Managing Population Growth: the Demographic Imperative.

October 08, 2010   The Broker website

World population rose to 6.9 billion in 2010. Nearly 80 million people are being added to the total each year. With one-fifth of this number still beset by poverty, the prospects of an additional two billion people by mid-century needs to be pre-empted by implementing employment and equity-focused development strategies before it is too late.

Fertility and birth rates have been declining worldwide in recent decades and, this increase is slowing as well. According to a 2004 UN projection, the number of inhabitants in our global village is expected to peak at 9.22 billion in 2075 - with almost all of this increase destined to take place in developing countries.

Today's baby boomers in countries such as Yemen, Uganda, Mali and India will keep population growing in these countries for the next generation, even if they reduce their average fertility to below replacement levels.

There are many perspectives on this growth. The alarmist perspective tends to dominate public perception. That population growth would outstrip food production resulting in famine, disease, war and other calamities that would ultimately keep population growth in check.

These views definitely have their appeal, as they continue to underwrite typical journalistic discourses on population and food production, such as the idea that rising population causes higher food prices, which in turn gives rise to food riots, potential resource wars and famine.

Population Politics, written in 1993 by Virginia Abernethy, an American anthropologist who has described herself as an ‘ethnic separatist'. She argues that aid to developing countries results in women having more children, thereby exacerbating overpopulation. More recently, she has been involved in the controversial ‘Protect Arizona Now' anti-immigration movement. Similar undertones permeate anti-immigrant feelings in Europe, as reflected by the idea that Europe is 'full' or ‘overcrowded' - conveniently after several hundred years of colonialism.

The association of such reactionary attitudes with population control is partly to blame for the negative connotation that family planning has come to evoke among more progressive folk. Family planning has also been under attack by the religious Right due to its association with contraception and even abortion.

Alarm over the environmental impact of overpopulation ends up representing the poor as perpetrators of environmental destruction rather than as the victims of such capitalist development.

Mass famines have largely been averted because the world has managed to increase food supplies in pace with population growth. This point is eagerly pointed out by many so-called ‘anti-Malthusians' including Julian Simon, who attacks the ideas of scarcity in his 1981 book, The Ultimate Resource, with a faith in the ability of free markets and human innovation to deal with population growth. The well-known writings of Danish economist Ester Boserup are also often considered to be part of this camp, although she qualified her own arguments by stressing that adaptations to population growth take place over long sweeps of human history and are not necessarily the result of short-term market mechanisms.

It is true that increases in food production over the past 60 years have been achieved through the intensified use of chemical fertilizers, particularly synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. But this dependence has questionable environmental consequences, including the fact that nitrous oxide is a powerful greenhouse gas and nitrogen fertilizers leach nutrients from soils and have problematic consequences on downstream eco-systems. In addition, their production is dependent on limited and regionally concentrated supplies of raw materials. More generally, many ‘Green Revolution' technologies are energy intensive and dependent on petroleum-based resources (including, for instance, the use of plastics).

These points have been discussed at length by leading experts. Tim Dyson in his 2005 article, 'On Development, Demography and Climate Change', suggests that while Malthusianism might not apply in the conventional sense, it might soon apply at a global level in terms of the long-term impacts of our modern industrial way of life on climate change.

In contrast to Dyson's industrial systemic lens, a form of neo-Malthusian thinking that focuses on poor people has tended to dominate depictions of population change in sustainable development and anti-poverty campaigns.

These rely on the idea of a self-reinforcing poverty-population-environment spiral. The theory here is that poverty induces higher fertility and higher population growth among poor people because children provide old age security as well as extra labour and income, and having more children compensates for higher mortality rates. This places pressure on the environment and leads to environmental degradation, which in turn worsens poverty. The poor are thus doomed to worsening poverty until they can either lower their birth rates or else be lifted out of poverty by some other means, so as to break their need for more children.

While such logic holds considerable appeal, some of its basic premises have been largely refuted by contemporary demographic research, pointing us towards a much more nuanced understanding of poverty-population interactions. Broad agreement among demographers also represents, to some degree, certain advances that have been made in the field of population studies since the 1970s, when pessimism reigned in both academic and popular perception about the ability of the poor to lower their fertility. It is now accepted that fertility has been falling rapidly in poor countries - much more rapidly than was the case in Europe during its own fertility transitions in the 19th and early 20th centuries - and that this is occurring largely irrespective of income level. Even now, fertility is already falling rapidly in many African countries - much faster than many had anticipated. There are only a few places in Africa where fertility decline has not yet started, such as rural Uganda, rural Congo, rural Nigeria, Niger and Chad. According to Michel Garenne, a leading expert in African demography, nobody would have predicted these developments 20 years ago. As a result, today's predictions of what the global population will be in 2050 are much lower than they were in the 1960s and 1970s - precisely because fertility decline has occurred much faster than anticipated.

Interestingly, despite the recognized importance of girls' education for fertility reduction, uneducated rural women have also been reducing their fertility.

