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Population - July 19

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Citizens arrest

David Nicholson-Lord, The Guardian UK
Tackling climate change is now a worldwide crusade - so what's stopping campaigners driving its simplest solution?

In the midst of all these alarms is a very quiet place where the green lobby should be talking about human population growth. Today has been designated World Population Day by the UN, but you will not see any of the big environment and development groups mounting a campaign on population.

Indeed, you will be lucky if they even mention the P-word. Earlier this year, Nafis Sadik, former director of the UN's population fund, berated such non-governmental organisations for being more concerned with fundraising than advocacy. Their silence on population, she observed, was "deafening".

So why isn't the green movement talking about population any more? In its early days, back in the 60s and 70s, population growth was a mainstream concern. Groups including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth (FoE), WWF and Oxfam took well-publicised positions on population issues - endorsing the Stop at Two (children) slogan, supporting zero population growth and publishing reports with titles such as Already Too Many (Oxfam).

These days, Greenpeace declares that population is "not an issue for us" and describes it as "a factor [in] but not one of the drivers of" environmental problems. ..

David Nicholson-Lord is an environmental writer and research associate for the Optimum Population Trust.
(11 July 2007)
See Land use, not population, should be our priority for a response from Shaun Spiers, chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England.


Abstinence Education Faces an Uncertain Future

Laura Beil, New York Times
HALLSVILLE, Tex. - When Jami Waite graduated from high school this year in this northeastern Texas town, her parents sat damp-eyed in the metal bleachers of Bobcat Stadium, proud in every way possible. Their youngest daughter was leaving childhood an honor graduate, a band member, a true friend, a head cheerleader - and a steadfast virgin.

"People can be abstinent, and it's not weird," she declared. With her face on billboards and on TV, Ms. Waite has been an emblem of sexual abstinence for Virginity Rules, which has risen from a single operation in nearby Longview to become an eight-county abstinence franchise.

For the first time, however, Virginity Rules and 700 kindred abstinence education programs are fighting serious threats to their future. Eleven state health departments rejected abstinence education this year, while legislatures in Colorado, Iowa and Washington passed laws that could kill, or at least wound, its presence in public schools.

Opponents received high-caliber ammunition this spring when the most comprehensive study of abstinence education found no sign that it delayed a teenager's sexual debut. And, after enjoying a fivefold increase in their main federal appropriations, the abstinence programs in June received their first cut in financing from the Senate appropriations committee since 2001.

...Lost in the political rancor, however, is that teenagers throughout the country are both abstaining more, and, especially among older ones, more likely to use contraception when they do not abstain.

While the reasons are not all understood, government data show the trend began years before abstinence education became the multimillion-dollar enterprise it is today. Through a combination of less sex and more contraception, pregnancy and birth rates among American teenagers as a whole have been falling since about 1991.

...Megan Randolph of Dallas, who like Jami Waite just finished high school, believes in the abstinence message. But she is bothered by courses that try to scare teenagers with harrowing talk of ruined lives. "In those classes, there are going to be kids who have had sex and that hasn't happened," Ms. Randolph said. "So they're going to think that doesn't apply to them."

Teenagers, she said, crave unfettered information - the kind restricted under federal abstinence education law, which discourages intimacy outside marriage but provides no instruction for safer sex.

At her school, Ms. Randolph, 19, was the "sexpert," the one girls often called late at night, asking questions. And this year, before leaving Dallas to attend the Air Force Academy, Ms. Randolph was hailed as volunteer of the year by the area's Planned Parenthood - part of abstinence education's axis of evil.

..."You have to look at why sex was created," Eric Love, the director of the East Texas Abstinence Program, which runs Virginity Rules, said one day, the sounds of Christian contemporary music humming faintly in his Longview office. "Sex was designed to bond two people together."
(18 July 2007)


World Population Day Targets Men

Wezi Tjaronda, New Era
Today is World Population Day, when countries focus on their commitment and actions to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV/Aids and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.

In a statement yesterday, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said despite efforts put in place to improve maternal health and advance gender equality, women continue to die or suffer disability in childbirth because among others, women's health has not been a high priority because of deep-rooted gender inequalities.

This year, the focus falls on men as partners in maternal health because men have decision-making power, partnering benefits men, they can help ensure that women have access to contraception to avoid unwanted pregnancies and plan their families and also because men can help ensure that all pregnant women have access to skilled care at times of birth and quality emergency obstetric care.

The Millennium Development Goals call for a 75 percent reduction in maternal mortality by 2015 as well as achieving universal access to reproduction health, which is a target under MDG 5. ..
(12 July 2007)


Indonesia Copies China's Planned Family Program

Sorta Tobing, Tempo
Lombok: The National Family Planning Board (BKKBN) is cooperating with China in terms of contraception training and technology. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by BKKBN Head, Sugiri Syarief, and China's National Population and Family Planning Minister in Beijing last week.

According to Sugiri, the family planning program in China has been available at the same time as in Indonesia in the 1970s. Although it now has a population of 1.3 billion, he said, China managed to minimize the total fertility rate (TFR) to 1.7. Indonesia still scores 2.6.

One of the ways was every province in China produces its own contraceptive devices. This is supported by a tight monitoring system and local government's consistency in applying the program. "There is a penalty for a resident who does not apply the family planning program," said Sugiri. ..
(17 July 2007)


Talking Population With the Old Men

Sharon Astyk, Casaubon's Book
Today is World Population Day, and again, the laments from my fellows on the ecological left are singing out in semi-unison "But no one is talking about population." I always smile when I hear this, because if you are a woman in the environmental movement with four kids, it does tend to seem as though we *are* talking about population, and not just on World Population Day. About 1/4 of my mail is about population - mostly about my personal contribution to it

...So I write about this, knowing that my position is suspect, my limitations visible, and with the pitter patter of little ecological footprints running about, but also knowing that because of this, when I say "let's talk about population" at least a few people might just pause and think that we can have this conversation. That some of the people who think that a conversation about population is just going to be a long screed about how they or their religion or their gender or their politics is wrong might know that at least one voice isn't going there. Or at least they might feel like there's someone else there to take the heat.

At least, I hope that's what will happen. And I have the hope that people might think that if I came to the table, the table might seem less a place for two hostile sides to bang their heads against each other, but for voices from the ambiguous middle to start to find a ground to speak on.

...But if I bring this to the table, I'm also going to bring a perspective that begins from the premise that we have to respect and trust the people most affected -women. I think that not only because I am one, but because I'm truly aware of the limitations of statistics and science, and why this isn't just a conversation about demography. I write from the perspective of someone whose physical body has experienced almost everything that can happen to someone in their childbearing years. I've written the next paragraph about 50 times and deleted it, because frankly, this is more than I want people to know about me. But I'm going to include them anyway because I think there's some real urgency to knowing where we speak from. And I think my personal desire for privacy may be less important than that we talk honestly about this.
(19 July 2007)
UPDATE (July 19). Just ran across Sharon's latest and thought it important enough to post with the others. -BA

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