Nokyoung Xayasane
January 15, 2013

Giving Equal Rights to Women Could Save Humankind

Anne Ehrlich and Paul Ehrlich (Photo credit: L.A. Cicero)

Is it just me or does the world  seem a little overcrowded nowadays? Was there always this many cars and this much traffic? Well, according to population biologists Paul and Anne Ehrlich, overcrowding has been a big problem for some time and could have disastrous results.

The only way to save humankind is to give all women equal rights, says the husband and wife duo.

Giving women access to education, nutrition and reasonably priced birth control and abortion services could save us all.  Educating women and empowering them gives us “more of their brainpower to help solve these problems,” says Paul.

According to the report, which was reviewed by a panel of well-known biologists and social scientists and references over 150 scientific publications, overpopulation and over-consumption could lead to global collapse. There are potential advancements in technology that can improve our fate, but “you can’t save the world on hope alone,” warns Paul.

“Studies have shown that when women are given full rights, they have fewer children, which will help slow birth rates,” adds Paul. “We also need to give every sexually active human free access to modern contraception and emergency abortion.”

It’s estimated that the human population will reach 9.6 billion by the middle of the century. Paul Ehrlich suggests that instead of making the planet hospitable for this many people, scientists should focus on humanely lowering birthrates and moderating consumption.

Studies have shown that in order to keep feeding the world’s population at our current standards, we’d need another half planet full of resources. If all humans consumed at the same level as those in the United States, we’d need four to five more planets to keep up.

Yikes! I know we’re making advancements in colonizing Mars, but it looks like we should focus on fixing what’s clearly a problem on planet Earth first. This is especially true for those in the developing world who don’t have access to birth control. When you have to decide between using your minimal salary for either food or contraception, I’m guessing you’d go with the food. Also, for those in the developed world who have no health insurance or really inadequate health plans, reproductive planning can be a major problem.

I hope people take heed of the Ehrlichs’ report, which was published on January 8 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The husband and wife duo have spent their lives researching the phenomenon of overpopulation: They wrote the best-selling book The Population Bomb, which was published in 1968, and founded the Zero Population Growth movement in the same year.