Poor people are perfectly capable of ‘modernizing' demographically while still remaining poor economically. We can see that fertility transitions are taking place throughout the world, usually at a more rapid pace in the places where transition has begun later. However, this tells us little about the respective economic development paths that each society will take as it undergoes transition. Economic development paths are generally much more a matter of capitalism than of demography.

World population is continuing to rise rapidly despite falling fertility rates, mostly in poor countries with limited resources. Regardless of our ability to produce enough food to feed the growing global population, hunger persists in the world because food is not equitably distributed.

Some parts of the world have a surplus (even an extreme surplus), and others a deficit (an extreme deficit resulting in hunger and famine). To understand this, we need to understand how food is produced and distributed at regional and local levels. This is as much a political economy question as a logistical one, as it is rooted in the power relations that govern both local and global economies.

Distribution is hugely influenced by income, particularly in today's liberalized global economy where the ability to purchase food increasingly determines who gets supplied. People's ability to buy food can be expressed both in terms of having the money (or other means) to obtain it and also in terms of being able to use this money (or those means) freely for that purpose.

The main point is that poverty, hunger and famine are as much issues of demand (or the inability to enact demand) as they are of supply. Indeed, this was the essential insight of John Maynard Keynes' theory of effective demand, which he developed in the 1930s as a means to explain unemployment. Keynes himself acknowledged Malthus' work on famines as an important source for his ideas.

In terms of population growth, distributional questions can be considered at both micro and macro levels. At the micro level, population growth is generally experienced as an increase in the size of families, as a consequence of more children surviving to adulthood.

In an agrarian setting, this puts more pressure on land resources, as existing plots of land are stretched to support more people. Such a population increase can drive poor families further into poverty in situations where land distribution is very unequal or where households with smaller holdings struggle to subsist on their land (if they have land).

This strain on poor rural households is not resolved by commercializing agriculture (including, for instance, land leasing by transnational corporations in Africa), nor is it resolved by increasing the capital intensity of agriculture - for example, by using tractors instead of people. These types of change generally increase labour productivity, but at the cost of employing less people, and they do not necessarily make the land more productive. Rather, they tend to concentrate the use of land into the hands of fewer people. Less employment combined with more land concentration therefore exacerbates the strain on smallholders and simultaneously reduces the possibility of finding work on larger farms - usually the lifeline of the landless and of poor farmers whose own land cannot meet their subsistence needs.

Some family members (or whole households) move into off-farm activities as a consequence of these strains, thus driving processes of urbanization, regardless of whether there are decent jobs and a viable living to be made in the towns and cities these people are moving to. Where there are not, urbanization can actually turn rural poverty into urban poverty, as has been witnessed in many developing countries and which World Bank poverty statistics are particularly inept at measuring.

The crucial role of off-farm jobs within such transitions becomes particularly evident at the macro level as whole societies go through these transitions together. In 1950, Russia had a population of 102.7 million, while Yemen had a population of 4.3 million.

By 2000, Russia's population was 145.5 million, while Yemen's population had increased fourfold to 18.3 million. Based on UN projections, Russia's population will fall back to 104 million by 2050, whereas Yemen's will increase again by more than fivefold, to 102 million. Even if Yemeni women were to suddenly substantially reduce their fertility soon , the bulk of this increase is more or less already guaranteed by population momentum.

Similarly, the population of Niger, which recently suffered from famine and food shortage, would increase at its current fertility rates from about 16 million in 2010 to 80 million by 2050 - a population larger than that of Germany. Even if the fertility rate is reduced from the current eight births per woman to 3.6 - as the UN expects - the population will still reach 50 million by 2050. While Yemen and Niger are severe cases, they are not totally exceptional, as many rapidly growing countries in Africa and parts of Asia are set to experience a doubling, if not a trebling or more of their populations by 2050.

In the face of such inevitable population expansions, the obvious developmental question is: how will such a large number of people be meaningfully employed? The potential for agriculture to productively absorb such increases is probably close to nil, given the already over-stretched land resources in most of these countries. Moreover, food deficit countries (such as Yemen and Niger) will need to export more in order to pay for more food imports from abroad.

This should not be done through the intensification of land-based primary commodity exports (such as coffee and cocoa) given that the production of these export crops takes land away from local food production, thereby offsetting the food deficit problem rather than resolving it. In other words, the foreign exchange earned through producing food for European supermarkets (minus the profits that the European corporations organizing such production remit back to Europe) is largely used to pay for the increased food imports that these poor countries require as a result of shifting their land and labour towards such export production.

Rather, the increase in employment will most certainly need to occur in the secondary sector (manufacturing and construction) or in the tertiary sector (services, broadly speaking). Given the low degree of employment creation relative to output that is offered by modern manufacturing nowadays, the bulk of this employment will probably need to be generated in services, largely in urban areas.

