President's Note, June 2022
Written by John Seager, President and CEO | Published: June 21, 2022
Are we there yet? That’s a familiar, if frustrating, refrain heard by those sharing long car rides with young children. When it comes to our own population mission, “getting there” entails three key steps:
Attaining replacement rate fertility: Demographers define that level as about 2.1 children per woman in low-mortality settings. When we were founded in 1968, women in the U.S. had 2.5 children on average. That has dropped to 1.64—well below replacement rate. Globally, we’ve gone from 4.9 children per woman to 2.4 today. Those are strong signs of progress, with wide variations around the globe.
Achieving population stabilization: We’re still adding about 80 million people annually to our overcrowded planet, down from the all-time high of 93 million in 1988. In the U.S., according to the 2020 Census, population growth slowed a bit over the past decade—averaging 2.3 million per year—down from the peak rate in the 1990s of 3.3 million per year. More recently, there has been a sharp, possibly temporary, slowdown here at home due to Covid and lower net migration. Yet, 45 percent of all U.S. pregnancies remain unintended. So, there is much unfinished business.
Ending overpopulation: The world grows more overpopulated by the day due to our increasing numbers as well as our levels of consumption of—well, just about everything. Earth’s precise carrying capacity has proven impossible to pin down—partly because it isn’t a fixed figure. Rather, it depends at any given time on our consumption habits. But the hard fact is that, from climate change to deforestation to endangered species, we are destroying the natural systems that sustain us all.
When it comes to scaling the twin peaks of overpopulation and overconsumption, we’re barely into the foothills. Right now, we’re committing global ecocide. Under the most optimistic scenarios, stopping overpopulation will take generations of hard work. Even as we strive to move forward, there are dark political forces determined to roll back reproductive health and environmental preservation. We will not submit to their craven schemes and rotten regimes. We know that education and empowerment coupled with deep respect for the natural world are central to our population stabilization mission.
Our adversaries want us to become discouraged. Let’s show them that our commitment to a better, safer, less-crowded world is unshakable.
In Memoriam: Art Riggs
We were very sorry to learn of the recent death of our good friend Arthur D. Riggs. Along with his wonderful wife, Jane, Art was among our earliest and most generous members. He led the team that developed synthetic insulin for diabetes patients—a breakthrough that has transformed the lives of millions. Weeks before his death in March at age 82, Art was still conducting medical research at the City of Hope National Medical Center in southern California. In his obituary, The New York Times quoted Art as saying, “I could have retired into a South Pacific mansion and enjoyed myself on the beach, but I would have been bored within a week.” He led a life full of purpose and great achievement. We are grateful to Art and Jane for their deep commitment and generous support over many years. Together, they have made a tremendous impact to help advance our mission of global population stabilization.