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The Reporter February 2009 VOL. 41, ISSUE 1

Worlds Apart: A Tale of Two Mayan Villages



from the president

What were we thinking?

tion growth so people can afford to

We need to persuade our leaders to

It’s a common lament these days.

retire? “Oh, and how will the next

fund programs that provide all women

What with collapsed stock markets,

generation afford retirement?” “That’s

with unfettered access to affordable

tanking real estate values, and multi-

easy. More people.” “And how will

contraception. It may not solve the

billion dollar Ponzi schemes, it’s easy in

that next generation. . .” OK, you get

entire problem. But it would put us

hindsight to see the folly that led to

the idea. It’s a scam, plain and simple.

the fall. So, what have we learned? Not much, I fear. We humans seem to have an uncan-

From Dutch tulips to dizzyingly complex derivatives, “too good to be true” always seems to be the next big thing. Tom Friedman’s 2005 book, The

light years ahead of where we are today. And, now, at last we have a President and a Congress that can take action to move us in the right direc-

ny ability to ignore the obvious. Like

World is Flat, unwittingly showed how

tion. They need our strongest encour-

Wile E. Coyote, we accelerate off the

even smart people can get it wrong.


edge of the cliff, expecting thin air to

Friedman wasn’t channeling Sarah

The good news is that there are

provide sound footing. It doesn’t.

Palin with that title. In his exuberant

about 150,000 Americans who are

Down we plummet.

way, he was making the case about

willing to help. They are the members,

how closely connected we all are in

supporters, and participating educators

to Growth had a word for it back then:

this modern wired world. But

who form the basis of Population


Friedman’s globe-trekking mostly

Connection. The time is right—and

brings him into contact with his fellow

long overdue.

The prescient authors of The Limits

Nowhere is this more obvious and more ignored than with population

techno-elites. He lives—as do about


one billion of us—on a high, prosper-

It took 100,000 generations, give or

ous plateau.

_____________________________ I want to make special note of the

take, for human population to reach

But peer over the edge, and you’ll

one billion. Now we add that—and

find half the world living in a valley of

Booth Lambert, of Fresno, CA, who

more—in less than one generation.

misery. One billion live on less than

died on November 7, 2008 at age 91.

passing of a longtime member, Robert

But, no worries, eh?

one dollar a day. More than 2.5 billion

We were especially honored to learn

What could possibly go wrong?

lack access to modern sanitation. And

that Mr. Lambert’s family requested

Markets go up. Real estate values

the failure to address population

that, in lieu of flowers, donations be

increase. The “Big Three” U.S.

growth only adds to this misery.

made to Population Connection. An

automakers are as solid as a rock. And

When Friedman’s newest book, Hot,

there’s always room for more people.

Flat and Crowded, came out, the title

Until, there isn’t.

avid traveler and hiker, he volunteered in Nicaragua and Guatemala in family

suggested that he’d address the popu-

planning clinics along with his wife,

As for Ponzi schemes, news reports

lation challenge. He did not, as Stacie

Lexey and their son, Bob.

claim that the one allegedly perpetrat-

Murphy’s review on page 7 points out.

ed by Bernard L. Madoff is the biggest

Instead, Friedman relied, as always, on

ever. Not even close. Population

the magic elixir of technology.

growth remains king of the hill when it

The overwhelming evidence suggests

comes to the fraud named after one

that technology alone will not save us

Charles Ponzi.

from our own unwillingness to con-

How many times have we heard the same old song that we need popula-

front the unspoken fact of global population growth, past and present.

John Seager

Volume 41, Issue 1 February 2009 Cover: An Indigenous woman demonstrates how to carry a baby in traditional Mayan fashion. Photo: Marian Starkey

Pg. 7 Hot, Flat, and...? By Stacie Murphy

Pg. 8 Under the Mayan Sun: Family Planning in Two Yucatán Peninsula Communities

Pg. 15 Shrinking Generations: A Guatemalan Family History

Pg. 16 Ghana’s Predicament: Rapid Growth, Slow Progress

By Maria Orozco-

By Marian Starkey

By Marian Starkey


Pg. 21 Hope for a Heated Planet By Bob Musil





18 Washington View


In the News

20 Field & Outreach


Editor’s Note

22 Pop. Ed.

24 Remark

Printed on recycled paper

A charcoal vendor waits for customers in the ‘Lasaline’ slum of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Haitians cut trees to make charcoal for fuel, causing the deforestation of Haiti. Photo: THONY BELIZAIRE/AFP/Getty Images

The United States Agency for International Development estimates that only 1.5% of Haiti is still forested, compared to 60% in 1923 and 28% in the neighboring Dominican Republic today. Approximately 30 million trees are cut down annually in Haiti. Miami Herald


The Reporter — February 2009

The use of modern contraception among married women in Rwanda has risen from 10% in 2005 to 27% in 2008. Africa's most densely populated country has seen fertility decline from 6.1 children per woman in 2005 to 5.5 chilThe New Times (Kigali) dren per woman in 2008.

Above: Constituting 70% of the population, women in Rwanda are very often the breadwinners. Photo: David M. MĂŠthot/Rowena Hopkins, Courtesy of Photoshare. Right: A young Rwandan mother and her child. Photo: Eileen Dietrich, Courtesy of Photoshare


Yet another study has found that "virginity pledges" are ineffective. A Johns Hopkins researcher reports this month in the medical journal Pediatrics that students who take these pledges are just as likely to have sex as peers who do not pledge. Troublingly, the study also indicates that teens who pledged are less likely to use condoms or other forms of birth control during sexual activity. MSNBC

February 2009 — The Reporter


In the News Vietnam Two-Child Policy

by 2012 and 2.1 by 2020. They will attempt

On the heels of five years of successful vol-

to achieve this drastic reduction through a

untary family planning, the UN Population

new communications strategy, launched

Managing Editor Marian Starkey

Fund is concerned about Vietnam’s recent

with the support of Princess Basma in

decision to renew the nation’s two-child


Contributors Brian Dixon, Rebecca Harrington, Michelle McKenzie, Stacie Murphy, Robert Musil, Maria Orozco-Marquez, John Seager, Marian Starkey

policy. Given that the country’s fertility rate

Volume 41, Issue 1 February 2009

The Reproductive Health Action Plan

is already below replacement, the reinstated

strives to meet the UN Millennium

policy is unnecessary and potentially harm-

Development Goals and the country’s own

ful. The policy is in response to the 10%

socio-economic goals. Jordan is a country

Graphic Artist Marian Starkey

increase in births last year, due to the large

with few natural resources and a population

proportion of the population under 35 years

growing by 3.6% per year, in part due to

Population Connection

old starting their families.

the influx of Iraqi immigrants. Infrastructure

Overpopulation threatens the quality of life for people everywhere. Population Connection is the national grassroots population organization that educates young people and advocates progressive action to stabilize world population at a level that can be sustained by Earth’s resources. The Reporter (ISSN 0199-0071) Population Connection 2120 L Street, NW, Suite 500 Washington, DC 20037 Phone: 202-332-2200 or 1-800-767-1956 Fax: 202-332-2302

Ultrasounds and widespread abortions are already used to ensure that couples have at

Board Chair Patricia Burke President John Seager

Bushra Jabre, senior communications

least one boy, skewing the sex ratio. The

adviser at the Bloomberg School of Public

current ratio at birth is 112 boys to every

Health at Johns Hopkins University, encour-

100 girls.

aged the Jordanian media to help sensitize

The two-child policy was first introduced in the 1960s and punished parents of more than two children through work-related penalties, including cuts in salary.

the population to the concepts of family planning and smaller families. Raeda al Qutob, Secretary General of the Higher Population Council, warned that if

There will be exemptions for couples that

things don’t change, “Resources will not be

are members of minority groups, have a dis-

enough, and we will miss the demographic

abled child, or remarry.

window of opportunity, which comes once in a lifetime in any society.”