In other words, Yemen's hugely increased labour force will need to be employed mostly outside agriculture. And with little employment generated in enclave sectors such as petroleum, Yemen would need to become the new South Korea, or even the new China, alongside dozens of other countries competing to become the same. Since modern manufacturing generates relatively little employment, these countries would also need to institute strong redistributive mechanisms in order to guarantee that any wealth generated by the manufacturing or enclave sectors would be circulated throughout the rest of the economy. This wealth, in turn, would have to create decently paid employment in the largely-urban service sector, with public-sector employment playing a lead role, particularly given the employment expectations of the increasingly well-educated populations of these countries.

And even then, in the best of scenarios, Yemen and other countries would need an outlet of international emigration. After all, during Europe's phase of rapid population growth, as much as 20% of its population increase emigrated to the ‘New World' colonies, which had been murderously cleansed for the purpose.

Emigration from developing countries today accounts for a far smaller share of population increase than in these earlier European cases. Yet such countries face a greater need for emigration, with significantly fewer resources to face the challenges of population increase at home.

A developmental solution to this unfolding situation needs to be earnestly sought by all, Left and Right, South and North. There are, in fact, some important lessons to be learnt for this purpose from the recent post-war past. The countries, particularly in East Asia, that have been most successful at both rapidly reducing fertility and generating employment have been generally characterized by a combination of strong developmentalism and universalistic social policies.

Developmentalism in this sense means state-led industrial policy rooted in nationally owned firms, regulated capital accounts to ensure that wealth remains national, and a bias towards generating employment rather than efficiency. This is the opposite of the neoliberal dictates that demand employment austerity in the name of (transnational) firm profitability.

Universalistic social policies, especially in health, provide crucial redistributive mechanisms in the economy. They also provide the administrative and social infrastructure that allows for rapid progress in both birth and death control - the latter being as important as family planning in bringing about sustained reductions of fertility.

South Korea and Taiwan are obvious examples of where this approach has worked well. But Thailand (at least, up until the East Asia crisis in 1997), and China are other examples. In fact, China's success in reducing fertility in the 1970s from a rate of 5.8 in 1970 to 2.8 by 1979 - before the introduction of the one-child policy - cannot be appreciated without understanding the entirely state-collectivized economy that existed at the time. Collectivization assured full employment and the near universal provision of primary health care and basic education in both rural and urban areas. The contribution of these earlier social achievements to subsequent economic growth from the 1980s onwards is also often underappreciated.

That particular revolutionary setting would be near impossible, and perhaps not desirable, to reproduce in other countries today. But we can still learn from the underlying principles, shared with other less extreme cases, in terms of the ways off-farm employment was generated and supported by domestically controlled mechanisms of accumulation, wealth redistribution, and universal social service provision - all pursued from a poor agrarian economic starting point. Even countries that have made good progress in their fertility transitions, such as most of Asia and Latin America, urgently require employment-focused development strategies in order to successfully tap the potential of their so-called ‘demographic dividend', a one-off historical peak in the proportion of working-age adults to young and old dependents.

The lessons should be clear both for the progressive development community, that wishes to make poverty history, as well as for the rising xenophobic Right in Europe and the United States that wishes to stem immigration and other perceived ills inherited from their legacy of having once plundered the non-Western world. Developmentalism, progressive redistribution and universalistic social policies, especially in health, need to be urgently placed at the top of the development agenda, or else we must expect increasing flows of immigration to right the imbalance. rw doclink

This author makes many claims that are not backed up. Many countries in Africa may have started to bring down fertility rates, but they are progressing very slowly. Many countries that started with a rapid decline in fertility rates have become stuck on male preference (Bangladesh, for example, has been 'stuck' at about 2.5 for a decade.) The author seems to forget how much of the progress was due to the efforts of USAID and from the Cairo 1994 Convention, where voluntary family planning is promoted. There are countries like Myanmar, where mechanized farming has not taken over the work of farmers, and there is still a migration to the cities, due to overpopulation. In Myanmar, one only has to look at the large numbers of young adults standing around as would-be waiters in restaurants, making a $1 a day, to realize this. There the median age is 26. While Virginia Abernathy may be an ethnic separatist, so are many people of many cultures. That does not make her theories any more or less accurate. Many of her studies were done on white populations of people. There is no implication there that one population is better or inferior to another. Nor does the author seem to realize that voluntary family planning is more often seen to be of long-term benefit to families and people, regardless of race or culture, and would be less likely to point fingers if this were understood. Then there is food distribution. The author does not seem to realize just how costly food distribution is, and how poor roads and transportation make food distribution unfeasible, and how short is the world's surplus of grains.
World Overpopulation Awareness - WOA!! World Overpopulation Awareness
Cairo Market .. Jane Derry
Cairo Market ... Jane Derry

Population and Sustainability News Digest

December 08, 2010
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Ending Hunger in Africa.

October 13, 2010   Worldwatch

As hunger and drought spread across Africa, there's a focus on increasing yields of staple crops, such as maize, wheat, cassava, and rice. Although these crops are important for improving food security, they cannot cure malnutrition alone.

There is no one-size fits all or single crop solution to solving global hunger, alleviating poverty, or protecting the environment and mitigating climate change. But the good news is that there is a multi-crop solution and it's already being spear-headed by farmers on the ground: vegetables.

