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

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

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

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

Population & Sustainability
News Digest

Report: Abortion Restrictions Led to Longer Wait Times

   October 5, 2015, The Texas Tribune   By: Alexa Ura

About half of Texas abortion clinics have closed their doors following the passage of House Bill 2. As a result, in the last year, some women in Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin have waited up to 20 days to obtain the procedure.

Under HB 2, doctors who perform abortions are required to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of an abortion clinic. A separate provision, currently blocked from enforcement by the Supreme Court, would require Texas abortion facilities to meet the same standards as so-called ambulatory surgical centers.

In Dallas, wait time in Dallas has increased from five days to as long as 20 days.

HB 2 also banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. doclink

India Approaches Replacement Fertility

   October 9, 2015, Population Reference Bureau blog

This Population Bulletin updates a previous Bulletin from 2006, India's Population Reality: Reconciling Change and Tradition. India's population (currently at 1.3 billion) will exceed China's before 2025 to make India the world's most populous country. India's annual increase of about 19 million people contributes more to the annual world population growth of about 89 million than any other country.

However, the most recent population data shows a country headed for replacement level fertility although with notable regional differences in fertility trends.

India is a country of diverse ethnic, linguistic, geographic, religious, and demographic features. And, despite its emerging economic power and multiple megacities, Indian life remains largely rooted in its villages. Deep-rooted cultural traditions will have a bearing on the ability of different regions of the country to reach replacement level fertility. doclink

Ending Child Marriage by Moving in Waves: Video Message From Graça Machel

   July 29, 2015, Girls Not Brides Campaign

As Girls Not Brides reaches 500 members, Graça Machel, champion and co-founder of Girls Not Brides, celebrates the global movement's achievements towards ending child marriage and emphasizes the urgent action that remains to be taken. doclink

The World Economic Order is Collapsing and This Time There Seems No Way Out

The refugee crisis is paralleled by the savage fallout from a global financial system running out of control
   October 10, 2015, Mail and Guardian   By: Will Hutton

Over the last 70 years there has been nothing like the millions of refugees fleeing from Middle Eastern conflict, voting with their feet, despairing of their futures. The catalyst: failing states and the grip of Islamic fundamentalism, shows no sign of disappearing.

In the economic order there is another collapse that is less conspicuous: the hundreds of billions of dollars fleeing emerging economies such as Brazil and China. Banks have lent trillions that will never be repaid. Capital flight and bank fragility are profound dysfunctions that will surface as real-world economic dislocation.

The IMF warned last week of excess credit globally and weakening global economic growth. An international co-ordinated response is needed, but the anti-state philosophies of the dominant Anglo-Saxon political right in the US and UK makes such intervention unlikely.

The world financial system that has gone rogue. Global banks make profits from doing business with each other, creating money out of nothing. Creating credit depends on the truth that not all depositors will want their money back simultaneously.

In the past, lending was carefully regulated by national central banks, but with a global banking system, central banks are less able to monitor and control what is going on. Cash generated out of nothing can be lent in countries where the economic prospects look superficially good. Property prices rise. Companies and households grow overconfident about their prospects and borrow freely. Economies surge well above their trend growth rates and all seems well until something - a collapse in property or commodity prices - unravels the whole process. Bust banks and governments are left picking up the pieces.

The Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane delineates the crisis into three parts. The first took place in Britain and the US during 2007-08. Throughout the previous decade high inflows of globally generated credit had created false booms, after which overconfident banks found that they had lent too much. Collateral behind derivatives was worthless. Britain's banking system lost money and was going bust, to rescued by £1 trillion of liquidity and special injections of public capital.

The second part took place in in Europe during 2011-12. Lending had been made on the incorrect assumption that all eurozone countries were equal, and when it became obvious that they were not, money flooded out and the only thing holding the line was extraordinary printing of money by the European Central Bank and tough belt-tightening measures in overborrowed countries such as Portugal, Greece and Ireland.

In the third part, emerging market economies (EMEs), countries such as Turkey, Brazil, Malaysia, China, all rode high on sky-high commodity prices and wild lending. China manufactured more cement from 2010-13 than the US had produced over the entire 20th century. Only a few of the many loans the China banks made can ever be repaid. China's real growth is now below that of the Mao years: the economic crisis will spawn a crisis of legitimacy for the deeply corrupt communist party. Commodity prices have plunged. The EMEs do not have a Federal Reserve or European Central Bank to rescue them.

Yet these nations now account for more than half of global GDP.

Needed is a bigger, reinvigorated IMF that can rescue the EMEs and properly supervision of global finance. It needs western governments to launch massive economic stimuli, centred on infrastructure spending. It needs new smart monetary policies that allow negative interest rates.

None of that is in prospect, vetoed by an ideological right and not properly championed by the left. If there is no will to deal, collectively, with the refugee crisis, there is even less to reorder the global economy. We may muddle through, but don't bet on it. doclink

Karen Gaia says: What hope do we have of a benevolent IMF? Our own Federal Reserve has given to the rich and left 90% of our population struggling. The IMF does not, and cannot be counted on to, take into account resource depletion and the vast inequities of resources that led to conflict in the first place. Resource depletion is the primary reason conflict is increasing and world economy is crashing in the first place. Debt and lending were only a incorrectly perceived way to put off the limitations of a finite planet. The entire exercise only succeeded in leaving the rich richer and the poor poorer. Now the rich will squander the remainder of world's resources in a war to wrestle resources from each other.

India Approaches Replacement Fertility

   October 9, 2015, Population Reference Bureau blog   By: Carl Haub and O.p. Sharma

This Population Bulletin updates a previous Bulletin from 2006, India's Population Reality: Reconciling Change and Tradition. Indias's population (currently at 1.3 billion) will exceed China's before 2025 to make India the world's most populous country. India's annual increase of about 19 million people contributes more to the annual world population growth of about 89 million than any other country.

However, the most recent population data shows a country headed for replacement level fertilitybut with notable regional differences in fertility trends.

India is a country of diverse ethnic, linguistic, geographic, religious, and demographic features. And, despite its emerging economic power and multiple megacities, Indian life remains largely rooted in its villages. Indeed, we argue in this Bulletin that deep-rooted cultural traditions will have a bearing on the ability of different regions of the country to reach replacement level fertility. doclink

Family Planning & the Path to Resilience

When a family is faced with a major disaster, how well are they able to respond? Can they find work? Feed everyone? Stay healthy?
   October 9, 2015, Population Reference Bureau blog

When a family is faced with a major disaster, how well are they able to respond? Can they find work? Feed everyone? Stay healthy? Click on the link in the headline to see how this interactive feature addresses those questions. doclink

U.S.: How Personhood Laws Can Land Women in Court for Crimes Against Their Own Fetuses

   October 5, 2015, Vice   By: Kristen Gwynne

Purvi Patel entered a hospital for heavy bleeding after a miscarriage in July 2013. She said she was only two months pregnant at the time of her miscarriage. She admitted that she'd put the fetus in a dumpster, emphasizing that she'd thought it to be dead.

Patel had been hiding the pregnancy from her conservative Hindu family and it is believed that she did not receive prenatal care.

She was alleged to have taken abortifacients she purchased online from a pharmacy overseas. Expert witnesses at her trial estimated her gestation to be past Indiana's 20-week window for legal abortion. The prosecution put forth a bizarre and highly disputed "lung float" theory, asserting that because the fetus's lung floated when tested, Patel had actually delivered a living, breathing baby and left it to die.

She was convicted and sentenced-to 20 years in prison for neglect of a dependent and "feticide" related to her own abortion attempt.

Her case immediately became a rallying cry among pro-choice advocates who point out that pro-lifers have long maintained that the criminalization of abortion would target only shady providers, not the women seeking them. Patel's case reflects a nationwide climate in which the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling that fetuses are not separate people with separate rights is routinely challenged.

Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), noted that anti-abortion measures defining life as beginning with conception "are providing the grounds for locking pregnant women up."

In a peer-reviewed study published in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, Paltrow and her co-author identified more than 400 arrests, detentions, and forced medical interventions for which a woman's pregnancy was a "necessary factor" between 1973, the year of the Roe v. Wade decision, and 2005.

More than 80 percent of the cases identified by NAPW involved a charge of using an illegal substance, most often cocaine, harking back to the now debunked "crack baby" hysteria of the crack-cocaine era.

"Basically, since the 1980s, prosecutors started charging pregnant women who use drugs with crimes like child endangerment or delivering drugs to a minor... and in almost every state except South Carolina and Alabama, the courts invalidated those prosecutions," Linda Fentiman, a Pace University professor specializing in health and criminal law said.

