Six Billion and Beyond

A Critical Review*

by

Dell Erickson©

November 1, 1999r*

 

Resolving overpopulation is a complex undertaking. If the world and each of its nations are to reach a point where numbers, resources, and biological systems are in balance, the growth of the human population must first be halted, then the numbers reduced. The challenge is how to address the issue of our burgeoning populations and provide for their welfare on a sustainable basis while maximizing biological diversity and minimizing environmental degradation. Unfortunately, this television program doesn't take these issues seriously.

 

Abstract
Overview
Women's Bias
Proposed Remedy: Cairo and The Demographic Transition
Why Change Policy Now?
Changing Influence Changing Direction
Discussion of Individual Nation Case Studies
    1.) Mexico
    2.) Kenya
    3.) India
    4.) Italy
    5.) China
    6.) The United States
            U.S. Consumption
            The Student Guide
            U.S. Population

            Culture & Poverty
Urgency Of Program
Concluding Comments

Notes


Abstract
This assessment of the program and its foundations in Cairo 1994, begins with an overview outlining the television program and discusses techniques employed to send its message. It begins with the politics and ends with the reality.

The program's approach will be seen to be overly subjective and biased toward women (page 3). Its proposed remedy is a narrow application of the demographic transition theory applied primarily to women (page 4). Because this theory has proven to be a controversial approach, it is appropriate to question the change from proven winning policies (page 6). A discussion of each of the individual case studies illustrated in the film follows, —Mexico (p10), Kenya (page 11), India, Italy (page 12), China (page 13), and the United States (page 15). The first three are examples of nations in political denial; Italy is a misunderstood opportunity, while China is berated for its successful population policy and the U.S. is condemned for consumption. Because the solution offered —improving women's status— appears inconsistent with the needs, this review concludes with an outline of developments describing the urgency of the situation (page 24). Concluding comments are found at page 26.


Overview

The announcement said that the PBS special "Six Billion and Beyond", is a "powerful new documentary, which explores the global impact of population growth through personal stories of struggle and hope around the world."

The program claims to be a documentary; it is not. Rather than a scientific documentary it should be considered as a women's rights program served in a population milieu. If it is, as announced, a call to action, the actions it calls for will not remedy the world's serious overpopulation dilemmas.

The film begins by briefly noting the growth of the world's population since 1730 through 2005 with dots on a map illustrating the population increases. It then discusses Mexico, Kenya, and India as examples of countries with population problems. The program changes course in the two following sections discussing China and the United States. China it berates for its population policy and the U.S. is held up as profligate.

Perhaps, no other single statement fixed the tone of the program than one by Hillary Clinton at a Cairo +5 conference this year and repeated at the onset of this film: "Let us stop focusing on lowering numbers and work instead on lifting up lives." (The "Cairo plan" is also known as the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, ICPD) The program is consistent with this statement, fluff over substance, social orientation defended by inadequate science, avoidance of numbers and trends, and pandering to special interests. Mrs. Clinton's statement appears to imply that individual nations and their citizens are relieved of the primary responsibility for their circumstances. It is also evident that people and governments should be relieved of the duty of implementing domestic population policies. Possibly, one may also read into it a suggestion that external assistance is coming and that if it doesn't arrive promptly, the ensuing bad fortune will be the responsibility of the viewer.

Notwithstanding Mrs. Clinton's thinking, it should be noted that all previous foreign aid and international population programs were designed with the goal of "lifting up lives" in mind. Her statement also seems to suggest that the efforts of all those who have for so many years worked to improve lives and the environment had another agenda. That implication is terribly wrong and insulting to the profoundly concerned and dedicated individuals and organizations working so long in the field.

A viewer will be left wondering what was the purpose and agendas of the program? To help the overpopulated billions? Yes, in part. But isn't it also apparent that there seems to be an attempt to frame the issues —to direct thought processes and responses, and a fascination with women's issues and income redistribution? The change in viewpoint is so substantial one may think the solutions offered were designed by those with a feminist and social Utopian rather than realistic agenda. It may also have had the intention of increasing the flow of dollars to the organizations and foundations that satisfy the social parameters advocated by the program.

The program and Cairo agenda certainly doesn't, however, propose a plan to bring the earth into balance with its burgeoning populations.

In addition, this film is consistent with the ongoing effort to separate population from environmental and social matters. It follows the script accepted at Cairo, 1994, and re-affirmed at this year's Cairo +5 Conference. It is now the pattern followed by more than the UN, organizations such as ZPG, the Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, and Audubon now have population policies which have goals ignoring, or even promoting U.S. population growth, for example.

At Cairo, it was agreed that numbers were a secondary concern, if they mattered at all, and slowing not stopping population growth was the goal. The program doesn't mention the mathematically projected thirty six billion inhabitants at the year 2100 if parents average only three children. No mention is made of the burgeoning U.S. population. The program would have the viewer believe that human numbers, environmental and other trends, and family planning goals are no longer a primary consideration when addressing overpopulation.

If there is no specified population and environmental destination, any route will get you there.


Women's Bias

The film uses the medium's imaging qualities to present as positive those positions and circumstances it advocates and negative for those it doesn't support. It begins with the clever selection and portrayal of the characters in each part.

This program is slanted toward women —literally to the point of being incorrectly titled. The narrator, for example is a woman and most of the substantive players are women. The critical first three segments the program primarily use charismatic young teenage girls to carry its message. In marked contrast, the China segment uses a couple around thirty and in the U.S. part, an older White man is used.

The film's use of typecasting is likely executed to meet several unstated goals. In many instances the reason is a good one, trying to make an emotional connection with viewers, especially young girls. Most would agree, that reaching young girls is crucial, and therefore the use of some artistic license is permissible. In addition, the recurring theme of "hope" and that the future can be different from the past is a sensible one. A not so admirable reason, it appears, is to solicit additional support and funding; in short, pandering to selected constituencies and the involved non-governmental organizations (NGO's).

As commendable as the sense of hope and optimism is, condemnation is earned by the program's constant depreciation of males. It begins in the initial segment with Janet's father "abandoning" her when she was thirteen (Mexico). Likewise, in Kenya there are few, if any, positive male role models. The picture of the very poor young boy with the really big boombox seemed contrived —no doubt an attempt to connect with boombox devoted teenagers everywhere. The question must be asked, how did this poor young lad get an expensive boombox? Was the intention that young boys were as irresponsible as older men? And why not a young girl? It was, after all, a transition to the radio call-in about an unwanted pregnancy.

The most egregious example goes to India where the man was plainly visible, the film actually panning to him in the background room sitting half sprawled on the floor, just as the woman was mentioning how men enslave women. The image was extraordinarily negative and powerful.

