Letters to the Editor, September 2023
Published: September 11, 2023
I am a longtime member of Population Connection, and you are in my trust. The June issue about the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) brought back memories. My husband and I joined the Peace Corps after we graduated from UC Berkeley in 1965 and were sent to a village in northeastern Brazil to work in health and community development. People there lived in mud houses in extreme poverty. Emaciated women birthed babies every year as there were no family planning opportunities. Half of the babies died at birth.
I learned of a family planning clinic in the nearest city, a five-hour bus ride away, along a bumpy dirt road. I visited the clinic and found a doctor who would come to my village, Pianco, but I had to create a clinic first. I found a space, in the tiny general medical clinic, for the gynecologist to use one day a month.
I rode my horse to villages that had no roads to educate women about the new clinic and the services it offered. Most women had never heard of family planning. Only two women showed up on opening day, due to fear and because their husbands wouldn’t allow it. After the second month, word got out that the IUDs were safe, and the clinic soon became a success.
President Seager’s note in the March issue was excellent. I appreciated him calling out misguided news items in The New York Times and on my hometown public radio station, Oregon Public Broadcasting, describing falling populations in China and Oregon as “a cause for concern.” (That story in the Times and other news stories making the same point have elicited scores of critical comments by readers who identify population growth as a source of many problems.) I especially liked Seager’s use of Pittsburgh as an example of a flourishing city and metro area that had fallen in population. More examples of this type, and also of successful nations with falling or stable populations, would be very helpful. As part of those articles it might also be helpful to point out the falsity of the idea that a population Ponzi scheme is the only way to fund social security programs. Many thanks for your work, which I first supported as a teenager in the 1960s.
I have been a supporter of your organization for many years. As a retired forester who has done some work in the Congo Basin, I read with interest the article in the June issue about deforestation in that region. It is indeed population increase and displacement that are driving deforestation. The picture you show of a woman carrying about 30 kg of charcoal and a man carrying about 10 kg of branch wood illustrates the plight of the people. However, if the forest areas that were cut down for charcoal production were left alone, without converting the land permanently to agriculture, the stumps would sucker and grow again into forests. Nature abhors a vacuum.
Thanks so much for reprinting Naomi Oreskes’ article from Scientific American in your June issue. I loved Oreskes’ critical comments on the world reaching 8 billion people as a sharp contrast to what so many of the mainstream media offered as commentary on the world reaching that milestone. It is unfortunate that most of the media and so many public officials see only the short-term economic benefits of continued population growth and not the long-term cost to the world and the environment of trying to feed, house, clothe, and otherwise meet the needs of a continually growing number of people.
Michael E. Kraft