World Population Awareness

News Digest

February 26, 2018

A Male Contraceptive Pill Could Become Reality Using the Poison Ouabain

How a rare poison could help bring the first male birth control pill to market
February 5, 2018, Quartz   By: Gunda Georg, Jon Hawkinson, Shameem Syeda

Ouabain - a plant extract that African warriors and hunters traditionally used as a heart-stopping poison on their arrows, shows promise as a non-hormonal contracetive for men that hinders the sperms' ability to move or swim effectively.

While the birth control pill has been available to women in the United States for nearly six decades-and approved by the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) for contraceptive use since 1960 -- an oral contraceptive for men has not yet come to market. The pill has provided women with safe, effective and reversible options for birth control, while options for men have been stuck in a rut.

Men curently have only two forms birth control: condoms or a vasectomy, which account for only 30% of contraception used, while women have 70%.

Vasectomy is an invasive procedure to do that's also difficult and invasive to reverse. A male hormonal birth control pill option is in clinical human trials and likely closer to market, but it has potential side effects, such as weight gain, changes in libido, and lower levels of good cholesterol, which could negatively affect the heart health of users.

For nonhormonal contraception methods work, researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of Kansas have homed in on ouabain: a toxic substance produced by two types of African plants, which affects a type of transporter subunit called α4, which is found only in sperm cells. This protein is known to be critical in fertility -- at least in male mice.

Ouabain by itself isn't an option as a contraceptive because of the risk of heart damage. So researches have designed ouabain derivatives - versions of the molecule that are more likely to bind to the α4 protein in sperm than other subunits in heart tissue. Once bound to those cells, it interferes with the sperms' ability to swim-essential to its role in fertilizing an egg.

Because the α4 transporter is found only on mature sperm cells, the contraceptive effect should be reversible -- sperm cells produced after stopping the treatment presumably won't be affected. Ouabain may also offer men a birth control pill option with fewer systemic side effects than hormonal options.

This new compound showed no toxicity in rats. The next steps are to test the effectiveness as an actual contraceptive in animals, then human clinical trials within five years.

Reversible, effective male birth control is within sight. World Health Organization numbers suggest that reducing sperm motility by 50% or less is sufficient to temporarily make a man infertile. Our ongoing research brings us one step closer to expanding the options for male birth control, providing the world's 7.6 billion people with a much-needed option for safe and reversible contraception. doclink

After a Year of Trump Policies, Population Institute's Report Card on Reproductive Health/Rights for 2017 Lowers Overall U.S. Grade to a "D-"

18 States Get Failing Grade Amid Attacks on Family Planning and Birth Control
February 15, 2018, PR Newswire

For 2017, the overall grade on U.S. reproductive health and rights assigned by the Population Institute fell from a "D" to a "D-." 18 states got a failing grade. Twenty-two states received a B- or higher in 2017. Eleven states (California, Washington D.C., Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington) received an "A" in 2017. But 27 states received a "D" or lower. 18 of those states received a failing grade ("F"), including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Robert Walker, president of the Population Institute said: "The United States is in danger of becoming, in effect, the Divided States of Reproductive Health and Rights."

The Trump budget proposal unveiled this week signals worse attacks to come. It would eliminate the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, invest in ineffective abstinence-only education programs, and block patients from seeing their preferred health care provider, Planned Parenthood. doclink

Want to Stop Climate Change? Educate Girls and Give Them Birth Control

February 18, 2018, WIRED   By: Robin George Andrews

Last year a coalition of scientists, economists, policymakers, researchers, and business people published Project Drawdown, a compendium of ways to prevent carbon dioxide from escaping skywards. Drawing from a plethora of peer-reviewed research, the document ranks 80 practical, mitigating measures-along with 20 near-future concepts-that could push back the oncoming storm.

Ranked in order of carbon emissions locked down by 2050, a moderate expansion of solar farms was ranked #8, onshore wind turbines ranked # 2, and nuclear power (# 20), increasing the number of people on plant-rich diets (# 4) and using electric vehicles (# 26).

Suprisingly, the top spot went to managing refrigerants like HFCs, which are incredibly effective at trapping heat within our atmosphere.

Even more surprising, two lesser-known solutions also made this most practical of lists: the education of girls ranked #6 and family planning ranked #7).

