Population Connection member Susan N. is a lot of things: retired teacher and lawyer, gardener, and art history fanatic. She is also childfree by choice, a title she’s particularly proud to have, one that led her to become a member of Population Connection.
Susan made the “population connection” as a young teen, crediting The Population Bomb for highlighting the interconnections between rapid population growth and resource availability. After graduating high school, Susan became a lawyer and then a teacher. Transitioning between professions, Susan taught Civil Procedure at Santa Clara University before spending eight years in the Czech Republic teaching English. She reflects on her experience abroad: “During most of my life, we thought the Iron Curtain would never be lifted and that the Soviet Union would exist forever. All that changed in the late 80s and early 90, so I thought that was a really historic moment. In retrospect, it was, because, for one thing, Czechs invited people in, such as myself, to teach English, and I was given a work visa. It was an historic window of opportunity.”
It wasn’t until years later that Susan stumbled across Population Connection and learned that Paul Ehrlich was a cofounder. Intrigued, she thought, “Well isn’t that interesting, there is a group working on the issue of [rapid population growth] which coincides with my interests. So I signed up!”
As an environmentalist, Susan understands how rapid population growth compromises the livelihoods of people and the planet. She says, “Ultimately, the solution to these environmental issues has to involve [stabilizing] the human population. There are just too many people generating waste, using up resources, engaging in fossil fuels… You can just see the pressure on resources. It’s a never-ending circle; it always goes back to the numbers.”
In addition to her concerns about the environment, Susan’s passion for bodily autonomy and reproductive rights inspires her to support our work. She reveals: “I didn’t get married until I was almost 40. Even from the time I was a teenager, being a mother was never a goal for myself. I didn’t think about it at all.”
Susan never regretted her decision to remain childfree, although she does recognize the intense social pressure to “conform” and the guilt of feeling obligated to create the next generation. “If you study art history—I spend a lot of time looking at Renaissance art, which is endless pictures of the Madonna and the baby Jesus—I mean, the message is pretty clear, right? But if you don’t have any children, believe me, the human race will continue.”
Through her participation in our programs, Susan hopes to open the dialogue for others to share their decision to live childfree. “We all have our choices to make. And I’m not saying that all women should make the choice I made, but I would just like women to know their options and really think about them. You can decide whether having a child is really what you want for yourself.”
We applaud Susan for her commitment to preserving the environment and protecting reproductive freedom! Our team extends a huge THANK YOU to Susan for participating in our programs. We are incredibly grateful to have such a passionate member working with us to raise awareness on population pressures. If you’re excited about achieving global population stabilization like Susan, we encourage you to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or tune in for an upcoming virtual event!
California native Arthur Charles “Chuck” Knutson Jr. has a lifetime of experience that has shaped him into the population stabilization advocate he is today. During his high school years, he was an avid hiker and fisherman. Over time, he noticed there were fewer, high-quality outdoor spaces to explore as cities expanded and the population boomed. “The world population has more than tripled since I was born, and the California population has nearly quadrupled!” he exclaimed.
Supporting our mission when we were still known as ZPG, Chuck notes how Paul Ehrlich further contributed to his understanding of population growth and the environment. Concerned about our planet’s health, Chuck earned a B.A. in Environmental Biology from UC Santa Barbara and then an M.S. in Fisheries Biology from Humboldt State University. After college, he volunteered for the Peace Corps, serving as a high school teacher trainer in Bihar, India from 1969 to 1971. His time there was eye-opening, as he saw first-hand how rapid population growth can impact people’s livelihoods and quality of life. After returning to the states, Chuck went on to work at the California State Department of Fish and Game as a Marine and Freshwater Fisheries Biologist for 34 years.
