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

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

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

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Mother Caring for 7 Billion doc

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

Population & Sustainability News Digest

October 30, 2014

Global Overpopulation Would ‘Withstand War, Disasters and Disease'

National Academy of Sciences says even brutal world conflict or lethal pandemic would leave unsustainable human numbers
October 28 , 2014, Guardian   By: Mark Tran

The pace of population growth is so quick that even draconian restrictions of childbirth, pandemics or a third world war would still leave the world with too many people for the planet to sustain, according to a study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, co-led by Prof Barry Brook and Prof Corey Bradshaw, both from the University of Adelaide, in Australia.

The report recommends not reducing population but instead cutting the consumption of natural resources and enhanced recycling to insure a better chance of achieving effective sustainability gains in the next 85 years.

Based on demographic data from the World Health Organisation and the US Census Bureau, the researchers used a model that analysed different population reduction scenarios. Under current conditions of fertility, mortality and mother's average age at first childbirth, they estimated that global population would grow from 7 billion in 2013 to 10.4 billion in 2100.

Climate change, war, reduced mortality and fertility, and increased maternal age altered this prediction only slightly. A devastating global pandemic that killed 2 billion people was only projected to reduce population size to 8.4 billion, while 6 billion deaths brought it down to 5.1 billion.

"Global population has risen so fast over the past century that roughly 14% of all the human beings that have ever existed are still alive today." ... "This is considered unsustainable for a range of reasons, not least being able to feed everyone as well as the impact on the climate and environment," said Prof Bradshaw.

"Even a worldwide one-child policy like China's, implemented over the coming century, or catastrophic mortality events like global conflict or a disease pandemic, would still likely result in 5-10 billion people by 2100," Bradshaw added.

Brook warned that the slow momentum of the global human population ruled out any demographic quick fixes to our sustainability problems. "Our work reveals that effective family planning and reproduction education worldwide have great potential to constrain the size of the human population and alleviate pressure on resource availability over the longer term," he said. "Our great-great-great-great grandchildren might ultimately benefit from such planning, but people alive today will not."

“It will take centuries, and the long-term target remains unclear," said the report. “However, some reduction could be achieved by mid-century and lead to hundreds of millions fewer people to feed. More immediate results for sustainability would emerge from policies and technologies that reverse rising consumption of natural resources." doclink

Karen Gaia says: We must do both: voluntary family planning and consume less. There is a big difference between 5 billion and 10 billion people. The author seems unaware that meeting the unmet need for contraception by more affordable, accessible and effective contraception, combined with better education about contraception, and more girls going to school and behavior modeling via educational soaps, will go a long way towards lowering fertility - much faster than China's policy did.

'Slow, Insidious' Soil Erosion Threatens Human Health and Welfare as Well as the Environment, Cornell Study Asserts

March 20, 2006, Cornell Chronicle   By: Susan S. Lang

Note: much of the data in this article is still valid:

Soil worldwide is being swept and washed away 10 to 40 times faster than it is being replenished, destroying cropland the size of Indiana every year, according to a recent Cornell University study led by David Pimentel, professor of ecology at Cornell.

"Soil erosion is second only to population growth as the biggest environmental problem the world faces," said Pimentel.

"Erosion is a slow and insidious process," he said. "Yet, controlling soil erosion is really quite simple: The soil can be protected with cover crops when the land is not being used to grow crops."

To replace the soil washed away in a rain storm it would take 20 years of leaving the land to natural processes to replace that loss, he said. Most of this soil ends up in rivers, streams and lakes, making waterways more prone to flooding and to contamination from soil's fertilizers and pesticides.

The United States is losing soil 10 times faster -- and China and India are losing soil 30 to 40 times faster -- than the natural replenishment rate.

The economic impact of soil erosion in the United States is about $37.6 billion each year and worldwide it is $400 billion per year. Over the past 40 years, 30% of the world's arable land has become unproductive due to erosion.

Soil erosion also reduces the ability of soil to store water and support plant growth, thereby reducing its ability to support biodiversity. Erosion promotes critical losses of water, nutrients, soil organic matter and soil biota, harming forests, rangeland and natural ecosystems.

Erosion increases the amount of dust carried by wind, which not only acts as an abrasive and air pollutant but also carries about 20 human infectious disease organisms, including anthrax and tuberculosis. doclink

The Catholic Church and Contraception: Revolution...or Evolution?

October 14, 2014, Huffington Post   By: Robert Walker

A statement recently issued by the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in Rome is being described as an "earthquake" by Church liberals and a "betrayal" by Church conservatives. The statement does not appear very radical with respect to the treatment of gays or divorcees, and the same applies to the nuanced position taken by the Bishops on contraception. It all seems highly tentative, but after decades of rigid orthodoxy, equivocation can sometimes presage a revolution. So is the Catholic Church about to change its position on birth control... or not?

The report emphasized "the need to respect the dignity of the person in the moral evaluation of the methods of birth control."

While some members of the Catholic faith may believe that husbands and wives should make no effort to prevent an unwanted pregnancy, that view is not typical. The Church itself has long approved "natural" family planning, otherwise known as the rhythm method. In doing so, the Church appears to endorse the idea that a woman should be able to space or limit her pregnancies. If so, why shouldn't a woman be able to use a more reliable method to achieve the same result?

Polls suggest that the vast majority of Catholic women in the U.S. rely upon a modern method of birth control at some point in their reproductive years.

Yet, despite these poll findings, large numbers of politicians in this country -- whether reliant on Church teachings or not -- are expending an awful lot of moral and political energy on making it harder for women to access a modern method of contraception.

Some of this may be driven by a misdirected anti-abortion zeal, rather than strict opposition to modern methods of birth control, but the practical result is to boost the number of unplanned pregnancies and, by implication, the number of abortions.

If the Vatican does reverse its position on birth control, it may have very little impact on the percentage women in this country who elect to use a modern method of contraception. And the same is true in Europe and in many parts of Latin America. But in a few places, like the Philippines, the Church's opposition to birth control has proven to be a real deterrent, and a reversal could ultimately lead to a substantial increase in contraceptive usage.

If the Church shifts its position on birth control, it will be interesting to see how it would affect the ongoing legal challenges to federally mandated coverage of contraception by employers. In the heavily nuanced words of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops, would the employer "need to respect the dignity of the person in the moral evaluation of the methods of birth control"? doclink

Half of All Summers Will Soon Be Boiling Hot for Hundreds of Millions of People

A new study finds climate change has caused a 60-fold increase in the likelihood of extreme temperatures in eastern China since the early 1950s.
October 02, 2014, Mother Jones   By: James West

Last year China saw 31 days with daily maximum temperatures of 95 degrees Fahrenheit or more, a historical record. During that time Shanghai broke its all-time temperature record three times and a drought afflicted the country's food bowl, the Yangtze River basin, at a cost of $9.6 billion.

Worse, it is predicted that, in just two decades, 50% of summers are likely to be hotter than last year. Extreme summers like last year's, which normally only happen once every 270 years, could happen every other year.

The China Meteorological Administration, the Canadian government, and a researcher from the University of Victoria in British Columbia conducted the study that is published in the science journal Nature Climate Change. Historical climate data in eastern China was analyzed, and it was found that man-made climate change has caused a 60-fold increase in the likelihood of extreme temperatures since the early 1950s, when reliable national records began. The five hottest summers in China since records began all happened since 2000, according to the report.

"The increase in summer heat, combined with the region's rising population and wealth, would produce higher risks for human health, agricultural systems and energy production and distribution systems if sufficient adaptation measures are not in place," the report said.

China is already the world's leading emitter of greenhouse gases and the world's top coal producer and consumer -- 70% of its energy supply comes from coal. China promised world leaders at UN climate talks that it would peak its emissions "as early as possible" -- the first time a high-ranking Chinese government official has mentioned such a target. doclink

Hobby Lobby's Hypocrisy, Part 2: Its Retirement Plan Still Invests in Contraception Manufacturers

October 10 , 2014, Mother Jones   By: Molly Redden

The craft store company Hobby Lobby won the Supreme Court judgement against those Obamacare provisions that compelled [ against the religious beliefs of the owner, the Green family ] the company to buy employee health insurance plans that covered emergency contraception [and IUDs].

So what happened when Mother Jones reported that Hobby Lobby contributed millions of dollars to employee retirement plans with stock in companies that manufacture drugs and devices at the center of the Supreme Court case: PlanB, Ella, and two types of intrauterine devices? Nothing, according to Hobby Lobby president Steve Green.

Green dismissed the idea that it mattered where his employee's 401(k) plans had indirect investments, telling MSNBC reporter Irin Carmon it was "several steps removed." doclink

We've Wiped Out Half the World's Wildlife Since 1970

September 30, 2014, VOX Media   By: Brad Plumer

A recent study by the World Wildlife Fund estimates that the overall number of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish has declined 52% between 1970 and 2010. This doesn't mean we've wiped out half of all species.

The populations of land species -- elephants, tigers, gorillas, and so on -- have declined 38% since 1970 and 60% since 2002. Habitat loss is a big problem there, as is hunting. For example, deforestation in West and Central Africa has left forest elephants with just a smattering of disconnected habitats, and they've become easy prey for ivory poachers.

Marine species -- turtles, sharks, fish, seabirds -- have declined 39% worldwide since 1970. While California's blue whale population is recovering, a large number of turtles, sharks, and seabirds are still accidentally caught and killed by fishermen targeting other species.

Freshwater populations -- fish, frogs, shorebirds — have declined 76%, due mainly to habitat loss and water pollution, and somewhat to changes in water level due to human activity. doclink

States with More Abortion Laws Have Less Support for Women and Children's Health

October 01, 2014, Huffington Post   By: Laura Bassett

A study by Ibis Reproductive Health and the Center for Reproductive Rights found that a state's performance on indicators for women and children's health and well-being is inversely proportional to the amount of anti-abortion laws in that state. States with mandatory ultrasound laws, mandatory waiting periods and shorter gestational limits on abortion, for example, generally have higher rates of obesity, child and maternal mortality, teen births and women and children without health insurance.

States enacted more abortion restrictions between 2011 and 2013 than they had in the entire previous decade, and more than 250 anti-abortion bills have been introduced in state legislatures this year alone. These include mandatory waiting periods, counseling and ultrasounds before abortions, harsh building standards for abortion clinics, insurance coverage restrictions, gestational limits and restrictions on non-surgical medication abortions.

Most states with more than 10 abortion restrictions in effect, including Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arizona, Indiana, Florida, Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Missouri and Texas, scored near the bottom.

The report considered a wide variety of indicators of well-being for women and children, such as asthma prevalence, the percentage of adult women who had received a pap smear in the past three years, drug abuse, HIV and domestic violence incidence, maternal and infant mortality rates, children receiving dental and mental health care, high school graduation rates and the number of suicide deaths among women. The report also considered policies that support women and children's health, such as whether a state had moved forward with Medicaid expansion, requires reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers and implements strong family and medical leave policies.