Email: Website:

is struggling to keep up.

Jordan Ups the Ante The Jordanian Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation and USAID launched the 2008-2012 Reproductive Health Action Plan in November. The new program includes a robust public awareness campaign, the continued training of health

Officials agree that better counseling must be offered, as the main cause of contraceptive discontinuation is lack of understanding of how the methods work and which side effects to expect. Forty percent of women in Jordan discontinue use within a year and 30% end up having an unplanned pregnancy.

practitioners, the targeting of young couples who have the highest fertility rate, and increasing affordable access to services. The fertility rate and the percentage of


The Reporter — February 2009

Marie Stopes Blacklisted USAID Assistant Administrator for Global

women using contraceptives have stagnated

Health, Kent Hill, issued an order in October

in the past three years, at 3.6 and 42%,

to several African governments to discontin-

respectively. The Higher Population Council

ue the provision of USAID-donated contra-

hopes to bring the fertility rate down to 3.1

ceptives to Marie Stopes International (MSI).

MSI is a reproductive health NGO that works in 43 countries around the world. Marie Stopes has had a project in China

To address this fact, the first American Samoa Population Summit was held in late September 2008. The Governor’s Coral Reef

since 1998, which offers gender-sensitive,

Advisory Group (CRAG) calls population

voluntary family planning. The project is a

pressure the single greatest threat to

partnership with the UN Population Fund,

American Samoa’s environment and seeks

the National Population and Family Planning

to find appropriate measures to combat its

Commission, and the Ministry of Health. It

rapid growth.

is this work in China that subjects MSI to

Due to a high fertility rate of approxi-

the Kemp-Kasten Amendment, which pro-

mately 4 children per woman and a high

hibits U.S. money from funding organiza-

rate of inmigration, the American Samoan

tions that support coercive abortion or

population has grown to 69,000 from about

forced sterilization. MSI does neither.

32,000 in 1980. Forty percent of the current

MSI CEO, Dana Hovig, expects work to

population is under the age of 15, meaning

be disrupted in at least six African countries,

that much future growth will be due to

including one in which MSI provides 25%

population momentum—the built-in growth

of all family planning services. Removing

that comes from having a young population

family planning from these communities will

that has yet to reach their reproductive

likely result in an increase in unsafe abor-


tions, as women will be left with fewer options for limiting their fertility. “At a time when world governments have

The product of the Summit was the “Population Declaration to the People and Leaders of American Samoa,” which was

pledged to increase their commitment to

submitted to Governor Togiola Tulafono.

improving the health of women, only the

The Declaration recommends the establish-

Bush Administration could find logic in the

ment of a Population Pressure Commission

idea that they can somehow reduce abor-

and a number of issue-specific policies.

tion and promote choice for women in China by causing more abortion and gutting choice for women in Africa,” said Hovig.

Uruguay Keeps Ban on

“This senseless decision is likely to have only


one clear consequence: the death of African

Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez

women and girls. And the Bush

vetoed a bill decriminalizing abortion,

Administration should answer for that.”

passed by Congress in November. As a result of the ensuing tension between

American Samoa Summit In this island territory of the United States, population growth is a real and imminent concern. With only 30% of the land on the main island of Tutuila habitable, there is not much room for expansion.

Vazquez and members of the Socialist Party who supported the bill, he announced his decision to leave the party in December, just before it was set to introduce its candidate for the 2009 presidential election. A recent poll showed 57% of Uruguayans support access to abortion while 42% oppose it. February 2009 — The Reporter


editor’s note

he timing of this issue is a little bit quirky. The fin-

This issue of the magazine focuses on one of the coun-

ished magazine was due at the printer exactly one

tries that needs our funding the most: Guatemala. With the

week before inauguration, so for that, you are one

highest fertility and lowest social and economic indicators in

historic event wiser than I am, writing to you now.

Central America, Guatemala needs a doubling of family


Barack Obama has promised change in Washington,

planning funding now. The government and one non-profit

which will mean change for the entire world. We in the

already have programs that are culturally appropriate and

reproductive health community have great expectations for

quite effective in the regions that have easy access to clinics.

him, as he has consistently backed women’s right to decide

Increased funding will allow these programs to expand to

for themselves the number and spacing of their children

the rural regions that are falling behind, where fertility is

throughout his political career.


By the time you read this, he may have reversed two of

There are a lot of reasons for residents of Guatemala to

George Bush’s most appalling actions, the Global Gag Rule

stay in their home country, but work opportunity is not one

and the withholding of funding from the United Nations

of them. As a result of negative economic growth (partially

Population Fund. We had an opinion piece printed on the

due to the fast rate of population growth), almost 10% of

subject in December, which you can read in the Washington

the population lives abroad, mostly in the United States (1.6

View column of this issue. Ironically, the newspaper in

million people, 60% of whom are here illegally). They send

Vacaville, CA that printed it is also called The Reporter.

home over $3 billion in remittances every year, which equals

The family planning programs of the twentieth century

about 10% of their country’s GDP. One in three

had much success reducing fertility rates and with them,

Guatemalan households receives money from a family

infant and maternal mortality rates. As a result of this suc-

member working abroad. Most of these expatriates are

cess, population projections have been revised over the

young, uneducated men, earning low wages for construc-

years. Looking at them year-to-year can make you seasick.

tion work.

Both positive and negative trends can be observed when you take a step back. In 1991, the Population Reference Bureau projected that

With the right policies and adequate funding, Guatemalan men will be able to stay home with their families and earn a decent living, providing for fewer children. We can enable

in 2025 there would be 8.65 billion people on earth. A little

them to do this. There is one simple solution to the over-

more than a decade later, the same demographers cut their

population problem and all it requires from us is a fair finan-

projection by a stunning 80 million—an indicator of real

cial contribution. Family planning is an investment in the

progress. Tragically, the policies of the last eight years cou-

future that tackles all sorts of global problems. And family

pled with the global trend of reduced funding for family

planning works when women have the access they need.

planning have caused demographers to raise their projection

Why should we stand in their way?

for 2025 by 20 million people. President Obama has the opportunity to get those projection figures trending downward again like they were doing during the well-funded years of the Clinton Administration. Once the UN Population Fund has an adequate operating budget and the Global Gag Rule no longer prevents effective organizations like Planned Parenthood and Marie Stopes from doing their work, millions of women around


the world will again see services they’ve missed for the past

Marian Starkey

eight years.

The Reporter — February 2009

Hot, Flat, and...? Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2008. Pp 448. US$ 27.95. ISBN 978-0-374-16685-4

By Stacie Murphy

n his new book, Tom Friedman starts a


very important conversation—but not

the one the population world has been waiting for.

