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

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Mother Caring for 7 Billion doc

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

December 19, 2014

Be a Vegan Monk and Crank Out All the Babies You Want

December 16 , 2014, GrowthBiasedBusted website   By: Dave Gardner

The New York Times has a wide readership and a good reputation which gives it a lot of influence. That's why Dave Gardner went back to an article of a few months ago to critique Andrew Revkin's commentary about the link between population and climate change: On the Path Past 9 Billion, Little Crosstalk Between U.N. Sessions on Population and Global Warming.

Garder applauds the following statement of Revkin's: "Largely missed in much of this... is the role of population growth in contributing both to rising emissions of greenhouse gases and rising vulnerability to climate hazards in poor places with high fertility rates."

However, another statement of Revkin's deserves a place on Gardner's Growth Biased Busted 'Wall of Shame': "Obviously, rates of consumption of fossil energy and forests per person matter more than the rise in human numbers. As I've said before, 9 billion vegan monks would have a far different greenhouse-gas imprint than a similar number of people living high on the hog."

Gardner points out that obviously people prefer to having fewer children to lowering their standard of living -- you can tell by the fact that the global average fertility rate has been on the decline for the past 40 years, while the trend in per-capita consumption has been in the opposite direction. However, "we haven't been fully motivated in this endeavor, as we still add nearly 80 million per year to world population," he says.

Gardner also points out that "there is a huge difference between 2 or 3 billion people living modest, happy, sustainable lives, and 9 billion people living the same lifestyle. With 9 billion people the sustainable lifestyle would not be modest and happy. It would be ascetic."

In addition, Revkin seems to relegate the population growth problem to people "over there:" “…Family planning, for instance, should absolutely be seen as a climate resilience strategy in poor regions," he said.

"Surely he realizes that each added family member in the over-developed world does more damage to our climate ... than several dozen in Nigeria." Also, "are not the millions added to the rich world's coastlines going to be a problem, too?," Gardner reasons.

"Every couple that ISN'T living that vegan monk lifestyle should be reading about how much better the odds are for the children of the world if they choose to conceive just one, or even zero, children." doclink

Nigeria Records 200,000km Roads, 17m Housing Deficits

December 10, 2014, Guardian

Nigeria needs about 400,000 km of roads to meet its quest for infrastructure development, approximately twice the volume of the present road network cross the 36 states of the federation. Likewise, the nation's housing deficit currently stands at 17 million.

The Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) has enlisted into the workforce about 7,000 youths from communities to carry out maintenance tasks in various federal roads nationwide as part of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme.

Roads are necessary in a country like Nigeria where other forms of transport are negligible, especially such huge viable options like railways, air and water transportation.

The housing challenges were being compounded by rural-urban migration, as there is a rapid development of urban slum settlement in Nigeria, leading to such societal ailments like hydra-headed problem of building collapse, poor hygiene and health, disease, social and problems like crime.

70% of the African population will living in cities by 2050. doclink

Immigration is Driving Broad Demographic Shifts in U.S., Report Says

December 18, 2014, NPR National Public Radio   By: Scott Neuman

The U.S. Census Bureau has projected that migration to the U.S. will become the primary driver of population increases sometime between 2027 and 2038.

The Pew Charitable Trusts' Immigration and the States Project takes a closer look at the trend.

Immigration is driving population growth in the Sunbelt, Pacific Northwest and Mountain states.

The percentage of immigrants in the "gateways" of California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Texas, has decreased, while as a percentage of the population, they have increased in other states, including Nevada, North Carolina and Washington. The numbers include both legal and illegal immigration to the U.S.
. . . more doclink

The Happy Planet Index

December 11 , 2014, Happy Planet Index

Did you know that Bangladesh scored higher than the U.S. on the Happy Planet Index?

Each of the three component measures - life expectancy, experienced well-being and Ecological Footprint - is given a traffic-light score based on thresholds for good (green), middling (amber) and bad (red) performance. These scores are combined to an expanded six-colour traffic light for the overall HPI score, where, to achieve bright green - the best of the six colours, a country would have to perform well on all three individual components. The scores for the HPI and the component measures can be viewed in map or table-form. By clicking on any individual country in the map or table you can explore its results in more detail.
. . . more doclink

U.S.: The Rise of the IUD

December 11 , 2014, Think Progress   By: Tara Culp-Ressler

Long acting reversible methods of birth control (LARCs) is a category of highly effective contraceptives that includes intrauterine devices (IUDs) and hormonal implants. These methods are chosen by U.S. women more and more, according to the CDC, despite political controversy stoked by religious conservatives, who assert they're comparable to abortion.

The birth control pill has been the most common contraception for many years. Long-acting birth control, meanwhile, has historically been one of the least popular methods even though it's actually the most effective reversible option.

From 2006 to 2013, the rate of women choosing IUDs and implants nearly doubled -- jumping from 3.8% to 7.2%.

In the past, doctors avoided prescribing IUDs to young women who hadn't yet given birth, assuming that they would be too hard to insert or that younger patients wouldn't want to stick with the method. And some medical professionals have been reluctant to give long-term contraceptives to unmarried women, reflecting somewhat of a discomfort with female sexuality outside of serious relationships.

Recent research in the field has confirmed that IUDs are safe for younger women, and that, when presented with all the options, teenage girls are 16 times more likely to choose an IUD than any other method. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American Academy of Pediatrics now encourage doctors to give IUDs to their teenage patients.

Obamacare's birth control benefit eliminates out-of-pocket costs for FDA-approved contraception, so women no longer have to pay hundreds of dollars upfront to insert an IUD.

Right-wing religious groups claim that IUDs are a form of abortion, even though there's no scientific evidence to back that up. doclink

Methane is Leaking Out All Over the Damn Place, Thanks to the Oil and Gas Industry

December 10 , 2014, Grist   By: John Light

Methane emissions from both operating and abandoned oil and gas wells are a major source of greenhouse gasses that goes largely unnoticed. Methane is the second most common greenhouse gas the U.S. emits. Although the EPA estimates that methane makes up only 9% of all greenhouse gas emissions, over a 20-year period it traps 86 times more heat than CO2, and the Environmental Defense Fund estimates that it accounts for about 25% of human-caused global warming.

Two new studies explain how methane continues leaking into the air after the process of drilling for oil and gas. In a Princeton University study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers looked at 19 abandoned wells in northwestern Pennsylvania. All were leaking some methane, but three leaked at thousands of times the levels the others did. Still, only one of the wells was on the state's list of abandoned wells. Poor record keeping makes it hard to learn when wells were drilled or if they were plugged. The only clue may be a pipe sticking out of the ground in a forest or someone's yard, often making a notable contribution to climate change. An earlier Stanford University study said about 3 million abandoned wells like the ones Princeton studied are scattered across the U.S. The understaffed Department of Environmental Protection is assigned to plug them, but Pennsylvania plugs those it finds to ensure that the job gets done.

The second study, by the University of Texas at Austin, with funding from both the Environmental Defense Fund and natural gas companies, found that among operating wells 20% of sites known to researchers are responsible for the vast majority of emissions. David Allen, Chemical Engineering Professor at the Cockrell School and principal investigator for the study, compared this to 10% of the cars on the road being responsible for most of the exhaust pollution.

The Clean Air Task Force and the Sierra Club issued a report showing how the EPA could cut methane leaks from oil and gas drilling in half. But America still has no system to determine which wells emit the most methane nor any standard policy on what to do about them. The administration has promised new regulations, but environmental groups are getting frustrated waiting for them. doclink

Yes, Half of America Believes That the End Times Are Causing Natural Disasters

November 21 , 2014, Washington Post   By: Alexandra Petri

While those who think that climate change is causing the weather are trying to do something about it, there are others who think that end times are causing the weather and are just sitting back, waiting for the Antichrist to show up. They believe that once the Antichrist comes it is only a matter of time before the Rapture, at which point the true believers will be lifted up into the heavens and the hole in the ozone will cease to be anyone's primary concern.

According to the Public Religion Research Institute 49% of Americans think that, if we are dealing with lots of severe natural disasters, it is because we are living in the end times.

The end times is a period of exceptional wickedness. And this climate of exceptional wickedness can only be said to be the product of human activity. As GotQuestions.org put it, "The list of things people will be in the last days -- lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power (2 Timothy 3:1-2) -- seems to fit our modern age exactly." It's all these high emissions of slander and ungodliness that have put us in this fix! doclink

Karen Gaia says: Could this explain why such a big resistance to contraception because it is one of the signs of 'wickedness', i.e. having sex for pleasure?

