Living

Published on June 20th, 2008 | by carolinesavery

12

When Sex Isn’t Sexy… Environmental Implications of Another Baby Boom

Birth control methods. There are many, but the two most common forms are the condom and the hormonal pill. Can these products be manufactured sustainably?

If not… who cares?

There is something I would like to add to list of “things I would never give up, even if sustainable solutions are never found.”

The first thing I mentioned in my second post with Sustainablog.  In “An Evil Kind of Green,” I concede the importance of Western medicine after the immediate relief it gives me from a severe poison ivy rash.

The second is along the same lines…

Based on my grasp of the environmental situation we face right now, it matters little if birth control pills cannot be manufactured in a sustainable way, or if some excess estrogens may be leaked into waterways as a result. The number one factor that needs to be brought under control as soon as possible is… just how many of us there are around.

Since 1960, the human population of the planet Earth has more than doubled. Even considering aggressive campaigns to promote birth control, the population is expected to climb to 9 billion by 2042, as estimated by the UN. It could be less, but… it could also be much, much more.

In my research to determine which choices are the most effective for an individual to reach environmental sustainability for him or herself, it becomes evident that the number one thing on the top of the list is:

1. Have fewer babies (or none at all).

The impact this has is so significant, that #2 and the following numbers are dwarfed by it.

There are plenty of people to go around.  An excerpt from Robert Engelman’s book, More: Population, Nature, and What Women Want suggests that environmental sustainability would be the natural result if women everywhere were allowed the right to determine their reproductive choices.  To summarize, “Women don’t want more children.  They want more for their children.”  

It is crucial that we all achieve maximum levels of education and work together to address our planet-wide debacle with our full agency, creativity and abilities. Surely, those of us who are parents will agree, we want to see our children excel and fulfill their potential in life. To do so is indeed essential to the survival and advancement of us all!

However, this sentiment need not be addressed to only our own kin. Advocating and acting for education opportunities for all of the children (and adults!) of the world is a definite way to contribute toward improving the global situation. Additionally, there is plenty we can do–and to a more significant impact–if we focus our efforts on eliminating the production of plastics that imitate estrogens when they break down and enter our biological pathways.

Thus, I am willing to trade off on this matter. Birth control, in its various manifestations, still has some issues in terms of environmental viability. But what has even worse implications… is what we’d do without it.

For more information:

One company is taking the initiative to produce environmentally-friendly condoms: http://environment.about.com/od/biodiversityconservation/a/condoms_forest.htm

Interesting Point – Counterpoint on whether condoms are a boon or a bane to overall environmental health: http://www.ecogeek.org/content/view/342/  http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/3937/

Great blog on: Why are we over-packaging birth control?  http://michellemckay.typepad.com/sustainablelife/2007/10/overpacking-bir.html



Tags: , , ,


About the Author



  • http://eatdrinkbetter.com Sharon

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention what I consider to be the greenest form of birth control: vasectomies. My husband had one last year and I do think about the environmental impact. We’re 99% sure we don’t want kids, but if we ever do change our minds, we can adopt. It’s something I really wish more people would consider.

  • http://www.ecochick.ca zchamu

    I’m not convinced anymore that the excess estrogen in waterways is due to artificial hormones like BCPs. I’ve seen lots of articles recently that discuss the runoff from common plastics that are causing issues – check here:

    http://discovermagazine.com/2008/may/18-the-dirty-truth-about-plastic/?searchterm=jill%20neimark

  • Kendra Holliday

    I just heard about this book by Pett Corby
    http://www.myspace.com/pettcorby

    How to Avoid Unplanned Pregnancy Every Time You Have Sex – WITHOUT Using Contraceptive Drugs

    I’m definitely curious about checking it out – I went off the pill last year and don’t want to go back on it.

    I wish they had Vasectomy Days like they do Spay Days at the Humane Society! HA.