The first woman to be convicted of homicide by child abuse due to her behavior during pregnancy was Regina McKnight, who was arrested in 1999 and then sentenced to 12 years in prison for a stillbirth she allegedly caused by taking cocaine. The Supreme Court of South Carolina overturned her conviction in 2008, ruling that McKnight had received inadequate counsel and was convicted on the basis of "outdated" assumptions about the harms of prenatal exposure to cocaine. As an amicus brief filed with the court explained, "Cocaine is no more harmful than nicotine use, poor nutrition, lack of prenatal care, or other conditions commonly associated with the urban poor."

It has long been established in the medical community that criminalizing addiction during pregnancy may actually deter women from receiving prenatal care, jeopardizing the health of both the mother and the fetus.

In New York, Jennifer Jorgensen is currently appealing her conviction of manslaughter in the death of the fetus she was carrying when she caused a car wreck that killed two other passengers in another vehicle. Jorgensen was acquitted of driving under the influence and manslaughter related to those deaths, but the manslaughter charge for the fetus inside her belly at the time of the crash (which died after an emergency C-section later) stuck.

Jorgensen's attorney says her conviction is unfounded and argued in court: "It is impossible to commit this crime. At the time of the reckless acts, the victim did not legally exist." doclink

Letter Writing Opportunity - Climate Change and Population

   September 2015, WOA website   By: Evan Jones

Melinda Welsh, founding editor of the News and Review newspaper, is launching a national letter-writing project which offers individuals an opportunity to help influence the outcome of the upcoming UN Conference on Climate Change, to be held in Paris in December 2015. The hope is that a large outpouring of support for new initiatives will help sway policy. Some of the letters (hopefully an impressive number will be submitted!) will be published. See the related column in Sacramento News and Review, pg. 12, Oct. 1, 2105. To submit your thoughts, visit

My letter is copied below.

"What should we be willing to do to save our Earth for future generations? Certainly, we need to reverse climate change. Carbon tax? Surely. Solar and wind energy? Without a doubt. But also we need to rein in our culture of growth and over consumption. We need to reduce wasteful use of natural resources and to slow global population growth, now at 200,000 a day. The Sierra Club has estimated that a global population of "...6.6 billion (2007) approach(es) the breaking point, or has moved beyond it." (global human population in 2015 is 7.4 billion). We can help meet this challenge by empowering women to make choices over their own lives and bodies. In addition, we must assure basic health care and education for all. Our actions, including our consumption habits, must change in order to restore a sustainable world for future Earth residents, human and otherwise. "

You can post your own letter at doclink

LTE: the Pope and Birth Control

   September 2015   By: Margaret Perkins, Audrey Bernstein; Cochairs Nyc Sierra Club

To the Editor, New York Times: Your editorial "The Pope and the Birth Control Ban" (September 21) clearly listed all the health benefits to women worldwide that would be facilitated by the Catholic church lifting it's aggressive ban on contraceptives. Another beneficiary would be the health of our Mother Earth; our planet is nearing resource exhaustion from supporting 7.3 billion people. Our population will increase to 9.3 billion by 2050 unless universal (global and U.S.) family planning is in effect. In 'Laudato si', Pope Francis wrote eloquently about our Mother Earth, "our common home who sustains and governs us." Allowing all women to plan for smaller families would give Mother Earth a much welcome respite. doclink

U.S.: The Facts Vs. Fiction on Planned Parenthood

   September 29, 2015, OversightDems

Claim: Planned Parenthood sells fetal tissue for profit.

FACTS: The first video released by Daleiden omitted ten instances in which Planned Parenthood's Director of Medical Services, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, unequivocally stated that Planned Parenthood does not profit from tissue donations

At one point, Dr. Nucatola stated: "obody should be 'selling' tissue. That's just not the goal here." That statement was edited out of the video

A forensic analysis of the so-called "full footage" videos found that they still contain "cuts, skips, missing tape, and changes in camera angle," and "numerous intentional post-production edits." The analysis found that one of the purported full-footage videos contains "more than 30 minutes of missing video."

The analysis concluded that the videos "cannot be relied upon for any official inquiries" and that even the underlying transcripts are "useless as 'evidence'" because they contain "numerous errors, discrepancies, and omissions."

Get the facts: doclink

Full Committee Hearing on Planned Parenthood's Taxpayer Funding

   September 29, 2015, youTube / Oversight Dems

In his opening statement, committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said he doesn't think Planned Parenthood needs federal subsidies; just look at Richards's salary ($520,000), he said.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., ranking member of the committee, said in a fiery rebuttal that it was particularly hypocritical for Republicans to place Planned Parenthood under a microscope and take Richards to task over her salary when they had never taken an interest in the hefty compensations of executives at big banks, drug companies and defense contractors, who had all engaged in law-breaking.

For more, see doclink

Save Lives -- and Money!

   September 26, 2015, Durango Herald   By: Richard Grossman Md

Can you think of any state-funded program that can save seven dollars for every dollar spent? Voluntary family planning programs for teens and young women offer that wide a margin of benefit!

Indeed, family planning can do much more than just save money. It has the ability to change the prospects for people, especially young women. By allowing people to postpone parenthood, they have the opportunity to mature emotionally, complete their education and improve job skills. An experiment, the Colorado Family Planning Initiative (subsidized by a generous grant) has shown the benefit of making effective contraception available to all women.

OK, I have to admit, women bear an unjust proportion of responsibility for family planning. That is the way it is now; I hope that the future will hold more in the way of birth control for men other than just condoms and vasectomy.

An anonymous donor (reported to be the Susan Thompson Buffet Foundation) gave money to fund contraception for women who otherwise couldn't afford it. This program started in 2009 and finished this summer. It paid about $5 million each year for more than 36,000 women to receive contraceptive information, services and supplies.

Fortunately, during this interval the need for funding decreased because the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) picked up perhaps 25,000 Colorado women who didn't have prior coverage. Unfortunately there are still many people who don't have any insurance coverage and cannot afford contraception. They are especially unable to pay for Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptive (LARC) methods that are so effective, but have an initial cost of about $1000. LARCs include four IntraUterine Devices (IUDs) and one hormonal implant.

In the long run, LARCs are actually less expensive than less reliable methods if you look at the monthly cost over their lifespan of 3 to 10 years. DepoProvera© is almost as effective, but this shot has to be administered every three months, so requires more action on the user's part.

How did this program save money? If they had gotten pregnant, many of these women would have been on Medicaid or other state-supported programs. Their children would also likely be on taxpayer-funded programs, including children of undocumented women who are citizens as soon as they are born in the USA. The estimate of the amount of money the grant saved just for obstetrical services is $79 million.

The most important savings is in the decrease in the teen pregnancy rate. It is true that all over the country fewer teens became pregnant during the past few years, so not all of the decrease in our state is due to the Initiative. However, Colorado's teen pregnancy rate dropped an outstanding 40% from 2009 to 2013, largely because of this Initiative.

No one is in favor of unintended pregnancies. This Initiative illustrates what we have known all along: the best way to prevent abortion is with good contraception-and this has been proven over the past 5 years. From 2009 to 2013 the abortion rate for Colorado teens fell 42%, and for women aged 20 to 24 it also dropped significantly.

Good things come to an end, and the Initiative's grant ended in July. Don Coram, a Republican state representative from Montrose, tried to garner support to continue the program-but unfortunately failed. In stepped private foundations to assure that funding is available.

So far 12 foundations have collaborated to pay $2 million during the next year to continue the Initiative. It remains to be seen whether this will be enough to provide services to all who need them, but it is hoped that more funding will follow. Optimistically the State Legislature will see that this program is saving money and empowering young women to become healthier, more productive citizens and will finally fund this program. And maybe then other states will then get on the bandwagon to follow Colorado's lead by funding similar programs.

Dr. Eve Espey is chair of the department of OB-GYN in Albuquerque where I trained many years ago. Her paper "Feminism and the Moral Imperative for Contraception" documents the importance of contraception in the modern world. Not only does family planning provide social benefits to individuals and to their societies, but also it saves lives. Spacing the births of babies promotes healthier children and decreases infant deaths. "It is estimated that, in 2008," she writes "44% (272,040) of maternal deaths were prevented in 172 developing countries owing to use of contraceptives...." Not only does contraception save money; globally it saves a quarter million women's lives yearly!

First published in the Durango Herald doclink

Unchecked Consumerism Causing Record-breaking Resource Use, Study Says

   September 16, 2015, Yale Environment 360

Meat production has more than quadrupled in the last 50 years, leading to large-scale pressure on water, feeds, and grazing land.

Aquaculture production has increased roughly 10 fold since 1984, and today farmed fish account for nearly half of all fish eaten.

In the United States, only 9% of plastic was recycled in 2012.

