Also known as: WOA!! * World Population Awareness * population-awareness.net
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.
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Seeks to protect the global environment, preserve natural resources for future generations, and foster healthy communities by advancing sustainable development solutions by:
- promoting increased access to voluntary family planning and reproductive
health information and services
- advocating for women's and girls' basic rights, including health care, education, and economic opportunity
- raising public awareness of wasteful resource consumption in the context of social and economic equity
- empowering youth leaders
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
U.S. HappeningsJune 12 , 2013
UNICEF reports that stunting in kids -- a sign of poor nutrition early in life -- has dropped by a third in the past two decades, there is still much progress to be made. A quarter of kids under the age of 5 were stunted worldwide in 2011, with nearly 75 percent of them living in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
In East Asia and Latin America stunting has decreased by a whopping 70 and 50%, respectively. Even very poor countries, like Ethiopia and Nepal, have quickly made progress against malnutrition and stunting.
Stunted kids are more likely to get sick, and they tend to have a harder time in school, which can translate to lower paying jobs later in life.
In Malawi one in 36 women will die in childbirth. As Dorothy Ngoma, head of Malawi's Safe Motherhood Initiative, puts it, "being pregnant is described as having one foot in the grave".
Ngoma set up Malawi's first health workers' union at a time when there were more Malawian nurses in the UK than in Malawi. They campaigned for higher wages, better training and safer working conditions and reversed that trend. Ngoma was joined Joyce Banda, the country's first female president, and together they set up the Safe Motherhood Initiative.
Traditionally women in Malawi give birth at home, aided by "traditional birth attendants", and often hours or even days away from a medical centre. 75% live below the poverty line, 11% are HIV-positive, and malnutrition and disease are rife. All contribute to a much greater risk of a difficult delivery.
Banda has recruited a council of chiefs -- who dictate life in remote, rural villages where 85% of the population live -- to challenge tradition.
But the government has to convince pregnant women hospitals are where they want to be. Bwaila Hospital in Lilongwe used to be known as a place women came to die, a massively under-resourced central hospital to which only serious cases were referred, often too late.
There is a new labour ward, and women give birth in private rooms; but now Bwaila suffers from chronic drug and equipment shortages which have a profound effect on morale. Drugs hadn't been procured since 2009.
Because of the economic crisis Banda has had to enact harsh austerity measures, which hit wage-earners hard, causing a mass strike in the civil service.
“The biggest thing I try and teach is that what we do makes a difference and that's also the hardest thing," says MacLeod. “If a woman needs medication or blood and you don't have it, it doesn't matter how good a midwife you are. She is not going to make it."
Many of the nurses and midwives she works with are supporting their entire extended family as unemployment and culture in Malawi dictate. Often they work long hours for extra pay and suffer from exhaustion.
A Guttmacher study - "Trends in Contraceptive Need and Use in Developing Countries in 2003, 2008, 2012" - finds that, from 2003 to 2012, the number of women wanting to avoid pregnancy and in need of contraception increased from 716 million to 867 million, with the biggest growth concentrated in the 69 poorest countries where modern method use was already very low.
73% of the 222 million women in developing countries who want to avoid a pregnancy but are not using a modern method now live in the poorest countries, compared with 67% in 2003. These women in the poorest countries who want to avoid pregnancy are one-third as likely to be using a modern method as those living in higher-income developing countries.
Notable progress in contraceptive use was made in Eastern Africa (31% to 46%), Southern Africa (75% to 83%), Southeast Asia (64% to 72%), Central America (71% to 77%) and South America (73% to 79%). However, in most subregions modern contraceptive use grew more slowly between 2008 and 2012 than between 2003 and 2008.
Population growth and the growing desire for smaller families will increase the number and proportion of women with unmet need especially in the 69 poorest countries.
Between 2003 and 2012, the use of sterilization declined from 47% to 38% of all modern method use in developing countries, and toward methods with higher failure rates, namely barrier methods (increasing from 7% to 13%) and injectables (from 6% to 9%). This demonstrates the need for services that help women use reversible contraceptive methods consistently and correctly.
Study author Susheela Singh concluded: "Improving the quality of services must become a priority." ... "This includes providing adequate follow-up care, facilitating informed choice among methods, increasing public education and addressing the needs of young people for quality information and services."
The average British woman bears her first child at age 30, 5 years later than American women. In the name of "provok a debate about how old is too old to have a baby," First Response Get Britain Fertile had make-up artists transform 45-year-old British TV presenter Kate Garraway into a cartoonishly ancient-looking pregnant woman.
As the global economic crisis stumbles on, social services are cut worldwide, and the planet faces ever wilder weather, decreasing biodiversity, and shrinking natural resources, we need an even larger investment in girls and women for the sake not only of people, but also for the planet.
Investing in girls and women -- and especially in family planning services -- is one of the smartest, safest, cheapest, most impactful decisions any nation can make. For example, in Texas, the state legislature is working hard funding for family planning services after the financial costs of 2011's funding cuts became apparent.
With simple investments in basic technologies like condoms, the pill, and prenatal healthcare, there's a powerful ripple effect that emerges from women's empowerment. Women and children are healthier. We also see noteworthy dividends for our planet's ability to sustain us all. When we empower individuals and families with the information and services they need to decide on all aspects related to reproduction and sexuality, we create more sustainable and just communities. Give women choices about their children, and they make smart choices about their environment, too.
Global funding for sexual and reproductive health and rights has decreased 65% from 1995 to 2007, leaving more than 200 million women and girls worldwide without access to the modern contraceptives they want and need, to delay or avoid a pregnancy.
When parents are worried about how to bring home enough food for their family's next meal, they don't worry about whether they're taking too many fish from the sea, or cutting down too many trees to sell or to grow crops.
And when the environment is threatened, women are threatened too. Women bear the brunt of the responsibility for providing food and water for their families, for collecting fuel to heat their homes and cook meals. A rapidly changing climate, increasing pressure on food prices brought about by drought, shrinking access to clean water, clean air and healthy forests -- all hit women and children hardest.
It's time for us all to make these connections. We have an unparalleled opportunity to secure a sustainable world of justice, choice and well-being for all people, and without a doubt, we need healthy, empowered women and girls to ensure that our planet can continue to care for us all.
The Sahara Desert, a vast, nearly lifeless expanse of sand and rock was once a fertile grassland and bands of human hunters chased aurochs and antelope, but a wobble in Earth's orbit catalyzed ecosystem changes that caused the Sahara to go from green to brown in a matter of centuries or even decades.
A series of small modifications can push a system to a "tipping point," where it flips, quite suddenly, from one state to another. And many believe that human population dynamics are an increasingly important variable in environmental change, at local, regional, and global scales.
Volcanic eruptions, solar flares, and the clash of continents have changed the Earth, but, since the beginning of the last century, our numbers have quadrupled, reaching seven billion in 2011, resource consumption has skyrocketed, and more people are living in environmentally fragile regions, such as coastal areas, making humans responsible for the more recent changes.
More than 80% of the Earth's land is under direct human control; humans use a fifth of the planet's biomass; humans emit carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases which are warming the planet and acidifying the oceans. Because of all of this disruption, we are now in the midst of the biggest wave of extinctions since the end of the dinosaurs.
Environmentalists learned that environmental impact (I) is the sum of population size (P) times per capita affluence level (A) times the impact of technologies (T). Otherwise known as IPAT. But John Harte in A Pivotal Moment tells us that non-linear effects, including thresholds and feedbacks, can amplify the environmental impact of human numbers. For example, a species may depend on a certain amount of intact habitat to survive. As human settlements encroach, a threshold is eventually crossed, and the species will, sometimes quite suddenly (within a generation or two), collapse.
A classic example is the loss of "albedo": on a warming planet, there is less ice and snow to reflect heat back to space, so more sunlight is absorbed by the Earth's surface, which intensifies warming. Another example: warming accelerates the decomposition of organic matter in cultivated soil. That decomposition, in turn, releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which speeds even more warming. Because more people generally means more cultivated land, population growth affects the intensity of this feedback effect.
In 2009, Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Center, and his team of scientists, identified 10 biophysical boundaries that must not be transgressed if we wish to preserve a habitable planet. Three of the boundaries - for climate change, biodiversity loss, and global nitrogen - have already been crossed.
In 2012, University of California, Berkeley, paleoecologist Anthony Barnosky and colleagues warned there may be “a reduction in biodiversity and severe impacts on much of what we depend on to sustain our quality of life, including, for example, fisheries, agriculture, forest products, and clean water. This could happen within just a few generations."
The Mato Grosso region of the Amazon rainforest may soon be “on a one-way route to becoming a dry and relatively barren savannah," according to the New Scientist. And record-breaking declines in the extent and volume of sea ice signal that an ice-free summer Arctic may be near.
Tufts University economists Frank Ackerman and Elizabeth A. Stanton found that “global warming is now causing unprecedentedly rapid changes in the climate conditions that affect agriculture - much faster than crops can evolve on their own, and probably too fast for the traditional processes of trial-and-error adaptation by farmers. ...Within a few decades, business as usual climate change would reach levels at which adaptation is no longer possible." This at a time when global food production must increase by 70% to keep pace with demand.