He describes Hot, Flat, and Crowded as a

book about America, masquerading as a book about the environment. His central premise is that America has lost its way in the last decade, and he argues that within the coming environmental crisis—brought about by the global rise in temperatures, consumption, and yes, population—there

do from here on in, it is likely that the Earth

lies an opportunity for the U.S. to both

is going to get warmer. The only remaining

reclaim its former stature and to forge a way

questions are those of scale and response.

for humanity to survive in a new, more challenging world. The book contains interesting and insight-

“Flat” is a little more complicated. Friedman uses the term in his earlier book, The World is Flat, to describe a world in

ful discussions of energy politics, the impor-

which broader access to technology has led

tance of new technology, and the immense

to less stratification. But the description is

potential of smart (Friedman hates the word

not entirely accurate. The world, in terms of

“green”) economic development. But on the

resource consumption and standard of liv-

subject of population growth he is frustrat-

ing, is actually more like a plateau—with a

ingly silent.

few people living on top and masses gath-

Friedman accepts, seemingly without

ered below. Flattening the world means

question, the UN’s projection of 9 billion

finding a way to promote a more equitable

humans by 2050, perhaps not realizing that

distribution of wealth. But that will

that projection assumes that fertility rates

inevitably mean greater consumption and

will continue to fall—an unwarranted

greater strain on our climate and

assumption, at best. He never examines the

resources—unless we seriously confront both

extent to which rapid population growth

outsized consumption and rapid population

makes solving the other problems harder.


And he never suggests that there might be a

In essence, Friedman’s book is all about

way to avoid that one part of the crisis alto-

what we need to do to react to situations

gether. It’s too bad, really. Because of the

we cannot change. Viewed through that

three descriptions of our future world he

lens, it may well be a useful prescription. It is

uses, “crowded” is the one we have the

certainly a worthwhile read for those inter-

best hope of changing.

ested in the potential for a true “green revo-

It appears that “hot” may be here to stay.

lution” in the U.S. But although it is a fine

Evidence suggests that with regard to global

and interesting book on many levels, when

climate change, we may have already

it comes to population, Hot, Flat, and

passed a tipping point. No matter what we

Crowded is just one more missed opportunity.

“He never examines the extent to which rapid population growth makes solving the other problems harder. And he never suggests that there might be a way to avoid that one part of the crisis altogether. It’s too bad, really. Because of the three descriptions of our future world he uses, “crowded” is the one we have the best hope of changing.”

February 2009 — The Reporter


Under the Mayan Sun: Family Planning in Two Yucatán Peninsula Communities Story and photos by Marian Starkey

Mayans ruled the Yucatán Peninsula from 1500 BC until 900 AD. Ruins, buried under thick vegetation in the jungle, number in the thousands. Most have likely not yet been discovered by contemporary explorers. Stone temples built at right angles protrude from rainforest canopies like the tips of icebergs, their bulk concealed under dense foliage. Howler and spider monkeys have made these wonders home—they screech at the visitors below vying for the perfect photo of the new, furry rulers of the kingdom. The collapse of one of history’s great civilizations was brought about in part, some theorize, by an overshoot of the region’s carrying capacity, which led to war and starvation. It took 600 years for the forest to return to its original old growth glory. Now it’s being denuded again by people spreading out from established population centers. Here are the stories of two countries in the same small region, descended from the same people, with two very different trajectories. With substantial help from the United States and other donors, Mexico has harnessed its reproductive health programs, while financially poor Guatemala is mired in poverty and high fertility. unta Allen is the hottest, most humid place I’ve


ever been. There is no air conditioning here; the town generator supplies power to the fans. It

only runs ten hours a day, broken up into two

chunks during the hottest four hours at midday

and the six hours between dinner and bedtime—TV time. The town is quiet and languorous while it’s light outside and comes alive at night, once the oppressive sun sets. Men play soccer in the town square and kids run around the adjacent playground, singing songs and laughing. Despite the heat and the lack of creature comforts, life here is good. The drive to Punta Allen on the east coast of Mexico’s part of the Yucatán Peninsula takes visitors down an even smaller peninsula, along a rugged and extremely potholed dirt road. Branches from palm and magnolia trees extend across the single lane pass, scraping the sides of vehicles like impeding fingernails. Avoiding cars traveling in the opposite direction requires one party to pull off into the thicket, causing large blue crabs to scuttle down deep holes in the sand. 8

The Reporter — February 2009

After one of the many daily rains, the road becomes nearly

a running tally, which single-handedly told the story of the

impassable due to the pools of water collected in the pot-

town’s low fertility rate. There were few tally marks next to


each childhood age group and many marks next to groups

This inaccessibility is part of what keeps the town so

of working age. Elderly age groups were poorly represented,

small. A lobstering community with a full time population of

with fewer than ten people over sixty. Dr. Elian explained

349, Punta Allen sits within the Sian Ka’an Biosphere

that when men and women grow too old to work in the

Reserve. It is one of the only communities within the 1.3

lobster industry they take their earnings and retire else-

million acre protected area, created in 1986. New construc-

where. Given the town’s population and the number of

tion is explicitly banned so Punta Allen’s footprint of eight

babies born in the past year (six), the crude birth rate (births

blocks by four blocks is fixed. Parents partition their proper-

per thousand residents) is 17, compared with the United

ties to accommodate offspring who stay in town to work in

States rate of 14. If the population were more representative

the lobster industry, but a small lot can only be split so

of all age groups, the birth rate would be even lower.

many times. Despite Punta Allen’s small size and secluded location, it is

All services and medicines at the Unidad de Salud are free, including family planning. The clinic has an adequate selec-

not as insular as one might expect. Because of the relatively

tion of methods, including different types of pills, Depo

high incomes of the lobstermen and women, many residents

Provera, and IUDs. Quite recently, according to a fascinating

have second homes in the cities of Mérida, Tulum, and

paperi by Professor David Carr of UC Santa Barbara, every single woman in town was using

The beach in Punta Allen is a working one, with fishing and lobster boats replacing the sunbathers of other Mayan Riviera towns. Nurse Leticia and Dr. Elian proudly display their full stock of contraceptives at the Punta Allen clinic. During the rainy season, dirt roads are covered in puddles, some deep, which can make travel by car very difficult.

some method of modern contraception supplied by the center. Carr’s research in Punta Allen was exhaustive. He concluded that the fertility rate was below replacement level and that the motivation for

Playa del Carmen. Here they are in contact with internation-

small families was largely due to the campos. These cooper-

al tourists and urban Mexicans—people who typically have

atives proscribe residents from drawing an unsustainable

small families and a more progressive attitude toward family

amount of lobster from the sea. For each person’s catch to


equate to sufficient income, the population of lobsterers

Mexico graduated from the USAID family planning pro-

could not increase. The president of the campos told Carr,

gram in 1999. The Ministry of Health now runs the program

“Twenty years ago we didn’t have so many people here.

independently and has contributed to a continued lowering

Couples had four kids or more, and that was O.K. But the

of the fertility rate, which was 5.25 when the program start-

lobster population goes up and down unpredictably. We

ed in 1977, to 2.21 today. Thoraya Obaid, Executive

have enough people here now, and I think of course people

Director of UNFPA, said in 2004 that Mexico’s population

should limit the number of children they have. I think they

would have grown to 170 million, instead of just over 100

should stop at two.”

