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Feminist funnywoman Caitlin Moran says the planet doesn’t need your babies

Caitlin Moran and the text "Think you want kids? Read this!"Caitlin Moran in Grazia magazine. The accompanying article is not online. Boo.

Leave it to a wiseass mother of two to make the best case I've ever read for not having kids.

Caitlin Moran is currently having an American media moment as she marks U.S. publication of her book How to Be a Woman, a memoir-slash-manifesto that's been a massive best-seller in the U.K. She's been described as the British Tina Fey, the next Nora Ephron, and an occasional Lady Gaga bathroom companion. Everyone's talking about her fervid defense of feminism. ("Do you have a vagina? and Do you want to be in charge of it? If you said 'yes' to both, then congratulations! You're a feminist.") But not enough people are talking about her fervid defense of the childfree life -- so I'm going to.

Thing is, Moran loves being a mum (in addition to being many other things, like a columnist for The Times of London). She has a sweet and honkingly funny chapter called "Why You Should Have Children." But she follows that with a whip-smart chapter entitled "Why You Shouldn't Have Children." The latter case so rarely gets vocalized, and Moran vocalizes it so damn well, that I want to block-quote the entire chapter. But that would mean a lot of typing for me. So instead I'll just block-quote a big chunk, and then you'll have to go buy the book to read the rest. Which you should do anyway.

Read more: Childfree, Population, Sex


Security hawks should be freaked about population growth

Army general in front of flag"Oh shit." (Photo by U.S. Army.)

Never mind the climate hawks. National-security hawks ought to be seriously stressing about rapidly rising population numbers: "About 80% of the world's civil conflicts since the 1970s have occurred in countries with young, fast-growing populations, known as youth bulges, according to an analysis by the nonprofit Population Action International."

That's from an L.A. Times article, "Runaway population growth often fuels youth-driven uprisings," part of a series about population by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Kenneth Weiss. More from the article:

In many developing countries, runaway population growth has created vast ranks of restless young men ..., with few prospects and little to lose. ...

[Y]outh bulges have emerged in [Afghanistan,] Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and the Palestinian territories -- part of what security experts call an "arc of instability" reaching across Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.

Of the 2 billion or more people who will be added to the planet by 2050, 97% are expected to be born in Africa, Asia and Latin America, led by the poorest, most volatile countries.

Read more: Population


Third-World problems in the First World: We need family planning to fight poverty in the U.S. too

Jason DeParle has a long article in The New York Times on how single motherhood is expanding in the American middle class and bringing financial troubles along with it. He focuses on two friends who work together at a daycare center: "They are both friendly white women from modest Midwestern backgrounds who left for college with conventional hopes of marriage, motherhood and career."

One of the women, Chris Faulkner, "did standard things in standard order: high school, college, job, marriage and children," and she is now leading a comfortable middle-class existence.

The other woman, Jessica Schairer, is a single mother of three, trying to get by making just under $25,000 a year, supplemented by food stamps. She did not do things in standard order: "She got pregnant during her first year of college, left school and stayed in a troubled relationship that left her with three children when it finally collapsed six years ago."

DeParle tells these women's stories and puts them in context with data about larger social trends, but what jumped out at me is something that he didn't mention at all: contraception, or a lack thereof.

Read more: Living, Population, Sex


Caring about family planning does not make you a slut, according to Melinda Gates

Melinda GatesContraception: It saves lives and it's not slutty. Any questions? (Photo: Gates Foundation)

Melinda Gates will celebrate World Population Day by avoiding saying the word "population," and at the same time doing more to address population-related challenges than anyone else on the planet.

She has adopted family planning as her signature issue and is leading an effort by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to make contraceptives widely available to women in developing countries. On July 11, World Population Day, she'll be headlining the London Summit on Family Planning, cosponsored by her foundation and the U.K. government. The aim of the summit is to raise $4 billion to provide family-planning services over the next eight years to 120 million women. About twice that many women now lack access, which Gates says is "a crime."

Gates stresses the health benefits of the campaign and tries to defuse controversy by sidestepping the issue of abortion and rejecting the old-school notion of "population control," which evokes images of rich white men telling poor women of color how many kids to have. Gates addressed this in an interview on CNN:

Read more: Population, Sex


A male birth control dudes might actually use

Photo by Matt Herbison.

