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Pa. couple advocate zero population growth

February 02, 1999

Ruth and StanleyBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Stanley and Ruth Davis are so worried about the world's population and its environmental impact that they stopped driving their car, grow their vegetables and join groups that believe there are too many people.

The Davises are local members of Zero Population, a national, nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., that wants to stabilize the world's population. "That means births should equal deaths," Ruth Davis, 67, said.

"My trinity is belief in God, family planning and mass transit," Ruth Davis said. "We gave up our car to ride the bus."

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The couple uses Waynesboro's public bus to go the YMCA several times a week, to go shopping and to the senior center.

"We try to get other people to ride the bus, too, so we won't lose it," she said.

The bus service, with its government subsidies, may end in June if ridership doesn't improve, the director of the Chambersburg, Pa., Transit Authority has said. The authority provides the bus.

Stanley Davis was living in Staten Island, N.Y., in the early 1960s selling insurance when he met Ruth at a dance. She was born in England and came to New York to help her sister. The two were married in 1963. It was his second and her first marriage. He had two children. Because of their beliefs their union has been childless.

Their foray into the politics of population surfaced when they lived in Staten Island. Before the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge opened in the early 1960s, Staten Island was mostly rural. "There were farms in the east end," Stanley Davis, 72, said. Over the next two decades, developers moved in and the farms and rural flavor gave way to housing developments. That's when the couple started to join environmental groups.

"I don't know how we got involved. It was a gradual thing," he said.

"I don't know why either," she said. "We don't even have children. I just feel that it's something that needs to be done. This earth is a beautiful place. It won't affect us at our age, but it will those who come after us."

They became even more involved after they retired to Waynesboro, where they live in a duplex apartment on West North Street and remain passionate in their beliefs that the world is headed for doom without more birth control or self-control.

They rail against church and conservative groups that try to ban family planning in Third World countries.

"The world's population problems would disappear overnight if women were emancipated and educated," Stanley Davis said.

"Two thousand years ago the world's population was one-quarter of a billion," Ruth Davis said. "It took 16 centuries to reach one-half billion, then only three centuries more to reach 1 billion ... By 1930 it was at 2 billion. In just 30 years more it hit 3 billion. In 1990 it was 5 billion. Now it's close to 6 billion. About 90 percent of this growth takes place in developing countries."It's not the sheer numbers. There is room for more people. It's what the numbers mean. It's the lack of natural resources and the pollution of the air, water and soil. Even with conservation they won't last."

The two do what they can to get their message out. Ruth writes letters to the newspaper and brings speakers and videos on the subject to functions in her church. Together they put up a display every Earth Day at Renfrew Museum and Park in Waynesboro.

"This is a very difficult theme to convey in Waynesboro because it's not crowded here," Ruth Davis said.

"We're like two small voices crying in the wilderness," her husband said.

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