Unless there’s an amazing undiscovered human who is half plant and gets energy from the sun, every human being needs food for energy. The United Nations estimates that the world population in 2050 will increase to 9.3 billion, up from a 1999 estimation of 8.9 billion (Kristof). In order to maintain that population, we are all going to need food. According to National Geographic’s Jonathan Foley, we need to double the number of crops we currently grow to feed a population of that size. We can drastically change people’s diets while increasing agricultural output, but there is something else we could do – we could control the population. Should the United Nations institute a One Child Policy? No. The answer is simple – free and easy access to birth control. Not only could we control the population from growing exponentially, we can reduce abortions (Williams), help families save and have more control over their economic futures (Fox), and mitigate climate change (Somerville).
Modern agricultural farmhouses are not the quaint farms of yesteryear, where farmers live in tune with nature and respect the animal. Corporate farming is mired in senseless animal cruelty and poor working conditions (Scully). As our need for food grows with our population, these large corporations will have to increase food production. Their business practices are not in our best interest (Fed Up) and they won’t suddenly become enlightened to sustainable food. While we help fix the food industry, we can also provide contraceptives to women, allowing them to choose when to have children.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that if women who were without access to birth control were provided with contraceptives, we could decrease greenhouse gas emission by at least thirty percent (Heikkinen). And it’s not just developing nations that could benefit. Women in the United States saved $1.4 billion when Obamacare expanded to cover contraceptives (Lachman). That money can be diverted toward buying organic food and green products, both of which have a perceived higher initial cost. And if women can choose when to have children, they can take more risks like following their ambitions and starting a business. According to Madeleine Somerville of The Guardian, female-run businesses “are more likely to make environmentally friendly decisions.” Just think about a new economy run by women making decisions that benefit the environment instead of harming it. Maybe the next innovation in green food technologies will be from a woman who was able to work before she had children.
But what about women who can’t control their birth control now? Condoms break. Pills are forgotten. There are more forms of contraceptives than condoms and the pill (Cooper). Condoms are the most practical and cheapest form of birth control and have an 85% effectiveness rate, even with humans biting the condom wrapper or the condom slipping off (“All About Birth Control Methods”). Birth control pills provide other benefits besides birth control, including Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) management, reducing acne, and preventing endometrial and ovarian cancers. Of course, women might forget to take the pill or the condom breaks. The most effective form of birth control is an Intrauterine Device or IUD. This is just a small device that sits in the uterus and prevents pregnancy either through spermicide or hormone control. The device lasts for years (depending on the specific type) and requires no maintenance. It has a 99% success rate, even accounting for human error. And that’s just the tip of the birth control iceberg. There is a birth control for every woman’s lifestyle, but some women don’t have access to the variety of birth control or the resources for some of the more expensive ones (Heikkinen).
If women choose when to have children, we might have a population decline, like Japan (Richey). Don’t we need an increasing population to sustain a growing economy? Companies incentivizing people to procreate can potentially lead to companies or even governments providing adequate day care, tax credits, encouragement for women to stay in the workforce, and investments in education (Richey). That sounds like a good problem to have. And what about the idea that an economy has to have an increasing population to grow? That’s not necessarily true claims Sean Fox and Tim Dyson of The International Growth Centre of the University of Oxford. A growing economy is a complicated idea, but the most basic definition according to the Investopedia is a country’s productivity per person. There are two ways to increase productivity: increase the population to increase productivity, or increase productivity per person. We can increase productivity per person with technology and innovation. And if women were able to add their full potential to the marketplace, instead of taking care of unwanted children, what kind of innovation could they manifest? Sean Fox and Tim Dyson add that when fertility rates decline over a sustained period, “the change in age composition creates a window of opportunity during which a country can potentially raise its level of saving and investment.” A stable population won’t stagnate our economy, but it will improve family savings and invest potential.
Also, why do we need a constantly growing economy in the first place? Why can’t we be happy with a stable economy? And what’s the point of arguing about economic growth if it will lead to entire business centers underwater due to rising water levels and corporations shoveling unhealthy food down our throats?
Making the world more amenable to birth control and providing it for women around the world will not only help stabilize the world’s population to a sustainable amount, but it will help other areas. Socially, women could choose when to have children, leading to less accidental pregnancy and less abortion. Politically, women could help affect change regarding environmental issues, as women are more likely to believe scientists (Somerville). Agriculturally, we could have a stable population so farms aren’t forced to produce beyond their means. Economically, women could contribute more by fully investing in their jobs, putting off children until they’re ready, and even take more risks, like starting businesses. And all these factors are good for the environment. Any problems that arise from a declining population, or a stagnant economy, or demographic changes can be solved. What’s more important is that we make sure we’re all alive, healthy, and above water so we can argue about these things.
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