You know what doesn't do a lot to help reduce unwanted births? Putting women in sole charge of contraception, then making it nigh-impossible for them to exercise any reproductive freedom. We could improve sex ed, affordability of birth control pills, and access to abortion -- but as long as there are Republicans around, we might be better off researching easy contraception for men. Which is why this new topical contraceptive gel, developed by researchers at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, could be a big deal.

Read more: Population, Sex


Crowd control: 7 billion people. One last chance to save the planet

Paul Ehrlich.

Paul Ehrlich, author of the iconic 1968 book The Population Bomb, now refers to himself as a “mobster.” Okay, so the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere -- the MAHB -- is not exactly an organized crime group, but Ehrlich is still raising some ethical eyebrows. After warning of impending global catastrophe for over 40 years, he and his MAHB are bringing together humanists, social scientists, ecologists, and economists to figure out how we might convince people to quickly change course.

The trouble, Ehrlich says, is in our genes. One hundred thousand years ago, when our greatest obstacles were wild animals, food foraging, and “ducking rocks thrown at our heads,” it wasn’t necessary to grapple with huge, hard-to-discern disasters like biodiversity loss or climate change. Alas, our brains aren’t yet up to speed with these fast times. As Ehrlich says, we’ve got “stone age brains with space age technology.”

What’s to be done? Having written over 40 books, Ehrlich posits that “people don’t want to hear about solutions -- those books don’t sell.” And he’s long since given up on any attempt to counter “genuine idiots” or “the mathematically challenged.” Ultimately, though, he’s a people person -- he thinks that, with the right incentives, we can be retrained.

Read more: Population


Why women’s needs must be part of the conversation at Rio

Photo by U.K. Department for International Development.

The outcome document for this week’s Rio+20 summit is 49 pages long. Some 23,917 words.

Women were mentioned in less than 0.01 percent of the text. And only two of the 283 sections addressed women’s needs for family planning.

At first, this might not seem like a big deal. It’s easy to think of Rio as a purely environmental conference, dealing with issues related to sustainable development and a green economy. It’s easy to say that Rio is not about "women's issues."

Well, we have some news for you: You can’t have sustainable development without women.

Read more: Population


Are our 15 seconds of fame up, geologically speaking?

Photo by Krissy Venosdale.

Four and a half billion years is a hard number to digest. That’s the age of the Earth, and a lot has happened in that time. The geologic record contains dramatic climate swings, the formation of entire continents, the proliferation of new species -- as well as mass extinctions. But no matter what has happened in the past, life goes on. Well, in the case of mass extinctions, at least some life does ...

To help people get their heads around our role in all this, geologists use the analogy of a clock: If you compress all of the Earth's history into a single day, humans do not show up on the scene until a minute before midnight.


The future I want: Reproductive rights in a changing climate

This article is part of a series created by Friends of UNFPA in the lead-up to Rio+20.

Children in Leyte, the Philippines, where large families are still the norm. (Photo by Glen McBethlaw.)

Days from now, some 130 heads of state and tens of thousands of activists from around the world will gather in Rio de Janeiro for the “Rio + 20” Earth Summit. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently laid out his vision for the conference in a New York Times article entitled “The Future We Want.”

Ki-moon expressed hope that the meeting will inspire new thinking, focus on people, and issue a “clarion call” for smarter resource use. He gave a nod to the importance of women, who “hold up half the sky,” and of young people, “the very face of our future.”

Still, one crucial ingredient went without mention: sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). The inclusion of SRHR and access to family planning completes the jigsaw puzzle of a just and sustainable world.


Who’s really hurting Aspen’s environment — jet-setters or immigrant workers?

How the rich live in Aspen.

The exclusive resort town of Aspen, Colo., has an international reputation for high-end service and a stunning landscape of pristine mountains, all configured to welcome wealthy tourists. Like many communities in the U.S., Aspen depends on low-wage immigrant labor to fuel its service economy. Also like many communities in the U.S., Aspen passed a resolution calling on the federal government to restrict both documented and undocumented immigration in order to preserve the economic and cultural integrity of the nation.

But Aspen's resolution, passed unanimously by the city council in 1999, was different from many others around the country in that it played up environmental concerns as well, providing green cover for the demonization of low-income immigrants from Latin America.

Shortly after its passage, city council member Terry Paulson -- a longtime immigration critic and self-avowed environmentalist -- announced that he would be working on a statewide campaign to “promote overpopulation awareness” and declared, “If we address population and do something about it, everything else will fall in line.”

Read more: Population