By Nancy Tannler

Earth’s growing population hasn’t been in the forefront of the news about sustainability and quality as much as it was in the 60s and 70s. Zero population growth was a constant mantra and the people of the US and other countries took this seriously. The number of children per family we have is on average 1.88.

A recent article in the New York Times ( is a reminder that this is a subject of grave concern for earth activists who continue to monitor this growth.

At a seminar sponsored by Investments for Developing Communities (IDC), this serious issue was the focus of the evening presentation.  IDC is a grassroots 501C3 non-profit that provides education sponsorships for girls and micro-loans to women in developing countries and organic garden education to school children in Portland.

John Seager, president of Population Connection (formerly Zero Population Growth or ZPG) spoke of his organization’s goal of ensuring that every woman around the world who wants to delay or end childbearing has access to health services and contraceptive supplies.

Because the current administration is enforcing the Gag Rule*, women around the world are in danger of losing funding from the US for these services.

Most women in third world countries would choose to have fewer children if given the option. With the help of organizations like Population Connection, there have been 52 million fewer pregnancies and 24 million fewer abortions since foreign aid has been available to these women.

In the past, the Gag Rule had been applied to U.S. family planning funding, this new version expands the restrictions to all global health funding and billions of dollars in U.S. aid will be affected.

The Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights (HER) Act is a push-back introduced in the Senate by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and in the House by Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY). This Act would create a permanent, legislative repeal of the Global Gag Rule.

Seager encouraged people to check out the website for a better understanding of what is at stake right now.

Population Connection offers classes  for children and adults to better educate themselves about positive steps to ensure a future for everyone.

Project Director Suzanne York for Transition Earth spoke about the aims of her organization to increase awareness on the effects of population growth and unsustainable economic growth on people and the planet.

Their mission is to promote human rights and nature’s right through education and they are active in countries from Ethiopia to Indonesia to Nepal.

The organization uses population, health and environment development models or PHE that simultaneously addresses the need for healthcare and family planning while helping communities manage natural resources.

The Project believes obsessive economic growth and consumerism is unsustainable. They advocate for a system that enables a shift to sustainable economic growth and a transition to new economies and this would include  a shift in consciousness the includes the rights of nature. They believe all life forms have a right to exist.

Transition Earth maintains the discussion isn’t just about people deciding whether or not to have children; it’s about being aware of all the factors that come into play when making that decision. See for more.

IDC has started an ongoing group, separate from the non-profit Investments for Developing Communities (IDC), to address the issues of overpopulation and overconsumption.  Founder Liza Whitridge and Shari Sokel are holding brainstorming sessions to strategize on the best approach to creating a public awareness campaign surrounding this sensitive subject.

Linking overconsumption to overpopulation is in itself the result of recent exchanges here in Portland with people who feel a single-minded approach to the issue of overpopulation is one-sided. Indeed, it’s probably quite obvious to most of us that, to create global population and environmental sustainability, work needs to address both issues. Lofty plans, but if it can be done with organic food, gay marriage, and pot legalization, why can’t we make curbing production (of people and things) a desirable goal?

The first official group meeting was held in early June in SE. The next one is scheduled for Thursday July 20 at 5:30 pm, call Lisa Whitridge, 971.400.2181 or for location or information.

*The Gag Rule bars any U.S. funding for foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that use their own, non-U.S. funds to offer abortion services, counseling or referrals related to abortion, or political advocacy around the issue of abortion.