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


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

April 15, 2014

Kathleen Mogelgaard: Four Steps to Better Link Climate Adaptation and Reproductive Health Strategies

March 28, 2014

As one of several consequences of more and more people trying to better their lives, climate change has captured public attention to a far greater degree than the need to reduce overpopulation and over-consumption - the principle drivers of climate change. Having noted that fact, Kathleen Mogelgaard outlined four strategies to link the world's focus on climate change to greater support for family planning. To highlight that link, she calls for publishing an evidence base in scientific literature, and she promotes a plan for noting the links in three areas of standard project documentation.

To build the evidence base establishing the links between climate change and population, Mogelgaard called for using peer-reviewed journals. She said that more exposure (and scrutiny) can help to "mainstream the relationship within the scientific community focused on climate change. … The connection is not yet well documented in the published literature," so she called for connecting the dots.

The UN Framework on Convention on Climate Change called for the creation of National Adaptation Programs of Action (NAPAs) to create climate adaptation plans for the most vulnerable countries. Although most of these plans initially stated that rapid population growth exacerbates the vulnerability to climate change, Mogelgaard noted that by the implementation phase only a "handful of the NAPAs recognized that family planning and reproductive health services could be part of an adaptation strategy," fewer still made them a priority, and none had been funded. After lamenting this missed opportunity, she noted that there still is hope that the NAPA successors - the National Adaptation Plans - can better address the problem.

Under tools and training, Mogelgaard noted a "deep need" for tools that can help scientists who deal with the physical aspects of climate change to understand some of the social dimensions related to population.

And for the program designs, she says the population, health, and environment (PHE) model of development integrates community-based approaches to challenges related to population dynamics, access to health services, and environmental degradation. The PHE model has an “explicit focus to address family planning among women in these communities," she says, and is making progress in places like the Philippines, East Africa, and Malawi. In particular, the Lake Chilwa Basin Climate Change Adaptation Program incorporated family planning into their conservation project after noting that local women were struggling to participate due to lack of access to reproductive health services. She calls for more examples of that type. doclink

Art says: The public often fails to connect the dots between the rates of world overpopulation and over-consumption and the consequences that result from those problems. Climate change has captured a lot of attention lately, and many people are calling for action. But CO2 levels will keep rising so long as more and more people continue buying cars, flying in planes, buying houses that need heating and cooling, etc. The link is obvious, but it does involve sex, and many people avoid discussing it.

How One Small Town Lowered Their Teen Birth Rate

A comprehensive sex education program teaches kids in a small South Carolina town about abstinence, contraception, and effective communication--and where to get free condoms.
March 31 , 2014, Time magazine   By: Charlotte Alter

While the U.S. has one of the highest teen birth rates in the industrialized world, the birth rate among teens has decreased 50% since the 1990s.

Take Denmark, South Carolina, for example. The teen pregnancy rate was so bad that, according to Michelle Nimmons, director of the Bamberg County School/Community Sexual Risk Reduction Project for Teens, they were seeing grandparents in their 30s and even great grandparents in their 40s.

Nimmons and her team worked to build a comprehensive sex education program that included information about contraception but also advised students to stay abstinent. She said that "abstinence is the best option for young people, and that's what parents want for their children."

About 22 states in the U.S. mandate sex education but whether the curriculum should be abstinence based or include discussion of contraception is debated.

Nimmons said that both boys and girls should get sex ed. Young men need to understand what the consequences were when they engaged in sexual behaviors and did not take effective precautions. "They don't get to walk away from a pregnancy and not have emotional scars and financial responsibilities," she said.

Her program has students role-play by re-enacting awkward sex conversations to practice effective communication. "They need to become comfortable with whatever their refusal message s going to be," she said.

Because it is illegal to distribute condoms in schools, barbershops, beauty parlors, or laundromats have agreed to keep condoms out for kids to take whenever they want.

Now, Denmark has one of the lowest teen birth rates in the state. doclink

Assessing Progress for Populations Worldwide

April 03 , 2014, United Nations

Almost on the 20-year anniversary of the largest intergovernmental conference on population and development ever held -- the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo in 1994, the meeting of the 47th session of the Commission on Population and Development will be held.

In advance of that meeting, John Wilmoth, Director of UN DESA's Population Division, spoke about how the heart of what the Cairo conference was all about individuals and their rights and needs, and addressing those issues first and foremost.

Cairo helped galvanize action that brought major improvements in the well-being of people around the world. In 2013 over 90% of governments provided either direct or indirect support for family planning programs. Life expectancy has increased from 65 years in the period 1990-1995 to 70 years in the period 2010-2015.

At the upcoming April session, representatives and experts from a large number of UN Member States and NGOs will meet in New York to assess the status of implementation of the Programme of Action, adopted by 179 governments in 1994.

Wilmoth said there was more to be done: continuing to improve life expectancy, reduce fertility, enhance access to education, and achieve gender equality.

The world's population is expected to reach 8.1 billion in 2025 and 9.6 billion in 2050. In 1994 the world's population was growing at 1.5% a year, compared to only 1.2% in recent years.

The combined population of the 49 least developed countries is projected to double by 2050. In contrast, in more than 40 other countries - many of them in Eastern Europe, East, South-East and Western Asia, other parts of Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean - the size of the population is expected to decline in the coming decades.

Despite these advances, most countries will not achieve the ICPD Programme of Action target for life expectancy of 75 years (70 years for the countries with the highest mortality levels) by the target date of 2015. Worldwide, women live 4.5 years longer than men, a gap that has remained virtually unchanged since 1994. Similarly, the world as a whole will miss the Conference target of a 75% reduction in maternal mortality.

The international community is increasingly recognizing the contribution of migration to global development. In 2013, the number of international migrants worldwide reached 232 million, up from 154 million in 1990. There are more people living outside their country of birth than ever before, and it is expected that the numbers will increase further.

Lower fertility combined with higher life expectancy results in population ageing. Aging combined with rapid urbanization "creates challenges in terms of meeting the needs of the older population and also in managing the relationship between the generations as the working-age population inevitably has to provide a certain amount of financial and other forms of support for the older population," he said.

The Commission will also be an important preparatory event for the special session of the General Assembly, which will take place on 22 September 2014 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Cairo conference. doclink

World Bank: Climate Change Will 'Lead to Battles for Food'

April 06 , 2014, Climate Central   By: Larry Elliott

Battles over water and food will erupt within the next five to 10 years as a result of climate change, Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank said as he urged those campaigning against global warming to learn the lessons of how protesters and scientists joined forces in the battle against HIV.

Jim Yong Kim said it was possible to cap the rise in global temperatures at 2°C but that so far there had been a failure to replicate the "unbelievable" success of the 15-year-long coalition of activists and scientists to develop a treatment for HIV. He had asked the climate change community: "Do we have a plan that's as good as the plan we had for HIV?" The answer, unfortunately, was no.

"Is there enough basic science research going into renewable energy? Are there ways of taking discoveries made in universities and quickly moving them into industry? Are there ways of testing those innovations? Are there people thinking about scaling those innovations?" The answer was 'no' to all these questions. We still don't have a plan.

The four areas where the bank could help in the fight against global warming are: finding a stable price for carbon; removing fuel subsidies; investing in cleaner cities; and developing climate-smart agriculture. Improved access to clean water and sanitation was also vital, to avoid tension over resources which would result from inaction over global warming.

"People say that carbon is the currency of climate change. Water is the teeth. Fights over water and food are going to be the most significant direct impacts of climate change in the next five to 10 years. Water and sanitation has not had the same kind of champion that global health, and even education, have had."

The World Bank president warned that a failure to tackle inequality risked social unrest. The bank has almost doubled its lending capacity to $28 billion a year with the aim of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030 and spreading the benefits of prosperity to the poorest 40% in developing countries.

Because of smartphones and access to media, you have no idea where the next huge social movement is going to erupt, he said. "It's going to erupt to a great extent because of these inequalities. So what I hear from heads of state is a much, much deeper understanding of the political dangers of very high levels of inequality," he said.

"Now that we have good evidence that suggests that working on more inclusive growth strategies actually improves overall growth, that's our job." doclink

Oh, So Many Important Articles This Week

All these articles deserved to be seen by WOA's readers. Click on the red arrow to the right of the headline to summarize and article for publication.

  • U.S.: Growing Gap Between First Sex and First Birth Means Women Face Longer Period of Risk for Unintended Pregnancy doclink

    The typical age at which teens first have sex has remained relatively stable over the past several decades, increasing slightly to 17.8 for women and 18.1 for men in the most recent cohort for whom data are available. For women coming of age in the mid-2000s, the median age at first sex was about the same as that of women 35 years earlier, according to "Trends in Ages at Key Reproductive Transitions in the United States, 1951-2010," by Law... April 10, 2014, Guttmacher Institute

  • U.S.: State Policy Trends: More Supportive Legislation, Even as Attacks on Abortion Rights Continue doclink

    The 2014 legislative session got off to a fast start, with legislators introducing a combined 733 provisions related to sexual and reproductive health and rights in nearly all the states that have legislative sessions this year (legislatures in Montana, Nevada, North Dakota and Texas will not meet in 2014). See here for the full analysis of the first quarter of 2014. Significantly, legislators quickly showed a clear interest in protecting or ex... April 09, 2014, Guttmacher Institute

  • U.S.: Why Meat Prices Are Going to Continue Soaring for the Foreseeable Future doclink

    The average price of USDA choice-grade beef has soared to $5.28 a pound, and the average price of a pound of bacon has skyrocketed to $5.46. Unfortunately for those that like to eat meat, this is just the beginning of the price increases. Why Meat Prices Are Going To Continue Soaring For The Foreseeable Future 100414beef Image: Beef (Wiki Commons). Due to an absolutely crippling drought that won't let go of the western half of the country, ... April 10, 2014, PrisonPlanet   By: Michael Snyder

  • Hungry Monkeys Raid Farms in North India as Forests Shrink doclink

    Panicked monkeys jump off an orange tree and disappear fast as angry children pelt them with stones and shout abuse. Crackers are let off in the distance, and more kids rush out to a nearby field, dotted with scarecrows, to stop wild animals destroying crops. For a few years now, the small farmers of Pouni block, an area surrounded by green hills and mountains in Jammu and Kashmir's Reasi district, have faced an unusual threat from hungry wild... April 03, 2014, Thomson Reuters Foundation   By: Ashutosh Sharma

  • Our Year of Extremes: Did Climate Change Just Hit (Includes 2 videos) doclink

    The dazzling icescape at the top of our planet is mutating into a place that is barely recognizable to those who have studied it for years. The Arctic is home to some of the world's most dramatic climate change, scientists say, with warming oceans and air melting ice at a rate experts never imagined possible. The warming there has drastic implications for the rest of the earth, scientists say. "The Arctic is a very useful bellwether of change, ... April 03, 2014,   By: By Elizabeth Chuck

  • San Joaquin Valley Sinking as Groundwater Stores Are Depleted (Includes video) doclink

    Flat as a tabletop, the furrowed, brown farm fields east of this San Joaquin Valley town are some of the most productive on Earth. Every spring, they are planted with a smorgasbord of crops that in one form or another are trucked to grocery stores across America, from fresh juicy tomatoes to freeze-dried onion flakes, honeydew melons to tortilla chips. Now that bounty is threatened by a crisis of geological proportions: The land is sinking - ... April 06, 2014, Sacramento Bee   By: Tom Knudson

