Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day

Updated 3/2017-- all links (except to my own posts) removed as many no longer active. and it was easier than checking each one. 

This year the topic of Blog Action Day is climate change, so I have decided to briefly mention the link between population control/contraception and climate.  This connection is finally getting attention again.  It was discussed when I was in college in the 70’s but became a political hot potato when China limited the number of children their citizens could legally have.
My roommate in college, KB, was an environmental science major.  She and I had many discussions (arguments) over how many children a family should have.  My mother had 8 children.  I also had two half-siblings from my father’s first marriage and 5 step-siblings.  She came from a family of 2 children.
At the time, I voiced the desire to have 4 children.  She thought I was being irresponsible in not limiting the number of children I had to 2 children --  one to replace myself, one to replace my husband (as yet not meet). 
As it turned out, she had 3 children and I had none.  I’m not sure if hers was by choice (if she changed her mind) or not.  Mine was not, it just wasn’t meant to be, but maybe we ended up balancing each other out.

Last month, world leaders meeting at the United Nations and later in Pittsburgh included world population in their discussions on climate control.  I don’t think it would be necessary to mandate population control.  We could do more to help prevent the unwanted pregnancies by making contraception more available.
The report, "Fewer Emitters, Lower Emissions, Less Cost," (PDF) determined that if contraception was made widely available between 2010 and 2050 to women and men around the world who wished to use it, the reduction in unwanted births could result in saving 34 gigatonnes (one billion tonnes) of carbon emissions. That's roughly 60 years worth of U.K. emissions or 6 years worth of U.S. emissions.
Population growth is linked to changes in food and water supply and housing. Rapid increases in population growth is most likely to have negative effects – increasing food and water scarcity, environmental degradation, and human displacement.
There are more than 200 million women throughout the world who want, but lack access to modern contraceptives. This lack of contraceptive availability results in an estimated 76 million unintended pregnancies each year. This increase puts strain on regional environmental resources (water, food, housing) with increased disease if those resources aren’t sufficient.
The Lancet editorial discusses the need for better contraception available to women around the world. “It is disappointing to see that there are still tensions between the population and some of the sexual and reproductive health and rights community.”
The editorial points out a case study from Ethiopia that trained people in sustainable land management practices, while increasing availability of family planning. The area saw an immediate improvement to the environment with better agricultural practices, which in the long term will be sustained and not eroded by a rapidly increasing population.
Contraception is important to population control which is important to the health of our planet and global warming. It’s all linked.

  • Fewer Emitters, Lower Emissions, Less Cost, a Cost/Benefit Analysis; Thomas Wire; August 2009 (pdf)
  • Sexual and reproductive health and climate change; The Lancet, Volume 374, Issue 9694, Page 949, 19 September 2009 doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(09)61643-3
  • Managing the health effects of climate change; The Lancet, Volume 373, Issue 9676, Pages 1693 - 1733, 16 May 2009 doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(09)60935-1
  • Should contraception qualify for climate funds? by Candace Lombardi; September 17, 2009


ER's Mom said...

Contraception (and control over her own sexuality) is important for women's rights.

We're lucky here in developed countries, we have the ability to forget that pregnancy and childbirth were a very dangerous proposition for a woman in the past. And currently in underdeveloped countries, childbirth is still a major contributor to mortality for women.

gardenqueen said...

It amazes me how many people miss or purposely overlook this point.

Margaret Polaneczky, MD (aka TBTAM) said...

Interesting post - never really made the family planning -climate connection before. Makes sense. But then again, family planning always makes sense.

Thanks for posting this.


Anonymous said...

Until the Petri Dish Breaks

Stephen Lewis

Climate change appears to be a symptom, population density and over-consumption of fossil fuel products being the cause. I have recently become an alarmist and have scoured the internet for information. I have found very conflicting information regarding the extent of the population problem. However, I am at this time convinced that at this growth rate, the Earth cannot humanely sustain life and will rapidly rid itself of the parasites within the lifetime of my grandkids. oooOOOHHhhh.

Even if my true vision is on a global scale and is possibly unnecessary, it could be beneficial in smaller pockets of over crowded areas, like Los Angeles or India. And the vision goes like this…

With the collective effort of all human beings and the understanding that this will help mankind, we set a date on the calendar at which time we all stop having sex for one month. (This proposal seems a lot easier to deal with than any of the other zero population growth scenarios.)

Nine months after this one month cease fire, and you can see that we are going to have a lot of highly trained nurses and doctors with nothing to do. Of course we prepared ourselves for this event, having thought it out completely. Those people that are affected by this lack of work would be assigned duties that assist the already going family planning centers world wide, dealing with the worst areas of population first. Well conceived missions that can they can complete in one month’s time.

Using the population growth estimate online, 150,000 people added to the population each day equals 1 million per week. With this proposal an estimated 4 million people will not be born because of this one month of abstinence from everyone. I used 61 years as the doubling time and that gives me 8 million people not having been born by the year 2071. Another 61years would equal 16 million people not having been born.

I realize this number is quite insignificant compared to the almost 7 billion population number, but once this idea has been put to the test and worked out, it can then be implemented several times at regular intervals until the population is not only under control, but the standard of living across the globe is exponentially increased. It can later be used as a dampening process to keep population growth rates in check and it doesn’t require extreme measures. Human beings are simply not having sex. It’s not like 70% of the population being sterilized by the other 30%. You know, the haves and the have not’s.
The big problem is how do we get everyone to abstain at the same time world wide? We all ready have the technology to globally make this process happen. The internet and phones are making communication possible anywhere. People are seeing the world in a larger view when they sing “It’s a small world after all”. Most importantly, I would rather struggle with mankind trying to complete this enormous task than to struggle with massive poverty, genocide, famine, war, caused by doing nothing at all. I am not in the delusion that man will instantly be better, however, doing something that large together would form some sort of bond. Plus without the strain of overpopulation, we could work on our other really terrible social skills. One of the bonuses of this plan is that just the act of trying increases communication on a global scale about problems that affect us all.

I like to think of life as the human experiment. I see the planet as our cage or Petri dish. So far, I believe there are no examples of an experiment that sustained its own life and moved out of the Petri dish and into the point of view of the scientist. I don’t know about the point of view of the scientist, but I do think we can rally for life at least until the Petri dish breaks.
Thank you for your time