Risqué Environmental Group Calls out Population Growth

With baby number seven billion crawling into the world, someone had to say it:

Mother Earth can’t support all of her children.

And oh, the Center for Biological Diversity did more than say it. Since last year, the group’s been working on their “condom campaign,” passing out condoms with endangered animals printed on the wrappers across college campuses nationwide.

The point? To promote planned parenthood, to curb skyrocketing population growth, and of course, to encourage debate and discussion on how protected sex can protect the environment as well.

“All the species that we save from extinction will eventually be gobbled up if the human population keeps growing,” the center’s executive director, Kierán Suckling, told The New York Times.

Joel E. Cohen, chief of the Laboratory of Populations at Rockefeller University and Columbia University, seemingly backed up Suckling’s statement, saying, ““Every person you add to the country makes all these tremendous demands on the environment.”

Even without the experts chiming in, the link between population growth and environmental stress is fairly obvious. An increase in people means an increase in carbon emissions, and a decrease in the space, food, and resources that go around. To put it simply, babies may be small, but they come with a large cost.

So why the hush-hush surrounding the issue?

Well, for starters, while it’s supported by facts and logic, the stance isn’t a very popular one.

Quoth Mireya Navarro of The New York Times: “When Oregon State University released a study two years ago calculating the extra carbon dioxide emissions a person helps generate by choosing to have children, the researchers received hate mail labeling them ‘eugenicists’ and ‘Nazis.’”

Unsurprisingly, other groups have shied away from birth control as an environmental fix. The Green Group did not return The New York Times’request for interview, while the Natural Resources Defense Council president Frances Beinecke said her organization couldn’t afford to squeeze another issue onto the agenda.

And according to Carl Pope, chairman of the Sierra Club, reproduction is a taboo topic because “there’s a huge atmosphere of intimidation. The moment you say ‘family planning,’ immediately somebody pulls out abortion.”

But not everyone who’s backed away from the population control position has done so because of controversy. Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, claims that a lack of concrete research pinning population growth to environmental damage has prevented him from supporting the cause.

Carbon footprints aren’t necessarily connected to rising birth rates, he says, suggesting that they’re instead a result of rising incomes. Case in point, the United States, which boasts a 2.0 fertility rate, yet has the second highest rate of carbon emission per capita, according to the federal Energy Information Administration’s latest estimates.

“[The issue] gets complex very quickly,” says Knobloch.

Yet, perhaps, that complexity is what warrants a greater study of the effects of population growth and, if they are considerable, how they can be curbed. As the Center for Biological Diversity demonstrates with its bold yet bawdy tactics, ignoring the issue does not make it disappear.

“Reproduction is always going to be a matter of free will,” said Randy Serraglio, “condom campaign” manager. “This is about getting people to make the connection.”

Photo Credit: wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/File:Jelly_babies.jpg

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