Advanced Search

Please click here to take a brief survey

Family Planning, Population, and Global Warming
Erica Barnett, 2 Oct 07
Article Photo

Every year, the world's population increases by 80 million people -- with most of the growth in developing nations. As the number of children a woman bears and raises has an inverse relationshipto her -- and her children's -- life expectancy and social mobility, improving the availability of family planning options is crucial to improving both public and economic health in these nations.

It has a direct relationship to improving global environmental conditions, as well: according to The Sierra Club's online primer on the links between global population, family planning, and climate change, as the human population grew roughly four fold over the 20th century -- from 1.6 billion to 6.1 billion -- the growing energy demand led carbon-dioxide emissions to increase twelve fold.

Heather D’Agnes believes it. She's head of the US Agency for International Development's (USAID) population, health, and environment program, and is promoting policies that would expand access to family planning. D'Agnes feels strongly that the more information women and families have not just about contraception, but about the negative impacts of large family size, the more likely they'll be to opt for smaller families as a result -- and her conclusions are supported by the Cairo Consensus adopted by the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994, which was the first international document to recognize the connections between reproductive health, the environment, and economic development.

D'Agnes takes an integrated approach to population management and environmental protection. She recently did research in coastal fishing villages in the Philippines where family sizes were growing even as fishing stocks declined—a crisis in the making, finding that when provided with information about the linkage between overpopulation and overfishing, the village residents were eager for information about and access to family-planning services.

According to D'Agnes (quoted in an interview on Radio Australia), the economic and environmental benefits of having a smaller, healthier family "really resonate..."

In the Philippines, our experience has been that you can train community members who may have an elementary be peer educators. What that means is that they go and talk to their peers, their neighbors, their friends, the people that they fish with, for example, and you can train them to deliver information about the benefits of family planning. The same time they’re there in the fishing boat delivering information about why smaller families are better, or may help out their condition in life, they’re also talking about the importance of not fishing in a certain area, let’s say a marine protected area. So you see, they’re talking about their lives.

Interestingly, D'Agnes found that even in a deeply Catholic country like the Philippines, men and women were eager to learn about and use birth control, defying the notion that villagers would blindly follow religious edicts at the peril of their families and livelihoods.

Image: Philippine family on its way to church. Credit: flickr/Jesse Gardner

Bookmark and Share


Interesting article - The observation "As the number of children a woman bears and raises has an inverse relationshipto her -- and her children's -- life expectancy and social mobility, improving the availability of family planning options is crucial to improving both public and economic health in these nations" is superbly brought to life by the Swedish academic Hans Rosling's tour-de-force TED performance which can be found here:

Further set of useful links can be found here:

Posted by: Michael on 2 Oct 07

When talking about global warming, there are a few questions that must be dealt with.

First, is climate warming? The answer, though not definitive yet, is probably yes. We can readily see some evidence of that happening.

The Earth is a dynamic system, which means it is constantly in flux. Average temperatures are continually moving up or down. Equilibrium would mean that the system was dead. In spite of what Al Gore says, there never has been a time of equilibrium in the system, and that's a good thing.

Second, if temps are going up, what is the cause? Is it Man's contribution of greenhouse gases? Conventional wisdom (as portrayed in most of the media, anyway) says 'yes'. But the truth is that that is a hypothesis, not even a full-fledged theory yet, and certainly not an established scientific fact. Let me explain:

Obviously we can't put the Earth into a laboratory and experiment on it. Experiments must be done on climate models. Scientists formulate a hypothesis, plug their assumptions into the model, and then see if the model can predict reality.

Even the best climate models don't predict reality very well. Thirty-five years ago NASA's James Hansen was designing climate models that showed an ice age was imminent; today he designs models that show the climate is heating up. But the track record of the models is just as dismal. Heck, the Old Farmer's Almanac does a better job of predicting weather patterns and climate trends. The assumptions that are programmed into the model must be incredibly complex. In fact, more complex than our understanding of climate at this point. It's really no big surprise that the models don't have a great track record. It's not something to feel too bad about or be embarrassed about. It's just the way it is.

So what's going on? Why all the hysteria? Some say that the "reality of global warming" is even worse than predicted. Could that be?

That's one explanation offered by the manmade global warming enthusiasts, but a simpler, scientific, and less hysterical explanation is simply that one or more of the assumptions programmed into the models are incorrect. That just means the hypothesis is flawed. Perhaps something else is going on than the researcher expected. It does not prove or disprove the scientists' opinions, or establish cause and effect. Garbage in, garbage out, as the saying goes.

