Too Many? So Much?

05/27/2008 06:13 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Numbers: Billions, trillions, ga-zillions. When's a number too big, too little, appropriate, effective? I mean, who gets numbers?

It's like gaggles of 3rd graders accelerating every conversation with their own numerical system:
"My dad has a million!"
"My mom saw a ka-zillion in New Jersey!"
"Well, I'm gonna have a ka billion ga zillion when I grow up!"

What would the grown up version be?
"Before you know it, she'll want a googol (10 followed by 100 zeros) of 'em!"

Even smart adults struggle with really big numbers. Particularly as they relate to money, people and sex. Trillions of dollars, billions of people, oh yeah, and sex - the multiplier.

Money - these days we're talking trillions - want an idea of how big a trillion is? A trillion seconds = 31,688 years. The US budget is about $3 trillion. What do we invest in developing countries? $12 billion; that's not much, we're talking mere generations not eons. It's less than not much.

People - now we're talking billions. There are 6.7 billion of us on this great planet. This number is important but so is how it grows. Starting with Adam and Eve (so to speak) it took roughly 200,000 years to reach 1 billion people - but only another 160 years to triple - and a quick 40 to triple again. Yep, that's 6 billion - and we're almost to 7 billion as I blog. In just 40 years we're going to have between 9 to 12 billion fellow humans. A world with 9 billion people and a world with 12 billion will be very different worlds. What will make the difference? Women! When a woman, regardless of where she lives- has contraceptives, education, a way to have an income and basic human rights, it changes her world and ours - we all benefit.

Sex? Hard to forget. Sex should be a good part of adult life. It is a basic human drive. Hopefully a positive aspect of marriage. Culture, social norms, customs, laws and religion dictate behaviors governing our sexual activities. However, for all too many sexually active adults, it also produces unintended pregnancies. What we often forget in the United States is that effective contraceptives are not available to all. We live in a world where millions of women who want effective contraceptives can't get them.

Forward thinking Americans ask that we invest in these women. For $1 billion - an appropriate number - we can ensure that all women in developing countries who need effective contraceptives can get them. It's an affordable investment in their future - which is our future too.