"This report exposes the flimsy claims of politicians who have been shutting down women's health care providers under the patently false pretext of protecting women's health," said Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights. "It clearly demonstrates how women and families have suffered as politicians put their ideological agenda before the real needs of their constituents." doclink

5 Step Plan to Feed the World

Where Will We Find Enough Food for 9 Billion?
April 24, 2014, National Geographic magazine   By: Jonathan Foley

By 2050 the world's population will likely increase by more than 35%. To feed that population, crop production will need to double as the developing world grows prosperous enough to eat more meat.

One: Freeze Agriculture's Footprint -- stop cutting down forests or plowed grasslands to make more farms. Trading tropical forest for farmland is rarely done to benefit the 850 million people in the world who are still hungry, but is instead used to produce cattle, soybeans for livestock, timber, and palm oil.

Two: Grow More on Farms We've Got -- the green revolution, which started in the 1960s, though it increased yields, incurred major environmental costs. The world can now turn its attention to increasing yields on less productive farmlands -- especially in Africa, Latin America, and eastern Europe. Commercial farming has started to make huge strides, finding innovative ways to better target the application of fertilizers and pesticides by using computerized tractors equipped with advanced sensors and GPS. Using high-tech, precision farming systems, as well as approaches borrowed from organic farming, we could boost yields in these places several times over.

Three: Use Resources More Efficiently -- Improving nutrient and water supplies where yields are lowest could result in a 58% increase in global food production. Many growers apply customized blends of fertilizer tailored to their exact soil conditions, which helps minimize the runoff of chemicals into nearby waterways. Cover crops, mulches, and compost can improve soil quality, conserve water, and build up nutrients. Inefficient irrigation systems can be replaced with subsurface drip irrigation.

Four: Shift Diets -- Only 55% of the world's crop calories feed people directly; the rest are fed to livestock (36%) or turned into biofuels and industrial products (9%). For every 100 calories of grain we feed animals, we get only about 40 new calories of milk, 22 calories of eggs, 12 of chicken, 10 of pork, or 3 of beef. Even just switching from grain-fed beef to meats like chicken, pork, or pasture-raised beef would help. We should first focus on countries that already have meat-rich diets and curtail the use of crops for biofuels.

Five: Reduce Waste -- An estimated 25% of the world's food calories (50% of total food weight) are lost or wasted -- in homes, restaurants, or supermarkets for rich countries, and between the farmer and the market, due to unreliable storage and transportation in poor countries. Serving smaller portions, eating leftovers, and encouraging cafeterias, restaurants, and supermarkets to develop waste-reducing measures would help in rich countries.

We need to find a balance between producing more food and sustaining the planet for future generations. doclink

Fixing Climate Change May Add No Costs, Report Says

September 16 , 2014, New York Times   By: Justin Gillis

The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate recently announced that an ambitious series of measures to limit emissions would cost $4 trillion or so over the next 15 years, an increase of roughly 5% over the amount that would likely be spent anyway on new power plants, transit systems and other infrastructure. The commission enlisted some of the world's top economists and business consultants to take a fresh look at the economic questions surrounding climate change.

Secondary benefits of greener policies-- like lower fuel costs, fewer premature deaths from air pollution and reduced medical bills will result in money savings. "We are proposing a way to have the same or even more economic growth, and at the same time have environmental responsibility," said the chairman of the commission, Felipe Calderón, the former president of Mexico and an economist.

$90 trillion is likely to be spent on on new infrastructure around the world over the next 15 years That investment needs to be redirected toward low-emission options, the report found.

"This is a massive amount of investment firepower that could be geared toward building better cities, and better infrastructure for energy and agriculture," said Jeremy Oppenheim, who led the research for the report.

The group will recommend that countries eliminate subsidies for fossil fuels, which cost about $600 billion a year -- more than six times the level of subsidies going to renewable energy -- but are vigorously defended by vested interests.

It will urge nations to take a fresh look at the potential of renewable energy, whose costs are plummeting, and also recommend the adoption of initiatives to halt destruction of forests, use land more efficiently and limit wasteful urban sprawl, among many other steps.

The claim that the side benefits, such as better air quality, could potentially offset the costs is likely to be controversial.

Some of the report's recommendations, such as limiting urban sprawl and traffic, may sound utopian, but it cites examples of countries and cities that are already taking such action.

More than a hundred cities in the developing world, for instance, have built fast bus systems using dedicated roads or lanes, achieving efficient public transport at a fraction of the cost of rail systems. Congestion charges in cities like London, Stockholm and Singapore have sharply cut car trips.

"Renewable energy sources have emerged with stunning and unexpected speed as large-scale, and increasingly economically viable, alternatives to fossil fuels," the report said. doclink

Pakistan's Largest City Thirsts for Water as Growing Population Strains Resources

August 24 , 2014, Huffington Post   By: Adil Jawad

In the slums of Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city, protesters are demanding water at least once a week. Some areas have received no water in three months. Without city delivery of water they are forced to use groundwater contaminated with salt. As the city of about 18 million people rapidly grows, the water shortages are only expected to get worse.

Karachi's water comes from the Indus River and the Hub Dam. Misbah Fareed, an official with the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board, said that only meets about half the city's needs.

The city's water is delivered tank trucks since criminals have illegally tapped into the city's water pipes and set up their own distribution points where they siphon off water and sell it.

The underground water is too salty to drink, but is often used for showering or washing clothes.

Pakistani military operations and American drone strikes in the northern tribal regions, as well as natural disasters such as flooding and earthquakes, have pushed people toward Karachi.

One resident Aisha Saleem said "Women and kids have to go miles by foot and carry drinking water every day." doclink

World Food Day: 10 Myths About Hunger

How much do you know about global hunger? We take a look at some of the biggest food production and nutrition myths
October 16 , 2014, Guardian   By: Carla Kweifio-Okai

Chronic hunger has several causes, but global food scarcity is not one of them. According to the World Food Program, food production has increased faster than population growth for 20 years and the world now produces 17% more food per person than 30 years ago. The 2014 Global Hunger Index (GHI) showed that hunger in developing countries has fallen 39% since 1990. In wealthy areas, much high quality food gets trashed if it is not all eaten when served.

FAO data show 842 million hungry people in the world, with 553 million living in Asia and the Pacific and about 227 Africa. 47 million live in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 16 million live in developed countries. Women are 43% of all agricultural workers and they produce more than half of all world's food. In sub-Saharan Africa, women both grow and prepare 80-90% of the food.

Though insufficient food is the leading cause of malnutrition in developing countries, a hidden form of hunger occurs in more than 2 billion people who eat enough food but still don't get enough nutrition. Obesity can also result from improper nutrition. Although obesity is common in high-income nations, almost twice as many overweight and obese people live in the developing countries of Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa.

Reducing hunger might seem like a job for large-scale agriculture, but small-scale rural farmers feed most of the world. The FAO estimates that about half of the world's hungry people live in small-holder farming communities that are prone to droughts and floods, so many small-scale growers often can't feed themselves and their families. After famines in east and west Africa, USAid created the Famine Early Warning System Network (Fewsnet) to predict food shortages. It analyses crop production, climate, nutrition and food prices to send alerts on potential food crises and famines.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) indicates the trend toward more food per capita might end when 60% more food will be required if the population increases to nine billion by 2050.The UN Conference on Trade and Development concluded that small-scale farmers can increase productivity without reconfiguring the environment, and this must be done to meet global food requirements. To cut hunger rates, UN specialist on food rights, Hilal Elver, has called for governments to shift subsidies and research funding from large agribusiness to small-scale farmers. But the farmers must be trained as managers of an agro-ecological system that also provides public goods including water, energy and biodiversity. doclink

Karen Gaia says: while global food production is increasing, its rate of increase is decreasing. The same could be said for population. But which is increasing the fastest? As populations grow, food production is impacted: less water, deterioration of soil quality, unexpected flooding, high temperatures, no more arable land, and depletion of oil. Oil is needed to power food production and transportation and also for fertilizer production. There is no scalable replacement for oil in the foreseeable future.

Can the World Produce Enough Food for 2 Billion More People?

October 15, 2014, Thomson Reuters Foundation   By: Chris Arsenault

To calculate whether there will be enough food in the future involves many complicated variables. Population is growing, the planet is warming, and political instability is interrupting the food supply.

The current world population is 7.2 billion. Lat month the United Nations forcast numbers a population of 9.6 billion in 2050 and around 10.9 billion by the end of the century, with Africa's population quadrupling to four billion by 2100. However, another estimate by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) predicts a world population peak of 9.4 billion in 2070.

Will there be enough food for an extra two to four billion people? The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that 60% more food is needed to feed a world population of nine billion people.

"Obviously 2 billion more people would mean greater pressures on food production and on the environment," said John Wilmoth, director of the United Nations' Population Division. "Historically, we have managed to expand food production more rapidly than population growth."

Other variables that enter into the complexity of projecting the future population are new agricultural techniques, climate change impacting food production, efforts underway to cut greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change, and efforts to contain population growth.

Unlike the U.N. analysis, IIASA's forecast takes into account the current status of education of women. Wolfgang Lutz, programme director for world population at the IIASA, said young women across Africa are better educated today than older generations which should lead to a decline in fertility and research shows that educated women tend to have fewer children and later in life.

Education has been proved to impact birth rates.

Faced with high birthrates and overcrowding in the 1970s, Bangladesh, one the world's most densely populated countries, introduced family planning education, including door-to-door advice, and access to contraception. The birthrate dropped to 2.3 children per woman today from from more than 6 children in 1971. "This is one place where family planning has made a clear difference," said John Bongaarts, director of the Population Council.

Some experts say hunger could be eliminated if resources were better utilised. Most of the world's worst famines have been due to war or political instability, rather than a simple lack of food.

"The world gets into more trouble, the more people we have. That trouble gets reflected in climate changes, shortages of land, water and whatever else," Bongaarts said.

"The most likely outcome of population growth is higher food prices. I don't think we will run out of food, but continued high prices mean poor people will go hungry." doclink

Karen Gaia said If you look at countries like Nepal or Egypt, farmer families are out growing their land and/or water supply grown children are forced to leave the farms and seek employment in the cities. Many countries in the world reply on imports to feed their people. This is not sustainable, especially if the population continues to grow. Climate change, soil erosion, depletion of recoverable fossil fuels, poisoning of soils due to nitrogen fertilizer, and depletion of phosphorus fertilizer will degrade our food supply. Some think that technology will fix it, but so far this is only a dream.

Young People Deserve to Have This Choice. Birth Control Makes it Possible.