‘God Loves Women Who Have Abortions': the Religious Abortion Advocates That History Forgot

December 16, 2014   By: Tara Culp-Ressler

In 1967, deaths resulting from illegal abortions accounted for 42% of New York City's maternal mortality rate. Wealthy women could afford to have illegal yet safe abortions but less privileged women didn't have that option. A survey of low-income women who had abortions in the 1960s found that 80% had attempted a self-induced procedure, and only 2% said that a trained physician was involved in any way.

The Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion, a group of pastors and rabbis, came together to talk about how they might help women get connected with the illicit "abortionists" who could perform a safe procedure. Wanting to be totally transparent, they announced their new organization in a front page story in the New York Times. They choose to defy the law in order to adhere to a higher moral code.

Decades later, many Americans have no idea that religious leaders were instrumental in one of the most dramatic public health shifts of the 20th century. Especially since the modern anti-abortion movement is grounded in conservative religious communities, the legacy of pro-choice people of faith has receded into the background.

Dr. S. Huw Anwyl was one of the religious leaders working for that policy change five decades ago. After accompanying the a 14 year-old pregnant girl and her family to Tijuana for an illegal abortion procedure, he was horrified at the thought of girls and women putting their lives in the hands of inexperienced doctors who might harm them.

After meeting with Rev. Howard Moody, founder of Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion, Anwyl started assembling a chapter of the Clergy Consultation Service on the West Coast. They followed in Moody's lead and announced their services in the Los Angeles Times. The next day they got 293 calls from women who wanted their help.

Anwyl sent nurses to check in on abortion doctors unannounced, just to make sure they were still using safe and clean equipment. His group pressured doctors to lower their prices or occasionally discount their services.

Four decades later, the Clergy Consultation Service isn't just distant history. A version of the group still exists as the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC).

Part of RCRC's work today involves educating pastors about the fact that, if one in three women in the U.S. will have an abortion in her lifetime, some of those people are surely sitting in their pews. Religious leaders need to know how to handle those conversations in an empathetic way.

Faith Aloud, a Missouri-based organization, trains clergy about how to compassionately assist women who have had abortions. The group receives phone calls from all over the country from women who are seeking "spiritual counseling" and may have previously only encountered faith leaders who were not equipped to support them.

“We believe that women are good, created in the image of God, and able to make difficult decisions. We believe this power to make personal decisions is good and given to us by God," Faith Aloud explains in the section of its site devoted to its counseling services.

Faith Aloud supports reproductive justice for every person.

Reproductive justice addresses the disparities that prevent many women of color from having the freedom to determine the course of their lives, including when to become a parent and how to raise a healthy child. It places an emphasis on marginalized women's personal experiences, going beyond the “choice" language to articulate a vision of supporting women throughout every aspect of their reproductive lives. doclink

Years of Living Dangerously Premiere Full Episode

December 08, 2014, You Tube

This series won a 2014 Global Media Award from the Population Institute

Hollywood celebrities and respected journalists span the globe to explore the issues of climate change and cover intimate stories of human triumph and tragedy. This first episode features Don Cheadle, Harrison Ford & Thomas Friedman doclink

Population Foundation India Issues Statement on Sterilisation Deaths

Statement from Population Foundation India on the Chhattisgarh sterilisation deaths
November 14 , 2014, Population and Sustainability Network   By: Poonam Muttrija

Population Foundation of India is deeply anguished at the death of 13 young mothers during a sterilization camp at a hospital in Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh. The deaths should awaken us to the fact that the target-free approach, which India claims to follow, is not yet a reality. Though the word ‘target' has been removed, it has been replaced by ‘expected level of achievement', which means the performance of the health staff in family planning continues to be determined by the number of women they round up for the sterilization procedure or the number they operate on. Also the awards and the monetary compensation they receive are directly linked to their performance on numbers instead of quality of services.

Family planning is a way to save mothers and children; give them a healthier life. The way forward is to begin by focusing on quality of care by adhering strictly to prescribed guidelines. One doctor should not do more than 30 sterilisations with three laparoscopes in one day. The doctor in Chhattisgarh is said to have performed 83 operations in less than five hours. While sterilisation camps are supposed to be organised in established government facilities, in Chhattisgarh, the camp was organised in a private charitable hospital, and according to reports, did not have even the basic life-saving facilities.

Population Foundation of India calls for the funds now being spent on incentives to health staff and compensation to the women, to be diverted as investment in quality of care in government facilities. Family planning is supposed to save lives. doclink

Slower Population Growth Could Significantly Reduce Carbon Emissions, Paper Finds

December 11, 2014, CEPR - Center for Economic and Policy Research   By: Dan Beeton

A research paper from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) -- "The Consequences of Increased Population Growth for Climate Change", by economist David Rosnick -- finds that that an additional 1% of population growth through the end of the century would coincide with about an additional 2 degrees Fahrenheit in average global temperatures.

"Over time," the paper concludes, "the temperature change is greater and becomes increasingly sensitive to population growth."

While there are dire warnings of ‘demographic time bombs' due to population declines in countries like Japan and China, "lower population growth actually has many economic benefits; one of the most important is that it reduces the rate of global climate change," says Rosnick. "In fact, not only can working-age populations continue to support larger numbers of retirees, but declining population rates are good for the planet as a whole."

"A larger population requires more farmland, and increased economic activity means greater carbon emissions and more intense climate change."

The Global Change Assessment Model (GCAM) was used to show that a larger population supports a larger economy, which translates in close proportion into additional releases of carbon dioxide (CO2). It also showed that the global temperature should in any year be nearly linear in relation to the rate of growth when the rate of population growth is constant.

Technology or economics (such as reducing work hours) can also produce a path of lower emissions.

"There are many positive economic and social policies that can promote this transition to lower birth rates," including "more security in old age; he education of girls and women and increased economic opportunities for them, as well as affordable contraception and reproductive choice; lower infant and child mortality; nd increased literacy, education levels, and productivity generally." Moreover, reductions in population growth in high-income countries will have a greater impact on climate change reduction. doclink

Karen Gaia says: The paper fails to take into account the depletion of fossil fuels and other resources such as water. However, these will likely lower emissions even more, hastening the decline in temperatures.

African Soil Crisis Threatens Food Security, Says Study

December 03 , 2014, BBC News   By: Mark Kinver

The Montpellier Panel, a group of African and European experts in agriculture, trade, ecology and global development, recently published a document saying that "In Africa, … 65% of arable land, 30% of grazing land and 20% of forests are already damaged." It cautioned that aid donors should raise the priority of African soil degradation and reduced soil fertility because these problems lead to lower crop yields, hamper economic development (costing farmers billions of dollars in lost income), and increase greenhouse gas emissions.

Panel chairman Gordon Conway told BBC News that talk of crops and livestock and debates about agriculture "tend to ignore that it all depends on soils." He said, "Serious land degradation [accounts for] about a quarter of land area of sub-Saharan Africa - it is a vast area." About 180 million people live on land that is in some way degraded. The problem threatens food production in a region that is already experiencing very low crop yields (The average yield in sub-Saharan Africa is about one third the yield in China for the same amount of land.) "Africa already imports US $40 billion worth of food each year…. If we do not produce more food in Africa, that will get worse..."

Africa faces a combination of land degradation, poor yields and a growing population. "We know what you have to do to improve the quality of soil, but the big challenge is providing the funds and making sure that there are incentives for farmers. Farmers will not invest in their land unless they have land tenure." But many farmers cannot afford to invest in their land, Mr. Conway said. "In South-East Asia, the great irrigation schemes that have provided much of the food security in the region were publicly funded."

The panel made a number of recommendations, including:
• Strengthening political support for land management
• Increase financial support for investment in land and soil management
• Attribute a value to land degradation
• Create incentives, especially sure land rights
• Build on existing knowledge and resources doclink

Divorce Rates Keep Declining. Thanks, Birth Control!

December 08, 2014, RH Reality Check   By: Amanda Marcotte

There is this myth that marriage is falling apart and that feminism has uprooted family life by creating a bunch of marriage-allergic women.

However divorce rates are down, and we have feminism to thank for it. Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times reasons that It's true that the initial surge of divorces in the '70s were partially the result of feminism, both because feminists pushed for no-fault divorce laws and because women who had been stuck in unhappy marriages for a long time felt empowered by feminism to leave them. However, many of the very same forces that led to the rise in divorce numbers in the '70s, Miller reports, are the very same ones lowering it now. Now that women are growing up with feminism in their lives, they're able to reject bad marriage decisions before they make them. In turn, divorce rates have fallen. There are still embittered misogynists griping about how they lost out because women started wanting equal treatment.

