World Population Awareness

News Digest

August 16, 2017

Solving Our Population Problems

August 15, 2017, Population Matters

Population growth can be slowed, stopped and reversed, even though it has rocketed in this century and last. A sustainable reduction in global population could happen within decades, according to the United Nations' most optimistic scenario. Its main population prediction is in the middle of that range - 9.8bn in 2050 and 11.2bn in 2100. But if there were just half-a-child less, on average, per family in the future than assumed, there woud be two billion fewer of us than expected by 2050 - and five billion fewer of us by the end of the century.

Countries have had dramatic success in reducing their birth rates. Thailand reduced its fertility rate by nearly 75% in just two generations with a creative and ethical family planning program. Fertility rates in Asia have dropped by nearly 10% in 10 years.

Over 200 million women who want to avoid pregnancy are not using modern contraception. Reasons for this include lack of access, concerns about side-effects and social pressure not to use it. Most of these women live in poor countries, where population is set to rise by 3 billion by 2100. Overseas aid support for family planning is essential - making sure supplies are adequate.

People choose not to use contraception because they are influenced by assumptions, practices and pressures within their nations or communities. In some places, very large family sizes are considered desirable; sometimes the use of contraception is discouraged or forbidden.

However programs that change attitudes towards contraception and family size have been very successful. Religious barriers may also be bypassed. In Iran the country's religious leader declared the use of contraception was consistent with Islamic belief and a very successful family planning campaign was initiated. Portugal and Italy have some of the lowest fertility rates in spite of the fact that they are predominantly Catholic.

Escaping poverty is a vital way to bring birth rates down. Decreasing child mortality, improving education and providing people with economic opportunities all help to reduce fertility. International aid, fair trade and global justice will help bring global population back to sustainable levels.

Where women and girls have economic empowerment, education and freedom, they normally choose to have smaller families. Greater freedom usually leads to greater uptake of family planning and ending child marriage pushes back the age at which women have their first child, which often reduces family size.

African women with no education have, on average, 5.4 children; women who have completed secondary school have 2.7 and those who have a college education have 2.2. When family sizes are smaller, that also empowers women to gain education, take work and improve their economic opportunities.

In the developed world, most of us have the power to choose the size of our families [Note: 50% of pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended]. We also have a disproportionate impact on the global environment through our high level of consumption and greenhouse gas emissions - in the UK, for instance, each individual produces 70 times more carbon than someone from Niger. doclink

Karen Gaia says: 1) One of the biggest reasons people in poor countries do not use contraception is a language barrier which results in poor women not understanding about family planning benefits and side effects. In Tanzania, for example, only 10% of the population has Swahili, the national language, as their native language. Many of the rural people do not understand Swahili. This would be true in many African and Asian countries where the rural population speaks languages different from the national language. I wonder if Health surveys take that into account when they tabulate reasons women don't use contraception.

2) The U.K. has a high unintended pregnancy rate, at 40%. The U.S. and Canada both have high unintended pregnancy rates at 40-50%. In the U.S. women below the poverty level have a five times the chance of having an unintended pregnancy than women well above the poverty level. It is not just a matter of 'choosing a smaller family'. as the article claims. It is likely a matter of having access to affordable and effective contraception.

What Do Men Have to Do with Women's Reproductive Rights?

August 10, 2017, Girls' Globe   By: Gary Barker

With seven men and zero women standing behind him, President Trump signed the global gag rule, a presidential memorandum that prohibiited international organizations receiving U.S. global health assistance from using their own, non-U.S. funds, to provide or refer women to abortion services.

This act of a group of men blocking women's access to abortion harks back to the centuries that men have controlled women's bodies and lives. For this reason, it might be that we want men to have little or nothing to do with women's sexual and reproductive health rights.

But would women be better off? Excluding all men from discussions around sexual and reproductive rights would be a disservice to women. It keeps the burden for contraception on women. It halts efforts that encourage men to support the reproductive choices of their female partners, and perpetuates a culture in which no man is perceived to be, or engaged to be, an ally in ensuring reproductive rights of all people.

After all, men are half of the human reproductive process. But they represent only about 25% of total contraceptive use, including withdrawal, vasectomy, and male condoms. It has been this way since the 1980s, even though vasectomy is cheaper and safer than female sterilization.

Other male contraceptive methods are being developed. The most recent trial of a male hormonal contraceptive method was halted in 2016 due to negative side effects.

But millions of women report not using contraceptives because of their husbands, therefore we do need men on board: In 2012, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the Gates Foundation and the UK government created Family Planning 2020 (FP2020), with the goal of reaching 120 million of the world's poorest women with contraception. But as of July, only a quarter of their target had been reached and a key obstacle was men's attitudes toward women's usage of family planning. We can do better.

Donors, governments, and public health agencies need to talk to men about supporting women's reproductive health. In the world's poorest countries many men want more children than their female partners, while in other countries, many men support their wives' decisions to have fewer children.

Should abortion stay in the realm of exclusively women's decision-making? Yes, but many women confide in male partners on this issue. Surveys found that 40% to 90% of women had involved a male partner in a decision to have an abortion. We can work to make men's involvement respectful and supportive. Women and men, boys and girls, of all ages should be educated about contraception and abortion, and why both are critical components of comprehensive health services and rights. In addition, surveys in the U.S. show that men are as likely as women to support keeping abortion legal.

