Last week I attended the first gathering of the International Society
for Ecological Economics.  The topic most discussed was world
population growth.  Now that the 20 million celebrants of EARTH DAY
have returned to their homes to recycle their trash, it's time to
focus on more serious problems: The ever-increasing number of us!
Ellen Goodman summarized the issue in an editorial some weeks
ago.  I thought you might want to see it.   Dave Iverson...


        You Can Talk About the Environment, But People Are the Problem

       "The darkest tales of the environment usually come to us in neatly
labeled scientific packages. The Greenhouse Effect. The Hole in the Ozone. The
Destruction of the Rain Forest. Air Pollution. Water Pollution.  These headlines
reek of chemistry and technology. 

       "But rarely do we see one entitled The People Problem.  People, the
growing number of us, seem at times mysteriously absent from the public
discussion of the state of the Earth.  It's as if we talked about carbon-spewing
cars without any drivers. 

       "This peculiar split between environmental worries and population growth
began a decade ago when birth control became a political issue.  Family-planning
money was cut.  References to population growth were taken out of reports. 
Politicians were intimidated.

       "Even environmental groups concerned with endangered species shied away
from emphasizing the dangers of our own burgening species.  Those who did talk
about polulation, like the Audubon Society, were accused by pro-life logicians
of making room for birds by getting rid of people.  The desire of women across
the world for access to birth control got lost in the shuffle. 

       "But the days when presidents, politicians or citizens could cast
themselves as advocates of the environment without also being advocates of
population limits are gone.  Family planners and environmentalists both talk
about the "carrying capacity" of the Earth today, as if the planet were a camel
and people its straws.

       "Earth-breaking population growth was the subject of a new report this
week from the Population Crisis Committee.  They took the United Nations'
warning--today's 5.3 billion people could be ten billion by 2025 and 14 billion
in a century--and called it 'a preventable disaster.'  And they wrote a

       "Vice President Dr. Sharon Camp said that during this decade we have a
chance, perhaps the last, to stabilize population before government
coercion--the China solution--or environmental devastation.  The committee
figures it will cost international governments $10.5 billion a year to make
birth control universally available and raise its use worldwide from about 50
to 75 percent.  That's a world-class price tag for what is literally a Whole
Earth problem.

       "It takes no mathematician or economist to see the collision course
between the Earth's resources and the numbers of people sharing them.  [The
Third World is where the news coverage of the problem is most graphic.]  It is
the story of countries from Kenya to India.  Countries where families are caught
between feeding their children today or saving the land for tomorrow.

       "The Third World is not the chief culprit of pollution, nor are people
the only environmental danger.  In industrial countries each of us annually
dumps five tons of carbon into the air; in the developing world, it is one ton. 
But as Worldwatch Institute's Alan Durning says, 'Underneath it all, the basic
question is how many people are consuming how much stuff.'

       "Children are born, one by one, to a family and culture as well as a
world.  Slowing the birth rate takes more than money and contraceptives.  But
we know form experiences in Thailand and Mexico and Zimbabwe how to make a
difference.  We know that poor women want choices.  We know it can't be done
without funds.  

       "During the past decade, families lost choices and the world lost time. 
Now there is a renewed recognition that we are on this rather fragile place,
this Earth, together.  Three more of us every second.  And counting.

                             Ellen Goodman--condensed from her column 3/2/90
                                            in the IDAHO STATE JOURNAL