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Killing of Environmental Activists Rises Globally

April 30th, 2014 | Add a Comment

Killing of Environmental Activists Rises Globally

As head of his village, Prajob Naowa-opas battled to save his community in central Thailand from the illegal dumping of toxic waste by filing petitions and leading villagers to block trucks carrying the stuff – until a gunman in broad daylight fired four shots into him.

A year later, his three alleged killers, including a senior government official, are on trial for murder. The dumping has been halted and villagers are erecting a statue to their slain hero.

But the prosecution of Prajob’s murder is a rare exception. A survey released Tuesday — the first comprehensive one of its kind – says that only 10 killers of 908 environmental activists slain around the world over the past decade have been convicted.

The report by the London-based Global Witness, a group that seeks to shed light on the links between environmental exploitation and human rights abuses, says murders of those protecting land rights and the environment have soared dramatically. It noted that its toll of victims in 35 countries is probably far higher since field investigations in a number of African and Asian nations are difficult or impossible.

Population and climate change: who will the grand convergence leave behind?

April 30th, 2014 | Add a Comment

Population and climate change: who will the grand convergence leave behind?
Martha M Campbell, John Casterline, Federico Castillo, Alisha Graves, Thomas L Hall, John F May, Daniel Perlman, Malcolm Potts, J Joseph Speidel, Julia Walsh, Michael F Wehner, Eliya Msiyaphazi Zulu
 
For many developing countries, investments in health have proved a great success. The Lancet Commission “Global health 2035: a world converging within a generation”1 and the 2014 Gates annual letter2 envision the possibility of a “grand convergence” by which more countries will have a child mortality rate as low as 15 per 1000 livebirths in 20 years time. We wish to draw attention to the special case of the least developed countries, which on present evidence are likely to be excluded from such a convergence. To start a discussion we will focus on the Sahel (the 1 million square-mile semi-arid zone of Africa stretching from the Atlantic to the Red Sea) where the clash of uniquely rapid population growth and some of the harshest effects of climate change are likely to have the greatest overall effects on health.
The population projections shown in the figure are the UN Population Division’s medium variant. These projections could be exceeded unless much greater emphasis is given to family planning. Even assuming rapid decreases in family size from the current average of 7·6, the population of Niger alone will grow from 16 million today to 58 million by 2050. This increase is indicative of the formidable population momentum in the Sahel. More than 40% of the population is younger than 15 years.

See: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(14)70021-X/fulltext

Species extinction is a great moral wrong

April 30th, 2014 | Add a Comment

Species extinction is a great moral wrong
Sharing the Earth with other species is an important human responsibility
By Philip Cafaro, PhD, and Richard B. Primack, PhD | Posted on 12 February 2014
Nearly three decades ago, conservation biologist Michael Soulé published an article titled “What is Conservation Biology?” Its strong and enduring influence stemmed partly from Soulé’s success in articulating an appealing ethical vision for this new field. At its heart was the belief that the human-caused extinction of other species is a great moral wrong.

“The diversity of organisms is good,” Soulé wrote, and “the untimely extinction of populations and species is bad.” Other species have “value in themselves,” he asserted – an “intrinsic value” that should motivate respect and restraint in our dealings with them.

In a recent article published in the journal BioScience titled “What is Conservation Science?” Peter Kareiva and Michelle Marvier attempt to update Soulé’s conservation philosophy, but lose sight of this moral commitment.
Specifying the ethical principles that they believe should guide conservationists, they give a prominent place to increasing human wealth and “working with corporations,” while recognition of the right of other species to continue to flourish is nowhere to be found. In fact, the article’s rhetoric serves to normalize extinctions and make readers more comfortable with them. For example, it describes concern for the local extinctions of wolves and grizzly bears in the United States as “nostalgia” for “the world as it once was” and suggests that people need not keep other species on the landscape when their continued presence is incompatible with our economic goals.

Unfortunately this position does not appear to be an aberration in this one article, but rather an essential part of the authors’ view that conservationists should accommodate ourselves to the new realities of the Anthropocene Epoch (so named due to the pervasive impact that human activities now have on Earth’s ecosystems).

Nearly 7 in 10 Americans say health plans should cover birth control

April 30th, 2014 | Add a Comment

Nearly 7 in 10 Americans say health plans should cover birth control
See: http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-birth-control-mandate-obamacare-support-20140422,0,2520891.story

Among the various provisions of the Affordable Care Act, few are as controversial as the one requiring health insurance providers to include coverage for contraception. A new survey finds that support for this rule is widespread, with 69% of Americans in favor of the mandate.

Among 2,124 adults surveyed in November 2013, 1,452 agreed that “health plans in the United States should be required to include coverage” for “birth control medications,” according to a research letter published online Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. An additional 436 respondents (19%) did not agree, 197 (10%) were uncertain and 39 (2%) refused to answer.

Women, African Americans, Latinos and parents living with children under the age of 18 had higher levels of support for mandatory contraception coverage than people in other demographic groups, the survey found. People who took the survey were not asked about their political or religious views.

See: http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-birth-control-mandate-obamacare-support-20140422,0,2520891.story

UNFPA, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Boost Family Planning in Developing Countries

April 21st, 2014 | Add a Comment

UNFPA, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Boost Family Planning in Developing Countries
UNITED NATIONS, New York, 17 April 2014-UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation signed a memorandum of understanding to help increase access to family planning information, contraceptives and services in developing countries, particularly for young people.

The agreement will draw on both organizations’ strengths and expertise in support of the global goal of expanding access to high-quality, voluntary family planning supplies and services for an additional 120 million women and girls in the world’s 69 poorest countries by 2020. The Gates Foundation brings a global network of partners and expertise in technology and innovation, while UNFPA contributes country-level reach, experience working with governments and expertise in family planning and reproductive health.