million, if not for family planning campaigns launched by the government 30 years earlier. Punta Allen has a health center with one doctor and one nurse. Dr. Elian, a handsome man wearing a jovial grin,

Once family planning was established as the norm, couples began to take more pride in the source of their contraceptives, choosing to travel an hour and a half to Tulum and pay a private gynecologist rather than receive free services a

greeted me warmly in jeans and flip-flops when I arrived at

short walk from their homes. Dr. Elian believes that women

the clinic for an unscheduled interview. I took off my sandy

feel prouder of their practice of family planning when they

shoes outside the door the way the patients in the waiting

pay a private gynecologist for packets of pills that display

room had done and followed him into the clean but stark

their names on the prescription labels. This development

examination room. He showed me the 2007 census, literally

echoes the philosophy behind social marketing, a method of

February 2009 — The Reporter


behavior change that plays to people’s pride to create social good. During the five days that I was in Punta Allen I saw only one infant. When I noticed children, they were usually in uniforms, walking with purpose to or from school. I never saw children of school age in the middle of the day. Dr. Elian confirmed that all children attend school in Punta Allen. Put simply by one cooperative member who spoke with Professor Carr, “Having fewer means giving them more. Twenty pesos for two is ten pesos each; but for four, it is five.” fter flying for two hours in a noisy puddle-jumper


from Cancún, I was the only passenger to deplane

at Mundo Maya International Airport in Petén, in

Guatemala’s portion of the Yucatán Peninsula. The other three travelers remained on board to continue on to Guatemala City. An airport worker retrieved my bag from the cargo hold and passed it to me through an open window while I had my passport stamped at immigration. Minutes later, I was at my hotel on the tiny colonial island of Flores—a colorful travelers’ oasis with Internet cafes and restaurants selling cheap drinks and guacamole. Across the bridge in Santa Elena and San Benito life is much harder. Tourists are fewer and farther between. The last agricultural frontier of Guatemala, Petén is the largest of 22 national regions or Departamentos. Petén has

rich in natural resources. The remaining third was due to

grown from 21,000 inhabitants in 1960 to more than

extremely high fertility.

600,000 today, reaching a growth rate of 10% per year in

Only later, in 1989, once communities were established

the 1990s. Approximately two-thirds of that growth was

and half of Petén’s forests were bare did certain areas within

due to the influx of domestic immigrants who fled violence

the region become protected, relegating dwellers to illegal

from a bloody civil war. They responded to the govern-

squatters. A relocation effort was successful in moving only

ment’s call for people to take advantage of the region so

10% of those inhabitants outside the new Mayan Biosphere Reserve, so the vast majority remains and is impossibly difficult to reach with consumer goods, infrastructure, and health services, including family planning. David Carr forecasts that at the current rate of destruction, Petén’s forests will be gone by 2015. The fertility rate in Petén is 5.8, the highest in the country. And Guatemala has the highest fertility rate in Central America, at 4.4 children per woman. There’s a lot of room for progress in those figures. According to the latest (2002) Demographic and Health Survey, women in Petén on average only want 3.8 children, while the youngest say that



The Reporter — February 2009

they only want 2.8 children. Only 20% of women in Petén

are using a modern method of contraception, the largest

his niece. After her last birth, Mirsa traveled 45 minutes to a

component of that being sterilization. Susheela Singh, Vice

town on the border with Belize to obtain sterilization. I

President for Research at the Guttmacher Institute, esti-

assumed that she had her tubes tied because she finally had

mates that 32% of pregnancies in Guatemala are unintend-

the number of children that she desired. When I probed

ed and that one in eight ends in abortion (although no clini-

though, I found that her last pregnancy had been difficult

cian that I spoke with would admit that abortion occurs in

on her health and that having the operation had nothing to

Guatemala). There is an opportunity for the government

do with family size. I pointed to the clinic and asked why

and NGOs to target a younger group of women who have

she had never used the free family planning offered there.

not yet completed their childbearing. While they might not be ready to end their fertility, many of them do want a method that will allow them to start childbearing later and space births farther apart. I visited the small village of La Blanca, about two hours from Flores, with the University of Valencia archaeology team. They come each semester to excavate Mayan ruins found in the jungle outside La Blanca. They teach the local children about their Mayan heritage so that they can eventually become tour guides once the site is open to the public. I attended the one-room schoolhouse for the morning to hear the lesson provided by a member of the archeology

La Blanca Clinic

team. With seventy-two students spanning all grades but concentrated amongst the primary school age group, the schoolhouse feels cramped. Children four years old work next to pre-teens, learning the same material from the single teacher. Most of the girls were dressed in filthy secondhand party frocks. A glance downward revealed that many were barefoot or if they were lucky, wearing muddy flipflops. They were shy at first but by the time I left to visit the rest of the town I had a group of kids standing around me, toeing the dirt, waiting to have their pictures taken. After the morning lesson, my interpreter and I went to the town clinic, run by 23-year-old nurse’s helper, Rosa. The walls were covered in USAID posters depicting emergency situations, most of them pregnancy-related. The clinic is fully stocked with a variety of birth control methods, all of which are free. Still, Rosa said that sometimes as few as five women visit the clinic each month. Upon leaving the clinic, we went next door to the home of a woman named Mirsa. Annie, my interpreter, befriended her during an earlier visit and asked Mirsa to cook lunch for us for a small fee. Mirsa is the mother of eleven children (she had twelve births but one baby died). Her oldest built a small house on her property and has a daughter of her own. Mirsa’s youngest is four years old, only two years older than

Mirsa and her youngest child February 2009 — The Reporter


She shrugged as if to say she had never considered it. Kathryn Grace, also of UC Santa Barbara, recently pub-

International Planned Parenthood Federation and has clinics

lished a working paper for Macro International that ana-

in each of the 22 Departamentos, including Petén. Their

lyzed Guatemalan fertility changes from 1987 to 2002. She

facilities in San Benito are immaculate and quite comprehen-

wrote, “The doubling rate [25 years] places Guatemala

sive, including a special center for teens. When I arrived for

nearer to the population trajectories of much of sub-

my meeting the waiting room was packed with mothers and

Saharan Africa rather than Latin America and with the bulk

babies and even a few men. The clinic dispatches a mobile

of population growth attributable to the poorest half of the

unit to villages across Petén to reach those who cannot trav-

country, already stretched education and health resources

el to the clinic. The retrofitted truck carries a gynecologist, a

will continue straining to meeting the needs of the popula-

general practitioner, two nurses, and the equipment neces-

tion.” She summarized, “High fertility among the marginal-

sary for family planning and sterilization delivery.

ized Guatemalan population portends a cycle of poverty,

Contraceptive users pay a small symbolic fee for supplies

social exclusion, and inequality among the already desti-

and services, in line with the social marketing techniques

tute.” Currently, 56% of the population lives below the

mentioned above.

poverty line and 16% live in extreme poverty. In fact, in all

In recent years, APROFAM has partnered with one of the

of Latin America and the Caribbean, only Haiti scores lower

region’s premier conservation organizations to deliver servic-

on the UN Human Development Index.

es and the message that population is strongly linked to

There are several organizations in Guatemala that are making a difference for thousands of women in Petén.