Reproductive rights also played a role: a chart from the conservative "Knot Yet" project was meant to raise the alarm about "out-of-wedlock" births, but it also demonstrates the remarkable increase in the age of first birth and first marriage. This means that people are waiting longer to have kids. The teen pregnancy rate is at its lowest in decades too. Women are clearly using their access to contraception and abortion to be more confident that they want to have children with the men of their choosing.

Without reliable, legal birth control -- and abortion -- many women would end up tied to men through their shared offspring, and thus, more divorce.

If you define marriage as an institution in which men put out a minor outlay of cash in exchange for having a live-in servant who does all the housework and most of the heavy lifting of childcare, so that a man can pursue his career and hobbies unimpeded, then absolutely, feminism has done some real damage there.

The overwhelming evidence shows that using birth control, dating around, and waiting until you're older and know what you want before you marry makes for happier marriages. doclink

U.S. Birthrate Declines for Sixth Consecutive Year; Economy Could Be Factor

December 04 , 2014, New York Times   By: Tamar Lewin

The number of births in the US has declined over the last six years, bringing the U.S. to 9% below the high in 2007.

The fertility rate in the United States -- the average number of babies women from 15 to 44 bear over their lifetime -- dropped to a record low last year, to 1.86 babies, well below the 2.1 replacement level.

This decline has happened even though the number of women in their prime childbearing years, 20 to 39, has been growing since 2007.

Andrew J. Cherlin, a family demographer at Johns Hopkins University said Americans aren't worried about birthrates because "we have the faucet of immigration to turn on and off," At 1.8, "we're in the ballpark with the highest rates in Europe."

William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution said "On just about every demographic indicator involving young adults, whether it's marriage, buying a home or delaying childbearing, it's all been on hold since the beginning of the recession."

Also more women are delaying pregnancy, often past their prime childbearing years.

The teenage birthrate has dropped substantially, and the birthrate for women in their 20s has been declining as well, births to older women are on the rise. doclink

Birth Control's Huge Impact on Life and the Economy (Infographic)

December 05 , 2014, Planned Parenthood Action Fund   By: Planned Parenthood Action

Bloomberg Businessweek magazine just ranked the pill as the ninth most important invention that transformed the business sector in the past 85 years. Bloomberg's full ranking shows the magazine's take on the 85 most disruptive ideas that time -- ideas that changed the world.

Since Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger coined the term "birth control" in 1914, contraception has truly revolutionized women's lives in the United States, and around the world. The timeline below starts that year and ends, 100 years later, in 2014 -- as 99 percent of sexually active women report using at least one form of birth control at some point in their lives.

Follow the link in the headline to see the infographic where you can brush up on your birth control history, and see just how far we've come in 100 years.

See http://www.businessweek.com/features/85ideas/ The 85 Most Disruptive Ideas in Our History #9 The Pill

Download the infographic as a PDF or as a hi-res PNG file doclink

U.S.: Religious Groups Challenge Birth Control Coverage Under Obamacare

A federal court in Denver will hear objections to a birth-control rule has been among the most divisive aspects of the Obama administration's health care overhaul. Some advocates for women praise the mandate, but some religious groups have decried it as an attack on religious freedom.
December 08 , 2014, Christian Science Monitor   By: Kristen Wyatt

A group of Colorado nuns called Little Sisters of the Poor, and also four Christian colleges in Oklahoma are already exempt from covering contraceptives under the federal health care law. But they say the exemption doesn't go far enough because they must sign away the coverage to another party, making them feel complicit in providing the contraceptives.

The government will argue that its 2013 rule on religious groups and contraceptives, which requires only that a religious group sign "a self-certification form stating that it is an eligible organization," does not make that religious group complicit in providing contraceptives.

The rule "does not require nonprofit religious organizations with religious objections to contract, arrange, pay, or refer for that coverage," lawyers for the federal government wrote in a 2013 filing.

The nuns' lawyer, Mark Rienzi of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said the government is free to provide contraception coverage on its own without needing any action at all by the religious institutions. The government wants such coverage to come through the institutions' own plans, he said. doclink

Eating Less Meat Essential to Curb Climate Change, Says Report

Global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than transport but fear of a consumer backlash is preventing action, says Chatham House report
December 02 , 2014, Guardian   By: Damian Carrington

An anallysis from the thinktank Chatham House reveals that the global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, planes, trains and ships combined. However, twice as many people think transport is the bigger contributor to global warming, according to a survey from Ipsos MORI.

Rob Bailey, the report's lead author said "A lot is being done on deforestation and transport, but there is a huge gap on the livestock sector."

Keeping meat eating to levels recommended by health authorities would not only lower emissions but also reduce heart disease and cancer.

The report shows that soaring meat demand in China and elsewhere could tip the world's climate into chaos. Emissions from livestock, largely from burping cows and sheep and their manure, currently make up almost 15% of global emissions. Beef and dairy alone make up 65% of all livestock emissions.

Meat consumption is expected to rise 75% by 2050, compared with 40% for cereals.

Two other studies show that agricultural emissions will take up the entire world's carbon budget by 2050, with livestock a major contributor. Every other sector -- energy, industry and transport -- would have to be zero carbon to keep within the budget. "Dietary change is essential if global warming is not to exceed 2C."

The consumer survey in the report found a link between the awareness of climate change impacts and the willingness to change behavior. Acceptance that human activities cause climate change was significantly higher in China, India and Brazil than in the US, UK and Japan.

Brigitte Alarcon of WWF said: "We can cut a quarter of our climate emissions from the European food supply chain by eating more pulses, fruit and vegetables and by reducing our meat consumption. National governments should improve food education to encourage healthy eating habits and environmental sustainability as a first step."

In the UK a YouGov poll found 20% saying they have cut the amount of meat they eat over the last year, with only 5% say they are eating more.

Prof Keith Richards, at the University of Cambridge said: “This is not a radical vegetarian argument; it is an argument about eating meat in sensible amounts as part of healthy, balanced diets." doclink

Karen Gaia says: The minimum daily requirement for protein is about 50 grams. The average American consumes at least twice that. Vegans manage without eating meat and get all of their protein from plants. A good plan would be to get about 50 grams from animal protein and the rest from animal protein.

Population Stories: Roger-Mark De Souza, Director of Population, Environmental Security, and Resilience for the Wilson Center

November 06 , 2014   By: Amy Westervelt

Roger-Mark De Souza, Director of Population, Environmental Security, and Resilience for the Wilson Center, previously worked with the environmental NGO World Resources Institute (WRI), whose president at the time had been appointed by President Clinton to co-chair the U.S. President's Council on Sustainable Development. The Council addressed various key issues: energy consumption, land use, sustainable communities, international engagement, and agriculture.

The Council also addressed was population and consumption, but there was a lot of controversy around it. To De Souza, this was interesting since population dynamics are such an integral part of sustainable development. It touches on human well-being, environmental preservation, and equity all at once.

As a teenager in the Caribbean he went into local communities with his youth group talk to folks about how they could improve their lives. He met a 17-year-old woman who had three children. She was his age, was educated, and went to a very good high school. As they chatted about her future and the future of her children, he whispered to her, "Have you ever thought about family planning?" The connections between population and our collective future seemed obvious to him.

Addressing population dynamics is a key, important component of improving peoples' lives, preserving the environment, and finding rights-based, thoughtful solutions that allow us to sustainably achieve economic and equity goals.

While De Souza was working in the Philippines, which is predominantly Roman Catholic, he was talking to community members in a very vulnerable fishing village that was experiencing declining fish catch, deteriorating mangrove habitats, and a growing population. A young woman from the community said to him, "I am deeply religious, but I also believe there are critical interventions that improve lives and the environment, and addressing population growth is one of them. It makes sense: We want it, it's cheap, and it's effective in a short period of time."

"I was interested in environmental well-being and human well-being, and addressing population kept hitting me on the head," said De Souza.

The discussion during the time of Paul Ehrlich's The Population Bomb, "was then linked back to Malthusian thinking: It was all about exponential growth, doomsday scenarios, and very much tied to looking at population growth in a macro sense. And I think there is still some of that, and that's fine. We still need to pay attention to thoughtful discussions around those concerns," De Souza said. But today most people talking about population are focused on rights, individual choice, the directives coming out of the 1994 international conference on population and development in Cairo, and from the Earth Summit two years earlier. Rather than population growth we're looking more at population dynamics. And this involves things around age structure, gender issues, different vulnerabilities, aging policies and implications for social security, migration, what that means in relationship to broader economic and development questions.

