At the annual meeting of Quakers throughout the Pacific Northwest this summer, a small discussion group took up the question of human population growth and its effects on humans and other species on the planet.
In the Quaker tradition of "speaking truth to power," though the issue of population stabilization has become something of a forbidden subject in public discourse, the group decided to draft a proposed statement for consideration by Friends throughout our regional association of traditional Friends Meetings.
In September, the Walla Walla Friends Meeting considered the draft statement, made a few changes, and approved it. Here's what we adopted.
"World population has been growing over 75 million persons per year, over 200,000 persons per day, over 8,500 per hour. Previously, world food production managed to keep up with increases in human population. Now we are reaching the limits of arable land, ocean fish populations, fresh underground water, fossil fuels, and other resources, and are crowding out the spaces and resources essential to other species. To accommodate the growing human population, forests are being cut down at the rate of 5,000 acres per hour, water tables are being drawn down at alarming rates, and wastes and poisons are polluting the air, water, and land at an increasing pace. Population growth is also a factor in persistent public health problems, poverty, crime, and wars. In order to realize the Quaker vision of an Earth restored and a peaceful, just society, we must seek ways to stabilize human population and consumption at levels that are sustainable for humans as well as other species.
To do this, we encourage voluntary measures to promote smaller family size and reduced consumption, including (1) adequate funding for family planning services worldwide, (2) raising the status of women, and better education for women and men, both of which are keys to smaller family size, (3) support for those who choose adoption, shared childrearing, or celibacy, while honoring biological parenthood for those who choose that, (4) ) simpler lifestyles in high-consuming nations such as the United States, including fewer possessions, greater sharing, and more responsible choices in what we eat, and (5) increased research on sustainable methods of food production, energy production, and other ways to meet human needs throughout the world without sacrificing natural systems or the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
We believe that these and other voluntary approaches should be vigorously pursued now to avoid the necessity of more coercive measures in the future to maintain a needed balance of resources between present and future generations of humans, and other species.
We urge Friends and others everywhere to join us in pursuing these approaches to sustainability in our personal lives and in our local communities, states, and nations."
As Friends meetings throughout the northwest engage in the discussion of this issue over the next year leading to our 2011 annual session where we will try to reach unity on a common statement, Walla Walla Friends encourage our brothers and sisters in other congregations to do the same. Population growth and stabilization is an issue that affects all others, and along with levels of consumption, needs to be addressed in our local communities and beyond.
Daniel Clark is clerk of the Walla Walla Friends Meeting, and is a retired attorney. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should contact Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312.