“UNFPA and the Gates Foundation are working together to advance the goals and principles of the 2012 London Summit on Family Planning to enable women and adolescent girls to decide, freely and for themselves, whether and when to have children and how many they want to have,” said UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, who participated in the signing ceremony in Seattle.

What does the IPCC report say about population dynamics and climate change?

April 21st, 2014 | 1 Comment

The latest IPCC report identifies changes in population as factors that exacerbate climate change vulnerability. Here we present the report’s key messages about different population dynamics and access to reproductive health etc.
These are the report’s key references to population, with direct quotes from the report:
Freshwater resources
  • Non-climatic drivers such as population increase, economic development, urbanisation, and land-use or natural geomorphic changes also challenge the sustainability of resources by decreasing water supply or increasing demand.
  • Over the next few decades and for increases in global mean temperature of less than around 2oC above pre-industrial, changes in population will generally have a greater effect on changes in resource availability than will climate change. Climate change would, however, regionally exacerbate or offset the effects of population pressures.
Coastal systems and low-lying areas
  • The population and assets projected to be exposed to coastal risks as well as human pressures on coastal ecosystems will increase significantly in the coming decades due to population growth, economic development, and urbanisation.

See: http://www.populationandsustainability.org/2853/news/what-does-the-ipcc-report-say-about-population-dynamics-and-climate-change.html

Re-Examining the Global Barriers to Reproductive Freedom

April 21st, 2014 | Add a Comment

Re-Examining the Global Barriers to Reproductive Freedom
See: http://blog.populationinstitute.org/2014/04/17/re-examining-the-global-barriers-to-reproductive-freedom/

Every woman in the world should be able to space or limit her births. At a minimum, that means every woman should have access to the contraceptive method of her choice, whether it’s a female condom, birth control pills, an IUD, sterilization or a long-acting injectable. But physical access to contraception does not guarantee reproductive freedom. For many women in the developing world the real barrier to the exercise of reproductive choice is male opposition, religious teachings, social norms, or misinformation about contraceptive options.

There has always been some truth to the idea that supply creates its own demand: make modern contraceptives more available and more women will want to use them. But in male-dominated societies where religious teachings or social norms promote large families, there are practical limits to how far supply will drive demand. And that’s particularly true in areas where child marriage is still prevalent. When a girl is married at an early age, and her husband demands a large family, the mere availability of contraceptives does not guarantee that she can exercise reproductive choice. In societies where violence against women is widespread the exercise of reproductive freedom can even result in physical violence or even death.

The problem is, and it’s a significant one, is that countries with the highest fertility rates and the lowest rates of contraceptive use tend to be male-dominated societies where gender inequality prevails and religious teachings or social norms dictate larger families. Add to that ignorance or misinformation about contraceptive options, and women, in practice, may have little or no reproductive choice… even if modern methods of contraception are available. Girl brides, in particular, seldom exercise any real degree of reproductive freedom; any decision about childbearing is effectively out of their control.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Incredible Shrinking Country

April 21st, 2014 | Add a Comment

The Incredible Shrinking Country
A QUIET but constant ticking can be heard from the demographic time bomb that sits beneath the world’s third-largest economy. This week it made a louder tick than usual: official statistics show that the population declined last year by a record 244,000 people-roughly the population of the London borough of Hackney.

Japan’s population began falling in 2004 and is now ageing faster than any other on the planet. More than 22% of Japanese are already 65 or older. A report compiled with the government’s co-operation two years ago warned that by 2060 the number of Japanese will have fallen from 127m to about 87m, of whom almost 40% will be 65 or older.

The government is pointedly not denying newspaper reports that ran earlier this month, claiming that it is considering a solution it has so far shunned: mass immigration. The reports say the figure being mooted is 200,000 foreigners a year. An advisory body to Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, said opening the immigration drawbridge to that number would help stabilise Japan’s population-at around 100m (from its current 126.7m).

The American Dream turns into a Global Nightmare

April 21st, 2014 | Add a Comment

The American Dream turns into a Global Nightmare

Commentary: 3 delusions that will backfire on us, self-destruct civilization
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (MarketWatch) – The American Dream? Now a Global Nightmare? A ticking time bomb, a lethal virus spreading worldwide, could destroy the entire world, backfire, take down America and capitalism? Yes.

But, first, a little history: Five years ago Bill Gates and his Billionaires Club asked that question. But gave up. Here’s why.

Gates’ billionaires essentially asked: What do you think is the single, biggest ticking time bomb that will eventually take down global economies? The absolutely biggest one with a trigger mechanism that can ignite, set off a nuclear chain reaction that will throw a permanent wrench in global economic growth, ending capitalism, potentially destroying modern civilization as we know it.

Iran considers ban on vasectomies in drive to boost birthrate

April 16th, 2014 | Add a Comment

Iran considers ban on vasectomies in drive to boost birthrate
Supreme leader sees family planning policy as an imitation of western lifestyle and aims to double Iran’s population

See: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/15/iran-ban-vasectomies-birthrate

Iran’s parliament is seeking a ban on vasectomies and a tightening of abortion rules as the country moves away from its progressive laws on family planning in an attempt to increase the birthrate.

Two decades after Iran initiated an effective birth control programme, including subsidised male sterilisation surgeries and free condom distribution, the country is to make a U-turn.

Last year the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, criticised existing policy on contraception, describing it as an imitation of western lifestyle.

The 74-year-old has urged the government to tackle what he believes to be an ageing population and to double the number of people in Iran from 77 million to at least 150 million.

This week Tehran’s conservative-dominated parliament, the Majlis, voted to discuss banning vasectomies and introducing punishments for those involved in encouraging contraceptive services and abortions, local agencies reported.

See: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/15/iran-ban-vasectomies-birthrate