Some 1 billion people worldwide are affected by "hidden hunger," or micronutrient deficiencies - lack of Vitamin A, iron, and iodine, none of which are found in staple crops, but rather, in vegetables. Vegetable production is the most sustainable and affordable way of alleviating micronutrient deficiencies among the poor.

It's also the most sustainable and affordable way of improving biodiversity, preserving traditions and cultures, and improving livelihoods. Because vegetables typically have a shorter growing period than staple crops, they are less risk-prone to drought, maximizing scarce water supplies and soil nutrients better than crops such as maize.

Unfortunately, no country in Africa has a big focus on vegetable production. But that's where AVRDC - The World Vegetable Center steps in, working with farmers to build a sustainable seed system in Africa. The Center does this by breeding a variety of vegetables with different traits—including resistance to disease and longer shelf life—and by bringing the farmers to the Regional Center in Arusha and to other offices across Africa to find out what exactly those farmers need in the field and at market.

Babel Isack, a tomato farmer from Tanzania, is just one of many farmers who visit the Center, advising staff about which vegetable varieties would be best suited for his particular needs—including varieties that depend on fewer chemical sprays and have a longer shelf life.

Mel Oluoch, a Liaison Officer with the Center's Vegetable Breeding and Seed System Program (vBSS) trains both urban and rural farmers in seed production. "The sustainability of seed," says Oluoch, "is not yet there in Africa." In other words, farmers don't have access to a reliable source of seed for indigenous vegetables, such as amaranth, spider plant, cowpea, okra, moringa, and other crops. But Oluoch and others at the Center are working closely with farmers to change that.

The hardiness and drought-tolerance of traditional vegetables become increasingly important as climate change becomes more evident. Many indigenous vegetables use less water than hybrid varieties and some are resistant to pests and disease without the use of chemical inputs, which are expensive both financially and environmentally.

Of course, it's not only crucial for farmers to grow indigenous species; people also need to want to eat them. In many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, local foods are looked down upon by rich and poor shoppers alike. In Senegal, for example, many consumers and cooks consider local rice to be inferior and instead buy imported European brands that can cost four times as much.

At the heart of these issues is a loss of knowledge about agricultural practices and indigenous varieties that create local agricultural, as well as cultural, biodiversity. While what we eat is important, what may be even more essential over the long term is preserving knowledge about how to plant, grow, and cook what we eat.

In Uganda's Mukono District, Edward Mukiibi, 23, and Roger Serunjogi, 22, founded the Developing Innovations in School Cultivation Project, or DISC, with this premise in mind. The project began in 2006 as a way to improve nutrition, generate environmental awareness, and preserve food traditions and culture for local students by establishing school gardens at 15 preschool, day and boarding schools.

By focusing on school gardens, Mukiibi and Serunjogi are helping not only to feed children, but are also revitalizing an interest in - and cultivation of - African indigenous vegetables, cultivating the next generation of farmers and eaters who can preserve Uganda's culinary traditions and increase food security.

Says one 19 year-old student, Mary Naku, who is learning farming skills from DISC, "as youth we have learned to grow fruits and vegetables to support our lives."

Organizations like the AVRDC and DISC, by inspiring our future farmers, working with current farmers and reigniting an interest and appetite for indigenous crop varieties, are helping to improve diets, livelihoods and local ecosystems around the world.

Staple crops can't do it alone. Luckily for us, creating a sustainable agriculture system and fighting hunger takes all kinds of crops, for a more delicious and sustainable, well-nourished future. rw doclink

Population and Sustainability News Digest

Jane Goodall: Curb Population Growth to Fight Climate Change.

March 25, 2010   USA Today

It's our population growth that underlies just about every single one of the problems that we've inflicted on the planet. If there were just a few of us, then the nasty things we do wouldn't really matter and Mother Nature would take care of it -- but there are so many of us," the 75-year-old English scientist told Agence France-Press in an interview.

"We should be talking about somehow curtailing human population growth," said Goodall, a United Nations Messenger of Peace, whose 1960s research on chimpanzees altered views on the relationships between humans and animals. "It's very frustrating as people don't want to address this topic."

The controversial topic was not addressed at the United Nations' climate summit in Copenhagen in December. Powerful groups such as the Catholic Church oppose contraception, and others see population control efforts such as China's one-child policy as totalitarian. Even some climate scientists see limited value in it, because most greenhouse gas emissions come from developed countries with small growth rates.

Still, like Goodall, other scientists, advocacy groups and lawmakers argue that slowing population growth could be key to fighting climate change.

The United Nations Population Fund's 2009 annual report links slower population growth to reduced greenhouse-gas emissions. "The whole world has been talking about carbon credits, carbon trading and emissions targets. But not enough has been said about the people whose activities contribute to those emissions," the report says. "Unless climate policies take people into account, they will fail to mitigate climate change or to shield vulnerable populations from the potentially disastrous impacts."