Continuing the male belittling theme in the China segment, the film somehow neglected describing the male-half of the couple. He appeared articulate and intelligent and somewhat ill-at-ease; perhaps it was nerves due to filming or perhaps he recognized his uncharacteristically reduced circumstances and felt uncomfortable. The older gentleman at the focus of the U.S. segment sat before his huge house and other assets (the "profligate American") and, like the Chinese gentleman, no mention was made of his education, profession, spirit, or how he was able to help provide for his family. The symbolism of him with that picture in the viewer's mind as the film moved to the darling little girl at the full trash dumpster needs no further elaboration.

The scorn shown men in this program may be suitable for some militant feminists, but can only be described as a disservice to the program's larger objectives. To denigrate and disenfranchise nearly half the world's population with the purpose that it will raise the level of women is counter productive. One hopes that the NGO's centered on women's rights were not responsible for ingraining this theme into the program. A better approach would have been to film actors as couples role playing a cooperative approach of discussing and resolving the issues of the environment, population, their relationship, and the future they envision for a child. On this score, the program should be tossed into the dustbin of history.

 

Proposed Remedy: Cairo and The Demographic Transition

This part discusses the approach recommended by the program and concludes with an explanation for its selection. As will be demonstrated, the reasons appear less environmental or demographic than social. While offering an optimistic outlook, the program pictures the less well off and then offers as the solution the debunked demographic transition theory (DT) as it would apply to women. At this point optimism confronts reality.

Beginning in the late 1960's, the UN sponsored a number of population conferences with the objective of taking both independent national and collective actions to resolve the world's growing population uncertainties. In 1972, the ground breaking "Rockefeller Commission Report" called for stopping U.S. population growth. It was soon overshadowed by the most important population study ever undertaken in the U.S., the President Nixon sponsored "National Security Study Memorandum 200" (1974). The purpose of NSSM 200 was to evaluate if population growth, U.S. and world, posed a threat to the U.S. Not surprisingly, the study found that population growth certainly was a threat. Two of its recommendations were that the U.S. provide world population leadership and that the U.S. achieve a stationary population by the year 2000. On the international scene, its comprehensive recommendations actually formed the basis of the recommendations proposed by all subsequent UN sponsored conferences. [See "The Life and Death of NSSM 200", Dr. Stephen D. Mumford, 1996].

The "Six Billion" program frequently mentioned the Cairo plan, most often indirectly, as the remedy to the problems described. (The Cairo plan is also known as the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development.) The 1994 Conference had follow up meetings this year called "Cairo +5". The PBS program should be considered an outcome of these Conferences.

Previous UN conferences recognized that a sustainable population should be the initial goal of any population policy. On the other hand, the policies and orientation of the Cairo plan is a reversal of several essential recommendations from all preceding international conferences. The narrow Cairo plan focuses on improving opportunities for women, but, unlike previous practices, with minimum government involvement nor clear population policies.

The program mentions the concept of sustainability while failing to incorporate it as a core program objective. It is also silent regarding stopping population growth in the industrialized nations. Because of the improbable changes from prior policies, one could think that the PBS "Six Billion" Cairo program approach is a high-risk social experiment of which the consequences of failure are dreadful to contemplate.

Aside from an artistic rendering, is their position effective and workable in the real world?

The theory, even the narrowed interpretation seen here, certainly sounds well intentioned even pragmatic, to empower, educate, and increase job opportunities for women, provide family planning as part of a broader package of health care, provide micro-loan credits, and other typical foreign aid assistance. Although the plan has many good, heartfelt, and well-intended aspects, the plan should be understood as an application of the unsettled demographic transition theory (DT). The difficulty with using this approach is that the DT has generally proven to be wishful romantic thinking and the aspects which may have merit require several generations before the benefits become widespread.

Offsetting its hoped for benefits, the current program neglects demographics, does not discourage a couple from having as many children as they desire, and any application to resolving our serious environmental problems appear casual. The personal choice viewpoint, for example, is an old one well known by informed students of population. It can be heard in the refrain, "if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem." In a perfectly circular manner, it means that those who desire environmentally friendly families will decline while others through their birthing choices will replace them.

Assuming for the moment that the plan is effective, the most serious defect is that it must become institutionalized, requiring several generations before the presumed benefits arrest population growth. In the example of education, the nation must first begin the lengthy and expensive process of training large numbers of teachers while beginning the awesome task of building entire school systems. It would require more than one full generation before this could be accomplished and during that period the population would increase, conservatively, fifty percent. And of no small importance, the corresponding economic infrastructure of the nation would require the simultaneous re-construction and rapid transformation from any now existing.

Finally, the social and cultural aspects would require another full generation before couples may prefer families consistent with an environmentally and economically sustainable population. Convincing parents, for example, of the value of education as opposed to being farmhands would be critical. The changing consumption patterns result in substantial pollution increases and limited resources are a consideration as well. It also widely assumes that there is the wherewithal to accomplish the conversion of nations from an agricultural to an industrial base. In the long building and transition period of the Cairo plan, as envisioned here, the population will at least double. Because the Cairo agenda is fundamentally flawed, no end to growth will result.


Why Change Policy Now?

The change in direction implies that present population policies are not working. Because the PBS and Cairo approach does not appear consistent with the promising changes taking place over the last three decades, it is important to ask why change the current proven programs to unproven policies at this time. In my view, other than additional funding, increased government resolve, and direct involvement, few changes are required from the current population and family planning orientation and economic aid packages. Educating women and increasing health care are well intentioned program objectives in their own right, but are certainly not a sufficient response to the world's overpopulation dilemmas.

Knowledgeable researchers would advise that variables other than literacy or women's status play the determinant role in childbearing decisions. Indeed, researchers familiar with the issue have found that the controlling determinant of fertility is the perception of future economic prospects. If the future outlook is positive, fertility increases. The post WW II baby boom in the U.S. is a classic example. In contrast, fertility decreases when expectations sour, such as seen during the Depression or other economic downturn. There are numerous examples that significant reductions in fertility were accomplished independent of a presumed "demographic transition".

Even easy access to contraceptives is secondary to economic expectations. In order to be successful, family planning must be directly linked to overpopulation and the individual and national benefits that are derived from reduced family size. (Dr. Virginia D. Abernethy, "Population Politics", 1993, has thoroughly documented the issues.)

The following examples illustrate the outcomes of current policies, often noting the relationship with family planning, literacy, poverty, and government involvement or its absence:

As the foregoing shows, the evidence demonstrates why researchers have discarded the demographic transition notion.

It is clear that absent exhortative population reduction plans and goals, these well intentioned and often necessary social and welfare programs have proven to be insufficient and such as there may be correlation, require multiple generations to be effective. It should be understood that the U.S. and the other nations do not have generations to achieve a sustainable or even stationary population.


Changing Influence Changing Direction

Because the "Six Billion" Cairo approach lacks unbiased support, it is appropriate to offer a probable explanation. The shopworn notions of selfishness and denial and that population problems may be difficult to grasp are possible reasons. No doubt that, in some measure, avoiding somewhat archaic economic patterns and steadfast religious beliefs are also to some extent responsible for some of the change as well.

