Help broadcast message about overpopulation threat

We were leaving one of Durango’s fine restaurants when the maître d’ engaged me in conversation.

“Aren’t you the person who writes for the newspaper?”

“Yes” I replied.

Then he said something such as “Thank you for writing what you do. It is an important message that most people are afraid to talk about.”

People greet me this way once or twice a month. It is encouraging to get positive feedback from people I don’t know, but who recognize me from the picture in the Herald.

This sort of encounter is heartening for several reasons. It means that people still do read newspapers – historically, a vital means of communication and education. It means that I am not the only one in Durango who worries about overpopulation. Most of all, this sort of unsolicited contact shows that we belong to a friendly community.

In one form or another “Population Matters!” has appeared in the Durango Herald for 17 years. Sometimes, I have strayed from the topic. I remember a message from my very tolerant editor, Bill Roberts: “Stick to the subject.” Yet he has put up with articles that have nothing to do with population, but are about some of my local heroes – Linda Mack, Joe Fowler, Sister Sharon Ekler. In the past I have thanked the Herald for its support in publishing these articles – probably the only regular column on population issues in the world – and I would like to thank it again.

Not only has the Herald printed these columns, but also it has allowed me to own the articles’ copyrights. Its management has encouraged me to distribute the articles wherever I want. So far, this effort hasn’t been too successful, however.

You can go to the website, www.population-matters.org and find many of the older pieces. I have been lazy at keeping the blog up to date, however. You will find occasional announcements there, too. One notice is a request for subscriptions to the listserv. That way, people outside of Durango who don’t subscribe to the Herald can read the columns after they are published.

If you know of anyone who shares a concern about our increasing numbers, and if they would like to get monthly emails with these essays, have them contact me. The best email would be: subscribe@population-matters.org. More than a hundred people are now on that listserv from several different countries. Indeed, this growing list makes my regular email account balk at sending messages to so many people.

The preeminent British organization concerned about human population recently changed its name to “Population Matters.” The group was kind enough to warn me, and we have agreed to cooperate. Its Web address is the same as mine, but without the hyphen. Therefore, be careful of that little symbol or you may end up on the wrong side of the Atlantic.

My efforts at reaching large numbers of people about this most important subject are, I admit, amateurish. As many people as possible need to understand that we are using more of the Earth’s resources than is sustainable. Education is the only way we can find a solution to this immense problem.

One friend has an idea of reaching more people in the U.S. with a mass advertising campaign. It would take a huge amount of money just to design, let alone execute, such a program. Do you know any billionaires who would like to help?

Another friend has brought subtle health education to multiple countries. Bill Ryerson’s Population Media Center promotes radio and TV programs with a message. The center promotes health and family planning through serial dramas (soap operas). They have been shown by scientific studies to be effective in educating and changing attitudes, including about safe sex where HIV is prevalent.

The message about small families has hit Brazil in a big way – but it is unintentional. The average Brazilian woman will have fewer than two children; the total fertility rate is just 1.9. How did this happen? Everyone watches TV in Brazil, and family shows are very popular. It is difficult to manage lots of kids on a TV set, so show writers have unwittingly set the standard of family size.

Human population growth is the cause of many of the world’s problems – climate change, pollution, extinction of species and probably even our current drought. I believe people will change their lifestyles and decrease their desired family size if they understand the connection between population and global problems. Please help broadcast this important message.

Richard Grossman practices gynecology in Durango. Reach him at richard@population-matters.org. © Richard Grossman MD, 2012