October 09 , 2014, Population Action International   By: Danielle Zielinski

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released new recommendations encouraging the use of long-acting contraceptives such as implants and intrauterine devices (IUDS) among teens. Unlike pills and condoms—the most-popular methods among young people—long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) don't require the user to DO anything to prevent pregnancy once the device is inserted, leaving less chance of a memory lapse or mishap resulting in an unintended pregnancy.

Isabel Sawhill, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, wrote a book entitled Generation Unbound: Drifting into Sex and Parenthood without Marriage which explains that often, young people unexpectedly become parents because they are either not using contraception or using it ineffectively. 70% of pregnancies to unmarried women under 30 are unintended. doclink

Past, Present, and Future World Population and Average Air Temperatures

October 2014

Population (billions)YearYears to add 1 billionTemperature (C)
 11804 
 2192712313.76*
 319603313.92
 419741413.95
 519871314.12
 619981114.26
 720111314.54**
 820241314.94
 920391515.14
1020693015.74

Source: UN Population Division and World Meteorological Organization.
* For period 1880-91 **  For year 2010
doclink

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  • The World is Warming Faster Than We Thought doclink

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  • Climate Change May Put Half of North American Birds at Risk of Extinction doclink

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@@031367 Half of All Summers Will Soon Be Boiling Hot for Hundreds of Millions of People @@031369 Hobby Lobby's Hypocrisy, Part 2: Its Retirement Plan Still Invests in Contraception Manufacturers
  • New Study Finds That 40% of Pregnancies Worldwide Are Unintended doclink

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  • Teenage Girls in Southern Malawi Reject 'sexual Cleansing' doclink

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  • Pediatrics Group Says IUDs Teens' Best Birth Control Choice doclink

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  • Water, Sanitation, Hygiene, and Malnutrition in India doclink

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  • Number of Latinos with Insurance Coverage Surges Under Healthcare Law doclink

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  • Pacific Tuna Stocks on the Brink of Disaster, Warns Outgoing Fisheries Head Glenn Hurry doclink

    Professor Glenn Hurry said bluefin and bigeye tuna should no longer be harvested, as stocks were dangerously depleted. He also warned "serious action" needed to be taken to reduce the yellowfin tuna catch. "Yellowfin tuna's down to about 38 per cent of its original spawning biomass," said Professor Hurry, the outgoing executive director of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). "Bigeye tuna's down now to about 16 per cen... September 02, 2014, ABC   By: Dominique Schwartz and Greg Wilesmith

doclink

It's Time to Shout Stop on This War on the Living World

Our consumption is trashing a natural world infinitely more fascinating and intricate than the stuff we produce
October 01, 2014, Mail and Guardian   By: George Monbiot

In the past 40 years the world has lost over 50% of its vertebrate wildlife (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish) If this does not to tell us that there is something wrong with the way we live, it's hard to imagine what could.

True, this is part of a trend that has lasted 2 million years. The loss of much of the African megafauna - sabretooths and false sabretooths, giant hyaenas and amphicyonids (bear dogs), several species of elephant - coincided with the switch towards meat eating by hominims (ancestral humans). As we spread into other continents, their megafauna almost immediately collapsed.

But now the speed of destruction is even faster.

Many people blame this process on human population growth, but the rise in consumption and amplification by technology have also played a part. Every year, new pesticides, fishing technologies, mining methods, techniques for processing trees are developed.

Economic growth in a country whose primary and secondary needs have already been met means developing ever more useless stuff to meet ever fainter desires.

Pleasure is reduced to hedonism and hedonism is reduced to consumption. We care ever less for the possessions we buy, and dispose of them ever more quickly. Yet the extraction of the raw materials required to produce them, the pollution commissioned in their manufacturing, the infrastructure and noise and burning of fuel needed to transport them are trashing a natural world infinitely more fascinating and intricate than the stuff we produce. The loss of wildlife is a loss of wonder and enchantment, of the magic with which the living world infects our lives.

Almost all the gains go to a tiny number of people: one study suggests that the richest 1% in the United States capture 93% of the increase in incomes that growth delivers. Working conditions for most people continue to deteriorate, as we find ourselves on short contracts, without full employment rights, without the security or the choice or the pensions their parents enjoyed.

What and whom is this growth for?

A system that makes us less happy, less secure, that narrows and impoverishes our lives, is presented as the only possible answer to our problems. There is no alternative - we must keep marching over the cliff. Anyone who challenges it is either ignored or excoriated.

At which point do we use the extraordinary learning and expertise we have developed to change the way we organise ourselves, to contest and reverse the trends that have governed our relationship with the living planet for the past 2m years, and that are now destroying its remaining features at astonishing speed?

Is this not the point at which we challenge the inevitability of endless growth on a finite planet? If not now, when? doclink

Aggressive Efforts Underway to Abolish Child Marriage in Niger by the Year 2050

October 2 , 2014, AllAfrica.com   By: Priscilla Masilamani

The country of Niger has the highest incidence of child marriages in the world, with 77% of the underage girls currently married. One in three girls is married before the age of 15, according to UNICEF.

Religion, tradition and culture play a part while poverty, gender inequality and weak legislation add fuel to this violation of girl's rights.

The UNFPA in Niger has been, since 2012, aggressively carrying out ground work in raising awareness to put an end to this practice. "By carrying out strategic development and empowerment training, and by collectively engaging the community leaders and grassroots people, the UNFPA is foreseeing a future where child marriages would be completely abolished by the year 2050," says Monique Clesca, UNFPA Representative. The goal is to abolish the practice by 2050.

An eight-month educational training program for girls make them aware of the rights they have as children. "Training is provided about how their bodies work, hygiene, and also their reproductive and sexual health." said Clesca. For example, Amina, a 13 year old girl, learned that she, as a child, has her own rights. When she was forced by her parents to get married to a man three times older than her, she stood up for herself and refused to marry. She was beaten and ran away, but she did not bend to the demands of her family. Finally, she was able live in her uncle's house, where she now attends a special school, learning to read and write.

The UNFPA hopes to reduce domestic and sexual violence, maternal and infant health risks, incidence of STDs and fistula, which are all a few of the direct results of child marriage.

The UNFPA also targets the men in a program called 'The Husband School,' which brings together men from various communities to help them understand the health consequences of marrying a child.

"With the husbands being schooled, we are seeing a tremendous change in the attitude of men. Now, girls tell us that the husbands themselves willingly take them to healthcare centers. The men are waking up," Clesca said.

With success stories on the increase, Clesca hopes to see an enormous difference in the rate of child marriage in the next survey to be conducted by the UNFPA in 2017.

Clesca tells of the importance of a huge social movement to see a visible change. "We need different sectors of the community to come together at a local, national and international level to make a large, lasting difference." doclink

Losing Our Energy Slaves

October 16, 2014, Jack Alpert

Declining energy kills billions. doclink

Karen Gaia says: If you look at our economy, propped up by debt, and a disappearing middle class, you can see this is already starting to happen.

U.S.: I Am the Population Problem

September 27 , 2011, Grist   By: Lisa Hymas

Note: see my comment below

People see the population problem as Africans and Asians who have "more kids than they can feed, immigrants with large families, and even single mothers. But actually the population problem includes middle-class Americans like me - those most likely to say "I'm the sort of person who should have kids."

People harm the environment by what they consume. My U.S. carbon footprint exceeds that of an average Brit by 100%, an average Indian by over 1,200%, and an average Ethiopian by over 10,000%. A poor Ugandan child may challenge its family and community to provide clean water and safe food, but its impact on the global environment does not compare to that of an American child. American's have big houses; drive big cars; use lots of oil, coal and gas; and consume many products that require non-replenishable or overused resources, long-distance shipping, pesticides, etc. We Americans consume resources from around the globe, then expel them as pollution.

In 2009, a study from Oregon State University found that the climate impact of having one less child in America is almost 20 times [5.7 times ??] greater than the impact of adopting a series of eco-friendly practices for a lifetime, things like driving a high-mileage car, recycling, and using efficient appliances and CFLs. Since even our most conscientious citizens consume at unsustainable rates, the best contribution I can make to a cleaner environment is to not have children who might, in turn, go on to have more children.

I don't fault those who do have kids, but it should be easier for people to choose not to have kids if they wish. The Pill has been available for more than 50 years, and most people accept that women can use it to delay, space out, or limit childbearing. But a pro-natal bias runs deep. At some point, family, friends, coworkers, and even strangers push you toward having at least one child. They pester women in their thirties about the regrets they will have if they have no children. Even people I know whose careers are dedicated to making birth control and reproductive health care available to all women do this!

U.S. women find that doctors will not do tubal ligations on a woman who has not already had children (and sometimes even if she has). They warn that sterilization is an irreversible, life-altering decision - as if having a child is not an irreversible, life-altering decision. This prejudice in the medical profession and the rest of society implies that all women should have children - even single women, gay couples, and women over 40. Going child-free may be the strongest remaining taboo.

I am the population problem, but I want to be part of the solution. Let's make it easier for others to join me. Putting less pressure on those who decline to have kids reduces the stigma on people who wish to have kids but don't get the chance, it also means fewer ambivalent or unhappy parents, and it gets us closer to the goal of "every child a wanted child." Having no children allows a little more breathing room for those of us who are already here or on the way. doclink

Karen Gaia says: 50% of pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. The pill is not the most effective form of birth control. It is about 5 times less effective than the IUD or implant. Many women are unnecessarily wary of the IUD, due to inaccurate information. Many doctors are unnecessarily reluctant to give the IUD if a woman has no children, even though the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has recently recommended the IUD as a first contraception for teens. These things can be fixed!! Not all women chose to be childless. Such women may spend many years trying not to get pregnant, but if she is on the pill, an 'oops' baby is a strong possibility; then, if she is unmarried, she may wait until she has a husband and perhaps another child before getting herself sterilized.

I believe the study said a child has 5.7 times the impact, not 20. Even so, that is a lot!

Art says: Both the author and editor chose to have no children. At 70, this editor has no regrets. There are plenty of children, but not enough good parents. I work with kids and later married into a family with kids. One can be a good parent and mentor without having children.

13 Things Every Woman Should Know About Personhood

Even if it's not currently a big issue in your state, it could have a huge effect on your reproductive rights
September 22, 2014, Cosmopolitan   By: Robin Marty

Personhood is an attempt by conservative politicians to create a standard, legal definition of "person," which would begin when an egg is fertilized by sperm. This is an attempt to challenge Roe v. Wade by getting the Supreme Court to rule that a person is legally defined as existing from the moment of conception. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, in the Roe v. Wade decision, stated that the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection clause does not refer to the unborn because they are not legally people. "If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case, of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment."