  • Climate Change, Coral Reefs, Deforestation and Dengue doclink

    New research suggests thawing permafrost is releasing dangerous greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which could accelerate global warming. "We've known for a while now that permafrost is thawing," Suzanne Hodgkins, the lead author on the paper and a doctoral student in chemical oceanography at Florida State University, said in a news release. "But what we've found is that the associated changes in plant community composition in the polar regio... April 08, 2014, HNGN   By: Rebekah Marcarelli

  • Climate Change: the Least We Can Do doclink

    As the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report makes clear, we are long past the point of avoiding climate change. The best we can do now is to avoid the worst effects. The situation is more dire than previously projected and the consequences of inaction more starkly drawn than ever before: Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and oc... April 07, 2014, Huffington Post   By: Bob Walker, President of the Population Institute

  • Is This Catholic Hospital in Oklahoma Trying to Prevent Women From Getting Birth Control? doclink

    Are the majority of gynecological patients in the small city of Bartlesville, Okla., about to be cut off from access to prescription contraception? That seems to be the conclusion of the local newspaper, the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise, which reported on Friday that, according to off-the-record sources, at a Wednesday meeting management at the Jane Phillips Medical Center told doctors affiliated with the hospital that they could no longer pr... April 01, 2014, Slate   By: Amanda Marcotte

  • Rising Seas doclink

    Some areas of the globe are especially vulnerable to rising sea levels. As land recedes under advancing waters, governments are faced with the costs of building defensive seawalls and relocating coastal populations — and in some extreme cases, finding new homes for entire island nations. The low-lying islands of Kiribati, just a few feet above sea level, are on the front lines of climate change. Globally, sea levels have risen eight to 10 in... March 27, 2014, New York Times   By: Coral Davenport


U.S.: Bye-Bye Baby

April 06 , 2014   By: Michael S. Teitelbalm and J. H. Winter

Nearly half of all people now live in nations with zero population growth. This applies not only in rich countries, but also in Armenia, Bhutan, El Salvador, Poland, Qatar, Moscow, São Paulo, Seoul, and Tehran.

At just over two births per woman, the U.S exceeds the birthrates in Europe, China, and Japan, yet we have cut our 1957 birthrate nearly in half. Even in Brazil, Russia, Iran, and much of southern India, where labor is cheaper, fertility rates have declined since the 1980s. In China the count of working-age people now causes fears of economic decline.

High fertility rates now exist mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. Except for Afghanistan and East Timor, all of the 18 countries with fertility rates of five or more are in Africa (Niger, Mali, Somalia, Uganda and Burkina Faso have six or more births per woman). And nations with fertility rates between three and four, are all in sub-Saharan Africa except for Iraq, Jordan, the Philippines and Guatemala. Pakistan, Egypt, Haiti, Honduras and Bolivia report fertility rates just under three.

In "What to Expect When No One's Expecting" Jonathan V. Last described a "demographic disaster" resulting from " America's baby bust." Professor Steven Philip Kramer called for nations with low fertility to adopt "pronatalist" policies to arrest the spiral of fewer workers supporting more retirees. Low fertility does pose fiscal challenges. With fewer younger adults employed and paying taxes while life expectancy rises, Europe must make adjustments to its generous pension system, and the U.S. must also make small increases in the Social Security taxes or raise the retirement age.

But the concerns of these authors misguided, and they are nothing new. Teddy Roosevelt warned of Anglo-Saxon “race suicide" and, during the Depression, books like “Twilight of Parenthood" (1934) called for birthrate increases. Then, during the baby boom, authors projected mass starvation when population growth outstripped food supplies. We can safely ignore both books. Even after fertility rates fall below 2.1, longer life spans keep a population growing for decades. In cases when the size of a nation's population declines, the drop is usually so slight as to be of little significance and, with some exceptions, doesn't last. We have many real problems to worry about. Falling fertility is not one of them.

But lower fertility rates actually offer several benefits in an era of irreversible climate change. When young adults are no longer in great surplus relative to labor market demand; their relative economic value for employers begins to rise and their economic and career prospects improve. Educated young women especially, but also young men, compare the burdens and rewards of bearing children. Given high divorce rates and the responsibility to support longer living parents, they often see risk in marriage and childbearing. In Brazil, Italy, Turkey and the U.S., good careers require costly years of college. Yet, even with college degrees, employment is uncertain. High rents and difficult mortgages make it hard to afford the independent homes new families want, so dual-earner partnerships have become the norm in both rich and poor nations, allowing less time to care for babies.

Nearly everywhere, fertility decline goes with greater rights and higher educational and career attainment for women and better productivity rates at work. This is one reason China's economic growth far outstripped India's from 1970 to 2010, except for the state of Kerala, India, which also had low fertility. Having fewer school children leaves more money to invest in higher-quality education per child -- especially crucial for younger children -- and in expanding access to higher education. On the other hand, the large numbers of poorly educated young adults in high-fertility societies often have trouble finding good jobs. This has been blamed for everything from terrorism to the Arab Spring in the Middle East and North Africa. Job prospects for young adults begin to improve and stability increases 20 to 30 years after fertility rates start to decline.

Finally, lower fertility rates may reduce the need for poor nations to encourage young citizens to look for work abroad, so they can send home their savings and avoid jobless unrest at home. These policies have existed (either explicitly or implicitly) in Mexico, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India, as well as in many other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. doclink

Art says: Remarkably, Teitelbaum and Winter make a strong case without ever mentioning the following problems we associate with overpopulation and over-consumption: species extinctions, world-wide fish stock depletions, over-forestation, desertification, over-tapped aquifers, river mouth dead zones, dying reefs, toxic air, ocean acidification, etc. - all of which are due to increasing numbers of people seeking to raise their standards of living, and he never mentions that the world's population is expected to increase 28% by 2050, which will accelerate the rates of all our present consequences of overpopulation.

Karen Gaia says: the authors fail to mention that the U.S. has the highest per capita consumption rate in the world, with huge impacts on the planet.

The authors also fail to understand the significance of resource depletion.

Also longer life spans means even more people alive at the same time, and consequently more consequences for humans, wildlife, and the environment.

In addition, high productivity of any nation means higher consumption and more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, unless something is done about using fossil fuels for energy.

Furthermore, the high unemployment rate in the U.S. has a lot to do with industries shipping jobs overseas where wages are lower. And the failing economy (of which the author seems unaware), means civilization is being eroded by the high cost of energy. This is hidden by the U.S. shell game of quantative easing and the subsidizing of fossil fuels by lowering environmental standards.

How Much Energy Does the World Use?

April 05, 2014   By: Paul Chefurka

When we ask "How much energy does the world use?" the answer is usually presented in terms of "primary energy" consumption. While that answer has its uses, it helps to know how much of that primary energy actually translates into useful energy.

How much of the energy in a tonne of coal actually appears as electricity at your wall socket? How much of the thermal energy in a gallon of gasoline actually turns the wheels of your car? How much of the energy we use is lost as waste heat (or entropy in thermodynamic terms)? This graph presents rough answers to these questions, at least on a global scale.

This end-use analysis takes a number of factors into account: the thermal efficiency of various fuels; the proportions of a fuel used for different purposes; and distribution losses for electrical transmission. While the numbers could be ground exceedingly fine, this assessment relies on a set of rough approximations to get us close enough to the real world situation.

Here are the assumptions that went into the end-use calculations:

» Coal is used almost entirely for electrical generation. The thermal efficiency of coal plants is approximately 30%.

» 70% of oil is used for transportation, while 30% goes to for industrial uses. The thermal efficiency of oil in transportation is approximately 20%; the thermal efficiency of industrial uses is assumed to be 100%. The small amount used for electrical generation is ignored.

» About 30% of natural gas is used for electrical generation, with 70% going to heating and industrial processes. The thermal efficiency of electrical generation is approximately at 40%; the thermal efficiency of heating and industrial uses is assumed to be 100%.

» Hydro, nuclear, wind and solar photovoltaic are used for electrical generation only.

» Biomass is used for electrical generation in thermal power plants similar to coal plants, and with the same approximate efficiency of 30%.

» The distribution of electricity through transmission lines incurs losses due to line heating. The average loss is estimated here to be 12%. Solar PV incurs lower losses because transmission distances are typically shorter, so its distribution loss is estimated at 5%.

The amount of fossil fuel energy that is wasted as unrecoverable heat electrical generation and transportation is extremely high. A full half of the energy in fossil fuels is wasted. While some of it may be recoverable (as in the newer combined cycle gas turbine generators), in most cases it is either economically unfeasible or practically impossible.

What surprised me most from this exercise was the extremely low thermal efficiency of coal generation. this presents a major area of opportunity for wind power to move into coal's traditional markets.

Of course, the big questions are: "How resistant is the globally interlocked corporate/political establishment to making such changes?" and "How much time do we have left to make them?"

Because in the end it's the carbon that is killing us. doclink

Old Forecast of Famine May Yet Come True

Might Thomas Malthus be vindicated in the end?
April 02 , 2014, New York Times   By: Eduardo Porter

200 years ago -- after a hungry angry populace brought in the French Revolution - Malthus wrote: "The power of population is so superior to the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race," he wrote with alarm.

Proving him wrong, the world's population has grown sixfold and economic output multiplied by more than 50 by the year 2000.

Malthus's premise was that the earth's carrying capacity has a limit and the new UN IPPC report released last week provided a sharp-edged warning about how fast we are approaching this constraint.

Melting ice caps, rising sea levels, stressed water supplies, heat waves and heavy rains are among the list of present damages outlined in the report. These underscored the tremendous risk if humanity does not figure out how to curb the use of fossil fuels that have provided the lifeblood for economic development since the time of Malthus.

However the starkest warning from the report was about the challenge imposed by global warming on the world's food supply, which brings us back into Malthus's predictions.

While carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would increase the rate of photosynthesis, and warmer weather would lengthen the growing season, faster photosynthesis will help weeds more than cereal crops, while the accumulation of ozone and high temperatures would reduce yields of all the major grains, according to the report.

Craig Hanson at the World Resources Institute said studies suggest that feeding more than nine billion people in 2050 will require 70% more calories than consumed today.

The IPPC panel calculates that food demand is rising at a pace of 14% a decade while climate change is already reducing wheat yields by 2% and corn yields by 1% each decade.

Famine might not spread everywhere, but when the world's food supply is unstable, the will be more instability and the world's poor will suffer the most.

More volatile weather patterns promise to bring sharp disruptions to agricultural production that can cause spikes in food prices, which have been on a roller-coaster ride since 2007.

"There is a rigorous correlation between food price spikes and urban unrest," said Andrew Holland at the American Security Project. "There was a food price spike in 2008, and you can see unrest spread throughout Africa. And there's a relatively clear line that leads from the food price spike in 2010 to unrest in the Middle East and the Arab Spring."

When rice prices jumped in 2007, big producers like India and Vietnam banned exports to protect their domestic markets, while importers like Bangladesh, Nigeria and Iran went out on the market to hoard as much grain as they could. The commodities market became unstable. China, Saudi Arabia and South Korea, have tried to insulate themselves from future food shortages by buying or leasing agricultural land in places like Sudan, Madagascar and Uzbekistan.

