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

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

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

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Mother Caring for 7 Billion doc

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

Population & Sustainability News Digest

November 23, 2014

Carbon Intensity of Global Energy

September 2014, Paul Chefurka website

Here are some of the things this graphic tells us.

• During the 1800s the majority of the world's energy came from carbon-neutral biomass, with an increasing contribution of carbon from coal as time went on. • The Great Depression and WWII are clearly visible as dips in carbon intensity. • Carbon intensity has not changed significantly since 1950. • The addition of nuclear power starting in 1965 made no difference. • The addition of wind and solar have made no difference. • The recession in 2008 made no difference. • The increasing use of coal by China is visible as a rise since 2001.

We would need to reduce our carbon emissions by 80% by 2030 in order to avoid a 2C rise in global temperatures.

We're not going to do that. doclink

The Case for Advancing Access to Health Coverage and Care for Immigrant Women and Families

November 19 , 2014, Health Affairs Blog   By: Kinsey Hasstedt

Many lawfully present immigrants are ineligible for coverage through Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program during their first five years of legal residency. Undocumented immigrants are largely barred from public coverage, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) prohibits them from purchasing any coverage, subsidized or not, through its health insurance marketplaces.

In 2012, the administration created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program, enabling many so-called DREAMers to lawfully remain in the United States. Unfortunately those with DACA status are essentially treated as if they were undocumented and expressly carved out of nearly all public and private health coverage and affordability programs. Also, the immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in 2013 failed for the most part to address the legitimate health insurance and health care needs of immigrants, denying those eligible for provisional status access to public coverage and the ACA's subsidies.

Among women of reproductive age (15-44), 40% of the 6.6 million noncitizen immigrants are uninsured, compared with 18% of naturalized citizens and 15% of U.S.-born women.

Of reproductive-age women living below the poverty level (a group in which immigrant women are overrepresented), 53% percent of noncitizen immigrant women lack health insurance -- about double the percentage of U.S.-born women. Further, only 28% of poor noncitizen women of reproductive age have Medicaid coverage, compared with 46% of those born in the United States.

Only half (52%) of immigrant women at risk for unintended pregnancy received contraceptive care, compared with two-thirds (65%) of U.S.-born women.

Consistent contraceptive use is critical to helping women prevent unintended pregnancies, plan and space wanted pregnancies, and achieve their own educational, employment, and financial goals. Without coverage, immigrant women and couples may well be unable to afford the method of contraception that will work best for them, which is critical to realizing these benefits.

In addition, preventive sexual and reproductive health services are effective in helping women and couples avoid cervical cancer, HIV and other STIs, infertility, and preterm and low-birth-weight births -- all while saving substantial public dollars. Notably, cervical cancer disproportionately afflicts and causes deaths among immigrant women, particularly Latinas and women in certain Asian communities, likely because many go without timely screenings. doclink

New Research: Rethinking Industrial Animal Production

We need greater investment in alternative forms of livestock production that protect animal welfare, the environment, worker safety, and public health.
November 18 , 2014, Foodtank   By: Danielle Nierenberg and Maia Reed

Recently, Food Tank published a quick guide, "Rethinking Industrial Animal Production," detailing the significant and far reaching consequences of a food system dominated by industrial animal production. Industrial animal operations already account for the vast majority of animal production in the United States, and are responsible worldwide for 67 percent of poultry production, 50 percent of egg production, and 42 percent of pork production...
. . . more doclink

Proof That Comprehensive Sex Ed Classes Actually Help Kids Put Off Having Sex

October 21 , 2014, Think Progress   By: Tara Culp-Ressler

A three-year study by a research team at the Wellesley Centers for Women compared Get Real, Planned Parenthood's (PP's) comprehensive sex ed program, with existing programs at 24 racially and economically diverse Boston area schools (some of which already offered sex ed). The results, published in the Journal of School Health, show that classes emphasizing healthy relationships and family involvement encourage middle school students (grades 6 - 8) to delay trying sex.

Get Real's "social-emotional learning approach" teaches kids how to navigate relationships. Researchers say that Get Real's key feature is that kids get to practice communication skills both in the classroom and at home with their parents. Study leader, Sumru Erkut, said the program teaches relationship skills and provides a very strong follow-up of family involvement.

Using test and control groups of equal size, the study found that 16% fewer boys and 15% fewer girls became sexually active by the end of eighth grade after completing Get Real. Previous research into standard Boston-area sex ed programs did not show such clear results for both genders. "It's certainly a very important and positive contribution," Erkut, told Think Progress. "People clap their hands over a program that can reduce HIV infections by 4%, so these numbers can be put in that context."

"Parents tend to talk about sex earlier and more frequently with their daughters than their sons," said the paper's lead author, Jennifer Grossman. Get Real‘s take-home assignments got parents involved in discussions that few parents knew how to handle the on their own. Sixth grade boys who completed the family assignments were more likely to delay sex until after eighth grade.

PP is the nation's largest sex ed provider, but is also a flashpoint in the abortion rights fight. Jen Slonaker, Vice President of Education and Training at the PP League of Mass. said. "This is exactly what we want our middle schoolers to be doing… delaying sex." But that is not the way conservatives typically view PP programs. Those who favor abstinence education believe (against contrary evidence) that teaching students about sex encourages them to become sexually active at an earlier age, and they pressure schools administrations to remove certain sex ed materials from the classroom. Most states don't require sex ed, and some prohibit any form of comprehensive sex ed. Republicans in Texas and Louisiana have even suggested that PP wants teens to get pregnant so it can give them abortions. But PP officials say the resisters are a small minority. Educators, administrators, and parents should remember that 95% of parents in high school and 93% of parents in middle school support sex education.

PP partners with ETR to distribute its Get Real materials. Thanks to these study results, ETR's website can offer this pitch: “Research Shows It Works! Students who receive Get Real are less likely to have sex." doclink

Art says: A small minority has prevented millions of kids from learning information that can be vital to their lives. That is one reason why the U.S. has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the developed world.

Judging a comprehensive sex ed program on abstinence objectives seems ironical. The U.S. has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the developed world, but a small minority prevents millions of kids from learning skills and information that can be vital to their decision making.

Karen Gaia says: When I was a teen girl I actually thought my parents thought it was OK to have sex. They said so little about it.

Vasectomies Are Cheaper and Safer Than Female Sterilization -- So Why Don't More Men Get Them?

November 13, 2014, Quartz   By: Heather Timmons

After a mass sterilization clinic run by a single doctor, at least 13 women in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh died, and others were hospitalized. Witnesses said the surgeries took place in an "assembly-line atmosphere with little regard to hygiene or patient comfort."

This tragedy is only the latest to arise from the country's attempts to control its population, which has resulted in the death of hundreds of women from botched sterilizations. Earlier this year the same doctor received an award from Chhattisgarh state health ministry earlier this year for performing a record 50,000 surgeries.

Tubal ligation, the most common method of female sterilization, costs three to four times as much as a vasectomy. Women are five times as likely to die from sterilization than men, the Encyclopedia of Women and Gender reports. More than one third of married Indian women undergo sterilization, versus just 1% of Indian men. Around the world, more women then men undergo the procedure.

Women in India often don't want their husbands to undergo a vasectomy because they fear he will "lose his strength and virility."

More than 50 health workers told Human Rights Watch that district and sub-district authorities assigned individual yearly targets for contraceptives, with a heavy focus on female sterilization, under the threat of adverse consequences if they did not achieve their targets.

A vasectomy can be performed in a doctors office in 15 to 20 minutes. And the procedure does not typically result in any sexual side effects such as impotence. doclink

Karen Gaia says: in a later article it was revealed that the deaths were due to a faulty batch of antibiotics - probably given to the women to prevent infection from the procedure. Men were also poisoned by the antibiotic which was contaminated by rat poison.

