Dangerous Intersections: Feminist Perspectives on Population, Environment, and Development

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9780896085985: Dangerous Intersections: Feminist Perspectives on Population, Environment, and Development
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Jael Silliman is Assistant Professor in Women's Studies at the University of Iowa. She is currently the Board Chair of the National Asian Women's Health Organization and a member of CWPE. Ynestra King is a founding member of CWPE. She taught for many years at the New School for Social Research and has been a Visiting Scholar at Rutgers University and Columbia University.

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The contentious issue of population growth and "overpopulation" looms large in our collective imagination. Since Malthus, and more insistently in the last four decades, we have been barraged with strident claims that proclaim "overpopulation" is at the root of all our problems. Overpopulation is the starting and ending point of discussions on a plethora of global problems. Explaining away the most pressing concerns of the world as a "population problem" is appealing. It is simple and elides other structural and historical causes that may explain the situation. The image of the ticking clock, the incendiary "population bomb" that will set off a massive, earth-destroying explosion, is etched into our collective psyche.

Population increases are associated with faceless and undifferentiated poor women of color in intricately coded and unspoken ways. This fear seeps into public discourses and discussions, bleeding into the public policy arena, indelibly coloring and distorting understanding of the world. Media reporters and public policy "experts," in discussing crises ranging from civil war in Rwanda to deforestation in the Amazon, proclaim them a result of overpopulation. These facile explanations pay little attention to the specifics of each situation: complicated histories of colonialism, corporate extraction, government policies and subsidies, economic inequalities, and growing fundamentalism worldwide that are, in fact, more pertinent than overpopulation. They put the blame on others-those "dark and irrational people" in those equally "dark and primordial places"-who are unaware and ignorant of the "fuses" they are sparking. "They" are the problem. "We" are absolved of all responsibility. In lieu of complicated explanations, cookie-cutter analyses and solutions are advanced and gain political and financial support.

For these reasons, the issue of population growth keeps surfacing. It raises its head menacingly in numerous disguises across public policy arenas. The common wisdom goes this way: we cannot make headway on any other problems until we take care of population growth.

The Committee on Women, Population, and the Environment (CWPE) investigates the reasons why a variety of environmental, social, and security issues are defined or presented as population problems. We expose the people, the philosophies, the funding, and the politics behind such analyses. In short, CWPE rejects the simplistic projection of population growth as the major source of environmental degradation. We do so in order to redirect attention to the roots of the problem, while working with progressive movements to find socially just solutions.

At the same time, we strongly support women's right to safe birth control and abortion as part of comprehensive health care. We take on the double challenge of combating population control forces and the anti-abortion movement, both of which seek to restrict women's reproductive freedom. CWPE is both intellectual and activist in its orientation and mission. This book of essays by various CWPE members who are academics and activists is part of this ongoing political work.

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9780896085978: Dangerous Intersections: Feminist Perspectives on Population, Environment, and Development

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ISBN 10:  089608597X ISBN 13:  9780896085978
Publisher: South End Press, 1999

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Published by South End Press (1999)
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