A personhood amendment (also called Human Life Amendment) would outlaw abortion if passed because any harm caused to that "person" would be considered a crime. Medical professionals worry that personhood could mean they'd have to withhold care until a patient's life is truly in danger so they don't accidentally do something seen as causing the death of an embryo or fetus, which could be considered murder or manslaughter.

The amendment would likely make forms of contraception illegal. For example some say that IUDs don't allow fertilized eggs to implant, causing an "abortion." (In reality, IUDs work to either thicken cervical mucus or repel sperm, both means of preventing fertilization.) Many legislators also claim that emergency contraception like Plan B is an abortifacient (it isn't) or even that standard hormonal birth control pills can cause an abortion (they don't), leaving only condoms and withdrawal.

During in vitro fertilization, not every embryo created is transferred or will survive the implantation process, and unused embryos are often destroyed, so it may be outlawed.

If a pregnant woman was dying, the normal options, such as pain medication or removing the patient from life support or IV fluids would be limited due to the mandate to protect the "person" at all stages of development.

The goal of personhood proponents is to change state constitutions one by one to create a conflict with the federal constitution that would need to be resolved by the Supreme Court. Four of the nine current justices are expected to overturn Roe if given the opportunity; the personhood argument is meant to appeal to Justice Anthony Kennedy, a centrist and Catholic, whom abortion opponents believe they can persuade to join their side.

The Colorado-based Personhood USA, after three failures with ballot measures, are taking a smaller step toward their goal - in hopes of better acceptance - by limiting their current personhood legislation to only apply to the criminal code and Colorado Wrongful Death Act. If a pregnancy ends as a result of a criminal act, the prosecution can add a count of murder to the charges.

A state that passes a personhood amendment would have the ability to pass laws regarding abortion, infertility treatments, or end-of-life care that are considered federally unconstitutional. The legislation would go into effect unless it were challenged. If a judge ruled that it was unconstitutional under federal law, the state could appeal, and the appeals process could go on for years.

A federal personhood amendment, if passed, would make abortion completely illegal with no exceptions, overruling the right to abortion in any state. It would mean that a tubal ectopic pregnancy could not be addressed with a dose of methotrexate and instead would have to be left until the pregnant person's life is in danger. People with conditions like pulmonary hypertension or other health issues exacerbated by pregnancy could not make the decision to end a pregnancy before becoming critically ill.

While there really aren't a lot of people in favor of personhood, proponents persist. Personhood has never been supported by the majority of voters of a state -- not even in Mississippi where many thought it was a sure thing.

While Baptist churches were in favor of Mississippi's personhood amendment in 2011, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Methodist churches, and Episcopal churches refused to endorse the measure.

While the mainstream anti-abortion movement opposes personhood, they are worried that if a state says an embryo is a person but the federal Supreme Court doesn't agree yet, the court could rule to reaffirm a person's right to an abortion, undoing anti-abortion activists' work of passing incremental abortion restrictions for decades.

If the House, Senate, and White House all were all Republican control, a personhood amendment could happen. Depending on the outcome of the midterms and 2016, a federal declaration of personhood at fertilization could be closer than you think. doclink

Could IUDs Be the Next Great Weapon in the Battle Against Poverty?

September 15 , 2014, Slate   By: Jordan Weissmann

One of the easier ways to fight poverty is by making effective birth control cheap and easily available for low-income women. America's teen pregnancy rate has been brought to its lowest levels in more than 50 years due to growing contraceptive use. Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution points out that the humble IUD could help halt the ongoing rise of single mothers, who are disproportionately impoverished.

Over 40% of new mothers are unmarried. Some conservatives say the government should work harder to promote matrimony -- but they have little idea of how to do it. Some liberals say we need to expand the safety net to accommodate single women, but that will, admittedly, cost money.

Since nearly 70% of out-of-wedlock pregnancies are unplanned, and many women forget to take their birth control, Sawhill suggests that we need a new ethic of responsible parenthood, making sure women don't get pregnant before they're ready. She suggests we raise awareness about the challenges of single motherhood, and promote IUDs and other long-acting reversible contraceptives.

IUDs and implants are 22 times less likely to fail than the pill because they don't require effort to use once implanted. Today's models are safe, compared to their 1960s and 1970s counterparts. An IUD can cost $1,000 up front but the ACA now requires health plans to cover the whole cost of the devices and Medicaid also pays for them in states that have expanded the program under health reform. But Sawhill thinks we should do even more to make long-acting contraceptives widely available, for instance by educating doctors who aren't up to speed on their benefits.

Fiscal conservatives might get on board with her idea, since, according to Brookings' calculations, preventing an unplanned pregnancy saves the government at least five times what it costs. doclink

Karen Gaia says: we should focus on better education for doctors and/or more contraception counselors. My grown daughter's doctor told her he didn't want to give her contraception because she didn't have any children. Another doctor told his patient that an IUD would promote 'slutty' behavior. A new study suggests that IUDs are less harmfull than the pill.

Beyond Marriage

September 13 , 2014, New York Times   By: Isabel V. Sawhill

While most college grads still marry and plan their families, the other two-thirds of young people often don't. 40% of new U.S. mothers are unmarried (50% among mothers under 30), and 60% of these births are unplanned. Of cohabiting couples that have a baby, half will split up before their child is five.

The growth of childrearing outside of marriage stems partly from the poor economic prospects of the non-college set. But providing more education and job opportunities to unskilled young people might not restore stable families. The new norms run deep. Not only are single-parent families now more common and socially acceptable, studies find that low-income or working-class women no longer think they can depend on the men in their lives. They have seen or experienced too much divorce, infidelity, substance abuse, etc.

New parents often come to accept and love an unplanned baby, but research shows that poverty rates in single- parent families are four times as high as they are in two-parent families. Thus, unplanned births affect children's development and their chances of getting a degree and earning a middle-class income. Programs like food stamps have reduced child poverty less than unmarried parenthood has increased it. Many conservatives call for more marriages. Senator Marco Rubio said, "The greatest tool to lift children and families from poverty is one that decreases the probability of child poverty by 82%. But it isn't a government spending program. It's called marriage."

For the government to support single parents by providing more child care, health care, food and cash assistance is a very expensive proposition. One in three children now live in poverty. As a member of President Clinton's welfare-reform task force, I (the author, Isabel V. Sawhill) heard people say that aid to women raising children on their own was a major incentive for single women to have babies. I supported making welfare conditional on work. But that did not slow the growth of unwed births. Conservatives never explained how to restore marriage. Everything they tried — from marriage-education programs to tax benefit programs — has had little or no effect.

Social norms change. Teenage pregnancies have fallen partly because of new media messages (like the TV show "16 and Pregnant") and an emerging view that teenagers should not have a child. Government or foundation-funded social marketing campaigns can change attitudes. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy (on whose board I serve) has pioneered efforts of this kind to reduce pregnancy.

We must respond to today's marriage and parenting realities. To improve children's life prospects, we should focus first on creating a new ethic of responsible parenthood. The old social norm was, no children outside of marriage. The new norm needs to be, no children until you and your partner are ready to be parents. Both parents should really want a child and plan ahead for its care. Those who can barely afford a child may need more (and better quality) child care, child-care subsidies, a higher minimum wage, and serious education and training for those who can't afford good care for their families. Government alone can't solve this problem. Young people must learn to make responsible choices.

Also, young people need the most effective forms of birth control. Most people don't use available contraceptives reliably. Condoms are popular among young adults, but when using them 63% get pregnant within five years and 40% resort to abortion. Long-acting reversible contraceptives (known as LARCs and including implants and IUDs) work much better, although the up-front cost can be as much as $1,000. If these or other new forms of contraception were more accessible and less costly, and if more people understood how effective and convenient they are, unplanned pregnancies would decline. The Affordable Care Act requires most insurance plans to cover FDA-approved contraception.

A Washington University study of nearly 10,000 St. Louis area women found that 75% of those who received free contraception and advice about the most effective methods chose LARCs. This reduced teen births by 75% and abortions by 80%. Other studies showed that offering LARCs at little or no cost to women also had great success. Over a woman's reproductive life, they cost less than the pill. Another study found that for every dollar invested in birth control, taxpayers save roughly $5 on Medicaid- supported births and welfare payments. doclink

Fixing Climate Change May Add No Costs, Report Says

September 16 , 2014, New York Times   By: Justin Gillis

Almost everyone assumes that fighting global warming is costly. But a recent report by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate challenges that assumption. The commission found that some $90 trillion is likely to be spent over the coming 15 years on new power plants, transit systems and other infrastructure around the world. An ambitious series of measures to limit emissions would cost about an extra 5% ($4 trillion). Add in pay-backs like lower fuel costs and fewer deaths and medical bills from air pollution, and the conversion could wind up showing a saving. With the costs of renewable energy plummeting, the report urges nations to take a fresh look. Then governments need to adopt rules and send stronger market signals that redirect much of the planned investment toward low-emission options.

The findings came one week before world leaders, including President Obama, gathered in New York to discuss climate change. The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate was appointed by seven countries with varying GDPs: Colombia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Norway, South Korea, Sweden and the United Kingdom. It enlisted some of the world's top economists and business consultants to take a fresh look at the economic questions surrounding climate change.

Jeremy Oppenheim, who led the research for the report, says "This is a massive amount of investment firepower that could be geared toward building better cities and better infrastructure for energy and agriculture." Economist and Commission Chairman Felipe Calderón, ex-president of Mexico, thinks we can have "the same or even more economic growth, and at the same time have environmental responsibility."

Despite the benefits, the requisite steps are politically difficult. Powerful groups will deny that benefits such as better air quality can offset the extra costs. For instance, the report recommends that countries eliminate $600 billion a year in subsidies for fossil fuels, which vested interests are sure to vigorously defend.

Although the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report concluded that these side benefits are real, Dr. Ottmar G. Edenhofer, a German climate economist who helped lead the earlier U.N report and served as an adviser to this report, questions the new report's final numbers. "The argument that this can be done for free, that's from my point of view overly optimistic. Yes, you rescue some lives, but to assign monetary values to this is particularly complicated." He then added, "Climate policy is not a free lunch, but it is a lunch worthwhile to buy." “We have to get the prices right," said Helen Mountford, who worked on the report and is the director of economics at the World Resources Institute, a Washington think tank.

The report also recommends initiatives to halt deforestation, limit urban sprawl, use land more efficiently, and more. Some of its utopian-sounding recommendations, such as limiting urban sprawl and traffic, come with examples of nations and cities that are already taking such action. More than a 100 cities in the developing world, have built fast bus systems using dedicated roads or lanes, achieving efficient public transport at a fraction of the cost of rail systems. Congestion charges in cities like London, Stockholm and Singapore have sharply cut car trips. China is launching ambitious measures to try to gain control of urban sprawl. If nations made a concerted worldwide push to scale up proven ideas, it would reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases by billions of tons per year.