Still, such abuses do occur when sterilzations are done in assembly line fashion or when targets are assigned.

Thoughts on Carrrying Capacity and Sustainability

October 03 , 2014, Paul Chefurka website

The Earth's "natural" carrying capacity for terrestrial vertebrate life is probably in the neighbourhood of 200 million tonnes. This represents the carrying capacity based on solar input only, with no assistance from human technology or fossil fuels. The estimate is derived from Vaclav Smil's biomass estimate for 1900 shown on the graph, which has been reduced by about 30% to account for technology and coal use by that time. The assumption is that by 10,000 BCE this biomass of 200 MT was fully utilizing the available solar flux.

One crucial question is what proportion of this 200 MT of biomass could be devoted to humans and their domesticated animals without excessively damaging the rest of the biosphere? This is hard to answer without a controlled experiment of course, but here's one approach.

I begin with the human population in Year 1 AD of about 250 million as a baseline. At 50 kg/person that number represents about 12.5 MT of human biomass. Domesticated animal biomass in 1900 was about three times that of humans, so that would give us an additional 37.5 MT of domesticated animals, for a total human-related biomass of 50 MT. This number represents one quarter of the estimated natural carrying capacity of the planet. That degree of appropriation is probably not completely sustainable, but would likely be OK for a few thousand years, provided there was no further human expansion beyond that number.

Because I presume that any use of technology promotes overshoot, this 250 million number also represents a human population without any significant technology beyond what was available when Christ was born.

Under this set of assumptions the planet may be overpopulated by almost 30 times.

Keep in mind that this scenario says precisely nothing about what's likely to happen in our present circumstances. In fact, the idea of voluntarily reducing our population by 97% might as well come from a different universe, it's so utterly unachievable in this one. This line of argument simply represents a way of viewing the current situation through a more ecologically holistic lens.

One additional idea to consider is that the period for which a particular population's activity level will be sustainable is variable. The lower the collective activity level (in other words, the lower its impact on its environment) the longer the probable period of sustainability becomes.

One way I measure human impact is through what I call our "Thermodynamic Footprint". According to this measure, modern humans have an average of 20 times the per capita impact on their environment as a hunter-gatherer. Europeans have an impact 40 times as high, while the average American impact is 80 to 100 times as high. This implies that to achieve the same period of sustainability as the 250 million humans I described above, the world could support six million average Europeans, or 2.5 million Americans.

Any increase in either population or activity levels (i.e. per-capita energy use) shortens the period of sustainability. Humans currently have an environmental impact almost 600 times as high as the baseline I proposed above - our population is 29 times higher, and our per-capita impact is 20 times higher. As a result, our period of sustainability will not be a few thousand years, but something more on the order of a small handful of decades. If we begin the countdown from the onset of heavy global industrialization around 1900, we have already burned through 11 of those "sustainable" decades.

Unfortunately, the more we look at our predicament, the more it becomes clear that no matter how we slice it or dice it, the human presence on the planet cannot be considered even remotely sustainable for much longer. And that implies that a correction in our numbers and activity levels is inevitable. The longer we proceed down the current road of technological, energetic and numerical expansion, the closer we come to that correction. doclink

Google Engineers Explain Why They Stopped R&D in Renewable Energy

This realization was frankly shocking.
November 19 , 2014   By: Stephen Lacey

Google unveiled its initiative to make renewable energy competitive with coal, called RE

In 2011 Google stopped its R&D efforts prematurely; apparently it was more interested in the deployment of renewables. Since then Google has invested more than $1 billion directly in solar and wind projects and has now procured enough renewable energy and efficiency to offset its carbon emissions. Meanwhile, the levelized cost of renewables has come down to rival the cost of building new coal plants.

So did the Google engineers who worked on the RE

"Trying to combat climate change exclusively with today's renewable energy technologies simply won't work; we need a fundamentally different approach," wrote Google's Ross Koningstein and David Fork in a piece published recently in IEEE's Spectrum.

"As we reflected on the project, we came to the conclusion that even if Google and others had led the way toward a wholesale adoption of renewable energy, that switch would not have resulted in significant reductions of carbon dioxide emissions," they said.

"Even if every renewable energy technology advanced as quickly as imagined and they were all applied globally, atmospheric CO2 levels wouldn't just remain above 350 ppm; they would continue to rise exponentially due to continued fossil fuel use. We decided to combine our energy innovation study's best-case scenario results with Hansen's climate model to see whether a 55 percent emission cut by 2050 would bring the world back below that 350-ppm threshold. So our best-case scenario, which was based on our most optimistic forecasts for renewable energy, would still result in severe climate change, with all its dire consequences: shifting climatic zones, freshwater shortages, eroding coasts, and ocean acidification, among others. Our reckoning showed that reversing the trend would require...radical technological advances in cheap zero-carbon energy, as well as a method of extracting CO2 from the atmosphere and sequestering the carbon."

Even if they had found cheap renewable energy technologies that could gradually replace all the world's coal plants, it still wouldn't have solved climate change.

Koningstein and Fork hint at one possible focus that might work: technologies like power electronics that can efficiently control the grid and enable higher penetrations of distributed generation. In July, Google unveiled a $1 million challenge to build an inverter one-tenth the size of existing devices.

Solar panels can be put on every rooftop, but can't provide power if the sun isn't shining. Yet if we invented a distributed, dispatchable power technology, smaller players could generate not only electricity but also profit, buying and selling energy locally from one another at real-time prices.

"We don't have the answers. Those technologies haven't been invented yet". The Google engineers recommended that energy companies used Google's 70-20-10 rule approach to foster innovation in the energy sector and allow for those breakthrough inventions : 70% of employee time be spent working on existing energy technologies that industry knows how to build and profitably deploy. 20% could be dedicated to cutting-edge technologies that are on the path to economic viability. 10% could be dedicated to ideas that may seem crazy but might have huge impact.

Today, the energy innovation cycle is measured in decades, in large part because so little money is spent on critical types of R&D. Even in the case of Google. doclink

Paul Chefurka says: Here's what it would REALLY take to reverse climate change:

- Ban the use of all fossil fuels; - Ban the production of factory farmed meats; - Ban all monocrop industrial grain agriculture; - Ban all fishing; - Shut down the current economic system and return to barter; - Implement universal sex education and birth control

(Paul also wants a one child policy, but Karen Gaia thinks that will not work as well as meeting the unmet need for contraception)

Population Growth Far Outpaces Food Supply in Conflict-Ravaged Sahel

Researchers say conflict and climate change mean the region’s resources will be unable to sustain the increasing population
October 22, 2014, Mail and Guardian   By: Chris Arsenault

"The Supply and Demand of Net Primary Production in the Sahel", a study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, used satellite images to find that the Sahel's ability to produce food is not keeping pace with its growing population, and higher temperatures from global warming will only

In the 22 countries that make up the arid Sahel in northern Africa, the population grew from 367 million in 2000 to 471 million in 2010, an increase of almost 30%. However, the production of crops remained essentially unchanged and higher temperatures will reduce crop production. The amount of carbon consumed jumped from 19% in 2000 to 41% in 2010.

Hakim Abdi, lead author of study, said the tension in Darfur "stems partially from a lack of resources." The Sahel also faces Islamist insurgencies in parts of Libya, Chad and Niger, along with an uprising by ethnic Tuareg separatists in Mali.

Political violence seems likely to intensify as growing populations battle for dwindling food supplies. Some of the world's fastest growing populations are located in the region. Niger, the poorest place on Earth, according to the UN's human development index, also has the world's highest birthrate, followed by Mali.