We need men around the world to join women and show in their voting, their voices, and their decisions that they stand up every day for women's reproductive rights. We need fathers and mothers around the world to talk to their children, from early on, in open and feminist ways, about sex, sexuality, gender identity and expression, choice, rights, and contraception. We need men and women to vote for school board members who support comprehensive sexuality education, and speak out against violence against women.

Until every woman in the world has access to modern contraceptives, safe abortion, and bodily autonomy, we all must talk about family planning. doclink

Karen Gaia says: we need training for couples to talk openly about whether they want children and when to have them and what types of contraception are more effective so that unintended pregnancy and abortions are avoided.

Population and Family Planning Programme: What We Achieved

August 9, 2017, Daily Sun   By: Dr. Noor Mohammad

Bangladesh has grown from 75 million people in 1971 to almost 160 million today, more than double in 46 years. The United Nations estimated in 2015 that the population of Bangladesh would be about 202 million in 2050.

The last census (2011) showed an increase of more than 20% in a decade, which is higher than that of immediate past decade seen from 1991 to 2001 at 17%.

Bangladesh has a population an average population density of 1,070 persons per sq. km, which is one of the highest in the world. The life expectancy at birth is 71 years, with women having slightly higher lifespan than men (72 years vs. 69 years).

Bangladesh is now experiencing a demographic transition with the continuous decline trend of the natural growth rate. The population growth rate in Bangladesh was 1.37%. Bangladesh is an intermediate position between low-growth countries, such as Thailand, Sri Lanka and Myanmar and medium growth. Medium growth countries in the region are India and Malaysia.

Bangladesh's Family Planning Program has had a tremendous role in slowing population growth over the last 50 years. Bangladesh's progress in the family planning movement has been cited as one of the role models to follow. Family Planning was introduced in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) in the early 1950s through the voluntary efforts of social and medical workers. The government of Bangladesh, recognizing the urgency of its goal to achieve moderate population growth, adopted family planning as a government sector program.

Beginning in 1972, the FP program received virtually unanimous, high-level political support. In 1976, the government declared the rapid growth of the population as the country's number one problem and adopted multi-sectoral FP program along with National Population Policy.

From extremely high levels of 6.3 in 1975, to 3.3 in the year 2000, the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) now stands as 2.3 according to the Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey 2014, which is still some distant away from replacement fertility levels. According to the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) in 2003, even if Bangladesh reached replacement level fertility, population stabilization would take another 15 years, and the growth is being fuelled by the large young population of the country. PRB predicted the replacement level fertility by 2010 which did not take happen.

The 1980s saw a steep decline in TFR.This was followed by a decade-long plateau which was the consequence of a 'tempo effect'. The adoption of FP by Bangladeshi couples has always been after the first birth. The age at marriage did not change and there was no delay in age at first birth, and as such, no tempo effect was operating on first births. The 2004 Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey showed a 9% reduction in fertility, from 3.3 to 3.0, over a decade. The 2011 BDHS confirmed a further decline in TFR to 2.3 children per woman but again it has stalled. Now, however, fertility levels are quite uneven - remarkably low in the west of the country (below replacement, on average) and worryingly high in the east (up to 1.5 children above replacement).

In order to attain any of the reasonable population estimates projected for mid-century (which range from 194 to 222 million) a substantial increase in the contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) will be required in the next five years by 2022. This target could theoretically be achieved if all current unmet needs for FP (12% in 2011) are met.

Bangladesh has considerable built-in population momentum because of high fertility in the past, and even with reduced fertility, many young women will pass through reproductive ages over the coming decades. During the first decade of the 21st century, the number of women of reproductive age increased from around 32 million to 41 million as the children born in the higher fertility 1970s and early 1980s entered their childbearing years, according to UN estimates.

Investments in female primary and secondary education in Bangladesh manifest themselves in improved opportunities for formal sector employment for young women, and parents will tend to favor smaller families, investing more per child in education-quality versus quantity. This trend will also be influenced by the saturation of the rural labour force and the fragmentation of agricultural land holdings such that there will be decreasing employment opportunities for unskilled workers.

Having a huge mass in the youth age population is worrying. If they don't get the job on time or get the opportunity to have the skills for future earnings, some of the social menaces will continue, like dropping out from the schools, early marriages followed by early pregnancies. This vicious cycle will become the hindrances of our national programs that contribute to continue fertility decline and population growth.

A stagnating CPR is a cause for concern. While the government through its new plans to expand the contraceptive mix by specially promoting permanent methods, it should also think of fertility awareness based methods, such as long acting methods (LAM), which mimic traditional methods and may be more acceptable to users of traditional methods.

To increase levels of unmet need, the government, with help from its non-governmental partners, should continue with its family planning messaging and counseling services and try and match the demand for family planning services and supplies.

Bangladesh has a high adolescent fertility rate, one of the highest amongst the south-east Asia region nations. Early initiation of child bearing leads to rapid increases in population by not only lengthening the productive period in the woman's life, but also by shortening the inter-generational span. As most of the adolescent child bearing occurs within the realm of marriage, it means that the law governing the age at marriage needs a much stricter reinforcement. It is heartening that the government plans to make special efforts to reach out to adolescents with family planning messages and individual and community level counseling services. doclink

Karen Gaia says: One of the main reasons that fertility rates stalled at around 3.0 was because of male preference, and also because Bangladesh's education program had not yet produced a large cohort of girls going through high school. A woman who has a high school education will have two fewer children than her non-educated peers.

Teenage Pregnancy in the US is at an All-Time Low. Trump Could Soon Change That

Trump administration's decision to cut nationwide sex ed programs is putting many young lives at risk
August 9, 2017, Guardian   By: Molly Redden

Under Barack Obama's administration, the Teen Pregnancy Prevention program, with the daunting goal of reducing teenage births and pregnancies, was born.