In December, more than 60 members of Congress, citing in part the need to address climate concerns, urged the Obama administration to improve financing for family planning efforts in a letter to Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget.

A report in September from the London School of Economics found that contraception is almost five times cheaper than conventional green technologies such as windmills or solar panels at combating climate change. It cites U.N. estimates that 40% of pregnancies worldwide are unintended.

"Stabilizing population levels has always been essential ecologically, and this study shows it's economically sensible, too," said Roger Martin, chair of the Optimum Population Trust, which commissioned the report.

The non-profit Trust, of which Jane Goodall is a patron, campaigns for family planning, sex education and women's rights. It advocates that couples voluntarily "stop at two". rw doclink

Human Demand Outstrips Nature's Supply - Living Planet Report, 2010 - WWF.

October 2010   WWF

In 2007, humanity's footprint exceeded the Earth's biocapacity by 50%.

This is called "ecological overshoot", and has continued since then.

It will take 1.5 years for the Earth to regenerate the renewable resources that people used in 2007 and absorb CO2 waste.

Put another way, people used the equivalent of 1.5 planets to support their activities.

The Ecological Footprint is an indicator of human pressure on nature.It measures how much land and water people need to produce the resources they consume (like food and timber), provide land for infrastructure, and absorb the CO2 they generate - and then compares this to biocapacity, nature's ability to meet this demand.

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Kenya: What Should Be Done About the World's Population Explosion?.

September 22, 2010   The East African

Half of Kenya's population is aged 25 years and below and it is experiencing population explosion. What should be done?

Demographic growth is interlinked with poverty and environment that gets ignored whenever leaders meet.

Campaigners on population issues acknowledge that poverty and environmental damage can have complex causes. A surge in population in some well-documented cases has helped catapult a country to prosperity.

But, relentless population pressure is common to many of the problems besetting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), up for review in New York. In poor countries, unbraked demographic growth adds to strain on infrastructure, health and educational resources, amplifies the risk of environmental damage and boosts exposure to climate change.

Even if countries reduce the proportion of people living in poverty, the number grows simply because of massive population growth.

If you have a population growing at 3% a year, it is doubling every 23, 24 years or so.

One example is Kenya, where the population in 2009 stood at 38.6 million, an increase of around 10 million since 1999. Less than a third of Kenyans have piped water and three-quarters have no means of sanitation.

Since the MDGs were drawn up in 2000, the world's population has expanded from 6.0 to 6.8 billion, 95% in poorer countries. By 2050, the total is likely to be more than nine billion, according to UN estimates.

Providing these extra souls with housing, water, electricity, sewerage, hospitals and schooling is going to be a mighty challenge, 227 million people had escaped slums in the past decade -- but the overall people living in slums had increased, from 776.7 million to 827.6 million. Half of the rise was due to population increase in existing slums, and a quarter to rural exodus. rw doclink

Population Media Center Announces Results in Nigeria.

July 17, 2010   Population Media Center

In Nigeria, which has one of the highest birth rates in the world, 92% of married women do not use contraceptives and 55% say they never intend to. The fertility rate is 5.7 children per woman, and the women think 7 children is the ideal number. The men think 9 children is the ideal number. Only 0.2% of Nigerians say they don't use contraceptives because services are not available, and only 0.2% cite cost as a barrier.

Of all births in Nigeria:

87% were wanted at the time and another. 7% were wanted, but not until later. 4% were unwanted.

Population Media Center's program in northern Nigeria is designed to help people understand the benefits for them and their children of limiting and spacing births. The program has had significant effects in changing desired family size among women who were listening. The 208-episode drama program was broadcast in Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, and Sokoto states from July 2007 to June 2009. The program storylines promoted and modeled birth spacing and smaller family size. The main characters in the drama featured couples who often discussed family planning issues and both positive and negative views related to making a decision to use contraceptives to space children and achieve smaller family size.

Results show that 70% of respondents in the four states listened to the broadcast one or more times per week. These percentages confirm similar listenership levels found in clinic monitoring reports during broadcast.

At the time of the baseline survey in the four states where we were planning to broadcast, the mean desired number of children for all respondents was 7.43 and this decreased to 5.93 by the endline survey, most notably among females.

* The likelihood of respondents saying they did not want to have another child was 5.7 times greater at endline compared to baseline.

* The likelihood of respondents saying they "currently use something to delay or avoid pregnancy" was 5.6* times greater at endline compared to baseline. Listeners were 2.4 times as likely as nonlisteners to say they "currently use something to delay or avoid pregnancy.

* The likelihood of respondents saying they had talked with their spouse or partner "once or twice" or "more often" about family planning in the last three months was 4.5 times greater at endline compared to baseline. For males there was a notable relative increase of 48% from baseline to endline; however for females there was a sharp relative increase from baseline to endline of 172%. This result shows that the program strongly benefited both females and males in increasing the amount of discussion of reproductive health with their partner.