The number of people in the Sahel is expected to rise from 30 million in 1950 to close to 1 billion by 2050.

Ibrahim Coulibaly, a Malian farmer and activist with Via Campesina, recently told a UN panel in Rome "Producing results to overcoming food insecurity means we need to take a fresh look at innovation in family farms." Drought resistant crops and new infrastructure for processing and transporting food, along with new publicly funded training for small farmers were needed to increase resilience, he said.

Drought resistant crops and new techniques could improve production, but might not be enough in the face of population growth and disruption linked to global warming. doclink

'Too Many People': Philippine Island Being Deforested Despite Extensive Protections

October 31, 2014, Mongabay.com   By: Shaira Panela

The Philippine island of Palawan hosts two World Heritage sites, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River in the provincial capital, and the Tubbataha Reef in Cagayancillo, and it is almost completely covered in Protected Areas; yet Palawan lost 6.4% of its tree cover since 2001.

Data from Global Forest Watch (GFW) reveals that many animals -- including 27 endemic species of birds, 19 varieties of land mammals, and 24 kinds of reptiles -- are facing huge population declines.

The National Statistics Office (NSO) records show that the population in Palawan grew by 2.66% per year from 2000 to 2010. This would double the population in 26 years.

"It's just too many people, and more people need more space," said Dr. Neil Aldrin Mallari, country program director of Fauna & Flora International - Philippines.

Illegal logging is one of the biggest contributors to forest cover loss.

"People living in the mountains still practice slash-and-burn where they cut trees and burn them to make the land available for farming," said an environmentalist, who asked not to be identified. "The problem is so difficult to solve," he said. “In a scale of 1-10, 10 being the hardest, I would rate the deforestation in Palawan is a 7," he said.

Deforestation in the southern part of the province results from bark tanning, in which bark harvested of mangroves is used to tan leather. Illegal land conversion and charcoal production are also common in northern Palawan.

Palawan's palm oil industry has also led to significant forest loss.

Mining also contributes to deforestation, but it is not the primary culprit. However, this controversial issue led to the 2011 shooting death of a well-known radio announcer and environmentalist in the Province, Dr. Gerry Ortega. Mining is mostly concentrated in the southern tip of the province.

Mining also adds to the growing of the population in the area.

Humans are also affected by deforestation. “Forest means life to us because forests are our first line of defense against typhoons, water, clean air and lots of things," Mallari said. "nd it is not just about the size of the forest but the quality."

Mining-caused deforestation could interfere with groundwater resources and could even make El Nino-induced drought worse in the Philippines. There would be more runoff during storms and less water retained during droughts, when trees are cut down. doclink

White Women: Let's Get Our Sh*t Together

November 05 , 2014, RH Reality Check   By: Andrea Grimes

When Wendy Davis ran for the Texas gubernatorial election, there was much concern over what the Hispanic lady voter would do: Are they too socially conservative to support Wendy Davis?

As it turned out, among voters, 94% of Black women, 90% of Black men, 61% of Latinas, and 49% of Latinos in Texas voted for Wendy Davis. In contrast, only 32% of white Texas women voters actually voted for Wendy Davis. Time and time again, people of color have stood up for reproductive rights, for affordable health care, for immigrant communities while white folks vote a straight "I got mine" party ticket.

A vote for Wendy Davis meant a vote for strong public school funding, for Texas Medicaid expansion, for affordable family planning care, for environmental reforms, for access to a full spectrum of reproductive health-care options.

A vote for Greg Abbott meant a vote for empowering big industry and big political donors, for cutting public school funds and dismantling the Affordable Care Act, for overturning Roe v. Wade, and - a vote for the status quo.

There are many factors contributed to America's rightward dive over the cliff: Citizens United, racist gerrymandering and voter ID laws, but there is also the historical crisis of empathy in the white community, one much older than gerrymandered congressional districts or poll taxes.

In choosing Greg Abbott Tuesday white women choose the fact that our children will always have access to education, that our daughters will always be able to fly to California or New York for abortion care, that our mothers will always be able to get that crucial Pap smear.

We chose a future where maternal mortality -- but not our maternal mortality -- rates will rise. We chose a future where preventable deaths from cervical cancer -- but not our deaths -- will rise. We chose a future where deaths from illegal, back-alley abortions -- but not our illegal, back-alley abortions -- will rise.

Without empathy, a culture of fear is allowed to foment and thrive. It is that culture that has ensured that white folks never need engage with the idea of non-white humanity. It is this culture of fear that put Greg Abbott in the governor's mansion, and it needs to be cut out of our communities like the cancer it is. We do this by rebuilding ourselves in a better image, in the image of our sisters of color who, time and again, have shown that they care that we have access to health care, to the voting booth, even though we have not done the same for them.

We need to support groups like the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, the Afiya Center, SisterSong, the Texas Organizing Project, Mamas of Color Rising, Rise Up/Levanta Texas, and ask: What role of assistance can we play as you lead? doclink

Regreening Program to Restore One-Sixth of Ethiopia's Land

Tree and shrub-planting program has transformed degraded and deforested land across Africa, with Ethiopia planning to restore a further 15m hectares by 2030
October 30 , 2014, Guardian   By: John Vidal

Fifteen years years ago, in the villages around Abrha Weatsbha in northern Ethiopia the hillsides were barren, the communities, plagued by floods and droughts, needed constant food aid, and the soil was being washed away.

Today, the planting of many millions of tree and bush seedlings have saved the environment. Wells that were dry have been recharged, the soil is in better shape, fruit trees grow in the valleys and the hillsides are green again.

Farming communities worked together to close off large areas to animals, save water and replant trees,and this is now to be replicated across one sixth of Ethiopia - an area the size of England and Wales. The most ambitious attempt yet to reduce soil erosion, increase food security and adapt to climate change is expected to vastly increase the amount of food grown in one of the most drought- and famine-prone areas of the world.

"Large areas of Ethiopia and the Sahel were devastated by successive droughts and overgrazing by animals in the 1960s and 1970s," says Chris Reij, a researcher with the World Resources Institute in Washington.

In Tigray it has involved communities building miles of terraces and low walls, to hold back rainwater from slopes, the closure of large areas of bare land to allow natural regeneration of trees and vegetation, and the widespread planting of seedlings.

"In the early 1990s every able-bodied villager in Tigray had to contribute three months of labor to dig pits to save water, or to construct terraces and bunds to stop water rushing off the hills. This was reduced later to 40 days a year and currently it is 20 days a year.

Ethiopia's pledge to restore a further 15m hectares of degraded land was the largest of many made at the end of UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon's New York climate summit last month, where governments, companies and civil society groups together agreed to try to restore 350m hectares of deforested landscapes - an area the size of India - by 2030.

With help from the World Bank, the UK government and development groups like Oxfam and World Vision, Africa has emerged as the leader in restoring the world's estimated 2bn hectares of degraded lands.

Over 200m trees have been planted and 5m hectares of degraded land regreened in Niger, resulting in an extra 500,000 tonnes of food being grown in the country with the fastest growing population in the world, as well as an increase in biodiversity and incomes.

In Burkina Faso where 2-300,000 hectares of land has been regreened, food production has grown about 80,000 tons a year - enough to feed an extra 500,000 people.

In Tanzania 500,000 hectares of land has been restored.

Increasing the rate of restoration of degraded lands will be vital both for feeding fast-growing populations and adapting to climate change, says Green Belt Movement (GBM) international director, Pauline Kamau.