The report said that “Renewable energy sources have emerged with stunning and unexpected speed as large-scale, and increasingly economically viable, alternatives to fossil fuels." But it said that world economic policies still subsidize fossil fuels, despite their risk to future generations. Most Western countries have lowered such subsidies. But subsidies are often enormous in some developing countries, especially major oil exporters, where people view cheap gasoline as a birthright. Venezuela, for instance, sells gas for about 6 cents a gallon, encouraging profligate consumption. But quickly halving or eliminating such subsidies can incite protests or riots, as happened in Yemen this summer. Some experts have called for institutions like the World Bank to help eliminate subsidies. doclink

Art says: The details of this report should be reviewed, and viable recommendations should be incorporated into lectures and textbooks on urban planning. Many people would agree to spend an additional 5% on new infrastructure projects if they helped save the planet.

How much of these expenses go to retrofitting our existing infrastructure that is already causing unacceptable problems?

10 Reasons Why Investing in Women and Girls is So Vital

July 09, 2014, Global Citizen   By: Leticia Pfeffer

70% of the 1 billion poorest people are female. These women are disproportionately affected by discrimination, violence, and exploitation. Too many are deprived the opportunity to an education and to basic health care services.

The great news is that investing in girls and women makes economic sense. If the world educated, empowered, and kept all girls and women healthy, we would lessen extreme poverty and build healthier, wealthier, and more educated communities.

1. Studies show that women reinvest up to 90% of their incomes back into their families, compared to just 30-40% by men. Mothers provide better nutrition and health care and spend more on their children. Investing in women and girls creates long-term social and economic benefits for all individuals, their communities, and the world as a whole.

2. 31 million girls in the world don't have the opportunity to pursue an education. Every day, they are taken out of school and forced to work or marry. One out of five girls in the developing world doesn't even complete the sixth grade.

Educated girls and women are healthier, have the skills to make choices over their own future and can lift themselves, their communities and their countries out of poverty. Even one more year in school makes a difference. A girl's income will increase by up to 25% every year she stays in school. If India enrolled 1% more girls in secondary school, the country's GDP would rise by $5.5 billion.

3. 222 million women today lack access to family planning services, information and contraception. If we doubled investment in family planning, we could reduce unintended pregnancies by 68%; avert newborn deaths by 35%; reduce unsafe abortions by 70%.

For every dollar spent on family planning, governments can save up to 6 dollars on health, housing, water and other public services. Family planning enables millions of girls to stay in school, saves lives and has the capacity to lift entire communities out of poverty.

4. Each year, an estimated 16 million girls aged 15-19 give birth. Only 35% of unmarried girls and women in developing countries use a modern method of contraception -- so most teen pregnancies are unplanned. Girls who become pregnant are forced to leave school and are prone to high health risks, such as HIV, obstetric fistula, and complications during pregnancy. The number one cause of death for girls is childbirth.

By delaying teen pregnancies, girls are able to stay in school, invest in their futures and have healthier children when they are ready. If all young girls completed primary school, we could save 900,000 of their children each year. And if those girls got a secondary education, we could save three million lives.

5. In a given year, approximately 300,000 women die from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. Maternal mortality is much higher in poor communities and rural areas. 99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries.

When women have access to health services and information by skilled health professionals during pregnancy and childbirth, this can make the difference between life and death -- for the lives of women and their newborn babies.

6. 14 million girls are married before the age of 18 every year. In the developing world, poverty and traditional gender roles magnify this problem. 1 in 7 girls is married before age 15, and some child brides are married as young as 9 years old.

When girls have the opportunity to complete their education through secondary school, they are up to six times less likely to be married as children than girls with little or no education. Educated girls are also less likely to have unintended pregnancies as teenagers.

7. Women work two-thirds of the world's working hours, produce half of the world's food, but earn only 10% of the world's income and own less than one percent of the world's property. On average, women earn half of what men earn.

In order to achieve gender equality, women and men must have equal employment opportunities and receive equal pay.

8. Women are a central part of the solution to ending hunger and poverty. Yet, female farmers face numerous constraints: they own less land, cultivate smaller plots of land, and have a harder time accessing credit.

If we want to reduce poverty and end hunger, we must give women access to the resources they need for agricultural production and participation. This could: Increase farm yields by 20-30%; increase agricultural output by 4%; and reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 150 million

9. 1 in 3 women and girls worldwide, one billion, will experience violence such as torture, rape, sexual trafficking, honor killings, beatings during pregnancy and domestic violence in their lifetime.

Violence is a major cause of poverty. It prevents women from pursuing an education, working, or earning the income they need to lift their families out of poverty.

10. 100 to 140 million girls and women around the world have undergone genital mutilation -- including 6.5 million in Western countries. This practice continues to be concentrated in Africa, where 90 million African women and girls have been victims. It is mostly carried out on young girls under 15, often with the consent of mothers, in conditions that lead to lifelong pain, infection and premature death. doclink

Africa's Dividing Farmlands a Threat to Food Security

September 10, 2014, IPS Inter Press Service   By: Miriam Gathigah

A farmer in Kenya's Rift Valley region reports: "I used to farm on 40 hectares but now I only have 0.8 hectares. My father had 10 sons and we all wanted to own a piece of the farmland. Subdivision … ate into the actual farmland," he says. "From 3,200 bags a harvest, now I only produce 20 bags, at times even less."

FAO - the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations - show that a majority of Africa's farmers now farm on less than one hectare of land.

The agricultural land per person in Kenya declined from 0.264 to the current 0.219 in the last 10 years. In the last decade the number of people with one hectare of agricultural land decreased by 17% in Kenya, by 13% in Zambia and by 16% in Uganda.

Large-scale land acquisition in East and southern Africa by outsiders not only reduces available land for locals, but what is available to the locals still has to be subdivided because of land inheritance.

Allan Moshi, a land policy expert on sub-Saharan Africa explains that land subdivision has been driven by growth in population, land inheritance “as well as a shift from customary land tenures to land owned by individuals based on the belief that individuals can exploit the productive potential of land more effectively."

A 2012 USAID report says that 25% of young adults who grew up in rural areas did not inherit land because there was no land to inherit. Many farmers “just want to have a title deed even if it means subdividing the land to economically non-viable portions, while big investors are interested in high-value crops, particularly in horticulture, limiting available land for food crops," Moshi says.

Smallholder farmers across Africa account for at least 75% of agricultural outputs, according to FAO.

“Small-scale farmers still produce more than big farms. Big farms often lie idle, investors hoard them for speculative purposes, they rarely grow food on this land," Isaac Maiyo from Schemers, an agricultural community-based organisation in Kenya.

Smallholder farmers in Botswana "have less than eight percent percent of the agricultural land and they still account for nearly 100 percent of the country's maize production," he says.

In with many African countries, subdivision of agricultural land has not been guided by the law. “We subdivide not based on what the law says, but based on the number of dependents who want a share of available land, particularly where land inheritance is concerned," smallholder farmer Kibet explains.

“Most families who, 10 to 20 years ago, had over 40 hectares now have to contend with less than a hectare. Meaning that the land is only used to set up a homestead, and to grow a few backyard vegetables and rear a few chickens," Titus Rotich, an agricultural extension officer in Kenya's Rift Valley region says. “Farmlands are becoming so small that with time, farming will no longer be economically viable." doclink

Karen Gaia says: Africa's farmlands are in a squeeze between overpopulation and greedy consumption.

Limits to Growth was Right. New Research Shows We're Nearing Collapse

September 01 , 2014, Guardian   By: Graham Turner and Cathy Alexander

In 1972 the book Limits to Growth, commissioned by a think tank called the Club of Rome, predicted the collapse of our civilization some time this century. Research from the University of Melbourne has found the book's forecasts to be accurate, which, if things continue to follow the books track, we can expect the early stages of global collapse to start appearing soon.

Researchers working out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, including husband-and-wife team Donella and Dennis Meadows, built a computer model to track the world's economy and environment. Called World3, this computer model was cutting edge.

Industrialization, population, food, resource depletion, and pollution were tracked. If humanity followed the "business-as-usual" scenario, failing to take serious action on environmental and resource issues, the model predicted "overshoot and collapse" - in the economy, environment and population.

The book's central point is that "the earth is finite".

Recently Dr Graham Turner gathered data from the UN (its Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Unesco, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, and the UN statistics yearbook), as well as NASA, and the BP statistical review, and found that the world is tracking pretty closely to the Limits to Growth "business-as-usual" scenario.

Click on the headline above to see the graphs which show that, up to 2010, the data is strikingly similar to the book's forecasts. The graphs show that resources are being used up at a rapid rate, pollution is rising, industrial output and food per capita is rising. The population is rising quickly.

To feed the continued growth in industrial output there must be ever-increasing use of resources. But resources become more expensive to obtain as they are used up. As more and more capital goes towards resource extraction, industrial output per capita starts to fall - in the book, from about 2015.

As pollution mounts and industrial input into agriculture falls, food production per capita falls. Health and education services are cut back, and that combines to bring about a rise in the death rate from about 2020. Global population begins to fall from about 2030, by about half a billion people per decade. Living conditions fall to levels similar to the early 1900s.

The Global Financial Crisis of 2007-08 and ongoing economic malaise may be a harbinger of the fallout from resource constraints. The pursuit of material wealth contributed to unsustainable levels of debt, with suddenly higher prices for food and oil contributing to defaults.

Peak oil could be the catalyst for global collapse. Even the conservative International Energy Agency has warned about peak oil. If these resources soak up too much capital to extract, the fallout would be widespread.

The University of Melbourne research has not found proof of collapse as of 2010. But in Limits to Growth those effects only start to bite around 2015-2030. Things could change the future: wars could break out; so could genuine global environmental leadership. But it seems unlikely that the quest for ever-increasing growth can continue unchecked to 2100 without causing serious negative effects.

It may be too late to convince the world's politicians and wealthy elites to chart a different course. So to the rest of us, maybe it's time to think about how we protect ourselves as we head into an uncertain future. doclink

Important New Articles

These articles haven't been summarized yet for WOA's News DIgest, but we thought you should see them in case they don't get summarized. If you wish to help summarize, click on the red arrow which will take you to the login/registration screen.

