Discussing Overpopulation Solutions

CrowdedWhen 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.

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An Eco-Friendly Valentine’s Day

Valentine's Day ChocolatesFeb. 14 may be a celebration swathed in red and pink, but you can add some green — figuratively, that is — to the big day of love with these three simple ideas:

Give a card that keeps on giving. Sure, roses are nice (and we’ve got some great options below), but seeds for a garden are a lot more sustainable. And when they come planted in a cute card with a sweet saying, that’s even better. Botanical Paperworks has adorable options, including the fruit-inspired “We Make a Perfect Pear” and “Orange You Glad We’re Together,” while Twisted Limb Paperworks offers 100 percent recycled cards with stitched envelopes. Or give a tree planting from Dolphin Blue and get a nice card to show your love the new habitat you got in their honor. After all, this is a day to show love — and that doesn’t just have to be for people but can also be for the planet.

Buy chocolates that really show you care. Chocolates are a staple when it comes to showing affection, and organic, fair-trade varieties are the only way to go. Why? You’ll avoid pesticides and the exploitation of farm workers. Plus, more than 40 percent of the world’s conventional chocolate comes from Côte d’Ivoire in Africa, where child slavery is a very real problem. Dr. Sue’s Chocolate is a dark, European-style chocolate enriched by all-natural fruits and local honey. Sweet Earth Chocolates offers everything from the classic red velvet heart-shaped box to a bag of mini chocolate hearts to a heart full of truffles, all 100 percent organic and fair trade (with vegan options as well).

Spend a romantic evening out as locavores. If you want to treat your partner to a special meal out, it doesn’t get better than going to a local restaurant, where the food is fresh and the taste heightened. Need help finding the perfect spot? Check out the directory at EatWellGuide.org, which will show you the restaurants in your area that are committed to serving sustainable and organic meals.

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Heroes of Sustainability: Andy Lipkis

Andy LipkisA carefree teenager in 1970, Andy Lipkis’ world was changed when at summer camp in the San Bernardino Mountains, a naturalist shared that the very forests they were surrounded by were dying due to pollution.

Lipkis was only 15, but he soon sprung into action to save the trees, organizing fellow campers to plant smog-tolerant seedlings. By the time he was 18, he’d overseen the planting of thousands of trees and attracted the attention of The Los Angeles Times, which published an article urging readers to help Lipkis in his efforts. Within days, he’d received more than $10,000, solidifying the future of the forest and launching Lipkis’ environmental nonprofit, TreePeople.

Emphasizing Interconnectedness
The organization’s mission is “to inspire, engage and support people to take personal responsibility for the urban environment, making it safe, healthy, fun and sustainable and to share the process as a model for the world,” according to its website. It is now one of the largest environmental nonprofits in California.

“TreePeople’s approach is holistic, not just about trees, but about air, water, soil, community, and, yes, economics,” Lipkis told LA Yoga. “After all, where does the tree start and stop? It makes oxygen and soil, and holds water, but it’s also dependent on soil and water, and in the city, on people too. Our very name expresses this basic interconnectedness.”

TreePeople’s projects include environmental education for children, teens, and teachers; tree planting in a range of settings; and the Natural Urban Systems Group, which uses an integrated management approach to come up with sustainable solutions — particularly related to water issues — that benefit multiple parties. Using their knowledge of urban forestry and what motivates people, they’ve been able to inspire communities to take a real stake in their personal health, as well as the health of the environment.

A Nonstop Quest
“People mistakenly think of tree planting and the other work we do as something that can be fulfilled in a simple gesture, in part because that’s how it’s often been communicated: ‘On Earth Day, we’ll recycle or plant a tree.’ Of course that’s lovely, but it’s not going to get us to sustainability nor save us from this path of destruction we are on,” Lipkis told LA Yoga.

Lipkis’ accomplishments over the years are almost never-ending — he guided the creation of Los Angeles’ curbside recycling program, airlifted bare root fruit trees to Africa, organized a pivotal conference after the Southern California wildfires in 2003, and inspired the planting of 1 million trees in LA in time for the 1984 Summer Olympics, to name just a few of his résumé bullet points.

“Andy Lipkis is one of my heroes because there are very few people in the world who are ‘doing it,’” says fellow Hero of Sustainability Paul Hawken. “What is Andy doing? That’s the question. What is ‘it?’ Andy is tackling the ‘Big One.’ This Big One’s not simply a reframing or redesigning or re-imagination of industrial society. It is the process of creating a new and viable path to the future for humanity.”

Learn more about Lipkis and TreePeople here.

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