Health care worker giving a young pregnant woman a birthing kit, in BangladeshSee more

A health care worker in Bangladesh gives a young pregnant woman a birthing kit for a safer delivery. It contains a sterile razor to cut the cord, a sterile plastic sheet to place under the birth area, and other simple, sanitary items - all which help save lives. The health care worker asks the young woman to come back with her baby for a post natal check after the birth. At that time, she asks the mom if she wants to have another child right away or if she wants to space her children. Usually the mom wants to wait, and gladly accepts contraception. The worker is prepared to give her pills, an injection, implants, or an IUD. The mother is instructed to come back if the baby shows signs of diarrhea or pneumonia, common infant killers.

50 years ago, here in the USA, I was given the same option to space my births after the birth of my first baby. I gladly accepted contraceptive pills (which was new to me) .. Karen Gaia

If we don't halt population growth with justice and compassion, it will be done for us by nature, brutally and without pity - and will leave a ravaged world. Nobel Laureate Dr. Henry W. Kendall

Population & Sustainability
News Digest

No Más Bebés

   February 1, 2016, Public Broadcasting System (PBS)   By: Renee Tajima-Pena

No Más Bebés tells the story of a little-known but landmark event in reproductive justice, when a small group of Mexican immigrant women sued county doctors, the state, and the U.S. government after they were sterilized while giving birth at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center during the late 1960s and early 1970s. doclink

Karen Gaia says: Even today Latina women are touched by the stories their mothers tell about the mass sterilization that took place in a LA medical center. And Latina reproductive justice organizations are wary of people who look at reproductive justice through a 'population' lens.

Let us be careful how we approach population-driven activism: are we shaming or preaching to people to have fewer children or are we trusting that addressing unintended pregnancies are what works? Women want smaller families because they want a better life for their children and they want them to have an education. Let's not throw a curve into the reproductive health and justice movement's progress towards making every child a wanted child by putting the 'population stabilization' agenda first.

Study Finds Increase in Birth Rates After Texas' Planned Parenthood Funding Cuts

   February 4, 2016, National Partnership for Women and Families

A study from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project showed that the birth rate among low-income women who previously obtained contraception from clinics in Texas increased after the state cut funding for Planned Parenthood and family planning clinics affiliated with abortion providers.

The state's family planning budget was cut by to-thirds in 2011 in the process of blocking Planned Parenthood, which provides abortion services in addition to family planning and reproductive health care. Eighty-two of Texas' family planning clinics closed, of which about one-third were Planned Parenthood affiliates.

60% of low-income, reproductive-age Texas women received care at a Planned Parenthood clinic prior to the cuts.

In 2013, the health commission estimated that, due to the budget cuts, unintended pregnancies in 2014 and 2015 would result in an additional 24,000 babies.

Texas legislators during the 2013 session increased women's health funds for the 2014-2015 state budget. The funds went toward operating the Texas Women's Health Program (TWHP) and establishing the Expanded Primary Health Care program, which provides low-income women with contraception and health screenings. Both programs were to be consolidated in 2015 into the Healthy Texas Women program. Meanwhile, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said he would cut Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid program.

For the study, researchers reviewed pharmacy and medical claims for family planning services between 2011 and 2014 by individuals who were between 18 and 44 years old and had an income no higher than 185% of the federal poverty level. The study also looked at the birth rate among women covered through Medicaid.

After the funding cuts, there was a 35.5% decrease in the use of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) among low-income women who lived in counties that had a Planned Parenthood clinic. There were no similar declines among clinics that did not have a Planned Parenthood clinic.

They also found that only 57% of women who received a hormonal contraceptive injections, in the last three months of 2011 received a follow-up in the first three months of 2012, while the clinics were still in operation. The shots prevent pregnancy for three months per dose. In the first three months of 2013, after the clinics had closed, about 38% of women who had a contraceptive shot received a follow-up shot. By contrast, in counties that did not have Planned Parenthood clinics, use of contraceptive injection increased from 55% at the end of 2011 to about 59% at the end of 2012.

There was not a significant change in the number of women accessing short-term birth control methods, including oral contraception and vaginal rings.

The findings suggest a 27% relative increase in births for women in counties where a Planned Parenthood clinic had closed. The researchers said it was likely that many of these births were unintended because the trend did not appear in counties where women did not lose contraceptive access.

Amanda Stevenson, a graduate student and author on the TxPEP paper said the findings "directly contradict" claims "that Planned Parenthood can be removed from federally-funded healthcare programs and other providers will just step up to pick up the slack".

The researchers noted that their findings suggest what could happen if other states defund Planned Parenthood in the wake of misleading videos targeting the organization.

Hal Lawrence, executive vice president of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, noted that LARC "are among the most effective ways of preventing pregnancy." He said that ending funding for family planning clinics makes contraception "inaccessible for many low-income women, inevitably driving up rates of unintended pregnancies with all their attendant costs and concerns." doclink

Nothing Grows Forever

Why do we keep thinking the economy will?
   June 1, 2010, Mother Jones   By: Clive Thompson

The belief that a steady rise in gross domestic product (GDP) is central to our economic identity and underpins almost every financial move our leaders make. GDP is also seen as crucial for raising living standards and keeping the masses out of poverty

However ecologists are learning that Earth does have limits. Polluting a lake can ruin it forever; chop down enough forest and it might never grow back. Greenhouse gases have accumulated and when, by the beginning of the 21st century chunks of Greenland's glaciers began breaking off into the sea, the limits of earth became more evident.

"We've had 125,000 generations of humans, but it's only been the last eight that have had growth," economist Peter Victor said. "The signs are showing up everywhere that the burden we're placing on the natural environment can't be borne." Victor is a professor at York University in Toronto.

Without growth, we spiral into poverty. With it, we deplete the planet.

Victor thought there may be a third way and so he created a computer model replicating the modern Canadian economy. Then he tweaked it so that crucial elements -- including consumption, productivity, and population -- gradually stopped growing after 2010. He shortened the workweek to roughly four days, creating more jobs. He also set up higher taxes on the rich and more public services for the poor, and imposed a carbon tax to fill government coffers and discourage the use of fossil fuels. The model showed that, after a couple of decades, unemployment fell to 4%, most people's standards of living actually rose, and greenhouse gas emissions decreased to well below Kyoto levels.

In other words, if the model was accurate, the economy could reach a "steady state." This may be the only way for humanity to survive in the long term.

Other scholars have been interested in "no growth" economics. Adam Smith, the great-great-grandfather of capitalism, acknowledged that it might be possible for an economy to max out its natural resources and stop growing. John Stuart Mill in the 19th century argued that growth was necessary only up to the point where everyone enjoyed a reasonable standard of living. After that you could achieve a "stationary state." John Maynard Keynes in 1930 predicted a period in the future when the economy wouldn't need to grow and people would "prefer to devote our further energies to non-economic purposes." Things like art, child rearing, and leisure.

Yet, instead of advocating no-growth, politicians came to see growth as a hedge against deficit spending and high unemployment. So Western governments imposed lower taxes on capital gains than on labor to promote growth by rewarding investment. They looked to GDP as the primary benchmark for whether things are getting better or worse.

At one time resources did seem limitless. Plus, economics doesn't account for things it can't price, and nobody could easily put a number on the cost of, say, polluting the Great Lakes, or driving a species to extinction by clear cutting its forest habitat.

Early economic thinkers who worried about exhausting the planet turned out to be premature. Thomas Robert Malthus in the early 1800s predicted that population was growing faster than the earth could support. His predictions did not come true because technological improvements in agriculture made land more productive.

By 1900, growth had become a deeply held political belief. When Franklin Roosevelt wanted to alleviate unemployment by decreasing the workweek to 30 hours, large corporations insisted that the administration pursued flat-out growth, loosening labor laws and other restrictions, so that the industrialists could revive the nation.

In the 1960s Rachel Carson's Silent Spring challenged the pro-growth orthodoxy, awakening the mainstream to the idea that relentless economic activity might wreck the natural world.

Soon after, Dennis Meadows led a team of MIT scientists to model the main components of world growth. They looked at things like population increases and breakthroughs that make workers more productive, the effects of pollution and the extent of the planet's natural resources. If we continue as usual, they found, global prosperity would rise until sometime when resources would become so scarce that they would skyrocket in price, driving the cost of almost everything upward. Global living standards would collapse. Meadows' conclusions were published in the book 'The Limits to Growth', and 12 million copies were sold.

Economists called the conclusions alarmist, pseudoscience, and "The Computer That Printed Out Wolf," and 'Marxist'. If basic resources ever became seriously scarce, companies would simply switch materials -- or make themselves more efficient, using fewer materials to deliver the same prosperity payload.

The economists claimed that, as economies mature, technology 'decouples' economic prosperity from resources; more jobs would provide services, rather that producing resource-based products. In fact, they argued, America's GDP grew during the 1980s and 1990s, even as industries eroded. Other critics attacked what they saw as inaccuracies in the model, such as when oil would run out.

Herman Daly remembers the Carter administration having "some openness" to no-growth thinking. "But then come the Reagan years, and oh man, forget it," he recalls.

To Daly, who served for six years as a senior economist at the World Bank, it seemed obvious that when nations shifted to service economies, they didn't stop gobbling natural resources. They merely outsourced the problem to some other country or found cheap new sources at home. For example, the Internet depends on energy and computer components. And making those components requires exotic metals, some of which are now in short supply. "This whole idea that we could have a constantly growing economy that doesn't use natural resources is just crazy, and the last couple of decades have basically proven it," Daly says.

Daly points out that the happiness of Americans, as reported by social scientists, rose steadily after World War II as GDP grew. But by the late '50s, that connection broke down: Although our median family incomes have nearly doubled since 1957, the proportion of people who say they are "very happy" has barely budged. Daly thinks we simply hit the point of diminishing returns. Our growth turned uneconomic: GDP now keeps growing mainly because we are producing gewgaws and services that don't significantly add to our happiness. Or worse: It grows because we are spending money to solve problems that growth itself created.

When bad things happen, they can raise the GDP. For example, when PCBs leak into a reservoir and local cancer rates spike, the economy gets a boost: crews clean the reservoir, doctors treat the cancer, and lawyers get involved. It is growth, but not economic.

Daly is no longer alone. As concern over climate change has migrated from the science community to the mainstream, more economists are questioning growth. Recent books on the subject include Managing Without Growth by Peter Victor, Prosperity Without Growth by Tim Jackson, economics commissioner for the UK's Sustainable Development Commission, and a new edition of The Limits to Growth, complete with updated versions of their model.

They all conclude that, to move away from growth, we'll have to shorten the workweek so that most people would stay employed and make an adequate salary, but also would have less disposable income to invest or spend on more stuff. If new technology continued to drive productivity gains, citizens in a nongrowing economy would actually work less and less over time as they divvied up the shrinking workload.

Potentially the free time that we would gain could utterly transform the way we live, leading to a renaissance in the arts and sciences, as well as a reconnection with the natural world. Parents could stay home with their children if they liked, or look after sick relatives.

A nongrowing economy could have broad political appeal, ushering in the sort of togetherness and family values that social conservatives celebrate.

In 1982, labor unions in the Netherlands agreed to limit demands for higher pay in exchange for policies encouraging people to work less. Within a decade, part-time workers rose from 19% to 27%, the average workweek fell from 30 to 27 hours, and unemployment had dropped from 10% to 5%. This is called "the Dutch miracle."

No-growthers favor heavily taxing carbon and other pollutants and they want the government to invest in clean energy as part of a "Green New Deal" that also encourages private-sector investment to move people into labor-intensive jobs-entertainer, preventive health worker, artisan manufacturer, organic farmer, nurse-that consume relatively few raw materials.

But if we cannot create enough clean energy to completely replace fossil fuels, we need to do more. Daly suggests that Americans scale back energy consumption to 1960s levels. Victor points out that 1983 was the last year that "the world economy was just at the level of the capacity of the planet to support it." Since then, of course, world population has exploded and global resources have dwindled even further.

Western consumption rates would need to shrink disproportionately so that citizens of countries like India and El Salvador could enjoy a lifestyle upgrade. Reducing inequities between the rich and poor would make the world more stable and raising the economic lot of the poor is a proven way to lower fertility rates.

Americans would need to turn back the clock to 1960 -- when the median family made $35,994 in today's dollars. "We're better at making things now," Victor says, so our living standards would be considerably higher than this figure suggests. People might need to develop a renewed appreciation for durable goods that require lots of labor to make but ultimately use fewer resources than their throwaway counterparts.