Although he’s been retired for 15 years now, Chuck keeps busy with his activism work. As we transitioned to virtual gatherings last year, Chuck stood out amongst our incredible members by attending the most events! When asked what part of our mission resonates with him the most he quickly responded, “I agree with all of it, I can’t pick out a part that’s more important than the other because you have to have all of those parts to make it work. That’s why I’m more active, because I believe in it.” He continued, “So many organizations come out with their priorities for the upcoming year and they’re supposed to be doing something for the environment… and you read all those things and they leave out population growth and overconsumption of natural resources.” He recalls a Population Connection event he attended years ago where our CEO and President John Seager presented. “I was really impressed. I sat there and just agreed with everything. It just made sense. We were speaking the same language.”
His concerns about climate change and habitat destruction keep him motivated to talk about population issues. “As population growth increases, our quality of life goes down. Things are more crowded, things are more polluted… and there’s habitat destruction for other species, not just our own.” A father of two, he finds it meaningful to discuss population issues through a social justice lens. He believes in freedom of choice, not only because people deserve to make their own reproductive health choices, but because wider availability of reproductive health services is an integral component in addressing environmental crises.
To help others make the “population connection,” Chuck likes to start off by talking about mainstream environmental issues, such as climate change, pollution, and overconsumption. By using this approach, he finds it easier to lead others to make the connection on their own. Through his activism, Chuck hopes to achieve worldwide population stabilization “as soon as possible.”
Our team extends a HUGE thank-you to Chuck for his dedication to raising awareness of population challenges. We are immensely grateful to have such a passionate individual working with us towards global population stabilization. If you’re interested in getting involved with our virtual events, we encourage you to reach out to us at email@example.com. You’ll be in good company!
When he’s not busy surfing, cycling, or backpacking, Adam Englund likes to spend his free time advocating for the planet and all its inhabitants. Before joining Population Connection in 1992, Adam was the Mayor’s appointee to the Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee and worked on numerous other transportation committees pushing for alternative, more efficient modes of travel. Being involved with urban planning helped him make the “population connection” as he began to understand that accommodating such a large number of people meant impinging on natural habitats and depleting Earth’s resources. He would always ask—and still does, “What is fundamentally the most important problem of our time?” His answer? Population growth. “It has an impact on so many different things … that’s why this organization is so important, to make the connection.”
Adam’s concerns over habitat destruction and biodiversity loss are his driving motivators to talk about population issues. Through his activism, he hopes to open people’s minds to a more holistic perspective. “The perspective that one population is better than another population is part of why we’re destroying this planet … We have to shift that perspective to appreciate all life.”
Adam likes to think long-term about our environmental issues. Frustrated, he vents about how corporations, in particular, seem to be concerned only with short-term results. He believes institutions have perpetuated the idea that we need more people to increase the GDP, a “hugely erroneous metric for us to be using. Is that how we want to measure the success of the planet, how many resources we destroy each year?” He continued, “As well, religious organizations need more devotees to perpetuate their beliefs. These institutions require more and more people, so population stabilization, let alone reduction, is against their institutional interests.”
Before COVID-19 required us to social distance, we were fortunate to have Adam volunteer at local events, such as Earth Day festivals. Since then, he’s tuned in for a number of our virtual speaking engagements and frequently writes op-eds to his local newspapers. He encourages other Population Connection members to get more involved too, explaining that he finds encouragement in conversing with others who also sense the urgency to address rapid population growth. For individuals who haven’t made the “population connection,” he bridges the gap by finding out their values and says, “If you look at those values, maybe you can open them up to some other ideas.”
Although he recognizes population issues can be difficult to discuss, he strongly believes the topic needs to be part of the mainstream conversation. Adam knows there are “population impacts in every aspect of our lives” and tries to point these out whenever he can. If someone brings up a social or environmental issue, he’ll often mention that population growth is an underlying factor. In doing so, he’s trying to “stop them for a second and think, maybe it is.” By talking to people about rapid population growth, he hopes others will start taking it seriously and make it a priority.
We applaud Adam on his commitment to talk about population issues and we are honored to have such a passionate individual working with us toward achieving global population stabilization. We’d like to express a genuine thank you for Adam’s continued engagement as we’ve transitioned to virtual events!
