By Lee Van Ham
Awareness of environmental crises continues to grow rapidly. Oddly, in this growing awareness, the impact of human population growth is a taboo and omitted from the discussions and policies. Yet, it is the primary multiplier of these crises. And that multiplier has accelerated rapidly.
There are nearly 8 billion of us on Earth. But did you know about the head-spinning rate of growth? In 1992, 1700 scientists, including nearly all living science Nobel laureates, wrote “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity.” At the time there were 5.4 billion humans on Earth. That means that in only 30 years, we have 34% more humans.
Stop now to consider how much easier it would be to stop the crescendoing crises of our environment if we had 1/3 fewer people.
There is near-universal agreement that the single most effective means to control human population is through the empowerment of women—equal education opportunities to men, equal pay to men, and as much control over their own bodies as men have over theirs. Yet, decisions affecting all of these powers—all of which are rightfully inherent in womanhood—are primarily controlled by men! Much of the thought by men that continues to constrict the power of women holds a highly outdated image of women—women before WWII or earlier.
Yet, women in every age live with the Divine Image in them as surely and as fully as any male. And when Jesus said, “I am come to give life and to give it abundantly” (John 10:10), no distinction was made between genders. Jesus explains that it is the thief who steals life, but he gives life. Which people, companies, governments, religious bodies, and policies would you name as thieves in today’s world?
Until women are fully empowered to control their lives, it is doubtful that men will allow Mother Earth to be so empowered either. Environmental rape and abuse will continue to be rampant. To defend herself, Mother Earth will need to rise up with more and greater natural world violence upon our species, though she had intended for us to live together, sharing with all species her abundance.
It’s a staggering disconnection that patriarchally driven men, and some women too, are vigorously pro-life when it comes to the life that evolves in a woman’s womb. But once born, life is not supported with childcare, tax credits, or subsidy for that life. or education that is free or subsidized. Once out of the womb, pro-life is replaced with insistence that investing in children is too expensive.
Meanwhile, we continue to make choices about our environment as if exponential growth of a single species is no factor at all. We need to break the taboo and have population join over-consumption, reducing CO2, economic growth, and technological fixes in our ecological conversations.
(I acknowledge my debt to several sources in writing this blog: “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice, academic.oup.com/bioscience; “Our Overcrowded Planet: A Failure of Family Planning” by Robert Engelman; “Overpopulation and Overconsumption” by Michael Hanauer.)