Getting more girls into school, and giving them a quality education, has a series of profound, cascading effects: reduced incidence of disease, higher life expectancies, more economic prosperity, fewer forced marriages, and fewer children. Better educational access and attainment not only equips women with the skills to deal with the antagonizing effects of climate change, but it gives them influence over how their communities militate against it.

Poverty, along with community traditions, tends to hold back girls from education while boys education are prioritized.

Then there's family planning. The planet is overpopulated, and the demands of its citizens greatly exceed the natural resources provided by our environment.

Contraception for many of the women across the world is either not available, not affordable, or social and/or religious motives ensure that it's banned or heavily restricted. As a consequence, the world's population will rise rapidly, consume ever more resources, and power its ambitions using fossil fuels. Carbon dioxide will continue to accumulate in the atmosphere.

The education of girls and family planning can be considered as a single issue involving the empowerment of women in communities across the world. Drawdown calculated that, by taking steps toward universal education and investing in family planning in developing nations, the world could eliminate 120 billion tons of emissions by 2050. That's roughly 10 years' worth of China's annual emissions as of 2014, and it's all because the world's population won't rise quite so rapidly.

Project Drawdown isn't the only group that has recently tied population growth to climate change. A study published last summer also found that having just one fewer child is a far more effective way for individuals in the developed world to shrink their carbon footprint than, say, recycling or eating less meat. For women in wealthy countries, these decisions are often freely made, and fertility rates in those countries are already fairly low. In low-income countries, such individual agency - not to mention contraception - is frequently absent, and fertility rates remain high.

Just as policymakers, climate advocates, and science communicators should pay attention to Drawdown's findings, individuals should also do what they can to make sure such a solution comes to pass. Non-government organizations, like Hand In Hand International, Girls Not Brides, and the Malala Fund aren't just uplifting women, but they're helping to save the planet too, and they deserve support.

It's a grim assessment of civilization that, in 2018, humans are still grappling with gender equality. The world would clearly benefit if women were on par with men in every sector of society. doclink

Karen Gaia says: "According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, by closing an annual financing gap of $39 billion, universal education in low- and lower-middle-income countries can be achieved. It could result in 59.6 gigatons of emissions reduced by 2050. The return on that investment is incalculable." http://www.drawdown.org/solutions/women-and-girls/educating-girls

Does Saving More Lives Lead to Overpopulation?

February 13, 2018, You Tube


There Might Be No Way to Live Comfortably Without Also Ruining the Planet

It's time to face an uncomfortable truth.
February 10, 2018, Sciencealert   By: David Nield

A new study looked at 151 nations and found not a single one was running itself in a sustainable way - ensuring a decent life for its inhabitants without taking more than it gives back in terms of natural resources. Its conclusion was that there are not enough resources for so many people to make it possible for all of us to live comfortably. We need a radical rethink of how we could start living within our means.

The international team of researchers participating in the study has put together a website showing how each country is performing in terms of balancing the well-being of its citizens against figures such as land use, CO2 emissions, and ecological footprint.

Daniel O'Neill from the University of Leeds in the UK said, "We examined international relationships between the sustainability of resource use and the achievement of social goals, and found that basic needs, such as nutrition, sanitation, and the elimination of extreme poverty, could most likely be achieved in all countries without exceeding global environmental limits."

"Unfortunately, the same is not true for other social goals that go beyond basic subsistence such as secondary education and high life satisfaction. Meeting these goals could require a level of resource use that is two to six times the sustainable level."

The quality of life in each country was measured using 11 indicators: life satisfaction, healthy life expectancy, nutrition, sanitation, income, access to energy, education, social support, democratic quality, equality, and employment.

That was then measured against 7 biophysical indicators: land use, CO2 emissions, ecological footprint, phosphorus emissions, material footprint, nitrogen use, and blue water use. Each country's allotted share of these resources was based on its total population..

William Lamb from the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change in Germany said, "Although wealthy nations like the US and UK satisfy the basic needs of their citizens, they do so at a level of resource use that is far beyond what is globally sustainable.

"In contrast, countries that are using resources at a sustainable level, such as Sri Lanka, fail to meet the basic needs of their people."

Among the countries doing the best job are Vietnam, with 6 social thresholds achieved and only 1 biophysical boundary transgressed, and Germany, which hits all 11 social thresholds but has exceeded 5 of the 7 biophysical boundaries.