However, the change in direction is probably in the main due to the change in money flows changing influence and less so, fixed outlooks, lack of information or understanding. The change in sponsorship may be instrumental; it was likely accomplished at the behest of foundations and NGO's. The agreed "consensus" approach was that non-government organizations (NGO's) and, to a lesser extent, women's organizations were now the principal constituencies. The funding, design, and implementation of population programs are now increasingly funneled through governments and foundations to NGO's. The change has been to reduce the role of governments in developing and implementing population policy. This usurpation of purely governmental functions has throughout history, never occurred on such a global scale. Some governments have probably acquiesced to the narrow Cairo agenda in order to avoid the difficult decisions involved; yet, it's the NGO's and foundations that have replaced the governments.

Some examples of the large non-governmental international organizations who were eager supporters of the Cairo agenda are the Population Institute, Centre for Development and Population Activities (CEDPA), CARE, Population Council, Population Action International, ZPG, Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood Federation, Save the Children, USAID, and Pathfinder.

The description of CEDPA reads like the script for this program. It partners with non-governmental organizations for reproductive health, women's empowerment, and youth services. Its strategies include building development institutions and networks, mobilizing women's participation at the policy level, linking reproductive health services with women's empowerment, and making youth an integral part of the development agenda. It may be very important to note that the primary funding sources for "Six Billion" are a significant funding source of CEDPA, The David & Lucile Packard Foundation and the Summit Foundation. They are also connected to other "consensus" organizations such as USAID. (See < http://www.cedpa.org >.)

Notwithstanding evidence to the contrary, defenders assert that its consensus approach and its Program of Action have been proven to work. Furthermore, some argue that NGO's have a finer understanding of the needs, can offer more local control than governments, and can therefore better implement a strategy —target the funds. It appears they put the cart before the horse; most would agree that the government of a nation has an excellent understanding of its own problems and can direct assistance where needed. Perhaps the question should also be asked if special interests find it less difficult to influence an NGO or foundation than a government? In short, their reasoning appears to be self-serving and can become quite circular. Perhaps the ensuing lack of credibility is the reason for the program not being shown on non-public television.

It's time to ask the hard questions: Are these autonomous NGO's and foundations a new "population government" deciding the fate of nations, peoples and money flows?" Who are the genuine players and who are the actors? Who are they accountable to and when was the election held? Approximately a decade ago what, or who, was the driving force behind this astounding development?

There may be another important explanation. Many in the population field and media will remember the protests and articles written about the conduct of the Vatican during the 1994 Cairo conference. Few likely understand the behind the scene maneuvering. Quite likely the best compilation is found in Dr. Stephen Mumford's enlightening work mentioned earlier, "The Life and Death of NSSM 200." (See "Cairo" in the index.)

The reader might want to read the book, particularly the section about taking over environmental organizations to advance the anti-population movement's social agenda. Because they would be more exposed to external pressures under the Cairo method, NGO's and foundations would be more subject to outside influence than governments. If Dr. Mumford is correct, then co-opting environmental organizations such as ZPG, the Sierra Club, National Wildlife, or Audubon and NGO's and foundations would be important targets and possibly reflected in this program.

The book states that,

… the population leadership has been guilty of this (non population) behavior since the beginning. The secondary issues [Cairo program] are fine for intellectual discussions but often become serious distractions from dealing with the immediate and difficult primary issues. More importantly, ... focusing the world's attention on the secondary issues, the population movement's leadership tend to become part of the problem, rather than the spearhead of its solution. The Cairo Conference was a turning in the Vatican's stealth campaign to undermine population activities around the world.

As the demographic research indicates, these politically powerful groups mix cause and effect in rationalizing their plan. Although there are elements of speculation, if the social and political research is correct, it is also clear that the inclusion of comprehensive population and demographic data would have been seen as a distraction to the PBS "Six Billion" Cairo agenda.


Discussion of Individual Nation Case Studies

The program briefly outlines the increasing numbers of humans and the projection to twelve billion in seventy-five years. Although the stated central idea is overpopulation, only in the most general of terms does the film connect population growth with the awesome environmental, social, and economic dilemmas facing the planet. This circuitous method or even outright misrepresentation is carried through the six nations used as examples in the film.

1.) Mexico

The Case Study states that since 1970 the fertility rate in Mexico has steadily declined from 6.7 to 2.5 children. This is wonderful news and gives some reason for hope. Unfortunately, the program inexplicably fails to neither connect problem with solution or to advocate a government population policy that would lead to a stationary, then sustainable population level.

The program does not elaborate their concerns nor suggest there may be cause for urgency that the nation's circumstances are continually worsening. How serious? The following are two examples not mentioned in the program. Mexico City with its twenty million inhabitants is mining its limited fossil water supplies with the result that its land has subsided over 28 feet in places. Because of increasing poverty the government chose to use their oil treasure chest as a means of funding anti-poverty programs.

Unfortunately, they chose not to directly confront overpopulation. In a spend now, pay later scheme, and without obvious benefit, they mortgaged future oil reserves as collateral to borrow heavily today. The amount of borrowing is terrifying. In a country with an average yearly income of about $700, Mexico has borrowed to the tune of $1,000 per person. An important consequence is that this debt has produced such serious economic predicaments as a chronically weak domestic currency, inflation, and spiraling poverty. Moreover, in addition to the debt burden, the current youthful generation will have the daunting task of transforming their nation's dependence on oil reserves and revenues to something else.

From the perspective of an American, the situation is also degenerating. Mexico is exporting poverty and unwanted U.S. population growth. For example, a significant percentage in the decline in the rate of population growth in Mexico is due to massive immigration, much of it illegal, into the U.S. In addition, their fertility in the U.S. is a testimonial to the inadequacies of the demographic transition theory. Because their options are relatively improved —and consistent with the demographic transition and "women's empowerment" evidence— in the U.S. these immigrants increase their fertility from 2.5 to an average of just under four children in the U.S. They exacerbate those very things the film censures the U.S., the environmental, social, economic, and cultural effects are serious. It would have added credibility to the program not to remain silent on these serious national and international repercussions.

Near the close of the film the Mexican teenage daughter and her mother are seen standing on a hillside. The symbolism is that the mother represents the former Mexico and the daughter, its future. As they overlook Mexico City, the teenager says that their country already has too many people. Ending on a sign of awareness implying action is an overly subtle but optimistic note and seemed a pleasant way to conclude.
 

2.) Kenya

Kenya's population has increased five-fold since only 1948. On the plus side of the ledger, and not seen elsewhere, the film actually connected overpopulation with a specific illustration of environmental destruction, that of desertification. Unfortunately, it appeared to link it to poverty. That is, having the sequence reversed, they have in mind that poverty creates overpopulation, which in turn leads to environmental damage.