  • California Drought Has Wild Salmon Competing with Almonds for Water doclink

    The ongoing California drought has pitted wild salmon against farmers in a fight for water. While growers of almonds, one of the state's biggest and most lucrative crops, enjoy booming production and skyrocketing sales to China, the fish, it seems, might be left high and dry this summer—and maybe even dead. Thousands of adult king, or Chinook, salmon are now struggling to survive in the Klamath River of northern California, where waters are ... August 21, 2014, Bay Area Bites   By: By Alastair Bland


  • The Contraception Mandate Benefits Women doclink

    Today in shocking scientific findings: Women have the potential to "benefit greatly" from the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive coverage mandate. Surprise! Researchers from the Penn State College of Medicine recently reviewed how the mandate's "first-dollar coverage," which ensures that insured women pay nothing out-of-pocket for office visits or contraceptive methods, will affect American users. The report, published in the fall e... August 20, 2014, Salon   By: Jenny Kutner


  • How Virginity Pledges Can End Up Hurting Kids doclink

    Although the United States has slowly started to move away from abstinence-only education in the years since George W. Bush left the White House, purity culture remains deeply entrenched in our national society. But mounting evidence suggests that encouraging young adults to abstain from sex until marriage actually poses a threat to their sexual health and overall wellbeing. "Virginity pledges," or written statements of commitment to save se... August 20, 2014, Think Progress   By: Tara Culp-ressler


  • Long-term Answer to Border Crises: Empower Women doclink

    MEXICO CITY: The United States has a border crisis - with more than 50,000 unaccompanied minors streaming into the country overwhelming the administration. The obvious reasons behind their desperate journey of up to 1,600 miles are well known - fleeing violence, drug crime, poverty and lack of opportunities. But the solutions offered by the US government and politicians are short-term palliatives that do not address the fundamental causes inc... August 18, 2014, YaleGlobal Online   By: Marisol Ruiz


  • Reducing Carbon by Curbing Population doclink

    Remember the population explosion? When population was growing at its fastest rate in human history in the decades after World War II, the sense that overpopulation was stunting economic development and stoking political instability took hold from New Delhi to the United Nations' headquarters in New York, sending policy makers on an urgent quest to stop it. In the 1970s the Indian government forcibly sterilized millions of women. Families in ... August 05, 2014, New York Times   By: Eduardo Porter


  • Growth, Global Warming Threaten African Species doclink

    Researchers meeting in Cameroon say Africa may lose up to 30 percent of its animal and plant species by the end of the century due to global warming, population growth and unregulated development. The researchers from 20 African, American and European universities say sub-Saharan Africa is losing forest land faster than any place on Earth. Loggers are cutting down trees to meet unrelenting timber demand from China, Europe and the United States.... July 22, 2014, Voice of America News   By: Moki Edwin Kindzeka


  • 'Peak Soil' Threatens Future Global Food Security doclink

    The challenge of ensuring future food security as populations grow and diets change has its roots in soil, but the increasing degradation of the earth's thin skin is threatening to push up food prices and increase deforestation. * Overproduction, overgrazing, deforestation damaging soil * FAO estimates 25 pct of agricultural land is highly degraded * Arable land from China to Sub-Saharan Africa already lost * Rising population, more meat cons... July 17, 2014, Thomson Reuters Foundation   By: Nigel Hunt and Sarah McFarlane


  • With 25 Million People, Delhi is Facing Urbanisation Crisis doclink

    Home to 25 million people - more than the population of Australia - New Delhi has become the world's second most populous city after Tokyo, but it is struggling to meet the needs of its burgeoning population. Experts say that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's new government will have to plan well to ensure basic services, such as schools, healthcare, housing, water and sanitation, and jobs, are available as the numbers continue to grow. "What most... July 23, 2014, Thomson Reuters Foundation   By: Trisha Mahajan


  • Depriving Women of Contraceptive Care is Bad Business doclink

    It's unbelievable that in 2014, we're still fighting about whether women should have access to birth control. Debby D'Arcangelo, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Association of Mercer, NJ says, The U.S. Supreme Court issued a verdict in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby on June 30th that effectively designated women as second-class citizens, placing our health care needs secondary to the personal beliefs of our bosses. Additionally, the costs... August 05, 2014, Huffington Post   By: Jeffrey Hollender


  • Uganda Teen Pregnancies' Plan Under Fire doclink

    A new Ugandan sex-education campaign to reduce teen pregnancy, maternal mortality among young women and girls, and the cost of post-abortion medical care, is generating heated debate. The one year campaign "Let Girls Be Girls" was officially launched on 13 July by the Health Ministry and UN Population Fund (UNFPA). It aims to address the growing vulnerability of girls to early pregnancy and birth related complications, and hopes to reduce deaths... July 27, 2014, AllAfrica.com


  • 18 Ways Women and Girls Have Been Empowered Since the Launch of the MDGs doclink

    1. More organizations focus solely on empowering women and girls. 18 Ways Women And Girls Have Been Empowered Since The Launch Of The MDGs Women Deliver, Catapult, Half the Sky, Chime for Change, Girl Up, and Girls' Globe are just a few of the many inspiring organizations dedicated to empowering women and girls around the world. 2. Maternal mortality is dropping. Worldwide, the maternal mortality ratio dropped by 45 percent between 1990 and ... August 15, 2014, BuzzFeed   By: Elisabeth Epstein


  • India in Danger of Moving Towards Water Scarcity Condition: Asian Development Bank doclink

    NEW DELHI: India is in danger of moving towards water scarcity conditions as per capita availability of water is reducing in the country, a Asian Development Bank official said today. He further said that the situation in India is challenging in the light of growing population. "The situation in India is also particularly challenging given the size of the population, its expected growth and having only about four per cent of the world's fresh ... August 20, 2014, Economic Times


  • 8 Out of 10 Americans Don't Know These Basic Facts About Abortion doclink

    Most Americans can't correctly answer basic questions about the risks, frequency, and legality of abortion in this country, according to a new study conducted by University of Cincinnati researchers. The authors found that the people who live in blue states are no more likely to be well-informed about abortion than the people who live in red states. Participants were asked to answer several questions about abortion, including "What percentag... August 20, 2014, Think Progress   By: Tara Culp-ressler


  • Why Does Hunger Still Exist in Africa? doclink

    When I first started traveling to Africa, I would often meet children in the villages I was visiting and try to guess their ages. I was shocked to find out how often I guessed wrong. Kids I thought were 7 or 8 years old based on how tall they were - would tell me that they were actually 12 or 13 years old. What I was witnessing was the terrible impact of malnutrition in Africa. These children were suffering from a condition known as stunting. ... August 01, 2014, Gates Notes The Blog of Bill Gates   By: Bill Gates


  • How Colorado's Teen Birthrate Dropped 40% in Four Years doclink

    Since 2009, the state has provided 30,000 contraceptive implants or intrauterine devices (IUDs) at low or no cost to low-income women at 68 family-planning clinics across Colorado through the Colorado Family Planning Initiative. The effort was funded by a five-year commitment of $23 million from an anonymous donor. At participating clinics, the percentage of young women receiving IUDs or implants quadrupled, according to a press release from Gov... August 12, 2014, Washington Post   By: Gail Sullivan


  • As the World Bank Turns doclink

    Something exciting, almost revolutionary, is happening at one of the most conservative of the world's international institutions. The World Bank, which for decades has been criticized has overly focused on the construction of dams and other infrastructures as the cure for poverty, is turning its focus to the real engine of economic progress in the developing world: girls and women. The shift from physical capital to human capital has been in the... June 25, 2014, Huffington Post   By: Robert Walker

doclink

Male Birth Control Without Condoms by 2017

September 09, 2014, International Business Times (UK)   By: Maria Khan

Vasalgel is a new non-hormonal male contraceptive which is similar to a no-scalpel vasectomy, will be released between 2016-2017, according to its maker, the Parsemus Foundation.

"We'll have to charge enough to make the company sustainable, but for sure it won't be $800 like long-acting contraceptives (IUDs) for women in the US. A contraceptive shouldn't cost more than a flat-screen TV!"

While Vasalgel is similar to vasectomy, it has the significant advantage of being reversible.

A gel is injected into the vas deferens (the tube the sperm swim through), rather than cutting the vas (as is done in vasectomy). If a man wishes to restore flow of sperm, whether after months or years, the polymer is flushed out of the vas with another injection," stated the Parsemus Foundation.

With a recent grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, it is hoped that clinical trials with humans will begin by early 2015. doclink

Climate Change Threatens to Put the Fight Against Hunger Back by Decades

NGOs react to new research showing that air pollution is having a worse effect on food security than previously thought
September 02 , 2014, Guardian   By: Charlotte Seager

"Human activities have increased the concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere by over 30% during the past 200 years and this figure is expected to double by the end of the century," says Arnold Bloom, lead author of new research published by Nature Climate Change. By 2050 our ability to produce food may be lowered by up to 10% due to rising air pollution, while in the meantime, worldwide food demand is set to rise by 50%.

Robin Willoughby, Oxfam UK's policy adviser on food. "Rising temperatures and increasingly extreme and erratic weather patterns are making it harder to grow enough food to eat. Unfortunately, the situation is likely to get worse, placing an additional burden for our humanitarian work as droughts and flooding become more frequent. Climate change threatens to put the fight to eradicate hunger back by decades."

NGOs need to promote farming techniques that conserve water and soil, especially in dry or desert areas," says Paul Cook, advocacy director for Tearfund, an international NGO. "NGOs also need to work to give farmers in developing countries access to up-to-date information on weather, climate, disaster early warning, and markets, so they can make well-informed plans and responses. Farmers need to experiment with agricultural approaches, so they are equipped to find solutions in an ever-shifting climate."

Cook says the development sector needs to focus on getting wealthy countries to eat less.

However, some people in the sector dismiss these findings.

Francesco Tubiello, natural resources officer for the monitoring of green house gas emissions in agriculture for the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), says: “The reduction or increase of absolute quantities of food is a very weak proxy for current and future food security levels, as the latter depends more on the economic laws of supply and demand and of redistribution, and on non-biophysical things such as poverty, infrastructure, politics and management."

Duncan Williamson, food policy manager for World Wildlife Fund says “It's not about producing more, using more nitrogen and industrialising agriculture. We already produce enough to feed over 10 billion. It's about producing a greater variety of crops and sticking to the more traditional plant-based diets found globally from Italy to India."

Even with 10% less field-grown wheat, we are still likely to have the ability to feed the global population in 2050. The challenge for the future is the same as the one we have now: how to distribute it more equally. doclink

Overpopulation and the 10 Billion Person Question

With the world’s population set to hit at least 10 billion by the end of this century, famine, poverty and climate change will become even more pressing concerns. Sustainability expert Bruce Edgerton says that it’s not all doom and gloom, however, and outlines a plan for avoiding overpopulation
September 08 , 2014, ABC   By: Bruce Edgerton

The authors father is a typical Malthusian, fearing for the planet, infested as it will be by 10 billion people by the end of this century. ‘We will need a war to wipe them out, or famine, or both,' he says.

These Malthusians claim we need to start by eating less beef and dairy and stop doing things that have an enormous environmental footprint compared to the simpler substitutes. Population has grown exponentially, and by and large, crop production has grown linearly, they say. And Earth's carrying capacity is limited and we are pushing its boundaries.