  • http://iemergent.blogspot.com/ Ck

    I don’t quite agree that what should be on the top of the list is “Have fewer babies (or none at all).” More important than the issue of how many humans there are on this planet is the issue of how those humans live. Humanity is becoming increasingly urban. Half the world’s population will live in urban areas by the end of this year and about 70 percent will be city dwellers by 2050. Cities are far more environmentally sound than living in the countryside or the suburbs. As this trend is likely to continue, the 9 billion will not be spread over the area that you imagine today but will be more densely packed in cities. I believe the real concern will not be that there are too many people but how cities will impact the surrounding countryside.

  • http://www.theokobox.com leslie @ the oko box

    I am in total agreement about putting a cap on the population, and if that means putting a cap on *you know* to prevent it, I am all for it. Interestingly enough there’s a company that now makes Fair Trade condoms (slightly more in the sustainable direction). I tried to carry them at my organic clothing store, but quickly found out the the USA won’t allow them in to sell because our FDA didn’t approve them, and would charge the eurpean company such insane amounts of money for many years they can’t afford it. They are however 100% up to european standards (of England).
    I know many people are super offended by the advice to not have alot of kids (or any), i think their anger is somewhat biologically driven. I have decided to not have biological children, and would LOVE it if vasectomies were totally more accessable to men all over. Sharon (above) is sooooooo lucky!!!!

  • JC

    Caroline – For personally more sustainable birth control solution, you should consider an IUD – the copper T lasts 10 years or more and it’s better for your body – no hormones. And hypothetically, I’m sure the copper can be recycled after you’re done with it.

  • http://blogversary.blogspot.com blogversary

    I am not quite on board with the immediate need to control the number of babies born. The earth is beautiful, but so are humans. And, I think we need to focus on simply caring for environment without a do or die outlook.

  • http://dinahproject.com greendinah

    Its true that population growth is a huge environmental worry, but pro-environmental people can do more good than damage by behaving responsibly and spreading awareness and education. Lets not have the greenies being the only ones tieing their tubes!

    There is a whole world of information on the partnering of environmentalism and healthy sexuality. See: http://www.dinahproject.com/articles_view_details.asp?id=180

  • http:www.yahoo.com Bobby B.

    You guys have been terrified of overpopulation for 40 years now:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Population_Bomb

    That’s longer than the Cold War (a real global threat) lasted. It should be obvious by now that there are more pressing matters about which to worry. Besides, people who want children probably don’t stop to consider the environmental impact of their decision, and probably aren’t listening to such arguments.

    Isn’t it past time for the “environmentalists” to drop this plank from their political platform?

  • pricklypear

    Well, I’m more of an “everything in balance” person. Unfortunately, I think population issues will work themselves out. And not in a pretty way.

    But regarding estrogens and bcp’s… you are taking a very narrow view of the whole impact they have. Before you dismiss the estrogens contained in them as an acceptable tradeoff – and the impact they have on the person using them, and the water/food supply I suggest you do a bit more research and then use your common sense.

    Bcp’s aren’t all good, aren’t all bad. Everything has a tradeoff. I would argue that better forms of birth control CAN be invented. Whether they will or not… who knows…

    Bcp’s are one type of estrogen contributor… I don’t have the numbers, but given how many women use them they’re probably a decent sized chunk of those unwanted estrogens in our water supplies. Plastics are too (which is why I avoid them every chance I get). So are plants (lavender, tea tree oil). So is meat (by way of what the meat eats).

    Estrogens in excess can do nasty, nasty things to the human body. If I knew then (the years I used them) what I know now… I doubt I would have used them. Not because bcp’s are “evil” or the “worst estrogen” but because it was something that was in my power to change. I can’t go to every feed lot and screen feed, I can’t avoid all plastics. But I COULD HAVE NOT taken those pills.

    I am now post-bcp’s. Husband had a vasectomy.

  • http://www.beanstockd.com Jen

    Interesting, definitely something to think about while birth control is becoming increasingly common among young women. Awesome site you have here, we reference it often for our blog. Keep up the great work!

  • Pingback: 5 Steps to a Greener Wiener (err…love life) : Planetsave()

Back to Top ↑