Today you hear people doing humanitarian work talking about population dynamics in a way they haven't in the past. When De Souza was recently briefing U.S. diplomats who were being stationed in Africa, they were discussing natural resource management and environmental trends in Africa and the security implications for the United States. About 45% of the people at the briefing were from the military, and the rest were from the state department, foreign service, etc. And they start asking about gender, women's empowerment, reproductive health, and how these issues are tied to security and natural resource management. "The conversation is evolving; it's more sophisticated, more nuanced now — and is even being seen in the context of natural security," he said.

In Ethiopia De Souza visited one community that had programs focused on women's empowerment and local responses to climate change. He heard a mother talk about the environment club at her son's school in the village and why it was important for them to think about making personal choices about how many kids they had and what that meant for CO2 emissions.

In Bangladesh, where a lot of cyclones hit, the women he talked to said: "We are among the most vulnerable and because we have so many children. And because there are so many roles ascribed to us as women, we continue to be more and more vulnerable. When something happens and a tsunami hits, we can't run in these saris. In shelters, there are no separate accommodations for us women." They would like to have more control over their lives: in the number of children they have, in their livelihood options, and in planning for how to minimize the impacts of natural shocks when they occur.
. . . more doclink

U.S.: Where Immigration and Healthcare Meet

November 19 , 2014, Hill   By: Shivana Jorawar

Open enrollment for the Affordable Care began for a second time last week. The number of people who take advantage of the ACA this time around is projected to be low. 9.1 million people are expected to enroll by the end of the enrollment period in February, just 1.8 million more than the number enrolled in August.

But unfortunately there has been little talk among government officials and healthcare advocates about the people locked out of healthcare because of their immigration status.

More than 10 million people have gained access to health insurance since it Obamacare began. Insurance companies can no longer discriminate against people based on a preexisting condition or charge more because of gender, and they are now required to cover prevention and wellness benefits at no charge.

112,000 people lost their ACA coverage this year because they did not verify their eligibility based on citizenship and immigration status. More than 11 million people living in the United States are ineligible for the ACA at the national level due to their immigration status.

550,000 of them are young people, often called "Dreamers," who came to the United States as children and are, at present, lawfully residing here. These Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipients, who have been given reprieve from deportation, were explicitly carved out of the ACA through announcements made by CMS and HHS on Aug. 28, 2012, issued as federal regulations and guidance. The announcement altered federal rules for DACA-eligible people by excluding them from health insurance options available to others with deferred action status.

Immigrants work, pay taxes, and contribute to our communities and our economy. They should have the same responsibilities and opportunity to participate in health care as their friends and neighbors. Further, it's better and more affordable for all of us when immigrants can participate in the health care system their tax dollars support. Affordable health coverage improves access to preventive care, protects public health, prevents suffering, and puts less strain on under-resourced and costly emergency services. The impact of the large number of uninsured on our economy is huge. It results in a loss of $65 billion to $130 billion annually, consisting of lost wages, absenteeism, and family leave. doclink

Karen Gaia says: and the failure to cover contraception for everyone of reproductive age results in more unintended pregnancies, a higher fertility rate, and a high population growth rate.

Niger: School for Husbands Gets Men to Talk About Family Size

November 27 , 2014

There are things that guys never talk about, like benefits of birth control, the care a woman should take when pregnant, and breast-feeding. But in the School for Husbands program in Niger they are talking about it.

"In our culture, in the past having a large family was seen as a gift of God," says the local chief. A large family "is seen as something positive, and that's in contrast to what is needed for development. The fast-growing population really hampers the development of the country."

Niger is the country with the highest birth rate in the world, at seven children per woman. Its population is expected to double over the next two decades. Most people in Niger survive by way of subsistence agriculture in a country primarily covered by desert.

Ali Hassan, the assistant country representative for the United Nations Population Fund in Niger, says the population boom is a huge threat to the country's future.

"Now people are just looking to survive. And the government's only priority is to slow down population growth for people to just survive," Ali Hassan, of the UNFPA in Niger, says. The country has run out of arable land and yet the population continues to go up. "In the past they would use a specific place, and when the productivity [of the soil] went down, they'd move to another place. Now they don't have that possibility, and the productivity is just going down and down and down," he says.

For 25 years Niger has tried a soft-diplomacy approach centered around delaying marriage for teenage girls and encouraging the use of contraception. However, the primary roadblocks to social change come from men.

Six months after the School for Husbands began in 2004, there are now Schools for Husbands in villages across Niger and more women are asking about family planning. When the schools started, only 5% of women in Niger reported using contraception. Now that figure is up to 13%. doclink

The Endangered Wildlife Trust Breaks the Population Taboo

November 12 , 2014, AG Africa Geographic   By: David Johnson

The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) recently became the newest member of the Population and Sustainability Network (PSN), an independent body which also coordinates an international network of organisations recognising the importance of population and consumption impacts as significant factors in sustainable development. PSN raises support for, and investment in, sexual and reproductive health services which respect and protect rights. PSN membership includes the United Nations Population Fund, the UK government's Department for International Development, the International Planned Parenthood Federation and several smaller conservation organisations promoting the integrated approach to development known as "Population, Health and Environment".

Poor rural communities rely on healthy ecosystems for their food, water and livelihoods. When population growth threatens those ecosystems, the local communities suffer too. Population, Health and Environment (PHE) programs integrate improved sexual and reproductive health services with conservation actions and the creation of alternative and sustainable livelihoods. This approach has led to greater conservation and health outcomes than single sector actions but continental southern Africa has no PHE programs.

The women's rights NGO Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme (TVEP), based in Limpopo, South Africa, also has become a member of EWT. TVEP passionately advocates for increasing women's capacity to act. Male partners must allow female partners to use the contraceptives of their choice and this is not always the case. TVEP's programs seek to ensure women can exercise their rights to make their own contraceptive and other decisions.

Africa's population is anticipated to double by 2050, a reality which successful conservation cannot ignore. When women are empowered to choose the number and timing of their pregnancies, they are likely to have fewer, healthier children, which means that fewer natural resources need be harvested, benefiting food security and the environment.

The EWT and TVEP are hoping to get funding for a pilot project for a site in KwaZulu-Natal where human settlements are encroaching on remaining habitats and where an absence of alternative livelihoods means some locals have little choice but to turn to bush meat to support their families. Sometimes the bush meat animal is endangered.

To help them get their funding, click here to vote for this project as a candidate for the Hivos Social Innovation Award.

Although some people feel uncomfortable talking about population growth, there should be no need if the conversation is rooted in empowerment, women's rights and education. doclink

Teen Pregnancy—and Expanded Access to LARC Methods Could Accelerate This Trend

October 01, 2014, Guttmacher Institute

Recently the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that pediatricians consider long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) methods -- namely, hormonal and copper intrauterine devices (IUDs) and hormonal implants -- as "first-line contraceptive choices for adolescents."

In the United States, 614,000 teens became pregnant in 2010, and 82% reported that their pregnancy was unintended. The overall U.S. teen pregnancy rate has declined steadily -- in all 50 states and among all racial and ethnic groups -- since its peak in 1990. Between 2008 and 2010, the rate dropped by 15%, likely due, in part, to the increased use of LARC methods.

Contraception accounted for 86% of the decline in teen pregnancies between 1995 and 2002, while abstinence accounted for 14%, according to a Guttmacher analysis. Between 2003 and 2010, the proportion of teens who had ever had sex did not change, indicating that abstinence did not play a role in the teen pregnancy declines during that time. While still small, the proportion of teens using LARC methods is growing: Among women aged 15-19, LARC use increased substantially between 2002 and 2009, from less than 1% to 4.5% -- and may have increased even more since that time.

LARC methods may appeal to teens who do not want to worry about remembering to take birth control pills at the same time every day. LARC methods require little maintenance and can provide long-term protection during the years when many young women are at highest risk for unintended pregnancy. A new study released in the New England Journal of Medicine documents the potential for LARC methods to significantly decrease pregnancy and abortion rates among teens.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more women -- including teens -- now have private or public insurance coverage that funds contraception without out-of-pocket costs, which can otherwise be a critical barrier to use. It is important to be vigilant that such efforts fully respect adolescents' informed consent, given the historical context of coercive practices related to contraception, especially those targeting disadvantaged groups. The new recommendations emphasize educating teens about all contraceptive methods that are safe and appropriate for them, so they can choose freely from among the range of contraceptive options, including highly effective LARC methods. doclink

The World Food Prize's Disservice to Borlaug

October 15, 2014, Des Moines Register   By: Jonathan Wilson

Although Norman Borlaug has been practically diefied for his agricultural revolution, Sharon Donovan's article pointed out the potentially adverse environmental impact of genetically modified agricultural practices (GMOs) and, in particular, the use of compatible fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides that have tended to devastate small, more sustainable farmers in favor of "capital-intensive, high fertilizer, pesticide, and irrigation use" by large corporate farming operations.

