Sunday, January 25, 2009

Obama Turfs Out Gag rule

Great news from the White House. Within days of taking office, President Obama repealed the Global Gag Rule, also known as the Mexico City policy— named for the city in which the Reagan Administration first announced it at the 1984 United Nations International Conference on Population.

This rule prohibited foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from receiving U.S. funds if they provided abortions or even lobbied for abortion rights in their own countries. It went further and even denied foreign aid to NGOs who helped provide contraceptives and other much-needed family-planning services. At least 16 developing nations in Africa, Asia and the Middle East have been affected.

Thank goodness for the new broom sweeping out old dirt. The Gag Rule flew in the face of logic and reason. Instead of helping developing nations, where over 90% of future global population growth will take place, it made poor nations poorer, increased the stress on global resources such as food, water and oil, ratcheted up enmity toward the United States and fostered terrorism.

Well done President Obama!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Nay-Sayers and Population

Fact: a smoothly-oiled, well-funded propaganda steamroller, which is sponsored by big oil, coal and other vested interests, continues to obfuscate, delay and deny global warming.
Fact: the conservative right believes that environmentalists are pinkos, a menace to society.
Fact: this same crowd also is dead against curbing population growth. The world, they believe, can support billions more people.

To support these beliefs, they often turn to Bjorn Lomborg the Dane who, using a tidal wave of statistics, professes that all is sunshine and roses, that the world is only getting better and better.

Wrong! I remember the long hot summer days of my youth in Niagara. My buddies and I would often bicycle to the lake, sweating past miles of orchards with trees hanging heavy with cherries, peaches, and plums. Our reward was a golden beach and sparkling clean water, where we swam for hours. Or we would lie on the beach, soaking up the sun and listening to the rhythm of waves lapping against the sandy shore.

These days kids don’t spend time at the lake anymore. The bicycle ride is a long stretch of simmering, car-clogged pavement lined with rows of uninspiring suburban homes. The water is polluted from a nearby sewage treatment plant with frequent beach closures. Furthermore, the summers are marred by periods of dense, humid, lung-damaging smog when the health department issues warnings to stay indoors.

Fact: the environment of Niagara has deteriorated; my children cannot enjoy the simple pleasures of my youth. And the cause? It’s very simple, undeniable, so straight-forward: too many people!

Yes Bjorn, there is prosperity in this land; we inhabitants live well, too well in fact. But the environment is wilting and the cause is too many people. Let’s wake up and address this issue.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Frightened? Why?

I’m confused. For a recent article I interviewed two environmental experts, William Rees and David Suzuki. “The era of exuberant consumption is over,” said Rees pointing out that the human ecofootprint is 30-40% larger than what the planet can support. Both Suzuki and Rees feel North Americans need to reduce their environmental footprint by 80%. That’s a deep cut that can’t be achieved without also decreasing population growth.

Here are two typical responses I received from readers:
“It almost sounds as if Rees is advocating a form of genocide.”“The recommended solutions frighten me.”

I lie awake at night trying to understand what frightens these people. Are they worried about giving up the good life and having to be more frugal? Do they come from large families and feel they and their children should have the same right? Have they been brainwashed by the conservative right’s propaganda that global warming and the environmental movement are a fraud? Do they really think that Gestapo methods would be used? (Although the security measures implemented since 9/11 are worrisome.) Is it a religious thing, a worry that abortion would be involved? Or is it a fear of change, a disruption to the comfortable status quo?

I simply don’t understand. Can’t these people see that human population has surpassed the world’s ability to provide resources? We need to seek solutions … and none of them require draconian measures. Population can be restrained by totally volunteer and humane means. The most important step is to encourage couples to have no more than two children. This can be achieved through education, improved family planning and tax incentives/disincentives.

In third world countries, where the large majority of future population growth will occur, the same methods will be effective. But it needs help, encouragement and foreign aid from developed nations.

I’m still confused, but hopeful that by working together we can chase away these mythical monsters.