If you’re interested in how to get involved during this time, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A jack of all-volunteer-trades, Dr. Keith Kaback has dedicated nearly all of his life to helping others. A Population Connection member since 1988, he has become one of our most passionate volunteers, co-hosting Population Connection events with the Center for Biological Diversity in his hometown of Tucson, AZ, and his favorite: the Population Connection Earth Day booth.
Keith served as an emergency medicine physician for over 30 years, working in both university and private hospitals. Before moving to Tucson, AZ, he graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School and completed his medical residency in Kansas City. Although Keith retired from emergency medicine in 2012, he still volunteers his time at a local free health clinic to assist those in need.
His first experience with environmental issues was back in the 1970s when he was a teenager. “I helped start a recycling program in Middletown, New York where I grew up. We created a curbside pickup program for the city where we would collect materials like glass, paper, and aluminum. And that was long before things like that were popular,” he shared. This was the beginning of his environmental activities.
When Keith joined the Board of Directors for Planned Parenthood of Southern Arizona in 2001, it gave him the opportunity to work with population and family planning issues. He explains, “I got trained to perform vasectomies for Planned Parenthood in Tucson and that was my first direct experience with population issues.” It was the combined experience of his environmental interests and his work with Planned Parenthood that reinforced the significance of the “population connection”.
Since his retirement, Keith keeps busy by volunteering with Population Connection and Population Media Center (PMC). “I have been an active volunteer with PMC for the last seven years now and was the Director of the Arizona Chapter for some time. I started the PMC Scholarship Video Contest, which is largely inspired by Population Education’s successful student video contest! PMC’s video program has been running for the last six years!” he explains.
According to Keith, “Educating people about population issues and family planning seems to be the most important aspect of Population Connection’s mission. We need to educate the public in order to get them to support efforts to make the changes necessary, which include supporting policies that promote sustainable population practices. To enact change on the state and federal levels, the public must desire and advocate for those changes. That is why I believe PopEd Is your most important program.”
Keith hopes to make a great impact by supporting educational initiatives that highlight population issues. Additionally, he has included several population organizations in his estate plans to support their missions when he is gone.
Although Keith and his sister-in-law Sandy, another active Population Connection member, were sad about the postponed Earth Day events, they both participated in our Earth Day Challenge online and look forward to volunteering at next year’s Earth Day event.
Sandy is 52 years old, has Down Syndrome, and has been an avid environmentalist for years. She reads the newspaper from the front page to the back page every day and focuses on articles related to the environment. She loves to clip out relevant articles and find photographs so that she can create her own “reports,” carefully constructed with staples and plenty of Scotch tape. In the past year, she has focused on plastic pollution and its effects on turtles.
When she is not involved in environmental activities, she likes to bowl – and she is quite good at it! Sandy works at a local restaurant where she and another worker wear T-shirts highlighting the plight of turtles – and they call themselves “The Turtle Sisters.” Sandy even has her own reusable straw that she carries with her for use when she eats out at a restaurant. Sandy loves to get involved with Earth Day, and last year greatly enjoyed helping at the Population Connection booth in Tucson. She has been anxiously awaiting the coming Earth Day so that she could work the booth again, and was very disappointed that she would not be able to do so due to the pandemic. But Sandy loves to navigate the internet and enjoyed being part of Earth Day online.
Long-time Population Connection supporters, Paula Grande and Middy Streeter have spent a great deal of their time traveling the world. While visiting places like Brazil, France, Morocco, Spain, and Vietnam, they’ve even picked up a few languages along the way, including Portuguese, French, and Spanish!
As they’ve traveled to some of their favorite places multiple times, Paula and Middy have noticed the impacts of population growth in many of their favorite counties. “When I returned to certain places, I could see how population growth had affected them. […] Areas that once flourished, and places that we used to love, have now become deserts.”
Paula recalls that the U.S. population was about 189 million people during her teenage years. “And now it’s way over that and it keeps going up.” In fact, the U.S. population now exceeds 330 million people. Concerns over the demand for essential resources come to Paula’s mind, as she compares the population from her teenage years to today. “I’m scared there won’t be a lot of food and resources for people,” she said.