The world's coal supply is getting "dirtier," the report says, as increasing market pressure leads to more consumption of coal with lower energy content. The average heat content of coal produced in the U.S. dropped from 29 megajoules per kilogram in 2005 to roughly 23 megajoules in 2012 doclink

As Drought Hits Maize, Tanzania Cooks Up a Sweet Potato Fix

   September 8, 2015, Thomson Reuters Foundation   By: Kizito Makoye and Beatrice Rabachi

Many farmers in Tanzania have switched to growing sweet potato as a strategy to cope with drought and improve food security. In Uganda, 55,000 household now grow sweet potato and 237,000 are expected to by 2018.
. . . more doclink

What Exxon Knew About Climate Change

   September 18, 2015, New Yorker   By: Bill Mckibben

Exxon (now ExxonMobil), one of the world's largest oil companies) knew, as early as 1977, that its main product would heat up the planet disastrously. This did not prevent the company from then spending decades helping to organize the campaigns of disinformation and denial that have slowed-perhaps fatally-the planet's response to global warming.
. . . more doclink

Quick Sex Ed Lesson for Tonight's GOP Debate Candidates

   September 16, 2015, Planned Parenthood Action Fund   By: Miriam Berg

Recently Republican presidential candidates have been tripping over themselves to make extreme statements on women's health, threatening to shut down the government over providing basic reproductive health care to Planned Parenthood's millions of patients across the country.

Some have swung so far to the right, they've ventured into the medically impossible. Scott Walker refused to say he would be in favor of allowing a woman to access abortion, even if it meant saving her life -- it's not that he's in favor of letting a woman die, per se, he just doesn't believe a woman's life could ever really be at risk during pregnancy. Jeb Bush claimed that Planned Parenthood should be defunded because: "they're not actually doing women's health issues. They're involved in something way different than that." Rick Santorum said "I don't think there's any numbers out there that suggest that access to contraception actually reduces the number of abortion. After her granddaughter received an HPV vaccine, Carly Fiorina defended opting out of the vaccination, saying that it was an "esoteric" vaccine for a disease that is "not communicable." Dr. Carson said he would be okay with exceptions to an abortion ban for survivors of rape or incest, but that a medication abortion should only be prescribed in the emergency room, adding: "I would hope that they would very quickly avail themselves of the emergency room, and in the emergency room, they have the ability to administer RU-486 and other possibilities before you have a developing fetus."

More than 600 women die each year due to complications from pregnancy and childbirth, and more would die if they didn't have access to abortion.

99 percent of sexually active women in the United States have used at least one contraceptive method.

Planned Parenthood's health centers provides STD tests and treatments, contraception related services, cancer screenings, pregnancy tests and prenatal services.

Providing birth control to women at no cost substantially reduces unplanned pregnancies and cuts abortion rates by a range of 62 to 78 percent.

HPV is not only contagious, but also one of the most common STDs - nearly all sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives.

Medication abortion (RU-486) terminates a pregnancy and is used up to 9 weeks after the first day of a woman's last period. Emergency contraception (EC or Plan B) is a safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy for up to five days after unprotected sex, and works to help prevent pregnancy by keeping a woman's ovary from releasing an egg for longer than usual so it cannot be fertilized by sperm.

71% of voters oppose shutting down the government over Planned Parenthood's funding, and an overwhelming majority oppose all efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. Attacks on Planned Parenthood and women's health might have short-term gain for Republican candidates in their primary, but it is a recipe for defeat in a general election. doclink

Female Condoms Are Power, Protection, Pleasure

   September 2015, Pathfinder International

To these young women, the female condom is a game changer

In some parts of the world, a woman asking a man to wear a condom is counter to cultural practices. A condom for women puts the power and protection in her hands. Pathfinder International is on the ground around the world working to tear down these barriers and we need your help.

September 16 was Global Female Condom Day. Join us in spreading the word about condoms for women! doclink

After 60 Million Years of Extreme Living, Seabirds Are Crashing

A new study finds that the world’s seabird populations have plummeted by almost 70% in just 60 years.
   September 22, 2015, Mail and Guardian   By: Jeremy Hance

Seabirds have been around for sixty million years, and they are true survivalists: circumnavigating the globe without rest, diving more than 200 meters in treacherous seas for food, braving unpredictable weather and finding their way with few, if any, landmarks.

But now seabirds seabird abundance has dropped 69.7% in only 60 years, according to a recent paper in PLOS ONE.

Edd Hammill with Utah State University and co-author of the paper, noted: "What we should take away from this is that something is serious amiss in the oceans."

Ben Lascelles, with Birdlife International, found the research alarming because the decline appeared practically indiscriminate, hitting a "large number of species across a number of families."

Michelle Paleczny with the University of British Columbia and the Sea Around Us Project said: "When we see this magnitude of seabird decline, we can see there is something wrong with marine ecosystems. It gives us an idea of the overall impact we're having."

There are nearly 350 species of seabirds worldwide. Living on both the open ocean and the shoreline, they face overfishing, drowning in fishing lines or nets, plastic pollution, invasive species like rats in nesting areas, oil and gas development and toxic pollution moving up the food chain. And then there is climate change and ocean acidification which threaten to flood nesting sites and disrupt food sources.

Seabirds are about twice as likely as land-based birds to be threatened with extinction. Paleczny and Hammil's research found that the tern family has fallen by 85%, frigatebirds by 81%, petrels and shearwaters by 79%, and albatrosses by 69%.

Lascelles said: "Increased efforts should be made to rid seabird colonies of invasive species, reduce bycatch in fisheries or the ensnaring of birds in fish nets, and setting up conservation areas."

Paleczny also called for the creation of international marine protected areas to cover the wide ranges of seabirds.

Currently, only 2% of the world's oceans are under some form of protection and less than half of those ban fishing altogether. In contrast, nearly 15% of the world's terrestrial landscape is protected.

With so little of the ocean closed to fisheries - less than 1% - it's hardly shocking that many seabirds are suffering from overfishing.

Hammill said the "most pressing issue" is plastic pollution. A paper released last month found that 90% of the world's seabirds likely have plastic in their stomachs.

Seabirds continually mistake plastic for fish eggs, devouring large amounts. Plastic in animals' stomachs not only release deadly toxins, but can also lead to slow starvation by obstructing the animals' bowels. Birds even feed plastic bits to their young, killing their fledglings en masse.

In the end, large-scale actions to help seabirds could also go a long way in cleaning-up our increasingly trashed marine ecosystems.

"The oceans are still woefully under protected and fisheries need greater management and enforcement. All of these activities need investment and support of governments around the world to make them happen," Lascelles said. "These actions will build resilience in the seabird populations in the short term, which they need in the face of emerging threats such as climate change." doclink

First Self-injectable Contraceptive Unveiled in UK

Pfizer launches Sayana Press long-acting reversible contraceptive which can be administered at home instead of a GP surgery or clinic
   September 24, 2015, Mail and Guardian

The Sayana Press long-acting reversible contraceptive has received a license, which means women can inject themselves at home instead of having to go to their GP surgery or clinic.

Each jab of the UK's first self-injectable contraceptive for women provides contraception for at least 13 weeks. Around 5 million women in the UK use hormonal contraceptives. doclink

Karen Gaia says: Chances of getting pregnant with the Sayana Press: less than one percent. If women wait too long between shots, the failure rate increases to 6%.

Fertility does return once the injections are stopped, but the time varies from one woman to the next. Some women may not be able to conceive for up to a year, sometimes longer, after having their last injection. Read here for more if you are interested in using Sayana Press:

World Loses Trillions of Dollars Worth of Nature's Benefits Each Year Due to Land Degradation

   September 15, 2015, Science Daily

In a report report, "The Value of Land," produced by The Economics of Land Degradation Initiative, experts estimate that the value of ecosystem services worldwide forfeited due to land degradation at US$ 6.3 trillion to $10.6 trillion annually, or the equivalent of 10-17% of global GDP.

About 52% of world agricultural land is moderately or severely degraded, the report says.

This problem threatens to force the migration of an estimated 50 million people in the next decade from affected area to seek new homes and livelihoods within 10 years. That many migrants assembled would constitute the world's 28th largest country by population.

By effectively addressing land degradation a humanitarian crisis would be avoided and US $75.6 trillion would be added to annual world income, according to the report.

The report was produced with guidance by United Nations University's Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health and the CGIAR's Research Programme on Drylands Systems and is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the European Commission and the Korean Forest Service.

Soil is second only to oceans as the planet's largest carbon sink, while agriculture and land use changes represent the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Addressing land degradation and its causes, therefore, represents a two-fold way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"Adequate management of agricultural and forestry land uses are amongst the lowest-cost actions that can reduce global warming, and most actions are either neutral cost or of positive net profit to society, requiring no substantial capital investment," the report says.