The climate panel suggests that farmers could breed new species to better resist heat and drought, water harvesting techniques could be used to delay evaporation and rotation of crops could help improve yields, perhaps raising yields of wheat, rice and maize from 15 to 18% compared with doing nothing. Reducing food waste would also help.

But for all the evidence of humankind's ability to adapt to its environmental constraints, it would be reckless to assume that ingenuity will arrive just in time to pull us from the brink.

Stanford ecologist Paul R. Ehrlich wrote in 1968: “in the 1970s the world will undergo famines — hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death." In 1974 he forecast “a genuine age of scarcity" by 1985. The economist Julian L. Simon -- a committed believer in the power of human ingenuity -- in 1980 challenged Mr. Ehrlich to choose any five commodities and accurately predicted that Mr. Ehrlich's choices would be cheaper 10 years later, not scarcer and more expensive. However, had the bet extended for 30 years rather than 10, it would have gone to Mr. Ehrlich. doclink

Karen Gaia says:

Malthus provides a nice segway from this article into family planing (in case you are planning on sending an LTE to the NYT):

Malthus himself did not believe in birth control (i.e. condoms, douches, etc). He believed that couples should not get married until they could afford children. However, his work prompted many to use the condom and birth rates did drop. Today we have modern contraception and 99% of women of childbearing age have used it in the U.S.

To solve the problems of food shortages, we need to curtail both population growth and consumption. Since the U.S. has the highest consumption rates in the world, and the highest birth rates of developed countries, Americans can help by both cutting consumption and birth rates. We can accomplish the latter by ensuring that effective contraception is accessible and available at no cost through the ACA.

In developing countries, where population growth is highest, women need to be freed from patriarchal traditions at least to the point where they have control over their own reproduction. Education of girls, delaying marriage, lowering infant mortality rates, reproductive health care, and effective accessible family planning methods are already being done and will bring birth rates down. But only if there is enough funding for such programs.

The U.S. share of funding for international family planning and reproductive health amounts to only $3 per American. This would provide far more benefits at many times less cost that our current war budget. For every dollar spent on international family planning efforts, governments save more than that in health care, water, education, housing, and other costs. Families prosper while maternal and infant deaths, and also abortions, are prevented.

Women Strongly Oppose Hobby Lobby's Birth Control Case: Poll

March 24 , 2014, Huffington Post   By: Laura Bassett

The Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood v. Sebelius. Both involve for-profit companies refusing to provide their employees with coverage mandated by the Affordable Care Act because the companies' owners do not believe in birth control.

In a survey of women voters between 18 and 55 released by Hart Research Associates, more than two-thirds (68%) opposed allowing corporations to refuse to cover contraception in their health plans because of religious objections. More than half indicated that they disagree "strongly." 84% of women agreed with the statement that the decision to use birth control "should be a woman's personal decision, and her boss should not be able to interfere with it." Geoff Garin, President of Hart Research Associates said, "As a matter of principle, these women don't believe corporations should be able to use religion to pick and choose which laws they will obey."

The poll shows that women also oppose other kinds of religious freedom laws affecting gays and lesbians, and 81% said pharmacies should not be allowed to refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control on religious grounds. doclink

Art says: Another article said that the National Coalition of American Nuns sent a petition to the Supreme Court saying, "We want to make clear that the sin is not a person using birth control. The sin is denying women the right and the means to plan their families." . . . "We know that religious freedom means that each person has the right to exercise their own religious beliefs." It "cannot mean that an individual or a corporation gets to impose their religious beliefs on their employees."

Let's Talk About the Car Population Problem

The overpopulation of cars is distorting our society and destroying the environment
February 19 , 2014

Although it's hard to deny the strain of increasing numbers on our climate, natural spaces, and finite resources, population control remains a sensitive topic, even for environmentalists. Perhaps less sensitive, the overpopulation of cars also distorts our society and destroys the environment. Each car adds significantly to the problem. One car driven 13,000 miles per year creates about 4 tons of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Not surprisingly, cars and trucks account for a major part of urban GHG emissions - without even counting emissions from road building or oil refining/processing. In 1950, about 100 million motor vehicles drove on the planet's roads. Today we have one billion (mainly passenger cars). According to Daniel Sperling and Deborah Gordon in their book Two Billion Cars, by 2030 almost two billion motor vehicles (not counting motorcycles and scooters) will vie for road space.

Western leaders who support a do-nothing approach on climate change by pointing to the magnitude and growth of emissions in places like China and India have their narrative backwards. Western values have a strong influence on developing countries. The damage occurring in developing countries is partly a result of copying our destructive car-centered model. If Chinese and Indian households continue to strive for high Western rates of car ownership, the prospects for our planet look grim. In 2013 about 16 million cars were sold in China, eclipsing even U.S. numbers. According to Scotiabank's Global Auto Report, car sales in China will jump to 18 million this year.

More space is devoured by roads and parking than by living space. In Soil Not Oil, Indian author Vandana Shiva writes that sustainable, affordable forms of transport like walking and cycling grow dangerous when cars are present. "Today, cars eat men," she writes. While this contributes to climate change, congestion, and resource depletion , the best solution is obvious: better urban planning based on mass transit (e.g., buses, electric streetcars, subways, and trains) as well as cycling, and walking. Mass transit provides a better value per dollar invested than car-centered transport. While car-based transportation systems cost billions, they often can't even deliver what the car ads promise: speed and freedom.

Much of the world's population problem is a car population problem. Let us set the model for developing nations. Making one-car families the norm in North America, would cut the number of cars by millions, and having car-less families would yield even greater benefits. Investment in mass transit, cycling, and walking creates the conditions for better family finance. Quality mass transit values efficiency, individual pocket books, and community health and safety. doclink

Art says: Great idea, but I would add that cutting avoidable air travel 60% would reduce GHGs perhaps even more than going to one car per family. According to the NY Times, one round-trip from Chicago to Germany produces as much carbon dioxide per seat as an average year of driving for a typical family car. What's more, to cut avoidable air travel you need not wait for someone else to build a rapid transit system. Let's cut both car and air travel. China plans to build 100 new airports. We can set the right example by reducing the miles we fly and encouraging them to do likewise.

Karen Gaia says: Calling it 'population control' is a major reason the topic is sensitive. It's not about control except the control a woman needs over her own reproduction.

The Family Planning Ripple Effect: Children Survive and Nations Thrive (Video)

November 01, 2013, Population Reference Bureau

The goal of this excellent presentation is to improve individuals' understanding of the health benefits of family planning for mothers and children; how family planning can contribute to child survival; and how these issues are related to national development. It is designed to promote policy dialogue on the critical role of family planning as a cost-effective strategy that adds value to child survival interventions. Target audiences include government policymakers, civic and religious leaders, health sector leaders, program officials, family planning advocates, journalists, and others. For more information about "The Family Planning Ripple Effect," please contact Marissa Yeakey, 202-939-5441, doclink

A Fox News Host Crossed the Line When She Said Birth Control Benefits Shouldn't Be Covered Because It's "Not Our Responsibility" to "Subsidize" Workers' Sex Lives.

March 22 , 2014, Planned Parenthood Act

Send a message to Fox: Saying that paying for birth control is subsidizing sex lives is the same as saying paying a wage is subsidizing your employees' home lives. And by your logic, paying for maternity leave is subsidizing sex lives too. Is that what you're going after next? Birth control is health care, plain and simple. doclink

Energy: Another Decade of Excuses

March 08 , 2014, Oil Crash (Spanish)

Image source: Energy Watch Group Oct 2007 -

The obvious signs of social deterioration are progressing steadily. For example the recent protests turned violent against the austerity measures devised by the government in Spain in March.

However the media has become increasingly captive of the great economic groups that own them and have abandoned their obligation to report and instead have turned to propaganda that numbs and reassures the conscience about the availability of materials and energy, trying to cover the widening cracks in the wall of reality.

The price of oil graph by Dave Cohen is close to reality, capturing the trend and a significant portion of the volatility. (Note: click the link in the headline to see the graphs). Prices will not fall much between consecutive peaks (and the second peak is not as high). Fracking, a technique in which the U.S. has succeeded in producing about 2.5 million barrels of oil, in free market conditions would not be exploitable. The U.S. is exporting inflation to the rest of the world, deteriorating the economy of the rest of the world. This "oil subprime" has cost large multinational oil dearly. How will this affect the future price of oil depends on many issues, but what is obvious is that both higher price and volatility will be at the expense of relentless impoverishment of society. The key issue is not the price of oil production but the net energy that we lose. Before long the volume of crude oil will decrease and not long after the volume of all liquids will show signs of decay.

I predict that the inane discussions about the price of oil will last for five more years. Sooner or later we will trigger conflicts all over the globe which will eventually affect a major oil producer. The fall in production of 2 or 3 million barrels represents only 2.2 - 3.3 % of the 90 million barrels consumed in the world. You can not get around the problem of supply. With the sudden lack of oil and the war effort , the population of Western countries will be forced to drastic measures to reduce consumption, but economic analysts will say that that the shortage is caused "artificially" and is " temporary" , which will end "when the war and investment returns" since the world awash in oil. However, the cruel scourge of war will not only take your unfortunate and avoidable toll of human lives, but cause the production of the affected country to never return to prewar levels.

In Libya a short war caused a slump in production in 2011, but as shown in this graph of Energy Flows in 2012 production, has not yet recovered to levels before the war. Libya has never regained its level of oil production in 1970. True that the situation in Libya has been unstable, but that is the above ground reason. There is another story below ground. On the ground we have a country in unstable, a turbulent situation with frequent protests. But below ground, to keep a mature field in good operating you have to continuously inject gas or water pressure, and, if such flow is interrupted, to reset it is not so simple, since in the absence of the extra pressure of the rock porosity may decrease. In addition, many facilities from the well to the refinery or warehouse require ongoing maintenance and are seriously affected by an interruption of the activity for weeks or months. Countries like Iraq, Iran, Syria, Venezuela, or Russia, where there has been unrest or societal collapse, can hardly recover their previous level of oil production.

We can put pressure on oil producers to produce more: 26% of gas and 40% of oil in Europe consumes comes from Russia. Meanwhile the Americans want to export their surpluse fracked gas to Europe (regardless of the fact that the bubble has its days and how extremely expensive gas liquefaction facilities for transport in ships are to build). On the other hand, Americans are trying to persuade the Saudis to flood the world with cheap oil to sink the Russian economy, a trick they did in the 80s that helped bring about the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, unlike 30 years ago, Saudi Arabia is no spare capacity left, only in appearance, nor is the U.S. to become the largest producer of oil in the world. In reality, Russia has the upper hand, especially if they decide to remove the dollar from its oil transactions , as has already been agreed with China.

10 years ago biofuels promised to save us; 5 years ago the panacea was the ultra heavy tar sands of Canada (followed closely by oils of the Orinoco Belt in Venezuela ), but that has also has shown too many limits as to make a substantial change. Now fracking to extract gas and light oil worldwide is touted, but it is increasingly evident that it is nothing more than a financial bubble which will explode. See

Within 5 years fracking will be almost forgotten (even when the energy experts in power say that was abandoned "by excessive regulation of States"). What's next? Arctic oil, the pre-salt Brazil and the West African coast formations, gas hydrates, Antarctica?

