Population and Environment

, Volume 28, Issue 4–5, pp 237–246 | Cite as

Why the silence on population?

  • Martha Campbell


The tripling of the world’s population growth since 1960 has received little public attention the past decade. Six reasons for the silence around this subject constitute a “perfect storm”. The first five are: visibility of actual fertility decline in the developed countries as well as a number of the developing ones; well justified attention to the impact of high levels of consumption on the environment; an implicit welcome by conservative political and religious forces to reduced needs for family planning; the tragedy of AIDS dominating international health concerns; and the 1994 Cairo conference’s focus on examples of coercive family planning while nearly ignoring the coercion of women forced into unwanted childbearing. These five relatively new developments have been supported by standard demographic theory containing an assumption that couples naturally want many children, making it difficult to see the many barriers blocking women’s options to manage their own childbearing.


Family planning Barriers Cairo Fertility Silence Perfect storm 


  1. All-Party Parliamentary Group on Population. (2007). Development and Reproductive Health. Return of the population factor: Its impact on the millennium development goals. Report of U.K. Parliamentary hearings in 2006. Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. Available at:
  2. Bernstein, S., & Hansen, C. J., (2006). Public choices, private decisions: Sexual and reproductive health and the millennium development goals. New York: United Nations Development Programme.Google Scholar
  3. Birdsall, N., Kelly A. C., & Sinding S. (Eds.). (2001). Population matters: Demographic change, economic growth, and poverty in the third world. London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Blanc, A. K., & Tsui, A. O. (2005). The dilemma of past success: Insiders’ views on the future of the international family planning movement. Studies in Family Planning, 36(4), 263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brasted, M. (2007). Protest in the media. Peace Review, 17(4), 383–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Campbell, M. M. (1998). Schools of thought: An analysis of interest groups influential in international population policy. Population and Environment, 19(6), 487–512.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Campbell, M. (2006). Consumer behavior and contraceptive decisions: Resolving a decades-long puzzle. Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care, 32(4), 241–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Campbell, M., Salin-Hodoglugil, N., & Potts, M. (2006). Barriers to fertility regulation: A review of the literature. Studies in Family Planning, 37(2), 87–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cleland, J. (2006). Oral testimony in U.K. APPG Parliamentary Hearings. May 8, 2006. Transcripts available at: Scholar
  10. Cleland, J., & Sinding, S. (2005). Viewpoint: What would Malthus say about AIDS in Africa? Lancet, 366(9500), 1899–1901.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fotso, J.-C. Dr. (2006). The African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), Kenya. Oral evidence to All Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health, June 2006 (p. 6). Transcripts available at: Scholar
  12. Knodel, J., & Woogsith, M. (1991). Family size and children’s education in Thailand: Evidence from a national sample. Demography, 28, 119–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Lutz, W., Sanderson, W. C., & Scherbov, S. (Eds). (2001). The end of world population growth. Nature, 412, 543–545.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Noelle-Newman, E. (1984). Spiral of silence. Public opinion – our social skin. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  15. Notestein, F. W. (1953). Economic problems of population change. Proceedings of the eighth international conference of agricultural economists (pp. 13–31). Oxford University Press: London.Google Scholar
  16. Potts, M. (1997). Sex and the birth rate: Human biology, demographic change and access to fertility-regulation methods. Population and Development Review, 23(1), 1–39.Google Scholar
  17. Potts, M. (2003). Two pills, two paths: A tale of gender bias. Endeavor, 27, 127–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Potts, M., & Campbell, M. M. (2005). Reverse gear: Dependence on a disappearing paradigm. Journal of Reproduction and Contraception, 16(3), 179–186.Google Scholar
  19. Rutstein, S. O. (2005). Effects of preceding birth intervals on neonatal, infant and under five years mortality and nutritional status in developing countries: Evidence from the demographic and health surveys. International Journal of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, 89 Suppl (1), S7–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Sinding, S. (2006). Oral testimony in U.K. APPG Parliamentary Hearings. May 8, 2006. Transcripts available at: Scholar
  21. Sokka, L. (2004). Population network newsletter, Popnet No. 36, Autumn 2004, IIASA, p. 2; and Sir David King Oral evidence to APPG Pop Dev RH 3rd July 2006 (p. 15).Google Scholar
  22. UK DfID. (2006). Written evidence to All Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health, March 2006 (p.16). Available at: Scholar
  23. United Nations Economic and Social Affairs. (2005). World population prospects; The 2004 revision. Vol. 1: Comprehensive tables. (ST/E$SA/SER A/244) New York, United Nations.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Public HealthUniversity of CaliforniaBerkleyUSA

Personalised recommendations