The pathway to America voluntarily reducing its consumption levels seems obscure at best. There could be a lot of resistance to the notion that governments would have to pass new tax laws, seriously tackle income inequality, and return banking to its traditional role of raising and lending capital (as opposed to gambling on imponderable derivatives and credit default swaps).

If boosting poor people's means doesn't defuse the population bomb, what then? Population control by mandate is essentially totalitarianism.

Even talking about such ideas, Victor admits in his book, "could make a politician unelectable."

Daly, who's been arguing his case for four decades, has begun to think that only the Earth itself will compel people to act. In a few decades, if basic resources become scarce, prices spike, and climate change is causing global conflict, no-growth thinking could arrive whether we like it or not. "It'll be forced on us," he says. doclink

Karen Gaia says:

1) I am not sure that raising the economic lot of the poor will, in itself, sufficiently lower fertility rates, but women's education and availability of health services, including family planning, will certainly do so. People in the industrial world tend to lower their birth rates when the economy declines.

2) Currently 90% of the American people make an average of around $34,000. But half are below that line, and many in deep poverty. Instead of raising wages and giving more people jobs, it seems that employers have chosen to keep the fruits of greater production for themselves. Of course, this leads to fewer consumers to buy stuff and thus leads to goods and oil being warehoused and an eventual downfall of the economy.

Also see

Time to Replace the GDP with a Measure That Accounts for Natural Resources

Nation needs new economic yardstick
   October 1, 2015, Upstate Business Journal   By: Matthew Heun, Michael Carbajales-Dale, and Becky Rosajaleus Haney

Many economists say that problems in the subprime housing market caused the Great Recession. Even today they are still focused on strategies to improve capital, labor and technology in hopes of preventing another meltdown.

We think the Great Recession was a resource depletion problem which could just the start of our troubles.

The depleted resource was oil: as demand increased, production flatlined. The average gas price spiked to over $4 a gallon in 2008, and homeowners in suburbs across the country faced difficult spending choices. With the need to put food on the table and gas in their tanks they chose not to pay their too-large mortgages.

We can clear-cut only so many forests, pump only so much oil out of the ground, drain only so much water out of aquifers, and pollute only so many emissions and contaminants before our behavior becomes unsustainable.

It's time to go beyond GDP, which only measures a nation's flow of income and leads to some perverse accounting.

GDP grew last year when agricultural runoff caused toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie. Did you know that GDP grew and money was spent on bottled water and the goods and services needed to repair the damage. We have no incentive to sustainably manage our natural resources.

A new book, "Beyond GDP: National Accounting in the Age of Resource Depletion," suggests several steps that ought to be taken to create a more comprehensive system of national accounting. The system ought to track resources that flow into the economy and wastes that flow back to the biosphere.

Instead of thinking of the economy as an "engine" that can stall, we ought to think of the economy as a metabolism.

With metabolism, energy and materials are taken into the body, transformed internally and discharged into the environment. An organism that acquires less energy than it consumes is doomed.

We ought to develop a new system of national accounting that includes raw materials flowing into the economy, burning of fossil fuels for energy and disposal of waste wherever possible.

n the early 1990s, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis began a program called the Integrated Environmental-Economic System of Accounts (IEESA). This collection of data was banned by Congress in 1994.

Meanwhile, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and even emerging economies have moved ahead without the United States. Economic-environment accounts are now common outside U.S. borders.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis ought to seek authorization to restart its program.

If we as a society can begin collecting relevant data, perhaps we can begin to use the analytical tools, metrics and knowledge to go beyond GDP and make wise choices for the future. Our deepest hope is to make a positive contribution in that direction. doclink

Karen Gaia says: the Global Footprint Network and the World Resources Institute are making progress in the area of sustainability.

United Nations Committee Affirms Abortion as a Human Right

   January 25, 2016, Huffington Post   By: David A. Grimes

A 17-year-old woman in Peru was diagnosed as having a fetus with anencephaly -- a fetal anomaly that is routinely lethal -- at 14 weeks' gestation. She was forced to continue her pregnancy and deliver the doomed fetus because a hospital director refused her request for an abortion. The fetus survived only four days. Abortion is legal in Peru in this circumstance. In 2005 the United Nations Human Rights Committee concluded that Peru had violated several articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and it ordered financial compensation to the woman. This marked the first time a United Nations Committee had held a country accountable for failing to ensure access to safe, legal abortion.

Anencephaly is an uncommon (1/1000 pregnancies) but devastating neural tube defect. The human embryo starts as a tube, which subsequently closes at both ends at around 4 weeks. If the bottom fails to close, then spina bifida occurs. If the top fails to close, major parts of the brain, skull, and scalp are missing. Many fetuses with this condition die during pregnancy or childbirth, and those born alive usually die soon thereafter. The average duration of survival after birth is 55 minutes.

83% of women who receive a prenatal diagnosis of anencephaly choose abortion, according to a study by the CDC. The proportion choosing abortion varied by severity of the fetal anomaly. Among more than 5,000 women in five countries who received a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, 92% chose abortion. With Turner syndrome and Klinefelter syndrome the proportion who chose abortion was 72% and 58%, respectively. For spina bifida (meningomyelocele) the proportion was 64%.

Where legal abortion is not an option, and when women continue these doomed pregnancies, the risk of maternal complications appears to be high.

Although Peru in 2014 adopted national guidelines for safe abortion services which should provide clarity for health care providers and for women in the years ahead, few women have apparently been able to access safe, legal abortion since adoption of the guidelines. doclink

Karen Gaia says: Only 1% of abortions are performed after 24 weeks, most because of fetal defects.

Spring Thaw: What Role Did Climate Change and Natural Resource Scarcity Play in the Arab Spring?

   May 20, 2013, New Security Beat   By: Schuyler Null & Maria Prebble

Several reports conclude that climate change and water scarcity helped fuel the Arab Spring uprisings. For example, three organizations jointly published Arab Spring and Climate Change, a series of essays that link climate change to the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, etc. One essay by Sarah Johnstone and Jeffrey Mazo said that while the Arab Spring uprisings are mostly blamed on anger toward politicians and government oppression, bad farming weather played a role by driving up food prices. They warned of the havoc agricultural price inflation can play for any government in the region.

In 'The Arab Spring and Climate Change', Oxford's Troy Sternberg wrote that Egyptians spend about 38% of their income on food, and bread provides one-third of their caloric intake. Since a dry climate and poor water management limits domestic wheat production, Egypt is now the world's largest wheat importer. About half of Egypt's population depends on food rations. In early 2011, after climate problems in the supplier nations drove up global wheat prices, the Egyptian government let food prices rise by 20%. The uprisings started soon after.

For future consideration, the concentration of Egypt's industry and population in the Nile Delta makes it the world's third most vulnerable developing country to sea level rise. And as upstream countries use more water, we can anticipate disputes over regional water allocations. "We have reached the point where a regional climate event can have a global extent," writes Sternberg. Nine of the top ten most dependent wheat importers are in the Middle East. Seven of them had violent political protests in 2011, and modeling suggests price increases up to or exceeding 80% for major import crops like wheat by 2030.

An E3G report by Nick Mabey and others said that the food price spikes in 2010 caused regimes rife with corruption to lose all legitimacy. But new Middle East and North African democracies are also vulnerable to economic shocks, and the area is subject to climate change, food price spikes, and drastic changes in resource availability. To ensure their survival, they must invest in energy, water, and food security.

From 2006 to 2011, Syria experienced what one expert called "the worst long-term drought and most severe set of crop failures since agricultural civilizations began in the Fertile Crescent." A UNDP report found that nearly 75% of farmers in northeastern Syria suffered total crop failure and herders lost 85% of their livestock. Femia and Werrell wrote that more than 800,000 Syrians lost their livelihoods, which fomented both the uprising and a rural-to-urban migration that strained Syria's economically depressed cities. Displaced farmers competed for employment, housing, and resources with more than 260,000 Iraqi refugees living in Syria. The Assad regime added to the problem by mismanaging water distribution and nearly doubling the number of wells tapping into the nation's over-stressed aquifers.

Tunisia will see a drinking water decrease of 30% by 2030 and increases in the likelihood of crop failure of over 50% by 2050. Libya has similar problems. Data from 2009 showed that freshwater supplies fell from 400 cubic meters (cm) per capita to 96 cm -- far less than the global average of 6,258 cm. This forced bout 10% of Libya's population to migrate.

The Arab Spring has destabilized one of the fastest growing regions in the world. While the uprisings had many causes, Femia and Werrell write that "global and regional climatic changes have played a role in multiplying stress in the region." As these nations try to rebuild, their governments and the international community must consider climate change factors. Other reports drew similar conclusions and suggested that donors, governments, and development banks should now target their investments to promote food and energy security and resilience to climate change. doclink

Art says:

When Lester Brown reviewed similar data, he concluded that unsustainable population growth in that region required more water than its arid climate can provide, especially during years of drought.

Were it not for the added billions of people now mechanizing our planet, climate change would not exist.

Life Expectancy Three Years Longer for Children Born Into Smaller Families

   January 27, 2016, EurekaAlert!

Meeting biannually since 2009, the International Conference on Family Planning brings together thousands of researchers, advocates, policymakers and representatives of national and international organizations to distribute information and make plans relating to voluntary family planning.

At the January 2016 ICFP in Nusa Dua, Indonesia, research based on recent Demographic and Health Surveys from 35 developing nations showed that kids born into families of less than five children live about three years longer than those born into larger families. Past studies have shown that contraceptive use reduces child mortality and maternal deaths, improves the general health of women, and reduces the pressures on resource-strapped nations, but this study shows how having fewer children affects families.

The study was sponsored by Bloomberg School's Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health and Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Family and Reproductive Health. Study leader, Saifuddin Ahmed, said, "For 40 years, the slogan 'A small family is a happy family' has been used to promote contraceptive use in developing countries. Our new research shows that being born into a small family has health benefits that last throughout the course of your entire life. ... For too long, some sectors have thought about family planning strictly in terms of demographic interests at a population level." Ahmed says his research shows that family planning enables a healthier life and environment for the entire family.

Ahmed says, "When births are spread out and mothers can provide more time to each child before the next one is born, it results in better cognitive development and health status while growing up." He says the smallest things can make a difference. For example, there is less risk of exposure to life-threatening diarrhea with fewer siblings around to catch and spread it. When each child receives a larger slice of the pie, it helps to reduce mortality in the short-and long-term. Jose Rimon, director of the Gates Institute, views child life expectancy as the mother of all indicators because it encompasses health, economic and social well-being. doclink

Contraception Drones Are the Future of Women's Health in Rural Africa

The drones will fly birth control pills to women in hard-to-reach villages
   January 27, 2016, Huffington Post   By: Laura Bassett

Flooded roads can halt supplies to remote African villages for days. In late 2014, when a group of public health experts and philanthropists discussed this problem, Kanyanta Sunkutu, a South African public health specialist with the U.N. Population Fund suggested using delivery drones. To pun the outcome, they started a pilot program. UNFPA and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation now jointly fund Project Last Mile, which uses 5-foot-wide drones to deliver birth control and other medical supplies from regional warehouses to waiting local health workers in Ghana. "Delivery to the rural areas used to take two days," Sunkutu said at the International Conference on Family Planning in Bali, Indonesia. "It will now take 30 minutes."

A Dutch organization called Women on Waves had earlier flown medically approved abortion-inducing pills from Germany to Poland by drone to raise awareness of Poland's restrictive abortion laws. But Project Last Mile is the first to use drones for routine deliveries.

To avoid having residents worry that the delivery drones might be war drones, the program materials refer to the tiny planes as "unmanned aerial vehicles." Sunkutu told The Huffington Post in an interview that "the resistance we thought we would get has not been there." The project now plans expansion into six other African nations.

The World Health Organization estimates that 225 million women in developing countries around the world would like to delay or stop childbearing, but lack reliable birth control methods. Fewer than 20% percent of women in Sub-Saharan Africa use modern contraceptives, causing very high rates of unintended pregnancies and many deaths due to problem abortions. Unintended pregnancies also keep women and girls from finishing school or holding jobs.