Other reports suggest we need 1.7 Earths to actually keep up with the rate at which we're plundering what the planet has to offer.

However, the study's authors say we can work towards finding ways to support our population without taking too much out of what the planet can give us. Radical changes are needed to accomplish this, including moving beyond the pursuit of economic growth in wealthy nations, shifting rapidly from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and significantly reducing inequality. doclink

Scientists Just Presented a Sweeping New Estimate of How Much Humans Have Transformed the Planet

December 20, 2017, Washington Post   By: Chris Mooney

Just as buried fossil fuels are filled with carbon from ancient plant and animal life, so too are living trees and vegetation on Earth's surface today. Razing forests or plowing grasslands puts carbon in the atmosphere just like burning fossil fuels does.

Karl-Heinz Erb, the lead study author and a researcher with the Institute of Social Ecology in Austria, and his colleagues estimated that 450 billion tons of carbon - a massive amount - is contained in Earth's current vegetation. If it were to somehow arrive in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, it would amount to over a trillion tons of the gas.

They also found that, if humans somehow entirely ceased all uses of land and allowed it to return to its natural state, the Earth's vegetation would contain 916 billion tons of carbon. This would infer that current human use of land is responsible for roughly halving the potential storage of carbon by that land.

The research was published in the journal Nature by Erb and 12 colleagues from institutions in Austria, Germany, Portugal, Sweden and the Netherlands.

Deforestation accounted for about half of the loss of potential vegetation. The other half is attributed to the combination of large-scale grazing and other uses of grasslands and forest "management." With the latter, the forests as a whole don't disappear. They were just highly thinned out.

The findings are in line with the thesis of University of Virginia professor William Ruddiman, that humans have been changing the surface of the planet and putting greenhouse gases in the atmosphere through land use for millennia.

"Our finding is in line with the statement that the impact of humans on the climate was quite considerable also before the industrial times," Erb said.

The research showed that so-called degraded land - not fully deforested but not "natural” or whole, either - must be restored. Tom Lovejoy, an ecologist at George Mason University who was not involved in the work, said "That means the restoration agenda is even more important than previously thought and highlights the enormous amount of degraded land in the world.”

Phil Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center said: "Scenarios that limit global warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees require not only rapid cessation of greenhouse gas emissions but also removal of somewhere between about 100 and 300 billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere.” ... "This paper suggests that restoring vegetation around the world could in principle achieve that,” Duffy continued, noting that if all the potential vegetation were restored it would offset some 50 years of global carbon emissions.

Erb was skeptical about the strategy called Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage, or BECCS, which it was claimed to remove carbon from the atmosphere. doclink

Why Marching for Life Now Means Attacking Contraception

Poor Women Are Vulnerable as GOP Turns Up the Heat
January 19, 2018, Who.What.Why   By: Kirsty Vitarelli

Anti-abortion activists, emboldened by conservatives controlling the White House and Congress, and courts stacked with like-minded judges, are setting their sights on a new target: The elimination of federal funding for family planning services.

For 45 years, the "pro-life" movement has gathered in Washington around the anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision to protest the legalization of most abortions in the US.

Recently the Trump administration announced that it was strengthening protections for medical providers whose religious beliefs prompt them to refuse to perform abortions or to offer other contraceptive services.

Title X, a provision in the Public Health Service Act of 1970 - is federal grant legislation that secures federal funding for family planning services. It is the only grant legislation approved annually, and is constantly under threat of defunding because of this status. Of the 38 million American women who use contraception, over half - 20 million - rely on publicly funded contraceptive care.

"Without contraceptive coverage, many women would need to pay more than $1,000 out of pocket to start using a highly effective method such as a intrauterine devices (IUDs), a contraceptive implant or sterilization; that would amount to nearly one month's salary for a woman working full-time at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour," reports the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research organization. Other forms of contraception are less costly - as low as $9 a month from Target and Walmart. But, with the exception of emergency contraception, birth control pills require a doctor's prescription, an associated visit and insurance costs.

The theory supporting threats to Title X is that life begins at the moment egg and sperm meet, which increasing numbers of anti-abortion advocates and lawmakers embrace. They equate highly effective, long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) like IUDs and contraceptive implants with abortion itself, believing these methods would dislodge a fertilized egg - a view which is not scientifically accurate.

