January 20, 2013

Bookshelf: Confronting over population

Life on the Brink:
Environmentalists Confront Overpopulation
Bill Ryerson

PR Web - Founder and President of Population Media Center, Bill Ryerson, is a featured author in a new book, Life on The Brink: Environmentalists Confront Overpopulation (University of Georgia, 2012).

The book, an edited anthology. Some of the leading voices in the American environmental movement restate the case that population growth is a major force behind many of our most serious ecological problems, including global climate change, habitat loss and species extinctions, air and water pollution, and food and water scarcity.
Ryerson’s chapter is titled “How Do We Solve the Population Problem?” It explains that the major barriers to contraceptive use around the world include traditional desires for large families, religious opposition and unwarranted fear of health side-effects. This conclusion contrasts with the more common idea that contraceptive use remains low in developing countries primarily due to supply chain constraints.

Currently, global population is expanding by an estimated 231,000 people per day -- the net result of approximately 385,000 births minus 154,000 deaths. In turn, this results in over 84 million additional people on Earth per year. This annual population growth is equal to the total current population sizes of France, Libya, Singapore, Rwanda and Qatar.

“Such rapid population growth on a planet already suffering from human induced climate change, species extinctions and ocean acidification is not helpful. Global population stabilization should be a priority for international sustainable development programs and initiatives,” says Ryerson.

Mr. Ryerson goes on to explain that throughout much of the world, people get their information and form many of their opinions through consumption of mass media entertainment, particularly radio and television programs. One of the most popular entertainment formats is the long-running serial drama – better known in America as the “soap opera”.

Using these insights, Ryerson’s organization, Population Media Center, produces long-running fictional programs in developing countries. In their plot lines, these highly dramatic stories – known as education entertainment -- emphasize the benefits of small families, educate about the safety of contraception and provide audiences information on contraception that often serve as alternatives to dominant religious doctrines.

“Time after time, based on pre- and post-broadcast surveys in the areas our shows have aired, we find that our programs have statistically significant effects on the attitudes and behaviors of our audiences regarding increased use of contraception. Traditional health messaging says ‘Do this; don’t do that’. In contrast, the entertainment education shows produced by Population Media Center role-model positive behaviors, but leave it up to the audience to decide if they want to change their own ways.”

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