But is there a "consensus"?

I love to point out the fact that there are still scientists studying gravity, and that's one area most people thought was settled long ago, right? Can I see a show of hands? And another thing to think about is that 'consensus' really isn't a scientific term. It's more of a political term.

So how do we get from a flawed hypothesis to a sound scientific theory? The short answer is: we don't. The hysteria is due to politics and propaganda.

How do we get from politics and propaganda to an established scientific fact? Again, we don't, obviously. What we get is more politics and perhaps public policy.

Why? In two words: money and power.

More taxes. Higher prices on energy (and everything that uses energy to make or transport - Have you noticed what has happened to the price of grain, for instance? Stop and think about the effect of higher food and heating costs on the world's poor.) Control of energy sources. Sales of books, 'carbon offsets', and myriad 'green' merchandise.

Does it bother the True Believer that Al Gore has 200 million dollars in the bank from selling carbon offsets, which do nothing to actually help the environment? That his prediction of a 10-foot rise in sea level is echoed by not one scientist anywhere? No, of course not. Some people want to be scared. Impending catastophe is supremely sexy.

Does it bother the True Believer to learn that many of the scientists involved in the IPCC project sued to have their names removed from the report?

Does it bother the True Believer that the grandfather of global warming politics is a man named Maurice Strong, a big UN muckety-muck who happens to be a communist, eugenicist and de-populationist? No, of course not. Those same people craving catastrophe probably don't understand the implications of those words.

It is an understatement to say there is disinformation and subterfuge coming from all sides on this issue. This very piece you are reading could be chock-full of disinformation, so it's imperative that you do your own research.

An example of disinformation is Greenpeace members protesting, calling for President Bush to sign Kyoto, when they know full well that the US signed Kyoto way back in 1998 under Clinton/Gore! The fact is, Bush CAN'T sign it, since it's already signed, but that doesn't stop the protesting and name-calling does it? And apparently not one journalist has noticed the disparity. (and Bush has never mentioned it, either. Go figure.)

Looks like the adversaries might really be on the same team after all, doesn't it? Like the old 'good cop, bad cop' routine.

That is an example of disinformation in a nutshell. Watch for it.

Paul Watson, co-founder of Greenpeace and current board member of the Sierra Club, once said "If you don’t know an answer, a fact, a statistic, then ... make it up on the spot."

Al Gore once said something similar: "When you have the facts on your side, argue the facts. When you have the law on your side, argue the law. When you have neither, holler."

Carl Amery, a founder of the German green movement, has said "We, in the green movement, aspire to a cultural model in which killing a forest will be considered more contemptible and more criminal than the sale of 6-year-old children to Asian brothels." Read that sentence again and let it sink in. It would take a LOT of propaganda and programming to pull that off, wouldn't it?

Paul Watson again, says "We need to radically and intelligently reduce human populations to fewer than one billion." He doesn't say exactly how he would like to accomplish that, but disposing of 6 billion people would be problematic. Doesn't he know that rotting corpses give off greenhouse gases?

Lyall Watson (no relation, other than their faith), biologist and author, says that "Cannibalism is a radical but realistic solution to the problem of overpopulation." Yes, he really said that.

I'm sure the majority of environmentalists aren't this far off their rockers, but these are some of the leaders of the movement. And the True Believer won't spend much time thinking about those quotes above.

Maurice Strong (mentioned earlier), a senior UN advisor and director of the Temple of Understanding, is a little more laid back: "Isn't the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn't it our responsibility to bring about?"

But politics and global evil aside, should we be concerned about climate change? The answer to that is an unqualified 'maybe'. So wouldn't it be nice to just let the scientists work without all the propaganda and hysteria?

Bottom line: Don't let anybody take your money or freedom based on a hypothesis. Real science is not done by a show of hands. Recognize the doomsayers, propagandists, and slanted journalists (and bloggers) for who they are and get on with life.

And think carefully about the people who tell you "the science is settled and it's time for action". Please don't perpetuate the politics and the disinformation at the expense of the science. As Lenin famously pointed out: "A lie told often enough becomes the truth".

