Meeting Minutes from InspireSeattle Social on September 19, 2009

We had our sixth social event of 2009 at Lita Spratt s home. We had a nice turnout with near 30 guests. Thanks so much to Lita for opening up her home!

Our Standard Reminder !

inSPIRe s goal is to provide a lively, fun as well as informative discussion on current issues. As mentioned in our rules of engagement for our social events, we are not trying to obtain total agreement on topics discussed in our meetings, but rather to educate members as to different viewpoints. In building our local Progressive community through grassroots efforts like ours, we believe it is important to provide people with educational opportunities to understand different aspects of current issues as well as a fun, friendly environment in which to discuss these. Our guest speakers are encouraged to share their insights and thus to lobby for the support of inSPIRe members towards their goals. Building community, providing education, inspiring activism and having fun remain our four primary objectives!

The Standard Apology !

As always, the open and engaging nature of our social events leads to our note-taker/recorder/editor (me) to get caught up in the discussion and thus miss writing everything down. My apologies if I missed any important points made or issues raised, or if I did not capture or misinterpreted our speakers messages in any way.



IAN (Inspire Activist Network)

Please join inSPIRe for a Delicious Salmon BBQ and inSPIRe fundraiser for Dow Constantine! Come enjoy Jim Simpson s famous barbequed salmon and help us elect our Progressive choice for King County Executive! When: Saturday, Oct 3rd, 5pm - 9pm - Dow will join us from 6:15 to 7:15 Where: 1120 24th Ave E, Seattle, 98112. Phone: 206-280-4214 or 206-324-3113.

This past June, inSPIRe hosted a Candidate Forum for the King County Executive Candidates in West Seattle. Sadly, the only Republican candidate, Susan Hutchinson, chose to not debate (or to answer our phone calls!). Please join us to support Dow Constantine, our solidly progressive and most qualified King County Executive candidate! Grilled Salmon and fixings will be served. Suggested donation: what you would pay a wonderful dinner plus a donation ! Friends and family are welcome! Spread the word! To help us with a salmon count, please RSVP to Melissa Plummer at or (206) 498-8078.

inSPIRe Book Club! We are now reading Civil War Land in Bad Decline by William George Saunders for our Oct 18th (7PM) meet-up. To join the book club and get on the list, just send an email to

Vote NO on I-1033! Sierra Hanson joined us to make an announcement on Tim Eyman s latest bad-news initiative, I-1033. Please visit their website to learn more about this job-killing initiative, and vote NO.

First Speaker: Troy Amundson. The Unlikely (but successful) Lobbyist

Troy invites all inSPIRe members to contact him regarding his experience in lobbying or for advice on your own lobbying efforts. (

inSPIRe s motto is Get involved...the world is run by those who show up . Without any prior activism experience, and with a look not often seen in Olympia, Troy Amundson saw a need, got involved and continued to show up until needed changes were made. Troy is a body piercer and tattoo artist. In 2004 Troy began a five-year campaign towards the regulation of his industry. When he began this quest, Troy had no previous experience in lobbying and no expectations of becoming the face and voice of reform in Olympia, but this adventure became a life-altering experience for him. Paying his own expenses as he went, Troy continued to show up and be counted. He became a fixture in the halls of our state s legislature. As his efforts grew, he found that he was able to garner a tremendous amount of support for his cause, sometimes from some very unlikely places, such as conservative politicians.

Troy went out of his way to be courteous and respectful in his efforts. As his lobbying journey continued, Troy found that at times he had to compromise for a greater success. He made friends with Democrats and Republicans alike. Troy found it was key to build strong relationships. He really had to spend the time to cultivate support. He claims his stubbornness kept him going through the difficult process. Although it took almost five years, this past spring Troy s initiative was passed nearly unanimously by both the State House and Senate.

Troy provided inSPIRe with his lessons learned in lobbying from this experience, captured below.

A Piercer s Guide to Successful Lobbying by Troy Amundson (

Long ago we forgot that what was best for most of the people was best for all of the people . Expression from a politician who didn t wish to be quoted

General Strategies

  • Proactive is better than reactive. You do get points for showing up.
  • Common courtesy and professionalism help establish constructive lines of communication and build trust.
  • Doing the right thing may require setting aside personal beliefs or conceptions.
  • Build a team and gain allies.
  • Know when to stick to your guns and when to give ground.
  • Be prepared to compromise.

Build a team

  • Identify the strengths of your team members and play to those strengths.
  • Try to find common ground with other stakeholders.
  • Be prepared to set aside personal differences to advance the cause

Gaining political allies

  • Research and identify potential allies.
  • Find the fish on their wall .
  • Build constructive and positive relationships.

Delivering your message

  • Face time. Face time. Face time.
  • Be prepared to deliver your message in brief.
  • Keep your message focused and clear.
  • Honest presentation of fact-based information is difficult to debate.
  • It is better to admit that you don t have an answer rather than speculate.
  • The press will press what the press will press.
  • If testifying, keep it brief. Try to state your position in 2-5 minutes.
  • Script your testimony double spaced in an easy to read font and size.