At $15 per delivery, Ghana's program in has been so cost-efficient that the governments of several countries have offered to finance and run similar programs. Tanzania, Rwanda, Zambia, Ethiopia and Mozambique have all expressed interest in using the drones for family planning. Sunkutu hopes that at someday the drones can meet many other needs in rural Africa. "They can deliver ballots after elections, or exams for school," he said. It becomes a logistics management solution for hard-to-reach areas. We're going to use family planning as an entry and make it sustainable." doclink

How Abortion Stigma Negatively Affects Media Coverage

   January 21, 2016, RH Reality Check

Carlos Maza of Media Matters for America talks to Erin Matson, co-founder of Reproaction, and Hannah Groch-Begley, research director for NARAL Pro-Choice America, to help break down what abortion stigma is and how the media perpetuates it through faulty, biased coverage. doclink

World's Top Problem is Overpopulation, Not Climate

   October 14, 2013, Marketwatch   By: Paul B. Farrell

Although CEO Rex Tillerson of ExxonMobil says climate change is real, he distrusts U.N. climate models. He calls climate change an engineering problem with an engineering solution. Humans will "adapt to a sea-level rise," as we have always done. He told Charlie Rose: "My philosophy is to make money. If I can drill and make money, then that's what I want to do." He will also keep investing $37 billion per year in exploration. And along with other carbon fuel producers, he will keep fighting for subsidies, deregulation and free-market capitalism. With their war chest of $150 billion annual profits, they can pay all the lobbyists and investors they need to resist the calls for change.

Nobel physicist Robert Laughlin thinks the sixth great period of species extinction has begun, and we are the engine driving the process. We can't blame this on climate-science deniers, Big Oil, the Koch Bros, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Congress. It's us. We are all in denial. We keep making more babies and consuming more fossil fuels as if a planet of rapidly diminishing resources can support endless growth.

Since 1988, the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, with 2,000 scientists, has given us lengthy technical reports every five or six years. But their reports don't focus on population growth - our biggest problem. We make 75 million new babies each year. We're all in denial - leaders, investors, billionaires, the 99%, even most of those who warn about climate change. Surely, U.N scientists must realize that overpopulation is the main force driving the extinction threat. Yet they focus instead on lowering the rate of consequential damage. So, even scientists are in denial. They produce brilliant technical solutions for reducing the impact of global warming, but they avoid the root cause.

Scientific American says that by 2050 world population will grow from today's 7.35 billion to over 9.5 billion. Global population reduction is "the most overlooked and essential strategy for achieving long-term balance with the environment."

In "The Last Taboo," Mother Jones columnist Julia Whitty asks, "What unites the Vatican, lefties, conservatives and scientists in a conspiracy of silence?" Her answer is Population. This hot-button issue ignites powerful reactions. So politicians won't touch it. Nor will U.N. world leaders - even if it's killing us." We tell ourselves we're recyclers, green, love hybrids, eat organic, but we keep buying cars, carbon polluting products, and Big Oil stocks because we subconscious go along with Big Oil's strategy.

In a meeting five years ago, philanthropists Gates, Buffett, Rockefeller, Soros, Bloomberg, Turner, Oprah and others identified their most important causes. When asked if they had an "umbrella cause," it was overpopulation. Jeremy Grantham, whose investment firm manages about $110 billion in assets, said that to address population growth, "We don't need more Big Ag, we need fewer small mouths to feed. "

Bill Gates called for capping global population at 8.3 billion, even as his health initiatives extend life expectancy. Columbia University's Earth Institute Director Jeff Sachs says even 5 billion is unsustainable. To stop adding more is tough enough. But how do we eliminate two billion from today's total?

"One of the disturbing facts of history is that so many civilizations collapse," warns Jared Diamond, environmental anthropologist and author of "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed." A society's demise may begin only a decade or two after it reaches its peak of population, wealth and power. To avoid repeating the mistakes that lead to collapse, Diamond says we need leaders with "the courage to practice long-term thinking, make bold, courageous, anticipatory decisions at a time when problems have become perceptible but before they reach crisis proportions." Yet unfortunately, leaders move from crisis to crisis, often doing too little and acting too late. doclink

Karen Gaia says: fortunately, IPPC does take into account population. Population is one of the factors that are used in climate models. Fortunately the U.N., in it's new Sustainable Development Goals, recognizes gender equity and reproductive rights - factor which help reduce population growth rates. Fortunately, the FP2020 consortium, Bill and Melinda Gates' donations to family planning (recently donate another several million), the Contraceptive Choice project in St. Louis, the Colorado LARC program, and many other programs, - help make progress towards the goal of enabling every woman being able to control her own fertility.

From Global Commitments to Local Action: Revitalizing Indonesia's Family Planning Program

   January 21, 2016, Devex   By: Surya Chandra Surapaty

Indonesia is the world's fourth most populous nation.

Ten years ago, Indonesia boasted one of the world's most successful family planning programs. However since then Indonesia's family planning program stalled at the local level. The annual population growth is 1.38%, short of the national target of 1.1%, adding 4.5 million new babies (almost the population of Singapore) each year.

Access to quality family planning saves lives, bolsters economies and improves health outcomes for individuals and communities. To build a healthy and sustainable world for future generations, we must address the unmet need for family planning resources and services that leads to hundreds of thousands of deaths each year.

The global community created created Family Planning 2020 in 2012. FP2020 is an international partnership working to enable 120 million more women and girls to use contraceptives by 2020. Also in September the UN's General Assembly ratified the Sustainable Development Goals, which call for universal access to sexual and reproductive health services by 2030.

The Indonesian government has quadrupled the family planning budget allocation from $65.9 million in 2006 to $263.7 million in 2014 and entered into a partnership with Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health that will provide invaluable technical and financial assistance to family planning efforts.

These investments will allow Indonesia to make progress in getting family planning services to those in remote and underdeveloped areas, including by working closely with midwives; providing free reproductive health services under Indonesia's new universal health care system; and maximizing the benefits of the demographic dividend.

At the heart of the program in these regions is the Kader Desa program, which empowers local volunteers to provide family planning materials and services to those who need them the most.

Indonesia is proud to co-host the 2016 International Conference on Family Planning in Nusa Dua where thousands of researchers, practitioners, policymakers and advocates from around the world will disseminate knowledge, and identify next steps toward achieving the FP2020 goals and SDGs.

If we truly wish to ensure universal access to contraception and reproductive health care services in our lifetime, then we must begin by effecting change in our own communities. doclink

Climate Change Raises a Troubling Question: Who Gets to Eat?

Global warming's threat to the global food supply gets worse the more the world warms, researchers tell federal regulators.
   January 21, 2016, Inside Climate News   By: David Hasemyer

In a briefing by the American Meteorological Society, policymakers on Capitol Hill got a dire warning that climate change threatens food production, safety and affordability. The briefing drew on a peer-reviewed study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, "Climate Change, Global Food Security and the U.S. Food System," which concluded that the effects of climate change on food will strike urban and rural populations in wealthy and poor nations alike.

Under the least-optimistic scenario-- based on high carbon emissions and low international cooperation to combat climate change -- agricultural yields could fall by as much as 15%, and food prices could rise more than 30% by 2050.

Margaret Walsh, an ecologist in USDA's Climate Change Program Office said, in additon to a drought-caused decrease crop production, sea level rise could impact cargo ships' access to docks for importing and exporting food. "There are many, complex factors that have to be considered when assessing the threat to food security," she said.

Global food security has improved over the last six years, with 200 million fewer people at risk, Walsh said. (The USDA estimates that 805 million people worldwide do not have sufficient food today.) Yet increasing global temperatures could halt the progress toward curbing global hunger.

The current level of greenhouse gases (GHGs) is around 400 parts per million. With a rise in GHGs to 850 ppm range, coupled with high population growth and low economic growth -- the worst-case scenario -- 175 million more people will be at risk of undernourishment by 2080. The same socioeconomic conditions at 550 ppm would result in 60 million additional people at risk, and if concentrations drop to 350 ppm, risk does not increase at all.

Ed Carr, a professor at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., used wheat production in northwestern Europe and rice production in eastern Asia to illustrate that tenuous balance. Together, those two regions produce one-third of the world's grain crops. He reports that the wheat and rice output has been pushed to the limits that the soil can support and the grain variety can produce.

Rising temperatures mean the grains won't germinate; rain patterns are disrupted so crops are stunted and growing seasons are altered, Carr said. Less production means price increases and a shifting of markets. The food will go to the markets that can afford the higher prices, leaving poorer nations wanting.

Climate change also disrupts transportation, storage, packaging and delivering food -- making it harder for people to get enough food n regions already facing shortages.

"If there is inadequate food available to households--who gets to eat?" Carr said. "In parts of Africa, boy children will be fed preferentially over girl children.

Although the United States may be vulnerable to climate change-related disruptions in productivity, it appears likely to endure with fewer hardships than the rest of the world, USDA researchers said. doclink

How to Fight Desertification and Reverse Climate Change

   February 1, 2013, TED Talks   By: Allan Savory

"Desertification is a fancy word for land that is turning to desert," begins Allan Savory in this quietly powerful talk. And it's happening to about two-thirds of the world's grasslands, accelerating climate change and causing traditional grazing societies to descend into social chaos. Savory has devoted his life to stopping it. He now believes - and his work so far shows - that a surprising factor can protect grasslands and even reclaim degraded land that was once desert. doclink

Overfishing Causing Global Catches to Fall Three Times Faster Than Estimated

Landmark new study that includes small-scale, subsistence and illegal fishing shows a strong decline in catches as more fisheries are exhausted
   January 19, 2016, Guardian   By: Damian Carrington

Seafood is the critical source of protein for more than 2.5 billion people, but over-exploitation is cutting the catch by more than 1 million tons a year.

Official catch data from FAO rarely includes small-scale, sport or illegal fishing and does not count fish discarded at sea. A more exhaustive study, taking over a decade shows that the annual catches between 1950 and 2010 were much bigger than thought, but that the decline after the peak year of 1996 was much faster than official figures.

The new research estimates the peak catch was 130 million tons, but declined at 1.2 million tons per year afterwards.

Prof Daniel Pauly, at the University of British Columbia in Canada and who led the work, said the decline is very strong and "is due to countries having fished too much and having exhausted one fishery after another."

Prof Boris Worm, at Dalhousie University in Canada and not involved in the new research said. "This was a Herculean task that no one else has ever attempted. While the results necessarily remain uncertain, they undoubtedly represent our most complete picture yet of the global state of fish catches."

Worm said the world's fisheries were being over-exploited but that some stocks were being sustainably managed: "Where such measures have been taken, we find that both fish and fishermen are more likely to persist into the future."

Global fish catches rose from the 1950s to 1996 as fishing fleets expanded and discovered new fish stocks to exploit. But after 1996, few undiscovered fisheries were left and catches started to decline. The decline since 1996 has largely been in fish caught by industrial fleets and to a lesser extent a cut in the number of unwanted fish discarded at sea.

"The fact that we catch far more than we thought is, if you like, a more positive thing," he said. "Because if we rebuild stocks, we can rebuild to more than we thought before."

There has been success in some places where fishing has been restricted for a few years, for example in the Norwegian herring and cod fisheries. On resumption, catches were bigger than ever.

Pauly said: "I don't see African countries, for example, rebuilding their stocks, or being allowed to by the foreign fleets that are working there, because the pressure to continue to fish is very strong. We know how to fix this problem but whether we do it or not depends on conditions that are difficult."

A 2015 study showed nearly 500 Chinese fishing vessels operating off west Africa, with scores of cases of illegal fishing, according to Greenpeace. Illegal and pirate fishing take place in many parts of the world.

Prof Callum Roberts, at the University of York in the UK and not part of Pauly's team, said: "We can see more clearly now, for example, the immense value of fish to poor people in developing countries," he said. "We can see how industrial fisheries from developing countries are robbing these people of livelihoods and food. We can also see, that in efforts to stem declines, we have been using more and more bycatch that was once thrown away." doclink

This Amazing Map Shows Where Most of Humanity Lives

   January 21, 2016, Washington Post   By: Ishaan Tharoor

Click on the map to zoom and to see the article.

The map shows the distribution of the world's population. Half of humanity lives in the black space and the other half in the yellow. It's a stunning illustration of the degree to which people are concentrated in certain urban centers, particularly in Asia, where the majority of the global population lives.

Produced by Max Galka, the map was generated using statistics compiled by a NASA research unit with data which divides the world into about 30 million tiny boxes, each one roughly 3 miles by 3 miles in size. "For each box, the data provides estimate for the number of people living inside it."

The yellow region in the map reflects every cell that has a population of 8,000 or more people; the black reflects those with fewer than 8,000 people.

You can zoom in on the map to see a starker glimpse of the population density of certain areas. doclink

Proof That a Price on Carbon Works

   January 19, 2016, New York Times

Energy policies adopted by some American states and Canadian provinces demonstrate that action to lower greenhouse gas emissions by putting a price on carbon would not hurt businesses and consumers as some lawmakers claim.

Nearly 40 nations, including the 28-member European Union, and many smaller jurisdictions are engaged in some form of carbon pricing. In this hemisphere, British Columbia, Quebec, California and nine Northeastern states have raised the cost of burning fossil fuels without damaging the economy.