* The likelihood of respondents saying they "discussed the practice of family planning with family, friends, or neighbors" in the past three months was 2.7 times greater at endline compared to baseline. Listeners were more than 1.9 times more likely than nonlisteners to say they "discussed the practice of family planning with family, friends, or neighbors" in the past three months.

* The likelihood of respondents thinking that “couples should space children 2.5 to 3 years apart" was 1.5* greater at endline compared to baseline.

* Listeners were 1.9* times more likely than nonlisteners to think that "couples should space children 2.5 to 3 years apart". Listeners were 1.7* times more likely than nonlisteners to say "yes" when asked if "couples should share responsibility for making decisions about family size."

* Listeners were nearly two times as likely as nonlisteners to think that "people should plan how many children they have. The likelihood of respondents saying that using contraceptives is not "against the will of Allah" was 3.6* times greater at endline compared to baseline. Listeners were 1.5* times more likely than nonlisteners to say that using contraceptives is not "against the will of Allah."

* Listeners were 1.7* times more likely than nonlisteners to "know a place to obtain a method of family planning. rw doclink

Saudi Arabia to Replace Oil with Sun Power for Desalination Plants.

February 1, 2010   Green Prophet

Saudi Arabia is building the world's largest desalination plant on the shores of the Persian Gulf where its current 28 desalination plants rely of fossil fuel.

The Kingdom is planning to build solar energy based desalination plants in order to save on energy costs, as well as be in tune with new environmental polices. This might be to secure membership in the International Renewable Energy Agency, otherwise known as IRENA.

The Kingdom may even become an exporter of solar energy as it has been doing with oil. It takes 1.5 million barrels per day to supply drinking water to Saudi citzens. The price of desalinated water has risen as oil prices have risen.

The Kingdom is also building a high speed train network, which may help to eliminate many of the thousands of buses which are currently used. rw doclink

Karen Gaia says: perhaps the Saudis are aware of the nearness of peak oil.

15 Poverty Statistics That Are Skyrocketing as the American Middle Class Continues to Be Slowly Wiped Out.

September 15, 2010   The Economic Collapse Blog

The "America" that so many of us have taken for granted is disintegrating. Most Americans are under the delusion that the United States will always be "the wealthiest nation" in the world and that our economy will always produce large numbers of high paying jobs and that the U.S. will always have a very large middle class. But that is not what is happening.

The foundations of the U.S. economy have rotted away and we now find ourselves on the verge of an economic collapse. Already, millions upon millions of Americans are slipping out of the middle class and into the devastating grip of poverty. Statistic after statistic proves that the middle class in the United States is shrinking month after month after month. Meanwhile, millions of Americans are starting to wake up and are beginning to realize that we have very serious problems on our hands, but they have no idea what is causing our economic distress and they are unaware that most of our politicians have absolutely no idea how to fix the economic disaster that we have created.

The American people are treated to endless footage of leaders from both political parties proclaiming that the primary reason that we are in the midst of such an economic mess is because of what the other political party has done.

This economic nightmare has taken literally decades to develop, and both Democrats and Republicans have contributed greatly to this disaster. Both parties have absolutely refused to stand up to the Federal Reserve and the horrific economic policies that they have been shoving down our throats for decades.

Both parties have stood idly by as the U.S. trade deficit has exploded in size and the United States has become poorer month after month. Both parties have refused to do anything as factories and good paying jobs leave the United States, and now we have the largest national debt in the history of the world.

Both parties have done nothing as the health care industry has degenerated into a cesspool of corruption and greed and now seems designed to do little more than to provide pharmaceutical companies and health insurance crooks with obscene profits.

If factories keep leaving the United States and jobs keep leaving the United States and the federal government keeps going into more debt, then things are going to keep getting worse.

As wealth continues to leave the United States and as the U.S. gets even deeper into debt, more Americans are going to become poor. Approximately 45 million Americans were living in poverty in 2009. Experts believe that 2009 saw the largest single year increase in the U.S. poverty rate since the U.S. government began calculating poverty figures back in 1959.

The U.S. poverty rate is the third worst among the developed nations. Household participation in the food stamp program has increased 20.28%, with 41 million Americans on food stamps for the first time ever in June.

One out of every six Americans is now being served by at least one government anti-poverty program. More than 50 million Americans are now on Medicaid. One out of every seven mortgages in the United States was either delinquent or in foreclosure during the first quarter of 2010.

Nearly 10 million Americans now receive unemployment insurance, four times as many as in 2007. The number of Americans receiving long-term unemployment benefits has risen over 60% in just the past year, and 28% of all U.S. households have at least one member that is looking for a full-time job.

Bankruptcy filings rose 20% in the 12 month period ending June 30th. More than 25% of all Americans now have a credit score below 599. One out of every five children in the United States is now living in poverty.

The system can only support so many people. We are now at a point where our anti-poverty programs are clearly unsustainable in the long-term, but nobody has a solution for how we are going to get all of these people off of these programs or how we are going to provide good jobs for all of them.

The cost of every U.S. government anti-poverty program is absolutely soaring. Meanwhile, the U.S. government is already running a budget deficit that is approaching 1.5 trillion dollars every year.

