December 12, 2014
In early 2015, an international effort to engage the public and protect the environment will launch, but this effort takes a different angle than many environmental campaigns. Global Population Speak Out, being called Speak Out for short, centers around an unusual picture book and features elements of environmental protection that are often not discussed: promoting human rights and human health as some of the strongest solutions to preserving the planet.
“Speak Out works to equip those already engaged in addressing environmental concerns with strong materials and messages to help them raise awareness and catalyze change,” says Joe Bish, Director of Issues Advocacy at Population Media Center, one of the organizations working on Speak Out.
Speak Out organizers are granting over 4,000 free copies of Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot (OVER) as the centerpiece of the “strong materials and messages” Bish talks about when discussing Speak Out. These copies of OVER will be granted to people and organizations around the world who can be ambassadors of information and inspiration, and promise personalized delivery to policymakers, opinion leaders, activists, allied organizations, and other audiences.
“We are really looking forward to crowd-sourced, creative ideas for how to put this amazing book to work as an agent of positive change,” continued Bish.
OVER is more than 300 pages of full-spread photography. It’s a coffee table book, and the book’s production quality and photographic quality are beautiful, but the scenes depicted throughout much of the book are woven together to create an experience perhaps better described as disturbing. The book features photo essays of pertinent subjects, such as Demographic Explosion, Human Tide, Urban Animal, Feeding Frenzy, Material World, Trashing the Planet, Wildlife Lost, Energy Blight, Foul Water, Darkening Skies, and Climate Change, framed by a foreword, introduction, and afterword written by renowned women’s rights, population, and conservation experts. A nice touch at the end is a hopeful parable redux, which offers a positive vision for the future to readers.
Many of the subjects are topics that are often discussed by environmentalists around the world: materialism, consumption, pollution, fossil fuels, carbon footprints, and more. But this book, and Speak Out in general, brings the conversation around to an ever-present part of environmentalism that some have been talking about for years and some people constantly avoid for political or other reasons: the number of people and amount of consumption both matter in how humanity relates to the planet. This book intentionally moves beyond tired arguments that only one side of the equation matters and pictorially depicts the importance of both the number of people and the way people live.
Bish and others at Speak Out hope that the book and accompanying online tools — such as sharable postcards, videos, activist sign-ups — will help spur conversation and increase awareness, but he’s also relying on the positive and inspirational solutions presented by the campaign to counter-balance the heavy nature, both literally and figuratively, of this powerful book.
“The world population is increasing by over 220,00 people per day — that is at least 9,000 more people every hour or roughly 150 more people per minute,” says Bish. “We have come to expect the Earth to automatically and easily provide land, food, shelter and other resources for these fellow people, plus all of us already here, even as we terribly mistreat the natural world. But in spite of these many challenges — population growth, at least, is not an intractable issue. By advocating, and achieving, improvements in human health and human rights — things we should be doing anyway to improve individual lives — we also set the stage for early global population stabilization. These achievements will help contribute toward solving some of today’s most pressing ecological and social challenges.”
Speak Out has been an ongoing initiative by Population Media Center and Population Institute that has recruited substantial numbers of world-class scientists, academicians, opinion-leaders — and thousands of lay environmentalists and concerned citizens — to help bring international attention to the crises posed by overdevelopment and human population size and growth. Both organizations, although they work in different spheres, work to promote issues such as gender equality, family planning, reproductive health, and maternal and child health.
“The power of Speak Out is in the global network of organizations and individuals who participate, bringing their strengths, expertise, and connections to large numbers of other activist organizations and motivated individuals.” says Bish. “The importance of what we do applies from individual to global levels. We are addressing issues that need be addressed in their own right, ending things like ending child marriage and correcting misinformation about the safety of contraception. When you think about these health and human rights violations that contribute to population growth, and you think about population growth contributing to so many environmental challenges, it becomes clear that when it comes to important global issues, addressing population growth through a health and human rights lens is a common sense act of environmental conservation.”
The campaign map shows Campaign Friends (people who have put their name on the map in support of Speak Out), Campaign Activists (people who have pledged to help spread the word), and Book Champions (people who have requested free books to distribute). Join us! Put your name on the map!Campaign Friends Campaign Activists Book Champions