"frica is already experiencing some of the most dramatic extreme temperature events ever seen. Without action to reduce emissions, average annual temperatures on the continent are likely to rise 3-4C by the end of the century and [there could be] a 30% reduction in rainfall in sub Saharan Africa."

Agriculture, forestry and other land use changes accounts for nearly 25% of greenhouse gas emissions globally. "Restoring degraded lands can both help rein in warming and adapt to higher temperatures," Kamau said. doclink

Karen Gaia says: In Ethiopia, the government owns much of the land, giving little incentive for farmers to invest in long-term solutions like building and maintaining terraces.

Women Driven by Status, Wealth Rather Than Wanting Babies, Study Suggests

October 17, 2014, Science Daily

A new study from Oxford and Sheffield Universities suggests that women are more likely to seek wealth and status than they are to reproduce. The findings are based on interviews with 9,000 women in Mongolia, a country which transitioned suddenly from a Soviet-style state to capitalism. The older women who lived under a Communist-style regime were likely to have bigger families if they were wealthier, while the younger women experiencing a more capitalist system were more likely to seek their own fortune and a mate with social standing before starting a family.

In the research was published the journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The authors say an unequal and skills-based society enables women to rise up the social ladder and make money through education (providing gender equality is promoted).

The fact that the wealthy and socially successful have small families may appear to go against the classic theory of evolutionary success as lower fertility results in fewer genetic descendants. However, other studies have shown that people are primarily driven by status. If status-seeking behavior translated into reproductive success across evolutionary history, it may have been favored by natural selection, it explains.

The research investigated the relationship between women's attitudes towards child-bearing and wealth between and within regions (varying by their level of urbanization). They were asked about income, household amenities, educational level, the total number of children born, and how many children they already had when they first used contraceptive methods.

The research argues that this pattern of behavior has emerged because the transition to a market economy has created more economic opportunities for educated women.

Anthropologist Dr Alexandra Alvergne from Oxford University said: "We find that education on its own does not drive the decision on when to start a family. Rather, how much education translates into future wealth best explains fertility patterns across regions. It seems that women's prime objective is to accrue wealth and status. This might be securing a well-paid job or finding a partner who has relatively high social standing." doclink

Karen Gaia says: this article says nothing about contraception and whether or not is was accessible, affordable, or effective, and whether or not it was offered after the birth of a child as part of a reproductive health program. All of these make a difference.

In the U.S., the pill was not available until 1960, and then was not as good as the pill they have today. It was not the 1990s that a safe effective IUD and the contraceptive implant -- both 20 times more effective than the pill -- were available.

Population Controls 'will Not Solve Environment Issues'

October 27, 2014, BBC News   By: Matt Mcgrath

PNAS -- the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences -- recently published a report.

Our current path will take us to maybe 12 billion humans on Earth by 2100, which, with rising affluence and consumption rates, leads to worry about the conversion of forests for agriculture, the rise of urbanisation, the pressure on species, pollution, and climate change.

A worldwide one-child policy would mean the number of people in 2100 remained around current levels.

"Even if we had a third world war in the middle of this century, you would barely make a dent in the trajectory over the next 100 years" says Prof Corey Bradshaw University of Adelaide.

Many experts have argued the best way of tackling this impact is to facilitate a rapid transition to much lower fertility rates. According to the study, attempts to curb our population as a short-term fix will not work. "We've gone past the point where we can do it easily, just by the sheer magnitude of the population, what we call the demographic momentum. We just can't stop it fast enough," said Bradshaw.

The scientists said the issue of population and its impact on global consumption was often described as the "elephant in the room" - a problem that the world ignores as it is politically and ethically difficult to tackle. "Our work reveals that effective family planning and reproduction education worldwide have great potential to constrain the size of the human population and alleviate pressure on resource availability over the longer term," said Prof Barry Brook from the University of Tasmania. As a result of this long-term impact, the world should focus on curbing consumption and designing ways to conserve species and ecosystems. doclink

Karen Gaia says: This report assumes that fertility rates will continue to fall. Unfortunately, if we don't do something about them, they will rise again -- because funding for these programs is slowing and women still have an unmet need for contraception. If we focus only on consumption, conservation, and preservation of ecosystems, the fertility rates will go up.

In addition, helping women control their own reproduction helps give them the resilience needed to cope with climate change.

United States Wastes Billions of Dollars to Ship Food Aid

October 23, 2014, Humanosphere   By: Tom Murphy

USAID - the U.S. Agency for International Development - reports it takes an average of 69 days for food aid to go out for delivery. Then it takes another 51 days to reach people in need. A process, taking an average of four months to deliver what can be lifesaving assistance, is too slow when there is a an emergency.

A food aid program founded in 1954 to help U.S. farmers and foreign policy interests at the same time, requires American-made, shipped and handled food aid, so USAID is required to go through domestic suppliers.

"From Syria to Sudan to Ethiopia, from Yemen to the Democratic Republic of Congo to parts of the Sahel in West Africa, we are working swiftly to reach hungry people and saves lives. But as conflicts continue and the world sees more recurrent and dramatic weather events, we will need to meet ever-increasing demands on our emergency food accounts with flexibility and speed," said USAID Administrator Raj Shah.

Two major proposals were made by the Obama administration: 1) Allow as much as 25% of emergency food aid to be spent locally or using alternatives, such as food vouchers and cash transfers; 2) All but eliminate monetization, the practice of selling U.S. food so organizations can fund their development work.

Monetization is a way that non-government organizations can make money to help fund their work. It is a controversial practice that NGOs such as Oxfam and CARE ceased doing years ago. World Vision, Food for the Hungry and ACDI/VOCA are part of the "Iron Triangle" formed by the shippers, food producers and NGOs/government contractors.

Congress continues to shun reforms. "It's about American jobs and it's about the distribution of that American food, first grown by American farmers all over this nation, whether it's rice from California or wheat or corn from the Midwest. It's also about the transportation system and the jobs that go with it," said Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif.

The United States stands alone with its out-of-date food aid rules. doclink

Water Risks Threaten Billions in U.S. Electric Sales, Farm Products

November 06, 2014, World Resources Institute - WRI   By: Paul Reig, Andrew Maddocks and Cyrus Lotfipour

Food production and power generation account for more than 80% of U.S. water withdrawals. Because electric power plants and other water-intensive industries are often located in areas with thousands of acres of irrigated agriculture, there is high competition for limited supply. Water stress in those areas could have serious consequences for hundreds of millions of people in the United States and around the world.

MSCI ESG Research has written a new report, Corn or Current? The Agro-Industrial Water Conflict, in which data from data from World Resource Institute's Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas to evaluate agro-industrial water conflict for 110 publicly traded, water-intensive companies operating in highly irrigated and water-stressed U.S. counties was used to show where conflicts between industry and agriculture for limited water supplies could be most severe.

Thermoelectric power production accounts for 41% of U.S annual water withdrawals. And electric utilities are 11 times more water intensive than all other industries combined and more than twice as water intensive as the next most-intensive industry, paper manufacturing. Nevertheless, approximately one in every four electric utilities operates in irrigation-intensive and water-stressed U.S. counties.

In one example, in 2010, drought and increased competition reduced the volume of water, which allowed the sun to warm it up more quickly, which led to higher water temperatures and -- to avoid overheating -- forced the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant on the Tennessee River to reduce generating capacity by between 40 and 60% for 45 days. This could mean significant financial losses for the electric utility and more vulnerable energy security across the grid.