IUDs and implants primarily prevent fertilization, not implantation - there is no zygote, so there is nothing to abort. However, buoyed by the Supreme Court's ruling upholding Hobby Lobby's religious right to deny access to LARCs, and President Trump's seeming eagerness to please his base, anti-abortion advocates are seeking to promote their ideology in a number of ways, including going after Title X funding.

Title X in the beginning was championed by both sides of the House - its main sponsor was George H.W. Bush and was signed into law by President Nixon." The idea was that women and couples - regardless of their employment or insurance status - should have the opportunity to plan whether and when they would start a family.

However during Ronald Reagan's presidency, there was more anti-abortion ideology involved in the politics and policies of family planning.

Three-quarters of all women in the US who underwent abortions in 2014 were either living in poverty or had low incomes of roughly between $11,000 and $22,000. If federal funding is removed, these low-income households would suffer the most, physically and financially.

An amendment to the recent tax bill fostered the idea that personhood begins at conception by proposing that unborn children could be beneficiaries of college savings plans. The language was cut before the tax bill passed.

House appropriators agreed to defund Title X entirely, eliminating the program - $286 million - from the 2018 budget, but Senate appropriators did not cut the program from their spending bill.

Trump has appointed prominent anti-contraception advocates to his Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in an attempt to keep a promise to his evangelical followers. Valerie Huber, an advocate of abstinence over contraception will continue the push to defund Title X.

A rider in the House Labor, HHS, Education and Related Agencies spending bill would block Planned Parenthood from any federal money in 2018, and effectively "end the nation's family planning program.”

President Trump signed a law last spring allowing states to withhold federal money from organizations that offer abortion services. Many of these organizations also provide important contraceptive services to the poorest in society, services which would also be threatened.

60% of Americans believe abortion should remain legal. Some physicians remember the time before Roe v. Wade and worry that overturning it would slide the country back to the days when more than 200 women a year died from septic shock due to "back alley” abortions, or became infertile after suffering permanent injury inflicted by barbaric tools.

45% of pregnancies in the US are unintended, and about 4 in 10 of those end in abortion, according to Guttmacher. Three-quarters of all women in the US who underwent abortions in 2014 were either living in poverty or had low incomes of roughly between $11,000 and $22,000. If federal funding is removed, these low-income households would suffer the most, physically and financially.

Title X funding is intact - for now. But "the Trump administration in its first year and Congress under its current leadership have very openly hostile views and agendas against reproductive health and rights. doclink

China's Birthrate Dropped Despite Allowing 2-child Families

January 19, 2018, Associated Press

The birthrate in China fell last year even though the country has changed its One Child policy to allow two children. Reasons given for the low birth rate were the trend toward later marriage, the desire for smaller families and concerns about the high cost of raising children.

With almost 1.4 billion people, China has the world's largest population but it is aging fast even before reaching its expected peak of 1.45 billion in 2029.

China's policy was changed in 2015 in an attempt to increase the size of the younger working population that will eventually have to support their elders. The number of births rose nearly 8% in 2016, with nearly half of the babies born to couples who already had a child. But that appears to have been a one-time increase.

Experts have recommended the country increase its retirement age to address an expected labor shortage and declining economic vitality.

One woman, a housewife in Beijing, pointed out that the burden of looking after aging parents is one reason not to have a second child. "They helped us look after one child, but we would have to babysit the second one ourselves."

"Until the young one is 2, mother won't be able to work which means a big loss of income that we're not prepared for," another person said.

China enacted its one-child policy in 1979, enforced with fines and in some cases state-mandated abortions.

The expected future reduction in the working-age population is exacerbated by a skewed male-female birth ratio resulting from the traditional preference for male offspring. doclink

Karen Gaia said: apparently China started its One-Child policy after it already started a successful family planning program. It is my belief that family planning would be far more widely supported if China had not imposed its oppressive policy.

Losing the Wilderness: a 10th Has Gone Since 1992 - and Gone for Good

A new study warns if the degradation rate continues, all wilderness areas will be at risk over the next 50 years
December 20, 2017, Guardian   By: Susan Chenery

Ten percent of the earth's wilderness has been lost due to human pressure, according to a mapping study by the University of Queensland. .. 52% of the earth's ecosystems have seen a major degradation since the beginning of human history, while the remaining 48% is being increasingly eroded. Since the 1992 Rio convention on biological diversity, three million square kilometres of wilderness have been lost.