It also seems somewhat implausible that the program doesn't directly connect Kenya's seventy-percent unemployment rate to its burgeoning population. They state the need is for jobs and in a nation of greatly limited natural resources, the proposal to increase micro-loans to promote individual entrepreneurship and jobs seems an admirable idea, but of very limited actual utility in resolving its looming dilemmas. Sadly, it appears to be yet another politically inspired, overly narrow approach.

Although Kenya is on the cusp of an overpopulation disaster, the program could only muster the courage to advocate family planning, and then primarily for AIDS prevention and unwanted pregnancy. As often seen in this television (and the student) program, opportunities were missed to provide genuine guidance. For example, in the radio call-in portion the "expert" failed to discuss birth control methods and needs, including abstinence, and was far too subtle in mentioning the possibility of an abortion. Almost parenthetically, the expert said, "if taken to full term," and then in the same breath, changed the subject to schooling. The young girl will need to resume school after delivering, she continued.

The message is not to the troubled girl in the film, but rather to the funding partners and millions of young impressionable viewers, its teen audience. It sends precisely the wrong message when it should be providing guidance. The message is so inconsistent with responsible family planning that it appears the script was crafted by those outside normal environment and population channels.
 

3.) India

The good news is that its rate of growth has fallen about fifty percent in the last two and a half decades. The less favorable news is that Indians now number one billion with 36% of the population under fourteen years of age. With its still staggering growth rate of over 1.9%, even under optimistic assumptions, its population will soon exceed that of China. Unfortunately, unlike its near neighbor China, India has neither the governing institutions to implement a comprehensive program nor natural resources to sustain even its present population. Nevertheless, the PBS program fails to advocate a government population policy that would quickly lead to a stationary then declining population level, and continues with its narrowed Cairo prescription. It must be repeated here that these women's issues are profoundly necessary but lack the comprehensiveness the situation merits.

The program appeared to be aware that the government is of less assistance than the circumstances warrant and offered non-governmental organizations as substitutes. One of these, for example, the national Reproductive and Child Health Program has "instituted services that may eventually include promotion of condoms."

Culturally and economically India has not come, indeed may not come, to grips with its grave population dilemmas and this program provides sparse guidance toward remedies.
 

4.) Italy

Italy, the program says is "very different", and then suggests the difference is that the Italian problem is a birth dearth. The film says that in 1998 "only 500,00 children were born" and then pans to an amusement park Carousel completely devoid of children, barren, empty. The film then says the population is aging and that the social and economic systems being stressed may need to change.

Are we observing the same nation? Italy is a near perfect, not possible example, but perfect example of the rapid and successful transition in a developed nation of women to parity and opportunity. Hurrah! This is the development assumed by the program to lead to the postponement of marriage and reduced fertility. It's the central theme of the program and yet the film now promotes it as a social and economic obstacle.

Are the filmmakers in over their heads? Are the NGO's and foundations so self-serving? Italy should be the textbook illustration for developed nations of the transition from a growth at any cost to a sustainable nation! The Italy example should have been used to describe and discuss the changes and benefits of the transition to a preserved environment and sustainable society. Unfortunately, the film failed to see that potentially Italy was the most optimistic and hopeful segment presented.
 

5.) China

The bias and inaccuracies of the China and U.S. segments will not serve the interest of the program. Indeed, the Chinese and Americans specifically, and Westerners in general, and may find this film objectionable and with it, reflect the extent of their support. In addition, one must wonder how this film will be received in other countries?

While giving the impression of a reasonably prosperous populace, China's staggering environmental and other problems were overlooked or discounted. The couple they selected for the case illustration was evidently upper middle income (she sold cars) and their child had all the accoutrements of a prosperous Western family. Although the connection was far too subtle, they were obviously shown benefiting from the nation's family planning programs and reduced fertility and corresponding economic improvements.

The opportunity loss of the China segment was that it could have been used to demonstrate the economic benefits of fewer and cost to society of too many, children. Demonstrating their evident bias, the film fails to associate the "tripling of average income in twenty years" with its population policies.

Although the program took offense at China's family planning program, its economic outcome has been noticed by the world's capital markets. Investors recognize that children can be costly and when their numbers are reduced it frees capital and resources for economic improvement. Thus, investors have poured massive amounts of foreign capital into the Chinese economy; even mutual funds were formed so the investing public around the world would have the opportunity to take financial advantage of the China dynamo. The economic success was so powerful that in 1998 and 1999, the government began to impose financial restrictions in order to moderate an overheating economy. The combination of a high savings rate, large capital inflows, comprehensive family planning, and government resolve are what created the three or four fold increase in average income.

Whereas the program discussed the first three nations with a sense of compassion and optimism, the PBS film unjustly attacked China for its population policies. It set the stage early when the China segment opened stating the 1979 policy was a "controversial family planning policy".

Strangely, the Chinese policies are sometimes those the program suggest aren't effective (pre 1994 Cairo) and where effective, the affected would vehemently protest. The interviewed representative Chinese couple was not complaining. With insight and sensitivity the couple states that "most Chinese agree" because of "overpopulation" and that the one child policy is their responsibility "because a couple must take the country into account, ... one is just fine".

If there was a single statement summarizing the quintessential element missing in the PBS "Six Billion" Cairo program it is that it does not advocate the assumption of government or personal responsibility in one's reproductive conduct in order to benefit a country and the planet.

The apparent controversy is centered on personal wants versus society's needs. In this regard, it is important to distinguish between coercion and the removal of pro-natalist policies. There are policies that serve to encourage favorable conduct and those which serve as disincentives without being forced. Today, both developed and developing countries actively promote child bearing through the tax (and other) systems, often, in effect, paying for the birth and raising of children —and frequently at the expense of those who choose not to. Thus, in this setting, the flip side of taxing excessive childbearing may seem harsh. However, the Chinese spokesmen noted that the tax was not arbitrary —it represented what they perceived to be the additional cost to society including the environment. Perhaps the genuine controversy involves the potential —and needed— removal of incentives elsewhere?

The program failed to provide documented support for its faultfinding denunciations. The flashing across the screen of two newspaper articles purporting to support the film's position, was strained and nearly as ludicrous as having the U.S. Congressman portrayed as an expert on Chinese family planning! The film also interviewed Ms. Shanti Conly from Population Action International (an involved NGO) who made the preposterous statement that government involvement in family planning is "not acceptable anywhere in the world". It is of no benefit to the program to highlight such obviously incorrect opinions; it is, for example, one of the themes of the program.

However, the loudest and harshest protests are seldom domestic and often have religious followers at the core. In general, the internal protest are from Catholic Priests and rural farmers wanting more than one (or two) children in order to tend the farm and provide for the parents old age.

