substantial interest in becoming involved in his community and an advocate for global population stabilization. For example, Rob volunteered to spearhead an initiative to host an educational table at this year’s MayDay event in Minneapolis! Additionally, he will be working to lead future film screenings in his area, and has begun collaborating with other organizations focused in environmental conservation and population.

“I think local efforts are an important way to get the Population issue back on the ‘national agenda.’ It was there 45 years ago, but has drifted off for many reasons.” Echoing sentiments expressed by members Dirk and Bonnie Walters of San Luis Obispo, CA, Rob agrees that:

 “…population is the fundamental problem. It is the elephant in the room that no one is talking about.”

Rob believes that “Population Connection is both helping solve the problem and pushing it back on the national agenda.”

We are lucky to have Rob as a member and active volunteer in his community, and we’d like to thank him for his thoughtful efforts in promoting global population stabilization!


 

Bonnie and Dirk Walters
Members since: 1979

Dirk and Bonnie Walters table on the second and last Thursday of every month at the San Luis Obispo farmers market in California. They have been hosting an educational table since 1985!


Meet Dirk and Bonnie Walters, who have been members of Population Connection since 1979! Dirk and Bonnie are dedicated population activists, hosting an informational table on the second and last Thursday of every month at the San Luis Obispo farmers market in California. In fact, they have been hosting an educational table in their community since 1985!

Bonnie explained her interest in supporting us by explaining that, to her: “Population Connection is well named; it is connected to everything! It didn’t take me long to realize that this issue is fundamental and will overwhelm everything else. The scientist in me can understand exponential growth and doubling rates, so this issue isn’t going away.

Dirk and Bonnie both advocate for “the education of women, letting them know they have choices and helping them achieve those choices. We also need money to support women making their choices, which is peanuts compared to how we spend our federal budget.” In fact, increasing the federal budget for family planning programs domestically and internationally has shown to be the most cost-effective tool for empowering women and creating a more egalitarian society.

After over 30 years of advocacy, Bonnie still finds that “it is interesting to speak with someone who has been lied to. I remember a young boy whose mother dragged him away from our table. Once there was a young lady who though that birth control was more dangerous than pregnancy! The ones who stop by, we try to get them to thinking.” The Walters have found that people in their local communities are very receptive to this message: “Lots of people say ‘right on, glad you’re here, don’t give up!’ That’s always nice.

Bonnie wants to inspire other people to get out in their community: “[Population] is the fundamental problem, the elephant in the room. “The more people we can get saying it out loud, the better. Tell people this problem isn’t going away. Get the education and dedication out there!

If you’re ready to spread the word in your community about the importance of population stabilization, contact the Membership Relations Team at engage@popconnect.org to get started! There are many ways to be an activist and this team is here to support your efforts!

 

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Since 1968, Population Connection (formerly Zero Population Growth or ZPG) has been America's voice for population stabilization—we are the largest grassroots population organization in the United States! As a 501(c)(3) charity, all donations made to us are tax-deductible.

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