The World Food Prize President, Ambassador Kenneth Quinn said: "We will endeavor to bring together all stakeholders to be part of the solution to nutritiously and sustainably feed our growing population." When asked about the ramifications of feeding the multitudes with Borlaug-modified wheat without, at the same time, providing resources for family planning and birth control. His response was that the Word Food Prize attempts to pursue its feed-the-multitudes mission without getting involved in politics.

The George W. Bush administration mammoth global anti-AIDS initiative poured billions of dollars for AIDS Relief into Africa but prohibited groups from spending any of it on family planning services or counseling programs. Couple that with Bush's 2002 Global Gag Rule as a condition to US foreign aid, and the budgets for those services flat-lined. As a result, lives were saved from AIDS infection, people were fed thanks to Borlaug, but there was a population explosion.

Animal populations explode when food is plentiful. If it rains, plants grow. When plants grow, herbivores thrive. When herbivores thrive, carnivore populations balloon until the food supply is exhausted. When it stops raining, the reverse in that food chain happens. Humans are animals; if we are fed, we reproduce. And we'll continue to do so until either we exhaust the available food supply or we, intelligently, intervene to stop the population explosion. "Lesser" animals aren't capable of such intervention; we human beings are capable of it.

Borlaug said while accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. "There can be no permanent progress in the battle against hunger until the agencies that fight for increased food production and those that fight for population control unite in a common effort."

Unless the continuing efforts of the World Food Prize are not forcefully coupled with the call for increased funding for birth control and family planning, the singular mission to feed more people is a fool's mission and a disservice to the memory and work of Norman Borlaug. The resources for producing and distributing more food cannot possibly keep up with our growing population, which means that our success will breed our failure (pun intended). doclink

Billions of Gallons of Fracking Fluid Dumped Into California Drinking Water

October 13, 2014, Eaglefordtexas.com   By: Zachary Toliver

Last week, the California State Water Resources Board sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirming that roughly 3 billion gallons of hydraulic fracturing wastewater was illegally dumped into central California aquifers. Last July, the state of California closed 11 wastewater injection wells in fear that the fracking wastewater was contaminating surrounding aquifers. The EPA demanded a report within 60 days of the closure...
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Publicly Funded Family Planning Saved $13 Billion — but Lawmakers Don't Think It's Worth the Investment

For every dollar spent on contraception and STI testing, the government saves 7 more. Oh, and people stay healthy
October 14, 2014, Salon   By: Jenny Kutner

Lawmakers have continued to slash safety nets for contraceptive coverage and other Title X-funded family planning programs.

An analysis from the Guttmacher Institute found that such services helped prevent an estimated 2.2 million unintended pregnancies and 1.1 million unplanned births, and helped prevent nearly 761,000 abortions.

One might think that the right-to-life movement would be motivated, by the prevention of such a large number of abortions, to get on board with access to solid family planning.

Publicly funded services prevented or treated tens of thousands of STI infections in over 3 million women; allowed patients to detect 1,100 ectopic pregnancies, which can be life-threatening, and treated 2,200 cases of infertility.

For every dollar spent on publicly funded family planning services, the government saves over $7. That's $13.6 billion saved -- in addition to millions of lives. doclink

UNFPA Commends Iran Population Policy

October 23, 2014, Islamic Republic News Agency   By: Mehmet Hulki Uz

Mehmet Hulki Uz, the resident representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), welcomed the decree of the Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei on population and said Iran's population policy is a "perfect" policy that covers everything related to population, including youth, aging, urbanization and women householders.

However Uz discouraged the incentives planned by the government to motivate Iranian couples to have more children, referring to the outcome of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in 1994 in Cairo, Egypt. "ccording to ICPD, incentives or disincentives are not recommended to any country, but the decision and timing of having child should be left to the couples," he said. Over 180 states, including Iran took part in ICPD negotiations to finalize a Program of Action.

In the 1980s the motto in Iran was "two children is enough", but the UNFPA officially opposed the motto at that time, since according to the ICPD, governments should not interfere in decisions about the number of children.

“UNFPA and ICPD documents say countries should only inform people of the realities and let them decide, instead of forcing them to have children," he said.

"The Leader has said in the policy document that we need to increase the population but in balance and without forgetting the reproductive health of women and children," he said.

Iran has already achieved the Millennium Development Goals of reducing maternal mortality rate -- 80% by 2015 -- but Uz warned that removal of family planning methods could lead to unwanted pregnancies and increase child and maternal mortality.

He also cautioned that an unplanned increase of population could also have social and economic consequences, particularly if the rate of fertility is at the highest level in less developed parts of Iran.

" child born in a poor and uneducated family could be a burden on the system because he/she will demand job, house and healthcare services as an adult and without contributing to the economy of the country," he said.

He added that unemployed and uneducated youths are more vulnerable to commit crimes.

In Pakistan and parts of Turkey, youths are turning to crimes because of unemployment in the regions.

Soudabeh Ahmadzadeh, assistant representative of UNFP Country Office in Tehran, said if the government improves the livelihood of people and provides jobs, housing and health services to youths, they would automatically get married and have children.

Noting that Islam asks for working to empower women, Uz also hailed Shahindokht Molaverdi, the head of the Department for Women and Family Affairs, for having a comprehensive and systematic approach on women and her efforts to improve the livelihood of women breadwinners.

According to some of UNFPA's findings, youth unemployment is one of the biggest challenges facing the nation and they account for 70% of the unemployed. The highest rate of unemployment has been reported among university graduates. doclink

Car Emissions Vs. Car Crashes: Which One is Deadlier?

The answer actually surprised us
November 11, 2014, Mother Jones   By: Eric Jaffe

This story originally appeared in CityLab and is republished here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration. The ever-thought-provoking David Levinson posed a question at his Transportationist blog earlier this week that's worth a longer look: Are you more likely to die from being in a car crash or from breathing in car emissions? If your gut reaction is like mine, then you've already answered in favor of crashes. But when you really crunch the ...
. . . more doclink

Advancing Reproductive Justice for Black Women and Women of Color in Cleveland

November 18 , 2014, RH Reality Check   By: Jasmine Burnett

A politically hostile and anti-woman sentiment is playing out in Ohio, where local and state legislators are using women's access to reproductive health care as a tool to jockey for power. We are seeing varying degrees of this in states across the country, but the anti-choice movement's "war on women" most recently came to a head in Ohio following the tragic death of Lakisha Wilson, a 22-year-old mother who had sought an abortion during h...
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Novel Agreement Expands Access to Pfizer's Contraceptive, Sayana® Press, for Women Most in Need in the World's Poorest Countries

Collaboration will help advance progress and support global efforts to increase access to voluntary family planning information, services and contraceptives by 2020
November 13, 2014, Pfizer   By: Media Capsule

Designed for women most in need in 69 of the world's poorest countries, Sayana® Press is a long-acting, reversible, contraceptive with an all-in-one prefilled, single-use, non-reusable Uniject™ injection system that eliminates the need to prepare a needle and syringe. The contraceptive is meant to be administered by health workers to women at home or in other convenient settings. The training basic and straightforward. Each subcutaneous injection prevents ovulation and provides contraception for at least 13 weeks.

Injectables are already widely used by among women in developing countries where the lifetime risk for death due to a maternal cause can be as high as one in 15.

John Young, President, Pfizer Global Established Pharma Business said: "Pfizer saw an opportunity to address the needs of women living in hard-to-reach areas, and specifically enhanced the product's technology with public health in mind. I'm so pleased with the leadership from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Children's Investment Fund Foundation and other collaborating organizations that are helping create a sustainable market through an approach that could be a model for other medicines."

More than 200 million women in developing countries want to delay pregnancy or prevent undesired pregnancy but are not using any method of contraception. Since the landmark London Summit on Family Planning in July 2012, the global community has been working together to provide an additional 120 million women in the world's 69 poorest countries with access to voluntary family planning information and services by 2020.

In 2013, the number of women using modern contraceptives in the 69 focus countries increased by 8.4 million in one year to 273 million. The additional use of contraception helped avert 77 million unintended pregnancies and 125,000 maternal deaths.

"When women are able to plan their families, they are more likely to survive pregnancy and child birth, to have healthier newborns and children, and to invest more in their families' health and wellbeing," said Dr. Chris Elias, President of Global Development Programs at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In many developing countries, women must return to a clinic or health post every three months for a new injection from a skilled health worker, limiting access in remote and other hard-to-reach areas. Accordingly, experts have identified the need for a contraceptive method that can be administered in low-resource, non-clinic settings. Sayana® Press could help fill this gap.

