Women’s Health and Overpopulation: What’s the Connection?
Updated: Apr 15, 2020
Overpopulation is widely regarded as one of the most glaring climate challenges faced today. Critical natural resources are being depleted far more quickly than they are being replenished, causing an array of environmental issues and exacerbating the climate crisis. This is due in part to the fact that there are simply too many of us here on Earth for our current way of life to be sustained. So, without going full Thanos-mode, how can we stabilize the population and leave more resources available for everyone? The solution lies in women’s health—more specifically, women’s health in the developing world.
Over the last few centuries, population growth has been largely exponential. That is, it’s grown like a family tree rather than a human being. Instead of growing by a few inches a year during childhood then peaking at a certain height in maturity, populations start as a tree trunk that grows branches. Each branch might grow 3 more branches, then those branches grow 4 branches, and so on; except, with exponential growth, this tree might grow branches, or people, infinitely. On a planet with finite resources, that kind of growth is certainly worrisome.
However, populations don’t actually grow exponentially forever. In fact, they pretty much always stabilize at a certain point in development. This tends to happen when women gain access to high-quality women’s health services. Let me explain: when women are given access to high quality women’s health services, they are able to make more significant contributions to society and advance gender equality. From this, women can be educated on a number of topics regarding their biology, reproductive systems and rights. They learn about safe sex, menstrual cycles, contraceptives, and maternal healthcare, further advancing women’s health conditions and opening up doors to more economic opportunities. In countries where women have these opportunities, population growth rates are among the lowest in the world. Women can prevent unwanted pregnancies, and have confidence that their children will be provided for physically and financially.
Let’s look at the other side. In many places around the world, women’s sexuality is demonized. Women are taught abstinence rather than how to have sex safely, or how to prevent unwanted pregnancies. These women too often don’t have access to birth control, condoms, and other contraceptives. There are also fewer healthcare options for pregnant women, and fewer social opportunities for mothers to create income. This means that more women become pregnant who, upon having children, aren’t as easily able to provide for their children or give them necessary healthcare. The result? Infant mortality rates are devastatingly high, and only a handful of children born actually survive into adulthood.
But, wouldn’t that make the population lower? Short answer: no. When most children don’t survive to be adults, women tend to have more children per family to increases the chances that at least one or two of them will survive. If only 1 in 3 children survive into adulthood, then mothers are inclined to have maybe 5 or 6 children to better their odds. However, economies do develop. Healthcare eventually progresses. Suddenly, all 6 hypothetical children of millions of women around the world are surviving. Not only that, but they’re dying at an older age as adult life expectancies increase. At this stage, we see an inevitable population boom… emphasis on the inevitable. This is not a stage that we can or should ethically prevent. This population boom is transitional, and when the effects of increased gender equality, better healthcare, more thorough sex education, and decreased stigma against women’s sexuality are widespread, women no longer feel the need to have 5 or 6 children and birthrates plummet. In fact, many women decide not to have children at all as they focus on their careers instead. Here, we reach the stage at which population growth rates become stable.
So, what can you do to help the environment survive overpopulation? You can work to end the stigma surrounded women’s reproductive systems. You can support gender equality at home, and in the developing world. You can educate yourself and others on safe, preventative sex. You can support efforts to provide contraceptives and women’s healthcare products to women in need around the globe. You can help to create a world where women can feel safe and sexy in their own bodies and communities, and where women can sleep knowing that they and their children have access to healthcare.
Want to know more? Check out my references.
Glasier, A., Gülmezoglu, A. M., Schmid, G. P., Moreno, C. G., & Look, P. F. V. (2006). Sexual and reproductive health: a matter of life and death. The Lancet, 368(9547), 1595–1607. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(06)69478-6
Kurzgesagt – In A Nutshell. (2016, December 22). Overpopulation – The Human Explosion Explained [Video]. Youtube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsBT5EQt348
Roser, M., Ortiz-Ospina, E., & Ritchie, H. (2013, May 23). Life Expectancy. Retrieved April 14, 2020, from https://ourworldindata.org/life-expectancy
Anthropologist & Sustainability Professional. Environmental Activist. B.A. Anthropology & B.A. Sustainability, Arizona State University 2021.
WHILE I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION IF YOU ARE A FELLOW FAN OF THE EARTH PLEASE CHECK OUT MY PETITION BELOW (EVEN IF YOU AREN'T A RESIDENT OF THE US IT TAKES 30 SECONDS)
The EPA is suspending the enforcement of environmental laws for an indefinite period of time. Corporations can unlawfully pollute as much as they want, wherever they want, without risk of penalties. There will be no monitorization of any kind, meaning that we can’t even know how badly these regulations have been violated. There will be no obligation to repair oil leaks, to prevent pollution from seeping into nearby waterways, etc.
This is a crisis, and poses a SEVERE threat to public health. Healthy people cannot live where the air is toxic, the soil is destroyed, and the water is polluted. Even worse, the new policy doesn’t allow the EPA to act EVEN IF the pollution begins to pose as an imminent threat to public health. We are in DANGER.
I have created a Whitehouse petition. If you do ONE productive thing during this time of quarantine, please, sign this petition. Share it with your loved ones. The destruction of our environment hurts the poor before anyone else, and it hurts them the most. Protect our country, our people, and our planet. Take a stand. STAND FOR WHAT YOU STAND ON.
(Petition link): https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/remove-epa-policy-suspending-enforcement-environmental-laws-amid-coronavirus-pandemic?fbclid=IwAR2kYCUXER0DpXD_XJGT74yOn1Q7WWDADfZgiQQ7HSx-ZYsBwdmYs1rPpic