Irrigation, while a close second to thermoelectric power generation in U.S. water withdrawals, is by far the country's largest consumptive water user. 42% of irrigation-intensive counties in the U.S. -- with approximately $1.2 billion in corn, soy, and wheat crops -- face moderate to high water stress. A drop in water supplies for irrigation could disrupt agricultural supply chains worldwide. **

Across the United States, up to $900 million worth of corn and $400 million worth of cotton crops are exposed to high agro-industrial water conflict. doclink

Long-Acting Birth Control for Guys Coming in 2017

November 04 , 2014, Sex, Etc   By: Krystal Rodriguez

Long-acting, reversible birth control methods, like intrauterine devices and implants, are available for girls and women, but are there long-acting, reversible birth control options for men? The Parsemus Foundation is developing Vasalgel, a gel which is injected into the vas deferens (the tube that the sperm travel through from the testicles to the urethra). When the gel hardens, it blocks sperm from mixing with the fluids that are released during ejaculation. This means the fluids ejaculated don't contain sperm.

Vasalgel has been compared to a vasectomy, where the man's vas deferens are cut, so there is no sperm in his semen. Vasalgel uses an injection of gel into the vas deferens to prevent sperm from mixing with semen. If a man no longer wants to use Vasalgel or would like to be able to contribute to a pregnancy, the gel is dissolved with another injection.

Vasalgel will be on the market in 2017. It has been tested on male baboons, and human trials are expected to start next year. Vasalgel will not prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. doclink

Study Reveals That Accumulated Deforestation in the Amazon is Starting to Affect Climate

October 30, 2014, World Wide Fund For Nature - WWF

A recent report launched in Sao Paulo synthesizes the findings of around two hundred leading scientific studies and articles on the role the Amazon forest plays in climate and rainfall regulation and in the exportation of environmental services to areas of production bordering the Amazon region and others far beyond it. The report concludes that achieving zero deforestation is no longer sufficient, on its own, to guarantee the upkeep of the biome's climate functions. It is essential to address the accumulated environmental debt of forest destruction and set in motion a large scale process to recuperate those areas which, in Brazil, represent the equivalent to 184 million football pitches.

The Amazon Climate Future study (see http://bit.ly/1pbEFnk ), conducted by research scientist Antonio Donato Nobre of the Brazilian National Space Research Institute's Terrestrial System Science Centre, clearly demonstrates the climate potential of the virgin forest or "green ocean", as scientists call it, and the impacts of its destruction through felling and burning.

Many studies have suggested that the forest has survived in its pristine condition for tens of millions of years due to its great capacity to resist cataclysmic climate events. However, when it is destroyed, its immunity is broken. The occupation of the Amazon has destroyed at least 42 billion trees -- or 2,000 trees a minute -- uninterruptedly, for the last 40 years. The harm of such vast devastation is now beginning to be felt in regions far from the Amazon and the forecasts indicate that the scenario is likely to get worse if deforestation continues and the forest is not restored. doclink

California Drought is Driving the Depletion of Irreplaceable Groundwater

A new study by NASA scientist James Famiglietti quantifies how fast we're pumping water out of California's aquifers in response to the drought.
November 03 , 2014, MNN Mother Nature Network   By: Shea Gunther

A new report by NASA scientist James Famiglietti paints a grim picture of water conditions in California, our country's breadbasket. A third of America's produce comes from California. Here's a example of some of them:

Pomegranates- 100%
Artichokes- 99%
Kiwi- 97%
Olives- 96%
Plumes and prunes- 94%
Avocados- 90%
Nectarines- 89%
Garlic- 85%
Grapes- 82%
Lemons- 79%
Tomatoes- 76%
Strawberries- 59%

If we lose California agriculture, food will get a lot more expensive and possibly become completely unavailable, at least seasonally.

California's long-running drought is a major driver of the rise in aquifer pumping. If people can't get water from a lake or river, they're going to get it from a well. While the state's surface water is relatively well protected, if you own land and drill a well, you can pump as much water as you'd like, pretty much. Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed legislation into law that will require some of level local oversight of aquifer pumping, but plans are not required to be drawn up until 2020 or 2022.

Central Valley farmers who grew up with 200-foot wells are finding now that 1,000-foot wells aren't deep enough to hit the retreating water table.

The thing about aquifer water is that it is more and less irreplaceable. It took thousands of years to trickle down through cracks and pores of the Earth.

Some of California's output will have to be shifted to other states.

Unfortunately a similar situation is happening in the middle of the country as corn and soybean farmers compete with cities and towns to see who can suck out the most water from the Ogallala Aquifer, so it's likely we'll see a similar rise in the price of corn and corn-based foods. doclink

Will Overpopulation Lead to Public Health Catastrophe?

October 29 , 2014, Medical News Today   By: David Mcnamee

Recent research by University of Washington demographer Prof. Adrian Raftery has found that previous projections on population growth may have been conservative. He predicts somewhere 9.6 and 12.3 billion people by 2100. This is 5 billion people more than have been previously calculated.

A key finding of the study is that the fertility rate in Africa is declining much more slowly than has been previously estimated. In Nigeria - Africa's most populous country - each woman has an average of six children, and in the last 5 years, the child mortality rate has fallen from 136 per 1,000 live births to 117.

"There are already big public health needs and challenges in high-fertility countries, and rapid population growth will make it even harder to meet them." High population density leads to a much higher rate of contact between humans, which means that communicable diseases - ranging from the common cold to Dengue fever - can be much more easily transmitted.

And more people means greater efforts are needed to control waste management and provide clean water. If these needs cannot be adequately met, then diarrheal diseases become much more common, resulting in a big difference in mortality rates.

"There are already big public health needs and challenges in high-fertility countries, and rapid population growth will make it even harder to meet them." A Johns Hopkins report said that unclean water and poor sanitation kill over 12 million people every year, while air pollution kills 3 million, and furthermore, in 64 of 105 developing countries, population has grown faster than food supplies.

The Johns Hopkins team identified two main courses of action to divert these potential disasters.

Firstly - sustainable development. The report authors argued this should include:

*More efficient use of energy
*Managing cities better
*Phasing out subsidies that encourage waste
*Managing water resources and protecting freshwater sources
*Harvesting forest products rather than destroying forests
*Preserving arable land and increasing food production
*Managing coastal zones and ocean fisheries
*Protecting biodiversity hotspots<

The second vital area of action is the stabilization of population through good-quality family planning, which "would buy time to protect natural resources."

Experts consider boosting the education of girls in developing countries to be a prime solution. As well as acquiring more control over their reproductive life, an educated female workforce should have more opportunities of employment and of earning a living wage. Studies report that the children of educated women also have better chances of survival and will become educated themselves. This pattern continuing across generations is associated with a decline in fertility rates.

If the fertility rate were to decline faster, Prof. Raftery suggests that high-fertility countries can reap "a demographic dividend," which is "a period of about a generation during which the number of dependents (children and old people) is small. This frees up resources for public health, education, infrastructure and environmental protection, and can make it easier for the economy to grow. This can happen even while the population is still increasing." doclink

Is the US Oil Boom in Trouble?

October 30, 2014, Christian Science Monitor   By: Jared Gilmour

A dramatic rise in US oil and natural gas production has altered the global energy landscape, buoyed an economic recovery, and pushed down oil prices worldwide, while infrastructure is being built to export oil. Innovations like hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have unleashed a glut of oil and gas in shale formations. Most projections see the US remaining an energy powerhouse for decades to come. New techniques and technologies will continue to unlock oil and gas from increasingly stubborn rocks.

But some critics say these forecasts fail to take into account just how much energy, money, and ingenuity it takes to maintain unconventional oil and gas production, let alone expand it.