Perhaps in an attempt at balance (or was its purpose the planting of ideas?), the program continued with Ms. Conly saying that the Chinese government was "not involved in multiple or late term abortions". Regarding late term abortions, it is plainly a highly inflammatory statement and of such an insignificance to family planning or population growth one must wonder why it was included. Again, the viewer sees a line of thought reflecting a litmus test, a pandering to some important PBS or Cairo plan constituency.

The Chinese Vice-Minister and State Family Planning Commissioner, Li Horggui, echoed those sentiments and said abortions were a woman's choice. Although implied, there is considerable doubt that the extent of infanticide is serious. Likewise, there is little doubt that perhaps hundreds of thousands of abortions are performed annually. One must wonder if increasing the number of permanent contraceptive procedures would not remedy many objections? Unfortunately, another opportunity lost; it was not discussed by the Chinese nor the PBS Cairo plan film.

Abortion, however, is not the issue. The issue is the determination of policies a sovereign nation implements after carefully evaluating its circumstances. Neither the program nor most nations have undertaken this first, important evaluation step. It certainly appears that one cardinal intention of this PBS film is to cloak a religious viewpoint as a world population policy and publicly censure those who do not subscribe to this position.

Hypocritically, the idea of choice the program promotes, appears to apply only to those who have little choice but to conform to the program's narrowed Cairo plan.

China is also headlined in the student poster Study Guide and here (as seen elsewhere) the program chooses to denounce the increase in worldwide consumption patterns as evidenced by increasing advertising. Isn't this the good news? After all, increased advertising is solid anecdotal evidence of improving living conditions. However, one might believe that the reason for stating this, presumably, disparaging statement under the China heading is twofold. First, China is rapidly improving its average standard of living, and second, the film reserves its most strident negative images and positions against China (and the U.S.).

Be that as it may, the purpose of the China segment should have left the viewer confused. On the one hand, its policies have made great progress in achieving the very goals the program outlines. No doubt, its policies have resulted in the saving of tens of millions of lives and an entire nation settled well on the path to achieving a sustainable society and measurable prosperity.

Perhaps one, if not the main unstated concern of this segment is that the success of China can now be held as an example of the possible, of what can be achieved. Progressing from pervasive poverty, and even of masses of people dying in the fields, to grappling with issues surrounding powerful economic growth in such a short period, works against the program's ideology. How effective and humane a population policy patterned after the Chinese model can be, has not gone unnoticed. With relatively minor changes, the China policy could have been promoted as the model program leading to sustainability.

In the meantime, one must hope the program doesn't really insinuate that China needs to repeat 1959 - 1961 (and 1980's) type famines, with millions dying, in order to conform to the narrowed Cairo approach. Apparently, the film thinks that the people of China should remain as they have in the past and not to choose their own path to prosperity and sustainability. Evidently, the PBS Cairo filmmakers have priority over nations.

Incredibly, the program seemed to end the China segment with the idea that it is acceptable policy to increase their fertility.
 

6.) The United States

There is little doubt that current Western patterns of consumption are unsustainable. Selecting Americans, while ignoring the demographics, the program characterizes Americans as wasteful and profligate. As this statement implies, the program appears to be a frontal assault on Americans and the Western culture and indirectly suggests more Americans are valued because it lessens population tensions elsewhere. The program takes the position that reducing standards of living (i.e., consumption) takes precedence over reducing population.

It is also clearly evident that the film makes every attempt to divert the viewer's attention from the burgeoning U.S. population and related issues of sustainability. It may also be seen as an attempt to lay guilt on Americans for providing Western style leadership. The imagery mentioned earlier and the teenage U.S. audience lends substance to this position.

U.S. Consumption

The program saves its most offensive salvos for Americans by unfairly and incorrectly depicting them as gluttons while similarly situated Western nations are not so fated —Canadians, Australians, etc. The film also fails to note the inconsistency between their approach and that the developing nations strive to emulate much of the Western life style. Indeed!, that Western style development lies at the core of the program's recommended solution.

The "Six Billion" Cairo approach is to generally tell the truth, but not all the truth. The program is, of course, free to express an opinion but not to cherry pick factual information. For example, the program superficially examines the global impact of Americans stating that Americans use a disproportionate quantity of world resources, or in their words, American's "massive consumption of finite natural resources". To support their contention, the film says, correctly, that the U.S. has about five percent of the world's population and consumes about a quarter of the resources. The program tries to hammer the point home by a staged picture depicting an affluent older graying White male recounting his family's consumption over a twenty-year period (six people). The segment included practically every adult toy possible (and which many Americans do not have) and offered as examples of unfair consumption as three SUV's, thirty two tires, tons of newspapers, 200 light bulbs, and even "500 pair of underpants."

Unfortunately, the program overlooks a number of items that would help the viewer make better-informed decisions. For example, perhaps the most significant item overlooked is that the U.S. has huge domestic natural resources, originally more than any other nation but the former combined Russian states. It may be that the program somehow believes these domestic natural resources should now be re-distributed elsewhere in a one-world globalist arrangement and at American expense. In scolding the U.S. for "excess", the program also makes no allowance that the U.S. is geographically a vast area requiring the transportation of goods over great distances. Much of our resource use is necessary in these circumstances. It is not unusual, for example, to ship an orange 4,000 miles within the country and for grandma to travel some great distance to visit the grandchildren.

A more objective documentary would have contrasted the U.S. with the population and geographical equivalent EEC countries. Should large countries be outlawed? How will consumption patterns change as China and Brazil industrialize?
 

The Student Guide

Continuing with the unusual presentation, as in the China segment, critical information and statements are placed under the heading of nations the program does not favor. Mexico is headlined underneath the U.S. in the large student poster of the Study Guide, but no statement related to Mexico is seen. The statement seen is that the U.S. has "3.6 million unintended pregnancies." Perhaps one objective was to shrewdly point out to the viewer that Mexican immigrants disproportionately have the highest, and native-born Whites, the lowest, rate of unwanted pregnancies in the U.S. Although headlined, along with Mexico, no statements are seen regarding Kenya or India.

Let's examine four additional examples of not telling the whole story or of outright misrepresentation seen in the student Study Guide in the items under the "United States" heading:

1.) It states that "there are more shopping malls in the U.S. than high schools." By stating this, the program attempts to make the viewer (and students) believe that consumption is paramount, even more important than education, to Americans. Of course there is no correlation between malls and education unless one thinks that education helps create the wealth that encourages the construction of malls. The program also overlooks that the largest malls are not in the U.S., that Americans spend more money on education than any other nation, its rate of literacy approaches 100%, and U.S. colleges are the worldwide favorites.

2.) It says that the "wealthy consume 45% of all meat and fish, use 58% of all energy produced, and own 87% of the vehicles." Unless there is another agenda, one should be surprised they would state such a meaningless tautology. The poor, after all, don't have cars nor use a great deal of energy. Because the sources are different, lumping meat (from grain) with fish is a bit disingenuous. It would have demonstrated greater truthfulness to state that the 1.8 billion people in developed countries (approximately) use those percentages rather than implying Americans. Since the program implies it's the U.S. at issue, a more academic presentation would have also stated that the U.S. is self sufficient in meat and fish and energy other than oil.