On the outskirts of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Tulsa Youth Services gives comprehensive lessons in sex education to teens. 'Yes, you can transmit HIV through oral sex'. 'No, not through kissing'. The room crowds around a set of flashcards listing the steps for putting on a condom. Several of the participants brought babies, who passed the time wiggling against the straps of their strollers. Tulsa Youth Services is funded by the Teen Pregnancy Prevention program.

But less than one year from now, this class and dozens like it in the region will probably vanish, swept away by the Trump administration's decision to cut the entirety of the funding for the program. Eighty-one programs across the country received identical notice that their grants would end on June 30, 2018.

The cuts add up to $213.6 million. The real cost will be borne by the 1.2 million teenagers the program was expected to serve.

In Oklahoma, the teen birth rate is the second-highest in the country.

For two decades, the state has not dedicated a single dollar of its own budget toward preventing teenage pregnancy, relying instead on the federal government to fund 90% its efforts. Oklahoma has used much of that money to pay for some of the state's first comprehensive sex education programs, which research has shown reduces early pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

The cuts coincide with the greatest period of reduction in teenage pregnancy the US has ever experienced. Although the US rate has spent two decades in decline, the country's teen birth ratio was until recently the highest in the industrialized world. In 2011, there were 57 teen births in the US for every 1,000 teenage girls, a rate roughly equal to Kyrgyzstan's.

LaKala Williams, 18, who went through a sex education course funded by the grant and is now involved with the education efforts. She has watched many of her pregnant peers become mired in a cycle of missed opportunities. "They get embarrassed," she said, and skip school, or they miss school because of stress, emotional or bodily, medical appointments, and time spent caring for their children. "They stop going to school, they go to online school, they stop going to online school," she said. "Some of them don't graduate, they don't get to finish or further their education.” In the US, roughly half of all women who become teenage mothers never earn a high school diploma, and millions go on to live in poverty.

From 2010 to 2016, the teen birth rate nationally plummeted 41%. No other six-year period saw a decline even half that size. The shift took place right as the Obama administration was making a unprecedented investments in sex education and other programming proven to reduce teen pregnancy.

Now, the Trump administration has slashed that investment - all of it.

Brittany Keck, who oversees the sex ed programs funded by the grant, brandished copies of several letters written by sixth graders who had written them after completing their first sex education class. "I learned that if you are getting pressured to have sex, you should try to talk it out or find someone who wants to wait,” one read. "It helped me a lot with planning for my future to go way better,” read another. "Now I can say no to things I feel I'm not ready for.”

"We've seen this national decline. I think we're just going to see a national rise,” Keck said.

The Trump administration also terminated five related grants to major research groups. One was to convert Oklahoma City's public health clinics, which were designed for adults, into clinics equipped to offer STI testing and birth control to teenagers.

The whole process was supposed to be directed by university researchers who knew how to optimize health care for teenagers through years of trial and error.

The cuts could have been made because the Office of Management and Budget released a budget proposal gutting dozens of social programs or because the office of the assistant secretary for health, which indirectly oversees the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, is run by a Trump appointee, Valerie Huber, who has lobbied for federal funding of abstinence education.

"Exactly what is responsible sexual activity for adolescents?” Huber said last year. "The science is clear that teens are healthier when they avoid all sexual activity.”

Abstinence-only education is not supported by the evidence as a way to prevent teen pregnancies or STIs; it merely delays sex without offering advice on safety.

Omare Jimmerson, the social services coordinator for Tulsa public schools, says that each year, dozens of teenage parents look to her office to coordinate transportation, healthcare, and childcare as they struggle to complete high school. Even with help, some students in her program will fail to finish school. doclink

This is How Many Women Get Pregnant on Birth Control - It's Shocking

No birth control claims to be 100% effective and these alarming statistics reveal that's certainly true
August 7, 2017, Daily Star   By: Laura Hampson

No form of birth control is 100% effective, according to a study by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service.

51.2% of women who have abortions were using birth control.

24.1% of abortions performed were on women who were using a hormonal method of contraception like the pill, the implant, IUDs or a coil when they fell pregnant.

27.1% of abortions were on women using a condom or a diaphragm.

The pill is the most popular form of contraception but long-term forms are quickly catching up.

The pill is estimated to be 91% effective while condoms are just 82% effective.

Long-term contraceptives or the pill can also make periods irregular or stop them all together which can mask the symptoms of pregnancy.

This could be why women are having late-term abortions (past 20 weeks) because they were using long-term methods so didn't take notice of pregnancy symptoms.

BPAS' chief executive Ann Furendi said: "When you encourage women to use contraception, you give them the sense that they can control their fertility -- but if you do not provide safe abortion services when that contraception fails you are doing them a great disservice.

The most effective forms of contraception available in the UK are the coils (IUD and IUS) and the implant, which are both 99% effective.

Natika Halil, the Chief Executive of the Family Planning Association said: "The way they are typically used means that 6 in 100 injection users and nine in 100 people using the pill, patch or vaginal ring will get pregnant each year, but women may not always be aware of this.

"If you forget your contraception or think it might have failed it's important to know how to access emergency contraception and that it's available for free from GP surgeries, contraception and sexual health clinics." doclink

Technology and Morality in the Age of Climate Change, Overpopulation, and Biodiversity Loss

August 10, 2017, NoApp4That

An extremely long article, but I strongly recommend that you read it and everything on this website.

