To influence societal attitudes and population policy it is important for organizations that understand the population factor to reach out to politicians who can enact necessary changes. Below follows one such example, where the Swedish group Nätverket ‘Population Matters Sweden’ wrote letters to all members of the Swedish parliament, highlighting the need to address population both abroad, through aid to other countries, and at home.
Translated by The Overpopulation Project
Hi «Name»! [member of party and parliament]
We are members of Nätverket ‘Population Matters Sweden’1 who hope to get in touch with you for a dialogue on population issues. The Stockholm 50+ environmental meeting has just ended. Unfortunately, we see that despite good intentions already 50 years ago, and all the development that has since taken place regarding environmental technology and renewable energy, environmental problems are much more serious today than in 1972. Habitats for animals and plants disappear at a devastating pace, the number of species in decline increases each year and the climate is getting warmer. We believe that there is a root cause for this that is hardly discussed at all: that the earth’s population in 2022 is more than twice as large as in 19722-12, with a growth of about 80 million per year in recent decades. The UN forecasts the population by 2100 will have grown from the current 7.9 to as much as 11 billion. No other change in economics or environment has as great consequences, while at the same time being so neglected in the media, politics, and international cooperation (although not in scientific research and literature).
Rapid population growth in developing nations contributes to poverty and food insecurity. Oxfam and the FAO recently warned that close to a billion people are at risk of extreme poverty and starvation by the end of the year, due to dramatically rising food and fuel prices as a result of climate change, pandemics, and war. They need help, but it is not appropriate to just provide emergency aid without simultaneously working vigorously for sustainable development.
Afghanistan is one of several warning examples, heavily dependent on aid from the West. Their own resources cannot support the population, which is growing rapidly, as the birth rate is over 4 children per woman and half the population is younger than 18 years. Of Sweden’s aid there, 78% has gone to promoting democracy, but nothing to family planning! In just over 30 years, Afghanistan’s population has increased from about 10 to 40 million2, despite armed conflicts and significant emigration. The majority are completely dependent on aid for secure food supply. The same is true for large parts of Africa.
We propose that Sweden makes aid conditional to countries that express desire to implement programs for family planning, and in this way contribute to sustainable development. This can be done in collaboration with other donors to women’s education, self-determination, and family planning, for example the organization FP2030 (started in 2012 by the Gates Foundation11).
But even in Sweden we need to discuss family planning. Partly because population growth here has major negative effects on the environment due to our large per capita ecological footprint, but also because large families among some foreign-born citizens risk cementing exclusion. Having large numbers of children makes integration more difficult, as it can lead to women neither learning Swedish nor getting a job. The welfare state will severely deteriorate if there is a further large increase in population in areas of exclusion that lack integration, have high unemployment, and weak school results. There are therefore strong reasons to avoid financial incentives that favour large families (see our article in Aftonbladet10). Having few children is good for human welfare, for the environment, and for limiting climate change.
We therefore propose abolishing the large family supplement and limiting child allowances to two per family10 in order to promote sustainable societal development.
We have put forward these proposals on the need for family planning in two articles, in Expressen2 (2021-10-03) and Aftonbladet10 (2021-12-15). [See a translated version of the Op-Ed in Aftonbladet here]
We wonder (please contact us):
- How do you view the proposals we present here?
- We would like to hold an informal seminar for a constructive discussion on these issues, after the elections this autumn. Several of us conduct research on population issues and can provide background. If the interest is sufficient, we plan to invite additional experts to present relevant knowledge. Would you be interested in attending such a seminar?
Leif Andersson, biologist, professor, Uppsala
Malte Andersson, ecologist, professor emeritus, Gothenburg
Susanna Andersson, PhD in chemical ecology, high school teacher, Alingsås
Johanna Deinum, associate professor of biophysical chemistry and coordinator of Nätverket ‘Population Matters Sweden’, Gothenburg
Frank Götmark, professor of ecology, Gothenburg
Carl Wahren, political scientist, formerly active at the OECD, UN, Sida, IPPF
1 Nätverket ‘Population Matters Sweden’ is politically independent and informs about the negative consequences of overpopulation and continued population growth. We try to make the public aware of the problems, point out measures, and get the governments and the parliament to modify development aid policy to reflect this. Helping governments and individual men and women who want to limit family size, should be an overarching goal in aid to developing countries with unsustainable population growth. The path to this goal is through targeted support to countries interested in participating in this work.