3.) The same maneuver is seen when pointing out that hamburger requires more resources than other foodstuffs. Clearly demonstrating the program's approach is the statement (remember under the U.S. heading) that eating a hamburger produces greenhouse gases "equal to a 6-mile drive in a typical U.S. automobile." Maybe it was a subtle form of humor. It seems to be an assertion that Americans eating hamburgers causes global warming! "PBS reports: Flatulent cows cause global warming!" If candor were the objective, the film would not have cited an American car because they are environmentally the cleanest on the planet. Again an omission is seen. The U.S. is self sufficient in all of the items necessary, even the small amount of farm gasoline if need be. In addition, the trend toward environmentally friendly, minimum till, and other reduced energy use farming practices by U.S. farmers should also have been stated —an example of how farms should be run.

4.) The film also includes the statement that the U.S. contains 4.6% of the world's population and produces 24% of the carbon dioxide. This is also an indirect strike at American consumption. As stated earlier, if the film had insisted that the U.S. implement a program to quickly achieve a stationary then declining population, it would have had more credibility. Moreover, if one compares the EEC, a comparable region, with the U.S. it is found that the contribution of the U.S. is not out of line. Indeed, with its leadership in pollution controls, most U.S. industries are more environmentally friendly than elsewhere. Adding to the inappropriately negative scenario, the U.S. exports many items produced on its farms and in its factories. Properly, the negative effects such as air pollution should be assigned to the trading partner, the recipient nation rather than the U.S. Finally, this global economic activity helps to improve the living standard of its often developing trading partners. It is disturbing to see the very developments the film disparages are those that raise the living standards of people and which, presumably, the film is fundamentally about.

The film also avoids the important fact that each additional American makes it increasingly difficult to reduce emissions, resource use, pollution, and land use. On average, for example, each American uses approximately 1850 barrels of oil (some say 3,000) in his lifetime. Without that additional unit of U.S. population, other world inhabitants would have access to those 1850 barrels of oil. Although not stated, each additional person in the U.S. requires on average about four acres (up to nine acres) of shrinking land resources. The film noted this diminishing land when it said "160 acres of land are developed every hour". Obviously, following a script of diverting attention from population, they characterize the problem was one of where people live, now labeled "sprawl". Using the same approach, the film also pictured a large, and evidently rich, Condoland housing development with the implication it probably should have been a high rise apartment complex.

What should be disappointing is that these examples were not used as reasons for stopping U.S. population growth. Those kinds of developments will continue as long as the U.S. population grows.

Since the PBS Cairo film promotes reducing consumption as a fundamental solution, it behooves them to provide the arithmetic behind the idea. This issue is important because it is little understood by most Americans (and other Westerners) and the world's poor that the economic and financial consequences of changing their Western living standards will little benefit the average poor person. For example, one report found that for the poor to improve living standards by only one-percent requires developed nations to reduce their consumption three-percent.

It's probably a ballpark number. Even a back-of-the-envelope calculation suggest that taking three-percent of GDP of the developed world and allocating it to the over four billion in the less developed nations, won't measurably increase their living standards. Once understood, there may well be resistance to the plan or it may be less acceptable to people in the developed nations over time. However, in few short years their standard of living would be significantly lowered but with little noticeable environmental benefit or economic improvement elsewhere.

The misuse of language, unsupported opinions, and the attempt to hang guilt on the shoulders of Americans will not serve the interest of those who desperately need assistance.

U.S. Population

As seen throughout the film, it may well be that what the film does not discuss is more important than the issues it does. The program ignores the effects of the U.S. population on the U.S. economy, social structure, and environment. By using their approach, the PBS "Six Billion" Cairo program subtly promotes U.S. population growth, mass U.S. immigration, and open U.S. borders.

The question that should be asked is if the U.S. is not overpopulated, why is this film playing in the U.S.? Would not it be more appropriate to broadcast the film in the troubled areas and in their domestic language? Evidently there is another agenda at work. Soliciting additional funds, of course is one, providing some information and energizing activists are other probable reasons. Another possibility is that when shown overseas, the film will serve to generate considerable enmity toward Americans.

The focus on consumption is a disingenuous approach. The film accomplishes this farcical tour de force by suggesting that the U.S. is not now, nor will be, overpopulated. Consistent with a pandering emotional rather than factual approach, the program overlooks much of the population research conducted about thirty years ago. As mentioned earlier, at that time there were a number of well researched and documented studies that reached the conclusion that U.S. (and world) population growth was contrary to the continued well-being of the U.S. nor in the world's best interest. If the PBS program were an authentic documentary, it would have discussed the aftereffects of these important U.S. research studies. An excellent substitute for U.S. viewers, therefore, would have been to incorporate or, still better, to replay the PBS program on the 1972 Rockefeller Commission Report, "Population and the American Future".

In the most outrageous of statements, the film stated, the "biggest (U.S.) population issue isn't the birth rate, it's consumption." Indeed, implying diminishing threat, the program stated that the U.S. is at "replacement fertility". Evidently, this language is one part of the consensus plan from Cairo. It is clearly an attempt to place in the viewer's mind the notion that the U.S. is on the path to achieving a stationary population. The reality is something very different.

Currently the world's third most populous nation, the U.S. is experiencing population growth greater than seen in many undeveloped nations. It would not be surprising to learn that the reason the film took such pains to neglect the facts regarding U.S. population growth is its unprecedented immigration, primarily from third world nations. It is clearly an attempt to divert the viewer's attention from the cause of seventy percent of the burgeoning U.S. population and leading reason for increasing consumption and resource use. It seems paradoxical that the PBS program seems to speak for the UN, while the UN itself drives the point home saying that the U.S. is projected to account for 95% of all population growth in the developed world between 1995 and 2025. (Please note that this is merely a mathematical projection; it does not have to, should not, be.)

That the U.S. is close to replacement fertility is almost correct. Beginning in the early 1970's, native born fertility declined to a level that would have achieved a stationary population. Unfortunately, it rose steadily from a low of 1.7 to over 2.1 currently. The primary reason for the substantial expansion is that recent immigrants' average nearly twice the fertility of the native born and their already large numbers are rapidly increasing.

U.S. population growth would seem to be a problem deserving of discussion.

A lengthy recitation of numbers would bore the reader/viewer; however, a few numbers outlining the burgeoning U.S. population are in order. For example, with population policies in effect in the mid-1960's the U.S. would have achieved a stationary population around the year 2035 with a population of 245 million. In contrast, today there are about 274 million inhabitants and increasing at the rate of nearly three million each year. Under current population policies, the U.S. is projected to add at least another 150 million and probably more than 250 million in the next fifty years. That's 250 million high consumers overlooked by the program! Move over China! Under this scenario, the U.S. population would eventually stabilize at 1.6 billion! Remember, it is policy, not destiny; it does not have to be.