A direct tax on emissions or a cap on emissions are the two forms of carbon pricing. British Columbia, for instance, has levied a tax on emissions from fuels like gasoline, natural gas and heating oil. California and Quebec, which are working together, place a ceiling on overall emissions and allow utilities, manufacturing plants, fuel distributors and others to buy and sell permits that entitle them to emit greenhouse gases. The number of these permits time, becoming more expensive.

But both systems effectively raise the price of using fossil fuels, which encourages utilities and other producers to generate more energy from low-carbon sources like solar, wind and nuclear power.

British Columbia taxes a ton of carbon emitted at about USD $21. Emission permits in California and Quebec are trading at only $13 a ton. In the Northeastern trading system known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, covering emissions from power plants in nine states that include Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts, permits recently sold for $7.50 a ton.

In British Columbia people pay more for energy but pay less in personal income and corporate taxes. And low-income and rural residents get special tax credits. Researchers have found that the tax helped cut emissions but has had no negative impact on the province's growth rate.

California and the nine Northeastern states and Quebec are investing the revenue generated by auctioning emission permits in mass transit, energy efficiency, renewable energy and other strategies to reduce carbon emissions. Some of the revenue is also dedicated to helping low-income families cope with higher energy costs.

Recently, the leaders of Ontario and Manitoba said they would join the California-Quebec cap-and-trade system. In October, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York said he was interested in linking the Northeastern system to the California-Quebec trading platform.

These actions provide a template for the rest of the world. Broad participation is essential to keep companies from moving their operations to nations that do not impose a cost on carbon emissions.

China announceed last year that it would set up a national cap-and-trade system. Only a few years ago, China barely acknowledged climate change.

Yet Congress has refused to act even as it becomes clear that putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions is the most direct and cost-effective way to address climate change. doclink

Unintended Second Pregnancies Could Be Avoided

   January 13, 2016, Reuters   By: Kathryn Doyle

Most women don't want another pregnancy within two years after childbirth. A pregnancy too soon can cause medical problems for mother and/or child.

A 2012 study by Austin's Population Research Center at the University of Texas found that offering uninsured or low income women the contraception of their choice reduces unintended pregnancies. Some wanted sterilization or vasectomy, but most preferred long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) methods like IUDs or hormonal implants. Lead author Joseph E. Potter advises that women must be able to obtain these types of contraception and know that they are available.

In Austin hospitals, 403 new mothers wanted to forgo childbearing for at least two years. After the initial interview, the study made follow-ups after 3, 6, 9, 12, 18 and 24 months. Women noted both their preferred contraceptive method and any method they were actually using.

At six months postpartum, for those who faced no barriers, three quarters chose long-acting or permanent methods. But two-thirds of 377 women interviewed had encountered some financial or health system barrier to using their preferred method, so they often resorted to less effective methods, like condoms or pills. Most of them would have used their preferred method if it were free, affordable and easy to access. Some may have been deterred by Medicaid's 30-day waiting period for sterilization.

Just before the study, Texas had slashed its subsidies for family planning services. Potter said, "We started recruiting in April of 2012 ... the very worst time in Texas." Women found it harder to obtain the method of their choice that year because 79 clinics had closed and the rest lacked funding for long-acting contraception. Since then, funding was reinstated and Medicaid was again reimbursing for immediate postpartum LARCs. But only one Texas hospital actually offered immediate postpartum IUD insertion or other long-acting contraception.

After 6 - 24 months, 77 reported pregnancies and all but six were unplanned. The pregnancies followed 43% of those who met financial or health system barriers, but only 12% percent of those who did not.

Barriers are common in the United States, said Lauren Zapata of the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, who had no part in the study. She listed these suggestions for increasing women's access to preferred contraceptives: Improve insurance coverage for postpartum contraceptives. Authorize reimbursement for postpartum LARCs; and eliminate Medicaid's 30-day waiting period for sterilization. She also wants to ensure that women can access the full range of methods while they are still having regular or scheduled appointment with obstetric providers. doclink

Art says: Over time, when it comes to helping the poor avoid unwanted pregnancies, success saves tax payer dollars in several ways.

Climate Change, Health, and Population Dynamics: a View From Tanzania

   January 7, 2016, The Nature Conservancy   By: Kristen Patterson

As people around the world celebrate the agreement in Paris to address climate change, there's a genuine opportunity for us to adapt to an ever changing world - especially people in developing countries who are most vulnerable.

One way of helping people adapt to climate change is to improve their health. Many scientists and governments have made the connection between population growth and global carbon emissions and have recognized the multiple benefits that family planning provides.

Slowing global population growth could lead to lower carbon emissions. Approximately 225 million women in the world have an unmet need for family planning, but are currently not using modern contraception. Meeting their needs through providing voluntary, rights-based family planning information and services could be a global hat trick-for women, their children and the climate.

Far removed from the negotiations that took place in Paris, some 900 million vulnerable rural people are relying on decisions made at the negotiation table to pave the way for policies that will help them adapt to the realities of climate change.

Tanzania is acutely vulnerable with 80% of the population relying on agriculture and grazing for their income. And family planning is a critical component of building resilience.

Mean annual precipitation in Tanzania has decreased significantly across the country from 1960 to the present, and seasonal rainfall patterns have already changed. Only 26% of married women in Tanzania use modern contraception, compared with 53% next door in Kenya.

In August 2011, I visited the Buhingu regional health center in western Tanzania to meet the head doctor and see the facilities. Despite its magnificent location on a promontory overlooking a beautiful bay on Lake Tanganyika, the walls were crumbling, shelves were bereft of medical supplies, and the rooms were empty. Except for one, where two women lay on metal beds with decrepit foam mattresses; one of the women was nursing a newborn.

The doctor said that he'd done Cesarean surgeries on both women the night before. One baby survived; the other didn't.

The moment encapsulated why projects that address health and voluntary family planning as well as conservation and natural resource management in remote regions are not so far-fetched after all.

Two dozen villages are now participating in the Tuungane Project (Kiswahili for "Let's Unite), a partnership between TNC and Pathfinder International that holistically address reproductive health, the environment and livelihood needs of these communities in this region.

Lake Tanganyika is the world's second largest lake by volume, and the lake and surrounding forest are mega hotspots of global biodiversity, from a freshwater and terrestrial perspective, boasting endemic cichlids and chimpanzees. And when women face health emergencies, such as obstructed labor, getting a boat and fuel to travel to the nearest hospital, several hours away in Kigoma, is a real challenge.

Tanzania is a large country; it's about the size of Texas and Colorado combined. Tanzania's population is quite young: as of 2014, 45% of the population was under the age of 15. By 2050, unless the birth rate slows substantially, there will be 2.5 times as many people in Tanzania as there are today, 129.4 million, which would make it the 15th largest country in the world.

The total fertility rate in western Tanzania is 7.1, among the very highest in the world. Having babies in rapid succession is often accompanied by high maternal mortality. There is an urgent need to make voluntary contraception more available in places like rural western Tanzania so that women and their families are able to live healthier, productive lives and space and plan their families.

As for early marriage, almost 40% of girls in Tanzania are married before the age of 18, whereas only 33% of girls are enrolled in secondary school.

Western Tanzania's intertwined challenges of population dynamics, natural resource management, and climate change adaptation need to be addressed in an integrated way.

Understanding the need for voluntary family planning for women and children at the individual level and for the planet would benefit millions of people - in Tanzania and around the world. doclink

America and Reproductive Rights: Not Making the Grade

   January 7, 2016, Huffington Post   By: Robert Walker

The Population Institute is this week releasing its annual 50-state report card on reproductive health and rights, and it is not encouraging.

Nineteen states received a failing grade and the U.S. as a whole fell from a "C" to a "D+".

Attacks on Planned Parenthood, both physical and political, are jeopardizing the ability of women to access health care services. Consequently, political assaults on sex education programs are gaining momentum and threatening the progress that we have made in reducing teen pregnancies. It all adds up to a bad report card for 2015, and it could get worse in 2016 as Congress inches ever closer to shutting down Planned Parenthood and Title X.

In 2015, the U.S. House of Representatives voted seven times to defund Planned Parenthood, and Congress voted again in 2015 to eliminate all funding for Title X, which allows access to contraception and other vital health care services, including cancer screenings.

The efforts to cut funding are unrelenting. Congress is kicking off the New Year by sending a bill to the President's desk that would eliminate federal funding for the contraceptive services provided by Planned Parenthood. The President is expected to veto the measure, but the political tug-of-war will continue throughout the year.

Federal cuts in support for Planned Parenthood, even if offset in part by funding for other providers, would have a devastating impact on women in this country. Planned Parenthood health centers make up only one-tenth of publicly funded safety-net providers, but they serve more than one out of three clients seeking contraceptive services.

Abortion restrictions in Texas and in other states have forced the closures of dozens of family planning clinics and physical assaults on family planning clinics, which range from vandalism and arson to the devastating shooting that occurred at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, are creating a climate of fear that will deter many women from accessing family planning services.

The news is not all bad. Four states (California, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington) received an "A". But the trend is not encouraging. 21 states have refused to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, thereby denying many poor women coverage for contraceptive services.

Equally worrisome are the escalating attacks on support for comprehensive sex education in the schools. Sex education programs have made a significant contribution to the historic drop in the nation's teen pregnancy rate, but America's teen pregnancy rate is still very high compared to other industrialized countries.

By any standard, about half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended, and limiting access to contraceptive services and sex education will only increase the number of unwanted pregnancies and, of course, the demand for abortions.

A woman's reproductive health should not depend on her income or where she lives, but it appears that it does.

2015 was a bad year for reproductive health and rights in the U.S., but 2016 could be worse. Stay tuned. Better yet, get active. doclink

Philippines Axes Contraceptive Budget

Funds earmarked by Benigno Aquino scrapped despite law mandating state provision of birth control to the poor
   January 6, 2016, Guardian   By: Agence France-presse

One of the world's most overcrowded nations has axed the government's budget for contraceptives, despite a law mandating otherwise.

Health secretary Janette Garin, confirmed this recently, adding, "This will have a huge effect since a lot of mothers depend on what the department of health provides."

She said the department would seek private donors to provide funds for contraceptives.

Foreign and local authorities have long called for improved birth control in the Philippines, which has one of Asia's highest birth rates as well as high maternal mortality rates.

The country has a population of about 100 million, roughly 25% of whom live in poverty.

The dominant Catholic church has long opposed efforts to make birth control more widely available for many years.

It was only in 2014 that the supreme court finally upheld a reproductive health law. The law requires government health centres to supply free condoms and birth control pills, as well as mandating sex education in schools. It also requires that public health workers receive family planning training. Medical care after an abortion is to be legalized.

It appears that all the advances in 2014 have been recently reversed.

Four out of five of the Philippine population is Catholic, a legacy of nearly four centuries of Spanish rule that ended with the Spanish-American War in 1898. Since then the Catholic Church has opposed birth control and abortion, and decreed divorce as also illegal. doclink

World Population Dashboard

   January 1, 2016, UNFPA - United Nations Population Fund

This is a quick reference guide which gives one most of the needed information as to the state of the world from a human perspective. It is broken down into the Population, Maternal and Newborn Health, Sexual and Reproductive Health, Education, Fertility and finally, Life Expectancy categories. It has some interesting statistics, arrayed in an easy to digest way.

For example, Iran, which we tend to think of as an Islamic country with strong government controls, has a significantly high rate of contraceptive use. So does the USA, but we forever hear story after story about how difficult it is to get contraceptives, especially if you are poor and live in the South. Does the availability of easy to obtain contraceptives in places such as Minnesota, Vermont, Washington and Oregon annul the unavailability of contraceptives in Texas?

When it comes to life expectancy, Northern Europe, Canada and Japan are on top, but the USA is a bit behind.

As for education, while most of Northern Europe sees to it that its children receive adequate schooling, it is once again the USA that lags. In fact, this chart, or series of graphics of the world with countries listing different tones and colors, could be seen as a clarion call for the USA to "get a grip," as some of us would say.

As for fertility, Afghanistan and Pakistan show relatively high levels of fertility, but neighboring Iran has a very low level. Perhaps that is behind the government's reason to increase family size as a national policy.

In all, a very useful "Dashboard," thanks to the United Nations Population Fund. doclink

The Biosphere Prophecy

   January 1, 2016, Biosphere Prophecy, The

The Biosphere, the zone of life on Earth, is sickening and dying - because of us. The Biosphere Prophecy says life on Earth will be saved by a secret alliance, bound together by a common goal - to end suffering, abuse and injury to all forms of life on our planet. This group will be led by three young guardians with the aid of a creature not of this world...