The author claims that his fathers population fears require a genocidal solution, but the good news is that these visions need not eventuate because it is well within the capacity of humanity to feed the world.

Tragically, while we have the necessary technology and wealth, the vision and compassion is sorely lacking.

We need to ensure that the global population plateaus. In 2011, the UN's population division suggested global population could peak at seven to eight billion by the middle of the century, or, using the mid-range projection, plateaus by end of the century at around 10 billion people. However, if the growth rate stays the same, the global population surging past 15 billion in 2100.

These are vastly different outcomes for the world my grandchildren will inherit.

The author claims that wealth eventually stops procreation in its tracks, a fact demonstrated by countries as diverse as Italy and Japan. But we need to speed this up by addressing education for all girls, right now.

We also need to follow this up with free contraception. This will contain the global population within 10 billion or less in a couple of decades.

Of course, this course will result in more wealthy people who eat more, consuming food with a larger environmental footprint, such as meat and dairy. So we will face an enormous challenge to feed this world.

Today, the poor are starving because they can't afford to pay, not because we don't have the capacity to feed them. So we are going to have to employ a great deal more capacity to feed 10 billion people, with a middle class of perhaps six billion.

Unfortunately yields are likely to fall with climate change. The US averages around 10 tonnes per hectare per year of corn across the Midwest. This is likely to improve with climate change.

So at present there is plenty of grain. The EU still pays farmers not to grow crops, while the US diverts its massive crop surpluses into biofuel production. However, by 2100 demand will comfortably outstrip supply. Thankfully, we are ready to deploy the next big step in agricultural production—microalgae.

While it is difficult and expensive to turn this microalgae biomass into fuel, it is relatively easy to turn it into food. Carp, pigs and chickens are among the creatures that will feed on this food. "I understand that silver carp tastes divine, and the feed conversion rates for these creatures is less than two to one, with minimal greenhouse gas emissions".

The manure and effluent by-products of intensive animal production and aquaculture are ideal for anaerobic digestion. This process converts much of the organic matter into methane and liberates the nutrients into the liquid phase. The methane can be burnt to generate heat and power. The nutrients can be shandied for fertigation into intensive horticulture. If the horticulture is undertaken in glasshouses then the ‘waste heat' and CO2 rich exhaust gases can be used to further increase yields.

So there you have it.

Grow microalgae in the dry arid regions of the world where there is either sea water or non-potable water available for aquaculture ponds. Solar dry the biomass for transport to the peri-urban fringe. Formulate the microalgae with agricultural bio-products, vitamins and amino acids as required. Grow pigs, chickens and fish.

Anaerobically digest the manures on site and fertigate the effluent into glass houses. Hey presto—10 billion people fed generously, with a system that is highly adaptable to future changes in the climate.

If we can't fix global poverty we will be pounding past 15 billion people. doclink

Karen Gaia says: OK, so his father had a genocidal solution. There are plenty of us that have a solution that is not genocidal. Meeting the unmet need for contraception is the best answer, followed by the education of girls. However, making people wealthy is not the answer. We all need to stop following the Western Dream and living a simpler life, especially if we reach 10 billion.

Articles Worth Reading (not yet summarized)

Here are some fairly important articles that need summarizing, but no one has gotten around to them; and so I am listing them here. If you are interested in summarizing articles for WOA, click on the red arrow to get to the login/register screen.

  • Fixing Climate Change May Add No Costs, Report Says doclink

    In decades of public debate about global warming, one assumption has been accepted by virtually all factions: that tackling it would necessarily be costly. But a new report casts doubt on that idea, declaring that the necessary fixes could wind up being effectively free. A global commission will announce its finding on Tuesday that an ambitious series of measures to limit emissions would cost $4 trillion or so over the next 15 years, an increase... September 16, 2014, New York Times   By: Justin Gillis


  • U.S.: Birth Control Pills Should Be Available Over the Counter, but That's No Substitute for Contraceptive Coverage doclink

    In recent weeks, some opponents of the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) contraceptive coverage guarantee have promoted the idea that oral contraceptive pills should be available to adult women without a prescription. Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY), for example, recently introduced the so-called Preserving Religious Freedom and a Woman's Access to Contraception Act, a bill that would urge the Food and Drug Administration (FDA... September 11, 2014, Guttmacher Institute   By: Adam Sonfield and Sneha Barot

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  • Pacific Tuna Stocks on the Brink of Disaster, Warns Outgoing Fisheries Head Glenn Hurry doclink

    Professor Glenn Hurry said bluefin and bigeye tuna should no longer be harvested, as stocks were dangerously depleted. He also warned "serious action" needed to be taken to reduce the yellowfin tuna catch. "Yellowfin tuna's down to about 38 per cent of its original spawning biomass," said Professor Hurry, the outgoing executive director of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). "Bigeye tuna's down now to about 16 per cen... September 02, 2014, ABC   By: Dominique Schwartz and Greg Wilesmith

@@031235 @@031238 doclink

World's Top Problem is Overpopulation, Not Climate

October 04, 2013   By: Paul B. Farrell

Note: here is another older article well worth repeating.

Robert Laughlin says: "Humans have already triggered the sixth great period of species extinction ... "We face self-destruction, and we can't blame it on the great American conspiracy of climate-science deniers, Big Oil, the Koch Bros, the Chamber of Commerce and Congress" because we are the cause. We keep buying cars, jet rides, and large homes to heat and cool. We keep buying and investing in fossil fuels, and we keep making more babies, forever in denial of the unsustainability of perpetual economic growth on a planet of rapidly diminishing resources.

Humans are the new dinosaurs. We have scheduled our own extinction.

The U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change with nearly 2,000 elite scientists has updated us with technical reports every five or six years since 1988. But they're looking at the wrong problems. As problem solvers, the U.N.'s climate scientists aren't much different than ExxonMobil's CEO Rex Tillerson. He admits climate change is real, but he believes it's just an "engineering problem and there will be an engineering solution." He has faith that humans will “adapt to a sea-level rise." After all, humans “have spent our entire existence adapting. We'll adapt."

Earth's real problem is too many babies ... but we won't admit it

The problem is not climate science deniers. We are in denial about our biggest problem ... population growth. We produce 75 million new babies per year, yet our leaders, investors, billionaires, and the 99% are closet deniers. Even scientists are science deniers. U.N. scientists know (or should know) that overpopulation is the real problem. But if they do, they avoid mentioning it - looking instead for solutions to reducing the impact of global warming. It is not the dependent variables in their climate-change equation, but population growth that drives the problem.

* Scientific American says global population growth is “the most overlooked and essential strategy for achieving long-term balance with the environment."

* In “The Last Taboo," Mother Jones columnist Julia Whitty said: “What unites the Vatican, lefties, conservatives and scientists in a conspiracy of silence? Population." This hot-button issue ignites powerful reactions. So politicians won't touch it. Nor will U.N.'s world leaders. Even if it's killing us."

* Five years ago billionaire philanthropists met secretly in Manhattan: Gates, Buffett, Rockefeller, Soros, Bloomberg, Turner, Oprah and others. Each took 15 minutes to present their favorite cause. Asked what was the “umbrella cause?" Answer: Overpopulation, said the billionaires.

* Jeremy Grantham's investment firm manages about $110 billion in assets. He says ," We don't need more Big Ag, we need fewer small mouths to feed.

Perhaps we fear that the world's biggest problem has no solution!

Bill Gates wants to cap global population at 8.3 billion. Columbia University's Earth Institute Director Jeff Sachs says even 5 billion is unsustainable. To stop adding more is tough enough. But how do we eliminate more than two billion from today's seven billion? Even worse, it seems that few people are concerned and working on the problem. The topic is taboo, so few even mention it. Not U.N. leaders, scientists or billionaires. All are in denial - a conspiracy of silence that is killing us. Should we assume that wars, pandemics, or starvation will solve the problem and spare us from the sixth great species extinction - Earth's biggest problem, the one almost no one talks about?

Meanwhile, marketing studies show how humans live in denial by telling ourselves we're recyclers who support green technologies. Yet we keep stocking up on carbon polluting products because our economy is built on them.

Is it already too late? Can we stop our own extinction cycle?

“One of the disturbing facts of history is that so many civilizations collapse," warns Jared Diamond, environmental anthropologist and author of the classic “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed." Diamond detailed the scenario that keeps repeating in history. A society's demise may begin only a decade or two after it reaches its peak population, wealth and power." doclink

U.S.: Texas's Culture Wars Have Created a Public Health Disaster for Women

A Report from the impoverished Rio Grande Valley
May 12 , 2014, New Republic   By: Erica Hellerstein

In 2011 the GOP-controlled Texas legislature slashed $73 million from the state's family-planning budget, leaving approximately 147,000 women without access to affordable preventative health care and shuttering more than 50 clinics statewide. Rep. Wayne Christian, a Republican, said "Of course this is a war on birth control and abortions and everything -- that's what family planning is supposed to be about." A ban was also passed on "abortion affiliates," effecitvely barring all Planned Parenthood health centers from receiving state funding. The legislation is estimated to impact up to 50,000 women, many of them with low incomes.

The state's Latina community is especially impacted. "We are witnessing the dismantling of a safety net that took decades to build and could not easily be recreated even if funding were restored soon," wrote a doctor and three academics in a New England Journal of Medicine article in 2012.

Reeling from accusations of a "war on women," Republican state senators last year proposed adding $100 million for women's health services back into the state's primary-care program. But advocates say it's too little, too late. "It's hard to put back together a system that's been dismantled," said Sarah Wheat, vice president for community affairs for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas.

In the impoverished Rio Grande Valley a million-plus residents living in the overwhelmingly Latino area were seriously impacted. Nine of the valley's 32 state-funded family planning clinics have shut down, while others reduced services and raised fees, according to a joint report from the Center for Reproductive Rights and National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. Before the cuts, basic reproductive services like Pap tests, breast exams, contraceptive services and counseling, and STI testing, were available at clinics for little to no cost. But now Texas women are seeing higher costs, and fewer services. From 2010 to 2012, the number of women in the valley getting family-planning services at clinics funded by the Texas Department of State Health Services plummeted by 72%.

According to an analysis by the state's nonpartisan Legislative Budget Board, the cuts could result in more than 20,500 additional unplanned births, costing Medicaid more than $230 million.

In the Rio Grande Valley more than one-third of the population lives in poverty; unemployment is soaring; and nearly one third of the adult population has less than a ninth-grade education. These factors already make it difficult for uninsured residents to access affordable healthcare. Texas has more uninsured adults than any other state in the nation -- six million, or 25% of the population—and the valley's Hidalgo County has the highest rate of uninsured residents living in urban counties in the entire U.S.