Coal is also expected to reach its zenith soon: according to the forecast of the Energy Watch Group is expected to peak by 2020 (see chart at the top of this article);

The extraction of the last coal will be profitable only in harsh operating conditions for the humans who extract it. No doubt scientists by then will have discovered a novel method and ultra efficient to convert coal into top-octane oil and that local reserves will ensure adequate supplies of the country for at least 200 years. And the hype will come, as always, to confuse reserves (which can be removed from soil) with production (how fast it goes) .

Renewable energy is, no doubt, where we will be in the long-term future, but it can not cover anywhere near the hole that is left behind after oil, and, in a few years, after gas and coal. Renewables have many limits: capital requirements, materials, locations for photovoltaic panels and wind turbines.

The real problem is overpopulation: The number of hectares of arable land per capita is only 0.16, or 1,600 square feet, a square 40 meters by 40 meters. This is at the limit of the carrying capacity for a human being who has a large supply of fossil energy. It is below carrying capacity for people with little or not fossil fuel. If corrective measures are not taken we will see hunger, epidemics, war and death.

Problems with climate change : Episodes of successive waves of heavy rain fronts in the North Atlantic, the Polar Vortex parking in the eastern U.S. and drought in the western area are strongly related to the problem of the Jet Stream. This is weather. Meteorologists dismiss climate change because they can find such weather extremes in the past, but this is weather, not climate.

The most serious short-term problem of climate destabilization is its effect on food production and possible wars that may trigger their cause. To combat a force as climate change exceeds -- by orders of magnitude -- the entire industrial capacity of man. There will be appeals for responsible consumption and savings, but reduced availability will actually force us to consume less. If nothing is done at all, what may end up happening may be close to a horror story.

In the end, all the excuses have one thing in common: strong opposition to changing the economic system to one that is truly sustainable and the need to maintain at any cost business-as-usual, deceiving people by whatever means to get it.

However, lately some cracks have appeared in the official complacency. The Bank of England publised​an astonishing public research article questioning conventional ideas about the creation of money, with serious implications for our monetary system. A NASA-funded report and the UN report scientific study warn of a probable collapse of society. A few days ago, in an article in the Charter of the Exchange, a fairly conventional economist, warned that resource scarcity is a serious problem and will change our world. doclink

Understanding the IPCC Reports

March 20 , 2014, World Resources Institute - WRI

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world's foremost collection of climate scientists, will release its Fifth Assessment Report installments throughout 2013/2014, giving the current state of the climate system and climate change, its environmental and socio-economic impacts, and mitigation strategies that can limit emissions.

The first installment confirms the overwhelming scientific consensus that the impacts of climate change are accelerating, and that climate change is human-caused. This report has quantified the global "carbon budget," the amount of carbon dioxide emissions we can emit while still having a likely chance of limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

This budget will be exceeded in only about 30 years if emissions continue at the current rate -- exposing communities to increasingly dangerous forest fires, extreme weather, drought, and other climate impacts.

Follow the link in the headline to see the illuminating World Resources Institute's infographic showing what the carbon budget is, what impacts we can expect if we exceed it, and what actions the world can take to stay within it. doclink

Papantonio: Hobby Lobby is DOA

March 28 , 2014, Daily Kos

Corporations open themselves up for lawsuits if Hobby Lobby succeeds. That's they there are no amicus briefs filed in favor of Hobby Lobby.


Population: Still the Big Taboo

February 26 , 2014   By: Jonathan Porritt

Jonathan Porritt rated the eight leading environmental NGOs in the UK by asking them whether they would be prepared to commit to the following six actions:

-Accept and promote the findings of the Royal Society's People and Planet Report that population and consumption must be considered as indivisible, linked issues;

-Acknowledge publicly and actively communicate the crucial relevance of population to your organisation's mission and objectives;

-Support and advocate the principle of universal access to safe, affordable family planning for all women throughout the world;

-Call on the Government to act on the findings of the Royal Society's Report and draw up a national population policy;

-To use your organisation's considerable policy resources, voice and influence to speak and engage members of the wider public in an intelligent, informed and honest debate about population;

-Include the population factor in all relevant communications and policy pronouncements.

-With the honourable exception of Friends of the Earth (that has now developed a new and rather more progressive position on population, which), they're all pretty much where they were four decades ago. Despite a massive increase in human numbers and a correspondingly massive deterioration in the state of our physical environment.

Here is how he rated the 8 organizations, with WWF-UK coming in last.

1. Friends of the Earth 2. The Wildlife Trusts 3. CPRE 4. Greenpeace 5. RSPB 6. Wildfowl and Wetland Trust 7. National Trust 8. WWF-UK doclink

Karen Gaia says: WWF International has a Population, Health and Environment program in Madagascar. This is the real work that needs to be done. Porritt did not ask the right questions of the right people. Perhaps that's why WWF-UK did not find it necessary to respond.


Pollution Killed 7 Million People Worldwide in 2012, Report Finds

March 25, 2014   By: Andrew Jacobs and Ian Johnson

According to a World Health Organization report, around the world, one out of every eight deaths was tied to dirty air —twice as many as previously estimated. Its report identified air pollution as the world's single biggest environmental health risk. More than one-third of those deaths, the organization said, occurred in fast-developing nations of Asia, where rates of cardiovascular and pulmonary disease have been soaring.

However, the agency said that in 2012 indoor air pollutants were involved in 4.3 million deaths, while toxic air outdoors figured in 3.7 million deaths (total 8 million). Many deaths were attributed to both. The reports by the World Bank and World Health Organization each said the burning of noxious fuels -- coal, wood and animal waste -- was among the greatest threats to human health.

In India, the health agency estimated, 700 million people rely on biomass fuels like agricultural waste for indoor cooking. Kirk R. Smith of the University of California, Berkeley, said that pollutants from smoky indoor ovens were often comparable to burning 400 cigarettes an hour. "Unfortunately, he said, we have not made a lot of progress in the past decades, and household air pollution is still the largest single health risk factor for Indian women and girls."

In China, the bigger culprit is coal, which supplies two-thirds of the country's energy. Though the winter heating season has ended, Beijing still displayed a familiar acrid haze, and the U.S Embassy's air monitor rated the air as "very unhealthy," a level at which outdoor activity should be avoided. Alarmed by the worsening smog and the rising discontent among urban residents, Prime Minister Li Keqiang declared a "war against pollution" in his annual report to the nation this month. Chinese leaders have promised to reduce reliance on coal and introduce cleaner-burning motor fuels and more energy-efficient construction methods. doclink

Karen Gaia says: total pollution = per capita pollution X population size. The more people who are polluting there are, the worse it is for everyone.

National Coalition of American Nuns Announces Support for Contraception Access Via Obamacare

March 20, 2014   By: Eliza Thompson

In a petition addressed to the U.S. Supreme Court, the National Coalition of American Nuns recently came out in support of the Affordable Care Act's provision for contraception coverage. The Court will hear oral arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood v. Sebelius, next week. Both involve for-profit companies refusing to provide their employees with mandated coverage because the companies' owners do not believe in birth control. In the petition, which has nearly reached its goal of 5,000 signatures, the nuns wrote, "We want to make clear that the sin is not a person using birth control. The sin is denying women the right and the means to plan their families."

Sister Donna Quinn, the head of NCAN, told that "it isn't faith and freedom when a woman can be held hostage by the owner of a business." The petition also says: "We know that religious freedom means that each person has the right to exercise their own religious beliefs." It "cannot mean that an individual or a corporation gets to impose their religious beliefs on their employees." doclink

Environmental Impact to Worsen Over Time

Even if current appetites for new things remained stable, the world is headed for more environmental destruction as resources become harder to reach
March 25 , 2014   By: Christopher Doyle

Humans have picked most of the 'low hanging fruit' of energy sources, which means more effort is needed to extract useful materials.

In a new study soon to be published in the journal Global Environmental Change, lead author Dr Debra Davidson of the University of Alberta said that environmental impacts will grow even if current consumption levels remained constant. As natural resources become more limited, a barrel of oil consumed in 1980 would have a relatively greater ecological impact than a barrel of oil consumed in 1950, and a barrel of oil consumed in 2020 will have even more of an impact. This increasing impact over time results from declines in the quality and accessibility of the resources being exploited.

As the easy-to-reach and better quality materials diminish, greater effort is required to extract and process the poorer quality material that remains. This extra effort could be in the form of human labor, more intensive technologies, and increased requirements for inputs such as land, water, energy and chemicals. This extra effort generally leads to both a greater expense for industry and greater harm to the environment.

For example, Davidson and her colleagues looked at how production per unit of effort has changed in the global fishing industry. As the reported catch of marine fisheries declined, fishing effort has increased, resulting in greater environmental impact per ton of fish caught. "In most countries about 30 to 40 years ago you could catch between 5 and 10 times more big fish per unit of effort than you can now," said study contributor Professor Daniel Pauly of the University of British Columbia. "Essentially modern industrial fisheries are, to a large extent, mining operations." There are more trawlers, they are going deeper, and they are going into areas that they have never fished before." Before with one ton of fuel you may have caught ten tons of fish, but now you will use one ton of fuel to catch one ton of fish. And there are environmental costs associated with increased vessel construction and maintenance, greater amounts of wasted by-catch, and more habitat degradation as fishing vessels push into areas that have previously been off-limits.

The researchers noted similar trends for coal mining in the UK, which now uses more environmentally destructive extraction techniques in the face of declining production, and grain production in China, where inputs of fertilizer and groundwater have increased ten-fold per ton of grain harvested. The same trends could be expected for almost any non-renewable resource and for those renewable resources that are essentially over-exploited.

The study shows that less consumption will not necessarily lead to less environmental impact. "Ecological impact is a function of effort, not reward, "Davidson said. "Consumption unquestionably drives ecological impact, but is by no means the only factor, nor is it the most direct indicator of ecological impact." The idea that "we can exploit now and find solutions later just isn't going to work."

Paul Ehrlich, considered by some to be one of the fathers of the modern environment movement, said the conclusions pointed to a need for a reduced human population and stabilized per-capita consumption. doclink

Karen Gaia says: This comes back to EROI, Energy Returned Over Invested (or EROEI Energy Returned Over Energy Returned). Oil first had an EROI of 100. Today it is more like 10. We need 9 or more EROI, for all our energy consumed, to maintain our civilization.

Pyramid of Energy Needs - inspired by Charles Hall

'Collapse' of Modern Civilization a Real Possibility: NASA Study

'Ecological strain' and 'economic stratification' could bring global downfall, researchers warn
March 15 , 2014   By: Sarah Lazare

Note: The original study can be found at

Also note: NASA officials released this statement on March 20: "A soon-to-be published research paper, 'Human and Nature Dynamics (HANDY): Modeling Inequality and Use of Resources in the Collapse or Sustainability of Societies' by University of Maryland researchers Safa Motesharrei and Eugenia Kalnay, and University of Minnesota's Jorge Rivas, was not solicited, directed or reviewed by NASA. It is an independent study by the university researchers utilizing research tools developed for a separate NASA activity. As is the case with all independent research, the views and conclusions in the paper are those of the authors alone. NASA does not endorse the paper or its conclusions."