The summary below the video covers only the high points

Technology has grown with us, side by side, since the dawn of human society. Each time that we've turned to technology to solve a problem or make us more comfortable, we've been granted a solution.

Technology wakes us in the morning; grows our food and cooks our meals; transports us to and from work or school; entertains us; informs us of world events; enables us to communicate with family, friends, and co-workers; lights, heats, and cools our homes and offices; and treats our injuries and illnesses. So, naturally, we are led to believe that new technologies will solve the most severe global challenges humans have ever faced-in particular, the three big problems of climate change, overpopulation, and biodiversity loss.

In many respects these very problems are side effects of past technological development. Climate change is a side effect of burning fossil fuels-sources of energy that power virtually all aspects of the modern human world, including transportation, manufacturing, and food systems. Rapid population growth has occurred due to improvements in sanitation, medical care, and agriculture. We're losing biodiversity because of deforestation (helped by industrial forestry equipment), overfishing (helped by modern industrial fishing equipment), and environmental pollution (often from the agricultural chemicals that grow food for 7.5 billion humans). All of these issues are related and compound one another.

Unfortunately technology isn't saving us from climate change, over­popula­tion, or collapsing biodiversity. While solutions have been proposed, some of which are technically viable, our problems are actually getting worse rather than going away, despite the existence of these "solutions." Greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere are rising. World population is growing more, in net numbers annually (85 million), than the entire populations of most countries. And more species are disappearing every year.

We could invest more in solar and wind power. We could develop manufacturing processes that save energy and don't use toxic chemicals that end up putting children and wildlife at risk. We could produce artificial, lab-grown meat so that we don't have to use a third of the planet's arable land for livestock production to feed a growing population.

However, the real problem isn't just that we aren't investing enough money or effort in technological solutions. It's that we are asking technology to solve problems that demand human moral intervention-ones that require ethical decisions, behavior change, negotiation, and sacrifice.

Averting catastrophic climate change will require us to radically redesign our economy -- but how, and to whose advantage? The only humanely acceptable solutions to overpopulation will require a shift in our attitudes toward reproduction and women's rights, and the political will to provide universal access to family planning. And maintaining the world's biodiversity will require preserving habitat-and that means changing land use policies and ownership rights, thus reining in the profit motive.

If we do make collective moral choices that lead to the successful resolution of each of these dilemmas, we may find that the results are mutually supportive. Reducing population would likely make it far easier to address climate change and biodiversity loss. Maintaining biodiversity (particularly in forests and soils) could help stabilize the climate, while protecting the climate would help preserve biodiversity.

Machines won't make the key choices for us. We need to rethink what we delegate to machines, and what we take responsibility for directly as moral beings.

The moral questions that humanity is confronting now are neither abstruse nor academic; they are plain, simple, and urgent. They concern every one of us, and they will surely impact our children and grandchildren. If we put off acknowledging and addressing these questions, we will in effect have made a moral choice -- but one whose consequences will be very difficult for any of us to live with.

Humanity has always faced challenges imposed by the limits of our ecosystems: our population has grown in good times, and fallen during famines and plagues. There are far more of us now, and each of us has (on average) a far greater impact on the environment. Further, our population continues to grow quickly -- and especially in the poorest of countries. Climate change is by far the worst pollution issue in human history, already impacting the entire planet and threatening the viability of future generations. And other species are going extinct at least a thousand times the "background" or normal rate, with two thirds of assessed plant species currently threatened with extinction, a fifth of all mammals, and a third of amphibians.

The scale of human numbers and environmental impacts rose quickly in the nineteenth century. The main driver was cheap, concentrated sources of energy in the forms of coal, oil, and natural gas-fossil fuels. These were a one-time-only gift from nature, and they changed everything.

We used technology to grow more food, extract more raw materials, manufacture more products, transport ourselves and our goods faster and over further distances, defeat diseases with modern medicine, entertain ourselves, and protect ourselves with advanced weaponry. Fossil fuels increased our power over the world around us, and the power of some of us over others.

Unfortunately, extracting, transporting, and burning these fuels polluted air and water, and caused a subtle but gradually accelerating change in the chemistry of the world's atmosphere and oceans. Secondly, fossil fuels are finite, nonrenewable, and depleting resources that we exploit using the low-hanging fruit principle. That means that as we extract and burn them, each new increment entails higher monetary and energy costs, as well as greater environmental risk.

The side effects of all this is depletion of topsoil, the fouling of air and water, and the increasing lethality of warfare. But there are three of these side effects that, if left unchecked, will make everything else irrelevant: climate change, overpopulation, and loss of biodiversity.

At the dawn of the industrial age -- starting in 1750 -- the carbon dioxide content of the global atmosphere was 280 parts per million. In 2015 it averaged 400.83 ppm, and it continues to rise quickly.

Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere, causing the overall temperature of Earth's surface to rise. It has increased by over one degree Celsius so far; it is projected to rise as much as five degrees more by the end of this century.

Even slight changes in global temperatures can create a ripple effect in sea levels, weather patterns, and the viability of species that have evolved to survive in particular conditions.

Climate change extremes vary from one location to another. The people hit hardest are often those who are most vulnerable and least responsible. The American southwest will likely be afflicted by longer and more severe droughts. At the same time, a hotter atmosphere holds more water, leading to far more severe storms and floods elsewhere. Melting glaciers are causing sea levels to rise, leading to storm surges that can inundate coastal cities, placing hundreds of millions of people at risk. And global agriculture may be seriously impacted, undermining efforts to produce more food to feed a growing population.

