I photographed this little guy in a small village in Costa Rica. He spent much of his day, ball in hand, staring wistfully out the front window of his tiny home, which also served as a used clothing store. Most homes in this village did double or even triple duty. Our friends stayed with another family in their guestroom, which was above their living room, which also served as the village motorcycle repair shop.

David Horsey wrote a refreshing and hopeful piece yesterday titled Liberating women from macho culture frees all. In it, he describes how the women of an impoverished village in Mexico have improved their lives and the lives of their children.

Predicting population trends is notoriously difficult. They are extremely sensitive to the slightest change in fertility rates, and future fertility rates can only be guessed, suggesting that, though most of our population growth is water under the bridge, there is still wriggle room.

Because 99 percent of [population] growth will be in the poorest countries of the world, the potential for mass starvation, uncontrolled migration and severe environmental damage is huge.

I would guess that the probability of “severe” environmental damage approaches 100%. It could make all the difference if our population were to peak between seven to eight billion instead of nine or ten. A billion is an unfathomably large number. If a billion people linked hands they would wrap around the planet thirty times (somebody check my math — Earth’s circumference = 25000 miles, assume four feet per person).

Empowering women is a tried and true formula that neither requires nor precludes ingratiating oneself to a deity:

Despite the fact that Mexico is heavily Roman Catholic, 74 percent of married woman now use contraceptives.

Although women’s reproductive rights in many industrialized nations has become a threadbare concept, it has yet to become so in much of the world. It’s great to have discussions about biofuels and transportation, but it is also good to be reminded once in a while that women’s reproductive rights have just as much or even more potential for positive impact on both poverty and the environment than the many technological fixes being bandied about.

Enter the governor of South Dakota:

South Dakota’s governor on Monday signed into law a bill banning nearly all abortions, setting up a court fight aimed at challenging the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States.

The bill would make it a crime for doctors to perform an abortion unless it was necessary to save the woman’s life. It would make no exception in cases of rape or incest.