Authors of the tipping-point studies call for a range of interventions: limiting climate change, low-carbon approaches to development, better ecosystem management, and measures to voluntarily slow population growth where it is still rapid, such as encouraging girls' education and universal access to family planning and reproductive health.
News on U.S. Women's Health and PoliticsJune 10, 2013
Every day, we are presented with a range of "sustainable" products and activities—from "green" cleaning supplies to carbon offsets. But with so much labeled as sustainable, the term has become essentially sustainababble, at best indicating a practice or product slightly less damaging than the conventional alternative. Is it time to abandon the concept altogether, or can we find an accurate way to measure sustainability? If so, how can we achieve it? And if not, how can we best prepare for the coming ecological decline?
In Worldwatch Institute's newest project, scientists, policy experts, and thought leaders tackle these questions, attempting to restore meaning to sustainability as more than just a marketing tool. Within this website, you'll find State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible? -- http://blogs.worldwatch.org/sustainabilitypossible/state-of-the-world-2013/ --, which explores these questions in depth in over 30 articles. As well, you'll find additional essays, videos, presentation materials, news updates, and additional translations of the report.
The Do the Math Movie is being screened at house-parties and screenings around the world. The movie tells the story of the rising movement to change the terrifying math of the climate crisis and fight the fossil fuel industry. Click on the link in the headline above to see where there are screenings or where to have a houseparty screening.
Scientists argue in Nature magazine that plastic should be treated as hazardous waste. The U.S. EPA estimates 45% of plastics are used as containers and packaging, and that only 12% of these are recycled. In 2012, 280 million metric tons of plastic were produced worldwide. These scientists project that a total of 33 billion metric tons will have been produced by 2050. Less than half of the discarded plastic ends up in the landfill; the rest ends up in the wind and sea.
According to the UN, chemical ingredients of more than 50% of plastics are hazardous. For instance, PVC can be carcinogenic. Some other plastics such as polyethylene—used to make plastic bags—are less dangerous, but can be dangerous when absorbing other pollutants such as pesticides. Scientists quote an unpublished study to argue that at least 78% of priority pollutants listed by the EPA and 61% by the European Union are "associated with plastic debris", which means they are ingredients of plastic or absorbed.
The plastics industry is largely unregulated and the situation is getting worse and governments seem unable or at least unwilling to tackle the issue.
The authors suggest using the example of the Montreal Protocol of 1989 that classifies CFCs as hazardous. Production of these refrigerants stopped within 7 years with 200 countries replacing 30 dangerous chemical groups with safer ones. A treaty focusing on just four plastics—PVC (construction, especially pipes), polystyrene (food packaging), polyurethane (furniture) and polycarbonate (electronics)—would be a "realistic first step." These plastics represent about 30% of production, are difficult to recycle and are made of potentially toxic materials.
While food or pharmaceutical industries have to prove that their products are safe, plastic producers ask governments to prove that plastic is not safe. Scientists call the biggest producers to “act now," as plastic pollution is getting worse every day and the window to deal with it effectively is closing.
The "great future in plastics" lies in changing policies to ban the worst of them; finding ways to limit consumption of them; redesigning plastics to be environmentally benign; and in developing a closed-loop production, consumption and recycling system to avoid a catastrophic accumulation of plastic in our environment.
An estimated 40 million abortions will take place in the developing world in 2012. Most of these procedures will be clandestine and unsafe, taking a terrible toll on women's lives. Reducing the number of unsafe abortions is essential for improving public health. And it's the basic right of every woman to decide whether and when to have a child—without having to put her health or life at risk.
The ENGAGE Presentation, "Harnessing the Demographic Dividend" aims to improve understanding of the demographic dividend, what it takes to realize that dividend, and the potential for the countries of sub-Saharan Africa to achieve the demographic dividend and associated economic growth. The presentation is designed to promote policy dialogue on the critical role of declines in fertility; changes in population age structure; necessary investments in family planning, health, and education; favorable economic policies; and good governance practices for achieving sustainable economic and social development. Target audiences include government policymakers, civic and religious leaders, health sector leaders, program officials, family planning advocates, journalists, and others.
We are living in exceptional times. Scientists tell us that we have 10 years to change the way we live, avert the depletion of natural resources and the catastrophic evolution of the Earth's climate.
The stakes are high for us and our children. Everyone should take part in the effort, and HOME has been conceived to take a message of mobilization out to every human being.
For this purpose, HOME needs to be free. A patron, the PPR Group, made this possible. EuropaCorp, the distributor, also pledged not to make any profit because Home is a non-profit film.
HOME has been made for you : share it! And act for the planet.
DKT uses social impact entrepreneurship as a tool to sell condoms and other contraceptives and provide reproductive health and family planning services, through innovative marketing and distribution channels, including the Internet, social media sites, midwives, clinics, drug and grocery stores. This approach differs greatly from traditional nonprofits by providing goods and services as normal commercial purchases that offer consumers a benefit at an affordable price.
In its most recent fiscal year DKT's $130 million in total revenue was balanced by an equal amount spent on programs, with approximately 70% of program costs recovered through sales. The balance of revenue comes from donors, and DKT's revenue generating models greatly leverage donor funds. It's an entrepreneurial model that works. In 2012 DKT programs prevented an estimated 8.2 million unwanted pregnancies, 1.7 million abortions, and more than 14,000 maternal deaths.
Christopher Purdy, Executive Vice President of DKT International says: "Our strategy depends on recruiting high performing people who are true social impact entrepreneurs. Many country directors have undergraduate or advanced business degrees, and some have served in corporate marketing or business capacities before joining us. They direct a field staff of 1,800 people and have wide autonomy to make decisions quickly."
DKT International's use of social marketing for reproductive health products and services builds contraception and family planning demand through mass media and non-traditional messaging that reduce social stigma and target all socio-economic groups. Each country director runs his or her custom-tailored, culturally appropriate program designed to reach the maximum number of people in each market segment.
"Our directors use new approaches in countries where tradition, religious restrictions, government censorship and politics complicate their task," Purdy added. “By providing people with an essential service that they value, and can afford, our country directors create real momentum for social change."
A bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks has been authored In the U.S. House of Representatives by Arizona Rep. Trent Franks, who seems determined to deny women access to safe and legal abortion -- even if it endangers their health, even if the majority of Americans disagree, and even though a federal appeals court just overturned a similar ban in his home state.
Now, it's up to every member of Congress to reject this unconstitutional ban.
Speak out now to put a stop to the nationwide abortion ban.
Politics has no place in a woman's personal health care decisions. Politicians like Rep. Franks have no right to stand between women and their doctors. And Congress has no business taking deeply personal medical decisions out of a woman's hands to pursue a blatantly unconstitutional agenda.
The government of Myanmar's Rakhine State, which borders Bangladesh, has imposed a two-child limit on the terrorized, starving and homeless Rohingya because of concerns about their high birthrate.
"If they want to live here, they have to follow the rules and orders of this state," said a spokesman for the Rakhine government. The Rohingya were the main victims in outbreaks of communal violence involving the Buddhist majority in Rakhine last year. The clashes killed scores of people and left tens of thousands of others living in makeshift camps.
The ethnic unrest has become a major challenge for the national government of President Thein Sein, who has overseen a series of reforms over the past two years that have moved Myanmar, which is also known as Burma, closer to democracy. Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has joined human rights activists in criticizing this limit. Suu Kyi, who leads the opposition National League for Democracy, said "It's not good to have such discrimination." She recently said she didn't know whether the two-child policy was definitely being implemented or not. The advocacy group Human Rights Watch says the measure has been in place in areas of Rakhine since 2005, one of multiple restrictions that make it difficult and expensive for Rohingya to do things like get married or obtain birth certificates.
Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch in Asia said he was unaware of any other country in Asia where one ethnic group sought to control the birthrate of another through governmental regulations.
The official report on the communal violence included the recommendation that family-planning education be proposed to the Rohingya population, but it also included the caveat that authorities should "refrain from implementing nonvoluntary measures which may be seen as discriminatory or that would be inconsistent with human rights standards."
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that Rakhine's population of about 800,000 Rohingya have suffered restrictions on their human rights for decades. It describes them as "one of the most persecuted peoples in the world." Human Rights Watch has described the violence in Rakhine last year and its aftermath as "a campaign of government-supported crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing" targeting the Rohingya. The Myanmar government has disputed that account as "one-sided."
Native populations in the Brazilian Amazon are reporting shifts in precipitation patterns, humidity, river levels, temperature, and fire and agricultural cycles. These shifts, measured against celestial timing used by indigenous groups, are affecting traditional ways of life that date back thousands of years.
Steve Schwartzman, director of tropical forest policy at Environmental Defense Fund said: "Indigenous people are telling us rainfall and river levels have changed; the fires they're dealing with are different now; and the climate systems they used to depend on for growing crops have become unpredictable."