Defeating the opposition

  • Know thy enemy .
  • Be prepared to listen to opposing views.
  • Find strength in numbers.
  • Address the opposition s issues to weaken their position.
  • Steal their fire. Use the same documentation to support your debate.
  • Be gracious in victory.

Statesmen tell you what is true even though it may be unpopular. Politicians tell you what is popular even though it may be untrue. Unknown source

Keynote Speaker: John Seager, President of Population Connection (

Main discussion topic for this evening: Global Population: 6.8 Billion and Growing. Are We There Yet?

Population Connection (formerly known as Zero Population Growth, or ZPG), is an environmental organization based in Washington DC that focuses on the issues of overpopulation and over-consumption, and how they both contribute to social and environmental degradation. Population Connection believes in population stabilization as a key element of earth stewardship. The issue of overpopulation is not complicated. It really takes only one of two things to become educated on this issue to bring one to the point of wanting to be a supporter: either an internet connection or the location of your nearest public library. Then, with one spending about 90 minutes on research, one will discover the compelling need for action as well as the straight-forward solutions. The solution begins with YOU contacting your elected officials to voice your support for greater US development aid, especially aid directed at international family planning.

Population Connection has over 30,000 paying members as well as an expanded network of 150,000, including over 50,000 educators that use Population Connection educational materials. These materials reach over 3 million students annually. You can find them online at their website

John began his presentation at the heart of the overpopulation problem: the lack of basic rights for women in many countries in our world today. John stressed that with this issue people tend to quickly get caught up in the numbers: 6.8 billion people on the planet; growth rates of 8,700 per hour or 77 million per year, etc. But we must remember that behind these numbers are real people who face tragedy on a daily basis, tragedies such as forced child marriage, extreme poverty, lack of sanitation, starvation, etc. One could argue that the greater tragedy is that so many of these issues could be solved with relatively small investments, yet these needed funds are not near sufficiently provided.

Real worldwide population growth began around 1800 with the advent of two things: public health and sanitation. These two things resulted in helping children to survive their childhoods. Infant mortality rates dropped dramatically. These improvements allowed human population to grow from under 1 billion to almost 7 billion in about 200 years. Left unchecked, at this growth rate our population would exceed over 15 billion this century.

Today, virtually all growth is in developing countries. Even though they are experiencing high growth rates, over 25,000 children die per day from preventable causes. John pointed out that it isn t really the water pathogens that kill children; it s overpopulation. Overpopulation had depleted and polluted our resources, and led to these tragic deaths. In the world today over 1 billion people live on less than one dollar per day and 40% of the planet does not have access to modern sanitation.

John then showed photos of many animals on the endangered species list, and included the estimated count of their remaining numbers. The world is currently experiencing species extinction at the highest rate since the era of dinosaurs as a direct result of human population growth. (Note: please visit the interactive display at the south entrance of the Woodlawn Park Zoo for more information on the impact of species extinction from population growth). Every time a species goes extinct it is like we have just burned the last copy of a great book.

John then discussed overpopulation s impact on climate change. He presented a graph that showed how carbon emission growth has followed the same J Curve growth rate as population growth. Our growth of carbon emissions in the US has been due to population growth. Poor people around the planet are effectively carbon starved where we in the US are carbon-rich. In the US, we emit on average 100 times as much carbon per day as do people in the poorest countries.

If the US begins making serious efforts to reduce carbon emissions (which we hopefully will) and thus achieve significant reductions, our reductions will be gobbled up by increased carbon emissions in the developing world as their population grows. China, India and other developing countries are working very hard to, well, develop. With development comes increased use of carbon fuels, thus population stabilization is a key component of needed actions against global warming.

John then spoke of the common demographic transition of how the richer one gets, the smaller their families tend to be. (rich in this example means having more food than just for today, and at least two pairs of pants) This trend is seen throughout the world, in many different cultures. In a rare case, such as in Saudi Arabia, this trend doesn t hold, but it does hold throughout most of the other Muslim world.

What is at the core of solving the overpopulation problem? Contraception. Family planning is key, as is giving women around the world the right to control their own destiny. We don t have to wait for everyone in the world to get rich to get them to have smaller families. Family planning is like post-it notes . Until they were invented, there was no demand for post-it notes. People didn t know they existed, so they didn t need them . But once they were discovered, the demand was high. The same analogy holds true for family planning in the developing world. Once women find out about it, they desperately want it. And family planning is extremely inexpensive to provide.

John described the amazing success story of the implementation of family planning in, of all places, Iran. Iran today is viewed as a radical Muslim country and doesn t seem like the likely place for a family planning success. However, in 1985 the leaders of Iran realized they had a real problem with an average Total Fertility Rate of between 5 to 7 children per woman. They could see the extreme problems this was leading to. So, Iran embarked on a five step program. Step one was to build a condom factory. Step two was to open universities to women, providing them access to continuing their education. Step three was a TV ad campaign to promote family planning. Step four was to require all couples to take a course in family planning BEFORE they were granted a marriage license. And step five, which was crucial to really change the culture in Iran, was to get Iran s religious leaders to begin making announcements about the importance of having a small family. This program brought Iran s fertility rate down to near replacement level, today at approximately 2.3 children per woman. (2.1 is replacement level) John also spoke of a similar program in Mexico, with the same dramatic results.