New supply and weak demand is pushing down oil prices globally, threatening to make costly US shale extraction uneconomic, calling into question not just how much oil and gas is left, but how much of it can still be profitably extracted. Limited pipeline capacity and overproduction of natural gas in the Marcellus shale has pushed prices down, making it hard for producers to turn a profit. Drillers are taking on ever increasing amounts of debt to finance their operations. And there may not be as much shale oil and gas as the US government forecasts, according to a new report from the Post Carbon Institute, a think tank that promotes sustainable energy. doclink

Can Young People End Child Marriage?

These seed grants were funded by Johnson & Johnson and WomanCare Global via the Women Deliver C Exchange Youth Initiative.
November 04, 2014   By: Yemurai Nyoni

At ICASA 2013 the Minister of Health from Zimbabwe expressed doubt about the plan to end child marriage in Zimbabwe, saying "it's a deeply complicated issue…"

However, in the last few months, the Rising Birds Team, under the rebranded Dot Youth Organization (formerly Bulawayo Youth Development), has taken up this challenge and exemplified the actions we need to take as young people to create the future we want. Our job has been to provide an experience-based answer to the question: ‘Can young people end child marriage?'

The Rising Birds project has reached over 100,000 people with information on child marriage through low-cost online platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Through collaboration with young leaders in different parts of the country nearly 500 signatures were collected to petition the House of Parliament to enact laws to end child marriage. There has been marching in the streets of the capital city to focus public attention on the urgent need to end child marriage.

However, the movement lacked the reputation, resources, and expertise to follow through and yield significant change from the challenge, while experienced organizations with this capacity have reneged on their commitments to support us, or not committed at all.

Changing the law won't do it. There is need to address the deeper social determinants of child marriage if we are to end the practice. There is a lot we can do despite the limitations of our credibility, experience, and resources.

We can end the silence around child marriage by communicating widely through our online and offline social networks. We need to keep doing fun activities like marches, photo shoots, online activities, and other exciting actions.

We need to be visible by inviting the media to cover our activities and by supporting the initiatives of better-established organizations. This will increase the odds of getting support for future projects.

I still firmly believe that ending child marriage as young people in Zimbabwe is possible and I acknowledge Women Deliver and partners in the C Exchange Youth Initiative for giving us a great start to our pathway to change. doclink

Karen Gaia says: Go Rising Birds!

A Closer Look: Myanmar

November 05, 2014, Family Planning 2020

The Myanmar Family Planning Best Practices Conference met this summer in the new capital of Myanmar: Nay Pyi Taw.

Everything from condom cue cards for teenagers to the finer points of IUD insertion and removal was discussed. Local OB/GYNs compared notes with technical advisors from global NGOs.

After decades of international isolation, Myanmar is rejoining the world community and embarking on modern development goals. Myanmar made a bold commitment to family planning at the 2013 International Conference on Family Planning in Addis Ababa, where country representatives vowed to halve unmet need for contraception by 2020 and to raise the contraceptive prevalence rate to 60%.

Myanmar's budget for contraceptive commodities was increased from US$1.29 million in 2012/2013 to US $3.27 million in 2013/2014. The government has begun efforts to strengthen supply chains and improve service delivery. Health providers are being trained in a greater range of contraceptive methods: state obstetricians and gynecologists are being trained in IUDs, and doctors in private networks are learning about contraceptive implants.

The Ministry of Health hosted the event, welcoming representatives from the World Health Organization (WHO), UNFPA, the Gates Institute, Stanford University, the Government of Indonesia, and Pathfinder.

The announcement of our commitment to FP2020 was an occasion of great hope for Myanmar. Access to contraception is the fundamental right of every woman and community, and we aim to expand family planning services to reach all who need and want them. This journey will not be easy, but thanks to FP2020, we have many partners around the world to help us on our way. doclink

Karen Gaia says: I repeat: I don't understand the recent emphasis on family planning in Myanmar. Their fertility rate is only 2.18. The country already has a health plan. See https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bm.html

Since 2003 Coal Consumption Has Increased 9x Faster Than Wind Energy and 40x Than Solar

November 04 , 2014, ZME Science   By: Tibi Puiu

A recent report released by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research shows us a cruel reality: coal, the dominant energy source in the world today, will continue to be the prime fuel for at least another 25 years and in all likelihood, will remain the main energy supplier for the next 50 years.

ZME Science supports renewable energy. Although renewables often cost more than coal up front, if you add the costs of global warming (health hazards, drought, floods etc.) renewables can pay off in the long run. Germany already meets half of its energy needs using solar, and Denmark wants to phase out coal completely by 2025. While we like to think that renewables will supply our future energy needs, the report from Manhattan Institute for Policy Research shows a different trend.

The report shows that in 2013, global wind-energy output was up 21%, while solar grew by 33%. But worldwide solar plus wind barely account for 1.5% of total energy production, so we're not right on track. Since 1973, coal consumption has grown faster than any other form of energy, accelerating only slightly less in the past few years, with 2013 seeing only 3% growth. In absolute numbers, though, this means coal use rose by about 50% more than the growth in petroleum and nearly three times the growth seen in natural gas. Concerning non-hydro renewables, coal use since 2003 has grown nine times faster than the growth seen in wind-energy consumption and 40 times that of solar energy.

The authors seem keen on coal. Their repeated message is, look how much the world has grown, look how many people have risen out of poverty thanks to coal. Coal, they say, is the cheapest form of energy (though in some places we can show that renewables would prove far more cost-effective.) Their report reads: "Coal, which now accounts for about 40% of all global electricity production, will likely maintain its dominant role for decades to come. Electricity-poor countries, along with those that are electricity-rich, are currently building hundreds of gigawatts of new coal-fired electricity-generation capacity. The nine countries discussed in this paper—China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Pakistan, Poland, Russia, and South Korea—are planning to build about 550 gigawatts of new coal-fired capacity over the next 2.5 decades. Most of that, some 400 gigawatts, is planned for China. Given the coal industry's recent history and the ongoing surge in global coal use, there is little reason to believe that any of the much-discussed international efforts to impose a cap or tax on carbon-dioxide emissions will prevail. Furthermore, given the ongoing increase in global coal use -- along with the fact that the U.S. has more coal resources than any other country -- it is unlikely that U.S. policymakers will restrict the mining of coal in America."

The key findings are that coal remains an essential fuel to meet the demand for electricity and clean cooking fuels. From 1990 to 2010, some 832 million people gained access to electricity due to coal-fired generation, the vast majority of whom live in developing countries. The report concludes that, no viable substitutes can match the low cost and massive scale of electricity production that is now provided by coal-fired generators. Given the continuing growth of coal, policymakers should promote deployment of advanced combustion technologies in new electricity-generation plants. Doing so will wring more electricity out of the fuel used and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide produced per kilowatt-hour.

The latest IPCC climate change report calls for reducing fossil fuel emissions and explains the worldwide consequences of failing to do so. The EU just agreed to cut CO2 emissions by 40% and the EPA by 30% until 2030. However, since the Kyoto Conference, U.S. emissions have actually risen past 1990 levels. Between 1994 and 2013, the volume of coal burned by China more than tripled, and over the next 25 years, China is projected to build enough new coal-fired generators to exceed America's entire coal-fired capacity. India's coal use is expected to more than double by 2035, And within the next six years or so, India will surpass China as the world's largest coal importer. Having shut down eight of its nuclear reactors, Germany will add some 7.3 gigawatts of new coal-fired power plants by 2015. Russia's electricity giant Inter RAO wants to build an 8-gigawatt coal-fired power plant, the world's largest of its kind, whose primary customer would be China. Indonesia's electricity use is expected to more than double by 2022. All told, the EIA expects global coal use to increase about 37% by 2040.

