Sunday, July 22, 2007

Big Bucks Ban Births - philanthropists, such as Bill Gates and Ted Turner, are donating a portion of their money to help curb world population

Philanthropists, some with large families, give billions to curb population growth.
News of their announcement electrified the world-population forum in The Hague: Microsoft tycoon Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, were giving billions of dollars to curb world population. The Gateses join some of the world's richest people, including media mogul Ted Turner and investor Warren Buffett, who are investing heavily in population control.
Not everyone is impressed. "You have wealthy white men spending hundreds of millions of dollars to contraceptualize, sterilize and abort poor brown, yellow and black women in the developing world" says Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute. "That's a scary thought."Interpretations of the trend aside, there is no doubt that wealthy Westerners are donating big bucks to slow population growth:
* The William H. Gates Foundation, which recently received $2.2 billion in Microsoft stock, plans to give the majority to Planned Parenthood and other population-control agencies, including a $1.7 million pledge during the next three years to the U.N. Population Fund.
* The Buffett Foundation gave more than $3 million to family planning and population control in 1994 and more than $4.5 million in 1996, and plans to lavish the majority of its annual $100 million in grants on population programs after Buffett dies.
* The David and Lucille Packard Foundation has pledged $9 billion toward population-control programs, including safe-sex campaigns and abortion clinics.* The U.N. Foundation will administer Turner's pledged $1 billion toward population-control efforts and health and environmental issues.
Turner's involvement in the campaign against overpopulation has drawn attention because of the CNN founder's knack for outrageous quotes: "If everybody adopted a one-child policy for 100 years" the world could reduce its population by about 3 billion, he said recently. The fact is, Turner has fathered five children. David Packard has four children, Buffett has three and the Gateses are expecting their second.
Gates, the most recent arrival on the world-population scene, is close friends with Buffett, and they reportedly have discussed philanthropic ideas. Buffet's foundation has given $2 million to fund research on RU486, the "abortion pill" a two-stage drug that causes women to miscarry; another $8 million went to family planning and population-control efforts in 1997, according to Barron's magazine. Buffett Foundation grant recipients include:
* Catholics for a Free Choice -- $100,000 in 1996;
* The Center for Reproductive Law and Policy -- $500,000 in 1996; and
* Planned Parenthood -- about $1.3 million in 1996.
"Certainly I consider population and reproductive rights to be important issues," Buffett told Barron's. "But ... I don't want to comment on the question or become a spokesman." The magazine reported that Buffett "has made no secret of the fact that he considers overpopulation to be a serious threat to the future of the world."
Billionaire Packard, who died in 1996, had a long track record of similar giving. The Packard Foundation, the third wealthiest, donated $240,000 toward abortion training for doctors in Ethiopia and Uganda and $100,000 for contraceptives in Vietnam. This year, the Packard Foundation plans on spending as much as $70 million on population-control causes, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Mosher and other experts disagree that global overpopulation is a looming crisis. "This movement has outlived whatever life it had," says Mosher. "The exaggerated predictions of the population doom and gloom types will never materialize."
According to Ben Wattenberg, author of The Birth Dearth, U.N. predictions about global-population figures have been inaccurate by as many as 1 billion people. "In the last 15 years, there have been population decreases" he says. Large foundations want to perpetuate their influence, so "they've set up this huge infrastructure. But as the nature of the problem changed, it was in the best interests of these foundations to continue the crisis."
Population Action International qualifies that statement. "Although human growth rates are slowing, human numbers are still increasing" the organization claims on its Website, "More family planning is needed" to slow population growth rates, the group says.
Rose Berg, Gates' spokeswoman, puts the population question in a whole different context. "It's an access and equity issue" says Berg. "Grants from the William H. Gates Foundation are made to women's reproductive health whether we can agree on the exact trends or not."
Overpopulation became a concern of the rich after World War II, when wealthy philanthropists such as John D. Rockefeller III and Clarence Gamble took up the cause. "The earlier millionaires brought with them a eugenics concern" says Donald Critchlow, author of Intended Consequences, which chronicles the history of population control. Today's philanthropists have a genuine belief that they can solve the world's problems -- war, pollution, poverty, disease -- through population control. "It's a humanitarian concern," Critchlow says. "Yet at the same time they want to contribute something to the world, and something like controlling world population is ambitious enough for them."Perhaps, but Mosher sees "hidden undertones" of racism in population control. "After all, it began as hysterical reactions to the fact that the population of Latin America, Africa and Asia were growing much more rapidly than North America and Europe," he says.