John then spoke of the keys to successful family planning programs, including providing comprehensive sex education as well as social validation of the programs. In the United States we have extremely high unintended pregnancy rates as well as high teen births. We are like the Michael Phelps of unintended pregnancies in the developed world. For this, we also have very high abortion rates, abortions that could be prevented through better sex education and through the use of family planning / birth control.

John stressed the need of being respectful of the many different cultures around the world. However, we do not need to be respectful or support cultures that don t provide rights to women. Rather, we need to change these harmful and disrespectful cultures.

Contrary to the belief of most Americans, less than 1% of the US annual budget goes to foreign aid. Most believe we give much more, but we don t. In fact, the US currently rates next to last amongst the developed countries in the foreign aid provided, recently having past Italy to move us out of last place. And much of our aid is focused for political reasons instead of towards goals of getting the most out of our dollars provided, as measured in lives saved. Two of our biggest aid recipients are Israel and Egypt.

Key to solving the population growth problem is for all of us to continually contact our elected officials to express our personal support of international family planning. We need to let them know this is our priority too.


Q How close is the Earth to hitting our carrying capacity?

A Joel Cohen wrote a book on this, How Many People Can the Earth Support? . His conclusion was that there is no one answer to this question because it depends on one s view as to what is acceptable. How do we want to live? How do we want others to live? However, there is much evidence that we have already exceeded the capacity of the Earth to support us and remain a healthy planet. If we do it all correctly in regards to investing today to achieve population stabilization, we can stabilize at 8 billion. If we don t, our population will grow much, much higher.

Q Isn t Mexico still growing rapidly?

A Mexico s growth rate is down to replacement level at 2.1 children per woman. However, due to demographic momentum, their total population is still growing. Mexico s cities are rapidly growing, partly due to NAFTA making it difficult if not impossible for Mexican farmers to compete with imports.

Q What s happening in India?

A India is a mosaic. The southern Indian state of Kerala is very progressive and has a low fertility rate. However, much of the rest of India is highly impoverished and has an extreme lack of critical resources, including access to family planning, thus experiences high growth rates. India will soon pass China as the most populated country on the planet.

Q Can you please discuss China s one-child policy?

A There is a tremendous difference between a culture frowning on large family sizes and coercion. There are three key problems with the tactic of coercion. First, it violates human rights. Second, we can get the same desired results without coercion. Third, coerced people will fight back, thus you will see the need for even greater coercion. Most Chinese support smaller families, but Population Connection has been a strong protester against any coercive efforts on the part of the Chinese government.

Q Won t there be an economic problem if we achieve population stabilization in regards to there not being enough people in the workforce to support seniors?

A Actually, it s people between the age of zero and 18 that are really the dependents in our societies. As population stabilizes, society ages, I.E., the number of children as a percent begins to drop. Thus as a society ages, the ratio between workers and dependents gets higher, I.E., there are more workers to support our young. Yes, in Europe where birth rates have dropped they will need to solve the problem of also supporting a growing retired population. But this problem is not nearly as large as the major hurdles they have recently overcome, such as Eastern and Western Germany combining back into one country, as in using a common currency, the Euro, or in forming the EU. This demographic problem is very solvable.

Q Isn t Obama supporting international aid?

A When he took office, Obama committed the US to increasing our foreign aid to 0.7% of our wealth. We are currently at 0.15%. Obama also called for an 18% increase in family planning. He immediately revoked the Global Gag Rule when he took office. Obama has been a strong supporter of international family planning. However, we have a very long way to go. In 2008, the US contributed $461 million in foreign aid, the equivalent of us building 4 or 5 new high schools in the US. We can do much better.

Q How do we get our members of Congress to act?

A We need to build a critical mass to let our legislators and members of Congress know we care about this issue. For a start we need at least a 20% increase in our US funding of international family planning.

Q Is it true that with their consistently high fertility rates that Muslims will soon be taking over the world ? Aren t they on course to be the dominant culture in France and other places?

A France sadly tends to ghetto-ize their immigrants, which slows assimilating them into the French culture. This should be changed. We do a better job at assimilation in the US. When people immigrate to a new country, the trend is that the first generation will have a large family, but their kids, the second generation, will fall in line with the norm in the new country. Also, Muslims in France tend to not be overly-religious and certainly not religious extremists.

As always, many, many questions were asked but not recorded. Sorry!

Many thanks to all who participate in inSPIRe!

Subscribe to inSPIRe by sending a note to



Previous meeting minutes


Previous IAN Events


First Speaker, Troy Amundson


Keynote Speaker, John Seager


Sierra Hanson: Vote "NO" on I-1033


Many thanks to Lita and Kyla for hosting!



Contact Us Copyright 2010 InspireSeattle ©