Letters to the Editor, March 2024

Published: March 11, 2024

Today’s human population of 8 billion is far beyond Earth’s carrying capacity, even as per person consumption rates and population numbers continue rising.

Contraception should be available for free to all women in America and ultimately around the world. If every woman could decide when and whether to become pregnant, the world would be a better place for all women and all humanity, right now and in whatever future we might have.

I know this issue raises hackles and challenges social, religious, and legal limitations in America and around the world, but it’s time we all speak up.

Nathaniel Batchelder

Your interview with Dr. Jane O’Sullivan was eye-opening and disheartening. Before reading it, I assumed that most liberals were already on board with the need for population stabilization and that efforts to educate them on it were preaching to the choir.

I was disheartened also to learn that UNFPA has turned away from the goal of population stabilization. Although reproductive health, rights, and justice are worthy concerns, addressing them without also looking to the systemic causes of poverty, hunger, forced migration, war, etc. — problems that are compounded by overpopulation — is a losing battle. Current population projections smother any hope of humanity ever being able to tackle climate change, especially while also lifting the world’s poorest out of poverty.

I grew up in Ghana in the 1970s, where my American medical missionary parents served a small rural hospital and my mother ran family planning and well-baby clinics. At that time, the Ghanaian government embraced family planning as a method of population stabilization, which it deemed essential for the country’s economic development. There were public education campaigns, such as billboards featuring chubby, laughing babies with the message, “Small families are healthier and happier.” These campaigns seemed to be working, at least for those who had access to contraception. And it wasn’t the women who needed convincing; it was their husbands.

My parents’ support of family planning came out of deep compassion for the individuals they served and a desire to ease the suffering caused by too many pregnancies — suffering both of mothers and of the children they already had. But my parents were also motivated by concern about unbridled population growth and its effect on the natural systems that support human life.

It was this concern that led me to a career in agricultural research. On top of solving the daunting challenges facing agriculture today, we are asked to anticipate the challenges of tomorrow, when we’ll need to feed even more people, which feels like a Sisyphean assignment.

Lois Braun, PhD

The answer to the aging of America is simple: The superrich need to share. The idea that Social Security recipients need to work longer or take less is ridiculous when this country’s overall wealth has gone up steadily, with the wealthiest growing the most. A small portion of the $35.8 trillion controlled by the top 1% would certainly keep a coal miner from having to work into their 70s.

Frances Ryan, MD