Middy, on the other hand, is most troubled by the effects of population on the environment. “I started seeing that the loss of habitat for animals was a direct correlation [with population growth],” he said. Paula concurs: “I don’t want to live in a world where there are no elephants or giraffes. These animals need a lot of room. And there are so many people who also need the land for agriculture.” Like many of our members, Paula and Middy agree on the best solution to this complex problem: Lowering fertility rates through ensuring voluntary, human-rights based family planning options.
Not only that but Paula and Middy are determined to help educate the public on population issues and effects on our planet, as well as the importance of increasing access to reproductive health care services.
When Paula and Middy decided to volunteer with Population Connection, they set “modest and realistic goals” for themselves. Their priority has been simply to have conversations with people who have not given population much thought. And Middy has come up with a great engagement tactic: He likes to grab the attention of passersby by juggling outside the booth.
“Volunteering can really make a difference. Just look at the pandemic we are going through now. In small ways, volunteers can make a difference in people’s lives. You have to make an effort in this world; it is a way to feel a little better about the situation. It’s for your benefit and the benefit of the future of humanity.”
Paul and Middy say this about themselves: “We are not the people who will sit back and do nothing. We have to do something.” They want to encourage everyone to volunteer their time, advising: “Do not minimize your contribution, no matter how small it may appear.”
Although Population Connection’s volunteer opportunities have shifted this year due to COVID- 19, Paula and Middy participated in many of our virtual events. When opportunities arise once more, we know we can count on Paula and Middy. On behalf of everyone, we’d like to extend a HUGE thanks to Paula and Middy, as well as our numerous other volunteers across the country. You are making a tremendous difference, and we’re deeply grateful.
In the meantime, we encourage you to check out some of our volunteer resources online, at www.popconnect.org/getinvolved. Here, you can stay up to date on our issue and keep involved with Population Connection and your fellow members.
Longtime supporter Linn Harwell joined Population Connection in 1979—at least, that’s as far back as our electronic records go. But her introduction to reproductive rights happened much earlier in life, in a sobering way, and exemplified just how crucial reproductive health care is for women’s lives. Linn was one of five children when her mother became pregnant again. Concerned with financial insecurities and housing issues, Linn’s mother was forced to have a “back-alley” procedure, due to abortion being illegal at that time. Terribly, her mother’s abortion was unsafe, and she died of septicemia. Linn was six-years-old.
Linn didn’t discover the truth about her mother’s death until she was a teenager, but this revelation fueled her passion for reproductive rights. From that time on, Linn said, she became devoted to “… saving women’s lives, so they don’t die like my mother did.”
After getting married, Linn sought out family planning services. She knew she had to look into contraception options in order to protect her own life, something she wish had protected her mother’s. She became involved with Planned Parenthood and met former president Faye Wattleton, who began educating Linn in different contraceptive options. As she learned more, Linn grew more inquisitive about her mother’s fate. During a private conversation with her father, Linn asked why he and her mother didn’t use contraception. He told her, “Honey, we never talked about such things.” In response, Linn said, “If you don’t talk about these things, women die! That is not acceptable to me.”
While living in New Canaan, Connecticut, Linn met notable advocates Dr. Lee Buxton and Estelle Griswold, who years earlier had been arrested for offering family planning services under Comstock Laws. As Linn learned more about reproductive rights and the late Anthony Comstock’s anti-choice agenda, her drive to educate and inform women became even more powerful. Dr. Buxton and Mrs. Griswold assigned a nurse to familiarize Linn on contraceptive technology, resources, and information. With basic knowledge, Linn started counseling women at the Norwalk Hospital in New Haven. After relocating, Linn joined the board of Planned Parenthood in Philadelphia and continued to hold discussions with women on family planning options at Bryn Mawr Hospital and Philadelphia General Hospital. “I read and I learn and then I teach,” Linn said. “I feel obligated to save poor women from dying.”
