PG7C. Stay Current—Can We Limit Human Population Growth?

cover for GSS book Population Growth

Staying current for Chapter 7

{ Population Growth Contents }

2022-07-01. For scientists, Roe’s end raises concerns about personal safety and professional choices. [] By Katie Langin, Science Magazine. Excerpt: When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on 24 June, eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion and handing decisions about abortion access to state legislators, the response across the polarized country was swift, dramatic, and divided. Many scientists decried the decision as a potentially deadly violation of human rights. “Abortion bans will kill people in lots of different horrible ways,” tweeted Amanda Stevenson, a researcher who studies abortion at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Some scientists also began to ask how the decision will affect the research community, especially in states that ban or severely restrict abortion. “It’s going to really negatively impact science … if we have scientists actively avoiding half of this country, or all of it entirely,” says Rosa Lafer-Sousa, a neuroscience postdoc based in the Washington, D.C., area who is considering how the ruling will affect her upcoming faculty job search. She and others expressed fear that the lack of an abortion option would create hardship for aspiring scientists who become pregnant. “I really worry that it’s going to affect people’s ability to write their own destiny,” says an M.D.-Ph.D. student at a university in Texas who requested anonymity. …These concerns have some scientists reconsidering their career plans and stance on where they’re willing to live and work.…

2019-09-18. America’s Abortion Rate Has Dropped to Its Lowest Ever. By Pam Belluck, The New York Times. [] Excerpt: New research suggests contraception and fewer pregnancies are more responsible for the decline than state laws restricting abortion. …“Abortion rates decreased in almost every state and there’s no clear pattern linking these declines to new restrictions,” said Elizabeth Nash, senior state policy manager at the Guttmacher Institute, which issued the findings in a report [] and policy analysis on Wednesday. …The report suggests that one reason for the decrease might be the growing use of long-term contraceptive methods, like intrauterine devices and implants, which are now covered by insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Birthrates have also declined. “If restrictions were the main driver across the board, we’d expect birthrates to increase,” said Ms. Nash, a writer of the policy analysis. She said that in four of the states that enacted new restrictions between 2011 and 2017 — North Carolina, Mississippi, Wyoming and Georgia — abortion rates actually rose. More than half the decline in the number of abortions during that time happened in states that did not pass restrictive abortion laws, she said….

2018-02-05. No Children Because of Climate Change? Some People Are Considering It. By Maggie Astor, The New York Times.  Excerpt: It is not an easy time for people to feel hopeful, with the effects of global warming no longer theoretical, projections becoming more dire and governmental action lagging. And while few, if any, studies have examined how large a role climate change plays in people’s childbearing decisions, it loomed large in interviews with more than a dozen people ages 18 to 43. …there is a sense of being saddled with painful ethical questions that previous generations did not have to confront. Some worry about the quality of life children born today will have as shorelines flood, wildfires rage and extreme weather becomes more common. Others are acutely aware that having a child is one of the costliest actions they can take environmentally. … Cate Mumford, 28, is a Mormon, and Mormons believe God has commanded them to “multiply and replenish the earth.” But even in her teens, she said, she could not get another point of doctrine out of her head: “We are stewards of the earth.”…

2009 November 14. Broaching Birth Control With Afghan Mullahs. By Sabrina Tavernise, The NY Times. Excerpt: MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan — The mullahs stared silently at the screen. They shifted in their chairs and fiddled with pencils. Koranic verses flashed above them, but the topic was something that made everybody a little uncomfortable.
…It was a seminar on birth control, a likely subject for a nation whose fertility rate of 6 children per woman is the highest in Asia. But the audience was unusual: 10 Islamic religious leaders from this city and its suburbs, wearing turbans and sipping tea.
…Nothing in Islam expressly forbids birth control. But it does emphasize procreation, and mullahs, like leaders of other faiths, consider children to be blessings from God, and are usually the most determined opponents of having fewer of them.
It is an attitude that Afghanistan can no longer afford, in the view of the employees of the nonprofit group that runs the seminars, Marie Stopes International. The high birthrate places a heavy weight on a society where average per capita earnings are about $700 a year. It is also a risk to mothers. Afghanistan is second only to Sierra Leone in maternal mortality rates, which run as high as 8 percent in some areas….

2008 March. Family Planning and Access to Safe and Legal Abortion are Vital to Safeguard the Environment. By Joseph Speidel, M.D. and Richard Grossman, M.D. Contraception, Volume 76 Issue 6 – December 2007 – pages 415-417 Speidel, et al, Reprinted in The Reporter (Population Connection). Excerpt: …One valid way of quantifying our use of resources is by calculating our ecological footprint* (EF). This concept is based on the understanding that all human activities require space-to live on, to grow food on, for developing resources, and for disposal of waste….
…Using these calculations, we find that people are using an average of 2.2 hectares (5.5 acres) of the planet’s resources per person, a full 0.5 hectares (1.1 acres) more than our fair share…. The worldwide overshoot of 30% helps to explain environmental deterioration.
…Because our children and grandchildren will suffer, limiting human numbers and consumption have become moral issues, if not issues of life or death. Fortunately, many couples want to limit their childbearing far below their current fertility. What is missing is access to good family planning….
…Of 210 million pregnancies annually worldwide, 80 million (38%) are unplanned, and 46 million (22%) end in abortion.
More than 200 million women in developing countries would like to delay their next pregnancy-or stop bearing children altogether-but rely on traditional, less effective methods of contraception (64 million) or use no method because they lack access or face other barriers to using contraception (137 million). These barriers include cultural values that support high fertility, opposition to use of contraception by family members, and fears about health risks or side effects of contraception.
…the United States-the world’s third largest country-is experiencing rapid population growth of nearly three million each year. The United States is projected to grow from 303 million in 2007 to nearly 350 million in 2025 and to 420 million by 2050. An estimated 1.4 million of 4.1 million annual U.S. births result from unintended pregnancy…. Even with immigration contributing more than one million people annually, unintended pregnancy is the source of about half of annual population growth in the United States…