This website hopes to use a combination of fantasy and activism (with some project funding) to encourage action in the following areas: Repair the damage, Stop doing any more damage, Reduce our global population non cohersively, Start talking about the population issue!, and Get active and get vocal! doclink

Population Growth in Africa: Grasping the Scale of the Challenge

While population growth slows in the rest of the world, it continues to rise in Africa. What are the implications? Isn’t it Europe that is overpopulated, rather than Africa?
   January 11, 2016, Guardian   By: Joseph J Bish

This article argues that resources normally given to infrastructure and education will have to be spent on people, as the African population explodes.

By the year 2050, African population growth would be able to re-fill an empty London five times a year.

Of the 2.37 billion increase in population expected worldwide by 2050, Africa alone will contribute 54%. According to some statistics, Nigeria will add more people to the world's population by 2050 than any other country.

The dynamics at play are straightforward. Public health is getting better. The 12 million Africans born in 1955 could expect to live only until the age of 37. Encouragingly, the 42 million Africans born this year can expect to live to the age of 60.

Meanwhile, another key demographic variable - the total fertility rate.

In Niger, where GDP per capita is less than $1 per day, the average number of children a woman is likely to have in her life is more than seven. If fertility does not fall at all - and it has not budged in the last 60 years - the country's population projection for 2100 veers towards 960 million people.

What has caught demographers off-guard is that African fertility has not fallen as expected. Precipitous declines in fertility in Asia and Latin America, from five children per woman in the 1970s to around 2.5 today, led many to believe Africa would follow a similar pattern.

Unfortunately, since the early 1990s, family planning programmes in Africa have resulted in slow, sometimes negligible, fertility declines. In a handful of countries, previous declines have stalled altogether and are reversing.

These dynamics create the opposite of a virtuous cycle. Rapid population growth helps overburden educational systems. Infrastructure is also compromised, with congested highways and stratospheric housing costs. The reality is that as the size of any populace expands, governments must keep apace.

Failure to do so results in a drop in per capita living standards.

Education an infrastructure are highly important to any country's development. With a burgeoning population, this is more difficult.

There are some signs of success, such as Family Planning 2020. Recent figures from Kenya and Zambia show substantial strengthening of contraceptive use among married women. In Kenya, 58% of married women now use modern contraception, and in Zambia this measure has risen from 33% to 45% in the last three years.

In both cases, the catalysts for improvements were government commitment and commensurate budget financing. The virtuous circle may not be completely out of reach, but it is attainable. doclink

In Latin America, An Exception to Falling Birthrates Draws New Scrutiny

Dramatic progress has masked the fact that poor communities are lagging far behind wealthier ones in controlling family size – perpetuating inequality.
   December 21, 2016, Christian Science Monitor   By: Whitney Eulich

Across Latin America, the stereotype of the large, young family is being challenged as fertility rates plummet. In Brazil, one of the most dramatic examples, mothers now have 1.7 children on average. That's lower than the US birthrate, and signals a shrinking population.

The trend is generally viewed as positive - evidence of a wealthier and healthier society.

But falling national fertility rates may mask another problem the region harbors: inequality. While some women are choosing the number of children they would like to have, women in rural areas or in poorer urban enclaves are often having more children than they want, outpacing national and regional averages.

The rich-poor divide has been overlooked, in part, due to the national declines in fertility that led to the withdrawal of family planning, experts say.

"What really surprised me ... in this region is that there were still some communities that had the same low access to services and quality care as we find in the poorest communities in Africa and Asia," says Mariam Claeson, director of maternal and newborn health for The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

"We have been a little too comfortable with our average indicators for maternal and newborn health," adds Emma Margarita Iriarte, who manages the Inter-American Development Bank's (IADB) contributions to the same project.

So far, the Mesoamerican health program has seen some success. In an 18-month time frame, for example, almost all of Nicaragua's poorest health clinics were able to offer modern family planning methods, a 30% rise. Panama also increased access to supplies to nearly 100% of its poorest community clinics, up from 10%. And in El Salvador, almost 80% of clinics now have working refrigerators - a crucial supply storage tool - up from about 43% before the intervention was launched. Guatemala and El Salvador have also seen progress.

In Mexico, Fruit-seller Lara Torres, who grew up with four siblings decided early on that she wanted to keep her family small.

"I wanted more flexibility to give my kid things my parents couldn't give me....," says the Mexico City resident, mentioning the possibility of luxuries like a bilingual education or family vacations. But Ms. Torres says she got pregnant unintentionally when she was 18. She now has four kids, two more than she'd hoped or planned for.

Those in the poorest 20% of the population often end up having more than their "ideal" number.

Many Latin American countries have national health care systems, but most still struggle to deliver widespread, high quality services.

Governments have difficulty supplying health clinics in rural areas or informal urban settlements, a lack of qualified health providers is common in the most impoverished communities, experts say. And some countries, like Honduras, require that medical students spend the last year of their education programs working in less desirable posts like rural towns, which can lead to high turnover.

In Panama, about 68% of the overall population uses some form of contraception, while that figure is just 9% in typically poor indigenous communities.

"That's a 60% gap in the same country. In a country that's one of the richest in the region, that has resources," says Emma Margarita Iriarte, manager of Inter-American Development Bank.

Superstitions and myths also run rampant in indigenous communities, such as the idea that taking birth control will increase a woman's sexual appetite.

"There isn't great communication between doctors and patients in Mexico," says Ms. Alonso, who practiced in the state before opening a practice in Mexico City two years ago. "But it's even worse when it comes to indigenous populations."

"What is needed is ... for mothers to be able to make decisions based on their vision for their own lives instead of being told by a doctor what they are required to do," she says.

"The consequences of not having [the tools] to decide family size reach into the future," says Mr. Esteban Caballero, regional director for the United Nations Population Fund. "The poor are more likely to stay poor." doclink

Richard says: "A fabrica esta fechada." That's Portuguese for the factory (baby) is closed. This is what many Brazilian women think and say.

How Much Nature Do We Have? How Much Do We Use?

   December 22, 2015, TEDx Talks   By: Mathis Wackernagel

Mathis Wakernagle of Global Footprint Network in an important TEDx Talk on Footprints and Sustainable Development doclink

Shelter From the Storm: State of World Population 2015 Report Launch

   New Security Beat   By: Mary Mederios Kent

The sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls must be protected, even - especially - during "the toughest of times, in the hardest of places," according to Kate Gilmore, deputy executive director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Wars, earthquakes, epidemics, droughts, and other disasters - exacerbated by the effects of climate change - are putting ever more people at risk.

Over 100 million people today require humanitarian aid because of natural disasters and violence. About one-quarter of these people are women of reproductive age.

This year's State of World Population report from UNFPA, "Shelter From the Storm: A Transformative Agenda for Women and Girls in a Crisis-Prone World", urges governments and NGOs to protect women and girls during times of upheaval.

Providing contraception, pregnancy care, protection from gender-based violence, and other reproductive health services not only promotes health and saves lives, it empowers women and adolescent girls to be transformative forces in their communities.

Donor nations and humanitarian aid organizations can foster this process by shifting from a short-term focus on crisis response to the longer-term goals of recovery and resilience.

An estimated 1.5 billion people live in crisis-prone regions, in countries beset by violence and lacking the infrastructure and institutions needed to respond to natural or human-caused disasters.

In many settings, women are already socially and economically disadvantaged. During the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, women were much more likely to die than men. Often they could not swim, climb a tree, or run fast enough to escape danger, Gilmore explained.

In the aftermath of conflicts and natural disasters, displaced female survivors often lose the protection of their homes and communities, and may face rape, sexually transmitted infections and high-risk or unwanted pregnancies. Some girls are forced or encouraged to marry while very young.

Child marriage among Syrian refugees has become a strategy to protect young daughters from harm, preserve the family's honor, and reduce their financial burden, said Meighan Stone of the Malala Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to girls' education.

Ensuring sexual and reproductive rights is also an investment in the "human capital of the adolescent girl," Gilmore said. When girls are assured these rights, they are more likely to delay marriage and childbearing, which leads to better health and higher living standards for their families.

Engaging women in development efforts and shifting the focus of humanitarian aid from crisis response to recovery and resilience can "lay the foundations for long-term development, which in turn can provide community-changing benefits, enabling individuals, institutions, and communities to withstand crisis and help accelerate recovery," said Margaret Pollack of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.

Insufficient funding and resources are a constant problem, said Gilmore. Unfulfilled donor commitments intended for Syrian refugees have left aid organizations short of millions of dollars. Shortfalls in promised support were also a major problem after the 2010 Haitian earthquake.

In Chad, disgruntled husbands went to the police to complain that their wives were visiting CARE-supported family planning clinics without their permission. But once husbands learned that their wives had a legal right to seek care and what family planning really was, they became allies, Jesse Rattan of the non-profit CARE said. Governments and providers are often "ready and willing" to support sexual and reproductive health and rights programs when they understand them, she said. doclink

Earth Has Lost a Third of Arable Land in Past 40 Years, Scientists Say

Experts point to damage caused by erosion and pollution, raising major concerns about degraded soil amid surging global demand for food
   December 2, 2015, Guardian   By: Oliver Milman

The world has lost one-third of its arable land due to erosion or pollution in the past 40 years, with potentially disastrous consequences as global demand for food soars, according to a study from the University of Sheffield's Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures. Food-producing land has been lost at a rate that far outstrips the pace of natural processes to replace diminished soil.

The continual ploughing of fields, combined with heavy use of fertilizers, has degraded soils across the world, with erosion occurring 100 faster greater than the rate of soil formation. It takes around 500 years for just 2.5cm of topsoil to be created amid unimpeded ecological changes.

Duncan Cameron, professor of plant and soil biology at the University of Sheffield said "We are increasing the rate of loss and we are reducing soils to their bare mineral components," he said. "We are creating soils that aren't fit for anything except for holding a plant up. The soils are silting up river systems - if you look at the huge brown stain in the ocean where the Amazon deposits soil, you realise how much we are accelerating that process".

"We aren't quite at the tipping point yet, but we need to do something about it."

If soil is repeatedly turned over, it is exposed to oxygen and its carbon is released into the atmosphere, causing it to fail to bind as effectively. This loss of integrity impacts soil's ability to store water, which neutralizes its role as a buffer to floods and a fruitful base for plants. Degraded soils are also vulnerable to being washed away by weather events fueled by global warming.

The steep decline in soil has occurred at a time when the world will need to grow 50% more food by 2050 to feed an anticipated population of 9 billion people, according to FAO, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization.

The study authors propose including recycling nutrients from sewerage, using biotechnology to wean plants off their dependence upon fertilizers, and rotating crops with livestock areas to relieve pressure on arable land.

"We need a radical solution, which is to re-engineer our agricultural system," Cameron said. "We need to take land out of production for a long time to allow soil carbon to rebuild and become stable. We already have lots of land - it's being used for pasture by the meat and dairy industries. Rather than keep it separated, we need to bring it into rotation, so that that there is more land in the system and less is being used at any one time." Around 30% of the world's ice-free surfaces are used to keep chicken, cattle, pigs and other livestock, rather than to grow crops.

Cameron said this would involve direct government intervention, funding for farmers and "brave" policymaking. doclink

Struggling Colorado Birth Control Program Worked Even Better Than Thought, Says Health Department

   October 22, 2015, Gazette, The   By: Jakob Rodgers

A program offering birth control to low-income teens and young women is more efficient than previously thought, Colorado's health department announced last Wednesday.

The initiative, which provided long-acting reversible contraceptives at little or no cost, dropped the state's teen birth and abortion rates by 48 percent from 2009 to 2014, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment found.

The intrauterine devices can prevent more than 99 percent of pregnancies within the first year of implantation. They should not affect fertility once removed, according to WebMD.

Previous data from the program's first four years found teen births had dropped 40 percent from 2009 through 2013, while abortions declined 35 percent, the department said.

The new data comes as the program faces several challenges.

A five-year, $25 million grant from the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation ended in June, and legislation to continue funding failed in the Republican-held Senate.

Several Colorado foundations have since offered $2.2 million in bridge funding through June 30, 2016. The health department said Wednesday it is seeking more sustainable funding.

Unintended pregnancies are more likely to result in children lives and health being at risk, according to the health department.

The initiative also has been credited with saving Medicaid an estimated $79 million from 2010 through 2012, the health department said. doclink

EROI of Different Fuels and the Implications for Society

   January 1, 2014, Science Direct   By: Charles A.s. Hall, Jessica G. Lambert, Stephen B. Balogh

Energy has played a critical role throughout human society's demographic, economic and social development. Economic production, exchange and growth requires work and consequently a steady and consistent flow of energy to do that work. A society must have an energy surplus for there to be division of labor, creation of specialists and the growth of cities, and substantially greater surplus for there to be wide-spread wealth, art, culture and other social amenities.

