Last week I was asked to participate in a meeting at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. I went to discuss and learn about exciting possibilities in the field of birth control: interventions that could help solve the following serious problems: hunger, population growth and unplanned pregnancies.

Population growth has proven to be a tough nut to crack. In a world where the environment, quality of life and health of 7 billion people has already been compromised by the population explosion, there are 240 million women in need of completely voluntary and effective contraception and there are each year about 83 million unintended pregnancies.

When I started working in this field in 1966 there were just over 3 billion people living on our little planet.  Today the number is more than twice that: just over 7 billion men, women and children. And tonight at least 870 million of us will go to bed very hungry and very malnourished. These problems, hunger and malnutrition, were definitely important in my decision to work in the field of family planning.

I have worked in this field since 1966 and among the 50 attendees at this meeting were friends and colleagues I have worked with for decades.  Such fun.

Ever since Maggie and I were in Gruyeres, Switzerland twelve years ago I have looked for, purchased and enjoyed a cheese called Gruyeres cheese.  The cows at work on the hills and fields in the vicinity of Gruyeres make the cheese of the same name sold throughout the world. We love it.

After three wonderful days in Geneva, Switzerland, my friend, John Stanley, and I rented a car and took off for one of the most beautiful little towns I have ever seen, called Gruyeres.  But before we rented a car and headed for the country we enjoyed a fondue dinner in Geneva. John suggested that I could call an article for the Clayton Tribune “Fondue in Gruyeres.”  FYI Gruyeres is pronounced Gree – air.

Sitting in the sun beside the centuries old cobblestone main street of Gruyeres I was in heaven and so grateful to the cows and farmers who produced my favorite cheese. 

On our way back to Geneva we completed a loop that brought us to a magnificent mountain, Mountblanc, above the ski village of Chamonix, France. 

It can’t get much better than this: Gruyeres, Chamonix and Montblanc in the same day.  Do I feel blessed.

It is hard to comprehend that there could be places as serene and uncrowded as the places I visited this day and yet be a citizen of a world where there are so many who are so very crowded. 

Thanksgiving is this very week and in a future article I will discuss how this seeming disconnect is possible: this disconnect between overpopulation and wide open spaces.    

Robert A. Hatcher MD, MPH
Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics
Emory University School of Medicine
Atlanta, Georgia