Robert Engelman


On his book More: Population, Nature, and What Women Want

Cover Interview of March 26, 2009


The planet on which human beings evolved and thrived is threatened as never before with changes humans themselves are causing—in climate, especially, but also in the loss of species, forests, freshwater resources, fertile soils, and toxic-free ecosystems.  Encouraging the end of population growth won’t immediately solve any of these problems.  The demographic growth has already gone on too long and helped stoked consumption patterns, technologies and patterns of social inequality that lie more directly than population as such behind the huge risks we face.  But how much more likely will our efforts be to move into balance with nature if we encourage an early end to population growth—and indeed live through a short period of gradual population decline?  And what other strategies are easily available that accomplish a long-term global good so powerfully by providing an immediate personal one: autonomy to give birth only when a woman and a partner are committed to raising a new human being to adulthood?

I wrote More out of the conviction—strengthened over three decades of exploring these connections—that influencing the trajectory of human population is the most accessible but least understood component of the transition we desperately need to make to a sustainable society.  I’m a son, a brother of sisters, a husband, and the father of a daughter.  But I confess I didn’t come to an interest in women’s well-being purely out of a sense of gender justice.  The more I learned about women’s central position in population change, nonetheless, the more I came to realize that everything I call for in More is worth doing regardless of any influence on human demography or the natural world.  It’s simply right to arrive at real equality of the sexes and to assure that women can achieve what men don’t have to ask for: sexuality without the risk of pregnancy.  What’s exciting is that this is also a path to a world in which human beings can live in balance with the earth and each other.  I hope More makes that an idea worth exploring—and acting on.

© 2009 Robert Engelman