Land cover changes since 2000 are responsible for half to 75% of the lost ecosystem services value.

Land degradation loss averages US $43,400 to $72,000 per square km, or US $870 to $1,450 per person each year.

Agricultural investments of US $30 billion per year are needed to feed the world's growing population.

The percentage of Earth's land stricken by serious drought doubled from the 1970s to the early 2000s.

One third of the world is vulnerable to land degradation; one third of Africa is threatened by desertification.

Countries should recognize the huge value of improved land management and to enhance institutional capacity and knowledge in the area, together with national policy, economic, legislative and regulatory frameworks. doclink

Karen Gaia says: I wonder what "improved land management" means? Organic farming? GMO? A continuation of the Green Revolution?

As Global Consumption Skyrockets, 'Full Footprint' Felt by Millions

'Our consumption choices affect more than ourselves—they affect the environment and the lives and livelihoods of millions.'
   September 15, 2015, Common Dreams   By: Deirdre Fulton

Global consumption is higher than ever in Earth's history, driving inequality and climate change, reports analysis in Worldwatch Institute's recent Vital Signs report. "From coal to cars to coffee, consumption levels are breaking records."

Consumers are often unaware of the size of the footprint of some of the products they buy, such as the water needed to make a t-shirt or a steak, "the pesticide exposure of cotton farmers, or the local devastation caused by timber companies cutting down forests to produce paper," said Michael Renner of Vital Signs.

"Our consumption choices affect more than ourselves -- they affect the environment and the lives and livelihoods of millions," said Worldwatch Institute's Gaelle Gourmelon.

Global meat production has more than quadrupled in the last 50 years, impacting greatly on world supplies of water, feed grains, antibiotics, and grazing land.

Gourmelon said that "Beef production also uses three-fifths of global farmland despite its yield of less than 5 percent of the world's protein and less than 2 percent of its calories."

While Western Europeans and North Americans use 100 kilograms of plastic per person each year, and in the U.S. only 9% of plastic was recycled in 2012.

Click here to see the the Worldwatch Institute's infographic, which illustrates more staggering statistics. doclink

Fertility Clinics Destroy Embryos All the Time. Why Aren't Conservatives After Them?

   August 14, 2015, Washington Post   By: Margo Kaplan

Many couples who use in vitro fertilization (IVF) produce more embryos than they can use. Many of these couples frequently donate an embryo they had conceived but didn't use to medical research in the hope that their choice will help doctors find cures for debilitating and fatal illnesses such as Huntington's disease and ALS.

Planned Parenthood, like many fertility clinics, allows women to donate to medical research tissue from an embryo or fetus they will not carry to term. Planned Parenthood receives no profit for this, only reimbursement for its costs.

But when there is an abortion involved, there is a striking difference.

In some states a woman seeking an abortion must receive state-directed counseling designed to discourage her from the procedure. She must then wait at least 24 hours until she can continue. In other states, women are forced to undergo unnecessary and invasive ultrasounds, watch or listen to a description of the ultrasound, and hear a lecture on how the embryo or fetus is a human life. Clinics in some states must provide them with medically inaccurate information on the risks of abortion. After all that, women often cannot have an abortion without waiting an additional one to three days, depending on the state.

In contrast, all couples donating embryos have to do is sign a form. There are no mandatory lectures on gestation, no requirement that they be explicitly told that personhood begins at conception, nor are they required to view a picture of a day-five embryo. There are no compulsory waiting period for them to reconsider their decision.

There are an estimated 400,000 to 1 million frozen embryos in the United States.

The ugly truth about abortion restrictions is that they are often less about protecting life than about controlling women's bodies. They view contraception, like abortion, as a "license" to have non-procreative sex. If anti-choice lawmakers cared as much about protecting life as they did about women having sex, they could promote laws that prevent unwanted pregnancy.

IVF patients want to be a mother. Abortion, on the other hand, thwarts conservative ideals about a woman's proper role as a wife and mother.

It seems that anti-choice organizations are going after the more politically vulnerable group. IVF patients are richer and more often white while poor people have less access to affordable effective contraception and instead have to resort to abortion.

Cutting Planned Parenthood's funding would have no effect on abortion, which isn't funded by federal grants.

Republicans threaten to "use any and every procedural means" to cut funding to Planned Parenthood and the most vulnerable women are the ones who would to be hurt by it. doclink

Economic Collapse Will Limit Climate Change, Predicts Climate Scientist

   April 14, 2015, Huffington Post   By: Till Bruckner

A World Bank report, authored by climate scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and released in late 2014, drew on 1,300 publications and concluded: "There is a considerable likelihood of warming reaching 4°C above pre-industrial levels within this century"

"Crop yields are expected to decline by 30 percent with 1.5-2°C warming and up to 60 percent with 3-4°C warming."

Marginal rain-fed cropland will be abandoned or transformed into grazing land. Current grazing land may become unsuitable for any agricultural activity.

With a 4°C average world temperature, in parts of Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Iraq mean summer temperatures are expected to be up to 8°C warmer, and in the 2071-2099 period, by 2100 65% of summer months will see unprecedented heat extremes, and by 2100, percentages rises to 80%.

The 'unprecedented heat extreme' was quantified in the report as 5-sigma. The 2003 heat wave in Europe, in which an estimated 70,000 people died during a 2.3°C hotter-than-usual summer, was only a 3-sigma event.

Christopher Reyer, one of the co-authors of the study said that he believed that the world was headed for +8°C by 2100, but that will never happen. "We are not even on track for +6°C because economies will be collapsing long before we get there. We know that after +2°C, dangerous things start happening, and we start passing crucial tipping points, like the West Antarctica ice sheet collapse, which has reportedly already begun."

"Two degrees is not a picnic either. Imagine events like the 2003 European heat wave, the 2010 Russian heat wave which had repercussions on the global wheat market, and Hurricane Katrina, all of them happening simultaneously everywhere in the world." doclink

Redefining Socialism in Cuba

   September 18, 2015, Counterpunch   By: Garry Leech

It sounds like Cuba is a good model of sustainability; we could follow its example

Havana, a major draw for foreign tourists, is home to 2.2 million Cubans. During the blockade, the country responded to the shortage of petroleum-based pesticides and fertilizers by becoming the world's leader in organic agriculture, now more than 80% of Cuba's agricultural production organic.

Cuba has one doctor for approximately every one hundred families, resulting in a ratio of physicians per 1,000 people , that is twice as high as in the United States. Cuba's emerging worker democracy through cooperatives occurs in agricultural production, as well as in the selling of products.

What Cuba is attempting to avoid are the gross inequalities that inevitably result from monopoly corporate capitalism where workers have no meaningful voice in their daily work lives.

Only 20% of the world's population live in the manner of people in the capitalist nations of North America and Europe.

For much more, go to: doclink

The War on Women is Over - and Women Lost

While you weren't watching, conservatives fundamentally rewrote abortion laws.
   September 9, 2015, Mother Jones   By: Molly Redden

In 1971, New York was one of the few places in the country where abortion was legal. Women who hitchhiked or drove from all over the Midwest and New England to reach an abortion clinic.

Roe v. Wade was supposed to put an end to women crossing state lines for their abortions. But over the last four years, abortions have become more and more difficult to obtain. Even where laws can't quite make it impossible for abortion clinics to stay open -- they are closing down at a rate of 1.5 every single week -- they can make it exhausting to operate one. In every corner of America, four years of unrelenting assaults on reproductive rights have transformed all facets of giving an abortion or getting one.

Activists have been calling it the "war on women." But the onslaught of new abortion restrictions has been so successful, so strategically designed, and so well coordinated that the war in many places has essentially been lost.

Women trek hundreds of miles north from Dayton, Ohio, or east from South Bend, Indiana, for an abortion at a Detroit Michigan center. Or they drive from Kentucky to New Jersey, or fly from Texas to Washington, DC,. Some are already miscarrying-probably after taking pills or herbal concoctions they got from the internet. A few have tried to open their cervix by digging into it with a sharp object.

Most abortions today involve some combination of endless wait, interminable journey, military-level coordination, and lots of money.

Texas is a prime example. In 2013 Texas state Senator Wendy Davis spent 11 hours filibustering a bill that threatened to shut down more than three-quarters of Texas' 41 abortion clinics. But Republican Gov. Rick Perry called the Legislature back for a special session and the bill soon passed.

One portion of the bill-known as HB 2-required all abortions to take place in what amounts to a mini-hospital. Another section required clinics to make administrative pacts with local ERs, which wiped out clinics in areas where all the hospitals are Baptist or Catholic, or susceptible to political pressure.

