Article Review: "TV as Birth Control" by Fred Pearce
Author Fred Pearce opens his short article by noting what many may find striking, that is, that the birth rate in India has fallen dramatically recently to 2.5 children per woman of child-bearing age. Many Indians are still very poor. What, the author asks, can persuade poor people in developing countries to have fewer babies?
Following the research of Stanford human geographer Martin Lewis, Pearce reports what first appears to be an unlikely correlation: TV ownership. New commercial cable and satellite programming replaced dull government programming with game shows, soap operas and reality shows. The most popular show between 2000 and 2008 showed rural Indian women “their urban sisters working outside the home, running businesses, controlling money, and —crucially—achieving these things by having fewer children.”
And it’s not just India. A deliberate attempt to get just such a message across through Mexican telenovelas correlated with a drop in birth rates and more women seeking contraceptives. The same with Brazil and some soap operas in Kenya.
“If indeed, women can be empowered and domestic violence deterred (as is claimed) by such a simple mechanism as soap operas, what’s the harm?” one might ask. While Pearce does allude to this, noting that Sabido, the group behind the messages in the Mexican telenovelas, has been accused of “crude social engineering,” there is a darker force here: convince me that I’m really acting of my own volition to better my life because that’s what you want me to do… On the other hand, if poor women are leading better lives, are better able to care for their children, there can’t be any losers.
According to the contributors’ notes, author Fred Pearce is a “longtime journalist and author in issues of environment and development.” He is the author of such books as The Coming Population Crash, When Rivers Run Dry, and The Landgrabbers. According to Wikipedia, his areas of expertise involve global environmental issues, (including water) and climate change.
Title: “TV as Birth Control”
Published in: The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2014 , Deborah Blum, ed., Tim Folger, series ed.
First Published: Conservation Sept. 2013
Author: Fred Pearce (b. 1951)
Source: Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Pearce
©2015 Denise Longrie
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