APROFAM is the Guatemalan member association of the

The Reporter — February 2009

environmental protection and livelihood preservation. ProPetén was created as a subsidiary of Conservation

International in 1992 by the Guatemalan government, in partnership with USAID. The organization became independent in 2002. Liza Grandia, Fulbright scholar and visionary founder of Remedios—the program geared specifically toward population and reproductive health—said when I spoke with her, “There was part of the country that had literally no access to contraceptives of any kind. So there was a real built-up need, which was apparent to anyone in the communities.” Liza held a preliminary family planning information session in one of the villages. More than a third of the couples in town showed up but the doctor did not. Liza gave the talk herself. “People were hungry for that info.” In the mid-1990s Petén only had one gynecologist who offered family planning. The ProPetén Remedios I and Remedios II programs, both funded mainly by USAID,

referring people to services.” In the late 1990s, Liza Grandia was instrumental in the

worked with people living in the protected Mayan Biosphere

establishment of the first APROFAM clinic in Petén. She also

Reserve to educate them about conservation, reproductive

helped found Tan Uxil, a local organization that works with

health, nutrition, and sustainable agriculture. The means of

youth on matters of sexual and reproductive health.

delivery were the Mobile Biosphere—a vehicle equipped

For those who cannot afford APROFAM, there is the

with audiovisual equipment and a team of educators—and a

Centro de Salud and the public hospital. These places are

radio soap opera in which characters encountered situations

less comfortable than APROFAM but provide crucial services

regarding their family size and reproductive health. While

to poor women and couples.

Remedios II and the Mobile Biosphere ended due to funding

When I entered the crowded Centro de Salud in Santa

constraints imposed by the Bush Administration, the soap

Elena, a woman was giving a presentation to the people in

opera continues thanks to support from Boston University.

the waiting room about STIs, using a USAID flip chart with photographs of the symptoms of different infections. When I spoke with her

An APROFAM worker stocks the mobile clinic that will embark on a week-long visit to several remote villages later that day. Two nurses, a general practitioner, and a gynecologist squeeze into the cab of the truck and loudspeakers on the hood announce the purpose of their visit to the villages. Contraceptives are provided at a very low price. Ilda Morales, the family planning practitioner at Santa Elena public hospital.

later she said that any time there are a large number of people in the waiting room they use the opportunity to educate them about STIs, family planning, or other public health concerns. That way, people get the information without having to admit that they’re inter-

In fact, the organization has developed over 180 different

ested in hearing it.

episodes that are delivered in Spanish and two indigenous

The flip chart educator took me next door to visit the teen

languages. Q’eqchi’ is the most prevalent indigenous lan-

center. With a separate entrance, brightly painted walls, and

guage in Petén and having the serials accessible to this seg-

several Internet computers, the teen center was as welcom-

ment of the population is truly groundbreaking. Ericka Moerkerken, former Remedios II coordinator,

ing a space as any I saw in Petén. The highly energetic staff showed me a slideshow of their recent visits to give village

recalled, “It was really a program about informing people,

information sessions. They spoke with pride about their teen

providing accurate information. ProPetén was not a service

training program. Each Friday, the center conducts a training

providing organization so one of the tools that we had was

of a maximum of 30 teens who act as peer educators.

February 2009 — The Reporter


My interpreter and I stood in line in the narrow hallway with dozens of women, many carrying babies, waiting for Indigenous Mayans gather at Tikal National Park on Mayan Independence Day (Columbus Day)

their consultation. The family planning clinic is only open two hours a day so the wait is long. Ilda Morales, the family planning practitioner, agreed to speak with us for a few minutes, despite her tight schedule. Once in her tiny office and sitting across from a plastic penis used for condom demonstration, Ilda showed me the supplies that she has in stock, all free. She said that Depo Provera is the most popular method and that she gives between 100 and 250 injections per month. In fact, I heard from practitioners all over the Yucatán that Depo Provera is most popular because it is private and does not require as much thought as a daily method. However, discontinuation rates are high due to side effects like weight gain and headaches. USAID started the family planning program at the Santa Elena hospital in 1998 but has since ceased funding it, leaving the cash-strapped Guatemalan government to pay for it alone. USAID currently donates $6.3 million to Guatemala each year for family planning programs—millions short of fulfilling unmet need for contraception. As Liza Grandia aptly observed in her interactions with rural families in Petén, “People see children as a cost, not as an extra pair of hands.” Life in some parts of that long-collapsed Mayan empire has been transformed by tourism, television, and other mixed marvels of modernity. But for careworn women in distant villages like La Blanca, daily life with 10, 12, even 14 children, remains an endless cycle of chores. Yet, not so far away, the village of Punta Allen is filled with hope for a sustainable future. A similar story could be written someday (soon) about La Blanca. But it won’t happen without the policies and the funding that can, within a

Sessions usually fill to capacity days in advance. Condoms

single generation, change people’s lives and provide a future

are free at the teen center but to obtain other methods

we can all live with.

teens must go next door to the main clinic. As we entered the large Santa Elena public hospital, we saw a woman who looked like she had been waiting a long time, sitting with her two children. One of them was sleeping on the cold tile floor under her feet. Behind them, I noticed the same USAID posters that I had seen in the La Blanca clinic. We found a very generous hospital employee to give us a tour of the facilities and ultimately bring us to the family planning clinic. 14

The Reporter — February 2009

i Carr, David, “Resource management and fertility in Mexico’s Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve: Campos, cash, and contraception in the lobster-fishing village of Punta Allen,” Population and Environment. 2007 Nov;29(2):83-101

Shrinking Generations: A Guatemalan Family History By Maria Orozco-Marquez, Director of Administration and Membership Services

Maria wit h her husb and and son on a fa mily trip to Niagara Fa lls

rowing up in Guatemala, I never received any sort


of sex education, not at school nor at home. Sex

and family planning are not subjects that are typi-

cally discussed by parents with their children in a Guatemalan household. Unfortunately, sex education in our

culture is taboo. Still, some couples find ways to limit their births... My parents only had two children, my brother and myself. This is a bit surprising since my father comes from a big family—he’s one of 18 children. When I asked my parents why they decided to have only two, my father responded that being from a big family negatively affected his childhood experience. He lost his mother to illness when he was eight years old and his father remarried soon after. He was born on a farm in a remote town on the outskirts of the capital. As a child, he worked in the field helping his

painful for her. My mother saw what poverty can do to a

dad with the cattle and the crops. He was allowed to go to

family and decided that she would have only as many chil-

school only after he was done with his chores. To accommo-

dren as she and her husband could afford.

date both obligations, every morning he got up at 4:00 am

Due to my lack of knowledge about family planning, I

to gather the horses and cows together for breakfast. This

became pregnant when I was seventeen. Because I wanted

could be a long and dangerous task as the farm covered

the best for my son, I chose to have only one child.

several acres of rough terrain on which the animals could

Ironically, teen mothers are treated much differently in terms

roam freely. Once the animals were fed, he pumped water

of obtaining family planning than teens that are not yet par-

from the well to manually water the fruit, vegetable, and

ents, even though they may be the same age.

coffee plants. He returned home around 1:00, ate a quick

I decided long ago that I would talk to my son about sex

lunch, and then rushed to school, a two-mile walking jour-

and family planning, that sex education in my home would

ney. After finishing middle school, he moved out on his own

not be a taboo subject. My son is happy and healthy and

and became a very young adult.