Linn proudly shares that her mother was a talented musician. Her very “worthy” voice runs in the family. “We use it all the time, my daughter, son, and I have her voice.” Through her activism, Linn wants to use her voice to keep women safe. She continued to share her mother’s story, founding the Clara Bell Duvall Freedom Project to amplify her advocacy and education efforts. Any time Linn traveled, she’d hold or attend meetings to talk with leaders of family planning groups. This is how she met our “devoted” CEO and President John Seager. Meeting John was “marvelous,” Linn said, and she’s been an even more dedicated member since that first encounter.
Linn has supported Population Connection for roughly 40 years, joining the organization back when it was still ZPG. “The reason Population Connection is so worthy for me is because I connect people together. And those are the people who need help. The [Trump] Oval Office doesn’t give a damn, but I do.” She encourages other Population Connection volunteers to connect and speak out about reproductive health and rights, and to continue growing a strong advocate network for family planning services.
We’d like to thank Linn for her many years of courageous work to advance reproductive health and rights for all. We’re deeply grateful to her for her support, her friendship, and for using her voice to lift the lives of others. Thank you, Linn!
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.”
Janice Rogers of Erie, Colorado, grew up in the Albany area of New York. A Population Connection member since 1999, she has supported our mission and goals since the 70s. She became a biology teacher in 1969 and, following a brief hiatus to start a family, she continued in that work for 30 years, always including the “population connection” in her Environmental Sciences segment.
Now retired, Janice loves to fill her time with travel. She and her husband, “a wonderful photographer,” began a long tradition of traveling the world together and creating photo-journals of their adventures. “We first went to Kenya and Tanzania. Then we went to Botswana … South Africa. We’ve been to Ethiopia, which was amazing, like stepping back in time 2,000 years everywhere outside of Addis Ababa.” She pauses to clarify, “Oh, every place is amazing!” She continues reciting her list, “… Uganda—so we saw gorillas and chimpanzees. We’ve been to Ghana and to Namibia.” She pauses again to ask herself, “Is that everything?” and answers, “Probably not.”
Along the way, they developed a passion for birds and began to pursue other destinations known for their birding wonders. “My husband passed away three-and-a-half years ago, but I have still been able to travel and bird,” Janice explains. Now, Janice goes birding every week with the Boulder Birding Club. And she recently visited Colombia to see “the home of the largest number of bird species in the world.” Next, she has her sights set on Belize.
Janice also rows with a club in Boulder, and she just returned from a national regatta in Michigan. She laughs humbly while sharing that she “won a gold medal for a quad race in [her] age bracket.” Janice points out that there were 2,200 participants, but “not so many older ones.” She laughs again, “Because, who is left, you know?”
With her deep-seated love for our world and its nature, Janice realizes human population growth is the root of the biggest problem of our time. She exclaims, “It’s not a new thing! I taught this stuff in 1979. When I was born, the population was two-and-a-half billion. Then, the seven billion really got to me. We need to do more! I care about the animals and birds, and all the people who need and want access to contraception.”
She recalls visiting a health clinic during a trip to Madagascar, at a time when there was a significant unmet need for family planning. While there, she spoke with a local doctor who informed Janice that, despite their husbands’ disapproval, women were secretly obtaining contraception. “Once their husbands experienced the benefits of family planning, they loved it, because it meant they had more free time and available resources for their families,” Janice remembers.
When asked what part of our mission resonates with her the most, Janice highlights her passion for educating people to preserve the environment. She loves engaging her community and watching the wheels turn while having one-on-one conversations with folks who are exploring the topic of population for the first time. She also appreciates meeting and speaking with other people who have already made the population connection.
Janice enjoys the camaraderie of volunteering with Population Connection, whether she’s hosting an informational booth or film screening, or attending a meet-up. “I encourage everyone to volunteer, to help plant seeds for the future,” she says. Through her efforts with Population Connection, Janice notes that she “hopes to grow her community’s activism and grassroots education around the ‘population connection.’”
We’re deeply grateful to Janice for her volunteerism and support of Population Connection’s mission. If you would like to get more involved and volunteer, please reach out! We’d love to hear from you at email@example.com.