"Ecological strain" and "economic stratification" could lead to the global fall of modern civilization within decades, researchers warn in a disturbing new study sponsored by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

"By investigating the human-nature dynamics of these past cases of collapse, the project identifies the most salient interrelated factors which explain civilizational decline, and which may help determine the risk of collapse today: namely, Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy," explains Nafeez Ahmed writing for The Guardian.

Note: apparently Ahmed did not consult with NASA on his article.

Follow the link in the headline to read the complete article. doclink

Paul Chefurka says: The "NASA" study regarding collapse that's making such a stir right now identifies two primary factors leading to social collapse: ecological strain and economic stratification, or over-consumption and deep social hierarchies. IMO both over-consumption and stratification have a common root cause

The root cause is high levels of available energy flow through the society.

High energy flows enable over-consumption by making resources of all kinds more accessible.

They also force the society to adopt greater degrees of stratification, because all self-organization (including that of social and economic systems) is driven by energy flow. Deeper hierarchies make it easier to manage high levels of energy flow, so they tend to appear naturally wherever there is a lot of energy to be managed

This effect underlies the structural difference between a forager tribe (low energy, low levels of resource use producing little ecological strain, very little hierarchy) and a modern corporation (high energy, high resource use producing high ecological strain, and high stratification). Think of the rise of the gilded age in America, concurrent with the increasing exploitation of fossil fuels.

So long as our civilization has a high level of energy flow we will not be able to get rid of either collective over-consumption or general inequality. These factors are not the result of some failure of the human socio-cultural mind. They are the natural result when our evolutionary tendency towards growth comes into contact with high, sustained energy throughput. A positive feedback loop results, one that could be expected to drive us along exactly the path we find ourselves on.

I don't think there is any way off this path, because the system of global civilization has no central decision-making control node. As a result we are collectively at the mercy of our evolved nature and the energy flow. So long as global "exergy" availability (exergy is another term for "final energy use") continues to increase, so will resource depletion and systemic social inequality. ... IMHO

Human Behavior Behind Climate Change, Which Will Be Abrupt, Unpredictable, Irreversible, and Highly Damaging

March 19, 2014   By: John Light

"They are very clearly saying that we as the scientific community are completely convinced, based upon the evidence, that climate change is happening and human-caused," said Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz, the director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.

The report noted that even though 97% of experts agree climate change is happening and we humans are causing it, Americans remain under the impression that the question is still unsettled. According to a 2013 report by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, 33% of Americans said they believed there was widespread disagreement among scientists and 4% said that "most scientists think global warming is not happening." Only 42% of Americans knew that “most scientists think global warming is happening."

These numbers suggest that disinformation circulated by the fossil fuel industry, utility companies and their political and media allies has successfully confused the public about the truth of global warming.

The evidence that human behavior is causing our climate to change and putting our planet and society at increased risk is overwhelming, the report authors write. “Levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are rising. Temperatures are going up. Springs are arriving earlier. Ice sheets are melting. Sea level is rising. The patterns of rainfall and drought are changing. Heat waves are getting worse as is extreme precipitation. The oceans are acidifying."

Fifty-one percent of Americans said weather in their local area had been worse over the past several years. That observation is in line with research. “These problems are very likely to become worse over the next 10 to 20 years and beyond," the AAAS authors write. doclink

Climate Change is Putting World at Risk of Irreversible Changes, Scientists Warn

AAAS makes rare policy intervention urging US to act swiftly to reduce carbon emissions and lower risks of climate catastrophe
March 18, 2014   By: Suzanne Goldenberg

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) said the world is at risk of "abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes" because of a warming climate, and urged Americans to act swiftly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to avoid leaving a climate catastrophe for future generations. AAAS said the climate is warming at almost unprecedented pace.

IPCC, the UN climate science panel, is planning next week to release the second in a series of blockbuster reports, this time outlining how a changing climate is affecting rainfall and heat waves, sea level and the oceans, fisheries and food security. However the AAAS scientists said they were releasing their own assessment ahead of time because they were concerned that Americans still failed to appreciate the gravity of climate change.

The society said it plans to send out scientists on speaking tours to try to begin a debate on managing those risks.

"The rate of climate change now may be as fast as any extended warming period over the past 65 million years, and it is projected to accelerate in the coming decades." An 8F rise - among the most likely scenarios -- could make 100-year floods, droughts and heat waves almost annual occurrences, the scientists said.

Other sudden systemic changes could lie ahead - such as large scale collapse of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, collapse of part of the Gulf Stream, loss of the Amazon rain forest, die-off of coral reefs, and mass extinctions.

“The sooner we make a concerted effort to curtail the burning of fossil fuels as our primary energy source and releasing the C02 to the air, the lower our risk and cost will be," the scientists said. doclink

Karen Gaia said: lowering fertility rates would allow more resilience for families in developing countries, and fewer emissions from developed countries. One report claims that lowering fertility rates in the U.S. is the best thing we can do to reduce carbon emissions. Of course, lowering our consumption is also necessary. Drive less and eat less meat.

If Hobby Lobby Wins, it Will Be Even Worse for Birth Control Access Than You Think

March 19, 2014   By: Tara Culp-ressler

On March 25, the Supreme Court will take up the issue of contraceptive coverage in a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act. Craft chain Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties -- both for-profit companies -- claim that they can withhold insurance coverage for certain types of contraceptive methods based on their religious beliefs.

Not only do they not want to cover specific types of birth control, but they also object to providing counseling about that birth control. If Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood are successful, they'll win the right to refuse to extend coverage for doctor's visits that include discussion about certain forms of contraception, like IUDs or the morning after pill.

Adam Sonfield, a senior public policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute, explained: "Counseling and education about contraception has been a basic part of a medical visit forever, even before the methods themselves were covered. Before we had prescription drug coverage, we certainly had coverage for the visit to your doctor, and there were never any limitations about what you could talk to your doctor about." And doctors can't just skip over certain methods: in order to obtain informed consent from their patients, doctors are obligated to explain the full range of options available.

Informed consent is the 'bedrock' of medical ethics. The conversation between doctor and patient needs to be careful and detailed before the patient agrees to any medical intervention.

So patients are left with a choice: don't talk about contraception with their doctor or if they do want to discuss contraception, they'll have to pay for the visit out of their own pocket. They'll essentially have to choose between a potential financial burden or a potential health burden.

Worse yet, employees might not realize that restrictions set by the employer exist when they visit their doctor. Companies that withhold coverage for some types of services may not explain to their workers exactly what their plan excludes, or provide them with a referral to access those services elsewhere.

Sonfield said: "This is telling you that you can't use your compensation" your own benefits that you have earned -- in a way that your boss objects to." Insurance coverage for preventative care is a benefit that employees earn through the hours that they put in to their jobs.

Some employers might object to modern health services like vaccinations, blood transfusions, or mental health care. If Hobby Lobby wins, that could open the door for employers to restrict coverage for doctors' visits that include discussion of those topics, too. doclink

Karen Gaia says:

Take Extinction Off Your Plate

March 19, 2014

From habitat destruction and massive greenhouse gas emissions to wasted water and fouled skies, our nation's voracious appetite for meat is causing great harm to our planet and its wildlife.

We surveyed our supporters earlier this year to find out what you thought about the effect of meat production and consumption on the environment. Overwhelmingly we heard that groups like the Center for Biological Diversity should be doing more to address the harms of meat production and help change the American diet. We listened, and today we're launching the Earth-friendly Diet campaign.

Join the movement by taking a pledge to eat less meat for the planet.

Cutting just one-third of the meat from your diet can save as much as 340,667 gallons of water, more than 4,000 square feet of land and the greenhouse gas equivalent of driving 2,700 fewer miles a year. By pledging to reduce your meat consumption by one-third or more, you'll have a huge impact on the environment and the hundreds of species threatened by livestock and Big Agriculture.

The Center's new Earth-friendly Diet campaign provides facts about the effects of meat production on the planet, as well as helpful resources to help you take extinction off your plate. Every meat-free meal makes a difference, and we need you on board. Please take the pledge today, then share it on Facebook with your friends. (Click on the link in the headine to take the pledge). doclink

Energy Company Caught Pumping From Toxic Pond

March 17 , 2014

Rachel Maddow reports on the discovery by environmental activists of water being pumped from Duke Energy coal ash ponds into local waterways, and a new report that NC law has been changed to protect Duke's coal ash pits. doclink

Karen Gaia says: The more people consuming energy means more opportunity for greed and more risks taken.

As Supreme Court Takes Up Contraceptive Coverage Cases, New Guttmacher Analysis Puts the Facts Front and Center

Counters Misinformation and Documents the Wealth of Evidence Strongly Supporting the Current Federal Policy on Contraceptive Coverage
March 11, 2014

On March 25 the Supreme Court will take up cases on the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive coverage guarantee.

In January Guttmacher filed a Supreme Court amicus brief. A new Guttmacher analysis by Adam Sonfield sets the record straight on several important questions of fact misinterpreted and obfuscated by the anti-contraception opponents and clarifies key points of the brief.

The analysis explains why the ACA's requirement that most private health plans cover contraceptive counseling, services and supplies without out-of-pocket costs for patients is necessary and appropriate. The areas covered in the analysis are:

1. Contraception is not abortion: Science clearly shows that contraception is distinct from abortion. Further, by preventing unintended pregnancies, effective contraceptive use dramatically reduces the need for abortion.

2. Contraceptive use benefits women and families: Millions of women who have used contraception were able to plan and space wanted pregnancies which resulted in myriad health benefits for mothers and babies and, in turn, promoted women's educational, economic and social advancement.

3. Comprehensive contraceptive coverage improves use: Methods of contraception differ dramatically in their effectiveness in preventing unintended pregnancy. Removing cost barriers -- as the federal policy currently requires -- has given women the ability to choose and use the best and most effective method for them.

4. Contraceptive coverage is not a financial burden for employers: Strong evidence shows that contraceptive coverage will be either cost-neutral or even generate savings for employers. Also funding for contraceptive services under programs like Title X and Medicaid in 2010 resulted in net public savings of $10.5 billion, or $5.68 for every dollar spent.

5. Shifting responsibility to the government is not workable: Having the government pay for contraceptive services and supplies for privately insured women is not viable politically and wouldn't work, and would end up creating new hurdles for women.

"If the Court sides with the plaintiffs, it could truly open a Pandora's box of discrimination. Employers might claim religious objections to coverage -- for everyone or, for instance, for those who are young, unmarried or gay -- of HPV vaccination, STI testing, breast-feeding equipment, maternity care, blood transfusions, HIV medication and mental health care," said Sonfield doclink

TV Lowers Birthrate

March 19, 2014   By: Nicholas Kristof

A remarkably effective tool has emerged in the search to lower America's teen birthrates. The MTV reality show called "16 and Pregnant" is a huge hit, spawning spinoffs like the "Teen Mom" franchise. These shows remind kids that babies cry and vomit, scream during the night and poop with abandon.

Economists Melissa Kearney and Phillip Levine have studied why we have the highest teen pregnancy rate of any developed country ̶ almost 10 times that of Switzerland and more than twice that of Canada. Kearney and Levine found that teen births reflect poverty and carry it on to the next generation, but they also found that teen births dropped in regions with large audiences for “16 and Pregnant" and the “Teen Mom" franchise. Tweets containing the words “birth control" increased by 23% the day after each episode of “16 and Pregnant," and there were more Google searches concerning how to get birth control pills. (To ensure the success of these searches, we need clinics that offer free, long-acting contraception to teenage girls.) The study concluded that the shows reduced teenage births by 5.7% (20,000 fewer births per year or one less birth each half-hour). Since abortion rates also fell, the reduced birthrate appears to mostly result from more contraception use.