The burgeoning U.S. population is slyly depicted in the film. Seen at the beginning was a "dot" representation of world population growth with each additional dot representing a million more people. With rapidly increasing numbers of "dots" since about 1970, the U.S. was the most noticeably increasing nation. Recall that the film stopped at the year 2005. The film upon which it is based extends to 2025. If it had continued out to the projections of 2050 the viewer would be witnessing the U.S. as China or India of today! The film, however, cut the scene so quickly it was difficult to linger on how packed the U.S. had become. The U.S. is full.

The sole reason for U.S. environmental and economic imbalances seen today has been government coerced population growth since 1970. Finally, the program also overlooks the fact that the U.S., until a few years ago, was much closer to achieving an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable society, and one with fewer international repercussions. This is confirmed by Wackernagel and Rees (Footprints of Nations) that as recent as the early 1970's the U.S. was in ecological surplus. This, of course, were the findings of those studies previously mentioned but which the program chose to ignore.

The point of the film should be that U.S. population increases are considerably more consequential than population increases from a developing country.

The film could have stated that the size of the U.S. population is twenty or thirty times more important than consumption alone. Arithmetically, after all, annual U.S. population growth is the equivalent of fifty million additional consumers in developing nations. Although "Six Billion" went on at length about consumption and resource use, the program overlooked the in excess of seventy million fresh new U.S. consumers in only the last thirty years. Nearly half of that additional population was not native born and easily avoidable. The irony of their "sprawl" approach is that immigration to the U.S. is classic sprawl, going from high-density low impact to lower density high impact living. Looking forward, the burgeoning U.S. population is significantly more detrimental to both the domestic and world economies and environment than the consumption patterns of the far fewer Americans from the past the program now assails.

Perhaps the greatest contribution the U.S. could make to achieve a world in balance would be as recommended in those early studies, to set a clear example to the other nations by establishing its own comprehensive and fair program to rapidly stop population growth. It doing so, it would also provide the U.S. with both the moral authority and additional wherewithal to assist other nations. Unfortunately, the program missed the opportunity to make this visionary recommendation.

Culture & Poverty

At this point, and in the briefest of terms, we turn to aspects of culture related to achieving sustainability. Although the program raised the issue of culture and the need for changes, it failed to discuss several important Western cultural factors and conditions related to U.S. immigration policy, primarily consumption and poverty.

Western culture is the basis underlying the program's narrowed Cairo approach. The film was overly vague when discussing these factors and appeared to assert that primarily those factors involving the status of women should be taken into account. This is too narrow a view. Although it may be unpleasant for some to consider, if the world is to adequately address poverty or fertility, those cultural values and attitudes that serve to negatively impact sustainability must be acknowledged, including patterns of migration and Western consumption.

In Western terms, in general, cultures that are progressive and energetic are successful, while those less so will be less successful and, absent a more enlightened government approach, population growth in those countries will become overwhelming. As one researcher wrote, the "crucial element that has been ignored is cultural values and attitudes that stand in the way of progress."

These, and other studies, show that some "cultures produce greater well-being than others." Another study recently concluded, "culture is at the root of the region's [Latin America] underdevelopment". The American (Western) Culture is grounded in the belief that individuals control their destiny and place a high value to freedom, self-reliance, work, education, achievement, and saving; the American Culture is future orientated. Immigrants that share those values, for example East Asian immigrants are found to rapidly assimilate and synthesize the American Culture.

On the other hand, immigrants from Mexico and Central America and sometimes Africa, are slow to progress. The studies note these less successful immigrants are from cultures that do not attach a high priority to education or savings; that and other unique factors —superstition for example, are also considered responsible for much of Africa's poverty. These cultural observations are clearly demonstrated by other research showing that Asian immigrants substantially exceed national educational averages, while the Hispanic high-school dropout rate in the U.S. remains about thirty percent and in excess of a staggering fifty percent in the Latin American countries and often worse in Africa. [See, for example, "The Cultural Roots of Poverty"; The Wall Street Journal, July 13, 1999].

The definition of "success" can be different for every nation based on their unique cultural background. Please note that the Western pattern may not work in all cultures, indeed, should not for some; yet the choice must be acknowledged. Although the program believes in choice, the most fundamental of choices was overlooked. Accordingly, each individual nation must have a citizen referendum on the appropriate definition of success. For some it may mean something as simple as to be left alone —as in the Indians in the jungles of Brazil. Another missed opportunity!

It is clear that the U.S. is importing unsustainable population growth, poverty and social disharmony. Although the subject was only briefly mentioned, it is clear from repeated research that rapid U.S. population growth through immigration has negative social and cultural consequences, in addition to the awesome environmental ones discussed previously. For example, it leads to a self-destructive non-homogenous Balkanization of the American Culture and impedes chances of assimilation of recent immigrants. In addition, it wrecks economic havoc on the domestic poor. Unfortunately, the film appears to place large and increasing demands, on Americans while promoting actions which lessens their ability to play an active and beneficial role.

Tragically, the program appears willing to trade off the American disadvantaged for the foreign poor. The aftermath of over-immigration is reflected in the data. In September 1999, after over twenty years of steadily improving economic prosperity, the Census reported that poverty has increased since the 1970's with eight million people in the U.S. poverty stricken today. They also reported that more than thirty percent of Hispanics are below the poverty line.

Working with Census and other data, another recent study found that the "primary reason for persistently high and growing U.S. poverty is due to immigration." The study continued stating that

post 1970 "immigration accounts for the vast majority of the growth in poverty over the last 20 years; one in four children in poverty now lives in an immigrant household; the total number of people in immigrant households living in poverty has tripled over the last 18 years from 2.7 million to 7.7 million in 1997; and growth in immigrant-related poverty accounted for 75 percent of the total increase in the size of the poor population between 1989 and 1997. By dramatically increasing poverty, current immigration policy has made it more difficult to the help the poor already here. (See "Importing Poverty: Immigration and the Growth of America's Poor Population", Center for Immigration Studies. Sept. 1999)

Restating the recommendations from the Jordan Commission on Immigration Reform, the CIS study recommended that immigration policy be revised to generally admit skilled immigrants while assisting legal immigrants already here. The recommendations were rooted in significantly reducing the total number of legal and illegal immigrants.

Permitting mass immigration of the uneducated, those with few skills and from cultures which place a low importance on values required for success in a progressive Western culture only serve to increase poverty and social disharmony. As the research documents, the effects of our current immigration policies on domestic poor has been dreadful. One sad consequence of the current over-immigration policy is that the social and civil rights legislation (and funding) intended to bootstrap the American poor into the mainstream is increasingly utilized by those from a foreign country. Looking forward, current immigration policies will continue to make it very difficult for poor American citizens, and legal immigrants, to escape poverty and to gain equal social standing.