Many of the uninsured are in the 2,200 colonias along the border in Texas. These are geographically isolated, unincorporated border communities often lacking in infrastructure like clean water, electricity, sewage systems, and paved roads. The average income in 1994 was $8,899. Some women don't have cars, private transportation is expensive, and public transportation is barely accessible. In Cameron County, the rate of cervical cancer deaths for Latinas is twice the rate for white women, and Latinas living in counties that straddle the Texas-Mexico border are 31% more likely to die of cervical cancer than white Texans, and 26% more likely to die of the disease than other Latinas nationally. Now, with fewer family planning clinics in the state than ever, these numbers are almost certain to rise. "t the early stages cervical cancer is highly treatable. And yet women are dying because they've never had a Pap smear, they've never seen a doctor." doclink

Reproduction and the Carbon Legacies of Individuals

April 2008, Global Environmental Change   By: Paul A. Murlaugh and Michael G. Schlax

Note: This is an older article, but well worth repeating.

There has been relatively little emphasis on the environmental consequences of the reproductive choices of an individual person. In the United States each child adds about 9441 metric tons of carbon dioxide to the carbon legacy of an average female, which is 5.7 times her lifetime emissions. Should the offspring reproduce, additional impacts could potentially accrue over many future generations. A person's reproductive choices must be considered along with his day-today activities when assessing his ultimate impact on the global environment.

Our basic premise is that a person is responsible for the carbon emissions of his descendants. A mother and father are each responsible for one half of the emissions of their offspring, and 1/4 of the emissions of their grandchildren.

If we integrate the number of genetic units over time, we obtain an estimate of the total number of person years that are traceable to the original parent. If we integrate the product of the number of genetic units and the per-capita rate of carbon emissions over time, we obtain an estimate of the total emissions attributable to the ancestor, or her carbon legacy.

A woman in the United States who adopted the six non-reproductive changes in the table below would save about 486 tons of CO2 emissions during her lifetime, but, if she were to have two children, this would eventually add nearly 40 times that amount of CO2 (18,882 t) to the earth's atmosphere.

CO2 saved
148 Increase car's fuel economy from 20 to 30 mpg 148
147 Reduce miles driven from 231 to 155 per week
121 Replace single-glazed windows with energy-efficient windows
36 Replace ten 75-w incandescent bulbs with 25-w energy-efficient lights
19 Replace old refrigerator with energy-efficient model
17 Recycle newspaper, magazines, glass, plastic, aluminum, and steel cans
* * Reduce number of children by one

* * Constant-emission scenario 9,441
Optimistic scenario 562
Pessimistic scenario 12,730

Lifestyle changes are are also important; we need to do both. Immediate reductions in emissions worldwide are needed to limit the damaging effects of climate change that are already being documented. Such lifestyle changes must propagate through future generations in order to be fully effective, and enormous future benefits can be gained by immediate changes in reproductive behavior.

An extra child born to a woman in the United States ultimately increases her carbon legacy by an amount (9441 metric tons) that is nearly seven times the analagous quantity for a woman in China (1384 tons), but, because of China's enormous population size, its total carbon emissions currently exceed those of the United States.

Ignoring the consequences of reproduction can lead to serious underestimation of an individual's long-term impact on the global environment. doclink

Karen Gaia says: I would stress getting out of your cars if possible. And insulating your house. Look at cities like Amsterdam, for example. People are reluctant to dip below one child families, on average. And smaller families has the unintended consequence of more per capita discretionary income which grows the economy and extends lifespans.

What Women Want

July 13, 2014

What would happen if we could meet the family planning needs of all women in developing countries -- women who don't want to become pregnant, yet who may not have access to contraception? The Guttmacher Institute estimates that this would prevent 54 million unintended pregnancies each year. That in turn would prevent 21 million unplanned births, 26 million abortions (16 million of them unsafe), 7 million miscarriages, 79,000 maternal deaths, and 1.1 million infant deaths. And all that would cost an estimated $4.1 billion per year -- about what the U.S. government spent in Afghanistan every two weeks in 2011. doclink

12 Graphics That Contain Everything You Need to Know About Climate Change

January 01 , 2014, Scientific American   By: David Biello

Climate change is real, it's here and it will be affecting the planet for a long, long time. That's the lesson of the latest iteration of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change‘s state of climate science report, released in its entirety on January 30.

More doclink

Steady State Economy: Enough is Enough

January 30, 2014   By: Rob Dietz

The global economy is growing beyond the capacity of the biosphere. In recent times, environmental scientists have demonstrated convulsive creativity as they deliver this message with increasingly alarming language (too bad economists and politicians are willfully ignoring the alarms to pursue short-term gains). What we need right now is a new economic blueprint that can meet people's needs without undermining the life-support systems of the planet.

That's why Rob Dietz and Dan O'Neill wrote the book Enough Is Enough: Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources. And that's why Tom Bliss has produced and directed a video based on the book. In eighteen minutes, the video reviews the main principles of a sustainable economy and describes how to begin the transition. doclink

Family Planning and Well-Being in Bangladesh

February 2013, Population Reference Bureau

While the average family in Bangladesh today has about four children fewer than their parents' generation, that family has about six times the purchasing power. Using Trendalyzer, this PRB ENGAGE Snapshot examines how fertility and income have changed in Bangladesh, and highlights the role that family planning can play in helping families achieve higher levels of education and in accumulating more wealth.

This short video can be viewed online as well as downloaded for future use. The video can be embedded into PowerPoint and other presentations, as well as used independently as an educational tool. doclink

LA Times - Vatican to Debate Teachings on Divorce, Birth Control, Gay Unions

May 21 , 2014, Los Angeles Times   By: Henry Chu

Soon after his election last year, Pope Francis directed every diocese to survey local attitudes on family and relationships. The survey asked 39 questions -- including whether unmarried couples were living together, whether same-sex unions were legal, how many children were being raised in non-traditional families, and what programs conveyed Catholic teaching on such matters. Vatican expert John Thavis says that this survey will tell the Vatican what it already knows, but has not wanted to acknowledge.

The Vatican will tally and analyze the results, and this fall the Pope will meet with senior clerics to review and debate church teachings that affect the most intimate aspects of people's lives, including contraception, cohabitation, divorce, remarriage, and same-sex unions. Billed as an "extraordinary" assembly of bishops, the gathering could result in new approaches to some of those sensitive topics.

Some analysts say the Pope's Jesuit training has taught him to diversify his information sources and form less centralized decision-making process. Thavis says that instead of bishops just preaching the rules and doctrine down to the faithful, Francis wants more dialogue. "Francis already knows that many Catholics disobey the church's ban on premarital sex and birth control and that some are in gay partnerships. Documenting these changes could strengthen his bid to soften the church's official line and put pressure on bishops inclined to resist. While Western countries show large-scale rejection of Catholic dogma on sex and marriage, little is known of the response in Asia and Africa, where the church has been growing and conservative views are more likely. That could complicate reforms by Francis, who also wants to broaden the input and influence of those growing regions.

At October‘s synod, Bishops will discuss the survey and proposals to deal with the findings. They will then settle on new guidelines at an "ordinary" synod next year. Thus, few expect major changes to Catholic doctrine at the synod this October. The two-step process should give prelates time to reflect and adjust to reforms proposed by Francis, Thavis said. The pope must reconcile the views of ordinary Catholics who desperately want change and those among their leaders who spurn it. "The Pope is the Pope, and I think we can expect that even conservative bishops will listen to what he says," Thavis hopes for a policy that will not cause people to leave the church or reject the synod.

Francis has spoken unequivocally on heterosexual marriage as God's will. Still, reformers find hope in the Pope's new tone. For example, regarding gays he said, "Who am I to judge?" He has also advised against obsessing over "small-minded rules" and contentious subjects such as abortion. Francis has hinted that same-sex and unmarried unions could serve a practical purpose by legally protecting the children. This month an Argentine cathedral baptized the infant daughter of a lesbian couple with Francis' apparent consent. Catherine Pepinster, editor of the Tablet, a Catholic weekly in Britain agrees. "When he was cardinal in Buenos Aires, he really had a go at priests who wouldn't baptize the children of single mothers." So, although Francis almost certainly will seek an end to denying communion to Catholics who have divorced and remarried, his emphasis on pastoral care and compassion could offer local priests a work-around, with greater flexibility to address individual circumstances. The church could "triage" people's spiritual wounds rather than aggravate them.

Francis' global popularity could inflate expectations of the changes he can, or wills to deliver. Disgruntled underlings can ignore or oppose his injunctions. Massimo Faggioli of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota believes conservative U.S. bishops, appointed mostly by Francis' predecessors, oppose relaxing traditional strictures on marriage and family. "The Catholic Church is not a military dictatorship where, if they don't obey, you can send the army. It's very difficult for a pope to force bishops to do what you want them to do," Faggioli said.

Although the Vatican told bishops to distribute the questionnaire as widely as possible, apparently not all complied. In the U.S., the National Catholic Reporter found that many dioceses posted the survey online for parishioners to fill in, but others did not seem to notify lay people at all. The German bishops reported that many of their parishioners view the church's teaching on sex as "unrealistic," its prohibition on artificial contraception as "incomprehensible;" and its treatment of remarried divorcees as pitiless. Some critics also demand more participation by women in the discussion, so that crucial decisions on marriage, sex and family life are not made exclusively by a group of single, celibate, childless men. doclink

Art says: This does not address the church's cover-up of clergy child abuse, which The PBS documentary program Frontline recently investigated. Those interviewed by Frontline found little improvement by the church on coverup matters since Pope Francis took office, suggesting that expectations of reform under Francis may lead to disappointment.

California: Insurers Must Cover Elective Abortions

August 23 , 2014, ABCnews

State insurance officials have ruled that health insurance companies in California may not refuse to cover the cost of abortions.

Michelle Rouillard, the director of California's Department of Managed Health Care said that the state Constitution and a 1975 state law prohibits them from selling group plans that exclude the procedure. The law in question requires such plans to encompass all "medically necessary" care.

In contrast, the federal Affordable Care Act does not compel employers to provide workers with health insurance that includes abortion coverage,

"Abortion is a basic health care service," Rouillard wrote. "All health plans must treat maternity services and legal abortion neutrally."

Last year two Catholic universities notified employees that they planned to stop paying for elective abortions, but said faculty and staff members could pay for supplemental coverage that would be provided through a third party. Roullaird said her department had "erroneously approved or did not object" to a small number of health insurance policies that excluded abortions. She asked the companies to review their plans to make sure they are in accordance with the new guidance.

Two groups that oppose abortion, the Life Legal Defense Foundation and Alliance Defending Freedom, said that under federal law California cannot force employers to cover elective abortions and that they plan to file a civil rights complaint with the federal government unless the state's previous determination was reinstated. doclink

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