The measure reduced the number of abortion clinics in Texas from 41 clinics to 22; today, there are 18. Today there is a swath of Texas 550 miles wide without a single abortion provider.

Abortion clinics weren't the only victims: a Planned Parenthood clinic, felled by dramatic cuts to the state's family planning budget, has been replaced by a crisis pregnancy center, a pro-life clinic where women are told scientifically debunked claims about supposed links between abortion and breast cancer or thoughts of suicide.

Whole Woman's Health operates four clinics in Texas. Three of them may succumb to HB 2. But CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller sued the state, claiming that the distances women would be forced to travel constitute an "undue burden"-the legal standard the Supreme Court established in 1992 for striking down an abortion restriction.

Miller won in district court, but lost when the state took the case to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. In June, the US Supreme Court put the 5th Circuit's decision on hold-for the time being, all 18 clinics remain open pending the high court's decision in the fall as to whether it will hear the case. Because the lawsuit offers the court a chance to clarify the definition of "undue burden," it could be the most important -- or detrimental -- decision on abortion rights in two decades. If Miller loses, Texas will be free to shut down all but 10 clinics.

Miller is not waiting for that. Her newest clinic for Texas women is across the state border-in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Almost half of the patients at Whole Woman's Health in Las Cruces come from Texas. It's an hour's drive from the large city El Paso, which has already lost one of its two clinics. Some patients have driven six hours from Lubbock, even 10 hours from the Dallas suburb of Waxahachie.

Ironically, the fact that Miller opened a clinic in Las Cruces is now being used to fight her lawsuit: El Paso women would live 1,100 miles, round-trip, from the nearest Texas abortion clinic -- but, state lawyers noted, her clinic in New Mexico is only an hour away from El Paso.

The goal of abortion opponents is to shift the parameters on what are publicly -- and therefore politically -- acceptable options between two extremes. As this political theory goes, apply the right pressures, and over time the window can shift and radical ideas can become mainstream. Many abortion opponents have abandoned violent protests and clinic bombings to push for restrictions that purport to be about informed consent (waiting periods) or safety (surgical facilities).

Charmaine Yoest, the president of Americans United for Life (AUL), claims that Roe v. Wade implicitly permits abortion for any reason at any time during pregnancy. AUL, which has written most of the model abortion legislation adopted across the country, is responsible for the recent wave of restrictions.

A clinic in southern New Jersey is seeing more and more patients from Virginia -- they travel that far because clinics in Maryland and Delaware are overbooked -- and the Midwest, where many clinics have shut down. Ohio has closed 7 of 16 clinics since 2011.

Thirteen states, including Texas, have introduced laws that require women to make an extra clinic visit -- usually for anti-abortion counseling -- 24, 48, or even 72 hours before they can get the procedure. Sarah Roberts, a researcher with the University of California - San Francisco, found that Utah's three-day waiting period caused the average woman to delay her abortion eight days. The delay cost women money (in Texas, an average of $141) and forced them to have to tell more people about their abortions. Roberts met one woman who couldn't get an abortion because the delay prolonged her pregnancy to the second trimester.

Fewer abortion clinics also means longer waits, which can mean a more complicated and expensive procedure.

For the "ambulatory surgical center" (ASC) where Texas wants to abortions to take place there are strict square footage standards and requirements for pricey equipment-like scrub sinks and air filtration systems-that doctors simply don't need for first-trimester abortions, costing about 40% more in utilities and property taxes. That is, if they can raise the funds -- several million dollars -- to build them.

In addition to Texas, 24 other states have passed legislation to require many abortions to be performed in such facilities. Mainstream medical groups are unequivocal that the vast majority of abortions do not require such precautions. 90% of abortions take place in the first trimester. The procedure is typically performed while the woman is under mild sedation or awake and under local anesthesia. The doctor places a speculum in the vagina, dilates the cervix, and uses a suction device -- which can be electrical or as simple as a small plastic syringe -- to remove the pregnancy from the uterus.

Abortion is 40 times safer than a colonoscopy.

AUL's Yoest disagrees: "I find it really offensive when they make these kinds of arguments. The abortion industry wants to try to convince the American public that they should be allowed to maintain unsafe businesses under the guise of access."

"In my clinics, staff have scrubs on, but they can hold a patient's hand," Miller told me. Women wait for their turn in a reception area, she added, and they wear their own clothes. But in surgical centers like this one, all the patients are naked beneath their hospital gowns. "There's no individuality." Clinics can't use heating pads any more, because they might harbor bacteria. These are appropriate safety measures for facilities where surgeons cut people open -- but that's not what happens in a first-trimester abortion.

For the last 15 years, abortion hasn't necessarily required a "procedure" at all, now that the FDA gave its approval to RU-486 -- -a.k.a. the abortion pill. More than 2 million women have ended their pregnancies using medication alone. The ease, privacy, and efficiency offered by this method comes with great advantages.

In Iowa Planned Parenthood has seven clinics in the state where women can get the two types of pills necessary for an abortion: Mifeprex, which blocks progesterone, a hormone that is vital to a pregnancy, and misoprostol, which causes uterine contractions that flush out the pregnancy.

Medication abortion is ideally suited for a rural state like Iowa because the doctor's role is fairly uncomplicated. A doctor assesses a woman's chart and vitals, explains how the pills work, and hands them over. The doses are spaced one to two days apart, and women can take the second dose at home. Because few Iowa doctors are willing to provide abortions, and the population is so dispersed, Planned Parenthood started to link patients to doctors over video chat-what's called "telemedicine." At any one of its seven clinics, a nurse seats a patient in a sparse room with a computer monitor. The doctor and the patient talk via video feed. Then, with a remote control, the doctor opens a drawer next to the woman containing her pills.

The process saves many women an 8-9 hour round-trip. But abortion foes have managed to ban telemedicine abortions in 17 states since 2011. They have also legislated the dosage of medication a woman may take. Today's recommended dosage is different from the original dosage approved by the FDA in 2000. However, five states have now passed laws requiring doctors to prescribe abortion pills according to the original, outdated FDA guidelines.

Those older dosages are harder to tolerate -- failure rates more than double, and almost every woman experiences at least one severe side effect like nausea, vomiting, or cramps. Most doctors will not prescribe drugs with the older dosages.

One provider, David Burkons in Ohio, uses the old dosages. He said: "I explain there could be these effects," .. "And still, there are people who, this is what they want to do." Patients must make four trips to his office: one to hear him read a script describing the fetus, which is required by the state, one for each dose, because the old guidelines prevent them from taking the second dose at home, and a fourth time for a follow-up. Women often bleed after the second dose-only now it's in their cars instead of at home. And the procedure currently costs an extra $160. Some of his patients have experienced incomplete abortions -- an inevitable outcome when using the outdated dosage -- and an anti-abortion group is using this to close down his abortion operation.

Because of the extra time and money involved in getting a medical abortion, the abortion patient population has been skewed toward women who are white, educated, and insured, says Ushma Upadhyay, a researcher for the UC-San Francisco project who has been studying Ohio. And the number of medication abortions has plummeted. One Ohio clinic group provided 2,172 medication abortions the year before the law went into effect. In the three years after this number dropped 75%

The Center for Choice, an abortion clinic in Toledo, Ohio, had to close in 2013 due to a new law requiring abortion clinics to enter into a "transfer agreement" -- a contract with a local hospital to take any patients having complications. But all of Toledo's hospitals refused to make a deal with the clinic.

Joffe, the UC-San Francisco researcher, points out that in the past, anti-abortion activists targeted providers and made them victims of sustained violence. Protesters chained themselves to the front doors of clinics, a radical tactic that turned public opinion in clinics' favor.

Today, clinics are more preoccupied with state-sanctioned harassment. "In some ways, this is worse," Joffe says. "Why are these pro-choice fanatics making such a fuss? It's not policemen coming to get the protesters off your back anymore. It's inspectors coming to shut you down."

In Michigan, a new law requires a woman to print and read anti-abortion literature 24 hours before her abortion. When she prints the documents, they bear a time stamp. At least once a week, a woman appears at the clinic who read the documents the day before but couldn't print them until the morning of her procedure. Some women cannot print the document in their home because they use phones instead computers. The clinic staff has to turn the women away, and the women become furious and take it out on the staff, which is very demoralizing.