looks forward to a life full of options, thanks in large part to

My father didn’t want his children to endure the same hardships that he experienced as a child, so he kept his family small and allowed us to focus on our educations instead

decisions my parents made about their childbearing many years ago. The story of my parents demonstrates that in just one

of manual labor. As a result, I was the first woman in my

generation major changes can be made in people’s minds

family to earn a college degree.

about what is “normal” in terms of family size. All it takes is

Now, my mother comes from a comparatively small fami-

a little awareness of options outside the big family and the

ly. My great grandmother had seven children, but because

availability of effective contraceptives to help a couple “stop

of deep poverty, only one survived. My grandmother had

at two.”

three children but had to give one up for adoption because she was poor and unwed. Even though my grandmother made the best decision for her son, giving him the opportunity to grow up in a better environment with a family that gave him everything he needed, the decision was very

Maria Orozco-Marquez came to the United States as a teenager through the sponsorship of her uncle who was then serving in the United States Army. A graduate of Tesst College of Technology, she joined the staff of Population Connection (then-ZPG) in 1997 and was promoted to a senior management post in 2007. February 2009 — The Reporter


Ghana’s Predicament

Rapid Growth, Slow Progress Story and photos by Marian Starkey

Elmina Castle


sentimental aroma hits me first. A combination

demographic problems through research and outreach to

of musky perfume and sweet flowers tells me

policy makers.

that I’m back in Africa. As I descend the airplane

The special IUSSP Scientific Panel on Population Growth

stairs, the young Ghanaian university student that I sat

and Human Welfare in Africa organized the seminar

next to on the plane welcomes me to his country. He is

Human Fertility in Africa: Trends in the last decade and

very happy to be back after three months studying at a

prospects for change. The seminar attracted about forty

community college and working at a bagel shop in New

presenters and observers, including the country directors of

Jersey. After hearing about his experience, it seems like

Planned Parenthood and UNFPA. Although the seminar

bagels are all he will miss of that cold, industrious state.

drew demographers doing research on all regions of Africa,

His excitement is contagious. Sub-Saharan Africa is in

Ghana was a special focus for this meeting.

many ways the least developed human-inhabited place

In Ghana, nearly half of the population lives on less than

on earth and there is something thrilling about bearing

$1 a day. Only 17% of married women use contraception.

witness to the slow but incremental progress of the vast

The government hopes to increase the country’s prevalence

continent from which we all descended.

rate to 39% by 2015 but will need an influx of donor fund-

Accra is a sprawling metropolis of nearly three million

ing to do so. Fertility is high at 4.4 children per woman and

people. It takes three hours to get through the gridlocked

the population is growing by 2% a year. Population and

traffic of the city before we can start to make progress on

poverty are intricately and decisively linked and the govern-

our journey to Elmina on the Central Coast. Accra is not

ment knows it.

arranged into blocks or tidy housing developments like we

Only 9% of the poorest women use contraception, while

are accustomed to in American cities. The slums of

26% of the richest women do. The Planned Parenthood

makeshift materials spill out around office buildings and

Association of Ghana (PPAG) operates subsidized clinics in

gated communities of Ghana’s wealthier elite for miles.

63 regions of the country and is one solution for poor citi-

Informal vendors, many of them young children, walk up

zens who want smaller families. It recently shifted focus to

and down stationary lanes of traffic selling anything from

prioritize the education and care of youth who have histori-

cotton swabs to boiled peanuts to plastic wind-up toys. The

cally been under served. PPAG is also spearheading a proj-

traffic is so slow that there is plenty of time to demonstrate

ect funded by the European Union called From Donorship

the toys in action, gorillas with cymbals marching between

to Ownership, which seeks additional public funds and

rusty taxis and shiny SUVs.

government support for sexual and reproductive health and

I traveled to Ghana to attend a research demography conference, hosted by the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP). Founded in 1928


Women sell food to highway travelers

encourages the private sector to help meet new, more aggressive national reproductive health goals. Responding to the call, Ghana’s President John Agyekum

following the first World Population Conference in Geneva,

Kufuor wrote a directive last summer to make maternal

IUSSP now boasts over 2,000 members comprised of

health services free for all women, in order to combat the

demographers and other professionals invested in solving

high incidence of maternal mortality. While an excellent

The Reporter — February 2009

Children in Elmina standing at the edge of an open sewer

A man repairs his fishing net in Cape Coast

start, it does not help women before they are pregnant to

"With assistance from donors…HIV prevalence has gone down. It is unfortunate, however, to note that funding for reproductive health programs is declining." —First Lady Mrs. Theresa Kufuor

avoid becoming so. The ACQUIRE project, funded by USAID, is a collaboration of the Ministry of Health and several NGOs. The goals of the project are to promote the use of long-acting contraceptives, improve quality sterilization services, and integrate family planning into HIV treatment. For about $20 and less than 20 minutes of their time, men can have a no-scalpel vasectomy and “Get a permanent smile,” as advertised on

their last pregnancy was unwanted as their parity (number

campaign posters. Since the campaign started, surveys esti-

of children born) went up. According to one paper, three

mate that more than twice as many men are aware of the

quarters of urban residents in sub-Saharan Africa live in

procedure as were before.

slums. David Shapiro, an economist at Penn State

Despite these efforts, serious funding issues remain. In recent comments, First Lady Mrs. Theresa Kufuor said,

University, reported that 80% of African governments view their national fertility rate as too high.

"With assistance from donors…HIV prevalence has gone

The demographers in town for the conference are doing

down. It is unfortunate, however, to note that funding for

their most careful research to determine robust policy impli-

reproductive health programs is declining." According to

cations. Participants studied the intricacies of fertility deter-

the Access Denied project, by 2005 Ghana had lost

minants in order to make the best recommendations, but

$200,000 in funding due to the Global Gag Rule. About

underscored on a daily basis that the recommendations

1,700 rural providers have been denied support and three

were moot without increased funding for family planning

clinics had to reduce staff by more than 40%. Access


Denied estimates that the Gag Rule has adversely affected over 1,327 communities in Ghana. Professor and Reverend Emmanuel A. Obeng delivered

From the popular Nigerian soap operas featuring families with one child to the commitment of the first family to universal reproductive health, Ghana is a nation with an eye on

the opening remarks to the seminar. He articulated the rea-

the future. Once the deplorable slave trading port to the

sons that population stabilization is critical: because popula-

Americas, Ghana now enjoys a status ranked high among

tion growth hinders development; reduces resources;

sub-Saharan African countries in terms of political and eco-

shrinks landholdings; and increases waste, violence, and

nomic stability. Everything is relative though. While Ghana

deforestation. His emotive comments set the stage for a

may outperform other West African countries on social indi-

very productive meeting.

cators, it will never be able to achieve developed world sta-

Jose Antonio Ortega, a Spanish demographer at the UN

tus without lowering its population growth rate. The presi-

Population Division, believes that because of data inconsis-

dent of Ghana knows this. The people of Ghana know this.

tencies, Ghana’s fertility rate is actually closer to five. Other

And instinctively, we know this. The question is whether we

researchers found that women increasingly responded that

care enough as a donor country to act on this knowledge.

