Preparing for 7 Billion: Family Planning
This is the first in a series of posts that highlights the challenges posed by a quickly growing global population. Last October, many families celebrated the birth of their newborn children representing milestones both in their personal lives and in the global community as the world reached a population of 7 billion. For a week or so we all asked ourselves the question: How can our global community support 7 billion people? And at what cost? As is the case with any news cycle, this public debate has dissipated over the course of the past year, yet the issue of population control grows more pertinent every day as more parents celebrate their newborns.
The drastic growth rate of our population is further complicated as we look forward to the half-century mark. The demographics of country replacement rates predict an entirely different world order with different resource needs and scarcities. The replacement rates of populations in Asia, North America and Australia are less than half of those in Africa, whose population is expected to triple over the next hundred years. Nearly 90% of the world’s 1.2 billion youth live in developing or underdeveloped countries. 7 billion is just the first of many important expected population landmarks over the next century. By 2050 we could be living in a world with 9 billion or possibly 11 billion people. The difference between these two extremes boils down to family planning programs, which are under attack at a time in which they have the potential to ameliorate an overwhelmingly burdensome population. “Family planning” has turned into a dirty word over the past few years. Domestically, contraception has been the subject of legislative and rhetorical attacks in the public sphere (although 99% of sexually active women have used some form of birth control), while internationally anti-choice advocates have drawn erroneous correlations between United Nations Population Fund and China’s “one-child” policy. In such a hostile political climate, the purpose of family planning is often misunderstood. Its purpose is not to enforce mandatory one-child policies as is sometimes portrayed in mass media. Instead, family planning is about having access to reproductive health, education about safe motherhood and safe sex practices, and the ability to make informed choices about when and how many children a couple has. Furthermore, our ancient Jewish tradition has, for more than 2,000 years, reflected the view that contraceptives are not only acceptable but a legitimate form of health care and family planning. The strain imposed by 7 billion people cannot be solved at the municipal, state, or national level. In an increasingly globalizing world, nations cannot only consider their responsibilities to their own citizens or to their own nation’s security needs. Our moral imperative to confront the problems that a world with 7 billion presents is not only derived from an abstract responsibility to help the stranger, reinforced in biblical texts or cultural codes. Instead, our imperative is also derived from the fact that each of us plays a critical role in causing issues on a global scale, both politically and environmentally. International trade ensures that famine in Somalia or drought in Ethiopia directly affects health and resources in the world’s most developed countries. A world with 7, 9, or 11 billion will require us to focus on the needs of a global community, and in doing so, to consider and advocate for the importance of international family planning services.