Sayana® Press is approved in the European Union, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Uganda, as well as additional markets in Latin America and within the Asia Pacific region. It is not approved or available for use in the United States.

Since the introduction program launched in Burkina Faso in July 2014, approximately 75,000 Sayana® Press units have been distributed to health facilities in the introduction countries, and approximately 2,500 health care providers have thus far been trained on it's administration. doclink

Birth Control Lets Women Have Happy, Healthy Sex Lives. Why Doesn't Anyone Say That?

The pro-choice movement likes to point out all the other health benefits. Let's not forget that it allows women to have sex without getting pregnant.
October 24, 2014, Cosmopolitan   By: Katha Pollitt

Sex is a normal, happy part of life for millions of married and unmarried people in America today. For this we have modern, effective birth control to thank. Why is it so hard for the pro-choice movement to celebrate this openly?

Of course there are other important reasons for using birth control. Condoms protect against sexually transmitted diseases. Emergency contraception (Plan B) will prevent pregnancy for women that are raped. The Pill, ring, patch, and other hormonal contraception can help with painful periods, acne, endometriosis, and other health problems. But for most women, birth control is about having sex -- voluntary sex -- without getting pregnant. We need to say it: having a sex life is a good thing, part of what makes us human and lets us enjoy life.

Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke -- an unmarried law student in her late 20s -- a slut and a prostitute because she testified in Congress about the suffering caused when her Catholic university, Georgetown, denied coverage for contraception. Oddly, Limbaugh seemed to think that the more often you have sex, the more burden on the taxpayer. Like Viagra perhaps, which has always been widely covered in government and private insurance, with no fuss or controversy. We don't seem to have a problem at all helping men have sex.

Why does it matter that we talk about sex when we talk about birth control?

When we talk about IUDs, which allow women to have sex without pregnancy for a fairly long period of time, it may conjure up, in the mind of a conservative like Limbaugh, the image of a promiscuous "coed," slutty twentysomething. When we allow the image to take hold, we make it harder to fight against employers who want to exclude those methods from coverage.

Also we need to defend the rights of teenagers to get birth control in privacy. In Utah and Texas, for example, require that -- to access state funds for contraception -- teenage girls must get parental consent while teenage boys do not require a parents permission to buy condoms at the drugstore. It's like they are saying a girl's sex life is up to her parents, and the best way to keep her a virgin is to make her risk pregnancy. Even President Obama said that "as a father of two daughters," he supported keeping it prescription-only for girls under 17, against the findings of the government's own experts.

Our lives are healthier, happier, freer, and more prosperous because we can control our fertility and enjoy sex without fear of pregnancy. We mustn't let the slut-shamers keep us from saying that out loud.

Birth control: It's about having sex without getting pregnant. There, that wasn't so hard, was it? doclink

Carbon Intensity of Global Energy

September 2014, Paul Chefurka website

Here are some of the things this graphic tells us.

• During the 1800s the majority of the world's energy came from carbon-neutral biomass, with an increasing contribution of carbon from coal as time went on. • The Great Depression and WWII are clearly visible as dips in carbon intensity. • Carbon intensity has not changed significantly since 1950. • The addition of nuclear power starting in 1965 made no difference. • The addition of wind and solar have made no difference. • The recession in 2008 made no difference. • The increasing use of coal by China is visible as a rise since 2001.

We would need to reduce our carbon emissions by 80% by 2030 in order to avoid a 2C rise in global temperatures.

We're not going to do that. doclink

The Case for Advancing Access to Health Coverage and Care for Immigrant Women and Families

November 19 , 2014, Health Affairs Blog   By: Kinsey Hasstedt

Many lawfully present immigrants are ineligible for coverage through Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program during their first five years of legal residency. Undocumented immigrants are largely barred from public coverage, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) prohibits them from purchasing any coverage, subsidized or not, through its health insurance marketplaces.

In 2012, the administration created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program, enabling many so-called DREAMers to lawfully remain in the United States. Unfortunately those with DACA status are essentially treated as if they were undocumented and expressly carved out of nearly all public and private health coverage and affordability programs. Also, the immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in 2013 failed for the most part to address the legitimate health insurance and health care needs of immigrants, denying those eligible for provisional status access to public coverage and the ACA's subsidies.

Among women of reproductive age (15-44), 40% of the 6.6 million noncitizen immigrants are uninsured, compared with 18% of naturalized citizens and 15% of U.S.-born women.

Of reproductive-age women living below the poverty level (a group in which immigrant women are overrepresented), 53% percent of noncitizen immigrant women lack health insurance -- about double the percentage of U.S.-born women. Further, only 28% of poor noncitizen women of reproductive age have Medicaid coverage, compared with 46% of those born in the United States.

Only half (52%) of immigrant women at risk for unintended pregnancy received contraceptive care, compared with two-thirds (65%) of U.S.-born women.

Consistent contraceptive use is critical to helping women prevent unintended pregnancies, plan and space wanted pregnancies, and achieve their own educational, employment, and financial goals. Without coverage, immigrant women and couples may well be unable to afford the method of contraception that will work best for them, which is critical to realizing these benefits.

In addition, preventive sexual and reproductive health services are effective in helping women and couples avoid cervical cancer, HIV and other STIs, infertility, and preterm and low-birth-weight births -- all while saving substantial public dollars. Notably, cervical cancer disproportionately afflicts and causes deaths among immigrant women, particularly Latinas and women in certain Asian communities, likely because many go without timely screenings. doclink

New Research: Rethinking Industrial Animal Production

We need greater investment in alternative forms of livestock production that protect animal welfare, the environment, worker safety, and public health.
November 18 , 2014, Foodtank   By: Danielle Nierenberg and Maia Reed

Recently, Food Tank published a quick guide, "Rethinking Industrial Animal Production," detailing the significant and far reaching consequences of a food system dominated by industrial animal production. Industrial animal operations already account for the vast majority of animal production in the United States, and are responsible worldwide for 67 percent of poultry production, 50 percent of egg production, and 42 percent of pork production...
. . . more doclink

Proof That Comprehensive Sex Ed Classes Actually Help Kids Put Off Having Sex

October 21 , 2014, Think Progress   By: Tara Culp-Ressler

A three-year study by a research team at the Wellesley Centers for Women compared Get Real, Planned Parenthood's (PP's) comprehensive sex ed program, with existing programs at 24 racially and economically diverse Boston area schools (some of which already offered sex ed). The results, published in the Journal of School Health, show that classes emphasizing healthy relationships and family involvement encourage middle school students (grades 6 - 8) to delay trying sex.

Get Real's "social-emotional learning approach" teaches kids how to navigate relationships. Researchers say that Get Real's key feature is that kids get to practice communication skills both in the classroom and at home with their parents. Study leader, Sumru Erkut, said the program teaches relationship skills and provides a very strong follow-up of family involvement.

Using test and control groups of equal size, the study found that 16% fewer boys and 15% fewer girls became sexually active by the end of eighth grade after completing Get Real. Previous research into standard Boston-area sex ed programs did not show such clear results for both genders. "It's certainly a very important and positive contribution," Erkut, told Think Progress. "People clap their hands over a program that can reduce HIV infections by 4%, so these numbers can be put in that context."

"Parents tend to talk about sex earlier and more frequently with their daughters than their sons," said the paper's lead author, Jennifer Grossman. Get Real‘s take-home assignments got parents involved in discussions that few parents knew how to handle the on their own. Sixth grade boys who completed the family assignments were more likely to delay sex until after eighth grade.

PP is the nation's largest sex ed provider, but is also a flashpoint in the abortion rights fight. Jen Slonaker, Vice President of Education and Training at the PP League of Mass. said. "This is exactly what we want our middle schoolers to be doing… delaying sex." But that is not the way conservatives typically view PP programs. Those who favor abstinence education believe (against contrary evidence) that teaching students about sex encourages them to become sexually active at an earlier age, and they pressure schools administrations to remove certain sex ed materials from the classroom. Most states don't require sex ed, and some prohibit any form of comprehensive sex ed. Republicans in Texas and Louisiana have even suggested that PP wants teens to get pregnant so it can give them abortions. But PP officials say the resisters are a small minority. Educators, administrators, and parents should remember that 95% of parents in high school and 93% of parents in middle school support sex education.

PP partners with ETR to distribute its Get Real materials. Thanks to these study results, ETR's website can offer this pitch: “Research Shows It Works! Students who receive Get Real are less likely to have sex." doclink

Art says: A small minority has prevented millions of kids from learning information that can be vital to their lives. That is one reason why the U.S. has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the developed world.

Judging a comprehensive sex ed program on abstinence objectives seems ironical. The U.S. has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the developed world, but a small minority prevents millions of kids from learning skills and information that can be vital to their decision making.

