Hey Mr. Green,
Is the Sierra Club willing to acknowledge that population growth overwhelms all efforts to be greener? We can drive less, ride bicycles, and improve insulation until the cows come home, but it ain't gonna be enough. I've yet to find a single person who is willing to forgo having children to bring sanity to our planet. Are you? --Jeff in Denver, Colorado
I've already done my demographic damage. Mea culpa. But I pledge to refrain from future propagation. Even if Britney Spears offers her undying love, meds, and millions for my green genes, I'll "just say no" in the grand tradition of Nancy Reagan.
The Sierra Club has long recognized the problems associated with high fertility rates and been a strong advocate for family planning. Through our Global Population and the Environment Program (sierraclub.org/population), we promote a variety of ways to produce fewer people, such as providing women with better, more affordable access to healthcare (and therefore birth control), improving education, and reducing poverty. The countries that have made the greatest progress in these realms, such as Japan and most of Europe, now have the lowest fertility rates, with fewer than two children per female. Desperately poor nations like Niger, with 5.3 kids per female, continue to produce the most offspring.
While limiting fertility rates is indeed important, if we don't curb runaway consumption, we'll still be in deep trouble. For example, the United States consumes three times as much wood as does the rest of the world (seven times as much as people-packed China), and though we have only 4.5 percent of the world's population, we burn 20 percent of its fossil fuels. Obviously, if we maintain such rates, and if the rest of the world is stupid enough to imitate our profligate ways, humanity will end up burning exponentially more fuel than it already does. So I'll keep harping about lightbulbs and insulation and family planning, education, and ending poverty.