Indigenous interviewees showed concern that fires traditionally used for small-scale rotational agriculture.were more difficult to control. The fires were set based on the time of year -- determined by the position of stars in the sky -- with the expectation that the fires wouldn't spread into humid forest areas. But drier conditions today mean that savanna fires can easily move into rainforests, damaging them and reducing their capacity to withstand drought and future burning.
One Xingu tribesman said : "Until 1980, everything was fine, we set fire to the savanna and it went out by itself, since it stopped right at the edge of the savanna. Starting in 2000, the fires don't put themselves out anymore... In my village a lot of forest burned. The fire happens because of the heat. We are in a new climate."
The observations could be partly attributable to land use change in the region. Deforestation can contribute to localized drying, while water diversion for agricultural can reduce stream flows. The study area — the watershed of the Xingu river — is surrounded by large-scale clearing for cattle pasture and industrial soy farms.
Several recent studies argue that the changes are likely the result of a combination of factors, including warmer temperatures in the tropical Atlantic, fragmentation, and deforestation. Since 2005, the Amazon has experienced the two most severe droughts on record. The droughts isolated river-dependent communities, triggered large-scale forest die-off and carbon emissions, and were associated with massive forest fires.
Now a spate of dam-construction projects could worsen indigenous communities' plight by restricting river flows, flooding traditional lands, and potentially disrupting fish migration.
The good news is that the annual deforestation rate in the region, particularly in indigenous territory, has plunged by more than 80% since 2004, lending support to the argument that land management by native communities can play a key role in protecting forests and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
"The sustainability of indigenous lands and protected areas also depends on sustainable sources of finance," the authors write. "REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) and payment for ecosystem services, whether from public or private sources, have often been proposed as options. A rough estimate, based on modeling of the gradual, bottom-up development of carbon markets from 2015 to 2030 suggests that the value of the Xingu indigenous lands and protected areas under a national emissions trading system might approximate $42 million per year."
Since the first UN environment meeting in Stockholm in 1972, environmentalists have debated whether we should include human population growth among the urgent challenges of human consumption, industrial toxins, species loss, global warming, and so forth.
Today it is apparent that population matters. Virtually every nation in the world seeks more commodities for its citizens, and a growing population multiplies the effect of this growing per-capita resource consumption. We could make all the right moves regarding energy systems, transportation, and recycling, and still overshoot Earth's capacity with unsustainable numbers of humans.
Next year, in September 2014, the UN will convene a special session on human population. The intention is to implement a population stabilization plan devised twenty years ago at the U.N. population conference in Cairo. The original strategy, adopted by 180 nations, cited women's rights, birth control, and economic development as keys to stabilizing population growth.
The Cairo strategy remains valid, but is useless if not implemented with meaningful targets and actions. It may also prove useless if we do not re-define "economic development" to focus on better lives for the world's poor, less wasteful consumption among the rich, and less concentration of wealth among the super-rich.
Since Cairo conference, we have gone from 5.7 billion to 7 billion people, adding about 75 million people each year - the equivalent of five cities the size of Beijing each year. But we have failed to match this growth with new infrastructure, shelter, food, water, or health care. As we add more people, we lose some 16 million hectares of forest each year, gain 6 million hectares of desert, lose 26-billion tons of topsoil, deplete aquifers, and drain rivers. These trends are not sustainable.
About ten million people starve to death each year, over a billion people go hungry, and some 2 billion have no access to clean fresh water.
The danger with UN meetings is that no substantive action will follow. Kenya lead the movement for the meeting, but warned that there will be no final document from the 2014 population session. Controversial issues such as universal women's rights, girl's education, abortion rights, and access to contraception are likely to be avoided.
Wherever women have rights over their own reproduction and where families have access to birth control, the fertility rate declines, as history has shown.
In the 1970s, fertility rates fell in Spain and Italy, not because of increased wealth, but rather following the advent of women's rights and available contraception. In Columbia, fertility rates dropped from 6 to 3.5 children per family in 15 years after contraception was made widely available.
To be successful, the U.N. must be willing to confront cultural resistance with education. The Cairo conference recognized the need for comprehensive population policies that include family planning, gender equality, and sex education for both young women and men. However, they also noted that such policies will conflict with cultural habits.
The UNFPA has been working with UNICEF to encourage communities to stop the practice of female genital mutilation. In 2012 they met directly with 1,800 communities to overcome "major obstacles related to culture," according to Babatunde Osotimehin, the UNFPA executive director. They have worked to educate communities in family planning and contraception, which Osotimehin calls "the most important intervention you can give to liberate a women's energy and life."
In the US, the Center for Biological Diversity conducted a Public Poll a found that 60% of Americans now equate human population growth to wildlife extinctions; 57% understand the link to climate change. These represent marked changes from even a decade ago.
The US is predicted to lose 36 million acres of forest to urban sprawl by 2050. In Florida, due to over-pumping of water, salt water is now intruding into the primary aquifer, which supplies water for 19 million people.
Water shortages now appear in most parts of the world, rich and poor - US plains, Beijing, Madras, Mexico - simply because of over-consumption, too many people demanding too much of a limited resources. Since 1960, for example, the Aral Sea has shrunk to about 10% of its original area.
The I = PAT formula invented in the 1970s by Paul Ehrlich and John Holdren to account for human ecological impact on the Earth's systems: Ecological Impact (I) is equal to Population (P) times Affluence (A), or average consumption, times a factor for Technology (T). This formula has been useful, but it has been found that the "Technology" factor is non-linear, meaning that a simple change in technology can create a large, exponential leap in ecological impact. Consider for example the exponential impact of deep sea drilling after the British Petroleum oil-well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, or the exponential impact of a disaster such as the Fukushima nuclear meltdown. A nuclear war would be the ultimate exponential impact.
The other problem with technology is that the living ecological system may also respond with its own multiplying effects. Every time we disturb nature, we set in motion a sequence of system responses, which then have their own impact, usually beyond our control or influence. We witness this with global heating. While carbon in the atmosphere heats the Earth, the heating itself creates feedbacks that include: melting permafrost that releases methane, which increases heating; melting ice that reduces Earth's reflective qualities (albedo), retaining more heat; dying forests that absorb less carbon; increased wildfires; and so forth.
There are ways that we can stabilize human population without unpleasantly imposed restrictions, namely with universal women's rights, education, and available contraception. We can hope that in 2014, the United Nations adopts these policies and takes serious action.
Paul Ehrlich, addressing an audience at the University of Vermont, said, "I believe and all of my colleagues believe that we are on a straightforward course to a collapse of our civilization."
"We're a small-group animal," he said, "both genetically and culturally. We have evolved to relate to groups of somewhere between 50 and 150 people." ... "nd now suddenly we're trying to live in a group not of 150 or 100 people, but of seven billion people, somewhat over seven billion people at the moment, and that is presenting us with a whole array of problems."
Those problems include an inability to recognize gradual, large-scale changes in our environment as dangerous.
“We're facing climate disruption," he said. “That is the most talked about environmental problem we face. It's not necessarily the most serious. … It may be some of the others are even more serious. The global spread of toxic substances is getting worse every year." Some substances are more dangerous to us in small quantities than large because of the way our cells process them, and we've spread these substances far and wide. “There's already nasty signs about the effects. For instance in some sub-Arctic villages they're having twice as many girl babies born as boy babies."
Ehrlich said we have to cut our fossil fuel use dramatically and completely redesign our water management infrastructure. If we don't, changing precipitation patterns will make it impossible to feed everyone on Earth.
“We're doing a crappy job of feeding people today, and yet we're sitting in a society that with equanimity looks at adding another two and a half billion people to the seven billion people we've got already."
Ehrlich said we also need to concentrate on gradually slowing and then reversing population growth. The Earth's carrying capacity is 1.5 billion people at the very most. To cut the global population from its current level to 1.5 billion, we need a fertility rate of 1.5 children per family.
“How do you do it humanely? Well, first thing you do is work very hard to get every woman on the planet exactly the same rights, opportunities, pay, and so on as every man. When women get rights, birth rates go down." Next, promote birth control.
The problem of overconsumption, Ehrlich said, could be solved almost instantly, given the right government. As an example, he mentioned how quickly the U.S. switched from producing cars to manufacturing tanks during World War II.
“If there's any reason for hope, it's that we do have a history of showing that human beings, human societies, in relatively recent times can change extremely dramatically, extremely rapidly." .. “When the time is right, you can get dramatic, dramatic changes, which indicates to me that there's a chance that when the time is right, we can change the way we behave towards each other and towards our environment and it can happen very very rapidly. I think … your main challenge is to find a way to ripen the time."
Can Drop in California's Teen Birth Rate Be Sustained Now That Youth Education Programs Have Been Cut?June 05 , 2013, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte
Between 2007 and 2011, the teen birth rate among ages 15-19 fell by 28% in California. That didn't happen by accident. Targeted teen-pregnancy prevention efforts, including PPMM's nationally recognized education programs, have been an important part of turning the problem around. But those education programs are now victims of the state budget ax.
A donation of $30 can help provide crucial sex education services for 10 students in our local middle schools and high schools.