The U.S. is still the world's largest polluter per capita, but developing countries are catching up, and they generate electricity almost exclusively from coal. Can we challenge their right to generate electricity, be it from coal, oil or natural gas, when we use so much more of it than they do? doclink

Karen Gaia says: A few years back I read that the world had about 40 years of coal left. That was before demand in developing countries began increasing. Has anyone seen any research on the magnitude of recoverable coal?

Drilling Deeper: New Report Casts Doubt on Fracking Production Numbers

October 26, 2014, DeSmogBlog   By: Steve Horn

The future of fracking is not nearly as bright as the EIA (U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA)) and industry cheerleaders suggest, concludes a report from Post Carbon Institute fellow, J. David Hughes, who analyzed the production stats for seven tight oil basins and seven gas basins -- which account for 88% and 89% of current shale gas production throughout the U.S.

By 2040, production rates from the Bakken Shale and Eagle Ford Shale will be less than 10% of the EIA projection. And the Marcellus Shale, Eagle Ford and Bakken production will be about a third of the EIA forecast.

Production for the seven shale oil basins showed a well decline rate of 60% to 91% -- 43% to 64% of their estimated ultimate recovery -- over 3 years. For the seven shale gas basins, the average well decline was 74% to 82% over the three years.

Four of the seven gas shall fields -- the Haynesville Shale, Fayetteville Shale, Woodford Shale and Barnett Shale -- are already in terminal decline. But three of those are actually doing the opposite and increasing their production: the Marcellus, Eagle Ford and Bakken, though the latter two are primarily fracked oil fields. However, the report predicts that, in 2040, Bakken and Eagle Ford will produce only 73,000 barrels of oil per day, while the EIA estimates 1.04 million barrels per day.

Between one-quarter and one-half of all production in each shale gas basin must be replaced annually just to keep running at the same pace on the "drilling treadmill" and keep getting the same amount of gas out of the earth. The report argues that drillers hit the "sweet spots" first to maximize their production, do so for a few years until production begins to decline terminally, and then start drilling in spaces with less rich oil and gas bounties.

"The Department of Energy's forecasts—the ones everyone is relying on to guide our energy policy and planning—are overly optimistic based on what the actual well data are telling us," said Hughes in a press release about the report's findings.

Shale gas producers and the EIA report both proven and unproven reserves. Proven reserves are legally described as "hydrocarbon deposits recoverable with current technology under current economic conditions." “The EIA also estimates ‘unproved technically recoverable resources' which have loose geological constraints and no implied price required for extraction, and hence are uncertain."

The U.S. Federal Reserve has provided 0% interest rates to obtain junk debt bonds which has been used finance fracking since 2008. This means current economic conditions are good and proven reserves are larger than if economic conditions are bad. However the Federal Reserve is considering hiking rates, and economics could change quickly on the feasibility of continued unfettered shale oil and gas extraction.

“The assumption that natural gas will be cheap and abundant for the foreseeable future has prompted fuel switching from coal to gas, along with investment in new generation and gas distribution infrastructure, investment in new North American manufacturing infrastructure, and calls for exporting the shale gas bounty to higher-priced markets in Europe and Asia," Asher Miller, executive director for Post Carbon Institute wrote. doclink

Karen Gaia says: so even if Climate skeptics are right, we still have to be very conservative with our fossil fuels - we will need them until renewable replacements of suitable scale are in place.

Family Planning Drive Reaches Millions of Women and Girls

But report warns population growth could outpace family planning programmes in some countries despite range of contraception initiatives
November 03, 2014, Mail and Guardian   By: Carla Kweifio-Okai

During the London Family Planning Summit donors pledged $2.6 billion to bring contraception to 120 million more women and girls in developing countries by 2020 than would otherwise be served. This year's Partnership in Progress report shows last year the increase was one million below the projected benchmark of 9.4 million. To meet the planned objective, the program will need to reach 120 million more women and girls by 2020. The report said, in some countries population growth may outpace the expansion of family planning programs. "in many countries, an enormous effort is required simply to maintain existing levels of service." The U.N. population fund estimates that the "unmet need" of voluntary family planning will actually grow by 40% in the next 15 years.

However, several accomplishments are worth noting. The plan calls for, and is, reducing maternal mortality. Widening access to family planning services helped avert 125,000 maternal deaths last year, compared with 120,000 in 2012, and 24 million unsafe abortions, compared with 23 million the previous year. In Bhutan, Djibouti, Kenya and Rwanda growth in contraceptive use exceeded 2.5% last year compared with an average of 0.65% in developing countries. Also, the global contraceptive implant program made agreements with pharmaceutical companies to address the problems of high costs and short supply that blocked women from accessing implants. Cutting the cost of implants by 50% in more than 60 countries has allowed a projected tripling of implants from 2.4 million units in 2011 to 7.7 million this year. The rollout of Sayana Press, an injectable contraceptive with a disposable syringe, allows community health workers to give injections after only two hours' training. Burkina Faso will distribute 250,000 units this year, and Niger, Senegal and Uganda will be next. Also, the mCenas! project in Mozambique educates young people about contraception via text, and a television and online drama series in India highlights family planning.

Report Director, Beth Schlachter, mentioned two resupply innovations. In Kenya, health clinics send text messages to more quickly resupply empty shelves, and in Senegal a supply truck now stops by regularly to keep clinics and pharmacies from running out of contraceptives. She also said it was promising to see 12 countries host conferences on family planning in the past year. "Countries that have never before endorsed family planning - such as Myanmar and Uganda - are now holding national conferences on the subject, and ministries of health are developing costed implementation plans and adding contraceptive line items to their budgets." Five more countries - Benin, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Mauritania and Burma - last year pledged to expand access to contraception, bringing the tally of committed countries to 29. doclink

Karen Gaia says: I don't understand the recent emphasis on family planning in Myanmar. Their fertility rate is only 2.18. See https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bm.html

The Weight of Our Global Civilization

November 3 , 2014, Paul Chefurka website   By: Paul Chefurka

The weight of our global civilization is the cumulative total weight of all the structural materials that we use to build our structures, machinery, implements and artifacts of all kinds.

This idea occurred to me as I was searching for a better proxy variable to represent the "PAT" side of the I=PAT equation. The criteria for acceptable proxy variables include:

• It must be a measurable material quantity;
• It must be produced and used throughout modern civilization;
• It must have been used in its current form for a significant period of time;
• It must not vary in composition or use over time;
• Its role in human environmental impact should be intuitively obvious;
• It should represent a significant proportion of human activity;
• It must scale up as a consequence of population and economic growth;
• It must have a close connection with energy use; and
• It should incorporate increasing energy efficiency over time, in such a way that a parallel energy and technology analysis is not required.

Based on these criteria, I believe that the weight of human artifacts (97% of which comes from cement and steel) is is a far more accurate way of estimating the impact we are having on the biosphere than either GDP or energy consumption.

The total weight of civilization is about 125 billion tonnes today, up from about 1 billion tonnes at the beginning of the last century. In other words, the weight of human construction and artifacts has increased by a factor of 125 over the last century, while world population has only increased by a factor of 4. This increase implies that human impact of the planet's biosphere has also increased by about 125 times over the last century.

I'm now contemplating how this finding changes my perspective on the "Overpopulation vs. Overconsumption" debate. doclink

If the GOP Wins the Senate, Expect a Total Assault on Reproductive Rights

October 15, 2014   By: Ilyse Hogue

Texas has been taken over by an extreme wing of the Republican Party, which is responsible for the draconian law HB2 that is intended to shut down abortion clinics. While there has been a short-term reprieve issued by the Supreme Court to allow abortion clinics to remain open, this temporary victory feels fragile in a state where so much damage has already been done. Already 7% of women who needed abortion care in the state tried to self-abort before the current law shuttered clinics. Texas is in the throes of an all-out public health crisis.