There are signs that self-abortion attempts are on the rise. Renee Chelian, who runs an abortion clinic in Detroit Michigan, says there are fewer women each year who can recall what abortion was like before it was legal. "What they don't know anymore, what's gotten lost in the history, is how many women died trying to give themselves abortions," she said. doclink

Agrarian Settlements Causing Massive Deforestation in Brazil: 'Much More Damage May Be Done'

A Brazilian policy meant to allocate land to the rural poor in a socially responsible manner has led to inordinate rates of deforestation, according to a recent report.
   September 10, 2015,   By: Mike Gaworecki

A Brazilian policy meant to allocate land to the rural poor in a socially responsible manner has led to inordinate rates of deforestation, say researchers with the Camara dos Deputados (Brazil's lower legislative body) and the University of East Anglia. The results of the study have been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Nearly 2,000 agrarian settlement projects have moved as many as 1.2 million settlers to the Amazon. The settlements, which comprise just 5.3% of the 5 million square kilometers of the Brazilian Amazon, contributed as much as 13.5% of all deforestation recorded to date. Forest cover in the settlements declined, on average, to about 44%.

Co-author Carlos Peres said that, contrary to the notion that "Amazonian deforestation is merely a product of rampaging capitalist development unleashed by free market forces - it is primarily a governance problem that is deliberately designed and deployed by government, and financed by Brazilian taxpayers."

The agrarian reform settlements began in the 1970s as a means of occupying the vast expanses of forest in the Amazon, lead author Mauricio Schneider, of the Camara dos Deputados, said.

"Most of the settlements have very low productivity and are economically inefficient, making it hard to defend agrarian reform unless from an ideological point of view," Schneider said.

Brazil's agrarian agency, the Instituto Nacional de Colonização e Reforma Agrária (INCRA), contends that most of the deforestation happened before the settlements were established, an attempt to shift the blame to previous farmers and land grabbers.

"Contrary to claims by Brazil's Agrarian Reform Ministry, the timing and spatial distribution of deforestation and fires provides irrefutable chronological and spatially explicit evidence of rapid deforestation by resettled farmers both inside and immediately outside agrarian settlement areas," Peres said in his statement.

Ultimately it is the government driving this deforestation through its agrarian reform policies, Schneider told Mongabay.

Schnedier and Peres recommend that the INCRA should be avoiding frontier expansion into forested areas and instead prioritizing the allocation of the 30 million hectares of degraded, low-productivity pastures that are available across Amazonia. They also recommend that the simplest measure would be to enforce the law. The settlers who violate the laws have been neither fined nor jailed for violating conservation laws meant to keep the Amazon forest intact. doclink

Here's Why the Northeast's Next Winter is Going to Be Freakishly Cold

New research shows that vanishing Arctic summer sea ice—a consequence of global warming—may drive extreme winters in lower latitudes for decades to come.
   August 31, 2015, Take Part   By: Emily J. Gertz

New research published in in the journal Nature Geoscience connects the unusually brutal winter of 2014-15 along the East Coast of North America to rapidly vanishing summer sea ice on the western side of the Arctic Ocean.

Jong-Seong Kug and his colleagues of South Korea's Pohang University of Science and Technology have demonstrated that the extent of summer sea ice in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas has been tracking below 2010, 2013, and 2014 levels since mid-August-three years that each went on to see significantly colder, snowy winters in the Northeast-according to the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center.

The report suggests that these record-breaking extremes have not been a pause in the advance of human-driven climate change but a result of it. And it suggests that as the Arctic continues to thaw, the mercury will crash over many winters to come.

Parts of Buffalo in upstate New York disappeared under more than 100 inches of snow in November, before winter had even formally commenced. Snow fell for 23 straight days during February in Syracuse, another upstate New York city.

"The jet stream is taking a big northward swing, creating what we call a very strong ridge," said Jennifer Francis, an atmospheric scientist at Rutgers University who studies Arctic ice and its effects on weather patterns in lower latitudes of the northern hemisphere. "Downstream of that ridge, the effect is like taking a jump rope and giving it a big whip: It creates a big wave further downstream, a southward dip in the jet stream," ... "That means that cold air is able to plunge down into that area from the Arctic, and that's been contributing to these very cold winters in eastern North America."

Once the Arctic Ocean becomes completely ice-free in summer, which scientists expect to happen in the next 25 to 35 years, weather patterns are likely to shift again in ways that are impossible to anticipate.

"There is so much disturbing evidence coming out these days about the impacts of increasing fossil fuel burning and other human-caused climate change," said Francis. "It's hard to imagine that anyone can just snub their noses at it and say 'Things are fine-we don't have to do anything.' " doclink

Women Are Held Back by Laws Across the Globe

90% of the countries studied in a new report have at least one law restricting economic opportunity for women
   September 10, 2015, Time magazine   By: Eliza Gray  (Excerpt)

Out of 173 economies covered in the report-"Women, Business and the Law," 155-90% have at least one law restricting women's economic opportunities. In 100 countries, women are restricted from doing certain jobs and in 18 countries, men can legally prevent their wives from working. 17 countries, including Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, restrict women's ability to travel outside the home. Thirty-two countries, including Jordan, Haiti and the Philippines, curtail a woman's ability to get a passport on her own. Four countries, including Bhutan and the Congo, block women from registering a business. doclink

If Pope Francis Really Wanted to Fight Climate Change, He'd Be a Feminist

The world will never be healed of its ecological ills as long as women cannot control their fertility.
   September 9, 2015, Nation (US)   By: Katha Pollitt

Although he is against inequality, racism, poverty, bigotry, rampant capitalism and "self-centred culture of instant gratification" -- including excessive meat eating -- that fuel climate change and may well destroy the planet -- and, even though he has just announced a special year in which any priest may absolve a woman for having an abortion, as long as she is "contrite" -- Pope Francis still has nothing to say about the gender inequality that shores up and promotes our onrushing disaster.

The world, unlike Vatican City, is half women. It will never be healed of its economic, social, and ecological ills as long as women cannot control their fertility or the timing of their children; are married off in childhood or early adolescence; are barred from education and decent jobs; have very little socioeconomic or political power or human rights; and are basically under the control -- often the violent control­­ -- of men.

Because of the association of population growth with coercion, racism, and doomsday predictions that failed to materialize, it's hard for progressives to talk about overpopulation. But since 2000 we've added around 1.2 billion, roughly equivalent to the entire population of North America and Europe, which is expected to bring us to around 9.6 billion people by around 2050.

How can we take the pope seriously if he refuses to see overpopulation and how it affects everything: climate change, species loss, pollution, deforestation, the struggle for clean water, housing, work, and sufficient food. How can we take the pope seriously if he refuses to face these facts?

He blames only excess consumption by the privileged and says that international campaigns for reproductive health are really all about population control and the imposition of foreign values on the developing world -- as if the church itself was not a foreign power using its might to restrict reproductive rights in those same places. There are billions of people who want to rise above the backbreaking farm labor in a poor village with no electricity or running water -- and those desires can only be satisfied if people have fewer children, which happens to be what they want anyway.

True, Pope Francis did say that Catholics needn't breed "like rabbits," but only if they used natural family planning. The Philippines -- where he made that comment, and where the powerful church hierarchy has fought against realistic sex education and government funding of contraception -- has the highest fertility rate among the 10 countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Pope Francis is all for fighting climate change, but a recent report from the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health says that providing family planning to the 225 million women around the world who want it but can't get it could meet 16 to 29% of the necessary decrease in greenhouse-gas emissions.

Wouldn't meeting a desire that women already have be more likely to succeed than turning the world vegetarian or keeping the new middle classes in China and India from buying cars and taking vacations?

Educating girls, keeping women in the workforce, and providing good healthcare for women and children are also important human-rights goals that would reduce the number of children a woman has.

As climate change heats up, it's women who will bear the brunt of it, because they are the majority of the world's poor. In the developing world, they'll be contending with drought, food shortages, flooding, and forced migration, along with increases in the usual brutalities like rape, violence, trafficking, and war. To deny them the ability to control how many kids they bring into the world under such circumstances, is to condemn millions of women to the desperation that the pope says he wants to prevent. doclink

Invented Traditions: No, Christianity Doesn't Forbid Abortion

   September 8, 2015, Juan Cole   By: Larry Badendyck

The "Pro-life" argument notes that the life history of every human starts with the fertilization of an egg, and every healthy fertilized egg has the potential to turn into a person. Therefore, it is argued, every healthy fertilized egg is a person. Furthermore, the pro-life position argues, there is the sanctity of every individual human being, an assertion at the center of the Christian message and supported by both scripture and accepted Christian doctrine.

However, voluntary abortion is not mentioned in either the Old or the New Testament. Yes, God forbids murder. But if abortion is murder, why does God not mention it? Not once. Induced abortions must have occurred or been attempted; abortion is hardly a modern invention.

The anti-abortion argues that this passage asserts the personhood of the fetus, and, therefore, by implication, supports the case against abortion: Psalm 139: "Thine eyes did see my substance, and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them." But the subject of the psalm is divine omniscience, God's ability to survey past, present and future. To extend a thought in the mind of God to the personhood of a fetus is a sign of intellectual and moral desperation.

