Megan Beach – $1,000 Winner

We are pleased to announce the winners of our 2015 NPG Essay Scholarship Contest. Each year, NPG conducts an Essay Scholarship for high school and undergradute students.
In 2015 the topic was:

Should the United States’ government pursue population policies to protect our quality of life for future generations?

Click here to see all the winning essays

By Megan Beach, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL

To ensure any measure of quality in the lives of its citizens, the United States must actively pursue population policies. After all, a mere request, no matter how dire the situation, cannot and will not promote change. This was proven true just this past year. The California governor declared a drought emergency in January 2014 and urged his citizens to scale back their water usage. The immediate and widespread effort he was looking for fell flat, and just this month, California has set regulations and policies to limit water intake.

Requesting Californians to be mindful of their limited, necessary resources did nothing, and now as desperation increases, policies are being enacted out of fear and necessity. As water is such a basic, crucial necessity for life, it is clear that the government is pursuing these policies to save their people from themselves, so to speak. The only way to protect a population’s quality of life (and lifesource itself) is to force conservation efforts upon them. On a larger scale, we as a country must learn from this and work to quickly and efficiently enact policies to slow and halt population growth before our own demise is inevitable

The goal is to attain sustainability and stability while we still have resources available, renewable and nonrenewable alike. An exponentially increasing population does not allow for this. Family size must decrease, but we cannot simply request people to have fewer children and expect the results we are looking for. Nor can we, however, set strict policies and restrict the number of children people are allowed to have. These kinds of policies are harsh, difficult to enforce, and will not get at the root of the problem: a widespread, chronic apathy for the long-term state of the country.

I know this is true, for I see this apathy for the well being of our country and world in my day to day life. My school dumps the recyclables into the dumpster, headed straight for the landfill. My family leaves lights on without thinking twice. The family I babysit for hasn’t fixed their leaky faucet in a year. Simple, easy measures to make our planet more livable and sustainable aren’t being taken, because the average person doesn’t have it in him to care.

The best and most effective way to combat any form of ignorance is and always has been education. For better or for worse, what is taught nationwide in the classroom is incredibly pervasive in a country’s collective mindset. I think of instances of propaganda, in which an entire generation is taught that one group is inferior, leading to decades and centuries of institutionalized discrimination. This power can be used to teach the necessity of population control, and the means by which these young people can help achieve it.

By mandating honest, realistic education on sexual health and contraceptives, population growth can be cut down significantly. Some 50% of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. A generation of well-educated citizens who fully understand the burden of having a child, financially and emotionally, as well as realize the global burden of a too-large population, will naturally scale back their birth rate.