October 25, 2000

From Bangladesh to Sacramento -
Green Umbrellas and a Sustainable Population

Pictures are at www.green-umbrella.net/umbrellaWalk

A small group in Sacramento, California, confronted the unsustainable population growth of the world with an unusual tool: green umbrellas. On Wednesday, October 25, in observance of World Population Awarness Week, a coalition representing a local Sierra Club chapter, and a church group called Coalition for Sustainability, took a walk around the State Capitol, with 20 participants carrying umbrellas. A proclamation was signed on July 14 by California Governor Gray Davis declaring October 22-28 as World Population Awareness Week.

The Green Umbrella Campaign in the U.S. was originated by Karen Gaia Pitts, who in April 2000, traveled to Bangladesh to order 400 green umbrellas from the Shariff umbrella factory, under the guidance of the Bangladesh Center for Communications Programs (BCCP). "When I heard about the successful health care and family planning program in Bangladesh," Ms. Pitts said, "and saw pictures of the green umbrella parade there, I knew that the umbrellas would be a wonderful way to get the message across: there is such a desperate need for more international family planning. I have seen what unsustainable population growth can do while I was in Nepal, India, and Bangladesh." To learn more about the umbrella program, Pitts contacted the Johns Hopkins University Center for Communications Programs, who served as technical advisors to the BCCP in developing the green umbrella symbol and media campaigns for health services and family planning in Bangladesh.

The umbrellas, U.S. version, display family planning slogans such as 'Small Families', 'Women's Self Esteem', 'Wildlife Survival', and 'Sustainable Planet'.

During a photo taking session, Ms. Pitts expressed, in an interview with radio station KFBK, her relief that the Congress had just approved $425 million for international family planning funding, $50 million higher than last year.

Coincidentally, the environmental Green Peace was protesting GMO foods around the corner. "As populations grow, the pressure to use more pesticides and risky GMO foods will grow," said Pitts. "I only hope that Green Peace understands what it is up against."

The umbrella parade marched on through city streets to the Sacramento Nader Headquarters where they talked with Julie Padilla, co-chair of the Sacramento Green Party Nader campaign, a one-time candidate for mayor, and actress in the play 'You Don't Look Mexican'. Ms. Padilla agreed with the need for worldwide population stabilization and the parade participants presented her with a green umbrella.

From there the group traveled through the local farmer's market, where the umbrellas made a colorful splash on a cloudy day. Children played, bagels, coffee and fruit were sold, and chess was played at the tables in the park. The marchers spread out, handing out brochures. One woman handed back the brochure and ran off yelling 'baby killers'. "I wish I had a chance to talk to her," Ms. Pitts said. "That is not what we are all about."

Of the 400 umbrellas purchased by Pitts, only 120 remain. The rest have been sold to population-concerned groups and individuals around the country. Ms. Pitts maintains a web site for the Green Umbrellas at www.green-umbrella.net.