February 2009 — The Reporter


Washington View

Hoping for Change: New president may renew access to family planning First printed by The Reporter, Vacaville, CA By Brian Dixon, Vice President for Media and Government Relations very day brings new information


about the change that President-elect

able to deliver their babies in a clinic with a

Barack Obama is planning to bring to

doctor in attendance. All of this, though,


two of Bush’s most egregious policies—the

impatient for his term to begin. Many who

Global Gag Rule and withholding assistance

voted against him are, too.

to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)—which deny funding to family

had no say in our election who are truly des-

planning programs in the poorest countries

perate for him to be sworn in: hundreds of

in the world.

millions of women and girls in the develop-

President-elect Obama has repeatedly

ing world who are still waiting—mostly

stated his support for preventing unwanted

silent, and largely ignored—for the change

pregnancies through access to affordable

they need.


While the policies of the last eight years

“I believe we must work together to

have left America in a precarious position,

reduce the number of unintended pregnan-

the consequences for much of the develop-

cies,” he has said. “I support legislation to

ing world have been far more dire. George

expand access to contraception, health

Bush has cut off aid to effective family plan-

information, and preventative services to

ning programs, isolated us from the world

help reduce unintended pregnancies.”

community, and left millions of women

By nominating Senator Hillary Clinton to

around the world without the ability to plan

Secretary of State, he has further demon-

their families, safeguard their well-being or

strated his commitment.

participate in economic development. Happily, come Jan. 20, life for women and

As first lady, she gave the keynote address at the follow-up conference to the 1994

their families around the world should start

United Nations International Conference on

looking up.

Population and Development.

They may be able to get their first pap

The Reporter — February 2009

hinges on President-elect Obama reversing

Americans who voted for Obama are

But there’s a whole group of people who


And if they’re really lucky, they may be

“While government has no place in such

smear in eight years because the clinic in

personal decisions [about whether to bring a

their village has reopened. They may even

child into the world], government can and

be able to get an IUD or a pack of birth

must play a critical role in helping women

control pills because delivery of contracep-

and families lead full and productive lives,

tive supplies has resumed.

and that includes making available voluntary

President-elect Barack Obama watches his former Democratic presidential rival Sen. Hillary Clinton at a news conference in Chicago where he announced his national security team, with Clinton as nominee for secretary of state. Photo: Ralf-Finn Hestoft/Corbis

family planning,” she said. “By giving indi-

matically increase funding for family plan-

viduals and couples the freedom to choose

ning programs overseas.

the spacing and number of their children,

The presidency of Barack Obama, whose

women not only gain more control over

father came from a country that has suf-

their lives, they also contribute more to their

fered immeasurably as a result of Bush’s

families and their communities.”

opposition to contraceptives, offers new

In her time in the Senate, Clinton has

hope not just to Americans seeking a new

been a tireless advocate for the needs of

way forward, but to hundreds of millions of

women in the developing world. She recog-

women and families across the globe.

nized that the Bush Administration’s hostile

Perhaps he said it best: “A woman’s ability

stance on this issue has jeopardized maternal

to decide how many children to have and

and child health, the environment, national

when, without interference from the gov-

security and economic development.

ernment, is one of the most fundamental

She has cosponsored legislation repealing

rights we possess. It is not just an issue of

the Global Gag Rule, led efforts to restore

choice, but equality and opportunity for all

U.S. support to UNFPA, and, with the


President-elect, called on Congress to

February 2009 — The Reporter


Field & Outreach

We Can’t Grow on Like This

Everything is Connected Minnesota event highlights linkages between UNFPA and other UN agencies By Rebecca Harrington, National Field Coordinator

ecently, avid Population Connection

eight years to adequately fund international

volunteer Jay Shahidi asked me how

family planning.


increasing U.S. funding for interna-

tional family planning to $1 billion (part of

reducing malnutrition, poverty, and maternal

Population Fund) could benefit other UN

and child mortality. Dr. Parekh supports a

programs. Jay’s question was answered at a

holistic approach to solving these problems,

panel discussion we hosted in Minneapolis

which he believes are worsened, although

with the help of the UN Association of

not necessarily caused, by rapid population

Minnesota (UNA-MN). The event drew a

growth. He knows that family planning is an

diverse audience of Population Connection

“integral” part of the solution and that real

members and local advocates, eager to learn

sex education must be incorporated into the

about tangible solutions for current global


When multilateral agencies like the United

Jay Shahidi was the event’s dynamic emcee and key organizer. John Seager, in his

Nations, the International Monetary Fund,

thought-provoking address, stressed the

or the World Bank fund development proj-

importance of doubling the money for inter-

ects, they are guided by the Millennium

national family planning. He highlighted the

Development Goals (MDGs). Adopted in

success of state sponsored family planning

2000, the MDGs set ambitious targets for

programs in Iran and most recently, Rwanda.

eradicating poverty and hunger, reducing

Karen Monahan of Environmental Justice

child mortality, and improving maternal

Advocates of Minnesota and Connie Dierks,

health by 2015. One of the key MDG objec-

a longtime volunteer with the Sierra Club,

tives is to achieve universal access to repro-

also delivered wisdom on the subject.

ductive health and family planning services. Like the groundbreaking agreement on

Clifton Ware, one of our members and a former University of Minnesota professor,

family planning reached in 1994 at the

attended the event with his wife Bettye.

International Conference on Population and

“Like others who attended the conference,

Development, the MDGs rely on contribu-

we are deeply concerned about unchecked

tions from donor nations, both financial and

human population growth, but very thankful

in terms of developing real partnerships.

that population groups such as Population

According to Dr. Bharat Parekh, a panelist

Connection are pro-actively addressing the

and board member of UNA-MN, the United

issue, principally though education and polit-

States has been “really delinquent” in its

ical action.”

promise—similar to its failure during the past The Reporter — February 2009

countries are unable to tackle MDGs like

which would go to the United Nations



Lacking the requisite funding, developing

Hope for a Heated Planet By Bob Musil



Now we have another chance. Renewed


hope. We are building a bigger, better

has offered

movement. We are connecting issues and

hope at home and

abroad even before taking office. His plan to

we are taken more seriously. Thanks to us, climate change and energy policy have at

create millions of green jobs while bolstering a

last made it onto the agenda. And there are

failing economy is especially impressive. First he

growing signs that concern over global

was channeling Lincoln, then FDR, now con-

warming is heating up attention to popula-

temporary, visionary leaders like Al Gore and

tion too. You and I and Population

Van Jones. But for advocates like those of us at

Connection can and must focus that atten-

Population Connection, it is critical to remember

tion on the new 111th Congress and the

that crowds shouted themselves hoarse with

Obama White House.

Obama’s mantra “Yes, We Can!” not “Yes, He

Global emissions of carbon dioxide, the

Can!” As our new President has reminded us

main greenhouse gas causing climate

many, many times, change happens from the

change, continue to rise steadily. Given the

bottom up. President Obama may deliver on a

available data, two-thirds of the rise from

climate treaty, renewable energy sources and

1990 to 2003, for example, can be attrib-

green jobs, even family planning. But not with-

uted to growth in

out serious work on our part. It is our turn, our

population alone.