News From AfricaJune 05 , 2013
The global food system and agricultural sustainability are under stress that is expected to increase in the coming decades, facing a growing world population of seven billion today, continuing to around nine billion around 2050 and then leveling off. Today one billion are estimated to be undernourished. Add to that hotter, drier weather, more erratic weather patterns, expanding desert areas brought about by climate change, as well as soil degradation and erosion on large areas of existing agricultural land.
The acute food crisis of 2007-2008 and ongoing poverty and malnutrition provide evidence of structural failure of the dominant market-centric organisational and institutional agricultural framework.
A report calling for root and branch changes to the world food system, specifically stating that "business as usual is not an option," was created by International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) and was sponsored by the World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and other United Nations affiliated organisations. The report took four years of work and over 400 authors, and it was ratified by 57 nations in 2008.
Unfortunately the World Bank and FAO and other key organisations have ignored this report and denigrated its legitimacy.
Key findings of the IAASTD report are as follows:
*Agriculture involves far more than yields: it has multiple social, political, cultural, institutional and environmental impacts and can equally harm or support the planet's ecosystem functions on which human life depends.
*The future of agriculture lies in biodiverse, agroecologically based farming and can be supported by ‘triple-bottom-line' business practices that meet social, environmental and economic goals.
*Reliance on resource-extractive industrial agriculture is unsustainable, particularly in the face of worsening climate, energy and water crises; expensive, short-term technical fixes - including transgenic crops - do not adequately address the complex challenges of the agricultural sector and often exacerbate social and environmental harms.
*Achieving food security and sustainable livelihoods for people now in chronic poverty requires ensuring access to and control of resources by small-scale farmers.
*Fair local, regional and global trading regimes can build local economies, reduce poverty and improve livelihoods.
*Strengthening the human and ecological resilience of agricultural systems improves our capacity to respond to changing environmental and social stresses. Indigenous knowledge and community-based innovations are an invaluable part of the solution.
*Good decision-making requires building better governance mechanisms and ensuring democratic participation by the full range of stakeholders.
The GM paradigm touts takes the existing industrialised, transnational market food system as a given and touts GM crops as the basis for a "new green revolution", and as the key solution to feeding the world in the face of population growth and the exhaustion of new sources of agricultural land. The "Green Revolution" of the 1960s was based on the technological innovations of high yielding hybrid grain varieties and synthetic fertilisers and pesticides.
However the GM paradigm does not address agricultural ecological sustainability issues such as biodiversity loss, soil and water degradation, reliance on petroleum and its byproducts, or the problem of inherently unstable food systems based on monoculture cropping, high inputs and concentration of land ownership and of agricultural input and output marketing.
Research resources are being monopolized by the centralized, privately marketable industrial-biotechnology (GM) approach to agricultural intensification, commanding a great majority of global agricultural research publications and research money at the expense of research into the knowledge based and socially embedded agro-ecological approach.
While GM-engineered herbicide resistance, toxicity to insect pests, nutrional alterations, and abiotic stress resistance, as well as the production of novel plant products such as pharmaceuticals are listed as GM accomplishments, there is no reference to data supporting actual yield increases, or any discussion of the relative merits of plant biotechnology versus other tools or actions. The promise of GM crops that effectively resist abiotic stresses such as drought remains unrealized. Economic access to high technology products by the poor is not addressed.
While GM success stories claim significant yield gains, improvements in pest management and reductions in pesticide use in developing country agriculture; results, particularly in the developing world, are mixed and equivocal. With Bt cotton in China, India and South Africa, results show that while an increase in average yields on an aggregate level can be demonstrated, but there has been a high degree of variability between regions and farmers and across seasons, with significant numbers of farmers losing out on their investment in the more expensive seeds. As for pesticide use, some studies did show a reduction, but others showed no significant impact or increases in pesticide use, including in response to major outbreaks of secondary insect pests in China.
The alleged connection between Bt cotton adoption and farmer suicides in India was dismissed, despite finding that there had in fact been poor performance in some areas that had in fact coincided with local spikes in farmer suicides. Instead, the fault was attributed to the base cotton hybrid in which the trait was inserted and of poor marketing practices. Such arguments that treat the GM trait as somehow disconnected from the socio-economic and agronomic context in which it is adopted are routinely encountered.
GM soybeans in South America that rely on broadscale glyphosate application as a routine management strategy, required an increase in pesticide use and an alarming increase in pesticide related deaths in Paraguay and major outbreaks of glyphosate resistant weeds in Argentina and Brazil, resulting in increased use of more toxic herbicides. In the Amazon basin, the rapid expansion of industrial agriculture facilitated by GM crops has resulted in accelerated land grabs and clearing of rainforest. The large scale uptake of GM crops in South America has failed to deliver demonstrable benefits in this regard, with persistent poverty and income inequality.
The globalized market driven approach transforms food into a global commodity that responds to monetary demand, not social need. It sees the poorest consumers in direct competition for basic grain foods with rich consumers, the intensive meat industry, and now biofuels manufacturers. Meanwhile, the poorest farmers are increasingly pressured to enter export markets, reducing the availability of locally grown food for local consumption or self consumption, hence increasing vulnerability to food shortage in response to price fluctuations.
Most importantly, the technology has been married to a market-industrial paradigm of agriculture characterized by ever increasing concentration of land ownership, germplasm ownership and agricultural input and output marketing ownership. This industrial model relies heavily on the finite and non-renewable resource of petroleum, and is accelerating landlessness, urbanisation, wilderness clearing, ecotoxicity, agricultural carbon and nitrogen emissions and soil and water degradation. Moreover, its basic structural features place the poorest consumers and farmers at further disadvantage. Its fundamental assumptions need to be seriously questioned as the world seeks solutions for hunger.
The massive worldwide investment in biotechnology would only be justifiable if GM crops were a panacea in their own right. While increased investment in agriculture is needed, the priorities of investment need to be urgently re-thought from the ground up, from the context of true public interest and the universal right to food. The emphasis needs to move away from private marketable goods and towards agroecological research, participatory extension services with a social mandate and free from industry influence, and participatory, localised plant breeding programs that give farmers control of improved plant genetics.
These Will Solve Our Energy Problems?June 02 , 2013
Pathfinder International's film "Female Condoms Are… Power. Protection. Pleasure," based on their female condom work in Mozambique, has won the international "Female Condoms Are…" film contest.
The winners were announced at the recent Women Deliver conference in Kuala Lumpur. Women Deliver is the largest global meeting of the decade to focus on the health and well-being of women and girls.
"The female condom is still relatively unknown in Mozambique and throughout the world, so providing correct information and overcoming social and cultural barriers are our primary goals." -Candace Lew
Pathfinder's entry was inspired by Pathfinder staff who saw an opportunity to take part in the interesting and engaging conversation on female condoms taking place across the globe. Rita Badiani, Pathfinder's Country Representative in Mozambique said “We have been inspired by the female condom project's interesting approach to disseminating information and increasing use of the female condom through support from female condom user groups and wanted to share that with the world."
Female condoms are the only female-controlled method for preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV. They also help women of all ages better negotiate safe sex in cultures where gender norms often prevent them from doing so.
Women from the communities in which Pathfinder works are invited to participate in monthly meetings to discuss health-issues in a safe, communal setting where they can bond and develop friendships and a sense of solidarity with their peers.
A small study by the University of Tennessee physicians that analyzed prescription price data from Florida reported: "We saw several contraceptive options that are more expensive in lower income areas, and that expense may limit access." The findings were released at meeting of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Researchers focused on the price of seven commonly-used contraceptives -- including various forms of the pill as well as transvaginal options like the ring. Nearly every prescription contraceptive was more expensive in low-income zip codes, the cost varying in most cases by just a few dollars, but for two of the contraceptives, it was significantly less in the wealthiest zip codes.
The reason for the difference may be that certain neighborhoods do not have a chain pharmacy that offers lower prices and runs specials.
Dr. Jeffrey Peipert, vice chair of clinical research at the Washington University in St. Louis Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, pointed out that uninsured consumers have access to, and regularly utilize, other options, including federally funded clinics that offer free birth control, or one that offers services on a sliding scale based on income. However, Peipert agreed that cost is one of the biggest barriers to prescription birth control access. "We have so many barriers in the U.S., and we have rates of unintended pregnancy that are far higher than other developed countries," he said.
Peipert led the project which counseled young women on contraceptive methods and offered the method of their choosing at no cost. After a year, 86% of the women who chose a long-acting contraceptive method were still using it, as were 55% of women who chose a non long-acting method, like the pill.
Supporting data, videos, and slideshows are available for free download at: http://www.earth-policy.org/books/fpep
It took all the years from the time that the first modern humans appeared until 1804 for the global population to reach 1 billion in 1804 and until 1927 to add a second billion. Three decades later, in 1960, world population reached 3 billion and then we added another billion every 13 years or so until we hit 7 billion in 2011.
Humans have outrun the carrying capacity of the economy's natural support systems, including its forests, fisheries, grasslands, aquifers, and soils. Additional demand can only be satisfied by consuming the resource base itself. These excesses that are undermining our global civilization.