James Watson, senior author on the study and director of science at the Wildlife Conservation Society stated: "If this rate continues, we will have lost all wilderness within the next 50 years." He said there is no scientific evidence that degraded eco-systems could ever return to their original condition.

The water cycle (the ability of the area to create rain), biodiversity (loss of wildlife habitat), the nitrogen cycle and pollination are being degraded. Logging, oil and gas exploration, mining, roads and agriculture are the culprits.

These pristine wild places exist in the deserts of Central Australia; the Amazon rainforest in South America; Africa; the Tibetan plateau in central Asia; and the boreal forests of Canada and Russia.

PhD student James Allan, who also worked on the study said: The moment you put a road in, you get people moving in to farm, hunt, and it undermines the wilderness. The risk is that a lot of these systems could collapse. The Amazon is the best example of where you need the whole forest, or a huge portion of the forest, protected for the hydrological cycle to function." One third of the Amazon wilderness region has been lost since 1992.

The UQ study found that conservation efforts are being rapidly outpaced by the acceleration of the decline, thanks to massive global population growth and the associated economic growth that demands ever-increasing natural resources.

The problem is profound. "Intact functioning ecosystems" says Watson, "are critical not only for biodiversity but for the huge amounts of carbon they store and sequester. They provide a direct defence against climate-related hazards like storms, floods, fires and cyclones. They are the most resilient and effective defence against ongoing climate change.”

Loss of wilderness also affects Indigenous communities . "You have got people living in the Amazon, Congo and New Guinea who have been there for thousands of years subsisting through hunting - just sustainable use of the resources,” says Allan.

In 2016, Watson and his team released maps of the global human footprint, using eight data layersof roads, agriculture, grazing land, human population density, urbanisation and navigable waterways.

"The environment footprint of humanity is truly massive,” Watson wrote of his findings in Time. "No other species has ever come close to us in terms of consuming so much of the world's energy, resources and land area. In this Anthropocene era, where the human footprint is now altering many of the Earth systems processes, wilderness areas serve as natural observatories where we can study the ecological and evolutionary impacts of global change.” doclink

About Half of U.S. Abortion Patients Report Using Contraception in the Month They Became Pregnant

Postabortion Contraceptive Counseling Can Help Individuals Prevent Future Unintended Pregnancies
January 11, 2018, Guttmacher Institute

The Guttmacher Institute conducted a survey of U.S. abortion patients in 2014, which showed that 51% (half) of those surveyed reported that they had used a contraceptive method in the month they became pregnant. This was a slight decrease from 54% of abortion patients in 2000. The methods most commonly used by abortion patients in 2014 were condoms (24% of patients) and the pill (13%).

"Contraceptive methods are highly effective at preventing unintended pregnancies, but no method -- and no user -- is perfect," says Rachel Jones, author of the analysis. "Abortion patients should have access to the full range of contraceptive counseling and services to support them in preventing future unintended pregnancies."

The share of abortion patients relying on condoms decreased from 28% to 24% between 2000 and 2014, but there was a small but significant increase -- 7% to 9% -- in the share of patients who relied on withdrawal. Use of long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) methods among abortion patients increased from 0.1% in 2000 to 1% in 2014. It is also possible that some abortion patients became pregnant shortly after they stopped using LARCs or other contraceptive methods.

In 2014, about 37.8 million U.S. women aged 15-44 were using a contraceptive method. But only 471,000 abortions were provided to patients who reported they were using contraception in the month they became pregnant. Between 2000 and 2014, the overall number of abortions in the United States declined significantly, and available evidence suggests that improvements in contraceptive use contributed to the abortion decline.

Contraception has been found to be effective at pregnancy prevention and it has numerous health, social and economic benefits. Abortion patients who were not using contraception at the time they became pregnant may benefit from receiving information during postabortion counseling about their risk of pregnancy, and about the full range of contraceptive options available to them and how to use those methods consistently and correctly. doclink

Karen Gaia says: condoms and withdrawal are much less effective than the pill in preventing pregnancy, and even with the pill, the chances of becoming pregnant is 60% over 10 years of use. LARCs are much more effective at preventing pregnancy.