Anqing Shi of the

“President Obama may deliver on a climate treaty, renewable energy sources and green jobs, even family planning. But not without serious work on our part. It is our turn, our time.”

Unless we build an even stronger move-

World Bank has cal-

ment that literally connects issues like popu-

culated that popula-

lation, climate, energy, and security and then

tion growth, using

demands action, we are bound to see our

mid-range estimates,

hopes fade, our celebrations turn to lamenta-

will account for

tions. That is the main lesson I learned in my

48.3% of the projected increases in carbon

years at Physicians for Social Responsibility. I

emissions from 1990 to 2025. That’s an

witnessed the dashed hopes of the Clinton

extra 3.73 billion tons of carbon. As one

years and the dark days of the Bush

wag put it, perhaps our chant should be

Administration. As I recount in Hope for a

“condoms capture carbon!”

Heated Planet, Green group leaders like me,

Rutgers University Press. 2009. Pp 264. US$ 24.95. ISBN 978-0-8135-4411-3

I’ve looked carefully at solutions to our

John Seager, Peter Kostmayer, and others

combined climate, energy, security and pop-

had access to the White House and Congress

ulation dilemma. From renewable energy to

and sympathetic leaders like Clinton and

increased family planning funds—they are all

Gore. But we were beaten by Big Oil and

available right now. There is hope. But it is

conservatives in Congress because we had

up to you and me to create it, to fight for it.

not done enough to mobilize community

No president, no Congress can do it for

leaders and strong advocates where it count-

us—or without us.

Bob Musil is a Board member of Population Connection and the former CEO of Physicians for Social Responsibility. He teaches in the Global Environmental Politics Program at American University.

ed—across the nation.

February 2009 — The Reporter



Pop. Ed. Goes Global A former fellow brings population education to one of the fastest-growing countries in the world By Michelle McKenzie, Peace Corps Volunteer xcited concert-goers started pouring

the education system and informally with

through the gates to the stadium at

out-of-school youth.


6:30, filling the concrete bleachers

quickly. They were still rocking in their seats,

Nations Population Fund to launch a popu-

dancing to the French and Hausa raps, when

lation education campaign with youth in the

the event came to a close at midnight. As a former Pop. Ed. fellow, I knew about

high schools in the city of Zinder. The

locked West African nation of Niger. So

teacher-training manual has been translated

when my Peace Corps assignment was

into French and training for the academic

announced, I immediately set about plan-

advisers and teachers began in December.

ning a population education program to use Niger is in an impending state of emer-

In 2007, I conducted population education trainings with a group of 20 peer educators. After their training, we organized

gency. As a very poor country with limited

awareness campaigns in communities

financial and natural resources, the excep-

throughout the city and held an amateur rap

tional growth of the population has far out-

competition on the themes of family plan-

paced its means. The average woman in

ning and AIDS. Twenty-one groups signed

Niger bears 7.1 children, one of the highest

up to participate in the competition. I real-

fertility rates on earth.

ized then how little adolescents here knew

Niger has a very young population (chil-

The Reporter — February 2009

community and also to implement a population education curriculum in the middle and

the rapid population growth in the land-

in my new hometown of Zinder.


I received funding from the United

about family planning and the various

dren comprise the majority) so it seemed

impacts of population growth because only

logical to start my Pop. Ed. activities with

one group signed up to perform about those

that group. As a Community and Youth

topics—everyone else chose AIDS. This exer-

Education volunteer, I assembled two train-

cise helped to demonstrate why this initia-

ing manuals that could be used formally in

tive is so important.

Based on the low level of interest in the

ing, we didn’t know a lot about population

second competition topic, the peer educa-

growth in Niger or family planning. We only

tors conducted an awareness session with

knew that it was important to practice birth

the rap groups about the benefits of family

spacing. We then realized how much we

planning and the impacts of population

didn’t know and have learned a lot from this

growth. By doing this, we convinced close to


half of the groups to switch to the family planning theme. The concert was a success, with over

If a demographic transition is to occur in Niger then it’s imperative to mobilize and inform youth. It is important that young

3,500 young people in attendance. The first

people realize that a galloping growth rate

and second place raps brought down the

requires a bigger financial commitment than

house, both because of their high energy

the government can presently make in the

and because of the messages in their lyrics.

provision of social services such as health

The winning group sang about the impor-

and education. For a country in which the

tance of birth spacing and of having only

availability of food is precarious and food

the number of children that couples can

crises are frequent, and where soil quality is

afford to feed. A skit during their perform-

poor and desertification is advancing, a pop-

ance included a pregnant woman dressed as

ulation that doubles every 20 years is an

a beggar with several small children and a

obstacle to development that requires imme-

baby tied to her back.

diate attention.

The peer educators are continuing their

The rap lyrics by the group that won sec-

awareness campaign by conducting radio

ond prize still ring in my ears. “Population

sensitization campaigns in the local language

growth without economic growth will keep

(Hausa). After the concert, one of the peer

us in poverty and make it harder to find

educators who was interviewed by a local

food.” Such a simple message but one that

radio station stated that “Before this train-

is so often overlooked.

“Before this training, we didn’t know a lot about population growth in Niger or family planning. We only knew that it was important to practice birth spacing. We then realized how much we didn’t know and have learned a lot from this training.”

February 2009 — The Reporter



PEARLS BEFORE SWINE © Stephan Pastis/Dist. by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.


The Reporter — February 2009

By a quirk of the calendar, a new president's

It's oh so tempting to kick back for six weeks and

inauguration always coincides with the anniversary

await the day, we trust, that reason and compe-

of the Roe v. Wade decision of Jan. 22, 1973,

tence will return to D.C.

which legalized abortion. The matter that has ping-ponged between presi-

Difficult as it is to fathom, the war against abortion has morphed into a war on contraception. The

dential administrations is the so-called Global Gag

campaign began the day Bush took office, when he

Rule, which denies U.S. funding to any women's

signed the Global Gag Rule, which took contracep-

health clinic that offers abortion services or counsel-

tion away from the poorest of the world's poor

ing, even in countries where abortion is legal.

women, and has continued apace, though not

Meanwhile, women in poor countries are dying in childbirth, or of botched abortions, because foreign aid is held hostage to domestic politics. Of course Barack Obama should lift the odious

unchallenged. While it’s doubtful a “right of conscience” rule would be allowed to stand in an Obama administration, Bush's anti-women policies will persist for

gag order as soon as possible. But the world needs

years—in the rulings of the hundreds of right-of-

a new way of looking at women's health that goes

center judges he appointed.

beyond abortion. The clinics that lose funding also provide birth control, prenatal care, and training for midwives to improve pregnancy outcomes and infant mortality rates. Such services, along with education and economic opportunity, are the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancies—and abortion—in the first place. —Editorial Excerpt, November 15, 2008

—Editorial Excerpt, December 4, 2008

One Way To Change The World We hope you’ll consider Population Connection as you plan your estate. Your bequest gift will help change the future for people and for our planet. You can also participate in other forms of planned giving. Charitable Gift Annuities provide guaranteed life income along with significant tax advantages. If you or your financial advisor have any questions, please feel free to contact Natalie Widel, Development Associate, at 800-767-1956 or 202-332-2200. If you’ve already included Zero Population Growth (ZPG) in your estate plans, there is no need to change any language. We proudly maintain the name and the mission.

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February 2009