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ISSUE 118 VOL 17 PUBLISHED 4/22/2005

Fornos issues warning

By Jean Mullins
News Editor

Friday, April 22, 2005

Winner of the 2003 United Nations Population Prize and president of the Population Institute, Werner Fornos, stopped at St. Olaf Monday to give one of many talks as he passed through the Midwest. Fornos spoke about population growth and the environment.

Fornos started his speech by congratulating the students in the room, saying that for the first time in history, there are one billion people between the ages of 15 and 24 years old. He told the audience that their age group’s decisions about parenthood would have a huge impact on the future of the Earth’s growing population.

Fornos spoke about the influx of people into urban areas in poorer countries, contrasting it with the United States, where more people are moving out of cities and working from home. Fornos said the crowding of cities, especially in Southeast Asian countries, leads to sanitation, health and violence problems. Homelessness is also an issue in these countries. He cited the example of Mumbai, where of the 22 million people living in the city, six million are homeless. Fornos noted that these same countries are places where suspected terrorists reside.

Fornos explained that the overcrowding is leading to a scramble for resources. He mentioned forests at the foot of the Himalaya Mountains, which have been decimated by logging. He warned that the deserts of the world are spreading and Earth is facing a water crisis. Ninety-seven percent of the Earth’s water is too salty to drink and much of the rest is frozen and inaccessible at the poles.

He also pointed out that poor nations are not the only ones to blame for environmental damage.

Norway experienced many deaths in its fish hatcheries due to a coal cloud from England, he said. He pointed out that the United States is also a contributor to global climate change.

He said that in the last 15 years, 14 have been the hottest years in recorded history, thanks to the consumption of fossil fuel.

"We again this year, with our continuing appetite for fossil fuel, will probably see another record-breaking year," Fornos said.

Furthermore, Fornos said, the growing world population has already started a food crisis. As of Monday, he said, 86 countries had neither sufficient money nor provisions to feed themselves.

Fornos concluded his speech by listing some of the United Nations Millennium Goals for population control. The first was the education of women. Fornos said that women who receive even an eighth grade education are less likely to have as many children as women who have not had an education.

The second was to give women access to jobs so that they can cap the number of children they have.

The third was to reduce infant mortality rates, calling many infant deaths “needless.”

According to Fornos, many people have too many children, thinking that some of them will die before the age of five. "It is a cruel hoax to bring a child into the world and then abandon it," Fornos said, indirectly addressing people who abandon children after having too many.

Finally Fornos explained that population control needs to be made an issue for the United Nations. Politics in the United Nations have kept this particular aspiration out of the Millennium Goals, but Fornos said that family planning, whether natural or through chemicals, will help abate the population crisis.

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