Today, 6.5 billion humans depend entirely on oil for food, energy, plastics & chemicals. Population growth is on a collision course with the inevitable decline in oil production.
To think that we can advocate for human rights, peace, and social justice while ignoring their necessary ecological basis—is both intellectually dishonest and ultimately self-defeating.
The longer we put off choosing the nicer methods of achieving demographic stability, the more likely the nasty ones become, whether imposed by nature or by some fascistic regime. Urine Good Company might represent a mild version of what could actually be in store if we let the marketplace, corporations, and secretive, militaristic governments come up with eugenic solutions to our population dilemma.
~ Population, Resources, and Human Idealism, Energy Bulletin | Population Growth: Most Powerful Force on Earth, Money&Markets ~
1 April 2009 – Rapid population growth, fuelled by high fertility, presents a barrier to reducing poverty levels and reaching other internationally agreed development goals, experts attending the current session of the United Nations population body said today.
The meeting of the Commission on Population and Development, which began on Monday and concludes on Friday, is examining the extent to which population growth affects the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), globally agreed targets on reducing poverty and eliminating other social ills by 2015.
Although birth rates have been on the slide across the developing world since the 1970s, women in most of the least developed countries (LDCs) still have five children each on average, according to a policy brief presented by the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).
The lack of access to family planning and to modern methods of contraception is the major cause of this persistence in high fertility.
“When individuals and couples are given the possibility of deciding how many children they want to have, they usually opt for much lower numbers than they used to,” Hania Zlotnik, Director of the Population Division, told the press at UN Headquarters in New York at a briefing focusing on the work of the Commission.
Ms. Zlotnik noted that giving people the information and means for reaching their reproductive goals – without any kind of interference or coercion – has significant implications for economic and social development.
Reducing population growth through cutting fertility rates, versus increasing mortality or restricting migration, is beneficial to the economy, as low fertility increases the number of people of working age per capita as well as output per capita, according to the Population Division brief.
Benefits to economic growth also occur as lowering fertility leads to an increase in the supply of female labour, particularly in urban areas in developing countries.
In addition, smaller family size allows for greater investment in the health and education of children in the longer term both from the family and government.
Source: United Nations
11 March 2009 – The world’s population will hit 7 billion early in 2012 and top 9 billion in 2050, with the majority of the increase taking place in developing countries, according to revised United Nations estimates released today.
“There have been no big changes for the recent estimates and we have not changed the assumptions for the future,” Hania Zlotnik, Director of the Population Division at the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), told reporters in New York.
“We’re still projecting that by 2050 the population of the world will be around 9.1 billion,” she said, as she presented the 2008 Revision of the World Population Prospects.
The Revision also says that nine countries are expected to account for half of the world’s projected increase from 2010 to 2050: India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, United States, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Tanzania, China and Bangladesh.
Ms. Zlotnik noted that current projections are based on the assumption that fertility is going to decline from the current global level of 2.5 children per woman to 2.1 children per woman from now until 2050.
The population of the 49 least developed countries (LDCs) is still the fastest growing in the world, at 2.3 per cent per year, according to a news release issued by the Population Division.
While the population of developing countries as a whole is projected to rise from 5.6 billion in 2009 to 7.9 billion in 2050, the population of more developed regions is expected to change minimally, passing from 1.23 billion to 1.28 billion.
The latter would have declined to 1.15 billion were it not for the projected net migration from developing to developed countries, which is expected to average 2.4 million persons annually from 2009 to 2050.
The UN adds that projected trends are contingent on fertility declines in developing countries. Without further reductions of fertility, the world population could increase by nearly twice as much as currently expected.
“It is going to be extremely important to continue funding and increasing the funding that has gone down for family planning because, if not, our projections on declining fertility are unlikely to be met,” Ms. Zlotnik stated.
She added that the projected population trends also depend on achieving a major increase in the proportion of AIDS patients who get anti-retroviral therapy to treat the disease and on the success of efforts to control the further spread of HIV.
Among the other findings, she noted that most developing countries are unlikely to meet the goal of reducing under-five mortality by two-thirds by 2015, one of eight globally agreed targets set out in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Source: United Nations
Optimum Population Trust
March 26, 2009
Sex, not religious or cultural beliefs or the quest for economic security, is what increases family size and drives world population growth, according to one of the UK’s leading authorities on family planning.
Conventional economic wisdom, which says that couples in poorer societies actively plan to have large families to compensate for high child mortality, to provide labour, and to care for parents in their old age, is wrong, Professor John Guillebaud will tell a conference on sustainable population today (Thursday, March 26).