Even as inequality and family breakdown grew worse, teen birthrates plunged by 52% since 1991. One factor Kearney and Levine credit for this decline is women having better job opportunities. For example, girls who were randomly assigned to attend Promise Academy, a middle school in Harlem Children's Zone, became pregnant less often if they had a good shot at college. But the decline greatly accelerated when MTV began airing “16 and Pregnant in 2009. “It's another reminder that great storytelling can be a powerful catalyst for change," says MTV President Stephen Friedman. These shows worked because they focused on compelling stories, not on lecturing or wagging fingers. “If the government tried this, it would have a good message, but three people would watch it," Levine said. The shows portray a better life for girls who delay childbearing.

Another study found that before television arrived in Indian villages, 62% of women said wife beating was acceptable and men had to grant women permission to leave the house. These norms changed after women began watching soap operas showing middle-class urban families in which women weren't beaten and could leave home at will. The studies estimated that these shows nurtured as many egalitarian attitudes as five years of female education.

The master of injecting causes into storytelling is Neal Baer, the television producer behind “ER" and “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit." Baer, a doctor who helps lead the Global Media Center for Social Impact at U.C.L.A.'s School of Public Health, wove issues like vaccination and rape-kit testing into his shows, raising awareness in ways that no news program could. Polling showed that one “ER" episode about cervical cancer doubled audience awareness of the links between the human papillomavirus and cervical cancer. doclink

Wedding Photos Are Supposed To Be Happy. And, Oh Yeah, Not Have A 14-Year-Old Bride In Them

As disturbing as forcing little girls to get married is, it's almost as appalling how little the global community is doing to stop it.
March 2014   By: Adam Albright-Hanna

5 million girls a year are married under the age of 15. Child marriages exist in South Asia, South-Saharan Africa, the Middle East to North Africa.

Nice Nailantei Leng'ete, anti-FGM advocate in Masai community said: When I was 8 years old and my sister was 10 years old, my uncle came to our grandfather's place. And he told him "I think now these girls are big enough for circumcision". So you know, you first have to be circumcised for you to get married. We managed to escape for the first time, and then my uncle came. We were beaten and we had to tell him "Uncle, we promise that next time we are not going to run away".

Desmond Tutu said: These children went to sleep with old men, don't even know what they are going to be doing in bed. It is vicious."

Hooria Mashhour, Minister of Human Rights, Yemen, said: "Poverty is the main reason for early marriage. When the family is very poor and they have many children, boys and girls, they prefer to send some of the female from the house to another family."

Isobel Coleman, Director, Civil Society, Markets and Democracy Initiative said: "When girls are marrying below the age of 15, they are interrupting their education, too soon, they are reducing their economic potential in perpetuity, they are at much greater risk of dying, in child birth, of their infant dying in the first year of life; and are going to experience higher lifetime fertility, greater rates of poverty. And that really perpetuates a cycle of poverty for these countries."

Donald Steinberg, CEO, World Learning said that these "are issues that can affect the stability of countries, they are issues that can affect the economics development of these countries. They are every bit as dangerous as wars over natural resources or wars that result from cultural differences."

Donald Steinberg: "What we've found all around the world, is that empowering those individuals within their own societies, has been by far the most affective approach."

Nice Nailantei Leng'ete: "We need to enroll the young men because they are the future husbands of these girls, they're the ones who are marrying them." doclink

Young brides have no say in the number of children they have.

Seven Graphics That Explain Energy Poverty and How the US Can Do Much More

March 20 , 2014   By: Todd Moss

Did you know that "My fridge uses 9 times more electricity than the average Ethiopian citizen?"

Or: "The International Energy Agency defines "modern energy access" as 500 kWh/year per urban household. Current definitions of "modern energy access" would only last the average American 3 days."

Follow the link in the headline for more... doclink

Book Review: Fewer: How the New Demography of Depopulation Will Shape Our Future

by Ben J. Wattenberg (2004)
March 19, 2014   By: Reviewed by Art Elphick

With a title including the word "depopulation," I expected to find many points of disagreement with Wattenberg's book, but Wattenberg actually says very little that I haven't read and said myself. However, the one thing Wattenberg fails to mention could lead the reader to a false sense that all is well. Wattenberg never says that we have a serious population problem now or that, if demographic forecasts are correct, overpopulation and over-consumption will continue to worsen.

Wattenberg says that Total Fertility Rates (TFRs) have been falling in most nations around the world (true). In most prosperous nations TFRs have been falling for more than forty years (true). The TFRs for most prosperous nations are currently below replacement levels (true). The TFRs for most lesser-developed nations are currently falling (true). The world-wide TFR is 2.5 - 2.7 births per woman, the lowest it has been (true). Most demographers estimate that the world population will exceed nine billion by 2050, but estimates differ (true). At that point, if TFRs continue falling at current rates, the population will peak (true, and hopefully they will). Nations with low TFRs and long life expectancies will need to import workers or will face higher costs per worker to care for the aged (true). Many nations dislike taking immigrants, so they will face a dilemma (true).

What about species extinctions, world-wide fish stock depletions, over-forestation, desertification, over-tapped aquifers, river mouth dead zones, dying reefs, toxic air, ocean acidification, climate change? These are serious problems now, so even a world population of 7.17 billion is unsustainable. And if Wattenberg and his demographer sources have it right, the population will increase by 28% and per-capita consumption rates will increase possibly more than that for a combined consumption increase of more than 50% by 2050. Wattenberg predicts that population growth will reverse automatically after 2050 - decades after most of the horses have left the barn. All told, Mr. Wattenberg told only half of the story, but documented that part very well. doclink

Iran's Birth Control Policy Sent Birthrate Tumbling

Plunging birthrates helped usher in changes concerning the role of women
July 22 , 2012   By: Kenneth R. Weiss

Since the 1980s, Iran has experienced the largest and one of the fastest drops in fertility ever recorded — from about seven births per woman to fewer than two (or, by year, from a high of 3.2% in 1986 to just 1.2% at its lowest point). It confounded all conventional wisdom that this could happen in an Islamic republic, said Jalal Abbasi-Shavazi, a demographer at the University of Tehran. But it happened largely because of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran's supreme leader. Khomeini had earlier encouraged large families, but after the war with Iraq he decided the economy could no longer support a rapidly growing population. In the late 1980s he issued fatwas making birth control available and encouraged conservative Muslims to use them.

With his backing, Iran's Health Ministry launched a nationwide campaign introducing contraceptives - pills, condoms, IUDs, implants, tubal ligations, and vasectomies and providing them free at government clinics, including thousands of new rural health centers. An Iranian factory produced more than 70 million condoms a year. Throughout the country clinics supported the changes. Dozens of mobile teams offered free vasectomies and tubal ligations in remote parts of the country, promoting contraception as a way to leave more time between births and help reduce maternal and child mortality. At a center in Tehran, brides-to-be, some covered head to toe in black chadors, filed into a room with their bearded bridegrooms where they confronted packaged samples of condoms, birth control pills and intrauterine devices pinned to a bulletin board.

In 1993, Parliament passed further legislation withdrawing food coupons, paid maternity leave, and social welfare subsidies after the third child. Hour-long birth control classes and counseling in family planning were required before a couple could marry. "Our aim is to help you know how to avoid an unwanted child," said a government-trained midwife. "The trend among "modern Iranians," she said, "is to have one child, two at most." Her no-nonsense PowerPoint presentation covered male and female anatomy, menstrual cycles, fertility and birth control.

Plunging birthrates led to social changes. With smaller families, parents could invest more in their children's education. Khomeini had resegregated schools by gender, so that even the most conservative families could send girls to school without worrying that having their daughters mix with males would place family honor at risk. Female students soon outnumber males 65% to 35% in public universities, leading to calls in parliament for affirmative action for men. As women became better educated, their influence within the family grew. Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, an Iran expert at Virginia Tech. said, "Without intending to, Iran's clerical leadership helped to foster "the empowerment of Iranian women." Woman still have fewer legal rights than men and are limited in the jobs they can hold and what they can wear, but more of them now attend universities and delay childbirth.

Later, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sought to reverse the trend toward smaller families through speeches and economic sanctions, but he was widely ignored. "Iranian women are not going back," said Sussan Tahmasebi, an Iranian women's rights leader now living in the United States. doclink

Art says: By demonstrating how a population problem can be reversed so quickly, Iran now serves as a model for other nations. But not all Islamic nations would start from such a supportive baseline. The reversal occurred because: 1) the idea came from nation's most powerful cleric, and 2) advanced systems of public schools and public health services already existed, allowing for millions of Iranian women to complete high school or college and quickly obtain family planning advice. This empowerment allowed them to continue practicing birth control even after support for the policy waned. Turkey, another advanced Islamic nation with a similar baseline, had similar success. Since many Islamic clerics distrust western influences, it would be difficult for the UN or any NGO to get them to support family planning as fervently as Khomeini did. Also, few girls attend school at all in several Muslim nations, so female empowerment remains unlikely in the near future. None-the-less, this article makes clear that winning genuine clerical and government support can be key to success.

Karen Gaia says: there is also the example of Bangladesh, another Muslim country, whose government had the help of USAID to develop its family planning program. But it had to start almost 'from scratch' in order to educate girls, and also 'from scratch' to employ women as health care workers, which turned out to be another way to empower women.

How the 'Avon' Model is Empowering Women to 'Inspire Change' in Madagascar

March 07 , 2014   By: Laura Robon

Safidy means "the freedom to choose" in Malagasy, and is the name and ethos of a reproductive health programme run by a British charity, Blue Ventures, in Madagascar. The project enables women in a remote area to choose the number and spacing of their births. Before the Sadify programme began, women had to walk up to the length of a marathon to reach the nearest family planning clinic.

Blue Ventures was already working on marine conservation projects in the region when local women approached us, asking if we could support them to get easier access to reproductive health services. With strong community relations and infrastructure already in place, we were ideally positioned to respond by developing a scheme with the women.

Through the resulting Sadify programme, local women are trained as 'Avon-like' entrepreneurs to offer a range of affordable contraceptive options in their villages. This sustainable social enterprise model allows them to generate a small income for their otherwise voluntary work. In addition to providing voluntary family planning services, they teach semi-nomadic fishing families along Madagascar's south west coast how to improve their health.

Since the project began in 2007, the proportion of women in the project using contraceptives went from 10%, to 55% in 2013.

Integrating voluntary family planning services into Blue Ventures environmental work has generated positive spin-offs, improving food security and empowering women to engage with these conservation initiatives, as they gain access to the information and means to make their own reproductive health choices.

Our vision is to see this integrated model replicated across Madagascar and beyond, so that we can reach the most isolated with vital health services, and support the long-term sustainability of their conservation efforts.

We also hope that this project will inspire a fundamental shift in the way that people think about environmental and social challenges; not as distinct but interlinked. We want these issues to be tackled in the way that people and ecosystems actually experience them - as a whole.

