On this Martin Luther King Day, it is fitting to reprint below Martin Luther King Jr.’s acceptance speech upon receiving one of the four 1966 Margaret Sanger Awards given by Planned Parenthood Federation of America to honor the woman who founded America’s family planning movement.
1966 was the first year of the award. The other recipients that year were Dr. Carl G. Hartman, General William H. Draper Jr., and President Lyndon Baines Johnson.
Recently, the press has been filled with reports of sightings of flying saucers. While we need not give credence to these stories, they allow our imagination to speculate on how visitors from outer space would judge us. I am afraid they would be stupefied at our conduct. They would observe that for death planning we spend billions to create engines and strategies for war. They would also observe that we spend millions to prevent death by disease and other causes. Finally they would observe that we spend paltry sums for population planning, even though its spontaneous growth is an urgent threat to life on our planet. Our visitors from outer space could be forgiven if they reported home that our planet is inhabited by a race of insane men whose future is bleak and uncertain.
There is no human circumstance more tragic than the persisting existence of a harmful condition for which a remedy is readily available. Family planning, to relate population to world resources, is possible, practical and necessary. Unlike plagues of the dark ages or contemporary diseases we do not yet understand, the modern plague of overpopulation is soluble by means we have discovered and with resources we possess.
What is lacking is not sufficient knowledge of the solution but universal consciousness of the gravity of the problem and education of the billions who are its victims.
Excerpt of comments to Population Connection’s Board of Directors, originally published in the organization’s magazine POPULATION CONNECTION, Volume 46, Issue 2, June 2014 and reprinted here by permission.
I don’t pull any punches in my new book, Countdown. We’re facing some serious challenges in this century, and much of it may be a wild ride through uncharted territory. The number of humans on this planet is far more than nature ever intended, and our demands are changing the atmosphere, seas, and soils in dangerous ways.
Nevertheless, I came out of writing this book far more encouraged than I was going into it, because I learned that there is an affordable solution that can make a huge difference, and there’s already a lot of momentum and precedence for it in nearly every part of the world.
Among the countries I visited that have discovered non-coercive, completely voluntary ways of bringing their fertility rates down is one that surprises a lot of people, because it’s a Muslim theocracy. The same year as its 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran actually applied coercion in the opposite direction, charging every fertile female to do her patriotic duty and get pregnant to help build a Twenty Million Man Army to fight off the invading Iraqis. By some estimates, at one point Iran’s growth rate peaked at 4.2 percent, near the biological limits for fertile women and the highest rate of population increase the world had ever seen.
But once the war was finally over, the director of Iran’s planning and budget office realized they had big problems. All those males born to supply the Twenty Million Man Army would eventually need jobs, and the chances for providing them shrank with each new birth. He and others met with the Supreme Leader to warn of the instability of a nation filled with frustrated, angry, unemployed young men.
Soon thereafter, the country that had told its females to get pregnant for the good of the nation was posting banners across roads reading “One is good, two is enough.” A new Ayatollah—he’s still in power today—issued a fatwa stating that, “When wisdom dictates that you do not need more children, a vasectomy is permissible.”
In honor of Earth Day 2013, the award winning film, Mother: Caring for 7 Billion is available for free internet viewing from now until the end of May. Some of you may be familiar with this film, but the current temporarily free streaming offers a golden opportunity to see it and to urge your friends and colleagues to watch a remarkable, modern engagement with the global population issue. I strongly urge you to see this film. –RM
News Release from “Mother: Caring for 7 Billion”
Denver, CO – Even though sex and global warming are rarely discussed in the same sentence, much less in the same film, the long ignored connection was recently explored in the award-winning environmental documentary Mother: Caring for 7 Billion.
In celebration of Earth Day, the filmmakers of Mother announced the Internet release of their “Director’s Cut” that will stream online for free from April 19 until the end of May. To view the free online streaming of Mother go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdEspxlq3bo
Christophe Fauchere, director and co-producer of Mother stated, “We want Mother to be viewed by as many people as possible for Earth Day because Mother holds up a mirror and shows people a very different way to look at their role on this planet.”
Lisa Hymas, co-founder of Grist.org says “This is not your father’s population documentary… Mother takes a feminist/humanist view as it explores the issues of our exploding numbers.”