The global human population has gone from one billion at the start of the nineteenth century, to 7.5 billion today. Our current rate of growth is 1.1% per year. This will double the population in about 70 years. If our numbers were to continue growing at one percent annually, our population would increase to over 157 trillion during the next thousand years. Of course, that's physically impossible on planet Earth. One way or another, human population growth will end at some point; but when, and under what circumstances?

The equivalent to the populations of New York City, Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Mexico City combined, are added to the planet each year. This amounts to another billion people approximately every 12 years.

A world population of 11 billion is expected by 2100, according to the U.N. -- and most of the growth will occur in nations that are already severely challenged to provide for their current populations and to protect their natural environment.

Rapid population growth creates political instability, contributes to deforestation and other environmental problems, and impairs our efforts to tackle climate change. It also complicates efforts to achieve greater economic equality: the larger our human population, the greater the reduction in living standards of those in wealthier nations that would be required in order to achieve global economic equality.

However, the diminished economic prospects of the American working class have much to do with growing multitudes overseas who can do the same jobs for a fraction of the cost.

Humans and their animals now make up about 97% of all land mammal biomass. The rest of the mammals have to compete with deforestation and other land-use impacts.

Our use of agricultural chemicals has led to the disappearance from farm soils of bacteria, fungi, nematodes, and other tiny organisms that provide natural fertility. As these microscopic soil communities are destroyed, carbon is released into the atmosphere. Even in the human gut, microscopic biodiversity is on the decline, leaving us more prone to immune disorders, multiple sclerosis, obesity, and other diseases.

Today's children are set to inherit a world in which many of the animals that filled the lives, dreams, and imaginations of our ancestors, that provided the metaphors at the root of every human language, will be remembered only in picture books.

Natural systems replenish oxygen in the planetary atmosphere, capture and sequester carbon in soils and forests, pollinate food crops, filter freshwater, buffer storm surges, and break down and recycle wastes. As we lose biodiversity, we also lose these ecosystem services -- which, if we had to perform them ourselves, would cost us over $125 trillion annually, according to some estimates.

In addition to climate change, overpopulation, and biodiversity loss we face the depletion of topsoil, minerals, and fossil fuels. This could have catastrophic impacts for future generations.

Most people and policy makers believe that technologies and markets will eventually provide solutions to these problems outlined above, and that these solutions will require few or no basic changes to our economic system or to the daily lives of most wealthy or middle-class citizens.

The long list of proposed technological solutions include alternative energy (nuclear power, solar and wind energy), energy storage (batteries, flywheels, pumped hydro, compressed air and hydrogen), and electric vehicle, electric self-driving vehicles and Transportation-as-a-Service (TaaS)

But nuclear plants are slow and costly to build, and there are widespread concerns about radiation risk in the wake of the Fukushima reactor meltdowns. Hydro, geothermal, wave, and tidal power are incapable of being scaled up to provide as much energy as society will need. And the rate of transition to renewable energy would have to accelerate to roughly ten times the current rate to achieve a fully renewable energy system in time to avert a climate crisis. Also, it's still unclear whether or at what scale a renewable energy system could be fully self-sustaining (i.e., powering all of its own inputs, such as mining and materials transformation) for decades and centuries to come.

Only 18% of our current final energy is consumed as electricity; much of the rest is used in the form of liquid fuels derived from oil. Most of those liquid fuels are consumed in the transportation sector-in automobiles, trucks, ships, and airplanes. Electric and electric self-driving cars trucks and and Transportation-as-a-Service are green alternatives that may substantially reduce the use of those liquid fuels. But in 2016, over 88 million new light vehicles were built; 99.1% of them had internal combustion engines.

It's undeniable that a rapid shift away from private ownership of gas-guzzling cars would reduce world oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. What's not clear is whether that shift can be driven rapidly enough by market forces alone so as to make a significant difference with regard to climate change

The only way to minimize these problems is to dramatically reduce overall energy usage throughout society-a project that will require not just innovation, but also commitment and sacrifice.

Additonal items on the list of proposed technological solutions are carbon capture and storage (CCS), planting trees, carbon farming (perhaps sequestering an additional 1 billion to 3 billion tons of carbon -- to 11 to 34% of current emissions from fossil fuels combustion), surface-based geo-engineering, fertilizing the oceans with powdered iron.

Official climate models in which the global surface temperature remains below 2°C assume high levels of carbon capture and storage. The scientists who construct these models have concluded that there is no other realistic way to reduce carbon emissions sufficiently, and fast enough, while maintaining economic growth. In effect, the only reason policy makers are seriously discussing extreme technologies like CCS and geo-engineering is that the project of shifting to alternative energy sources while maintaining economic growth is so daunting.

Capturing and storing the carbon from coal combustion is estimated to consume 12% to 35% of the power produced, depending on the approach taken. That translates to not only higher prices for coal-generated electricity but also the need for more power plants to serve the same customer base. New technologies designed to make carbon capture more efficient aren't commercial at this point, and their full costs are unknown.

Capturing and burying just 38% of the carbon released from current U.S. coal combustion would entail pipelines, compressors and pumps on a scale equivalent to the size of the nation's oil industry. It is costly and inefficient. A new generation of power plants would do the job much better -- but that means replacing 511 coal-fired current-generation plants, representing over 300 gigawatts of capacity.