Also, don't twist anything I've said to mean that I'm some sort of anti-conservationist. I'm all for conservation (as we all should be), whether we are talking about energy, or species, or habitat, or preserving air or water quality, or other 'green' technologies, or whatever. That's not really what this argument is about. At best it's about controlling energy use, and robbing people to pay for it (okay, TAXING for the 'progressives' and other business-as-usual-types) - to create a 'solution' to a 'problem' that is still in the hypothesis stage scientifically.

Posted by: Ron on 2 Oct 07

No Ron, the track record of climate predictions is spot on, at least for the last few decades. It is all happening exactly as foretold by the refraction rates for solar energy hitting increased Co2 and methane. Sorry dude, they simply know what's happening. It's no hypothesis because the laws of physics tell us exactly what happens when sunlight hits these gases.

Are you calling "gravity" a hypothesis? Sure they are still studying it, there are still some deeper questions to unravel, but that does not mean the whole theory is bunk and unworkable right now. We know that if you jump of a building what will happen. We know enough about gravity to run GPS, even though the satellites are so high above the earth that time-dilation might otherwise have thrown out our time readings and sent us on a different course. So while they are still studying gravity, it works enough to make decisions by.

So there is still plenty to learn about our climate. There are all sorts of specifics to unravel and study. It's a very complex system. Yet you only betray your own bias when you rant like this. I've watched the rubbish pseudo-documentaries like "The Great Global Warming Swindle" and heard all your accusations against Gore and the IPCC before. (Yaaaawwwns). Al Gore could be an even worse hypocrite, and there might even be a druggy or 2 on the IPCC, and it would not change the fact that no practicing, peer reviewed climatologist has published against the basic conclusions of CO2 warming the earth for 20 years. Sure you can find OTHER scientists from other disciplines, but I don't get my plumber to do my websites, or my dentist to do open heart surgery hey? We rely on specialists because they are the experts in their fields.

The other thing I find appalling in the "Science is not a vote" argument is that it relies on the myth that all these climatologists attended the one Conference, looked at the one computer model, and said "Amen". No no no. This will not do.

The reality is that science and science funding is one of the most professionally competitive and jealous careers possible. We are talking about skeptical people who watch each other's work critically in the hope of disproving something and making a name for themselves. Far from the "one big vote myth", hundreds of climatologists from dozens of different societies and groups have studied Global Warming and come to the same basic conclusion, more or less. This is not some "consensus trance" but the separate conclusions of many proud, fiercely independent research institutes. So please drop that myth right away.

Please don't equate cutting edge climate research with eugenics nutters. That's not a rational or fair argument strategy.

About the only thing you got right is that energy control IS political. This is why the climatologists have to work so hard to present the alarming consequences to the public. They are trying to move the behemoth that is the government sponsored fossil fuel industry, and it is one of the most important political conversations and decisions we have to make.

So Ron, gravity might be a hypothesis, but are you jumping off any buildings? And why do you want us to join you?

Posted by: Dave Lankshear on 2 Oct 07


I did not say gravity was a hypothesis. I said climate science is not settled, and should not be.

Thanks for the glib response, but all I got from Dr. James Hansen when I hit him up with this question about CO2 causing warming being just a hypothesis - was silence. He knows, as I know, it's just a hypothesis. He won't discuss such basic questions, but they need to be asked.

You, my friend, are falling for the propaganda.

To change the subject a bit, have you seen this article -

Posted by: Ron on 3 Oct 07


I did not say gravity was a hypothesis. I said climate science is not settled, and should not be.

Thanks for the glib response, but all I got from Dr. James Hansen when I hit him up with this question about CO2 causing warming being just a hypothesis - was silence. He knows, as I know, it's just a hypothesis. He won't discuss such basic questions, but they need to be asked.

You, my friend, are falling for the propaganda.

To change the subject a bit, have you seen this article -

Posted by: Ron on 3 Oct 07

All I seem to think about when I read all of this is... "Too much time on your hands..." All of you should get a life and enjoy it rather than sitting around talking about what may or may not be a problem. Life is too short! I only respond as someone who rather live my life to its fullest than sit and gloat over issues. I have said my peace. Keep what you like and leave the rest!

Posted by: Itchy on 19 Oct 07



MESSAGE (optional):

Search Worldchanging

Worldchanging Newsletter Get good news for a change —
Click here to sign up!


Website Design by Eben Design | Logo Design by Egg Hosting | Hosted by Amazon AWS | Problems with the site? Send email to tech /at/
Architecture for Humanity - all rights reserved except where otherwise indicated.

Find_us_on_facebook_badge.gif twitter-logo.jpg