- (2021) Andersson, L., Andersson, M., Deinum, J. & Götmark, F.: ”Afghanistans skenande folkökning är ohållbar.” Expressen 2021-10-03 https://www.expressen.se/debatt/afghanistans-skenande-folkokning-ar-ohallbar/
- (2021) Andersson, M., Götmark, F., Wijkman, A.: “Bromsa både folkökning och klimatändring” Many of today’s environmental problems are more due to population growth than to climate change. Swedish development assistance could make a big difference, SvD 2021-02-02, https://www.svd.se/bromsa-bade-folkokning-och-klimatandring, see a translated version here
- (2021) Andersson, M., Götmark, F., Wijkman, A. : ”Familjeplanering är en viktig nyckel” Birth rates can be greatly reduced on a voluntary basis without the standard of living first having to be raised to the Western level. SvD debate reply 2021-02-11, https://www.svd.se/familjeplanering-ar-en-viktig-nyckel, see a translated version here after the initial article
- (2021) Deinum, J., Jonsson, L., Tauson, A.: ”En hållbar befolkningsnivå för en levande planet.” Miljömagasinet (2021-05-21) 41, 20, 6 https://etidning.miljomagasinet.se/1877/miljomagasinet/412305/2021-05-21/r/4
- (2021) Sirén, A.: ”Betala kvinnor som föder högst ett barn.” Aftonbladet 2021-08-03, https://www.aftonbladet.se/debatt/a/JEKloR/betala-kvinnor-som-foder-hogst-ett-barn, see a translated version here
- (2021) Sirén, A.: ”Föda färre barn är trots det en nödvändig åtgärd.” Final remark from Anders Sirén on reversing population growth to save the climate. Aftonbladet 2021-08-16 https://www.aftonbladet.se/debatt/a/47ElgE/foda-farre-barn-ar-trots-det-en-nodvandig-atgard
- (2021) Deinum, J, Jonsson, L. & Tauson, A.: ”Begränsa befolkningsnivån för planetens skull.” Uppsala Nya Tidning 2021-09-29 https://unt.se/bli-prenumerant/artikel/lwpn7z7r
- (2021) Boisen, L.I. & Deinum, J.: ”Varför blundar världens ledare för befolkningsökningen?” Landets Fria nr 279, 2021-12-10 https://landetsfria.nu/2021/nummer-279/varfor-blundar-varldens-ledare-for-befolkningsokningen/
- (2021) Andersson, L., Andersson, M., Götmark, F. och Deinum, J.: ”Flerbarnstillägget leder till sämre integration.” Aftonbladet 2021-12-15 https://www.aftonbladet.se/debatt/a/BjmPM7/flerbarnstillagget-leder-till-samre-integration; see a translated version here
- FP2030 is a global partnership that only deals with family planning (https://fp2030.org/Building2030 )
- (2020) Andersson, M.; Berggren, C.; Boisen, L. A.; et al.: ”Minskande befolkning inte problemet”. DN 2020-07-31, https://www.dn.se/debatt/minskande-befolkning-ar-inte-problemet/
11 thoughts on “Influencing politicians to act on population trends: an example from Sweden”
How many (useful) reactions did you get?
As yet only two formal acknowledgments that person got the letter. We will come back as regards outcome, which may only be long-term (influencing politicians’ thinking on the matter). Now NATO and election issues dominate (Sweden’s parliamentary election is in September, it is every four year).
Perhaps surprisingly, Swedish politicians have started to talk about family planning for immigrant women. Especially the Social Democrats.
I think a good thing with letter (paper) that we sent in this case is that these are not as easy to quickly erase as e-mail. But we follow up by e-mail, such that Internet links in letter/references and e-mail correspondence are easy to use.
This is a great letter, short, clear, asking for specific actions and inviting further comment, great work. In Australia, even the very best letter will likely not be read, given the scale of correspondence flooding into parliamentarians offices, so the effect of any letter is only really substantive to the extent that it is followed up with phone calls and meetings to ensure it gets read. I imagine the situation is the same in Sweden. That is not to say that the letter does not matter, it matters a lot, but it is only a part of a process.
Thank you for this comment, Edward. Good idea to approach individual politicians. There are many politicians (349) in the Swedish parliament and we plan first to see if anyone responds to follow-up e-mail, and then we plan to see if media might pick up the letter.
(349 parliament members are too many really, as they also have many employed assistants. In addition, they have raised their salaries – in the 1970, the rule was “same salary as a school teacher”, now it is more than double of that)
If you told Italian MPs they would earn twice as much as school teachers, they would resign en masse. I think it’s at least five times as much.
I don’t know about the current social climate in Sweden, but, in many countries this would be seen as barely concealed racism targeting imigrants. It is not going to be easy to support in the UK even though our migration imbalance has long been extremely bad, and has scarcely fallen at all since ‘Brexit’. It is already very difficult to campaign on sustainability alone without getting slated as racist by both ‘left’ and ‘right’–‘environmental’ groups being some of the most contrarian actors in this.
As I recall, Sweden was already tainted by measures seen as eugenics in ‘targeted birth control’ until surprisingly recently. This letter is just going to be used by the contrarians and the media to make campaigners work even harder. (Not that it really matters now, though, as I think we are now locked into ‘Great Dying II’, whatever we do.)
Thank you for comments spamletblog. We have not got any accusations of racism, and based on earlier Op-Ed’s and outreach in our group, it appears to be very rare here (I know the US and UK may be different). Actually our point on the problem with extra child support was recently taken up by a Social Democrat in the government, and even mentioned by a leader of the Green Party.
As regards eugenics, that was long ago, you need to go back to the 1950’s or earlier, in Sweden. Those thoughts affected many countries, unfortunately.
As regards the UK, we have heard that family allowances are only given for up to 2 children per family, is that correct? Very different from Sweden, and reasonable, in my view.
It’s gotten to the point that accusations of “racism” are used to shut down debates that might lead to meaningful improvements. Same with sexism, to a lesser extent.
I like the parliamentary lobbying idea (and also other opinion leaders to shift public opinion and awareness). I think one of the most important arguments was not mentioned. In 1960 SubSaharan Africa grew by five million a year, now by 25 million a year. Overpopulated countries where subsistence farms are too small to support large families are sending migrants first to cities and then to Europe. Europe has a strong motive to increase family planning aid to countries trying to accomplish fertility transitions. This is a win win, helping the recipient countries reduce poverty and suffering and improving the status of women (birth control essential for women’s freedom). But Europe also needs to do this to avoid a much increased future flood of immigrants. Fast growing African countries will double populations by 2050. Numbers like 200 million to 400 million Nigerians. 53 to 106 million Kenyans. And so on. Combined with climate change and growing food insecurity, population growth in Africa is a recipe for catastrophe. The accusations of racism should be aimed at those who ignore the plight of African women and their children in places where child marriage and high fertility rates keep people in poverty