Karen Gaia says: When I was a teen girl I actually thought my parents thought it was OK to have sex. They said so little about it.

Vasectomies Are Cheaper and Safer Than Female Sterilization -- So Why Don't More Men Get Them?

November 13, 2014, Quartz   By: Heather Timmons

After a mass sterilization clinic run by a single doctor, at least 13 women in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh died, and others were hospitalized. Witnesses said the surgeries took place in an "assembly-line atmosphere with little regard to hygiene or patient comfort."

This tragedy is only the latest to arise from the country's attempts to control its population, which has resulted in the death of hundreds of women from botched sterilizations. Earlier this year the same doctor received an award from Chhattisgarh state health ministry earlier this year for performing a record 50,000 surgeries.

Tubal ligation, the most common method of female sterilization, costs three to four times as much as a vasectomy. Women are five times as likely to die from sterilization than men, the Encyclopedia of Women and Gender reports. More than one third of married Indian women undergo sterilization, versus just 1% of Indian men. Around the world, more women then men undergo the procedure.

Women in India often don't want their husbands to undergo a vasectomy because they fear he will "lose his strength and virility."

More than 50 health workers told Human Rights Watch that district and sub-district authorities assigned individual yearly targets for contraceptives, with a heavy focus on female sterilization, under the threat of adverse consequences if they did not achieve their targets.

A vasectomy can be performed in a doctors office in 15 to 20 minutes. And the procedure does not typically result in any sexual side effects such as impotence. doclink

Karen Gaia says: in a later article it was revealed that the deaths were due to a faulty batch of antibiotics - probably given to the women to prevent infection from the procedure. Men were also poisoned by the antibiotic which was contaminated by rat poison.

Still, such abuses do occur when sterilzations are done in assembly line fashion or when targets are assigned.

Thoughts on Carrrying Capacity and Sustainability

October 03 , 2014, Paul Chefurka website

The Earth's "natural" carrying capacity for terrestrial vertebrate life is probably in the neighbourhood of 200 million tonnes. This represents the carrying capacity based on solar input only, with no assistance from human technology or fossil fuels. The estimate is derived from Vaclav Smil's biomass estimate for 1900 shown on the graph, which has been reduced by about 30% to account for technology and coal use by that time. The assumption is that by 10,000 BCE this biomass of 200 MT was fully utilizing the available solar flux.

One crucial question is what proportion of this 200 MT of biomass could be devoted to humans and their domesticated animals without excessively damaging the rest of the biosphere? This is hard to answer without a controlled experiment of course, but here's one approach.

I begin with the human population in Year 1 AD of about 250 million as a baseline. At 50 kg/person that number represents about 12.5 MT of human biomass. Domesticated animal biomass in 1900 was about three times that of humans, so that would give us an additional 37.5 MT of domesticated animals, for a total human-related biomass of 50 MT. This number represents one quarter of the estimated natural carrying capacity of the planet. That degree of appropriation is probably not completely sustainable, but would likely be OK for a few thousand years, provided there was no further human expansion beyond that number.

Because I presume that any use of technology promotes overshoot, this 250 million number also represents a human population without any significant technology beyond what was available when Christ was born.

Under this set of assumptions the planet may be overpopulated by almost 30 times.

Keep in mind that this scenario says precisely nothing about what's likely to happen in our present circumstances. In fact, the idea of voluntarily reducing our population by 97% might as well come from a different universe, it's so utterly unachievable in this one. This line of argument simply represents a way of viewing the current situation through a more ecologically holistic lens.

One additional idea to consider is that the period for which a particular population's activity level will be sustainable is variable. The lower the collective activity level (in other words, the lower its impact on its environment) the longer the probable period of sustainability becomes.

One way I measure human impact is through what I call our "Thermodynamic Footprint". According to this measure, modern humans have an average of 20 times the per capita impact on their environment as a hunter-gatherer. Europeans have an impact 40 times as high, while the average American impact is 80 to 100 times as high. This implies that to achieve the same period of sustainability as the 250 million humans I described above, the world could support six million average Europeans, or 2.5 million Americans.

Any increase in either population or activity levels (i.e. per-capita energy use) shortens the period of sustainability. Humans currently have an environmental impact almost 600 times as high as the baseline I proposed above - our population is 29 times higher, and our per-capita impact is 20 times higher. As a result, our period of sustainability will not be a few thousand years, but something more on the order of a small handful of decades. If we begin the countdown from the onset of heavy global industrialization around 1900, we have already burned through 11 of those "sustainable" decades.

Unfortunately, the more we look at our predicament, the more it becomes clear that no matter how we slice it or dice it, the human presence on the planet cannot be considered even remotely sustainable for much longer. And that implies that a correction in our numbers and activity levels is inevitable. The longer we proceed down the current road of technological, energetic and numerical expansion, the closer we come to that correction. doclink

Google Engineers Explain Why They Stopped R&D in Renewable Energy

This realization was frankly shocking.
November 19 , 2014   By: Stephen Lacey

Google unveiled its initiative to make renewable energy competitive with coal, called RE

In 2011 Google stopped its R&D efforts prematurely; apparently it was more interested in the deployment of renewables. Since then Google has invested more than $1 billion directly in solar and wind projects and has now procured enough renewable energy and efficiency to offset its carbon emissions. Meanwhile, the levelized cost of renewables has come down to rival the cost of building new coal plants.

So did the Google engineers who worked on the RE

"Trying to combat climate change exclusively with today's renewable energy technologies simply won't work; we need a fundamentally different approach," wrote Google's Ross Koningstein and David Fork in a piece published recently in IEEE's Spectrum.

"As we reflected on the project, we came to the conclusion that even if Google and others had led the way toward a wholesale adoption of renewable energy, that switch would not have resulted in significant reductions of carbon dioxide emissions," they said.

"Even if every renewable energy technology advanced as quickly as imagined and they were all applied globally, atmospheric CO2 levels wouldn't just remain above 350 ppm; they would continue to rise exponentially due to continued fossil fuel use. We decided to combine our energy innovation study's best-case scenario results with Hansen's climate model to see whether a 55 percent emission cut by 2050 would bring the world back below that 350-ppm threshold. So our best-case scenario, which was based on our most optimistic forecasts for renewable energy, would still result in severe climate change, with all its dire consequences: shifting climatic zones, freshwater shortages, eroding coasts, and ocean acidification, among others. Our reckoning showed that reversing the trend would require...radical technological advances in cheap zero-carbon energy, as well as a method of extracting CO2 from the atmosphere and sequestering the carbon."

Even if they had found cheap renewable energy technologies that could gradually replace all the world's coal plants, it still wouldn't have solved climate change.

Koningstein and Fork hint at one possible focus that might work: technologies like power electronics that can efficiently control the grid and enable higher penetrations of distributed generation. In July, Google unveiled a $1 million challenge to build an inverter one-tenth the size of existing devices.

Solar panels can be put on every rooftop, but can't provide power if the sun isn't shining. Yet if we invented a distributed, dispatchable power technology, smaller players could generate not only electricity but also profit, buying and selling energy locally from one another at real-time prices.

"We don't have the answers. Those technologies haven't been invented yet". The Google engineers recommended that energy companies used Google's 70-20-10 rule approach to foster innovation in the energy sector and allow for those breakthrough inventions : 70% of employee time be spent working on existing energy technologies that industry knows how to build and profitably deploy. 20% could be dedicated to cutting-edge technologies that are on the path to economic viability. 10% could be dedicated to ideas that may seem crazy but might have huge impact.

Today, the energy innovation cycle is measured in decades, in large part because so little money is spent on critical types of R&D. Even in the case of Google. doclink

Paul Chefurka says: Here's what it would REALLY take to reverse climate change:

- Ban the use of all fossil fuels; - Ban the production of factory farmed meats; - Ban all monocrop industrial grain agriculture; - Ban all fishing; - Shut down the current economic system and return to barter; - Implement universal sex education and birth control

(Paul also wants a one child policy, but Karen Gaia thinks that will not work as well as meeting the unmet need for contraception)

Population Growth Far Outpaces Food Supply in Conflict-Ravaged Sahel

Researchers say conflict and climate change mean the region’s resources will be unable to sustain the increasing population
October 22, 2014, Mail and Guardian   By: Chris Arsenault

"The Supply and Demand of Net Primary Production in the Sahel", a study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, used satellite images to find that the Sahel's ability to produce food is not keeping pace with its growing population, and higher temperatures from global warming will only

In the 22 countries that make up the arid Sahel in northern Africa, the population grew from 367 million in 2000 to 471 million in 2010, an increase of almost 30%. However, the production of crops remained essentially unchanged and higher temperatures will reduce crop production. The amount of carbon consumed jumped from 19% in 2000 to 41% in 2010.

