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Taboos Now History

Free Webinar: “Population Taboo” Banished

Ten years ago I described for a freelance journalist my fledgling documentary project, GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth. Her advice? “Just don’t get into population. That’s deadly.” Well, I didn’t listen, and for the next several years I beat my head against a wall. Overpopulation has been denied, avoided and even villified as a problem to be solved. My documentary premiered two days after world population passed the 7 billion milestone in 2011, but it was ignored by the media. Numerous screening and speaking opportunities have been considered, and rejected, because of the excess baggage associated.

Recent events, however, indicate that it’s becoming “okay” to address the subject. Chief among these, in my view, is a recent NPR (U.S. public radio) story headlined, Should We be Having Kids in the Age of Climate Change? That question, and the people highlighted in the story, were featured in reports by The Independent, Huffington Post, Science World Report, Bloomberg, the Washington Times, and numerous others. There are other examples, but in truth they still aren’t as commonplace as I’d like to see.

As I recall, nearly every commercial break during presidential debate #2 on the network I was watching began with the word, “overpopulation” as a TV trailer for Dan Brown’s Inferno ran. Network censors didn’t have their way with that. Still, the GrowthBusters documentary and my activity as a growthbuster have not been reported widely in the mainstream media. My best media exposure has been a guest spot on Coast to Coast AM, a guest spot on Al Jazeera English’s Inside Story, and this roasting by the Christian Broadcasting Network:

One week from today I invite you to join me and two other brave heroes of the sustainable population movement for an important discussion. In a free webinar October 26 (27 October in some parts of the world) we’ll consider what the fade-out of the “population taboo” means for the movement.

Overpopulation: The New Conversation?

Population growth and overpopulation are back in the public conversation.
Is this an opportunity to put us on track toward a sustainable human population?

 

Alan Weisman, Benjamin Dancer, and Dave Gardner

Two authors and a filmmaker/media analyst share their observations and experiences, and discuss the changing landscape of public dialog about the role of population in the sustainability equation.

Wednesday, October 26        9 pm U.S. Eastern Daylight Time

Register Here for This Free Webinar

Alan Weisman
Countdown (Little, Brown and Co., 2013) Alan Weisman traveled to more than 20 countries to ask what experts agreed were probably the most important questions on Earth – and also the hardest: How many humans can the planet hold without capsizing? How robust must the Earth’s ecosystem be to assure our continued existence? Can we know which other species are essential to our survival? And, how might we actually arrive at a stable, optimum population, and design an economy to allow genuine prosperity without endless growth? Countdown was awarded the 2014 Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the 2013 Paris Book Festival Prize for nonfiction, the 2014 Nautilus Gold Book Award, and the Population Institute’s 2014 Global Media Award for best book. Alan Weisman has written for Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, Vanity Fair, Los Angeles Times Magazine, Orion, Mother Jones, Audubon and Discover. Weisman’s radio reports have been heard on NPR, Public Radio International and American Public Media.

Benjamin Dancer
Patriarch Run (Conundrum Press, 2016) is the new literary thriller recounting a gripping race against the clock, with the fate of our overpopulated human civilization hanging in the balance. Dancer is a student advisor at a Colorado high school, writes about parenting and education, and works for the Colorado EMP Task Force On National and Homeland Security.

Dave Gardner
The film GrowthBusters (Citizen-Powered Media, 2011) examines our culture’s worship of everlasting growth, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that we’ve hit the limits. In his 40-year career, Dave produced and directed a PBS series and numerous films for over a dozen Fortune 500 companies, including Coca-Cola, IBM, and even Enron. Gardner’s non-profit GrowthBusters initiative continues to seek the cure for “growth addiction.” Dave writes analysis of pro-growth bias in the media at www.growthbiasbusted.org. He blogs at www.growthbusters.org. He also hosts the Paving Paradise podcast, The Overpopulation Podcast, and the Conversation Earth radio series and podcast.

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Comments (7)

  • Avatar

    Eric Rimmeer

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    Since you are too late for UK time – can I view it afterwards ?

    Eric Rimmer

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Dave Gardner

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      Everyone who registers will receive a link to a replay of the webinar, a day or two after the webinar takes place. Thanks for asking!