The U.S. economic system is dying. The American people need very real economic solutions to very real economic problems.

Neither major political party is doing anything real to address the very real economic problems that are causing that to happen. Most Americans have become so "dumbed down" that they don't even understand what the real problems are anymore. rw doclink

Karen Gaia says: We now have a debt economy, which is a last gasp attempt to forestall the results of of our exceeding our carrying capacity, and of greedy corporations taking whatever they can get out of the system, without concern for the well-being of humanity or the planet.

Kenya: Church Under Attack Over Stand on Abortion.

July 17, 2010   The Standard

Religious leaders campaigning against the proposed Constitution have been accused of favouring the life of the unborn child over that of the mother.

"I am baffled by the one-sidedness of trying to protect fetal life while turning a blind eye on the thousands of women who die seeking abortions every year," said Buettner in her monthly Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights situation report, published on Gender Across Borders, a global feminist blog.

A cross section of religious leaders, mainly from the mainstream churches, have ganged up against the draft laws set for a referendum vote on August 4.

The church leaders claim the proposed law allows "abortion on demand".

The bone of contention is Section 26(4) of the proposed law that says: Abortion is not permitted "unless, in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law."

Buettner, a social justice worker and freelance human rights policy researcher, points out that 15,000 women die annually of pregnancy-related complications and more than a third in unsafe abortion.

"Maternal mortality rates in Kenya are among the world's highest. Direct medical causes for maternal death include haemorrhage, infection, obstructed labour and unsafe abortion," she cautions.

Contraceptive prevalence in Kenya hovers around 30% and the fertility rate is between four and five children per woman.

As in all poor countries with high maternal mortality rates, the severity of these problems is driven by social factors.

In Kenya, health systems are lacking and infrastructure issues make it difficult to access resources.

According to the Centre for Reproductive Rights' report "In Harm's Way: The Impact of Kenya's Restrictive Abortion Law," 2,600 women die every year due to unsafe abortion complications.

More than half this figure never sought medical care.

The in-depth report includes stories on women denied the right to choose, including 14-year-old Sarah, who lost her life due to complications from an unsafe abortion; too afraid to go to a doctor as she suffered from a raging infection because she feared being arrested or condemned by the community."

In Kenya, institutionalised social ideas about women's role and worth is said to be the cause of deaths of thousands of women. rw doclink

Human Race 'will Be Extinct Within 100 Years,' Claims Leading Scientist.

June 19, 2010   Daily Mail

Professor Frank Fenner, emeritus professor of microbiology at the Australian National University, has predicted that the human race will be extinct within the next 100 years.

He claims the human race will be unable to survive a population explosion and 'unbridled consumption,' and blames the onset of climate change for the human race's imminent demise. We're seeing remarkable changes in the weather already.

Starting with the unofficial scientific period known as the Anthropocene - the time since industrialisation - we have had an effect on the planet that rivals any ice age or comet impact, he said.

Others harbor the hope that there will come about an awareness of the situation and, as a result the revolutionary changes necessary to achieve ecological sustainability.

Simon Ross, the vice-chairman of the Optimum Population Trust, said: 'Mankind is facing real challenges including climate change, loss of bio-diversity and unprecedented growth in population.'

Prince Charles recently warned of 'monumental problems' if the world's population continues to grow at such a rapid pace.

In 2006 another esteemed academic, Professor James Lovelock, warned that the world's population may sink as low as 500 million over the next century due to global warming and claimed that any attempts to tackle climate change will not be able to solve the problem, merely buy us time. rw doclink

Is Monogamy the Root of All Equality?.

July 26, 2010   Guardian (London)

85% of human societies allow high-status men to have more than one wife.

In Canada, the supreme court in British Columbia is being asked to decide whether the law against polygamy is unconstitutional. Doesn't it infringe the right of adults to arrange their lives by mutual consent? The present test is directed against a polygamous fundamentalist Mormon commune.

While most of the motions filed to the court in favour of polygamy come from modern polyamorous groups, one brief filed against decriminalising polygamy comes from anthropologist Joe Henrich at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, who says that monogamy has great benefits to society and civilazation while polygamy does not.

In polygamy, or - more specific - polygyny (where a man as more than one wife), the benefits all accrue to the alpha males who end up with most women, whereas the costs are paid by everyone else, and by society as a whole.

Monogamy gives huge advantages to societies which practice it. It arose, like philosophy, among the Greeks, passed through the Romans, and then the Christian church took it over as an ideal and managed over the course of around a thousand years to establish it as the norm in Europe, even for the aristocracy.

Monogamous societies are more competitive: monogamy seems to redirect male motivations in ways that generate lower crime rates, greater GDP per capita, and better outcomes for children.

In polygamy, the men who fail to get wives will be driven by competition that is increasingly dangerous to society and to themselves. There is good data to show that unmarried men are more violent and more generally criminal than married ones, other things being equal. The worst affected are the poor and uneducated who are also the least likely to prosper in a free market in women, where the winners can collect as many women as they can handle.