The Safidy programme is supported by the Madagascar Ministry of Health, Marie Stopes Madagascar, Population Services International, the MacArthur Foundation and UNFPA Madagascar. doclink

How to Think About Population, Sustainability and Women's Rights

May 07 , 2013

An important discussion. Are we doing all that needs to be done? Is the women's rights approach enough? Does lack of progress on the 'North's reduction of overconsumption hinder the desire of people in the South to listen to the North? Does the fact that some women do not have a say in their own reproduction justify the 'North' stepping in with dictates? Will women in the South work it out? What do those in the North who want to do more have in mind? If it is left unsaid, doesn't that mean it is something that removes rights instead of ensuring them?


Population, Health, and Environment Working Together

February 25 , 2014, Population Reference Bureau

For the actual PHE presentation, start the video at 5 miuntes 30 seconds.

This video can also be downloaded.

Population, health, and environment initiatives (PHE) can be more effective than single-sector efforts in improving people's lives, demonstrates a new PRB ENGAGE presentation. PHE is an integrated approach to solving challenges in vulnerable and remote communities through improving access to health services (especially family planning and reproductive health), while also helping households improve livelihoods, manage natural resources, and conserve the critical ecosystems on which they depend.

The ENGAGE presentation, Population, Health, and Environment Working Together, was created to increase support for the PHE approach. The story begins with Rukia, who lives in a small agricultural village in Tanzania—but she really could be any woman or "every woman" in a struggling rural community. Rukia's community is burdened by unsustainable fishing, poor agricultural production, and lack of land due to the neighboring Saadani National Park. These challenges are compounded by a growing number of families grappling with dwindling resources. And after a day's labor running the household and collecting the food and water needed for daily life, women like Rukia have little time or the means to devote to health services for themselves or for their children. doclink

Environment Groups Have a Problem with Population

Why are NGOs afraid to talk about the direct link between rising population and environmental disasters?
March 07, 2014   By: Jonathon Porritt

It does not take long to incite divisive discussions about population, development and the environment. For instance, how would you respond to the following facts?

When the ‘Feed the World' campaign began 25 years ago, Ethiopia had about 33m people. Partly due to Western aid saving the lives of people who would have otherwise starved, it now has nearly 80m. And by 2050, on a ‘business as usual' projection, Ethiopia could have 175m people, with most of them more vulnerable to droughts than when we first set out to feed the world.

The controversy lies not in the facts, but rather in how they are interpreted and the tone they imply. Some demographers bluntly state that it is nearly useless to send more aid into countries like Ethiopia until they gain more control over their unsustainable population growth. This sounds callous to most development NGOs. To say that Ethiopia is not just a humanitarian disaster, but also the natural result of too many people trying to live on drought-prone land marks one as heartless.

The same thing happens when you directly link the continuing world-wide assault on biodiversity with unsustainable levels of growth. Despite all the evidence from the IUCN that population growth is a principal driver behind encroachment on pristine areas of high biological value, conservation and environment groups tip toe around that fact as if it were just a conjecture.

During coverage of the recent floods in Somerset, England and the Thames Valley, none of the UK's leading environmental organizations made any connection between the floods and the UK's still rising population driven to build in the flood plains. Yet that was a key part of the story. What's more, with the UK set to add another 10 million people over the next 25 years, several more millions will end up housed in the flood plains despite repeated warnings from the Environment Agency.

After the early 1970s when Paul Ehrlich's Population Bomb and other books like Limits to Growth stressed the links between growth, resource consumption, and environmental impacts, the NGOs felt free to discuss the issue. But once the cover of mainstream interest folded, the NGOs' willingness to state the obvious also faded away. As director of Friends of the Earth in the UK between 1984 and 1990, I could not get the organization to say anything intelligent about population, let alone campaign on it.

The charity Population Matters invited Robin Maynard to conduct a survey of where the eight leading UK NGOs are now positioned on population. It showed that most would avoid the issue. Yet about 80% of people living in the UK see population growth as an important issue. The results made me wonder whether NGO leaders share a collective blindness or a gutless desire to avoid controversy.

The eight UK NGOs surveyed were Friends of the Earth, The Wildlife Trusts, CPRE, Greenpeace, RSPB, Wildfowl and Wetland Trust, National Trust and WWF-UK. The WWF-UK was ranked the worst.

Jonathon Porritt is the former director of Friends of the Earth and former chair of the UK government's Sustainable Development Commission. His latest book is The World We Made, published by Phaidon. doclink

Karen Gaia says: WWF has a Population Health and Environment (PHE) program in Madagascar. See . Perhaps Mr. Porritt needs to change his criteria. In my mind, having a PHE program is walking the walk, not just talking the talk.

The Story of Stuff

March 2014

The Story of Stuff, originally released in December 2007, is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It'll teach you something, it'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the Stuff in your life forever.

• In the United States, we have less than 4% of our original forests left.

• Forty percent of waterways in the US have become undrinkable

• The U.S.has 5% of the world's population but consumes 30% of the world's resources and creates 30% of the world's waste.

• If everybody consumed at U.S. rates, we would need 3 to 5 planets.

• There are over 100,000 synthetic chemicals in commerce today.

• Only a handful of synthetic chemicals have even been tested for human health impacts and NONE have been tested for synergistic health impacts.

• In the U.S., industry admits to releasing over 4 billion pounds of toxic chemicals a year.

• The average U.S. person now consumes twice as much as they did 50 years ago.

• We each see more advertisements in one year than a people 50 years ago saw in a lifetime

• In the U.S. our national happiness peaked sometime in the 1950s.

• In the U.S., we spend 3-4 times as many hours shopping as our counterparts in Europe do.

• Average U.S. house size has doubled since the 1970s.

• Each person in the United States makes 4 1/2 pounds of garbage a day. That is twice what we each made thirty years ago.

• For every one garbage can of waste you put out on the curb, 70 garbage cans of waste were made upstream to make the junk in that one garbage can.

* In the past three decades, one-third of the planet's natural resources base have been consumed. doclink

Population Dynamics Are Crucial to Sustainable Development. So Why Isn't Anyone Talking About Them?

January 18, 2014   By: A. Tianna Scozzaro

For nearly a year, the 69 member nations of the UN's Open Working Group (OWG) of have been seeking input on future goals for sustainable development once the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire in 2015. Led by co-chair ambassadors from Hungary and Kenya, the OWG has delved into topics ranging from issues of governance to health. For five full days the seventh session discussed sustainable cities, settlements, transport, production and consumption, as well as climate change and disaster risk reduction. Leaders in business, industry, science, and politics kicked off each session, framing the issues and describing the task of producing goals, indicators and targets for each theme. However - as is often the case - they avoided issues relating to reproductive and maternal health, family planning, and population.

For the reasons below, we cannot avoid these topics if sustainable development is the goal.

Sustainable cities - By 2050, 70% of all people will live in cities. With cities growing so quickly, effective urban planning and design requires information on demographics and population shifts. We should know, for example, that men often leave women and families behind when they first move to the cities looking for work.

Transport - Since city dwellers in the developing world must move around, places that depend on cars may see 430% traffic increases by 2050. Planning for more sustainable travel options requires good data on transportation requirements forecasting - including population data on women, children, and marginalized populations. As highlighted in a UNFPA position paper, we need to enhance our abilities to assess, project, and plan for population changes that affect sustainable development.

Chemicals & Waste - We currently use between 70,000 to 100,000 chemicals, and we introduce about 1,500 new ones each year. Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) — mostly found in materials such as pesticides, metals, additives or contaminants in food, and personal care products — can impose irreversible health effects and risks to humans, especially women and children. In their statements on sustainable consumption and production, representatives from Denmark, Norway and Ireland noted the consequences of chemical waste on women's reproductive health, but most countries did not.

Climate change - Families face environmental challenges that threaten their health and livelihoods. Most National Adaptation Action Plans recognize the linkages between population change and climate change, and countries, e.g. Norway, Mexico, the U.S., and Peru, have recognized that women are more adversely affected by drought and natural disasters than men. But, while political priorities should reflect the importance of gender equity and reproductive health interventions, the Women's Major Group cited research which found that most nations lag behind.

Disaster risk reduction - Large-scale disasters, e.g. the recent Typhoon Haiyan, disrupt the public health infrastructure and service delivery. Maternal and neonatal mortality rates balloon in disaster areas, so sexual and reproductive health are critical public health needs in such environments.

Sustainable development priorities, including those related to health, gender equality, food, water, energy security, and environmental sustainability, requires better access to family planning and sexual and reproductive health services. Population issues must be part of the sustainable development goals and post-2015 development framework. Working group negotiations began in March, so member states and key stakeholders should act now to ensure that the discussions do not overlook the issues of population dynamics and women's health and rights. doclink

Important Articles That Are Still Not in WOA!!s News Digest

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  • Strain on Resources: Practical Measure Urged to Control Population Growth doclink

    They were speaking at a seminar titled "Demography and Health Survey of Pakistan" jointly organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) and the National Institute of Population Studies (NIPS) here on Thursday. Speakers urged stakeholders and healthcare providers to take the issue seriously, otherwise it will wreak havoc in the future. They also expressed serious concern over indicators of child mortality and fertility rate... February 21, 2014, Tribune (Pakistan)

  • Planning Families to Protect the Future doclink

    By the end of the century, scientists expect the global population to reach nearly 11 billion. That's almost four billion more people than are alive right now. When you think about population growth, it's pretty easy to see how it can disturb the environment: more resources used, more energy produced, more housing needed, more food consumed, etc. Over one billion people currently live in biodiversity hotspots, and that number is rapidly incr... February 18, 2014, Planet (Sierra Club)   By: Cindy Carr

  • Heatwave Frequency 'Surpasses Levels Previously Predicted for 2030' doclink

    The government has been urged to better articulate the dangers of climate change after a report that shows the frequency of heatwaves in parts of Australia has already surpassed levels previously predicted for 2030. The Climate Council report highlights that Adelaide, Melbourne and Canberra all experienced a higher average number of hot days between 2000 and 2009 than was expected to occur by 2030. Research by the CSIRO forecast that Melbourne ... February 17, 2014, Guardian

  • Ethiopia's Renewable Energy Revolution Shouldn't Fail to Empower Its Poor doclink

    The 84 wind turbines erected just south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital, tower above an arid landscape of grassland and unpaved roads, inhabited mostly by small-scale farmers, who - along with 77% of the country's population - lack access to electricity. The Ashegoda wind farm, launched in November, will produce an estimated 400 GWh of electricity per year, and forms just one piece of the Ethiopian government's strategy to harness indigen... January 30, 2014, Guardian   By: Katie Auth

  • The Voting Bloc That Spells Doom for Lawmakers Who Are Hostile to Reproductive Rights doclink

    It's becoming increasingly clear that reproductive rights are under attack from all angles. The past three years have brought an unprecedented wave of abortion restrictions on the state level, as well as dwindling funds for publicly-funded family planning programs. And conservative lawmakers are showing no signs of letting up. Congress is already kicking off 2014 with new efforts to restrict reproductive rights. According to new research condu... January 03, 2014, Think Progress   By: Tara Culp-Reeler

  • Assume the Worst When it Comes to Climate Change and Population, King Tells Kansas State University Audience doclink

