First off, watch this video. You might wonder at first how it fits with the title above but I'll get to that afterwards, I promise.
This is a man who knows what he's talking about. He's a physican and a renowned statistician. He co-founded the Swedish branch of Médecins Sans Frontières. He's spent many years working in the poorest parts of Africa. He knows his subject, and he's seen what works.
The important part (well, the whole thing's important, but the important part as regards my point) is really made in the last few minutes, and driven home in his last few sentences. The trend he shows through most of the video is the positive correlation between lower child mortality and smaller family size, and how that leads to better living standards and economic growth. The last minute or so, though, really drives the message home, as I said.
"It's fully possible to get child mortality down in all of these countries and to get them down into the [low child-mortality, small family] corner where we all would like to live together. And of course, lowering child mortality is a matter of utmost importance from [a] humanitarian aspect. It's a decent life for children we are talking about. But it is also a strategic investment in the future of all mankind because it's about the environment. We will not be able to manage the environment and avoid a terrible climate crisis if we don't stabilise the world population, let's be clear about that. And the way to do that is to get child mortality down, get access to family planning and, behind that, a drive of female education, and that is fully possible. Let's do it." [My emphasis.]
And what are we seeing in the USA at present? We're seeing a widespread rejection of modern, proven, family planning methods, especially for teenagers. We're seeing more and more curtailment of sex-education, as it offends peoples' biblically based 'morality.' We're seeing a widespread rejection of not just female education, but of any education, especially empirically based science, and more especially of anything that smells of unbiblicality, like the biological sciences—based as they are on the extremely unbiblical theory of evolution—which are the very sciences you need for practical disease- and birth-control. (We're also seeing more and more cases of agenda-driven revisionist history being taught in schools. Always a worrying sign.) We're even seeing a rejection of anything that looks like a competent, egalitarian health-care system; possibly the sin qua non of what most citizens of most 'developed' countries in the world would call a decent, civilised nation. (As opposed to a bunch of grab-what-you-can, dog-eat-dog individualists who happen to live on the same land-area. That's not a nation by any civilised measure; it's an empathy-free kleptocratic slum that merely pretends it's a nation.)
What happens if the trends Rosling speaks of are reversed, as seems to be happening in the States? If family sizes grow (the inevitable consequence of the rhythm method and of abstinence-only sex-ed), decent health-care becomes the property of the rich, and the poor of the next generation, or the one after that, don't even have the education to realise what went wrong or to do anything about it if they did?
The recent 'slut' outburst by Rush Limbaugh is telling. It might have misfired on him, but the man's an astute, successful political commentator, so the fact that he even thought the current political climate would allow him to get away with it puts a rather ugly face on the whole of that climate, and how toxic it's become.
The current backwash against anti-abortion legislation gives some hope that all is not lost, that the over-loud minority of puritanical idiots may yet be drowned out. But I have to wonder; has the puritanical ultra-right dragged political debate so far off-centre into the realms of semi-theocratic idiocy that it'll never recover? And what will happen if any of the current crop of neo-religio-conservatives get even a whiff of national power?
In fifty years' time, will the sub-Saharan countries be sending aid and educators to the USA? (Or will some moron who's never read anything but the Bible have happily brought on the End Times by then, by pushing the big red button, safe in the expectation of his or her own salvation?)
I once joked with an American friend, of sending her Red-Cross parcels of Sagan and Dawkins books. Maybe canned food and medical supplies would be a better bet. Scary times.