Afternoon Plenary: Seven Billion and Growing: World Population, the Environment, and Social Equity

A session at American Humanist Association 74th Annual Conference

Friday 8th May, 2015

2:30pm to 3:30pm (MST)

Rapid population growth impacts all areas of human life and the environment. It intensifies water and food shortages and wreaks havoc on ecosystems through overfishing, deforestation, habitat loss, pollution, and climate change. Because of population growth the natural systems are necessary to our survival are being swiftly and severely disrupted. Rains that replenish lakes and aquifers and water crops are no longer reliable. Trees that once shielded us from flood waters and strong winds are gone, replaced by barren, dusty landscapes incapable of supporting life. In the Philippines, for example, less than 10 percent of original vegetation has survived that country’s rapid population growth.

Serious social problems are also exacerbated by rapid population growth. It is very difficult—if not impossible—for families to climb out of poverty when couples begin childbearing early and have more children than they can afford to educate. And to complete the cycle, less educated children tend to grow up and have their own large families. In Angola, women with no education have 7.8 children on average, compared with 2.5 children for women with at least some secondary education. And high fertility rates increase a woman’s risk of pregnancy-related health complications, or even death. Every year, some 350,000 women die—almost 1,000 per day—due to causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.

Global population grows by approximately 80 million people annually. In 1999, the United Nation’s Population Division projected that world population would reach 7 billion in 2013. Instead, we reached that milestone a full two years earlier than anticipated, hitting 7 billion in October 2011. The UN’s most recent medium-fertility projection puts population at 8 billion in 2023, 9 billion in 2041, and an astounding 10.1 billion in 2100.

What can we do? This talk will give an overview of root causes, impacts, and ways to meet the population challenge, illustrating the intersections between population stabilization, the environment, social equity, and women’s empowerment.


John Seager is the President and CEO of Population Connection. Before joining Population Connection, he was with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during the Clinton Administration. John also served as Chief of Staff for former U.S. Representative Peter H. Kostmayer (D-PA), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs and Interior committees.

A veteran of more than 50 political campaigns, John has published op/eds and articles on population growth for news outlets like Huffington Post, GlobalPost, and RH Reality Check.

John frequently speaks at conferences on population, the environment, and women’s empowerment. He also presents at colleges and universities across the United States, including the University of Chicago, Smith College, and University of California-San Diego. John graduated from Trinity College (CT) with a B.A. in Political Science.

Population Connection (www.popconnect.org) is the preeminent grassroots group for population education and advocacy with 140,000 members and supporters including 50,000 participating educators.

Founded in 1968 as Zero Population Growth (ZPG), Population Connection focuses on achieving global population stabilization through universal awareness and access to voluntary family planning together with the full empowerment of women. It seeks to engage students in thinking about global population growth through lively, thought-provoking presentations focused on causes and impacts, and how we can meet those challenges. Population Connection has been engaged in population issues for more than four decades on hundreds of college campuses.

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John Seager

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Time 2:30pm3:30pm MST

Date Fri 8th May 2015

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