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Greeley Gregory Miklashek, MD

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    Best wishes! I believe that I have discovered a long evolved neuro-endocrine human population regulation mechanism, which is essentially Hans Selye’s GAS (general adaptation syndrome), and which is making us sick with the top ten fatal illnesses of modern urban humans. Check out “Stress R Us”, available as a free PDF on the web. Just Google the title. You won’t soon forget “population density stress” or the “kill-switch”.

    Reply

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    Robert Bériault

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    I would like to congratulate Growthbusters for their Population Taboo webinar. I hope there will more such discussions to follow.
    Being member of the Population Institute of Canada, I’ve often heard the theory that Alan Wiseman suggested for reducing population, that is, education of women.
    This begs the question, how much education is required for women to decide to reduce their family size? Recall that in the days of my grandmother, French Canadian women were educated by the nuns to the grade 8 level. Yet, they had many, many children. This suggests that there can be other reasons for having large families. We know that in Quebec, prior to the silent revolution, religion was the driver of population, not the will or the whim of a woman. Having pushed religion aside, modern feminism transformed our society and opened higher education to women. It’s true that the more years of post-secondary education a woman has, the fewer children she has. But that doesn’t mean that it is education per se that is the determining factor. It is being emboldened with power that allows women to decide how few children she will have. For women to have fewer children, they have to live in a society that allows more power for women and less for men. Perhaps it is true that bringing education at any level to poor countries can help bring about the required societal transformation that will result in smaller families. Maybe there would be other ways to empower women who live in patriarchal societies.
    Assuming that the education hypothesis is true, there are two problems with this approach, aside from the logistics of providing it.
    First, the time factor. It will take a long time before this takes effect, as it will only involve today’s children who are of school age and younger ─ after they have delivered their first two children. A reduction of population, then, would not be felt before thirty years from now at best. Meanwhile, humans will add another billion or two of their kind to the planet, which is already ecologically overstressed.
    Second, the consumption factor. As women become more educated, they will hold good paying jobs, which will increase their affluence. The IPAT formula is clear about this: the more money we have, the more impact we have on the environment. But how rich should the poorest countries become, and how many tonnes of CO2 per capita should they produce before they reach the same level of repugnance of large families as Westerners have? It would be presumptuous for us to tell them, “We produce X tonnes of GHGs per capita, but we will only help you attain x÷2 tonnes.” The average European citizen emits about 6.7 tonnes of carbon per year, versus about 0.5 tonne for the poorest two billion people. Suppose education achieves 5 tonnes per capita, which is about what it would take to equal our standard of living, assuming they can do it better than Europeans. Two billion multiplied by 4.5 tonnes would represent a 20% increase of global emissions, when what we need to do is to aim for a 50% reduction!
    My impression, after thinking it over, is that education of poor women would create as many problems as it would solve. Isn’t that the case with all the interventions we have carried out in the third world?

    Reply

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      Dave Gardner

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      Lots to think about in your comments, Robert. Thanks for adding to the conversation. It is true that educating women is only one part of any solution to overpopulation. I know of plenty of educated, empowered women who have large broods. Clearly we need to spread overpopulation literacy so that everyone making family size decisions, in every nation of the world, understands the importance, indeed the moral obligation, of choosing to conceive one child at the most. That’s why I’m not satisfied to take the easy road and just promote gender equity and education. It’s not enough.

      There are also large-family cultural norms and religious doctrine to contend with, though educated and empowered women help to break these bonds.

      As for your concerns about increasing affluence in the developing world: That is a factor, so we do need to all find a way to cure overconsumption in the overdeveloped world to make room for developing nations to improve their lot. At the same time we all need to find ways to meet needs without stripping the planet. Reducing population is an essential part of that equation. Without it, we are unlikely to succeed.

      Reply

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        Nancy Kellogg

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        Resource based consumption in a capitalist culture that is ‘over the top’ carbon wise is why I object to mass immigration. Political apathy is nothing compared to carbon footprint irresponsibility. The adaptation to the resulting climate crisis is surely going to be traumatic but change is never easy. My greatest fear is that the awareness and reality ‘shift’ will compound the global injustices of inequality. Optimistically, the day can be its hottest and brightest before the dark and cool of the night.

        Reply

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    Jon Kay

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    I have been deeply committed to pressing the issue of overpopulation for more than fifty seven years (since at least writing a term paper on Darwin in 8th grade). My political actions included frequent public involvements, like talk shows and public talks.
    Let me just say that, aside from “Soylent Green”, the most haunting and compelling film I have seen on this subject is named “Thaw”.

    Reply

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