Until recently, cheap and seemingly limitless fossil energy has allowed most of society to ignore the importance of contributions to the economic process from the biophysical world as well as the potential limits to growth. This paper assesses the energy costs of modern day society and its relation to GDP.

Fossil fuels supply greater than 75% of the total energy consumed by societies. In general, the growth of real GDP is highly correlated with rates of oil consumption. Four out of the five recessions experienced since 1970 can be explained by examining oil price shocks. Economic growth and stability is dependent on not only the total quantity of energy accessible to society but also the cost of this energy to different sectors of that society.

The ratio of the monetary cost of energy compared to the GDP generated for the same year gives a quantitative index of how much money is invested in energy on average to generate a unit of wealth. This can be calculated by dividing the money required to buy energy by the total gross domestic product. When this ratio is low, typically around 5%, economies grow strongly. When this ratio is high, about 10% or higher, recessions tend to occur. Rapid increases in the economic cost of energy result in the diversion of funds from what is typically devoted to discretionary spending to energy acquisition and economies are strongly affected.

Energy return on investment (EROI) is a means of measuring the quality of various fuels by calculating the ratio between the energy delivered by a particular fuel to society and the energy invested in the capture and delivery of this energy.

Standard EROI (EROIST) divides the energy output by the sum of the direct and indirect energy used to generate that output. It does not include the energy associated with supporting labor, financial services and the like.

Point of use EROI (EROIPOU) additionally includes the costs associated with refining and transporting the fuel, resulting in an EROI that is lower than the standard EROI.

Extended EROI (EROIEXT) considers the energy required not only to get but also to use that unit of energy.

Societal EROI (EROISOC): Societal EROI is the overall EROI that might be derived for all of a nation's or society's fuels by summing all gains from fuels and all costs of obtaining them. It is difficult, if not impossible, to include all the variables necessary to generate an all-encompassing societal EROI value.

EROI's of various fuels (average mean):

World oil and gas 20:1. The EROI for the production of oil and gas globally by publicly traded companies has declined from 30:1 in 1995 to about 18:1 in 2006. The EROI for discovering oil and gas in the US has decreased from more than 1000:1 in 1919 to 5:1 in the 2010s. It is difficult to establish separate EROI values for natural gas alone -- often both oil and gas are extracted from the same wells, their production costs (capital and operations) are typically combined.

Tar sands 4:1 and oil shale 7:1.

Coal worldwide 46:1. Coal production in the United States had declined from an approximately 80:1 EROI value during the mid 1950s to 30:1 by the middle of the 1980s. However it regained its former high EROI value of roughly 80:1 by 1990. This pattern may reflect an increase in less costly surface mining. The energy content of coal has been decreasing even though the total tonnage has continued to increase. This is true for the US where the energy content (quality) of coal has decreased while the quantity of coal mined has continued to increase. The maximum energy from US coal seems to have occurred in 1998.

Nuclear energy 14:1. Newer analyses need to be made as these values may not adequately reflect current technology or ore grades.

Hydroelectric power 84:1 . The EROI of hydropower is extremely variable; however the best sites in the developed world were developed long ago.

Ethanol is at or below the 3:1 minimum extended EROI value required for a fuel to be minimally useful to society. It was calculated using data from 31 separate publications covering a full range of plant-based ethanol production

Wind power as high as 18:1. The value in practice may be less due to the need for backup facilities.

Solar photovoltaic or PV energy 10:1. Since there were differences in the assumptions and methodologies employed and the EROI values calculated, 45 separate publications spanning several decades were used to calculate PV EROI.

Geothermal electricity production 9:1.


By the early 1900s the industrial revolution was in full swing. Abundant high quality coal with high EROI, capable of generating an enormous amount of energy, was harnessed by humans to do all kinds of economic work including: heating, manufacturing, the generation of electricity and transportation. The oil industry was in its infancy and was primarily used for transportation and lighting (kerosene). High quality oil remained a small contributor to the energy mix until the end of the 1930s although it was increasing rapidly on a global scale.

The massive WWII war effort during the 1940s saw increased use of coal and oil for the manufacture and use of war machinery. During the post-war era, the great oil discoveries of the early twentieth century found a use in global reconstruction and industrialization. By the late 1960s the EROI of coal (mostly from deep mines) began to decline while the EROI of oil remained high. The EROI for coal production in the US declined from 80:1 in the 1950s to 30:1 in the 1970s. As the best coal was used first, the EROI for coal decreased over time.

The peak of US oil production in 1970 and subsequent peak of US conventional natural gas in 1973 meant an increased reliance on OPEC oil. After the oil shocks of the 1970s, oil prices surged in the US and around the world, stimulating both increased drilling activity and greater interest in the exploitation of more marginal resources (those with higher production costs). Increased drilling activity in the U.S. did not result in increased production but caused a sharp decline in the EROI for conventional oil and gas for the US between the early 1970s and mid 1980s. The oil shocks of the 1970s temporarily halted a long period of increased oil use. It also generated a global oil market and price, destroying an advantage once held by the US. Recovery of production did not occur in the continental US until the rather recent uptick in 2008 following the introduction of the "new" technologies of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. New work on the EROI for oil and gas produced by horizontal drilling and rock fracturing indicate that the EROI can be very high, in part because it is not necessary to pressurize the fields but that these high values are likely to decline substantially as production is moved off the "sweet spots".

In the 1980s, oil that had been found but not developed suddenly became worthy of developing. Many world oil resources, incentivized by higher prices, were developed; some were over developed. Important gains in oil and gas production occurred in some non-OPEC countries including Norway, Mexico, and China. Heating and transportation, historically fueled by coal, was transformed to oil and gas. Energy from coal production shifted to, and remained essential to, manufacturing and increasingly the production of electricity. The EROI of US coal returned to 80:1 by about 1990, mostly due to a shift in the quality of coal extracted, the technology employed in the extraction process and especially the shift from underground to surface (mountain top) mining. This has resulted in less energy required to mine and beneficiate coal. The energy content of the coal extracted, however, has decreased. The increased efficiency of surface mining seems to just about compensate for the decline in the quality of the coal mined.

The 1990s was a period of abundant oil and plummeting oil prices bringing the real cost of oil back to that of the early 1970s. Discretionary spending in the US and other western nations, often on housing, increased. During that time oil exploration efforts slowed down, resulting in an increase in EROI. The mid 2000s marked an increase in global oil and gas exploration efforts. Discretionary spending decreased with the energy price increases from 2007 to the summer of 2008. Oil prices hit an all time high of $147 per barrel in the summer of 2008. This extra 5-10% "tax" from increased energy prices was added to the US economy as it had been in the 1970s, and much discretionary spending disappeared. Speculation in US real estatewas no longer desirable or possible as consumers tightened their belts because of higher energy costs.

The stock market crashed in September 2008 reducing market value by $1.2 trillion, and most Western economies have essentially stopped growing since. In general there has been a decade-by-decade decline in growth of the US economy since 1935, in step with the decline in the annual rate of change for all oil production liquids globally.

It is probable that the EROI of oil and gas will continue to decline over the coming decades. "High" EROI values for oil and gas production are increasingly attributable to the inclusion of high EROI natural gas. The recent declining trend is probably due to "aging of the fields." It is likely that varying drilling intensity has had minimal impact on the net energy gain of these fields.

Meanwhile, China's use of oil has expanded enormously so that China has been importing a larger and larger proportion of its oil from the rest of the world. Recently, China has increased its oil exploitation efforts tremendously, both inside and outside of China. Even so, China appears to be approaching its own peak in oil production.

Since 2008 producers have shifted increasingly to non-conventional oil and gas resources (tar sands, shale oil and gas) which have increased production but also costs. New technologies such as horizontal drilling and hydro-fracturing are currently keeping the total levels of non-conventional and conventional natural gas production in the US at rates similar to those of 1973 from conventional natural gas alone. Already some areas of production from the Barnett and Haynesville formations appear to have reached a production plateau.

Peak coal will likely have the greatest impact on the world's largest coal user, China. In the US it appears that coal may be abundantly available through the next century.

Alternative renewable energies lack many of the undesirable characteristics of fossil fuels, including direct productions of carbon dioxide and other "pollutants", but also lack many of the highly desirable traits of non-renewable fossil fuels. They are not sufficiently "energy dense", tend to be intermittent, lack transportability, most have relatively low EROI values (especially when corrections are made for intermittency), and currently, lack the infrastructure that is required to meet current demands.

To replace traditional nonrenewable energy with renewables, it would require the use of energy-intensive technology for their construction and maintenance.The shift from non-renewable to renewable energy sources would result in declines in both the quantity and EROI values of the principle energies used for economic activity.

Wind and photovoltaic (PV) energy are currently the world's fastest growing renewable energy sources, yet they continue to account for less than one percent of the global energy portfolio. Yet there are many informal reports of PV reaching "price parity" with fossil fuels.

Wind and PV are not "base load technologies": when deployed at beyond 20% of the grid capacity, they will likely require the construction of large, energy intensive storage infrastructures which, if included within EROI assessments, would likely reduce EROI values considerably.

"Energy payback time" is the time required for the renewable energy system to generate the same amount of energy that went into the creation, maintenance, and disposal of the system.

Declining EROI is probably already having a large impact on the world economy. As oil and gas provide roughly 60-65% of the world's energy, this will likely have enormous economic consequences for many national economies.

The decline in EROI among major fossil fuels suggests that in the race between technological advances and depletion, depletion is winning. Past attempts to rectify falling oil production i.e. the rapid increase of drilling after the 1970 peak in oil production and subsequent oil crises in the US only exacerbated the problem by lowering the net energy delivered from US oil production. Increasing prices, thought by most economists to negate depletion through increasing incentives for exploitation, cannot work as EROI approaches 1:1, and even now has made oil too expensive to support the high economic growth it once did.

The energy intensive carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) required to reduce fossil fuel emissions to levels equivalent with that of wind or PV electricity production would reduce the final coal EROI value considerably. EROI figures do not take into account the high life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions from thermal electricity production, and coal-fired systems in particular.

In the last few centuries most problems (such as needs for more agricultural output, worker pay, transport, pensions, schools and social services) were solved by throwing more technology investments and energy at the problem. In many senses this approach worked, although at each step populations grew so that more potential issues had to be served. In a general sense all of this was possible only because there was an abundance of cheap (i.e. high EROI) high quality energy, mostly oil, gas or electricity. We believe that the future is likely to be very different, for while there remains considerable energy in the ground it is unlikely to be exploitable cheaply, or eventually at all, because of its decreasing EROI. Alternatives such as photovoltaics and wind turbines are unlikely to be nearly as cheap energetically or economically as past oil and gas when backup costs are considered. In addition there are increasing costs everywhere pertaining to potential climate changes and other pollutants. Any transition to solar energies would require massive investments of fossil fuels. If any resolution to these problems is possible it is probable that it would have to come at least as much from an adjustment of society's aspirations for increased material affluence and an increase in willingness to share as from technology. doclink

2016: Oil Limits and the End of the Debt Supercycle

   January 7, 2016, Our Finite World   By: Gail Tverberg

We have been in an economic supercycle which has been benevolent so far, but we are reaching the limits of a finite world. Oil limits, as well as other energy limits, will cause a rapid shift into an economic contraction.

The problem of reaching limits in a finite world manifests itself by a slowing of wage growth for non-elite workers, who will become less able to afford the output of the system. These problems first lead to commodity oversupply and very low commodity prices which in turn lead to falling asset prices and widespread debt defaults. These problems are the opposite of what many expect, namely oil shortages and high prices.

With a surplus of oil we can expect to see limits to oil storage, which, as storage fills, prices can be expected to drop to a very low level-less than $10 per barrel for crude oil, and corresponding low prices for gasoline, diesel, and asphalt which will lead to debt defaults, failing banks, and failing governments, especially of oil exporters.

In an ideal situation, the availability of debt makes the purchase of high-priced goods such as factories, homes, cars, and trucks more affordable. These goods require the use of commodities, including energy products and metals, keeping their prices higher than the cost of production, making it profitable to produce these commodities, which, in turn, encourages the extraction of an ever-greater quantity of energy supplies and other commodities.

The growing quantity of energy supplies can be used to leverage human labor to an ever-greater extent, so that workers become increasingly productive. As a result, wages tend to rise, and businesses find that demand for their goods and services grows because of the growing wages of workers, and governments find that they can collect increasing tax revenue. The arrangement of repaying debt with interest tends to work well in this situation. GDP grows sufficiently rapidly that the ratio of debt to GDP stays relatively flat.

