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    030330

    Stopping population growth.

    Brown LR

    In: State of the world 1985. A Worldwatch Institute report on progress toward a sustainable society [by] Lester R. Brown, Edward C. Wolf, Linda Starke, William U. Chandler, Christopher Flavin, Sandra Postel, Cynthia Pollack. New York, New York, W.W. Norton, 1985. 200-21.

    The demographic contrasts of the 1980s are placing considerable stress on the international economic system and on national political structures. Runaway population growth is indirectly fueling the debt crisis by increasing the need for imported food and other basic commodities. Low fertility countries are food aid donors, and the higher fertility countries are the recipients. In most countries with high fertility, food production per person is either stagnant or declining. Population policy is becoming a priority of national governments and international development agencies. This discussion reviews what has happened since the UN's first World Population Conference in 1974 in Bucharest, fertility trends and projections, social influences on fertility, advances in contraceptive technology, and 2 major family planning gaps -- the gap between the demand for family planning services and their availability and the gap between the societal need to slow population growth quickly and the private interests of couples in doing so. The official purpose of the 1984 UN International Conference on Population convened in Mexico City, in which 149 countries participated, was to review the world population plan of action adopted at Bucharest. In Bucharest there had been a wide political schism between the representatives of industrial countries, who pushed for an increase in 3rd world family planning efforts, and those from developing countries, whose leaders argued that social and economic progress was the key to slowing population growth. In Mexico City this division had virtually disappeared. Many things had happened since Bucharest to foster the attitude change. The costly consequences of continuing rapid population growth that had seemed so theoretical in the 1974 debate were becoming increasingly real for many. World population in 1984 totaled 4.76 billion, an increase of some 81 million in 1 year. The population projections for the industrial countries and East Asia seem reasonable enough in terms of what local resource and life support systems can sustain, but those for much of the rest of the world do not. Most demographers are still projecting that world population will continue growing until it reaches some 10 billion, but that most of the 5.3 billion additional people will be concentrated in a few regions, principally the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. What demographers are projecting does not mesh with what ecologists or agronomists are reporting. In too many countries ecological deterioration is translating into economic decline which in turn leads to social disintegration. The social indicator that correlates most closely with declining fertility across the whole range of development is the education of women. Worldwide, sterilization protects more couples from unwanted pregnancy than any other practice. Oral contraceptives rank second. The rapid growth now confronting the world community argues for effective family planning programs.
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