Cooling technologies include growing high-albedo crops, spraying fine seawater to whiten clouds and thus increase cloud reflectivity, releasing stratospheric sulfate aerosols, or other reflective substances, and satellite-based mirrors or orbiting dust clouds.

Population growth and the negative agricultural impacts of climate change will require us to grow more food under conditions that are likely to be drier and/or less stable. Technologies that aim to increase crop production are gene splicing and bringing some animals and plants back from extinction.

Another proposed method of CCS is BECCS, which entails growing enormous amounts of biomass, burning it, then capturing the carbon and burying it. BECCS entails the same cost for pipelines, compressors, and pumps, but also requires vast tracts of farmland. By one calculation, an area the size of India would have to be planted in fast-growing crops destined to be combusted in order to offset less than a third of our current carbon dioxide emissions. Setting aside so much arable land for CCS seems highly unrealistic given that more land will also be needed to grow crops to feed a larger human population.

The prospects for carbon farming -- using soil-building agricultural techniques to capture atmospheric carbon and sequester it -- are more favorable. This would yield safer and more nutritious food, protect biodiversity, and pump less pollution into the environment. However, recent research questions the potential of soils to take up carbon. Also, carbon farming is set of techniques that will require significant changes to industrial agriculture. It is not likely to take off without initiative, investment, effort, and sacrifice, supported by political will manifesting through regulations and subsidies.

Managing solar radiation with space mirrors or white roofing material wouldn't remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and therefore wouldn't reduce other effects from these gases, principally ocean acidification. Seeding the atmosphere or oceans with sulfur or other chemicals might have serious unintended consequences, such as significant changes to the hydrological cycle or ozone depletion. Such effects might be cumulative or chaotic in nature, and hard to predict with existing models. And, unless geo-engineering efforts were kept continually operating, climate change impacts being held at bay would immediately reassert themselves.

So far, gene-splicing technologies have mostly been used to make crops immune to proprietary herbicides, with a resulting increase in herbicide usage and little change in crop productivity. Is it worth spraying our fields with even more glyphosate, which the World Health Organization has found to be a "probable" carcinogen that's also associated with collapsing populations of monarch butterflies?

Big claims are being made for new gene-splicing technologies such as CRISPR, which could open the door to different kinds of potential food production improvements. But who would benefit from whatever "improvements" are actually achieved? Farmers? Consumers? Or giant agribusinesses?

Some of the agricultural applications of CRISPR being researched include ones that would alter the biology of insects and weeds, which could spread their edited genes rapidly through wild populations, possibly reshaping entire plant or animal communities in just a few years. The prospects for side effects, such as upsetting food webs and facilitating invasions by other species, are as obvious as they are serious.

Reviving long-gone animals like the mammoth or the passenger pigeon will be a meaningless exercise if these species have no habitat.

So far technology has not solved our biggest problems: atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations are still increasing, climate impacts are worsening; population growth is plateauing, instead of declining, rapid population growth is contributing to political instability in a growing number of poor nations, and the rate at which plant and animal species are disappearing is increasing rather than diminishing.

The most promising solutions with the fewest likely negative side effects are changes in human behavior and in systems.

Throughout the world, successful programs for biodiversity protection have centered on limiting deforestation, restricting fishing, and paying poor landowners to protect wilderness areas. Biologist Edward O. Wilson's vison of setting aside half the Earth's land and seas for biodiversity recovery is both necessary and feasible, according to one expert.

We lack insufficient investment capacity to bring about technological solutions. Most nations can't even afford to maintain much of the infrastructure they already have in place, much less do they have the means to deploy most of the above solutions at the scale needed in order to deal with our three big problems of climate change, overpopulation, and biodiversity loss. Especially given the enormous existing levels of government debt throughout the world. Many shifts in energy usage technology that will be needed to support the transition to all-renewable energy will require households to invest in new machines (electric cars, electric heat pumps to replace furnaces, electric induction cooking stoves to replace gas stoves, solar hot water systems), but most households are likewise drowning in debt.

In addition, the rapid, unprecedented technological transformation that roiled the twentieth century depended upon conditions that cannot be expected to continue. These included the rising availability of cheap energy, plentiful raw materials, fast-growing economies, and the capacity to generate enormous amounts of investment capital. In the future we can expect constrained amounts of available energy, depleting raw materials, stagnant economies, and mountains of debt.

The global economy is generally slowing, a phenomenon called "secular stagnation.” A few economists have explicitly tied this slowing of growth to the well-known phenomenon of diminishing returns, where ach new increment of economic growth produces higher levels of environmental and social costs (i.e., externalities), which can begin to exceed benefits delivered.

Many, if not all, technologies discussed above will have their own negative consequences that, in a few cases, may be as serious as the problems they're intended to solve. Even solar and wind power, whose climate impacts are far lower than those of the fossil fuels they may replace, imply environmental risks and costs, including resource depletion and pollution associated with raw materials extraction and the manufacturing, transport, and installation of panels and turbines.

Inequality, like the other problems we've been discussing, is worsening: while absolute poverty has been reduced worldwide in recent decades, wealth is concentrated in fewer hands today than ever before. Further, as social problems tied to economic inequality proliferate and deepen, they tend to absorb our attention to the point that we lose sight of the ecological conditions that contribute to them-such as climate change and overpopulation. In other words, it is a very serious problem -- as serious in its own way as the three-make-or-break global dilemmas mentioned above.

