|Since many of us know the ins-and-outs of the population issue better than 99.9% of society, I always find it interesting to hear about how the issue strikes someone the first time they seriously consider it. Matthew Bulger is an legislative associate for the American Humanist Association, and penned the first article below after attending a DC seminar organized by Population Action International. While he may have missed the memo on the term "population control" (see headline), he picked up just fine on the core sensibilities that under-gird the overwhelming wisdom of providing family planning information and services to those in need around the world.|
Following Bulger's reflections is a short
article reporting on a new study which suggests increases in population size may lead to a breakdown in social trust; to wit, the study investigated how steep rises in population changed how residents interact and communicate with one another in local communities. Specifically, the study looked at "amenity transition": a major socio-demographic trend in areas rich in natural resources, which is characterized by economic and population growth as a result of retirement in-migration, increased rates of second home ownership, and increases in the number of industries that do not need to be proximate to a specific geographic
Humanism and Population Control: A Human Return On Investment
Last week I attended a congressional briefing in the Senate on the topic of family planning. The briefing, called "Evidence and Action: Why Family Planning is a Best Buy in Global Development," was organized by Population Action International (PAI) and sponsored by Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.
The briefing focused mainly on the impacts of family planning on infant mortality, maternal health, educational attainment,
and the spread of HIV/AIDS. The world has known for some time that as people have fewer children, with wider gaps of time between subsequent births, the health of those children and their mothers generally improve. Likewise, the global community is well aware of the fact that as people have fewer children they are able to devote more resources to their upbringing, which typically leads to higher educational attainment, longer and healthier lives, and the ability to earn a higher wage.
After moving past the numerous well-known benefits of family planning services, the briefing spent a considerable amount of time addressing how, in this era of austerity and small government, family planning initiatives are a smart choice for federal funding as they have a history of massive returns on very small investments. An issue brief by Population Action International that was distributed at the event illustrated this point, stating that family planning
investments "save money in other development areas including education, immunization, water and sanitation, maternal health, and malaria." Every dollar invested in family planning "has shown saving in other development areas ranging from $2 in Ethiopia to more than $6 in Guatemala and up to $9 in Bolivia."
What many people don't know is that funding for family planning initiatives actually make up a very small portion of the federal budget. According to the brief, "U.S. funding for foreign assistance make up just over 1 percent of the federal budget. Of that amount, only a small fraction is allocated for family planning and reproductive health programs." A memo that was also distributed by Population Action International shows just how little funding family planning and reproductive health services receive from the federal government-an "estimated $598 million was appropriated" for 2013, about $12 million less than was spent by the government in
2012. While funding decreased in 2013 largely due to sequestration, family planning and reproductive health advocates were overjoyed to see that for 2014 President Obama is "proposing $635.4 million for bilateral and multilateral international Family Planning/Reproductive Health assistance-a $37.4 million or six percent increase."
While hundreds of millions of dollars might sound like a lot of money, it pales in comparison to the 3.8 trillion dollars that the government will spend in 2013. And as our friends at PAI showed us, the return on that money has been monumental, with both lives and money being saved at tremendous rates.
The benefits of family planning are so great and the medical consequences and funding required is so negligible that the only reason someone could oppose it would be if they found family planning initiatives to be immoral. As there is no real rational basis to opposing benefits like longevity and the empowerment of
women, all that is left to base one's objections to family planning must lie with moral restrictions found in books of scripture. That's why the lead opponents to family planning efforts are religious institutions like the Catholic Church, which is infamous for its opposition to contraceptives and abortion services.
I hope that the institutions that disdain people who plan when they want to start a family, and who use tools such as contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancies, learn about the real world benefits of these programs. While I understand that to them all life, both potential and actual, is sacred, I would ask them to study the facts on the ground and evaluate whether the very real suffering of an overburdened mother and her family is less important than the potential life of an unborn fetus.
Social Trust Tends to Fall as Population Rises
A new study suggests increases in population size may lead to a breakdown in social trust.
The research, by Jordan Smith, Ph.D., of North Carolina State University, discovered that as local populations grow, local elected officials and national news media become less trusted - compared with friends and family, local churches and civic institutions.
Smith believes this "trust deficit" has implications for long-term environmental and community planning. The study is published online in Springer's journal
Smith examined three southern Appalachian mining communities during a period of change, amid growing controversy over the expansion of amenity-based industries (such as tourism and recreation areas), as well as its impact on both the environment and local communities.
The expansion of these industries inevitably leads to rapid increases in population.
Smith was particularly interested in the levels of social trust within these communities where conflict is likely to exist between long-term residents who tend to be more concerned about "their" community, and incoming residents who are more transitory and less vested in community affairs.
All three communities moved from a natural resource-based economy to a service economy. The economic shift was demonstrated by a steady decline in natural resource-related jobs and a dramatic increase in the types of employment associated with amenity-based
Smith discovered the commensurate steep rise in population changed how residents interact and communicate with one another.
By and large, residents in each of the three communities tended to trust the information they received from immediate family members, churches, close friends, and local newspapers more than information coming from other sources.
The least trusted information comes from elected officials, national television news, online news sources and co-workers.
The analyses also suggest that population density itself is not related to the structure of information networks or the level of trust or distrust within them.
Smith concludes: "As resource-dependent communities continue to grow, residents will increasingly look for familiar faces when trying to get information. This in effect reaffirms already held attitudes and beliefs. Conflicts associated with amenity transition are more likely to arise
because of conflicting values and ideologies, rather than social structural changes in the community.
"The road ahead for environmental and community planners is likely to be difficult as they attempt to accommodate greater and greater numbers of amenity migrants."
Joseph J. Bish
Population Outreach Manager
Population Media Center
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P.O. Box 547
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