Earthworms’ Castings

with Jean Ponzi

Popularizing Population Viewpoints

Environmental topics, my stock-in-trade, have thankfully become a real part of our societal dialogue.

We encounter Green stuff not only in the news, but also all over popular culture: celebrity sightings, product design, comedy skits, advertising; woven into the fabric of how-was-your-day. Topics that were geek domain less than a decade ago now color everyday conversations. We’re talking about climate extremes, plastics in our water supply, growing healthy-eating justice in urban food deserts, human population, and . . .

ERGGHHH! Stop the presses! Do-over! Rewind! Population?
Who’s going to tell us what we can and can’t do about our own (burgeoning) numbers? I personally don’t want government, religion, or business messing in my personal choices. That goes for environmental types too!

But I do want – and have wanted, in my reproductive years – good information to help me make sound choices, and the opportunities to make them. For myself, my society, and for the planet I live on. Would you want the same for yourself? For your daughters?
Good reasons to broaden our Green horizons to engage with population issues too.
The Population Institute, a globally active non-profit based in Washington DC, works to build public and policy-maker awareness of the social, economic and environmental consequences of rapid population growth.

I’ve talked to PI folks in radio interviews. These were some zippy on-air chats. Reporting on developing-world production of soap operas we heard how plot lines and characters dramatized locally flavored street smarts on population themes – and how local data is documenting beneficial changes in viewing-public behavior. I helped promote “World Vasectomy Day,” an effort (started by one guy) to recruit hundreds of doctors and thousands of men to help limit reproduction with a voluntary SNIP.

A counter in the PI homepage corner tells me the size of one whopping species (us) needing to share all of Earth’s resources with me (I get less than a 7.2 billionth share) and how many more of my kind have arrived since I logged onto www.populationinstitute.org (about 6,000 humans while I wrote this page).

Every one of these individuals needs – and some would claim deserves – water, food, shelter, love and ways to fulfill each one’s destiny. And these numbers and needs of course do not cover caring for all the rest of the kinds of our relatives in (sing it with me, please) The Circle of Life.

Look under the rocks of enviro-problems and you’ll usually find a human-population cause. People use plastic stuff that degrades, contaminates soil and water, and chokes or poisons other species. People consume electric power that drives extraction and combustion of fossil fuels and concentrates atmospheric gases that drastically kink up climate patterns. People buy big-box stores full of “goods” that drain already-stressed family budgets and chain invisible “foreign” workers in sweatshops to keep prices low-low-low. All this and more times 7.2 billion (and counting) of our peeps adds up to ow-ow-ow.

Enviro-wisdom also reveals another side to these situations, by understanding how solutions exist within even the most pressing problems: how people working, thinking and caring together can dream and cooperate sensible ways to meet a biodiverse population’s needs (not limited to but including ours), without totally trashing the Earth (that sustains us).

Especially inspiring to me, being a female, is that educating women and girls is an internationally proven key to sustainable turnarounds of our overall economic, social and environmental messes.

Not an instant solution for sure, but a process built on values to encourage and empower, not oppress and enslave, more than half of humankind.

Working toward these ends, the Population Institute promotes international and U.S. support for voluntary family planning programs, to give women and girls the power to choose when to bear children. “Empowerment of women” covers legal, political, economic, and social equality, including sexual and reproductive rights. These are critical rights to achieve in a world where one human gender is still considered property of the other, an imbalanced injustice that leaves us playing with less than half a deck, and totally whacks the playing field for pretty much every other species.

Including population in our popular talk – and integrating PI-type intelligence and skills into the enviro-education mix – will sustainably forge important links conveniently missing in our social thinking.

Let’s pop the bubble of illusion about population topics, and change our climate of misinformation and ideological raving. Let’s sprout some population-savvy as we continue to Green up our popular culture.

Jean Ponzi’s radio show “Earthworms” was honored last month with a Global Media Award from the Population Institute. Listen live Mondays, 7-8 pm, on FM-88 KDHX or www.kdhx.org or download podcasts from www.kdhx.org/ondemand.