I’m glad to see the recognition of the link between population growth and climate change. However, the statement regarding the first proposed solution is demonstrably false. The statement reads, “The U.N. Population Fund estimates that 215 million women worldwide who desire modern contraceptives are deprived of them. Access to contraceptives would reduce unintended pregnancies by more than two-thirds, from 75 million to 22 million per year, and save $5.1 billion in pre- and postnatal healthcare.”
Large family norms and the cultural and informational barriers to use of contraception are now the major impediments to achieving lower fertility rates, not lack of access to contraceptives.
In Kenya, which was the fastest growing country in the world in the 1980s, contraceptives were within reach of nearly 90 percent of the population by the late 1980s. Yet currently, only 39 percent of married women use them. "Unmet need” is used to describe women who want to delay their next pregnancy by at least two years but are not using a modern method of contraception. In the minds of many, “unmet need” is equated with “lack of access” to contraceptive services. However, demographers Charles Westoff and Luis Hernando Ochoa, in a review of numerous Demographic and Health Surveys, determined that about half the women categorized as having an “unmet need” have no intention of using contraceptives even if they were made freely available.
The situation in Kenya is illustrative of findings in numerous countries recently. In Kenya, according to the 2008-09 Demographic and Health Survey, 96 percent of currently married women and 98 percent of husbands know about modern contraceptives. Of the married women who are non-users, 40 percent do not intend to ever use contraception. Among all non-using married women, 8 percent give as their reason the desire for more children. Among the reasons given for not using contraception by women who are not pregnant and do not want to become pregnant, only 0.8 percent cited lack of availability of contraceptives, and 0.4 percent cited cost. The top four reasons among those who are still fecund:
1. Concern with the medical side effects of contraceptives (31 percent)
2. Religious prohibition (9 percent)
3. Personal opposition (8 percent)
4. Opposition from the husbands (6 percent)
These are all issues that are best addressed by information and motivational communications.
Country by country, the Demographic and Health Surveys show a similar pattern. Lack of access is cited infrequently by those who are categorized as having an unmet need for family planning.
Pakistan’s 2006-2007 Demographic and Health Survey found that the most common reason for non-use of contraceptives is the belief that God determines family size. This answer was given by 28 percent of the respondents. Since the fertility rate in Pakistan is 4.0 and the mean desired number of children among currently married women is 4.1, it is clear that family size norms are also a major factor in driving high fertility.
The tradition of large families is a deciding factor in fertility rates in most of sub-Saharan Africa. For example, the 2008 Demographic and Health Survey in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country with 161 million inhabitants, found that the average ideal number of children for married women was 6.7. For married men, it was 8.5. The fertility rate in Nigeria is 5.7 children per woman, which is below what people say they actually want.
Of all births in Nigeria, 87 percent were wanted at the time and another 7 percent were wanted, but not until later. Only 4 percent were unwanted. Nationwide, 67 percent of married women and 89 percent of married men know of at least one modern method of contraception. Yet only 10 percent of married women report they currently use modern family planning methods.
Of the non-users, 55 percent report that they never intend to use family planning. The top reasons given are the desire for as many children as possible (17 percent), opposition to family planning (39 percent), fear of health effects (11 percent), and not knowing a method (8 percent). Lack of access and cost were cited by only 0.2 percent each. Only about a third of women have discussed family planning use with their husband.
Changing this situation takes more than provision of family planning services. It requires helping people understand the personal benefits in health and wealth for them and their children of limiting and spacing births. It also involves role modeling family planning use and overcoming fear that contraceptives are dangerous or that planning one’s family is unacceptable. It requires getting husbands and wives to talk to each other about use of family planning—a key step in the process to begin using contraceptives.
Delaying marriage and childbearing until adulthood and educating girls are critical. According to a 2003 report by the Nigerian Population Commission, in northern Nigeria, the mean age at first conception is 15 years. Teen births increased 50 percent between 1980 and 2003 in Nigeria, mostly attributable to adolescents in the northern regions.
The above should not be interpreted as suggesting that the level of effort in providing contraceptive services be reduced. Both quality and quantity of contraceptive choices and services are in need of improvement throughout much of the developing world. But access to family planning methods is not sufficient if men prevent their partners from using them, if women don't understand the relative safety of contraception compared with early and repeated childbearing throughout the reproductive years, or if women feel they cannot take control of their own lives.
Japan achieved below-replacement-level fertility (1.5 children per woman) in a country where the oral contraceptive pill was illegal until recently. The United States achieved below-replacement-level fertility in the Great Depression, before the invention of most modern contraceptives. Similarly, fertility dropped to near-replacement level in the 19th century in Western Europe and the U.S.
An illustration of the importance of motivation is the fact that the contraceptive prevalence rate in Malawi (38 percent) is four times higher than it is in Macedonia (10 percent), but the total fertility rate in Malawi (6.0 children born during a woman’s lifetime) is quadruple the rate in Macedonia (1.5).
Not enough is known about family size preferences of the men and women of the world—particularly among those who are not using any method of contraception. Papers on family size preferences by demographers John Bongaarts, Charles Westoff, and Warren Miller and David Pasta point to the need for much more in-depth, interdisciplinary research on the relationships among ideal family size as viewed by men and women at each age level, fertility intentions and actual achieved fertility.
More research is needed to measure the effects of non-medical interventions, such as efforts to raise women's status, mandatory education for children and mass media communications designed to affect desired family size.
Bill Ryerson wrote this commentary in response to Fighting Climate Change with Family Planning, an article published at Sierra Club Magazine dealing with the deleterious effects of rapid population growth and proposing five ways to achieve a global population stabilization.
A tornado tore through a city north of Birmingham, Alabama, Monday night, killing one person and injuring at least 30.
- Tornadoes and Climate Change: What Does the Science Say ... ›
- Tornadoes Hit Unusually Wide Swaths of U.S., Alarming Climate ... ›
- 23 Dead as Tornado Pummels Lee County, AL in Further Sign ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By David Konisky
On his first day in office President Joe Biden started signing executive orders to reverse Trump administration policies. One sweeping directive calls for stronger action to protect public health and the environment and hold polluters accountable, including those who "disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities."
Michael S. Regan, President Biden's nominee to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, grew up near a coal-burning power plant in North Carolina and has pledged to "enact an environmental justice framework that empowers people in all communities." NCDEQ
- Report Urges Biden to Reverse Trump's Environmental Rollbacks ›
- US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ›
- Biden's EPA Pick Michael Regan Urged to Address Environmental ... ›
- Biden Faces Pressure to Tackle 'Unfunded' Toxic Waste Sites ... ›
By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:email@example.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
Earth's ice is melting 57 percent faster than in the 1990s and the world has lost more than 28 trillion tons of ice since 1994, research published Monday in The Cryosphere shows.
By Jewel Fraser
Noreen Nunez lives in a middle-class neighborhood that rises up a hillside in Trinidad's Tunapuna-Piarco region.