When actress Alexandra Paul took the stage at TEDx Topanga, she addressed a topic not many other people talk about: overpopulation. Recycling, climate change, energy usage, electric cars, oil spills, and veganism are all a fairly big part of the public discourse nowadays, but people still shy away from discussing just how quickly the rate of people on this planet is growing.
Paul has been worried about the sustainability of rapid population growth since she was a child, but just as no one seemed to understand her concerns then, she worries not much has changed in the ensuing four decades.
“I still feel pretty alone in my beliefs, and I’m still shocked that not more people are disturbed by population growth,” Paul said in her speech. “I think it’s because as a species, we’ve decided not to talk about it.”
It took us until 1850 to put the first billion people on the planet. The next billion came in 100 years. Now, we add 1 billion people to the planet every 12 years. What can we do to slow this growth? Here’s what Paul proposes:
>> Aim for one-child families. “Every day, we add 220,000 people to the planet — every day — and this is unsustainable, which means at some point, the world population is going to stop growing,” Paul says. “The question is: how? Will it stop growing because of famine, disease, a war over resources, or will it stop growing because people choose to have smaller families? And by smaller families, I mean one-child families.”
>> Provide more education to women. “The fastest and most efficient way to stabilize the world population is to send girls to school and to empower women, and to give everyone access to and education on birth control,” Paul says. According to the Institute for Population Studies, 200 million women around the world would prefer to delay having children, but they don’t have access to contraceptives and reproductive health care. The more job opportunities women have, the smaller families they choose to have — and the more resources they’re able to devote to each child.
>> Change social norms. “Couples like myself and my husband, Ian, who have chosen not to have kids are ‘childless’ instead of ‘child-free,’” Paul says. Instead of treating those who choose not to have children as if they’re selfish (which Paul has been accused of) or making a huge mistake, we should focus on respecting that decision. The same goes for those who choose to have one child — we should stop equating only with lonely.