Policy makers seem to be trying to do four things at once in order to keep social and ecological chaos at bay: (1) reduce economic inequality, (2) accommodate a growing global population, and (3) reduce human impacts on the environment (notably climate change and biodiversity loss), all while (4) growing their economies. Yet from a practical standpoint, the second aim is at odds with the first and the third: a growing population tends to increase (not reduce) environmental impacts, and it also makes programs designed to reduce economic inequality more difficult to fund, because a constantly increasing number of people must be served by those programs. Meanwhile, a larger economy is overwhelmingly likely to have a larger throughput of energy and materials, putting (4) at odds with (3).

Policy makers tend to assume that the technology-related trends mentioned above somehow can eventually make inequality, and the contradictions just mentioned, disappear.

Since the administration of John F. Kennedy, economists have delighted in equating economic growth to "a rising tide that lifts all boats.” That's an encouraging metaphor, but the trouble is that the tide tends to lift the yachts while swamping the canoes. And how helpful is a rising tide if it threatens to undermine the life-supporting capacity of planetary systems?

Demographic transition is a shift, observed over the past century in many countries, from high birth and death rates to lower birth and death rates (and slower net population growth) as those countries became more industrialized and urbanized -- i.e., as they adopted more sophisticated technology. With indus­trialization and economic growth, the problem of rapid population growth appears to solve itself.

Although addressing the inequality problem could help solve our population dilemma, it also could unintentionally increase overall consumption levels. When currently poor people become wealthier, they tend to spend most of their income gains on consumption, whereas wealthy people tend to withhold more of their income for savings and investments.

The proposed solution is to decouple GDP growth from energy usage and resource consumption -- to do more with less. Decoupling is suggested as the main key to banishing the contradiction inherent in trying to resolve inequality, population growth, and rising environmental impacts. Unfortunately, it turns out that decoupling has been oversold. A recent paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that even the relative decoupling that most economists believe industrial nations have already achieved is actually the result of false accounting.

Without decoupling, the contradiction between reducing inequality on one hand, and resolving our environmental problems on the other, remains firmly in place. Worse still, it turns out that "demographic transition” is really just a theoretical construct that doesn't fit the data evenly and doesn't necessarily have much predictive value.

Before fossil fuels, and before the technological revolution they fueled, we were forced to confront and adapt to limits. We codified lessons about limits in a set of virtues (sufficiency, modesty, thrift, generosity, and self-control), and vices (greed, selfishness, envy, and gluttony) that were held similarly by people everywhere, in very different and distant societies. Lately we have come to believe that technology makes these virtues and vices at least partly obsolete. We are encouraged to want more, consume more, and waste more because the economy demands it. But doing so doesn't make us better people; it usually does just the opposite. By abandoning those old virtues and ignoring those vices, we merely become more dangerous to ourselves, one another, and our environment.

Personal Actions

  • Climate Stability: Ditch the screen and reconnect with the people in your life. Take the pledge to unplug.
  • Right-sized Population: Talk with friends and loved ones about family size. Read this article or Bill McKibben's book Maybe One for ideas on how to start a conversation.
  • Biodiversity Conservation: Turn your yard, balcony container garden, schoolyard, or work landscape into Certified Wildlife Habitat.
  • All Three Goals: Learn how to build resilience in your own community. Take the Think Resilience online course.

  • Community Actions

  • Climate Stability: Host a Turn21 event. It's time we grew up and treated the planet and each other with respect.
  • Right-sized Population: Support your local Planned Parenthood Health Center or step up to become a Planned Parenthood Defender.
  • Biodiversity Conservation: Take part in some citizen science, and help track wild bird populations. Participate in the Christmas Bird Count.
  • All Three Goals: Shift the way your friends and colleagues think about the issues we face. Organize a discussion group for the Think Resilience course.

  • National / Global Actions

  • Climate Stability: Support Barefoot College and/or Solar Aid, who meet people's needs while reducing emissions.
  • Right-sized Population: Support the Population Media Center and change lives by changing the story.
  • Biodiversity Conservation: Volunteer with the Land Trust Alliance to protect and conserve natural habitats.
  • All Three Goals: Share this manifesto with 10 people. Include your local, state, or national representatives.
  • doclink

    Karen Gaia says: 1) The main driver to population growth was extending the live span of people through sanitation and modern medicine.

    2) Family planning is the one solution where the benefits far outweigh the cost, economically, and where families can realize the benefits in just a few short years. Family planning helps get families out of poverty, thus lessening inequality of wealth.

    3) Of the three challenges, the easiest behavior change to make is having less children because 40-50% of pregnancies are unintended, family planning is cost-effective, and families appreciate the benefits of family planning, like being able to feed their children and to send them to school.

    4) Very little moral imperative is needed in the case of family planning because almost all families already have the morality that compels them to protect their children's health and well-being.

    Save the World: Better Than Ed

    August 10, 2017, Better Than Ed

    A project from the Center of Biological Diversity:

    Every day we add 227,000 people to the planet. And every day dozens of wildlife species go extinct. The United Nations predicts that human population will surpass 11 billion by the end of the century. As the world's population grows, so do demands for water, land, trees and fossil fuels - all of which come at a steep price for already endangered plants and animals.

    Ed may be a celebrity and environmentalist, but sometimes his sustainability tips can be a bit unorthodox.* The truth is, you don't have to be famous or perform eco-heroics to help save the world from often-overlooked - but serious - issues like food waste, energy waste and population growth. Making sustainable choices every day, and demanding that systems change so that it's easier for everyone to live sustainably, are all you need to help save the world.

    *Disclaimer: Ed Begley Jr. is actually totally reasonable! Check out his website BegleyLiving.com for inspiration for a sustainable lifestyle.