Consider the lily pond which has started with one lily plant leaf. The second day it adds two leaves, four the third day, eight the fourth, and so on. If the pond is full on the thirtieth day, at what point is it half full? Answer: "On the twenty-ninth day." Our global lily pond may already be in the thirtieth day.
Boosting the world's population to 2.3 billion people (UN's projection of 9.3 billion 2050) is unlikely if we rely solely on declining fertility rates, due to the difficulties in expanding the food supply, such as those posed by spreading water shortages and global warming. Demographic assumptions are based on fertility levels, age distribution, and life expectancy, but rarely on guesses as to will there be enough water to grow food for 2.3 billion more people? Or: will population growth continue without interruption in the face of crop-shrinking heat waves?
While global population growth has slowed from 2.1% in 1967 to 1.1% in 2011, we don't know if population growth will slow further because we accelerate the shift to smaller families or because we fail to do so and eventually death rates begin to rise. Filling the gap of allowing the millions of women in the world who want to plan their families to actually do so by gaining access to reproductive health and family planning services would take us a long way toward stabilizing world population and also improve the health and well-being of women and their families.
Half of the world's people live in countries that are depleting their aquifers by overpumping, but as human numbers multiply, we need more and more irrigation water. 80% of oceanic fisheries are being fished at or beyond their sustainable yield now that world population growth has increased demand for seafood. We could turn to fish farming, this would require us to grow fish food such as corn and soybean meal, putting additional pressure on the earth's land and water resources.
In Africa, the increase in human numbers from 294 million in 1961 to just over 1 billion in 2010 was accompanied by growth in the livestock population from 352 million to 894 million. These livestock numbers are outgrowing grasslands, leaving the land vulnerable to soil erosion and it eventually turns to desert, depriving local people of their livelihood and food supply, as is now happening in parts of Africa, the Middle East, central Asia, and northern China.
The demand for wood due to a growing population is exceeding the regenerative capacity of forests. The world's forests are currently losing a net 5.6 million hectares per year. Mauritania, for example has lost nearly all of its forest and are now essentially treeless. Without trees, erosion will occur, making it more difficult to produce enough food.
Plowing of marginal land leading to soil erosion and eventually cropland abandonment is happening in Africa, the Middle East, and much of Asia.
Faced with falling water tables, not a single country has mobilized to reduce water use so that it would not exceed the sustainable yield of an aquifer. We cannot afford to ignore the threats from the risks we are taking, acting like earlier civilizations that failed to reverse the environmental trends that undermined their food economies.
The bright side is that 44 countries, including nearly all those in both Western and Eastern Europe, with about 14% of humanity, have reached population stability as a result of gradual fertility decline. China's population of 1.35 billion is projected to peak in 2026 at 1.4 billion and then start shrinking.
Latin America's population growth is slowing. From just over 600 million in 2012, is projected to reach 751 million by 2050. Brazil, the largest country in the region, is projected to grow only 12% over nearly four decades.
However, virtually all of the population growth will be in developing countries, the areas least able to support them. This would include the Indian subcontinent: India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are expected to grow from 1.6 billion people to almost 2.2 billion by 2050; and Africa south of the Sahara: expected to grow from 899 million people to 2.2 billion by 2050.
The big challenge for the world today is to help these fast-growing regions accelerate the shift to smaller families, both by eradicating poverty and by ensuring that all women have access to reproductive health care and family planning services.
Populations in Germany. Russia, and Japan are projected to shrink by roughly one tenth by 2050. Meanwhile, by 2050, Nigeria, about the size of Texas, will go from 167 million people to 390 million; Ethiopia, one of the world's hungriest countries, will go from 87 million to 145 million; and Pakistan, 8% the size of the U.S., from 180 million to 275 million.
The "demographic transition" explains the dynamics of population growth as societies modernize. In pre-modern societies, where both births and deaths are high, there is little or no population growth. Stage Two is when, as health care improves, death rates decline but birth rates remain high and population growth accelerates, typically at 3% a year. Not many of us realize that a 3% annual rate of growth will actually lead to a 20-fold growth in a century. Stage Three is when living standards continue to improve, women are educated, the birth rates start to decline, and births and deaths reach a balance.
Most countries are in stage two or three, but some countries are trapped in stage two, where governments are worn down by the struggle to build schools and provide jobs, often overwhelmed by land and water shortages, disease, civil conflict, and other adverse effects of prolonged rapid population growth. Soon they may no longer be able to provide personal security, food security, or basic social services such as education and health care; and then they lose their legitimacy and often their authority to govern. They may become failed states, such as Yemen, Ethiopia, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Afghanistan. Pakistan and Nigeria are not far behind.
The top 20 failing states, almost without exception, have high levels of fertility, according to Fund for Peace.
Countries that reach stage three, with lower fertility and fewer children, often reap a "demographic bonus," which happens when the number of young dependents declines sharply relative to the number of working adults. Household savings climb, investment rises and economic growth accelerates.
Japan, after it made a big effort to cut family size after WW II, became the first country to gain the bonus benefit, and, after three decades, raised Japan's income per person to one of the highest in the world, its economy second only to the United States. South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore followed shortly thereafter. China's declining birth rate created an unusually large demographic bonus, spurring investment because people were able to save a good share of their incomes. Sri Lanka, Mexico, Iran, Tunisia, and Viet Nam are now seeing the demographic bonus.
If world population growth does not slow dramatically, the number of people trapped in hydrological poverty and hunger will almost certainly grow, threatening food security, economic progress, and political stability. The only humane option is to move quickly to replacement-level fertility of two children per couple.
The Guttmacher Institute and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) have launched a new publication which makes accessible a wealth of data on adolescent sexual health and rights in 30 countries, and to provide guidance on how to apply the data to advocacy, education and service provision efforts. The guide is designed to be a resource for youth advocates, sexuality educators and service providers as well as others working to advance the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people around the world.
The three core chapters of the guide highlight 70 key indicators on issues such as sexual activity and marriage; contraceptive knowledge, use and need; childbearing; sexuality education in schools; adolescents‚ ability to advocate for and ensure their own sexual health; and societal norms and gender equality. The guide also presents information on the best ways to reach young people by providing information about their level of school attendance and exposure to different forms of media. Each indicator is defined and discussed in terms of how it can be employed in advocacy, service provision and sexuality education contexts.
The data comes from Demographic and Health Surveys for 30 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Europe: Albania, Moldova and Ukraine.
Bioenergy crops such as Miscanthus and switchgrass appear to be promising resources for renewable energy, but Jody Endres - University of Illinois professor of energy and environmental law and chair of the Council on Sustainable Biomass Production (CSBP) - says standards are needed so farmers, ethanol producers, and others in the biofuels industry will all be on the same page here in the United States as well as in Europe and Brazil.
"We can put any requirement into writing, but will it really work on the ground or is it just 'green washing?'. "Endres said. "Even though we think we're achieving rural development, receiving carbon reductions or climate mitigation benefits, or that we're having increased energy security, people may still be suspicious of biomass fuels unless there is a certification that we can operationalize."
First, to achieve public acceptance, standards must be built upon foundations of good governance.
Second, the producer's sustainability toolbox, including a determination as to whether or not existing tools are effective, must be fortified. "For example, environmentalists would like to see improvements at the watershed scale. If only isolated farmers need to be certified, and they have to figure out what their contributions to that watershed are, it can be very difficult, particularly when states have not fully assessed baseline water quality and all parties responsible for its degradation."
Third, international harmonization is needed. "Even if the biomass goes to the biorefinery with the right lignin-to-sugar content and the right amount of water, if you had to add nitrogen to produce it, or lost habitat or soil when harvesting it, it may not comply with European regulations. "Environmental groups don't want to see a race to the bottom -- adopting requirements that are bare minimum." One the other hand, small farmers must be able to meet the standard.
The European Renewable Energy Directive is primarily concerned with land conversion -- high carbon stock land or lands that are high in biodiversity values," Endres said. "They also require a cross-compliance with agro- environmental laws, which is something required in return for receipt of agricultural payments under the Common Agricultural Program. In large part, we don't have a similar system in the United States."
For example, in the aviation industry: "To land a plane in Europe, U.S. carriers will have to prove that they have reduced their carbon footprint below a certain level. If not, they will have to buy credits within the European Emissions Trading System. Although the requirement has been postponed until January 2014, the aviation sector is actively seeking ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through biofuels. The challenge is not only how to convert cellulosics into jet fuel, but also how to certify that they are grown, refined, and distributed in a sustainable manner," Endres said.
Potsdam Institute projection suggests population growth would increase imported food, even without climate changeMay 07 , 2013, Mail and Guardian
An analysis by Marianela Fader of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, found that , although many countries choose to import food now, there are surprisingly few that could not maintain the same diet and still be food self-sufficient. Today there are 66 countries, with 16% of the world's population, "who are not able to be self-sufficient due to water and/or land constraints," she said. These countries, found in North Africa, the Middle East and Central America, will need to import food from other countries to support with over half their combined populations.
The study used current data on population, and food and water consumption in each nation and projected forward to 2050.