Economists overlook the fact that sexual intercourse is more frequent than the minimum needed for intentional conceptions, and that half of pregnancies worldwide are unplanned. Moreover, demand for contraception increases when it is available, irrespective of a society’s wealth or child survival rates.
“Having a large rather than a small family is less of a planned decision than an automatic outcome of human sexuality,” Prof. Guillebaud will say. “For a fertile couple, nothing is easier.”
Prof. Guillebaud, emeritus professor of family planning and reproductive health at University College, London, is one of a group of experts who will be discussing the scientific rationale for reducing population to environmentally sustainable levels at today’s conference, organised by the Optimum Population Trust.
Other speakers include: Tim Dyson, professor of demography at the London School of Economics; Prof. Andrew Watkinson, former director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research; Robin Maynard, campaigns director of the Soil Association; Prof. Chris Rapley, director of the Science Museum; Jonathon Porritt, chair of the Sustainable Development Commission; Sara Parkin, founder-director of Forum for the Future and former co-chair of the Green Party; and Dr. Martin Desvaux, an ecological footprint specialist.
Many environmentalists argue that greener lifestyles, and reducing consumption, are the key to solving environmental challenges such as climate change. However, Dr. Desvaux will disclose details of research showing that even with an 80 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050, the UK will be able to sustain only 37 million people; a “zero-carbon” economy will support only 52 million people in 2050. This will make the UK “extremely vulnerable in an uncertain world”, he will argue. The UK’s population, currently 61 million, is projected to rise to 77 million by 2050.
Even if Britain’s population could be capped at 70 million, as suggested by the immigration minister, Phil Woolas, last year, there would still be up to 33 million too many people in the UK for long-term sustainability, according to Dr. Desvaux.
The conference will also hear that:
*The UK could face major problems because of its high population density and low agricultural self-sufficiency. To reduce London’s current “food footprint” of some 20 million hectares - 2 million more than the UK’s agricultural land area – to a globally sustainable “fair share”, Londoners would need to eat an estimated 70 per cent less meat.
*Despite the likelihood of a world population crash as a consequence of inaction on overpopulation, 21 European countries are trying to raise their birth rates.
Prof. Guillebaud will argue that in both rich and poor countries, “something active needs to be done to separate sex from conception - namely, contraception…The evidence is clear within a wide variety of settings that - despite no prior increase in per capita wealth or child survival or other presumed essentials - demand for contraception increases when it becomes available, accessible, and accompanied by correct information about its appropriateness and safety.”
Yet despite being long seen as synonymous with contraception, the oral contraceptive pill is not an ideal method. It has the wrong “default state” - conception occurs if an error is made in its use. Long-acting reversible contraceptives, such as implants or copper intrauterine devices (IUDs), are far more effective because, unlike the pill, they are “forgettable”: mistakes in use do not result in conception.
Prof. Guillebaud argues that LARCs are particularly valuable for young people, “whose track record for unwanted conceptions - due to failure to comply properly with pill-taking even where oral contraception is available - is high in all societies”. This is a crucial feature in reducing population growth, he adds, since nearly half the world’s population is under the age of 25.
The conference, Environmentally Sustainable Populations: The scientific case for population policy - and ways of achieving sustainability, is being held at the Royal Statistical Society.
A synopsis of Prof. Guillebaud’s paper is appended to this release.
The UN estimates that over 200 million women worldwide lack access to effective contraception.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:
Contact Prof. John Guillebaud on 07779 180188 or telephone 07976 370221
For information about the conference, contact Julie Lewis, administrator, Optimum Population Trust, 07531 316564, firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTES FOR EDITORS: The OPT, a think-tank and campaign group, was founded in 1991 by the late David Willey. Its main aims are to promote and co-ordinate research into criteria that will allow the sustainable or optimum population of a region to be determined. Its patrons include Sir Partha Dasgupta, Frank Ramsey professor of economics at Cambridge University; Paul Ehrlich, professor of population studies, Stanford University; Jane Goodall, founder, the Jane Goodall Institute, UN Messenger of Peace; John Guillebaud, emeritus professor of family planning and reproductive health, University College, London; Susan Hampshire, actor; Aubrey Manning, broadcaster and professor of natural history, Edinburgh University; Professor Norman Myers, visiting fellow, Green College, Oxford; Sara Parkin, founder director and trustee, Forum for the Future; Sir Jonathon Porritt, chairman of the UK Sustainable Development Commission; and Sir Crispin Tickell, director of the Policy Foresight Programme, James Martin Institute for Science and Civilisation, Oxford University
Scientific Solutions in Contraception
John Guillebaud, emeritus professor of family planning and reproductive health, University College, London
Paper for: Environmentally Sustainable Populations: The scientific case for population policy - and ways of achieving sustainability, Optimum Population Trust conference, Royal Statistical Society, March 26, 2009.