    History has a way of repeating itself, which means that if military historians and strategists peer back far enough, certain precedents can be found to illustrate patterns and models useful for the prediction of the near-term future. Unfortunately, as W. Chris King told members of the Kansas Farmers Union during their annual convention in Topeka on Jan. 4, there is no historical precedence for what the nation and the world face in the future fro... February 17, 2014, High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal   By: Tom Parker

  • UN Launches ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Review Report doclink

    The ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Report is the culmination of a landmark UN review of progress, gaps, challenges and emerging issues in relation to the ICPD Programme of Action. It gathers data from 176 member states, alongside inputs from civil society and comprehensive academic research. The report highlights the fact that development gains from the past 20 years cannot be sustained unless governments tackle the inequalities that hurt the poorest ... February 2013, UNFPA

  • U.S.: Drought Beginning to Change How People Think About Growth in the Sacramento Region doclink

    Sacramento area leaders are planning for hundreds of thousands of new homes in the coming decades, pegging the region's economic growth to population growth and new housing starts. Those new residents - along with their houses and lawns - could gulp 50 billion additional gallons of water per year by 2035, if population projections hold and if they consume in the same manner as current residents. At the same time, California and the Sacrame... February 23, 2014, Sacramento Bee   By: Phillip Reee and Hudson Sangree

  • Coal and Business as Usual: Destroying the World's Seventh Wonder doclink

    It is the largest coral reef ecosystem on earth and one of the seven wonders of the natural world, but that isn't enough to stop an effort to continue down the road of dirty fossil fuel energy. Last week, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMA) in Australia approved a permit for a state-owned coal terminal operator to dump as much as 3 million cubic meters of dredged mud and sediment inside the park. [photo credit: www.acfonline.... February 06, 2014,   By: Suzanne York,

  • Why Global Water Shortages Pose Threat of Terror and War doclink

    On 17 January, scientists downloaded fresh data from a pair of Nasa satellites and distributed the findings among the small group of researchers who track the world's water reserves. At the University of California, Irvine, hydrologist James Famiglietti looked over the data from the gravity-sensing Grace satellites with a rising sense of dread. The data, released last week, showed California on the verge of an epic drought, with its backup syste... February 08, 2014, Guardian   By: Suzanne Goldenberg

  • 10 Projections for the Global Population in 2050 doclink

    A new Pew Research Center report examines global public opinion on the challenges posed by aging populations and analyzes projections for the populations in the U.S. and in 22 other countries. Here are 10 major findings regarding the demographic future of the world's population in 2050. 1The global population is getting older: The number of people 65 and older is projected to triple by mid-century, from 531 million in 2010 to 1.5 billion in 20... February 03, 2014, PewResearchCenter   By: Rakeh Kochhar

@@030307 Population Dynamics Are Crucial to Sustainable Development. So Why Isn't Anyone Talking About Them?
  • Uganda: Kadaga Calls on Women to Embrace Family Planning doclink

    According to Rebecca Kadaga, Speaker of the Uganda Parliament, the increasing population levels in the country are hindering development since majority of the population is unemployed. "We are experiencing very high and unprecedented population growth rates. The fertility rate for a Ugandan woman is 6 to 7 children; this coupled with high mortality rates of both maternal and child deaths, Sub Saharan Africa is grappling with high unemployment ... February 16, 2014, New Vision   By: Henry Sekanjako & Kembabazi Sharon

  • Why is Sustainable Management of Oceans, Forests and Biodiversity a Population Issue? doclink

    "We need to protect our oceans as if our lives depend on it, because they do." That was the message brought by Dr. Sylvia Earle from National Geographic to last week's Eighth Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) at the United Nations, where governments of 69 countries came together to discuss the theme of "oceans, forests and biodiversity." The pollution of our oceans is growing and loss of forests and biodi... February 11, 2014, Population Action International   By: Mi Joe Bih Say: in November of 2013 the World Food Program Reported on a Recent 157% Increase in the Price of Maize in Malawi, Attributable to Both a Currency Devaluation and a Critical Supply Shortfall. as of This Past January, it was Estimated the UN Resident Coordinator for Malawi That More Than 1.85 Million Malawians Would Need Food Assistance by March 2014. Since 2005 Malawi Has Increased in Population by Roughly 3 Million People to the Current 15.9 Million. This is a 23% Increase in Less Than a Decade.

  • Malawi Now Hungry! doclink

    Malawi was touted as a success story in Africa's agriculture narrative. An intensive farm subsidy starting in 2004 made fertiliser and seed available to farmers at a third of the normal cost, and the results were nearly instantaneous. In 2005, Malawi harvested a maize surplus of 500,000 tonnes, and soon began exporting food to other countries in the region. It seemed a "green revolution" was in the making. But the scheme was opposed by ... February 08, 2014, The EastAfrican   By: Chritine Mungai

  • The Huge Downside to Fracking That Everyone is Ignoring doclink

    The oil and natural gas boom brought on by innovations in fracking is the biggest development in U.S. energy in years. Politicians across the ideological spectrum have hailed a drilling technology that could put the U.S. on a course to energy independence, with President Obama using his State of the Union speech in January to praise natural gas as a "bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate chan... February 18, 2014, Week   By: Ryan Cooper

  • Ptolemaic Environmentalism doclink

    Earth centered astronomy and Creationism, for what all three false ways of knowing have in common is self glorification When Copernicus wrote the tract that would refute Ptolemaic astronomy he let the manuscript sit, virtually unread, on his desk for (at least) nine years. Charles Darwin kept his knowledge of the fact of evolution secret for twenty -­‐ one — and when he shared it ... January 2014,

  • Benefits From Integrating Family Planning Into Other Development Sectors doclink

    Increasingly, development workers, program planners, and donors are recognizing the benefits of integrating family planning (FP) with other sectors. More research is needed, however, on the effectiveness of multisectoral programs. Three recently completed projects integrating FP into development activities outside the health sector provide evidence of efficiency and effectiveness. These examples highlight how an integrated, multisector approach c... February 14, 2014, Population Reference Bureau


America Gets a C- in Women's Reproductive Health, No One is Surprised

January 21, 2014, Huffington Post

The Population Institute released its annual State of Reproductive Health And Rights report card showing that on average America rates only a C-.

The report attributes most of our low scores to:

• A high unintended pregnancy rate (almost half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended)

• Funding cuts and other threats that were made to family planning clinics

• Concern that conservatives in Congress and state legislatures continue attacking family planning

The Population Institute also rated individual states on criteria such as teenage pregnancy rates, sex education programs, access to family-planning and abortion services, implementation of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, and access to emergency contraception in emergency rooms. States were given a numerical score out of 100, and assigned a corresponding letter grade.

These four states earned gold stars:

• California (A+)

• Washington (A+)

• Oregon (A)

• Maryland (A)

And these six states failed:

• Louisiana (F-)

• Indiana (F-)

• Texas (F-)

• South Dakota (F-)

• Missouri (F-)

• Mississippi (F-) doclink

Industry Awakens to Threat of Climate Change

January 24, 2014, New York Times   By: Coral Davenport

The bottom line for Coca Cola has always been the company's main focus, but global warming is causing the company to shift its focus. In 2004, things began to change when a lucrative operating license in India was lost due to serious water shortages.

As global droughts become more frequent worldwide Coke's balance sheet is in serious jeopardy. Consequentially, the company has embraced the idea of climate change as an economically disruptive force.

"Increased droughts, more unpredictable variability, 100-year floods every two years," said Jeffrey Seabright, Coke's vice president for environment and water resources, listing the problems that he said were also disrupting the company's supply of sugar cane and sugar beets, as well as citrus for its fruit juices. "When we look at our most essential ingredients, we see those events as threats."

Coke reflects a growing view among major American corporate leaders and mainstream economists who see global warming as a force that contributes to lower GDPs, higher food and commodity costs, broken supply chains and increased financial risk.

"The bottom line is that the policies will increase the cost of carbon and electricity," said Roger Bezdek, an economist who produced a report for the coal lobby that was released this week. “Even the most conservative estimates peg the social benefit of carbon-based fuels as 50 times greater than its supposed social cost."

Jim Yong Kim, the World Bank president has put climate change at the center of the bank's mission, citing global warming as the chief contributor to rising global poverty rates and falling GDP's in developing nations.

Nike is also speaking out because of extreme weather conditions that are disrupting its supply chains. In 2008, floods temporarily shut down four Nike factories in Thailand, and the company remains concerned about rising droughts in regions that produce cotton, which the company uses in its athletic clothes.

“That puts less cotton on the market, the price goes up, and you have market volatility," said Hannah Jones, the company's vice president for sustainability and innovation. Nike has already reported the impact of climate change on water supplies on its financial risk disclosure forms to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Both Nike and Coke are responding internally: Coke uses water-conservation technologies and Nike is using more synthetic material that is less dependent on weather conditions.

In the United States, the rich can afford to weigh in. The California hedge-fund billionaire Thomas F. Steyer, who has used millions from his own fortune to support political candidates who favor climate policy, is working with Michael R. Bloomberg, the former New York mayor, and Henry M. Paulson Jr., a former Treasury secretary in the George W. Bush administration, to commission an economic study on the financial risks associated with climate change. The study, titled “Risky Business," aims to assess the potential impacts of climate change by region and by sector across the American economy.

“This study is about one thing, the economics," Mr. Paulson said in an interview, adding that “business leaders are not adequately focused on the economic impact of climate change."

“There's no question that if we get substantial changes in atmospheric temperatures, as all the evidence suggests, that it's going to contribute to sea-level rise," Mr. Holtz-Eakin said. “There will be agriculture and economic effects — it's inescapable." He added, “I'd be shocked if people supported anything other than a carbon tax — that's how economists think about it." doclink

Millions of Microbeads From Soap Have Contaminated the US Great Lakes


On top of invading Asian carp and algae blooms, the Great Lakes are being polluted with tiny plastic beads from soap. The polyethylene beads are most commonly found in exfoliating facial scrubs, but they also appear in body washes and toothpastes.Americans buy products containing 573,000 pounds of them every year. Incredibly, a single tube of Johnson & Johnson facial scrub Clean & Clear, for example, contains 330,000 beads.

The microbeads wash down drains and accumulate in our oceans, and according to a recent study the microbeads even flow out into the troubled Great Lakes. There, the tiny plastic beads can be mistaken for fish food. If just eating plastic isn't bad enough for the fish, these beads also soak up toxins like PCBs and pesticides in the water. A recent study of lugworms in the Atlantic, for example, suggests that small pieces of plastic transfer toxins to the creatures that eat them. In other words, our exfoliating scrubs could be turning into pretty poison pills, little floating points of toxicity for fish.

Currently there is no known way to get rid of the beads from the lakes: because they're so tiny, filtering them out also means capturing plankton, an important food source for aquatic creatures. Even sewage treatment systems aren't equipped to catch the beads before they enter the larger ecosystem. The plastic beads are so small and light that they float, whereas treatment plants are designed to remove heavy, solid materials that sink.

The 5 Gyres Institute is looking for a solution. They have turned their recent research into microplastics in the Great Lakes into a platform for advocacy, pressuring companies to stop using the plastic beads altogether. In the past year alone, Johnson & Johnson, L'Oréal, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever have all announced plans to phase out microplastics from their products in the next few years. The companies say they need to find safe alternatives first. doclink

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