The countries with the most reliance on imports were found in North Africa, the Middle East and Central America, with over half the population depending on imported food in many of these locations. Outside those locations many countries could become food self-sufficient if they chose to.
However, by 2050 more countries would have to maximize food production - by improving agricultural productivity, and expanding cropland, for example - to feed their population. Over half the world's population could depend on imported food by 2050.
"Assuming that all low-income economies achieve full potential productivity by 2050 in addition to full cropland expansion - which would be a huge societal and technological challenge and thus a very optimistic assumption - the food self-sufficiency gap will still be equivalent to about 55-123 million people, with over 20 million in Niger and Somalia alone," noted Fader. Climate change was not included in the study and could make the problem even more severe.
The UK, the Netherlands, Japan, and a number of other developed countries are already unable to meet the food requirements of their populations. However, these nations will probably be able to buy their way out of the problem.
Food security is going to be a big issue over the coming decades. Improving agricultural productivity can play a key role in maintaining food security. A change in diet, such as towards more seasonal and vegetarian food, could also have a significant impact, but this was not part of the study.
Not All About Consumption; Resource exploitation can lead to increased ecological impacts even when overall consumption levels stay the sameMarch 15, 2013, Science magazine
Humans could continue to extract oil, coal, natural gas, and many minerals for decades, but the escalating ecological implications of doing so demand research and policy attention.
Oil on the market today has a larger ecological footprint than in 1950, and in 2050 will have a larger ecological footprint than that of today. This increase in footprint is due to the increasing energy inputs required for production magnified by the increasing ecological impact from production. Exploiting less-accessible resources requires more diluting agents, water, and land, and produces more waste. Furthermore, once resources near population centers are depleted, more geographically remote reserves are accessed, increasing the ecological costs of transport.
Even if consumption is held constant, ecological impact can increase -- not only for energy but also for other resources.
Ricardo's law of diminishing returns observed that marginal agricultural land requires more inputs and generates less profit. More recently, using the IPAT formula (Impact = Population x Affluence x Technology) , ecological impact is a function of consumption, but it lacks a variable that captures the condition of ecosystems.
Domestic oil fields have declined, and exports now constitute 75% of global production. Newly discovered fields are smaller and geographically dispersed, requiring greater transit distances. They are also deeper, requiring more energy to extract, and entail greater ecological risks, which became clear when BP's 10.7km deep Deepwater Horizon well exploded in 2010.
In Alberta Canada, oil has been produced for half a century; from 1955 to 2006, the area of land required to extract a barrel of oil has increased 12-fold.
Conventional oil well pads in Alberta consume 3.3 ha on average, but the ecosystem fragmentation caused by the roads and pipelines required to support the wells results in a much higher total impact. Also the average number of wells abandoned annually in the past decade was 4111; the number reclaimed averaged 1682.
Recently Alberta has seen rapidly growing oil sands exploitation, with emission levels 23 times that of conventional production. 80% of the deposit must be accessed by drilling, substantially increasing cumulative land disruption: Three times as much land is disturbed to produce the natural gas required for oil-sand drilling as is consumed by the wells themselves.
It is likely that resource quality for oil sands will decline over time as a given reserve is depleted. It can be assumed that the energy inputs required for oil-sands extraction and processing will escalate. Currently, this energy mostly comes from regional natural gas supplies, which are in steep decline. In the very near future, oil-sands exploitation will require other sources of natural gas, which have a higher ecological impact than do the conventional, regional sources.
Since there is a global trend toward much more investment in nonconventional fossil fuel enterprises than in renewable alternatives, we will see an increased ecological impact per unit of fuel produced. Coal production, which is growing at a faster rate than any other fossil fuel, is increasingly dominated by surface and mountain-top mining, which is more ecologically disruptive than underground mining.
Looking at at nonenergy sectors, in China, production efficiency gains in land use for grain production leveled off 30 years ago, but inputs continue to increase, including a 10-fold increase in groundwater extraction to support irrigation since 1961 and a nearly 17-fold increase in fertilizer use between 1961 and 2009. Global fish catch peaked in the past 10 years at approximately 90 million tons, yet fishing effort has continued to increase by 1.1% per year, resulting in more by-catch, damage from fishing equipment, and fuel consumption.
At the Family Planning Summit held in London in July 2012, participants pledged $2.6 billion dollars in additional funding to provide 120 million new women who have 'unmet need' with family planning products and services by 2020 in 69 of the world's poorest countries. This goal has been dubbed 'FP2020.'
However, there may not be 120 million new users to be found in the 69 of the world's poorest countries,
Christopher Purdy, Executive vice president, DKT International found, using UN estimates, that there are 144 million women with unmet need, 73% of them in 20 countries, which include lower-middle and upper-middle income countries such as India, the Philippines, and Algeria. Using the same UN estimates, if we consider only the 69 priority countries of FP2020, the number of all 15-49 year old women with unmet need drops to 109 million. However, if we include only those countries with per capita GNI (PPP adjusted) below $2,500, the number with unmet need drops to around 48 million.
Most of these countries are in Africa, the area where donors are understandably focusing a majority of their resources.
However, while most of the unmet need is where the people are, they are not necessarily where average income levels are lowest. Many of these countries are are lower-middle ($1,026 - $4,035) and upper middle-income ($4,036 - 12,475) countries. This includes countries like Indonesia, South Africa, and Mexico, where there are large pockets of poor people who need family planning. Of the 30 most populous countries - 72% of the world's population - only 12 of them fall below the $2,500 threshold, according to the UN Contraceptive Wall Chart.
Unless we invest in these countries, we will be hard-pressed to reach 120 million new women. For DKT, this meant opening up new programs in Pakistan and Nigeria (both lower-middle income countries) last year.
Allocation of human and financial resources is underway but needs to be aligned with the realities of where the greatest chance for success can be achieved. It would appear that some re-orientation may be required to avoid falling short of FP2020's ambitious target 7 years from now.
Between 1900 and 2000, global energy consumption rose roughly 17-fold, while economic output rose 16-fold — "as close a link as one may find in the unruly realm of economic affairs," University of Manitoba environmental scientist Vaclav Smil has calculated. Of the 11 recessions since the end of the Second World War, all but one were associated with spikes in energy costs — specifically, abrupt jumps in the price of oil.
The rush for imported oil started in 1911 when Winston Churchill, as First Lord of the Admiralty, pushed to replace coal with oil to power the Royal Navy because fuel oil produces about twice as much energy as coal, and ships go faster and farther on oil. Since the U.K had next to no oil, it bought 51% of what is now British Petroleum, which had rights to Iranian oil. This evoked a revolution in Iran, and so Britain worked to install new shahs in Iran and carved Iraq out of the collapsing Ottoman Empire.
Soon all of the Western powers joined the race to secure oil concessions in the Middle East. The struggle created decades of turmoil, oil shocks in 1973 and 1979, failed programs for "energy independence," and two wars in Iraq.
Then, in the 1970s, geologists discovered beneath the seafloor methane hydrate -- deposits of water molecules laced into frigid cages that trap “guest molecules" of crystalline natural gas -- perhaps twice as abundant as all other fossil fuels combined.
Japan is a military and industrial power almost wholly dependent on foreign energy. It is the world's third-biggest net importer of crude oil, the second-biggest importer of coal, and the biggest importer of liquefied natural gas. Japan Oil, Gas, and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) has been exploring the extraction of this methane-hydrate.
In January this year, the Chikyu, a Japanese deep-sea drilling vessel, set out to begin a production test. By mid-March, it had already retrieved about 4 million cubic feet of natural gas from methane hydrate, at double the expected rate. Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry set 2018 as a target date for commercializing methane hydrate. India and South Korea are following along, each spending as much as $30 million a year on hydrate experiments.
If the Chikyu efforts are successful, methane hydrate could have similar effects in Japan, China, India, Korea, Taiwan, and Norway.
The petroleum industry has recently been recharged by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking — a technique for splitting rock by shooting water mixed with sand and chemicals into it and releasing previously inaccessible oil, referred to as “tight oil." Natural gas is also released, which, when yielded from shale, is known as shale gas. Fracking has been attacked as menace to underground water supplies, and may eventually be greatly restricted. But it has also produced so much petroleum in North America that the International Energy Agency predicted that by 2035, the United States will become “all but self-sufficient."
Scientists claim that avoiding the worst effects of climate change will require a complete phase-out of carbon emissions over 50 years. However, natural gas burns so much cleaner than coal that the switch from coal to gas - brought about by fracking -- has already reduced U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions to their lowest levels since the 1970s. But burning natural gas still produces carbon dioxide. Some scientists consider natural gas a bridge fuel, but if societies do not take advantage of that bridge to enact anti-carbon policies, natural gas could be “a bridge from the coal-fired past to the coal-fired future," says Michael Levi, the director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change at the Council on Foreign Relations. It could undermine the economic rationale for investing in renewable, carbon-free energy around the world".