The belief that anti-abortion doctrine has always been firmly and centrally located in the main sources and articulations of Christian doctrine is unfounded. The primary canonical interpreters of the Christian tradition show as little interest in the question of abortion as scripture does.

It wasn't until the latter part of the nineteenth century, more than 1800 years of effective silence on the subject, that Pope Leo XIII declared the simultaneity of conception and personhood.

Murder is, after all, the unjustifiable killing of an innocent human being. Unless it can be shown that the blastocyst is not a person, the pro-choice position surrenders its philosophical and moral credibility.

According to Christian doctrine supported by scripture, personhood is the miraculous union of a mortal body, brought into existence through natural processes, and an immortal soul, created by God.

St. Augustine of Hippo said: "It is not the act of mating, or the insemination that matters, it is God who gives the form. It is not the mother, who conceives, carries, bears, and feeds that matters, it is God who effects the miraculous combination of an immaterial with a material substance, with the former in command, the latter in subjugation. God unites them to make a living soul." ... (City of God XXII, 24)

A viable body must precede the soul. In practice the Catholic Church agrees: the Church has never authorized the baptism of fetuses or zygotes. It certainly has never baptized embryos, not before Leo's pronouncement, not after.

The question 'when does ensoulment occur?' figures in every legislative attempt to limit abortion. And anti-abortionists argue: 'if we do not know, we cannot take a chance'. The fetus, the embryo, even the zygote just might be a person, so we must treat it as if it were.

Even St. Augustine admits he does not know: "As for abortions which have been alive in the mother's womb but have died there, I cannot bring myself either to affirm or deny that they will share in the resurrection." ... (XXII, 13)

However, in the Bible, Genesis says God created man in his own image. Augustine takes the a citation from St Paul: "This can be taken as referring to the inner man," and concludes that Genesis was referring to "a kind of mind" (XXII, 20). Therefore, what God does when he creates a person by that miraculous combination of an immaterial with a material substance is thus to install "a kind of mind."

And a prerequisite for a mind, therefore, a person, is an adequately developed brain and central nervous system. Ensoulment, then, cannot occur until at the sixth month of pregnancy at the earliest.

Augustine does not make explicit the mind/brain implication, but a thousand years later, Dante does -- in the Purgatorio: "...once the brain's articulation in the embryo arrives at its perfection the First Mover turns to it, rejoicing in such handiwork of nature, and breathes into it a spirit, new and full of power, which then draws into its substance all it there finds active and becomes a single soul that lives, and feels, and reflects upon itself." ... trans. Sinclair Purgatorio XXV (69-75)

Dante was not addressing abortion; his purpose was to explain the unique human individual and that individual's eternal fate, distinguishing Christian teaching from all of those other religions that see the end of life as the absorption of the individual into some vast cosmic wholeness. Nevertheless, Dante presents a potent, preemptive refutation of Leo XIII's assertion of the biological fallacy, in essence the biological heresy.

In his Divine Comedy Dante is defending "a doctrine essential to a Christian view of things -- the direct and independent creation of the individual soul, as against the heresy that the soul comes into being like the body, by mere natural descent." ... trans. Sinclair Purgatorio 1334

This central Christian doctrine was sustained and refined for over 1800 years of teaching until repudiated by Leo XIII.

Augustine is consistent with modern neuroscientists: in the words of Michael S. Gassaniga, one of the best: "The fertilized egg is a clump of cells with no brain; the processes that begin to generate a nervous system do not begin until after the 14th day. No sustainable or complex nervous system is in place until approximately six months of gestation. In judging a 'fetus' and granting it the moral and legal rights of a human being I put the age much later [than 14 weeks] at 23 weeks when life is sustainable and the fetus could, with a little help from a neonatal unit, survive and develop into a thinking human being with a normal brain." ... "The Thoughtful Distinction between Embryo and Human," Chronicle of Higher Education 4/8/2006

As St. Paul says: "the spiritual does not come first, the physical body comes first, and then the spiritual." ... 1 Corinthians 15:35

Thus attributing personhood to the zygote is guilty of what has been called the "biological fallacy," the equation of "person" with the physical body. doclink

Middle East Faces Water Shortages for the Next 25 Years, Study Says

Rising population and dwindling water supplies will affect millions of people and exacerbate conflict in the region
   August 27, 2015, Mail and Guardian   By: John Vidal

The World Resources Institute (WRI) claims that "drought and water shortages in Syria likely contributed to the unrest that stoked the country's 2011 civil war. Dwindling water resources and chronic mismanagement forced 1.5 million people, primarily farmers and herders, to lose their livelihoods and leave their land, move to urban areas, and magnify Syria's general destabilisation."

The Middle East is home to over 350 million people. Fourteen of the world's 33 most water-stressed countries are in the Middle East and north Africa region (MENA), including Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Palestine, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Iran and Lebanon, according to the WRI. Companies, farms and residents in these countries are all highly vulnerable to the slightest change in supplies.

"The world's demand for water is likely to surge in the next few decades. Rapidly growing populations will drive increased consumption by people, farms and companies. More people will move to cities, further straining supplies. An emerging middle class could clamour for more water-intensive food production and electricity generation," say the authors.

Middle East water supplies depend heavily on underground aquifers, but these are drying out at alarming rates.

Areas of China, India, and the south-west US could see water stress increase by 40 to 70% by 2040.

"Water is a significant dimension of the decades-old conflict between Palestine and Israel. Saudi Arabia's government said its people will depend entirely on grain imports by 2016, a change from decades of growing all they need, due to fear of water-resource depletion. The US National Intelligence Council wrote that water problems will put key north African and Middle East countries at greater risk of instability and state failure," says the report.

Satellite images from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show that the Tigris-Euphrates basin is losing water faster than any other place in the world, except northern India, with the loss of 117m acre-feet of stored freshwater between 2003-2009. Pollution in the Tigris river caused by the discharge of drainage water from agricultural areas and sewage discharge near Baghdad is a major constraint to freshwater availability in Iraq," says a recent Brookings Institute report.

In the Sana'a basin in Yemen, the groundwater table is falling nearly six metres per year and government has debated moving the capital city.

In Egypt, the country's annual water supply dropped to an average of 660 cubic metres a person in 2013, down from over 2,500 cubic metres in 1947.

In some areas water supplies are restricted to only a few hours a day, but this year many smaller cities have run out of water completely.

Israel, Syria, Turkey, Abu Dhabi and many other MENA governments have had to warn people to take extra precautions in the extreme heat that has engulfed cities. Earlier this year hundreds of people in India and Pakistan had died of heat stroke. Algeria has experienced over 40 days of heatwave this year," said Mahi Tabet-Aoul, Algerian atmospheric scientist.

One reason why water is so scarce is because farming wastes so much. In addition, many rich people across the region have dug their own wells to tap into aquifers, leading to over-pumping and pollution of groundwater in cities like Damascus. doclink

Chris Christie, Pope Francis and Contraception

   September 7, 2015,   By: Tom Deignan

Has Francis brought fresh air to the 21st century American Catholic Church?

Last month Gov. Chris Christie came out with this statement to a New Hampshire crowd: "I'm a Catholic, but I've used birth control. And not just the rhythm method." According to surveys, four out of five Catholics support contraceptives.

The unremitting horror of the sex abuse scandals and the fresh, forgiving air of Francis' papacy have temporarily taken several contested issues off the table when it comes to Catholic doctrine. The Pope continued to emphasize forgiveness over punishment last week when he announced that for a "Year of Mercy" beginning in December, priests may absolve contrite women who have had abortions.

It is unlikely Francis could substantively budge on an issue as gut-wrenching as abortion. But a re-evaluation of the church's stance on contraception is not far-fetched. When a prominent Catholic Republican presidential candidate flouts church rules on birth control, and pundits and the electorate greet him with a collective yawn, it illustrates just how out of touch church leaders are with the folks in the pews.

Author Alice McDermott who writes stories of Catholic life said: "The entrenched male hierarchy of the Church often requires the women who work within it to find their own, quiet ways of getting around rules and traditions that subvert both compassion and common sense." Many parishioners these days know that these man-made rules (emphasis on "man") are actually being reinterpreted constantly. (A special year for abortion forgiveness? Really?)

Dr. John Rock, a devout American Catholic, spent years in the 1960s trying to convince the Vatican that the pill's benefits - greater freedom and equality for women, fewer financial burdens on families, less physical suffering from multiple pregnancies.

At the same time, Pope John XXIII, formed a commission on birth control. The commission later "overwhelmingly voted" to lift the ban on contraceptives. But his successor, Paul VI, ultimately disagreed in the controversial 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae.

