Curbing the Population Explosion Headed for the Year 2000

The Monitor has always provided responsible coverage on the issue of population growth and its relationship to the environment and development. However, I am concerned about the title of the Opinion page article "US Urged to Help Population Control," March 25.

While the term "population control" has been used in the past to describe efforts to stabilize world population growth, it implies that population growth alone is responsible for environmental degradation, and that the rights of individuals may be ignored in order to slow population growth. Population growth cannot be isolated from factors such as poverty, lack of education and health care, unjust land tenure policies, and over consumption of natural resources in the United States and other industrialize d countries.

More important, international population and family planning assistance is about giving women control, not taking it from them. A woman in the developing world is the center of her environment. She is the primary natural resource manager and food provider. She knows the needs of her family and her community. In order to effectively manage her life and her environment, every woman must have the right and the means to make informed decisions regarding the number and spacing of her children.

Funding for voluntary family planning programs must be increased. Congress should appropriate $725 million for international population assistance in the coming fiscal year. Programs to increase women's access to comprehensive health care, education, and economic opportunities should also be a priority of US foreign assistance. We must bring women into the development process as full partners. Lisanne Nelson, Washington Population Specialist National Audubon Society

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please fax letters to (617) 450-2317 or address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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