A short note on religion and U.S. current immigration policies. While some may feel it improper to mention changes in the religious makeup of the U.S. due to mass immigration, many would consider it an important development. Formerly, a purposeful characteristic of U.S. immigration policies was that the various religious groups were maintained in relatively consistent proportions. This is no longer the case. For those who have seen Roy Beck's informative and non-political video, "Immigration by the Numbers" the steeply increasing red part of the graph, representing U.S. population growth from immigration, can also be thought of as the increases in Catholics. The U.S. is becoming increasingly Catholic and will be a Catholic dominated nation in a few short years. The American Culture will change accordingly, becoming more similar to the Catholic dominated nations seen today.

Culture, as the program notes, is not necessarily the exclusive problem source; religions, the economy, and government policies are also important. Note, however, that this statement is somewhat circular in that the culture influences the institutional framework of a nation, its government structure and policies and economic and social integration.


Urgency Of Program

Many viewers have probably seen a survey asking something like the following:

"Since 1960 the population of the Earth has doubled from three billion to six billion today. I think it will double again in,

  1. The next 10 years;
  2. Within the next 40 years;
  3. In the next century;
  4. In more than 100 years; or
  5. Never."

The concept behind the question is to test the respondents' demographic and environmental knowledge. Fundamentally, the question goes straight to the sense of urgency the situation warrants.

Throughout the world, the number of humans exceeds the capacity of resources to provide for them. Colleague and journalist, Ed Glaze III, succinctly describes the situation, "if they don't understand the severity of the problem, they won't understand the severity of the solution. Overpopulation must be dealt with."

The gravity of the situation, however, is glossed over by this program. In no small measure, the program's images are inconsistent with the positions promoted and the language used. This brief section should add the requisite sense of urgency. The program's language calmly suggests there is ample time, if but a few social and cultural consumption pattern changes are instituted. However, stressing an opposing view are the scenes that there are already serious resource constraints and environmental dilemmas. Indeed, it is the very reason for the program! The body of knowledge is that, absent rapid change, much sooner than the program's and the Cairo plan implies, fifty or seventy-five years, lower human populations than the six billion inhabitants of today are a real possibility. Hiding from the enormity of the human toll and environmental consequences will not help resolve the world's problems.

Consistent with the program's social orientation, the carrying capacity of individual nations and of the globe is generally avoided. Sadly, the program neglects the very heart of the matter. The program talks all around the concept of sustainability and carrying capacity, yet not connecting, or only obliquely so, the viewer to the principal underlying issues. This is clearly seen in increasing resource constraints, species extinctions, and the number of miserable people in the world.

The following illustrations will highlight the immediacy of the situation:

As the above poignantly demonstrate, rather than merely focusing on the role and health of women, the television (and student) program needed to emphasize that a number of factors which require balancing.


Concluding Comments

How the planet reaches the balance point of human sustainability or even an optimum level, while providing for all other life is the issue. The dilemma not adequately addressed by the program is that this point will be reached either by rational planning or by the means characteristic of nature.

In the program's Cairo view, demographics is merely a consequence rather than a cause of change and the program's insistence that reducing consumption will lead to a sustainable population level overstates the reality and its importance.

Numbers are important. A more objective inquiry would have been to discuss a stationary then sustainable population level for each nation and the world and then outline a plan to achieve those objectives. Absent the sustainable or optimum population plan, a responsible approach would be for the program to call for a national U.S. population policy based on the studies from the early 1970's and that each country accept an increasing direct role and responsibility for achieving a sustainable population.

It is also clear that in arriving at any optimum population goal the inherent risks lie in overstatement; under estimating an optimum population objective is less risky and has the important benefit of affording increased resources for other species. How many lifeforms and ecosystems the planet loses because of human population growth needs an answer. It should be understood that any calculated figure would be open to debate and that the limitless earth society subscribers and human rights activists are likely to use that imperfection as an excuse to promote their own blueprint or for inaction. This can be managed.

In addition, the author would be bereft not to state that the U.S. should contribute its stated financial support for international family planning, about $800 million per year. Because of political infighting, primarily by anti-choice groups, funding for international family planning program was cut to only $385 million. It is almost incalculable the harm this has caused so many in need.

How the program can devalue the incredible demographic and consumption truths can only be understood by recognizing the Cairo policy based forces underwriting and producing the program. In no small measure the bias is likely at the request of the foundations and NGO's promoting the program, the advertisers, and viewpoints of the filmmakers.

Environmental organizations apparently had little to do with its production and evidently none of the U.S. organizations seeking to stop U.S. population growth were involved. The viewer may find it of interest that Linda Harrar, a producer, was for twelve years a staff producer on the PBS series NOVA. Those familiar with public broadcasting will recognize the parallels to NOVA (as well as all other PBS programming) because it takes great pains to eliminate human population growth from its programming. Note, for example, that all the animal and, more recently, sprawl, programs fail to link a particular deteriorating environmental or wildlife condition with human populations. Instead they select euphemisms such as "habitat loss" or "sprawl", or "congestion" without making the connection to population.

The PBS "Six Billion and Beyond" program held out the promise of addressing important population and environmental issues. Unfortunately, the program ended wide of the mark.

Notes

* Six Billion and Beyond is a co-production of Linda Harrar Productions and the Filmmakers Collaborative. Executive producer, Linda Harrar; researcher, George Harrar.

No funding information was provided in the film's credits, Insurance Services were cited, however. Although specific funding information was requested from the involved individuals, foundations, and of PBS, none would provide funding information. Note the funding of the program was tax deductible and in many instances, will be made public at a later date. Funding for Six Billion and Beyond was provided by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Outreach funding was provided by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the William H. Gates Foundation, the Open Society Institute and the Summit Foundation.

To prepare this report, all the available materials for the program were examined: the full length program, "Six Billion and Beyond", the shortened version (22 minutes), "Day of Six Billion: A Global Youth Perspective", the study guide and associated case studies, and various "Facts and Figures" and other materials used to support the program or as background materials for teaching the program in schools. (See the following Websites:
Program description:< http://www.pbs.org/plweb-cgi/ >.
PBS: < http://www.pbs.org/sixbillion/ >.
Six Billion Website: < http://www.sixbillionandbeyond.org >.

Many local stations have Websites and E-mail addresses that can be used to comment on the program. One can also write PBS at the PBS Website: < http://www.pbs.org/voice/emailform.htm >.

©Dell Erickson 1999, 2002rev. All rights reserved. Freedom to duplicate is granted with attribution.

Return to Author: Dell Erickson
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* Used with permission of the author.
See original at < http://www.sierraclubbed.com/y6b/6b_beyond.html >.