There are also the surprising oil fields like the Kern River in Bakersfiled California, that was first drilled in 1899 and is still producing oil after analysts said in 1949 that it was nearly played out. In 1998, an oil rig near the Kern River field drilled thousands of feet deeper than any previous attempt in the area and released an enormous gusher.
In 1956 by M. King Hubbert, a prominent geophysicist at Shell Oil spoke about how easy, cheap oil was taken first and that extracting the rest gets progressively more difficult and expensive. Eventually, Hubbert observed, conditions get so tough that production levels off — it peaks. After the peak, decline is unstoppable. Hubbert predicted that the crude-oil yield in the continental United States would flatten between 1965 and 1970.
On the other hand, under Hubbert's boss, Vincent E. McKelvey, the USGS issued a stream of optimistic assessments about the country's oil future. However, Hubbert's prediction proved to be correct. In 1977, newly elected President Jimmy Carter, a Hubbertian, forced McKelvey to resign. President Carter proclaimed that the planet's proven oil reserves could be consumed “by the end of the next decade," and instituted energy-efficiency measures: gas-mileage regulation, home-appliance energy standards, conservation tax credits, and subsidies for insulation and weatherization.
However, in the 1980s so much crude oil was found that, by the 1990s, prices had fallen to one-fifth of what they had been during the Carter administration. Estimates of reserves rose and rose again. Energy conservation faltered; oil and gas were too cheap to be worth conserving.
On one side, pessimists claim that the planet is slowly running out of petroleum. The other side, the McKelveyans insist that there are vast, untapped petroleum deposits in Alaska and Alberta and off the coast of Virginia, that geysers of natural gas exist in the shale beds of Pennsylvania and North Dakota, and that huge oil patches await extraction in the deep ocean.
Looking again at the Kern River field, its pumps are siphoning up oil so goopy that it almost doesn't float on water, very difficult to extract from the ground. After 1949 engineers developed a precursor to fracking: shooting hot steam down Kern River wells to thin the oil and force it out of the stone. At first heating the water to produce the steam required as much as 40% of the oil that came out of the wells and burning unrefined crude oil released torrents of pollution: nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide. But it squeezed out petroleum that had seemed impossible to reach.
To McKelveyan followers, innovation will keep pushing down the cost of getting the rest. Natural resources cannot be used up, they claim. If one deposit gets too expensive to drill, producers will either find cheaper deposits or shift to a different energy source altogether. Because the hardest-to-get stuff is left in the ground, there will always be petroleum to mine later. The race between declining oil and advancing technology determines the size of a reserve - not the number of hydrocarbon molecules in the ground.
Companies that scrambled to follow the Kern River gusher found millions of barrels of deep oil, but it was mixed with so much water that they couldn't stop the wells from flooding. Within a few years, almost all the new rigs ceased operation. The reserve vanished, but the oil remained.
In the 1980s, OPEC discussed allocating sales based on the size of member states' reserves and six of the 11 OPEC members abruptly hiked their reserve estimates during these discussions. Petroleum geologists Jean Laherrère and Colin Campbell who co-founded the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO) denied these sweeping claims of huge reserves. Their prediction in 1998 that “within the next decade, the supply of conventional oil will be unable to keep up with demand," came true.
Laherrère says. “Once we have used up the easy oil, new types of cheap energy will not appear by magic. We will keep drilling for oil, and it will not be easy to get. Look at the enormously expensive equipment they use now only to keep up production."
“The supply of oil is limited," said President George W. Bush in 2008, echoing Carter. Since then bookshelves shudder beneath the avalanche of warnings, but McKelveyans remain undeterred. Michael Lynch, of the energy-consulting firm SEER, said "It's because the technology is getting better and increasing our reach."
Fracking is unleashing torrents of oil in North Dakota and Texas - it may create a second boom in the San Joaquin Valley - and floods of natural gas in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. As companies switch to cheap natural gas, the U.S. petroleum boom could add as much as 3.3% to America's GDP in the next seven years, according to a Citigroup report. Leonardo Maugeri, of the Italian energy firm Eni, said that, by 2020, all of this country's oil needs “theoretically could come entirely from the Western Hemisphere." Because of fracking, U.S. natural-gas reserves have jumped by almost three-quarters since 2000.
Japan, China, India, much of Europe and Southeast Asia do not have either shale deposits to frack, or the requisite technological base, or the entrepreneurial infrastructure to finance such sweeping changes. Methane hydrate offers some promise to these countries.
Petroleum unconventionals take many forms: tar sands, tight oil, heavy oil, shale gas, coal-bed methane, shale oil, oil shale. (shale oil is different from oil shale.) Methane hydrate is, by some estimates, twice as abundant as all other fossil fuels combined. Unconventionals can be of two kinds: forms of petroleum that are heavier and less refined than the crudest of crude oil, and forms that are lighter and more refined than crude oil. The second category, which includes the natural gas from methane hydrate, seems likely to play a much larger role in humankind's future.
Tar sands have an EROEI of 4 to 7. Plus extracting the bitumen also requires a lot of water. Where is it all going to come from? And to convey the tar sand oil requires building a huge pipeline from Alberta to Texas. This pipeline has been stalled by opposition from U.S. environmentalists, just as pipelines within Canada have been stalled by opposition from both environmentalists and indigenous peoples.
Energy costs for fracking are surprisingly small; a Swiss-American research team calculated in 2011 that the average EROEI for fracked gas in a representative Pennsylvania county was about 87 - about six times better than for Persian Gulf oil and 16 times better than for tar sands. (Fracking uses a lot of water, though, and activists charge that the chemicals contaminate underground water supplies.)
Jean Laherrère claims that shale gas is a “Ponzi scheme" in which oil companies acquire largely fictional methane deposits to polish their balance sheets for Wall Street. A recent Post Carbon Institute study dismissed shale gas as “a temporary reprieve from having to deal with the real problems." But the head of the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said that the additions to America's energy reserves were the "highest ever recorded since EIA began publishing proved reserve estimates in 1977."
The most promising U.S. deposits of methane-hydrate are in the Gulf of Mexico. Hydrates are thought to blanket about 174,000 square miles of the Gulf, an area about the size of California. Timothy Collett, the energy-research director for the USGS program, says that some of the gulf's more than 3,500 oil and gas wells are in gas-hydrate areas. Extracting these hydrates, in his view, is the logical next step “..as you go into decline on deepwater production."
If one nation succeeds in producing commercial quantities of undersea methane, others will follow. The consequences would be turbulent in petro-autocratic countries where “The possibilities for corruption are endless." Governments dip into the oil kitty to reward friends and buy off enemies. A methane-hydrate boom could lead to a southwest-to-northeast arc of instability through Venezuela, Nigeria, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Siberia.
Also the methane hydrate is inconveniently located in areas of disputed sovereignty. An energy-independent planet may turn out to be be a world of fractious, autonomous actors, none beholden to the others, with even less cooperation than exists today.
Burning coal often releases black carbon, tiny particles that can get into the lungs, estimated to kill 100,000 people in India in a year. Black carbon absorbs heat, darkens clouds, and sometimes alters rain patterns. Falling on snow, it accelerates melting. A four-year assessment from nine nations recently claimed that planetary black-carbon output is the second-biggest driver of anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change.
Natural gas produces next to no soot and half the carbon dioxide that coal does. Replacing coal with with natural gas would be a huge step. Methane itself has a much greater capacity to trap solar heat than carbon dioxide does -- about 20 or 30 times more potent. However, while there are some concerns about escaping methane, we can be assured that any escaping underwater methane will be re-trapped by the cold temperature and high pressures that trapped it in the first place. The real concern, Carolyn Ruppel of the Geological Survey reports, is a slow discharge at ground level, from the machinery that will pull methane hydrate out of the seafloor. The problem already exists with fracking. If a well leaks more than about 3% of its methane production into the air, “natural gas actually becomes dirtier than coal, from a climate-change perspective," says Ramez Naam, the author of The Infinite Resource. Worse still, the aging natural-gas infrastructure is riddled with holes and seeps. Early this year, a survey of gas mains along Boston's 785 miles of road, the first-ever such examination, found 3,356 leaks.
Fixing leaks is something that developed nations can accomplish. What we can't do, or at least not readily, is overcome the laws of economics.
Typical solar cells today have an EROEI of about 10 - better than tar sands but worse than most oil and gas. One recent estimate put the EROEI of Spain's extensive solar-power network at less than three. Many advocates for solar power believe that its EROEI will match that of fossil fuels within a decade. However, as more and more energy comes from sun, wind, tides, and other variable sources, the problem of balancing fluctuating supply and fluctuating demand will worsen. When renewables supply 20 to 30% of all electricity, the system will no longer be able to balance supply and demand. Brownouts will ripple across the landscape; control centers will call up big companies and beg them to turn off the lights. Germany, a leader in renewable-energy use, is already facing this situation. Natural gas seems like the perfect stopgap.
The biggest problem occurs when renewables are ready for prime time after shale fracking is replaced globally by undersea mining of methane hydrate. Revamping the electrical grid from conventionals like coal and oil to accommodate unconventionals like natural gas and solar power is daunting in scale and scope, but it must be done to avert climate change, because electricity generation is responsible for about a third of America's greenhouse-gas emissions.