    If Everyone Ate Beans Instead of Beef

    With one dietary change, the U.S. could almost meet greenhouse-gas emission goals.
    August 2, 2017, Atlantic Monthly   By: James Hamblin

    Donald Trump has called climate change a fabrication on the part of "the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive." He has also led the United States to become the only G20 country that will not honor the Paris Climate Accord, and who has appointed fossil-fuel advocates to lead the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency.

    This makes people committed to fighting climate change feel helpless. However, there is something individuals can to mitigate environmental degradation.

    Helen Harwatt is a researcher trained in environmental nutrition, a field focused on developing food systems that balance human health and sustainability. She and her colleagues have done research on maximizing the impacts of individuals.

    Recently Harwatt and a team of scientists from Oregon State University, Bard College, and Loma Linda University calculated just what would happen if every American made one dietary change: substituting beans for beef. They found that if everyone were willing and able to do that-hypothetically -- the U.S. could still come close to meeting its 2020 greenhouse-gas emission goals, pledged by President Barack Obama in 2009.

    Even if nothing about our energy infrastructure or transportation system changed -- and even if people kept eating chicken and pork and eggs and cheese -- this one dietary change could achieve somewhere between 46% and 74% of the reductions needed to meet the target.

    A relatively small, single-food substitution could be the most powerful change a person makes in terms of their lifetime environmental impact -- more so than downsizing one's car.

    In a feed lot that holds 38,000 cattle, the growth and fattening of them means dispensing 900 metric tons of feed every day. The cows will eat the beans, convert the beans to meat, and then humans will eat the meat. In the process, the cows will emit much greenhouse gas, and they will consume far more calories in beans than they will yield in meat, meaning far more clear cutting of forests to farm cattle feed than would be necessary if the beans above were simply eaten by people.

    According to the United Nations, 33% of arable land on Earth is used to grow feed for livestock. In addition, 26% of the ice-free terrestrial surface of Earth is used for grazing livestock. In all, almost a third of the land on Earth is used to produce meat and animal products.

    If so many plant crops weren't run through the digestive tracts of cattle, there would be much less deforestation and land degradation. If Americans traded their beef for beans, the researchers found, that would free up 42% of U.S. crop land.

    "It's kind of a worst-first approach, looking at the hottest spot in the food system in terms of greenhouse-gas emissions, and what could that be substituted with without losing protein and calories in the food system? And at the same time, gaining health benefits," Harwatt said.

    Regardless of a person's degree of ecoanxiety, there is some recourse in knowing how far individuals can go to make up for a regressive federal administration simply by eating beans. doclink

    Meat Industry Blamed for Largest-Ever 'Dead Zone' in Gulf of Mexico

    A new report shows toxins from suppliers to companies like Tyson Foods are pouring into waterways, causing marine life to leave or die
    August 1, 2017, Guardian   By: Oliver Milman

    The global meat industry, already implicated in driving global warming and deforestation, has now been blamed for what is expected to be the worst "dead zone" on record in the Gulf of Mexico, according to new report by Mighty, an environmental group chaired by former congressman Henry Waxman.

    Nutrients flowing into streams, rivers and the ocean from agriculture and wastewater stimulate an overgrowth of algae, which then decomposes. This results in hypoxia, or lack of oxygen, in the water, causing marine life either to flee or to die.

    The gulf, the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay are affected.

    The dead zone is expected to be roughly the size of New Jersey.

    America's vast appetite for meat is driving much of this harmful pollution, according to Mighty, which blamed a small number of businesses for practices that are "contaminating our water and destroying our landscape" in the heart of the country.

    Lucia von Reusner, campaign director at Mighty said "These companies' practices need to be far more sustainable. And a reduction in meat consumption is absolutely necessary to reduce the environmental burden."

    A "highly industrialized and centralized factory farm system” has resulted in vast tracts of native grassland in the midwest being converted into soy and corn to feed livestock.

    Tyson Foods is identified by the report as a "dominant” influence in the pollution, due to its market strength in chicken, beef and pork. Tyson, which supplies the likes of McDonald's and Walmart, requires five million acres of corn a year for feed, according to the report.

    Tyson generated 55 million tons of manure last year, and 104 million tons of pollutants were dumped into waterways over the past decade.

    This pollution has also been linked to drinking water contamination. In 2015 water systems serving seven million Americans in 48 states contained high levels of nitrates. Consuming nitrates has been linked to an increased risk of contracting certain cancers.

    The report urges Tyson and other firms to use their clout in the supply chain to ensure that grain producers such as Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland employ practices that reduce pollution flowing into waterways. These practices include not leaving soil uncovered by crops and being more efficient with fertilizers so plants are not doused in too many chemicals.

    The average American consumed 211 lbs of meat in 2015. However, US beef consumption fell by nearly one fifth from 2005 to 2014.

    Only 3% of Americans follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.

    This voracious appetite for meat has driven the loss of native forests and grasslands in the US and abroad, releasing heat-trapping gases through deforestation and agricultural practices. Agriculture produced 9% of US greenhouse gas emissions in 2015, according to the EPA.

    A Tyson spokeswoman said "we don't agree with the group's characterization of our company but share its interest in protecting the environment.”

    "It's true the livestock and poultry industry is a major buyer of grain for feed, however, the report fails to note that a large percentage of corn raised in the US is used for biofuel and that a significant portion is used for human consumption,” she added. doclink

    Conventional Economics is a Form of Brain Damage - David Suzuki

    Sustainable Human