These things happen when resources are finite: As population grows, the quantity of agricultural land available per person tends to fall. So higher-priced techniques (such as irrigation, better seeds, fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides) are required to increase production per acre. Businesses tend to extract the least expensive fuels such as oil, coal, natural gas, and uranium first. They later move on to more expensive to extract fuels, when the less-expensive fuels are depleted. The least polluting commodities are used first. When mitigations such as substituting renewables for fossil fuels are used, they tend to be more expensive than the products they are replacing. The leads to the higher cost of final products. Overuse of other resources than fuels leads to problems such as the higher cost of producing metals, deforestation, depleted fish stocks, and eroded topsoil.

When the cost of commodity production rises slowly, its increasing cost adds to inflation in the price of goods and helps inflate away prior debt, so that debt is easier to pay. It also leads to asset inflation, making the use of debt seem to be a worthwhile approach to finance future economic growth, including the growth of energy supplies. The whole system seems to work as an economic growth pump, while the rising wages of non-elite workers push the growth pump along.

The wages of non-elite workers need to be rising faster than commodity prices in order to push the economic growth pump along. When the wages of non-elite workers start falling, relative to the price of commodities, this 'pump' effect fails, especially when the cost of commodity production begins rising rapidly, as it did for oil after 1999 and also in 2003 and 2008 when oil prices spiked and other energy prices rose sharply.

This happens because the rising cost of oil (or electricity, or food, or other energy products) forces workers to cut back on discretionary expenditures. Non-elite workers found it increasingly difficult to afford expensive products such as homes, cars, and washing machines. Housing prices drop. Debt growth slows, leading to a sharp drop in oil prices and other commodity prices.

As non-elite workers cut back on their purchases of goods, the economy tends to contract rather than expand. Efficiencies of scale are lost, and debt becomes increasingly difficult to repay with interest. The whole system tends to collapse.

Currently, jobs that are available tend to be low-paid service jobs. Young people stay in school longer, delay marriage and postpone buying a car and home because they can't find a decent job. All of these issues contribute to the falling wages of non-elite workers. Some individuals retire or voluntarily leave the work force, so they too cannot afford the output of the system.

It was temporarily possible to "fix" low oil prices through the use of Quantitative Easing (QE) and the growth of debt at very low interest rates after 2008. In fact, these very low interest rates are what encouraged the very rapid growth in the production of US crude oil, natural gas liquids, and biofuels.

However, debt is reaching limits because these very low interest rates have encouraged unwise investments. In China, more factories and homes have been built than the market can absorb. In the US, oil "liquids" production rose faster than it could be absorbed by the world market when prices were over $100 per barrel. While oil may drop to a very low price, say $20 per barrel, the world economy could probably absorb it, but such a low selling price doesn't really "work" because of the high cost of production.

The US government has recently decided to raise interest rates. This further reduces the buying power of non-elite workers, leaving a surplus of commodities, which results in commodity prices falling below the cost of production. Many defaults may occur.

China has acted as a major growth pump for the world for the last 15 years. Its growth was financed by a huge increase in debt. Low interest rates encouraged investors to make unwise investments. Paying back this debt is likely to be a problem.

If debt is contracting, asset prices (such as stock prices and the price of land) are likely to fall. Banks are likely to fail, unless they can transfer their problems to others - like those with bank deposits. Governments will find it more expensive to borrow money and to obtain revenue through taxation. Many governments may fail as well for that reason. doclink

German Carpenter Invents On-off Contraception Switch for Sperm

Joiner from Berlin has invented a switch which can turn off the flow of sperm from a man’s testicles, making him temporarily infertile
   January 5, 2016, Daily Telegraph   By: Justin Huggler

A German carpenter has invented a valve which he claims will allow a man to turn the flow of sperm from his testicles on and off at the flick of a switch, thus "revolutionizing contraception."

Clemens Bimek told Spiegel magazine about the idea that came to him some 20 years ago.

Mr Bimek said that many of the doctors he has told his story to did not take him seriously, but a few encouraged him to keep tinkering with his project.

Now the valve is to be implanted in more than two dozen men in trials starting this year.

The valves are less than a inch long and weigh less than a tenth of an ounce, and implanted on the vas deferens, the ducts which carry sperm from the testicles, in a simple half-hour operation.

Release of semen can be controlled with a simple on-off switch which the man can reach under the skin of his scrotum.

So far Mr Bimek himself is the only man who has had this valve implanted.

Hartwig Bauer, the urologist who carried out the surgery, told Spiegel the valve was preferable to a vasectomy. "A third of patients want to have the operation reversed later, but it doesn't always work," he said.

But other doctors have expressed concerns over this new technology.

"My assessment is that implanting the valve could cause scarring," said Wolfgang Bühmann, spokesman for the Professional Association of German Urologists.

However, Anneke Loos, head of testing for medical products centre in Hannover, said that "Other implants made of this material have been well tolerated elsewhere in the body. The question is whether it will cause problems when it is implanted in this area." doclink

Rick says: How many men will volunteer to go under the knife?

9 Out of 10 Americans Are Completely Wrong About This Mind-Blowing Fact

   November 11, 2015,

Wealth inequality in America: what Americans think is their country's wealth inequality and what is the ideal wealth distribution in a capitalist society are far different from shocking reality. Click on the link to see the video. doclink

The Spanish "Civil War" Lesson for Population Growth Control

   December 28, 2015, Church and State   By: Stephen D. Mumford

Note: Few people know about 'National Security Study Memorandum 200: Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for U.S. Security and Overseas Interests' (NSSM200) commissioned by President Nixon and completed on December 10, 1974 by the United States National Security Council under the direction of Henry Kissinger on behalf of President Nixon. It was adopted as official U.S. policy by President Gerald Ford in November 1975. It was originally classified, but was later declassified and obtained by researchers in the early 1990s. Preceding this memorandum, in 1961, Congress authorized research on family planning and population issues, including the provision of family planning information to couples who requested it. In 1965 Congress adopted a plan to reduce birth rates in developing countries through its War on Hunger and Investments in family planning programs. USAID has since been a leading donor to family planning and reproductive health programs.

In this lengthy article, Stephen D. Mumford laments: "Over the past 25 years, American political will to deal with the overpopulation problem has been destroyed. NSSM 200 lived and died. The story of the creation and demise of NSSM 200, and of how the government was thwarted in its effort to resolve the overpopulation problem, received no mention in the news media or any other information source. Few Americans are aware of what is perhaps the most important story of the 20th Century. How could it have been suppressed and for what reason?"

Then Mumford proceeds to compare an extensive study of the Spanish Civil War and the related control of the American press by the Catholic hierarchy to possible suppression of important information about 'population growth control.' "The hierarchy has a history of manipulating the press to insure that Papal interests are served even at the expense of American interests" he says.

In the 1970s and 1980s, George Seldes told us how and why in seven articles that appeared in The Churchman magazine, an Episcopal journal, which has always been committed to the truth. After an intensive study, in an August 1978 article, Seldes concludes: "The New York Times is still in fear of reprisals from the Roman Church in America, as it was during the entire Spanish War when under managing editor Edward L. James and the notorious 'Fascist phalanx in the bull-pen.'

"The New Republic" magazine, "to its credit, in 'Who Lied About Spain?' when the war was over 1939 listed the [New York] Times man with Franco as the number one falsifier." Seldes concluded that all of America's 1,750 daily papers were similarly terrified by "the Catholic Church propaganda campaign." This "terror" is still pervasive and has led to the disappearance of a free press in America in matters of concern to the Vatican, such as the recognition of overpopulation as a national security threat, Mumford claims.

In 1931, Spain became the Republic of Spain, a liberal democracy that separated church and state, ended State monetary support for the church and adopted the principles of Freedom of Conscience, Freedom of Religion, and Freedom of the Press. The Vatican feared for the Church's very survival in Spain. There had been four insurrections since 1835, and it was the Spanish people, the poor workers and poor peasants, who burned the churches because they blamed the hierarchy for having persistently backed the upper class. The latest uprising against the Catholic Church took place throughout the country in July, 1936. One historian described it as "the work of masses of common people, a spontaneous uprising." The Vatican feared that the liberal democracy with its freedoms would spell the end of the Church in Spain.

The Spanish War of 1936-39 was not a civil war but an invasion by Hitler, Mussolini and Salazar fascists in league with the Vatican. Confessions of the Nazis at the Nuremberg Trials confirm the plot. It was a "Christian crusade against atheistic communism."

President Franklin Roosevelt participated in this undertaking, convinced by Cardinal Pacelli, who three years later became Pope Pius XII. A treasonable officer's rebellion had been converted into the 'Crusade Against Godless Communism.'"

President Roosevelt prevented guns, food and medicine from being shipped to the Republic of Spain. The world press either falsified the news of the arrival of German and Italian troops, or confused enough people to prevent effective protest." The blockade was responsible for the Republic's defeat.

Spain's Bishops themselves openly admitted the role of the Church. "In Madrid, September 15, 1971, at a Congress of the entire Roman Catholic Hierarchy, the majority confessed it had sinned in supporting the wrong side (the fascist side) in Spain and asked to be forgiven. 'We humbly recognize,' said the resolution, 'and ask pardon for it, that we failed at the proper time to be ministers of reconciliation in the midst of our people divided by a war between brothers.'"

The news of these votes was almost completely suppressed in the world press. Only three minor reports on this story appeared in the United States.

FDR admitted his error in 1939 -- but it could not be published in his lifetime. President Harry Truman wrote in his Memoirs: 'I believe it was a mistake for me to support the Neutrality Action in the first place.'

In the Spanish War of 1936-1939 an estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 of Spain's population of 25,000,000 were killed. By 1939, an estimated 100,000 prisoners of war had been murdered by Franco -- news of which was supressed in American newspapers These Spaniards were murdered for only one reason - they believed in liberal democracy, just as we Americans do here in this country.

Franco repaid the Roman Catholic Church by abolishing divorce, making religious marriages obligatory and restoring taxes for the benefit of the Church-all previously banned by the Republic, and turned the schools over to the Catholic Church. Here children learned to despise liberalism. Liberalism is mortal sin and anti-Christian. The Liberal system is the weapon with which the accursed Jewish race makes war on our Lord Jesus Christ, and his Church, and on the Christian people. Liberals defend freedom of conscience, freedom of worship, freedom of the press, or any of the other liberal errors.

Mumford continues: "We have witnessed in America since the mid-1970s the application of this same technique for control of the press on the issue of overpopulation. Although the entire press consistently genuflect to the Catholic hierarchy, they are under continuous attack for being too 'liberal' and 'anti-Catholic'. The charge of 'liberal press' is always used to attack the anti-Vatican position on every issue.

This very same technique is being used in America today by a press manipulated by the Vatican to misinform Americans, minimizing the threat of overpopulation and, in particular, the threat of the greenhouse effect. The Vatican demand is that both sides of the issues be given equal press. An article of falsehoods is published alongside an article of facts. For example, the United Nation's task force on the greenhouse effect includes 2500 scientists. There are perhaps a half dozen people with credentials who dismiss this theory. The Vatican has successfully insisted that both groups be given equal press or, better yet, none at all.

To this day The New York Times has not published the truth about its falsehoods and pro-fascism of the Spanish war years. We must assume that the Times does not want known the influence of the Catholic hierarchy at the Times during that era. We must also assume that the Times has not acted because the Catholic influence prevails in its editorial offices today. doclink

Karen Gaia says: it is certainly true that there is a 'taboo' about attempts to reach a sustainable population, but I feel the taboo is more easily explained by abuses by 'population controllers', pressure on families to stop having children, and suggestions of penalties. Preventing unintended pregnancies is a better, more workable answer.

And even the Pope has come around to a degree. He now acknowledges climate change and even overpopulation. But he still will not condone modern contraception and abortion. Fertility timing is the only method he will allow.

Hunger Threatens Millions as El Niño Causes Drought and Floods

Aid agencies call for urgent action as failed harvests, stunted crops and soaring prices trigger widespread food shortages in Africa, the Caribbean and Asia
   December 30, 2015, Guardian   By: John Vidal

"The effects of the strongest El Niño in several decades are set to put the world's humanitarian system under an unprecedented level of strain in 2016 as it already struggles to cope with the fallout from conflicts in Syria, South Sudan, Yemen and elsewhere," reports Oxfam. ActionAid, Care International, Plan and Catholic Relief Services are also involved.

