Gemma Zahradka – $1,000 Winner of the 2014 NPG Essay Scholarship Contest

We are pleased to announce the winners of our 2014 NPG Essay Scholarship Contest. Each year, NPG conducts an Essay Scholarship for high school and undergradute students.
In 2014 the topic was:

Explain why the average American citizen – particularly our youngest generation – should become active in the cause to slow, halt, and eventually reverse U.S. population growth.

Click here to see all the winning essays

By Gemma Zahradka, University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, La Crosse, WI

My parents like to tell the story of why they decided to have a third child. They have always been extremely environmentally conscious people, and they were keenly aware of the dangers of population growth. They had the classic life of a young American family, complete with a house, a dog, and two kids, yet they could not shake the feeling that their family was not yet complete and dearly wanted to have a third child. This was something that went against all their principles. They had already had two children to replace them in the population, and adding another would only add to growing overpopulation. A third child could not be justified.

My mother and father had always been the token parents among their friends, most of which were—and still are—without children. As the story goes, my mother and father were explaining their moral dilemma to their friends one day, when a wonderful thing happened. Their friend Kathy spoke up, saying, “I’m never going to have children. Consider it my allotted child.” Other friends joined in too, explaining that they either would not or could not have their own kids. It was decided that one more child in the world would be okay. My family grew from four to five, and another child was brought into the world. That child was me.

I adored this story when I was little. It made me feel important, like a fairytale character whose birth was approved by fairy godmothers. It seems generally believed that our children are too young to understand weighty issues like overpopulation, but I think that belief underestimates what a child can understand. I always made a connection between population growth and sharing—that ubiquitous lesson of preschools everywhere. Resources are finite and must be divided fairly whether those resources are colorful toy blocks or petroleum. We tend to shield children from the politics and challenges that will affect their future lives, but adolescence is the time when they need to begin to learn these things the most. It is the time that we begin to establish ideas about the mechanics of the universe. Population growth is too big an issue to not involve our children in, we need to help them form realistic concepts of it as early as possible. Reversing population growth is a gradual process, and our youngest generations will be the ones dealing with it in the future.

I think we need to show our younger generations—and Americans in general—that population growth isn’t only about the selfless desire to help humanity. Let’s face it, we all like to have nice things. We like to have parks and wilderness. We like big houses and lots of food. We like to have opportunities and the resources to make the machines and gadgets that make our lives better. It’s okay to be a little selfish. Slowing the growth of the population is a simple and practical way of ensuring that we will always have the resources we need, and the resources we want. Each individual needs to actively take on the responsibility of curbing population growth in their own lives, so that we can all enjoy a better future filled with enough of those nice things to go around.

I am only just beginning to appreciate the choices that my parents made before I was born. They were willing to sacrifice their own hopes for a better future for the rest of society. It would have been easy for them to ignore overpopulation, and have another child without a second thought. What difference could one kid in billions make, after all? Yet they did not compromise what they knew to be right. For my own sake, I am glad that it worked out in the end and they were able to have me. I hope that someday, given a similar situation, I will make the same difficult personal choices to help stop population growth.


There is no remedy that can possibly avert disastrous Climate Change and Global Warming unless we first address the problem of world population size and growth, and its impact on the size of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.That means that we need to address the population size and growth of each nation, which together make up the world total.

World population, now over 7.3 billion, is predicted to rise to 9 billion by 2050, an increase of almost two billion, or 23%, in the short space of only 34 years from now.In the highly unlikely event that per capita greenhouse gas emissions could possibly be decreased by an equal percentage in such a short space of time (a blink of an eye) the total amount of worldwide emission would remain the same!

From this simple illustration it would appear that without drastically reducing the size of world population, there is no solution to the problem.None at all.So then why do our world leaders pretend that there is one?What is to be gained by pretending rather than by proposing a solution that would solve the problem – a reduction in the size of world population to not more than 1- 2 billion?
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