Mrs Melinda French Gates 20011 08 10
Co-Chair and Trustee
Bill &Melinda Gates Foundation
P.O. Box 23350, Seattle, WA, 98102 USA
Subject: Beyond vaccination
Dear Mrs Gates,
The quantitative success your Foundation has attained through vaccination is remarkable and we praise your sustained efforts to this day. However, their continuation and amplification with the commitment of an extra $10 billion over the next decade inspire some comments we wish to express here.
Back in November 1995, your husband was asking in his syndicated column : "Which is more important: the information highway or world population growth?" Bill Gates was just back from touring part of China on a bicycle and the world population was totalling 5.7 billion people. Since then, humankind has added the equivalent of one full China or 5.5 USA to its numbers.
As for our consumption, last December, NASA published a study about Net Primary Production (NPP) of vegetation: Satellite Supported estimates of Human Rate of NPP Carbon Use on Land: Challenges Ahead i[i] revealing that between 1995 and 2005, humankind has increased by 25% its consumption of primary plant production.
Yes, an increase of 25% in just ten years! Population trends coupled to growing expectations give projections where humans demand 55% of all plant material produced on Earth by 2050. This is of course a theoretical view that ecosystemic collapses might well postpone indefinitely.
This is not without precedents : before the dawn of civilization, humans had observed and understood that swarms of locusts destroy their habitat and then die-off.
However, we know that civilized humans are supposed to act more responsibly.
Even though there is no way we can pretend micro-manage 55% of the land vegetation, given our present ignorance about the identity and function of millions of species, and even though the UN Population Fund explicitly links population size with greenhouse-gas emissions, we seem to shy away from the reassessment of strategies.
Some optimists have pretended that if children ceased to die and if women got educated, stabilization of the world population would necessarily ensue. This is not what French Canada experienced!
As long as the Catholic religion was taken seriously here, university graduates giving birth to four or more children were not exceptional. The comparison between French-speaking Catholics and Anglo-Protestants living side by side shows what considerable difference in fertility social pressure can make for generations.
Taking into account that many traditions expect all women to reproduce which was never the case here, how can you make sure that your interventions do not exacerbate problems? What is worse? Dying at two from contagion, or at ten from battlefield wounds, or from complications after being gang raped?
If we sound not politically correct, please consider that the Canadian experience offers some terrible lessons on survival in very harsh context. Thus, some Inuits used to sacrifice at birth half the girls in order to keep the mouths/hunters ratio compatible with survival (W.B.Kemp Scientific American September 1971). With access to modern energy and imported food, the practice stopped, but it is a reminder that one can be left with no easy alternative when forced to live under "triage" conditions.
We trust that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will favour lucidity and long term planning and responsibility over unfunded theories and taboos that increase the suffering of innocent victims.
Claudette Jobin, President