Letter to the editor: Overpopulation not ‘overstated’ — crisis is looming

This concerns two recent letters about Planned Parenthood. The one on June 21 (“Nonprofit helps with pregnancies”) was from David Van Vleck, who started the Middlebury Planned Parenthood clinic in 1970. The other, dated June 28 (“Overpopulation issue overstated”), came from Father Luke Austin of Middlebury.
“The primary goal of Planned Parenthood is to provide help to people who wish to control their childbearing,” wrote Mr. Van Vleck. Only when family planning programs are not utilized — i.e., when couples lack access to and sufficient information about contraception — do abortions become an option. It follows, then, that wider use of contraceptives means fewer unwanted pregnancies. While Planned Parenthood will provide safe abortions to women who need them, it does more to prevent abortions than promote them.
Assuming that Father Luke considers abortion to be sinful, shouldn’t he be cheering for Planned Parenthood instead of denigrating it?
As for the argument about “overpopulation being overstated,” how can he not be aware of the impact that human beings are having not only on our own species but on the rest of God’s Creation? World population has surpassed 7 billion people, about three times what it was when I was born. By the end of this century, the number of human beings competing for food, water, shelter and a decent life could exceed 11 billion. That’s half again the number of people here now — and look at the mess we’ve caused already!
We are changing our climate and disrupting much of life on earth, thanks to our use of fossil fuels. We are destroying coral reefs by causing the oceans to acidify and the water to warm. We are causing other forms of life to go extinct at a record rate. We are cutting down rain forests to grow more crops to feed more people. We are depleting our ocean fisheries and running out of safe drinking water in many parts of the world. Due to global warming and agricultural malpractice, we are causing the earth’s deserts to spread in Africa and elsewhere.
 Wildlife biologists have a label for this. As a species we have exceeded the carrying capacity of our habitat. As human population surges, our natural resource base continues to shrink. The result is glaringly obvious: political instability, civil strife, hunger, malnutrition and increasing numbers of people living in fear and misery.
Consider this. In Africa, the 2017 population was 1.2 billion. By the end of the century, that number is expected to triple. Meanwhile, the Sahara continues to spread, driving millions of people off their land. If you think the world has a refugee problem now, just imagine the tidal wave of migrants who will be desperately seeking a better life in the decades ahead.
Is the situation hopeless? No, not if we manage to control and then reduce our numbers. By making family planning and contraception universally available, by respecting and living in balance the rest of nature, there may still be some hope for us after all.
Dick Beamish

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