A recent Pew Research Center survey found that in the past seven years, the number of Americans identifying themselves as Catholic dropped to around 20%, after decades hovering around 25%. In time, American priests may find themselves preaching to empty pews. doclink

The Affordable Care Act and Cost of Contraception

   September 3, 2015, Journalist's Resource   By: Kathryn M. Barker

Under the ACA, private health plans must cover birth control methods that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration without charging out-of-pocket costs. In the Hobby Lobby case, the Supreme Court ruled that some businesses can claim religious objections and forgo birth-control coverage for employees. However the importance of contraceptive coverage under the ACA has been shown by several new studies: The proportion of women who paid nothing out of pocket for birth control pills rose from 15% in 2012 - before the federal requirement took effect - to 67% in 2014 - after it was implemented. Women saw large decrease in out-of-pocket spending for contraceptives after ACA mandate removed cost sharing. doclink

A Look at the Sustainable Development Goals

   September 10, 2015, You Tube   By: United Nations Foundation

On September 25th 2015, 193 world leaders will commit to 17 Global Goals to achieve 3 extraordinary things in the next 15 years. End extreme poverty. Fight inequality & injustice. Fix climate change. The Global Goals for sustainable development could get these things done. In all countries. For all people.

If the goals are going to work, everyone needs to know about them. You can't fight for your rights if you don't know what they are. You can't convince world leaders to do what needs to be done if you don't know what you're convincing them to do. If the goals are famous, they won't be forgotten.

We can be the first generation to end extreme poverty, the most determined generation in history to end injustice and inequality, and the last generation to be threatened by climate change.

Learn more on doclink

Scientists Expect Hawaii's Worst Coral Bleaching Ever

   September 13, 2015, Washington Post   By: Audrey Mcavoy


Hawaii is home to 85% of the coral under U.S. jurisdiction. Bleaching occurs when warm waters prompt coral to expel the algae they rely on for food. Hawaii experienced a mass bleaching event in 1996, and another one last year This year, ocean temperatures around Hawaii are about 3 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal. 30 - 40% of the world's reefs have died from bleaching events over the years. People should avoid fertilizing lawns and washing cars with soap so contaminants don't flow into the ocean. doclink

US: My Turn: the Miracle of Family Planning

   September 3, 2015, Concord Monitor   By: John Warner

Large families were common back in last half of the 19th century, when the authorr's great grandfather had 10 children. This made sense then, since in agrarian America, farmers needed labor, and children could supply it. As America became urban and industrial, needs changed and family size changed. The current generation typically has only two children.

The change fit both American families and American society, because continuation of these earlier rates of proliferation would have resulted in an unsustainable population.

If all families after my great grandfather's generation had all had 10 children, the U.S. population could have gone from 76 million in 1900 to as much as 7 billion today, demonstrating the power of exponential growth. With such a big population our country would have experienced massive poverty, intense starvation and extensive death. And, that is what the larger world has in store if it is unable to stabilize its currently burgeoning population.

Researchers have concluded that to live at an American or European standard of living, a sustainable population for the Earth is between 1 and 2 billion people; now we are over three time that much.

In the intense religious fervor of the Third Great Awakening in 1800's brought with it the Comstock Act (1873), which declared contraception and birth control to be "obscene and illegal." Despite Comstock, many families (women primarily) opted to ignore the law, to plan their families, to obtain and use contraception (and to get abortions). If these women had actually followed the dictates of the Comstock Act, we would be an overpopulated, impoverished nation today.

The Comstock Act was fully overturned in 1965 after it was noted that lower-class birth rates far exceeded upper-class rates, especially as wealthier women became educated, wanted careers, and limited and delayed having children.

Now we are facing the threat of going back to the Comstock days. Our media is now filled with stories about the evils of Planned Parenthood and efforts to eliminate this valuable resource.

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz wants a constitutional amendment to make most forms of contraception illegal. Virtually all of the Republican candidates support the Religious Right's desire to make family planning more difficult. And here in New Hampshire, our governing body has denied funding for Planned Parenthood.

This situation was spurred on by some religious zealots who duped some Planned Parenthood workers into discussion about their work so that they could collect surreptitious video heavily edited to suggest (but not actually prove) that Planned Parenthood was doing something illegal and unethical. They are now using this video material in an attempt to destroy the best resource available to women in this country.

It is time to denounce the attempts by a narrow religious minority and its political henchmen to force its ill-conceived beliefs on the 300 million citizens of this country and to wrench us all back to my great grandfather's time.

Our planet has increasingly limited resources. Family planning and contraception are the miracles that have up to now both allowed and enhanced American prosperity and that will in the future make a critical difference as to whether the human race survives. Educating women worldwide and making women's health facilities and contraception available to all are vital to human sustainability.

Failing to do these things invites human tragedy. But failing to do them in the name of religion is the biggest folly of all. Given the inevitable misery and death that would ensue from putting barriers in the way of women's right to make their own choices and in effect forcing women to have children - this sounds a lot like some Middle Eastern countries that we read about in our newspapers every day. In America this smacks of a theocracy, not a democracy. It certainly does not represent any version of the religion of peace and love that I believe in. doclink

Study Predicts Antarctica Ice Melt If All Fossil Fuels Are Burned

   September 11, 2015, New York Times   By: Justin Gillis

Excerpts .... Click on the link in the headline to read the article.

Burning all the world's deposits of coal, oil and natural gas would raise the temperature enough to melt the entire ice sheet covering Antarctica. A sea level rise of 200 feet would put almost all of Florida, much of Louisiana and Texas, the entire East Coast of the United States, large parts of Britain, much of the European Plain, and huge parts of coastal Asia under water. doclink

"Save Water, Eat Plants!" Citizens' Action Campaign

   September 13, 2015,

Making the connection between animal-based diets & increasing water scarcity. doclink

My Health, My Life - 6 Reasons Why I Fight for Women's Health

   Planned Parenthood

1. We all have the right to plan when and if to have a child.

2. Doctors help decide our medical care -- not politics or religious restrictions.

3. Our access to care shouldn't depend on who we are, where we work, or where we live.

4. We all deserve access to sex education.

5. We will not stand for coercion, harassment or intimidation when accessing health care.

6. Victims of sexual violence deserve compassionate care without delay, judgment or intimidation.

Go to the link in the headline to sign the petition doclink

Humanity's Weight

   September 4, 2015, Korea Times   By: Richard Ruffin

British television presenter David Attenborough said that he could not think of a single human problem that could not be solved with fewer people.

Well, I can. How about management of information? Surely there would not be so many Gates, Jobs and Zuckerburgs born had there not been a pool of billions of human beings from which to choose in the first place.

But then again, perhaps one would not need all these thousands of smart phone applications and social messaging sites had the human population not mushroomed to the current 7 billion it is today, up from less than 3 billion when I was born.

How many people die trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea each year, month, week or day, on their way to a better life in Europe?

How many people die riding in the backs of trucks on their way to a better life in Europe?

How many more images of children clutching teddy bears crawling under barbed wire on their way to a better life in Europe can we see?

One of the things that education teaches us is that we should not bring more people into this world if we cannot be good parents, providing them with needed guidance, love and financial support.

But that guidance and financial support seem to be missing in large parts of the world.

How many more stories of children being raised in broken homes can one stand to hear?

There are currently enough people in the world to cause every social problem known to man. Refugees run wild, deforestation galore, climate change like never before. And among all this chaos, we have unmarried, unemployed persons with too many children trying to find some person or government official responsible for their current plight.

Last night I saw the dark side of humanity's track on this Earth.

A Southeast Asian nation was trying to deal with countless tons of garbage, while at the same time employing a faulty infrastructure to do so. The cleanup, somewhat successful, was a lesson in the sheer perseverance of the human spirit. It was also a lesson in what too many people leave behind.

This documentary would have made most people sick.

Take Seoul's subway. Have you ever experienced a crowded subway at peak commuting time? What comes into your mind when it becomes clear that sheer numbers of people have made it impossible to move? Does one simply fold in one's wings and allow the weight of the crowd to carry one up the stairs?

Fortunately, South Korea is one of the countries in the world where a declining population will eventually open much needed space - space to breathe, space to relax. Space to breathe. Space to collect one's thoughts. Space to breathe.

But most countries, due to low standards of living and ignorance, continue to encourage people to have more babies.

Babies are great, but they must be provided with the requisite love, care and financial support, things that are in short supply in our overcrowded world.

In the meantime, politicians, economists and governments tell us to have more babies for "the sake of the economy," they say.

It is all they know - or wish -to do.

The writer currently lives in Thailand, where there is still a little room to breathe. His email address is doclink

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