2008 Summer. More Hunger, Less Hope: Striving to Grasp. Barbara Crossette, The Interdependent, Vol. 6 No. 2. pages 10-11.Excerpt: It is not as if there were no warnings over the last decade about the limitations of food production in an era of dwindling investment and innovation in agriculture and rapid population growth, with millions more people also able to eat better. But few agronomists or economists could have predicted that the law of supply and demand would kick in as harshly as it did this year. It was the combustible mix of general global economic jitters, big increases in consumer demand, record energy prices and the campaign to reduce oil dependence and carbon emissions by turning food crops into fuel that combined to send food prices skyrocketing. The World Food Program’s director, Josette Sheeran, an American, calls it a “perfect storm.” That was before two catastrophic natural disasters in Asia: a cyclone in Burma’s rice-growing area and the earthquake in China. In affected areas of Burma, next year’s rice harvest may also have been lost as seeds were washed away…

11 May 2006. Scientists Will Gather to Discuss Safety of Abortion Pill. By GARDINER HARRIS NY Times. Worried about a bacterial infection that led to the deaths of at least five women who took the abortion pill RU-486, scientists from the nation’s leading public health agencies will gather in Atlanta today for the first meeting in 10 years on the drug’s safety. …Abortion experts have been at a loss to explain why four of the deaths occurred in California. Initially, the F.D.A. investigated whether the pills used in California might have been contaminated, but an agency official said tests had found no evidence of contamination. Another theory concerned the role a dry climate might play in encouraging the growth of Clostridium sordellii, which lives in soil. Some experts believe that pregnant women who take RU-486 with another drug, misoprostol, are more vulnerable to infection. RU-486 by itself ends early pregnancies, but the pill is routinely given along with misoprostol, which causes uterine contractions …There has been no hint that the F.D.A. is considering further restrictions on the use of the drug. …A 43-year-old New York mother of two who said that she had had “every kind of abortion,” told her abortion provider during a counseling session recently that she would consider only a pill-based procedure. “I do not like doctors and hospitals,” said the woman, who did not wish her name to be used for privacy reasons. “Both of my children were born at home without anything. And that’s how I want to have my abortion: in home, in my privacy, at my own pace and without somebody’s other agenda over me.” …Anne Hawkins, 36, also of New York, said she, too, had had both pill-based and surgical abortions. But taking RU-486, she said, “was the worst experience, the most physically and emotionally painful thing, that I’ve ever been through.” Ms. Hawkins had another abortion in March, and she chose surgery. “It was 10 minutes, max, and then it was over,” Ms. Hawkins said of the surgical procedure. “The pill for me was the experience of having a baby. Contractions for 10 hours, sweating, screaming, being by myself. It was emotionally scarring and physically horrible.”


18 February 2005. 2 Big Appetites Take Seats at the Oil Table. By KEITH BRADSHER , NY Times. MUMBAI – India, sharing a ravenous thirst for oil, has joined China in an increasingly naked grab at oil and natural gas fields that has the world’s two most populous nations bidding up energy prices and racing against each other and global energy companies. Energy economists in the West cannot help admiring the success of both China and India in kindling their industrialization furnaces. But they also cannot help worrying about what the effect will be on energy supplies as the 37 percent of the world’s population that lives in these two countries rushes to catch up with Europe, the United States and Japan. And environmentalists worry about the effects on global warming from the two nations’ plans to burn more fossil fuels. 


5 April 2004. [Europe] Modern Society Pits Mothers Against Public Health Systems. As European women have fewer children at an older age and continue to find new opportunities in the workplace, a conflict is arising between the preferences of pregnant mothers and the capabilities of their public health systems to cope with those preferences. Due to the increase in education and expectations for women in the region, pregnant women want to have more of a say in the timing and process of childbirth. Across Europe, the incidence of scheduled Caesarean Section births has risen, along with the requests for the procedure. However, most public hospitals in the United Kingdom, Italy and France are unable to handle the large amount of requests, or are not outfitted with the latest technology. They are turning women down for the procedure and insisting on more traditional forms of childbirth, with a few compromises as far as equipment, location and medications. Wealthy women and celebrities have escaped this conflict, as they can afford to pay for the more accommodating private hospitals, but women who cannot afford this privilege are forced to adhere to the confines of the public health systems. (See “The Battle Over Birth,” by Jennie James. Time Europe. April 5, 2004.)

13 April 2004. Varied Population Composition Increases United Arab Emirates’s Size. The geographically small country of the United Arab Emirates surpassed a population size of 4 million people in 2003. With a growth rate of 7.6 percent (compared with a US growth rate of 1.4 percent), the UAE is the fastest growing country in the Arab world, and has one of the highest population growth rates worldwide. Also, the population of men is double that of women in the country. The composition of the UAE population accounts for their staggering sex imbalance. UAE citizens account for only 25 percent of the country’s population; the rest of the population is comprised of expatriates from around the region and businesspeople from other parts of the globe, two-thirds of whom are male. Since population growth is not primarily due to natural increase, but rather immigration, an equal number of males and females cannot be expected. (From “UAE Population Crosses 4 Million at the End of 2003.” Xinhua General News Service. April 13, 2004.