Hakim Abdi, lead author of study, said the tension in Darfur "stems partially from a lack of resources." The Sahel also faces Islamist insurgencies in parts of Libya, Chad and Niger, along with an uprising by ethnic Tuareg separatists in Mali.

Political violence seems likely to intensify as growing populations battle for dwindling food supplies. Some of the world's fastest growing populations are located in the region. Niger, the poorest place on Earth, according to the UN's human development index, also has the world's highest birthrate, followed by Mali.

The number of people in the Sahel is expected to rise from 30 million in 1950 to close to 1 billion by 2050.

Ibrahim Coulibaly, a Malian farmer and activist with Via Campesina, recently told a UN panel in Rome "Producing results to overcoming food insecurity means we need to take a fresh look at innovation in family farms." Drought resistant crops and new infrastructure for processing and transporting food, along with new publicly funded training for small farmers were needed to increase resilience, he said.

Drought resistant crops and new techniques could improve production, but might not be enough in the face of population growth and disruption linked to global warming. doclink

'Too Many People': Philippine Island Being Deforested Despite Extensive Protections

October 31, 2014, Mongabay.com   By: Shaira Panela

The Philippine island of Palawan hosts two World Heritage sites, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River in the provincial capital, and the Tubbataha Reef in Cagayancillo, and it is almost completely covered in Protected Areas; yet Palawan lost 6.4% of its tree cover since 2001.

Data from Global Forest Watch (GFW) reveals that many animals -- including 27 endemic species of birds, 19 varieties of land mammals, and 24 kinds of reptiles -- are facing huge population declines.

The National Statistics Office (NSO) records show that the population in Palawan grew by 2.66% per year from 2000 to 2010. This would double the population in 26 years.

"It's just too many people, and more people need more space," said Dr. Neil Aldrin Mallari, country program director of Fauna & Flora International - Philippines.

Illegal logging is one of the biggest contributors to forest cover loss.

"People living in the mountains still practice slash-and-burn where they cut trees and burn them to make the land available for farming," said an environmentalist, who asked not to be identified. "The problem is so difficult to solve," he said. “In a scale of 1-10, 10 being the hardest, I would rate the deforestation in Palawan is a 7," he said.

Deforestation in the southern part of the province results from bark tanning, in which bark harvested of mangroves is used to tan leather. Illegal land conversion and charcoal production are also common in northern Palawan.

Palawan's palm oil industry has also led to significant forest loss.

Mining also contributes to deforestation, but it is not the primary culprit. However, this controversial issue led to the 2011 shooting death of a well-known radio announcer and environmentalist in the Province, Dr. Gerry Ortega. Mining is mostly concentrated in the southern tip of the province.

Mining also adds to the growing of the population in the area.

Humans are also affected by deforestation. “Forest means life to us because forests are our first line of defense against typhoons, water, clean air and lots of things," Mallari said. "nd it is not just about the size of the forest but the quality."

Mining-caused deforestation could interfere with groundwater resources and could even make El Nino-induced drought worse in the Philippines. There would be more runoff during storms and less water retained during droughts, when trees are cut down. doclink

White Women: Let's Get Our Sh*t Together

November 05 , 2014, RH Reality Check   By: Andrea Grimes

When Wendy Davis ran for the Texas gubernatorial election, there was much concern over what the Hispanic lady voter would do: Are they too socially conservative to support Wendy Davis?

As it turned out, among voters, 94% of Black women, 90% of Black men, 61% of Latinas, and 49% of Latinos in Texas voted for Wendy Davis. In contrast, only 32% of white Texas women voters actually voted for Wendy Davis. Time and time again, people of color have stood up for reproductive rights, for affordable health care, for immigrant communities while white folks vote a straight "I got mine" party ticket.

A vote for Wendy Davis meant a vote for strong public school funding, for Texas Medicaid expansion, for affordable family planning care, for environmental reforms, for access to a full spectrum of reproductive health-care options.

A vote for Greg Abbott meant a vote for empowering big industry and big political donors, for cutting public school funds and dismantling the Affordable Care Act, for overturning Roe v. Wade, and - a vote for the status quo.

There are many factors contributed to America's rightward dive over the cliff: Citizens United, racist gerrymandering and voter ID laws, but there is also the historical crisis of empathy in the white community, one much older than gerrymandered congressional districts or poll taxes.

In choosing Greg Abbott Tuesday white women choose the fact that our children will always have access to education, that our daughters will always be able to fly to California or New York for abortion care, that our mothers will always be able to get that crucial Pap smear.

We chose a future where maternal mortality -- but not our maternal mortality -- rates will rise. We chose a future where preventable deaths from cervical cancer -- but not our deaths -- will rise. We chose a future where deaths from illegal, back-alley abortions -- but not our illegal, back-alley abortions -- will rise.

Without empathy, a culture of fear is allowed to foment and thrive. It is that culture that has ensured that white folks never need engage with the idea of non-white humanity. It is this culture of fear that put Greg Abbott in the governor's mansion, and it needs to be cut out of our communities like the cancer it is. We do this by rebuilding ourselves in a better image, in the image of our sisters of color who, time and again, have shown that they care that we have access to health care, to the voting booth, even though we have not done the same for them.

We need to support groups like the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, the Afiya Center, SisterSong, the Texas Organizing Project, Mamas of Color Rising, Rise Up/Levanta Texas, and ask: What role of assistance can we play as you lead? doclink

Regreening Program to Restore One-Sixth of Ethiopia's Land

Tree and shrub-planting program has transformed degraded and deforested land across Africa, with Ethiopia planning to restore a further 15m hectares by 2030
October 30 , 2014, Guardian   By: John Vidal

Fifteen years years ago, in the villages around Abrha Weatsbha in northern Ethiopia the hillsides were barren, the communities, plagued by floods and droughts, needed constant food aid, and the soil was being washed away.

Today, the planting of many millions of tree and bush seedlings have saved the environment. Wells that were dry have been recharged, the soil is in better shape, fruit trees grow in the valleys and the hillsides are green again.

Farming communities worked together to close off large areas to animals, save water and replant trees,and this is now to be replicated across one sixth of Ethiopia - an area the size of England and Wales. The most ambitious attempt yet to reduce soil erosion, increase food security and adapt to climate change is expected to vastly increase the amount of food grown in one of the most drought- and famine-prone areas of the world.

"Large areas of Ethiopia and the Sahel were devastated by successive droughts and overgrazing by animals in the 1960s and 1970s," says Chris Reij, a researcher with the World Resources Institute in Washington.

In Tigray it has involved communities building miles of terraces and low walls, to hold back rainwater from slopes, the closure of large areas of bare land to allow natural regeneration of trees and vegetation, and the widespread planting of seedlings.

"In the early 1990s every able-bodied villager in Tigray had to contribute three months of labor to dig pits to save water, or to construct terraces and bunds to stop water rushing off the hills. This was reduced later to 40 days a year and currently it is 20 days a year.

Ethiopia's pledge to restore a further 15m hectares of degraded land was the largest of many made at the end of UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon's New York climate summit last month, where governments, companies and civil society groups together agreed to try to restore 350m hectares of deforested landscapes - an area the size of India - by 2030.

With help from the World Bank, the UK government and development groups like Oxfam and World Vision, Africa has emerged as the leader in restoring the world's estimated 2bn hectares of degraded lands.

Over 200m trees have been planted and 5m hectares of degraded land regreened in Niger, resulting in an extra 500,000 tonnes of food being grown in the country with the fastest growing population in the world, as well as an increase in biodiversity and incomes.

In Burkina Faso where 2-300,000 hectares of land has been regreened, food production has grown about 80,000 tons a year - enough to feed an extra 500,000 people.

In Tanzania 500,000 hectares of land has been restored.

Increasing the rate of restoration of degraded lands will be vital both for feeding fast-growing populations and adapting to climate change, says Green Belt Movement (GBM) international director, Pauline Kamau.

"frica is already experiencing some of the most dramatic extreme temperature events ever seen. Without action to reduce emissions, average annual temperatures on the continent are likely to rise 3-4C by the end of the century and [there could be] a 30% reduction in rainfall in sub Saharan Africa."

Agriculture, forestry and other land use changes accounts for nearly 25% of greenhouse gas emissions globally. "Restoring degraded lands can both help rein in warming and adapt to higher temperatures," Kamau said. doclink

Karen Gaia says: In Ethiopia, the government owns much of the land, giving little incentive for farmers to invest in long-term solutions like building and maintaining terraces.

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