It is often assumed that any quantitative concern for population must be intrinsically coercive. But why consider infringing human rights when around half of pregnancies worldwide are unplanned? Moreover, numerous countries as varied as Costa Rica, Iran, Korea, Sri Lanka, and Thailand halved their total fertility rates primarily through meeting women’s unmet fertility needs and choices. What features do such disparate “success story” countries have in common - and how might they be replicated?
Conventional economic wisdom says that couples in resource poor settings actively plan to have many children to compensate for high child mortality, to provide labour, and to care for parents as they age. Often with cultural and religious endorsement, those factors clearly enhance the post hoc acceptance of large families. But economists overlook the fact that, everywhere, potentially fertile intercourse is more frequent than the minimum needed for intentional conceptions.
Thus, having a large rather than a small family is less of a planned decision than an automatic outcome of human sexuality. For a fertile couple, nothing is easier. Whether in resource poor or rich settings, something active needs to be done to separate sex from conception—namely, contraception. Moreover access to contraception is often difficult. Barriers to women’s choice are created through lack of empowerment and abuse of their rights by husbands or other family members; or religious authorities and some governments (for example, the Philippines) and, regrettably, sometimes even contraceptive providers. Misinformation abounds: in Rwanda, for instance, rumours have spread that hormonal contraceptives cause permanent sterility and that condoms always have holes in them.
The evidence is clear within a wide variety of settings that—despite no prior increase in per capita wealth or child survival or other presumed essentials—demand for contraception increases when it becomes available, accessible, and accompanied by correct information about its appropriateness and safety; when barriers are removed; and when there is good publicity and marketing principles are applied. This is consistent with normal consumer behaviour.
In Iran, where the total fertility rate (”average family size”) declined from 5.5 to 2 (replacement level) in just 15 years, all couples must learn about family planning before marriage and contraception was endorsed by the edicts of religious leaders. The Population Media Centre uses serial radio dramas or “soaps”. Audiences learn from decisions that their favourite characters make—such as allowing wives to use contraception to achieve smaller and healthier families. In Rwanda, 57% of new attendees at family planning clinics named the radio drama “Rwanda’s Brighter Future” as their reason for attending.
Contraceptive technology – which methods are best?
For too long the very name ‘pill’ has been seen as synonymous with contraception. Yet the combined oral contraceptive pill is not an ideal method. It has the wrong “default state”, namely conception if an error is made in its use. And user-failure errors are very common, so that its failure rate in typical use is up to 10 times higher than its theoretical effectiveness.
A better model for most of us humans would be a long-acting yet fully reversible contraceptive: having the right “default state”, namely of contraception - regardless of what the user does or doesn’t do. Such a method – invariably some kind of insert or implant - requires a single decision when sexual activity starts, to “opt out” of fertility. (Note that in principle the method could be for use by either sex). After that, the user becomes free of all contraceptive responsibility. In a future utopian version there would be no side effects, nothing else to be done until the individual was ready to “opt in” to restored fertility. At that point a second voluntary action would reverse the method. Until then, the method would have that crucial virtue among contraceptives of total “forgettability”.
Over the past 100 years scientific research has already produced several such long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs): they are the copper intrauterine devices (IUDs) and an intrauterine system (IUS); injectables; and subcutaneous implants. While not achieving the contraceptive utopia just described, because of side effects - principally irregular bleeding - they do have that ideal default state. They have been established to have, in typical use, much higher continuation rates and effectiveness than pills - indeed the same effectiveness as female sterilization. But in settings where there is high infant mortality they are far more appropriate than sterilization, which is essentially irreversible and for too long has been the mainstay of many developing world programmes. Moreover, these LARCs are particularly valuable for young people, whose track record for unwanted conceptions –due to failure to comply properly with pill-taking even where oral contraception is available - is high in all societies. Given that close to half of the world’s population is under age 25, we can therefore add another crucial feature to those above that are shared by the successful countries: that they have offered to the majority of their citizens a good range of choice of contraceptives, including most or all of these long-acting methods.
Source: Optimum Population Trust