Scientists have experimented with injecting carbon dioxide into methane hydrate, which takes it in and expels natural gas. If undersea methane hydrate could be mined in this fashion, the sequestered carbon dioxide, forever imprisoned in ice beneath the waves, would offset some emissions. This new kind of carbon sequestration could ameliorate some of the long-term environmental damage that widespread global use of cheap natural gas from methane hydrate will do.
Plentiful natural gas will give us less incentive to accommodate solar power. Vaclav Smil, the University of Manitoba environmental scientist, claims: “Energy transitions are always slow." Modern energy infrastructures, assembled over decades, cannot be revamped overnight. And, there is little public appetite for beginning the process, or even appreciating the magnitude of what lies ahead.
Natural gas, both from fracking and in methane hydrate, gives us a way to cut back on carbon emissions while we work toward a more complete solution. It could be a useful crutch. But only if we have the wit to know that we will soon have to lay it down.
Hopefully we can all agree that the current energy economy is fundamentally toxic to nature and people; that we need to build a new energy economy, one that supports flourishing human and natural communities; that the future energy economy should be powered by renewable sources, not fossil fuels. But consensus breaks down getting into the specifics of just how to advance toward this energy future.
Some "green power" activists are upset by the new book ENERGY: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth, centerpiece of Post Carbon Institute's Energy Reality Campaign because -- among the photos of coal plants, tar-sands development, and the shattered hulk of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station -- a handful of the book's roughly 200 photos were of a concentrated solar plant and a wind power development which were accompanied by a headline which used the phrase "energy blight."
Some environmentalists don't want to look at the significant ecological costs of renewables, but hope to create support for "green" energy by only talking about the upsides. They believe that discussing the downsides only strengthens the fossil-fuel lobbies that are hell-bent on cooking the planet.
But all large-scale energy infrastructure destroys habitat, whether it is hardwood forests cleared for ridgeline wind power development on Lowell Mountain in Vermont, or Mojave Desert vegetation displaced by concentrated solar generating facilities. And big, river-killing dams can produce lots of power with low greenhouse gas emissions.
I am not sympathetic to techno-utopians who seem to think embracing every "green" energy technology, from biofuels to wave power to concentrated solar plants, is going to allow humanity to keep growing our numbers and economic output without destroying the ecosphere.
Conservation and efficiency first, not "drill baby drill" or “build baby build." We envision a future energy economy that supports wild nature, not corporate profit; that fosters beauty and biodiversity, rather than spreading ugliness and ecological damage; that promotes health for nature and people, not perpetual economic growth. And of course is anchored by renewables, not fossil fuels.
Issues of scale, ownership, indigenous rights, and corporate influence over political decision-making are heating up everywhere that large-scale renewables are proposed, from the mega-dams of Brazil and Chilean Patagonia to wind power development in southern Mexico.
Each year in the United States an estimated 11,300 babies die on the day they are born, according to Save the Children. This is the highest first-day death rate in the industrialized world. Investing in and expanding the reach of programs like Medicaid and Title X would make affordable pregnancy-related care and family planning services available to millions of women otherwise unable to obtain such care and would result in fewer first day deaths.
Contributing factors include preterm, unplanned and teen births. One in eight U.S. babies are born prematurely and U.S. preterm births rank second only to Cyprus in the industrialized world. Half of all U.S. pregnancies are unintended and the U.S. adolescent birth rate is the highest among industrialized countries -- with teenage mothers tending to be poorer, less educated and receiving less prenatal care than older mothers.
Comprehensive efforts are needed to reduce pervasive economic, social and health disparities, including improving access to high-quality, affordable maternity care for all women and making effective family planning available to every woman who needs it. These interventions are proven to offer direct and positive effects on newborns' and mothers' health.
Studies show there is a causal link between proper birth spacing and low birth weight, preterm birth and small size for gestational age. There is also an association between pregnancy intention and delayed initiation of prenatal care; women are less likely to recognize a pregnancy early if it is unplanned and therefore have fewer prenatal care visits. Children born from unintended pregnancies are less likely to be breast-fed at all or for a long duration.
Contraception has played a major roll in the drop of the U.S. teen birth rate, which has declined for nearly two decades and the 2010 rate represents a 44% drop from the 1991 rate.
Medicaid, Title X and other public programs help women avoid 1.94 million unintended pregnancies each year, which would otherwise result in 860,000 unplanned births and 810,000 abortions. Without these programs, levels of unintended pregnancy would be nearly two-thirds higher among U.S. women overall and among teens -- and close to twice as high among poor women. Ideological and fiscal attacks against these programs are not only counterproductive, but threaten to worsen what is already a severe crisis for U.S. women and newborns.
Egypt imports about half of its food; however, its foreign currency reserves have been shrinking dramatically and without more external aid, it's difficult to see how Egypt will manage to feed itself.
Recently Qatar, Turkey, and Libya pledged $6.2 billion so that Egypt could continue to purchase wheat, cooking oil, and other staples, but without a continuous flow of aid, it is hard to see how Egypt survives. Egypt has been trying to negotiate a $4.8 billion loan from the IMF, but the IMF is not an international relief agency; it expects its loans to be repaid and will not extend credit when repayment is not made.
Egypt has more people than Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, and the United Arab Emirates combined. Egypt is also heavily dependent on diesel imports to transport its food and run its agriculture machinery. One-third of its population is under the age of 15, and it is estimated that 40% of Egyptians are living on less than $2 a day. In 13 years or less, Egypt's population, currently 82 million, is projected to reach 102 million, and by 2050, 135 million.
With political instability in recent years, Egypt can no longer rely upon tourism to pay the bills. And without a healthier economy, there's no end in sight to the political unrest.
Egypt's poor and middle class are heavily dependent on government food and fuel subsidies for their economic survival. The IMF is insisting that the government agree to trim them on the claim that they are wasteful. However, trimming them would almost certainly fuel widespread protests and further undermine the government.
President Morsi is banking on the large number of Egyptian young people as a source of potential economic strength, hoping that Egypt will soon join the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. Not likely. It would take a whole lot of education and foreign investment to productively employ Egypt's youth; Egypt is just too big.
If Egypt had curbed corruption, educated more girls, empowered women, and instituted economic reforms two or three decades ago, it might have had a fighting chance of turning its demographic corner and joining the BRICS, but its food and foreign currency reserves are steadily shrinking and its population and number of unemployed youth are rising.
In the end, Egypt may be too big and too late to save.
Other countries may see similar dim prospects. Syria is a political nightmare. Yemen's capitol city, Sanaa, could run out of water by the end of this decade. Saudi Arabia is estimated by Citigroup Inc. to be a net oil importer by 2030.
Marco Musiani, a University of Calgary ecologist, concluded from a 5 year study, "Our results led us to believe that ecologists have underestimated the impact of humans on natural food chains. The data we collected shows that humans are deliberately or inadvertently engineering ecosystems regardless of whether they would be naturally pre-disposed to top-down or bottom-up effects. Even in protected areas, the influence of humans might be greater than we previously thought."
The study attempted to determine whether natural ecosystems and associated food chains are primarily regulated by predators or by the productivity of plant species, called top-down and bottom-up effects, respectively.
The research area stretched from Calgary in the northeast, through to the provincial borders with British Columbia in the west and the US-Canada border in the south. "We painstakingly monitored wolves, elk, cattle and plant species, as well as humans for five years. We evaluated how these species interacted across the landscape and ultimately found that humans dominated the ecosystem," lead author Tyler Muhly, PhD, said.
Alerts, Take Action
Proposed Nationwide Abortion Ban
A bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks has been authored In the U.S. House of Representatives by Arizona Rep. Trent Franks, who seems determined to deny women access to safe and legal abortion -- even if it endangers their health, even if the majority of Americans disagree, and even though a federal appeals court just overturned a similar ban in his home state.
Can Drop in California's Teen Birth Rate Be Sustained Now That Youth Education Programs Have Been Cut?
Between 2007 and 2011, the teen birth rate among ages 15-19 fell by 28% in California. That didn't happen by accident. Targeted teen-pregnancy prevention efforts, including PPMM's nationally recognized education programs, have been an important part of turning the problem around. But those education programs are now victims of the state budget ax.
California: Support Medi-Cal Expansion
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), California has the chance to expand Medi-Cal coverage for low-income individuals throughout the state. Two bills, ABX1 1 and SBX1 1 would do just that.
May 31 - June 11
Women's Greater Economic Empowerment Workshop
June 5 - World Environment Day
June 8 - World Ocean Day
July 11 - World Population Day
August 12 - International Youth Day
August 22 - Earth Overshoot Day - the day when humanity has consumed all the resources the planet will produce this year (advances every year)
September 4 - World Sexual Health Day
September 26 - World Day for Universal Access to Contraceptives
September 28 - Day of Action to Decriminalise Abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean
October 11 - International Day of the Girl
October 16 - World Food Day
October 17 - International Day for Eradication of Poverty
October 17-23 - World Population Awareness Week
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South Asia 2000
South Asia 2001