60 million people -- a level unknown since the second world war -- have been forced to flee their homes because of conflict, according to the UN refugee agency. Nearly 39 million people will need food aid because of shortages. "Millions of people in places like Ethiopia, Haiti and Papua New Guinea are already feeling the effects of drought and crop failure. It's already too late for some regions to avoid a major emergency," said Jane Cocking, Oxfam GB's humanitarian director.

"The situation is serious and deteriorating, and urgent early action is required to prevent a slide into crisis that would put the humanitarian system under enormous strain," she said.

"Livelihoods are being destroyed. Gains that have been made through development efforts in these communities over several years are at risk," Geir Olav Lisle, deputy secretary general at the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said.

Food shortages are expected to peak in southern Africa in February. Malawi estimates that 2.8 million people will require humanitarian assistance before March.

A further 2 million people across Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua already need food aid after drought and erratic rains, and millions more in Haiti and Papua New Guinea are likely to need help. The situation is expected to deteriorate in January as floods affect Central America.

The UK's Department for International Development said it was providing emergency support for 2.6 million people and 120,000 malnourished children, as well as food or cash support from January. "Ensuring security for those affected by El Niño is important to their countries but also in Britain's national interest. Only by protecting and stabilising vulnerable countries can we ensure people are not forced to leave their homes in search of food or a new livelihood," development minister Nick Hurd said.

Dr Nick Klingaman, from the University of Reading's Department of Meteorology, said: "By some measures this has already been the strongest El Niño on record. "In a lot of tropical countries we are seeing big reductions in rainfall of the order of 20-30%. Indonesia has experienced a bad drought; the Indian monsoon was about 15% below normal; and the forecasts for Brazil and Australia are for reduced monsoons."

A La Niña event, which can have opposite but similarly harmful effects could follow this El Niño. In places where we are seeing droughts from El Niño, we could be seeing flooding from La Niña next year. doclink

Voluntary Birth Control is a Climate Change Solution Nobody Wants to Talk About

A growing population means greater environmental strain. The solution could be rooted in women's rights.
   December 10, 2015, Church and State   By: Jessica Prois

Ethiopia has a Population Health Environment (PHE) initiative to show residents the intractable link between overpopulation and its toll on the environment. The nation has experienced land depletion caused by drought but is now focused on reforestation efforts, which also includes access to voluntary birth control such as pills, condoms and IUDs. The purpose is to reduce the 40% of unintended pregnancies per year, and cut our collective human carbon footprint.

"More population pressure is creating a lot of burden on the environment-as well as on health care systems, education systems and unemployment," Yetnayet Asfaw, vice president of Strategy and Impact at EngenderHealth, PHE Ethiopia's umbrella group, said.

While most of the world's population growth is taking place throughout Africa and India, industrialized countries' energy consumption levels take a larger toll on the environment.

A 2009 study from Oregon State found that a child in the U.S. emits more than 160 times the carbon emissions than that of a child from Bangladesh. And in the U.S., reducing unwanted pregnancies can cut emissions by far greater margins than efforts such as recycling, making homes more energy efficient and cutting down on travel.

Experts point out that providing people worldwide with access to voluntary birth control is chiefly a moral issue that incidentally has a positive environmental effect.

"We ought to be doing family planning, female empowerment and reducing child marriage to reduce the fertility rate because that is right for individuals. And on top of that, they will have an environmental benefit," Jason Bremmer, associate vice president of the Population Reference Bureau said.

Any kind of connection between population and climate change often boils down to issues rooted in gender equality and poverty, Asfaw said. She said a woman might not use birth control because culturally, she is not empowered to ask a man to use a condom. Or she might live in a country that does not have roads by which she can reach a providing clinic.

Climate change, reproductive health and family planning are politically charged issues.

When politicians and experts talk about voluntary family planning, they have been called "eugenicists" and "Nazis." In 2009, then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said we should be linking climate change to overpopulation. She was quickly skewered in the media.

"The U.S. is a unique case in which we're still stuck on the politics of the issue," Bremmer said. "Whether or not we have a favorable administration determines whether we tend to see support for family planning. There is simply usually less money and more restriction on its use under a Republican administration. But the rest of the world does not operate that way."

Corey Bradshaw, a professor at the School of Biological Sciences at The University of Adelaide emphasized the fact that giving women choices related to reproductive health, education and avenues out of poverty is foundational to any solution-climate change and otherwise.

Bremmer said the focus should be on multiple strategies en masse, including long-term solutions such as removing fossil fuels from electricity and transportation networks, and short-term solutions such as reducing everyday waste and consumption.

Experts say every climate solution must be on the table, as population trajectories are uncertain. Worldwide population has swelled due to more people surviving to reproductive age, higher fertility rates and migration patterns in general, the U.N. states.

Bradshaw conducted a study last year that concluded family planning will help, but only in the long term. He outlined a number of scenarios in "Human Population Reduction Is Not a Quick Fix for Environmental Problems" in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last year.

He stated that in order to cut emissions to keep the planet below the "danger zone" of a 2-degree Celsius, we would be forced to not only reduce new unwanted pregnancies -- but also lessen the human population by 60 to 80%. "That's obviously unfathomable," he said. doclink

Karen Gaia says: Delaying marriage and avoiding teen pregnancy will have an more immediate effect on reducing population growth and climate emissions, compared to other fertility reduction plans, such a contraception for married women.

The Oil-Export Time-Bomb

   October 20, 2015, Washington's Blog

Oil exporting nations, which typically have rapidly rising populations and undiversified economies dependent on oil exports, have begun consuming more of their oil domestically while production stagnates. There may be enough oil for each country still pumping oil, but very little is available for export.

The technologies of fracking have given oil/gas production in the US a boost, and this may well continue increasing supply for a time.

Importing nations will be left without enough energy to sustain their industrial economies.

Although it's possible to invest enough in alternative energy to keep some infrastructure working, total alternative energy is a few percentage points of total energy consumption.

Germany is a global leader in generating large quantities of electricity from alternative energy sources, but is Germany ready to replace its vehicle fleet with electric cars and trucks?

This chart of the energy (thermodynamic) population equivalent -- the human population plus all their billions of energy slaves -- reveal the staggering magnitude of industrial civilization's reliance on fossil fuels. (WOA editor note: 'Energy slaves' are a measurement of how many humans providing human power it would take to replace energy now provided by current supplies of energy, such a fossil fuels or hydro.) doclink

Karen Gaia says: This graph looks very similar to one at

Also. this graph shows the problem from a slightly different perspective:

A California Gas Leak is the Biggest Environmental Disaster Since the BP Oil Spill

   December 28, 2015, Gizmodo   By: Alissa Walker

On October 23, Southern California Gas discovered a leak in its underground Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility in Porter Ranch, about 25 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. For over two months now this leak has been spilling methane into the atmosphere at up to 110,000 pounds per hour (62 million cubic feet per day). That makes it the largest leak on record and the worst environmental disaster since BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

Although the gas is invisible, infrared video shows it rolling over the foothills. Residents who remain in the area get headaches and have trouble breathing. Two schools were relocated for the 2016 semester and thousands of people have to relocate.

The leak also contributes to world climate change. It releases the emissions equivalent of seven million cars. Although methane burns cleaner than coal, the raw gas has over 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide during its first 20 years in the atmosphere. A report by the Environmental Defense Fund says that 195 nations are working to keep methane out of the atmosphere. It is therefore important, not just for the company to halt his leak as soon as possible, but also for the state act and ensure safer natural gas storage and transportation in the future.

Engineers believe that a well casing failed deep below the surface. Repairing the leak requires careful drilling far from the source to avoid igniting the gas and causing an explosion, and that could take several more months. doclink

It's A Boy! Family Planning and Contraception in Egypt

   December 11, 2015, Egyptian Streets

With Egypt's population approaching 90 million, a 2015 EHIS survey conducted for the Ministry of Health and Population and funded by USAID DHS, UNICEF, and UNFPA, showed that fertility rates rose by 17% during the last six years. Yet, for the future, the same survey found that most categories of women and men aged 15-24 would like smaller families. With an ever-growing population and an inability to meet all needs of its citizens, the government will likely consider this survey an indication that more needs to be done to raise awareness of the importance of family planning.

Although about 75% of respondents thought girls should marry by age 20, few now advocate child marriage. Only 4-5% of respondents thought girls should marry by 17 (which would be illegal). For boys, the recommended age was at least 25. These views may result from the idea that young parents cannot adequately support a child.

Men wanted an average of 3.4 children, while women's ideal number was 3.1. This three-child preference for was shared by all groups of women, regardless of education and wealth. Women more often than men wanted two or less kids (36% compared to 31%).

The survey also revealed some surprising facts that could reflect what is covered in sex education. While 98.2% of the women and 94.1% of the men knew about birth control pills and more than 90% of respondents also knew about injectables and IUDs, just 53.2% of women and 64.4% of the men knew about condoms. Also, 90% of women and 87% of men between the ages of 15 and 49 thought it appropriate to use family planning methods after the first birth. Yet, only 8% of women and 10% of men regarded such methods as appropriate before the first baby. doclink

Despite Push for Cleaner Cars, Sheer Numbers Could Work Against Climate Benefits

   December 7, 2015, New York Times   By: David Jolly

Everyone who studies the issue understands that transportation, which is still 95% reliant on petroleum, is the world's fastest-growing energy-based contributor to greenhouse gases. About 75% of the total comes from motor vehicles.

Few disagree that the best solutions include the adoption of electric vehicles and, especially in cities, making it easier for people to forgo cars by using public transportation or riding bicycles.

Lewis M. Fulton, a researcher at the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis, cites "carbon intensity" - the amount of carbon dioxide produced for each mile traveled - as an area where advances can be made. By 2030, he said, it should be possible to cut the carbon intensity of new cars powered by fossil fuel by 50% from 2005 levels. Already, he said, there has been about a 20% improvement.

However, the number of automobiles on the world's roads is on pace to double - to more than two billion - by 2030. If the number of cars doubles, and the average mileage improves by only 50%, all of the fuel-economy gains would be offset by the emissions from the new vehicles.

That is because much of the expansion will be propelled by the rise of the consumer class in industrializing parts of the globe, especially in China and India, as hundreds of millions of new drivers discover the glory of the open road. Those populous and geographically sprawling countries might be hard pressed any time soon to assemble the ubiquitous electricity grid required for recharging electric vehicles; and much of the electricity China and India will produce in coming decades will come from coal-fired power plants that are some of the planet's biggest emitters of carbon dioxide. doclink

Researching the Connections: Challenges and Opportunities

   December 1, 2015, Family Planning and Environmental Sustainability Assessment   By: Lori Hunter

The Family Planning and Environmental Sustainability Assessment (FPESA) project has undertaken an important and challenging agenda, one with tremendous implications for the well-being of human populations and the planet.

However there has been little scholarship directly linking family planning to environmental sustainability. This is due to a) research design challenges, b) complexity and intervening factors that challenge researchers' ability to isolate the effects of family planning on environmental conditions, since environmental change arises from myriad socio-economic and environmental processes, c) demographic theory that historically has not integrated environmental factors; because theory guides academic research, this is one reason that the population-environment connection is under-studied, d) disconnects between researchers, practitioners, and funding agencies that constrain collaboration.

Recently, there have been several innovative approaches to research design:

The Wolong Nature Preserve in southwestern China's Sichuan Province is home to 4,500 people while also providing critical habitat for the endangered giant panda. To simulate future habitat loss under a variety of family planning scenarios, researchers from Michigan State University linked population and household dynamics to land use and then estimated the amount of habitat change projected under different family planning scenarios. They found that increasing the maternal age at marriage would produce positive habitat impacts in only 10 years while overall fertility changes shape habitat loss only in the longer term (40 years).

In a second example, Oregon State University researchers used mathematical modeling of the contribution of population to climate change by estimating the extra carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions caused by childbearing -- an individual's "carbon legacy" as related to fertility choices. When considering descendants across two generations, under current conditions in the United States, they found that each child adds over 9,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions for an average individual. This suggests that a reduction of one child would bring dramatically more emission savings than reducing driving miles, replacing single-paned windows, and replacing lightbulbs.

In another example, Leona D'Agnes and colleagues determined that programs that integrated reproductive health and environmental conservation yielded greater reductions in the average number of children born and greater socio-environmental outcomes. By collecting pre- and post-project data in communities with different types of interventions, statistical models could be used to estimate the utility of linking family planning and conservation efforts.

But FPESA's approach also considers the importance of focusing on research that examines the connection. Documenting what is known about the connection between family planning and population growth should help activists, practitioners and policymakers better make the connection between family planning, population growth, and, ultimately, environmental sustainability. doclink

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