Creating a society where people view smaller families and fewer consumer goods as desirable is the answer to concerns about the world's resources, according to a population-control expert.
"Don't blame people for doing what the world tells them," said Judith Jacobsen, a professor at the University of Denver, said Saturday. "Change what the world tells them."Her speech was part of the "Population Growth, Ethics & the Environment" conference at the Red Lion Hotel. Jacobsen said the approach, outlined at the recent population control conference in Cairo, needs to come west now. She said simply urging people to have smaller families and use fewer resources isn't the answer - creating lives where smaller families are desirable and where consumer prices say the right thing is a better solution.
"Let's ask what makes what we wish to change sensible."
She also said, among other things, that low wages for women, a higher desire for male children, unwanted pregnancies and poverty are all factors in a high world fertility rate. Attacking these conditions is also a win-win situation because it solves other world problems, too.
There are six million pregnancies a year in the United States, and 57 percent are estimated to be mistimed or unwanted. America also has four million births a year vs. two million annual deaths, accounting for population growth of 2 million people a year - without counting immigrants, according to Ja-cob-sen.
She said many American families have only two children, but the large number of baby-boom parents makes the U.S. fertility rate 2.1 percent now and rising.
"The U.S. is the only major industrial nation in the world that's growing," she said.
Jacobsen also suggested a commitment to create conditions that would keep immigrants home in their countries.
On the consumption of resources, she said the U.S. represents only 5 percent of the world population and yet uses 25 percent to 50 percent of the world's resources, depending on the specific item.
Again, she asked conference participants to ask themselves what it is that makes resource consumption and disposal items so desirable.
She believes Americans don't really want waste, but subsidies for timber on federal lands, artificially low garbage disposal prices, manufacturers who have no responsibility for the disposal of their containers and other factors all combine to create America's consumption problem.
"Thus, a super cheap damaging product is everywhere. . . . There is room for education," she said, explaining incentives must be given to manufacturers or they'll keep making things the cheap way that ultimately damages the environment.
"Let's make prices say the right thing. . . . We need to urge people to want less," she said.