CTV's Dory Rossiter interviews Valorie M. Allen regarding her new book "Growing Pains - A Planet in Distress". 2011
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Eight Billion Reasons Population Matters
Valorie M. Allen
Friesen Press (2022)
Reviewed by Lily Andrews for Reader Reviews 2022
4* An insightful and timely compendium
"No matter who is winning the debate about growth, we aren't planning for that growth particularly well." - Howard V. Hendrix, San Francisco Chronicle
October 31, 2011, marked a disturbing landmark for the planet as the global population exceeded seven billion people with this growth outpacing economic growth, causing the depletion of natural resources on a large scale and a fresh threat to the extinction of animal species. What does this mean for the world at large? Are there potential solutions for sustainable development or population control?
"Eight Billion Reasons Population Matters" explores an extremely relevant topic, the burgeoning population growth, estimated to hit a level of an astonishing population of eight billion people, along with its impact on the ecosystem and climate change. The author manages to, in an impressive way, present the population as an integral part of our environmental challenges. With entire ecosystems in peril due to the relentless growth of the human population, Valorie's writing poses a better understanding of biodiversity loss, pollution, deforestation, water, and food shortages, all exacerbated by our huge and ever-increasing numbers. The cost of population growth differs greatly from country to country. She successfully paints a sobering picture with her global mastery of the subject, discussing the world's looming population and how this plight affects us at the local, national, and international levels.
Buoyant with stirring charts and graphs, to decipher the demographic statistics that bring thought-provoking arguments to readers' minds. The book relentlessly deciphers social problems and inequalities, economic setbacks, and the impact on governance. This ecologically informed author recognizes the looming crisis in global economic growth and offers a gold mine chock full of practical solutions and inspirational stories that can assist in proper decision-making.
The text's accessible terminology makes its ideas exciting and relevant and also laity friendly. Demography has shaped world history; it is shaping the present and it will shape the future. "Eight Billion Reasons Population Matters" ultimately presents a far-reaching evaluation that's unflinching, comprehensive, and perceptive and a powerful tool for spreading awareness on a necessary societal theme. Although repetitive in some of the research done, this 4-star work presents the two-way dance between population and the natural world, providing palpable ways we can all be part of the solution.
World Population Growth Becoming Global Issue
The world is about to hit a population level of eight billion people living on the planet. In the book Eight Billion Reasons Population Matters, Valorie M. Allen explains how the fights by environmental groups and world aid groups are all for nothing as every gain is soon overwhelmed by the pressures of more growth.
Allen has spent the last 35 years working with environmental, population, and animal rights groups, and was awarded the Canadian Volunteer Award for her efforts. She is a proud member of Population Institute Canada, and this experience along with her many years in the education field, revealed the dire need for this book of hope and solutions.
Eight Billion Reasons Population Matters takes an in-depth look at one of the planet’s greatest threats, that of too many people depleting the Earth’s resources and contributing to climate change.
This book is an effort to demystify the puzzle of population growth and steer the planet toward a more intentional and promising future, rather than allow human nature to forge a path forward that leaves no space for a healthful existence.
Allen offers an analysis of a world reeling from environmental, social, political, and economic crises. She goes further to provide examples of solutions and success stories.
"Valorie Allen’s research and writing are essential to understanding how human society can settle down into a sustainable path. Allen’s new book Eight Billion Reasons Population Mattersclearly articulates the importance of addressing population. It is also part of another important focus: Public education,” said Rex Weyler, a founding member of Greenpeace International and author of Greenpeace: The Inside Story
Allen explained how important it is to look at this issue from a woman’s perspective, a difference from many of the other population books that are available.
“We've had a lot of men who have championed the cause for women's rights, but I think that this gives it a whole different perspective, especially on war, poverty and family planning,” said Allen.
She credits Paul Ehrlich’s book The Population Bomb with influencing her work. Allen said the book was the start of recognizing the population issues facing the planet, but little headway has been made since it was published.
She said one of the major issues in Canada is people see a huge country with room for a lot more people, but they don’t realize the climate is not suitable for a large population.
"According to Population Institute Canada, we're already overpopulated in Canada, and there are a lot of indicators showing this,” said Allen.
She says the lack of old growth forests and depletion of fisheries are two of the most recognizable impacts on the environment here in Canada. The shorter growing season is also a factor in the size of the population that Canada can sustain along with the types of food we can produce.
"A lot of the food that we eat is imported and can't be grown here, like bananas and all kinds of other grains and fruits,” explained Allen.
Even with the increasingly efficient processes of food production, an ever-growing number of people will become impossible to feed as growth outpaces resources. This has led to more people joining the “child-free movement”.
“There are a lot of women who are deciding not to have children,” said Allen, “They want to be child free, and they're making that choice based on either climate change or all the other environmental problems.”
She recognizes that she probably wouldn't have written the books or done the volunteer work she was able to do if she had children. She said it allowed her to contribute more to the causes she cared about, though she acknowledged that going child-free is not for everyone.
For years she worked with animal rights groups until one day she looked back at the work she had done.
“It was really a shock when I found out that all the issues I had worked on had gotten worse instead of better because they had been undermined by the growing population,” said Allen, “It was at that time that I decided to focus on population instead.”
She said she realized the growing human population was causing all these extinctions of animals due to habitat loss.
“If we go over eight billion [people], we are leaving a legacy for the next generation, but it's going to be pretty hopeless, and they're never going to forgive us,” said Allen, “I think it's just so unfair to the children and wildlife on the planet, if we just ignore this and continue to soar past eight billion.”
She believes people are starting to connect the dots between climate change and population and the extinction of species along with other world issues. She is excited by the responses she has received from the academic community with regards to using the book as an educational tool a sentiment shared by the President of Canadians for Sustainable Society, John Erik Meyer.
"Population growth is not a victimless crime. It hurts those already here and further damages a planet reeling from over-exploitation. Val Allen’s books are treasure troves of information and perspective serving up a veritable researchers’ bonanza,” said Meyer.
According to Dr. Madeline Weld, the President of Population Institute Canada, the book is a “crash course” on the issue of population growth.
“It is a trove of information both for novices and those who have had a long-standing interest in the issue,” said Weld, “It can serve both as an inspiration and tool kit for anyone who wants to address the problem."
Allen said she hopes to one day see the population counter on her computer hit that magical moment where the population levels out and starts to decrease.
“Once the de-growth starts, we are going to start to see so many improvements and there will be more land available to be given back to the animals that are threatened with extinction,” said Allen, “People will benefit in so many ways. There will be more land for people so that they're not fighting over resources.”
This work follows her first award-winning book, Growing Pains—A Planet in Distress, as she continues to shine light on humanity’s “most critical failure”. Read more on her website at www.populationinsync.net.