And worse -- what happens on November 4 could put all of America on the same path as Texas. Will the Democrats hold the Senate or will anti-choice Republicans get a majority in both chambers?

Women voters can make the difference in all of the key races.

In the U.S. Senate we have a razor-thin margin when it comes to reliably defending access to abortion services in our country, and unlike years past, those votes are entirely on the Democratic side of the aisle. With pro-choice stalwarts like Iowa's Tom Harkin and Michigan's Carl Levin retiring, the chance that the clinic closures sweeping the South and more restrictions on abortion could become the norm in our country.

Seven in ten Americans support the constitutional rights enshrined in Roe v. Wade, according to a recent poll. But in Congress, only four in ten elected officials share Americans' pro-choice values.

In years past, trusting women to make our personal decisions about family planning was a shared value that crossed party lines. Republican Governor John Love was the first to sign legislation liberalizing abortion in Colorado several years before Roe v. Wade, followed shortly thereafter by Republican Governor Rockefeller in New York.

House leaders passed a bill that would ban all private insurance companies in state exchanges from covering abortion care. They voted more than fifty times to change or repeal or weaken Obamacare, which provides for comprehensive family-planning coverage—including prenatal, birth and maternity care for healthy families. They passed a bill that would ban abortion after twenty weeks of pregnancy, despite overwhelming evidence that this small fraction of cases are the most complicated and the most important to leave between a woman, her family and her doctors. And after the Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case, they refused to bring the "Not My Bosses' Business" bill to a vote.

Fortunately the Senate firewall worked exactly as it should

Losing the Senate would do more than restrict abortion access everywhere in our country. It would put into power individuals whose very ideology is grounded in an idea of women as less than equal citizens, who must be controlled through laws that not only deny us our right to the medical care of our choosing, but also the knowledge that allows us to make informed decisions. doclink

How Would We Provide Enough Energy for 11 Billion People?

October 29, 2014, TheEnergyCollective   By: Geoffrey Styles

Oil prices have been pushed down by forecasted global economic weakness and growing non-OPEC production. Just when the rapid growth of energy supplies has undermined the mood of energy scarcity that prevailed for the last four decades, it now appears the forecasts of an eventual world population plateau around 9 billion people might have been too optimistic, particularly with regard to birth rates in sub-Saharan Africa. The analysis in a paper published in Science predicts global population in 2100 to reach 9.6 to 12.3 billion. That could have significant implications for energy demand and climate change, among other environmental and development issues, while in turn being influenced by them.

It's difficult to be confident about any predictions of how much energy the world of 2100 might need, or where it will come from.

Back in 1928, which is as far from today as 2100, world oil production was less than 5 million barrels per day, and there was not yet any nuclear power. Natural gas was mainly viewed as a low-value byproduct of oil production, while wind power was considered quaint. There were only a little more than 2 billion then, so meeting the energy needs of today's 7 billion might have seemed even more daunting than supplying 11 or 12 billion does to us.

On the other hand, there are about 2 billion without modern energy services today. The energy implications of two billion more people by 2100 would depend heavily on whether their energy demand. If global fossil fuel production were expanded enough to meet the needs of billions of additional consumers (if it were were possible) -- it would bypass any notions of a "carbon budget" that might constrain the projected global temperature increase to a manageable level.

It's reasonable to assume that in 2100, people will use less fossil fuels per capita than we do.

The main scenario in IEA's 2013 World Energy Outlook sees renewable energy growing from 11% to 18% of total primary energy by 2035, while its more aggressive "450" scenario has these sources supplying 26%, with commensurate reductions in fossil fuels. Shell's long-range scenarios envision fossil fuels still supply 50-60% of nearly doubled energy demand by 2060, but shrink to around 20% or less by 2100.

Electrification could help facilitate that kind of change by displacing liquid fuels from illumination, cooking, and even transportation. Perhaps nuclear fusion -- long the lines announced by Lockheed Martin earlier this month -- could help us do that. doclink

Karen Gaia says: we must be cautious in assuming that there will be enough fossil fuels to care us over into fully-renewal powered energy. The outlook of shale oil is not as promising to some experts as it is to the author of this article.

Personhood Amendments Would Hurt Families Who Want Children

October 30, 2014, RH Reality Check   By: Keiko Zoll

On voting day, voters in Colorado and North Dakota will vote on amendments that would give legal rights to zygotes, embryos, and fetuses, also known as "personhood" laws. Measure 1 in North Dakota seeks to recognize and protect the "inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development" and Colorado's Amendment 67 would add “unborn human beings" to the state's criminal code.

While Personhood USA, which is backing Amendment 67, defines “personhood" as the “cultural and legal recognition of the equal and unalienable rights of human beings," there is no mistaking that the personhood movement is an attempt to undermine the legality of reproductive choice in America.

The author was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure, which meant that the only way she could have children was in vitro fertilization (IVF) with donor eggs. After IVF and just before her embryo transfer, she was given a picture of two three-day-old, ten-cell blastocysts, one of which was to become her child. She wondered which of those two nearly transparent spheres became the charming, talkative toddler she now has.

"Even though I know that my son and one of those two balls of cells are the same, however, at no point when I look at that photo do I see a family portrait, much less a person. At that stage of human development, they were merely dividing tissue to me: They had no names, no genders, no sentience," she said. A personhood amendment would have made it much more difficult, if not impossible, for the as many as 7.4 million American women with infertility to create a family of their choice. In IVF, any excess embryos are often frozen and kept in cryopreserved storage until patients use them or discard them, since under personhood amendments, doctors would presumably have to treat all those embryos, or even the fertilized eggs, as if they had human rights.

Sean Tipton, chief advocacy and policy officer for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), said, “For physicians providing infertility care, the disconnect between the legal language and actual medicine is very dangerous. The reality is that most fertilized eggs will not develop into babies." .. “Will doctors be forced to transfer them into their female patients anyway? Do they provide the best care for their patient, or do they risk facing a homicide charge?". One to three is the recommended number of blastocysts to be transferred. These guidelines were set up to reduce the number of potentially dangerous multiple births resulting from IVF, including twins, triplets, quads, and higher-order multiples. These types of high-order pregnancies put the woman and the fetuses at risk for serious complications, including preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, premature birth, miscarriage, and even maternal death.

In the author's case, 20 eggs were fertilized with her husband's sperm. Six of those developed into embryos. Two embyos were inserted into the uterus, of which only one implanted.

Although Personhood USA claims that the amendments would not affect IVF, the very nature of the treatment means that some fertilized eggs or embryos are going to be discarded—which is blatantly at odds with the provisions outlined in personhood laws. doclink

Keren Gaia says: I picked this article because it points out how fragile a potential human being is in the early stages. One in three pregnancies (defined as beginning at implantation in the uterus) end in miscarriage. An unknown but much higher number of fertilized eggs never implant and are absorbed into the woman's body without anyone ever knowing about it.

Global Overpopulation Would ‘Withstand War, Disasters and Disease'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 14, 2014, Huffington Post   By: Robert Walker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 10 , 2014, Mother Jones   By: Molly Redden

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

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

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

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

September 30, 2014, VOX Media   By: Brad Plumer

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

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

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

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

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

October 01, 2014, Huffington Post   By: Laura Bassett

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

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

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

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

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

5 Step Plan to Feed the World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fixing Climate Change May Add No Costs, Report Says

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 24 , 2014, Huffington Post   By: Adil Jawad

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

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

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

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

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

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

World Food Day: 10 Myths About Hunger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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