Because the competition for women is so fierce, making them valuable objects rather than loveable people, men, whether fathers, husbands, or brother, must control them more carefully. The same dynamic places pressure on the recruitment of younger and younger brides into the marriage market, because in a polygynous society you can never have enough of them.

Finally, the men will reduce their investment in any particular wives and children, partly because their resources will be much more widely spread; partly because they will increasingly spend their efforts on getting more wives rather than looking after the ones they have.

Henrich argues that these factors help to explain the measurable economic failures of highly polygynous countries, including low saving rates, high fertility, and low GDP per capita.

As for monogamy, Henrich considers that it was the seedbed of European ideas of democracy and, later, human rights and women's equality.

"The anthropologically peculiar institutions of imposed monogamous marriage may be one of the foundations of Western civilisation, and may explain why democratic ideals and notions of human rights first emerged as a Western phenomenon." rw doclink

Pretending It’s Not Population - How Can We Talk About Environmental Problems Without Talking About All the People?.

October 2010   E Magazine

It's hard to come up with a looming environmental problem that's not rooted in human population expansion, be it a local issue like traffic congestion, or more global concerns like global climate change.

We humans currently number 6.9 billion and continue to swell the planet by nearly 80 million more each year. Almost half of us are under the age of 25, and, if present trends continue, we will double in number before 2060.

The U.S. does not earn a pass when it comes to population pressures on the environment, in part because our per capita resource consumption and waste production dwarf that of much of the rest of the world. Furthermore, the Central Intelligence Agency tracks birth rates, and although the current U. S. birth rate (13.8 births per 1,000 people per year) is roughly one-third that of several African countries, 69 other countries have lower birth rates.

The U.S. population has continued to rise by roughly three million each year over the last two decades. By the end of this century, there could well be 570 million of us, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Given these projections and the environmental dilemmas we're already facing, you'd think that strategies to stabilize the population at home and abroad would be a priority. Not so.

Consider that neither Party Platforms of 2008 even mentioned population growth. The closest the Democratic platform came was through support for access to comprehensive family planning services to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. The Republican platform stresses the need for immigration reform but without any reference to population control.

It's nearly impossible to imagine any politician saying to the public that there are—or will soon be—too many of us.

During the '60s and '70s, the nonprofit organization Zero Population Growth (a.k.a., ZPG) enjoyed a sizable presence on college campuses and in popular media. Since renamed Population Connection, it's still the largest grassroots population organization in the US. To understand why population isn't a front page issue anymore despite mounting pressures on the environment, I approached the five-year president of Population Connection, John Seager.

Seager points out that it's hard to keep the public interested in population numbers because the headline would read the same every day, i.e. that global population had jumped by about 220,000 the day before. However, in the late '60s and early '70s, a confluence of events pushed population into the American public's consciousness for the first time. Among them were Paul R. Ehrlich's best-selling book The Population Bomb which predicted mass human starvation, as well as the advent of birth control pills, the Supreme Court's 1965 establishment of a constitutional right to use contraceptives, and the unprecedented wave of female Baby Boomers going on to college and choosing to have smaller families.

Seager asserts that population stories are still very much in today's headlines, but in the guise of seemingly unrelated issues like California's chronic water shortage, political wrangling over drilling in Alaska's Arctic refuge, the Aids epidemic in Africa, and this year's unprecedented flooding in Pakistan which has killed tens of thousands.

Tackling the problem of population head-on is also particularly sensitive because the U.S. is so divided on abortion rights and immigration, the two flash points that invariably surface whenever population issues come to the fore. According to Seager, unplanned births and immigration contribute about equally to U.S. population growth.

Seager sees as less important whether politicians speak openly about population growth than whether they support the three measures scientifically proven to curb it: family planning (synonymous with access to modern, artificial means of birth control), comprehensive sex education as opposed to abstinence-only programs, and access to safe and legal abortion.

As evidence that political alliances for or against these measures have shifted substantially over time, Seager points to the fact that Republican President Richard Nixon ardently lobbied for and signed into law Title X, the federal program dedicated to providing family planning services nationwide (his legacy also includes the Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency). What's more, George Bush, Sr., as a young congressman, was such an outspoken supporter of Planned Parenthood that among House colleagues he earned the nickname "Rubbers." Only later while positioning himself for a White House run, did he reverse his position to the extent that he embraced a constitutional amendment to ban abortion.

While President Obama's stance on controversies affecting population is evident from his campaigning as a pro-choice candidate and subsequent policy implementations (e.g. increased federal funding for domestic and international family planning services; shift away from abstinence-only sex education programs for teens; and rescinding the last-minute Bush Administration policy which allowed pharmacists nationwide to refuse to fill prescriptions for contraceptives), Obama's also refrained from openly pointing to population as the root environmental problem.

One has to question how far we can get in creating an environmentally sustainable future for our children when we've all silently agreed to acknowledge not the elephant in the living room (population), but only its manifestations like smog, water shortages and climate change. rw doclink