Lecturer explores population control issues


John Seagar said population growth is one of this century's preeminent challenges




Guest lecturer John Seager entered the field of population control because his old boss fired him more than a decade ago. And yesterday, Seager came to speak at Penn because the same guy invited him back.

The Institute of Environmental Studies began its weekly seminar series this fall by inviting Seager to give a talk titled “A World of 7 Billion.” He informed an audience of about 70 people in the Chemistry Building’s Carolyn Hoff Lynch Auditorium about the easily overlooked concerns of unstable population growth, especially in lesser-developed countries.

Seager is the president of Population Connection, a nonprofit grassroots organization formerly known as Zero Population Growth. The group has over 140,000 members and supporters who believe that human population growth is one of the preeminent challenges of the 21st century.

Their main efforts are to inform about three million K-12 students nationwide about this issue and to lobby Congress to garner support for international family planning.

“About 98 to 99 percent of all the population growth is happening in generally very poor places that are very far away [from America],” Seager said. “And to bring this issue to your average American is a very hard challenge.”

Throughout the lecture, he presented a simple, three-pronged approach as to why America should be more concerned about global population growth and international family planning.

First, Seager said, the United States has the technology to address family planning and the technology itself is inexpensive — he estimated it would cost about $2 for every American to fully fund the programs Population Connection proposes. This in turn would empower and educate millions of people, especially women, worldwide.

He further explained that solving these problems would positively affect other global issues, such as the environment and the international economy.

Among the audience was Electrical and Systems Engineering professor Peter Scott, who works on integrating engineering processes into sustainability efforts. “There are a lot of good lectures in this series,” he said. “I have been attending these for the most part for the last four years.”

Many members of the audience were from the English Language Programs at Penn. One of these students, Ugur Demirci, explained his interest in environmental studies and lauded Seager’s informative and engaging presentation on an uncommon issue.

Stanley Laskowski, a current lecturer and advisor in Penn’s Department of Earth and Environmental Science, invited Seager to come to Penn because he believed “population growth is the root of all environmental problems and his insight into the issue at hand is invaluable.”

Laskowski, who sat at the front of the room, also happened to be Seager’s former boss at the United States Environmental Protection Agency under the Clinton administration where Seager was a political appointee.

After the talk, he praised Seager for his ability to present the issue in a non-confrontational and purely informational manner.

For Seager, Penn is only one of the 22 campuses he will be visiting in his college lecture circuit. Before he left campus, he hoped that students understood the confounding feasibility of this issue. “If people bring their intelligence and experience to bear on this problem, this is one global challenge that we can meet within the working lifetime of an undergraduate at Penn today.”

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