No. 35, Oct. 18, 2013
In This Issue:
Introducing Me, a New Face in 7 Billion
There's only one group that asks you to take a moment "when you're feeling tender" to "think about the hellbender" -- and then hands you a condom. That's why I'm excited to be part of that group, heading the Center for Biological Diversity's newly revamped Population and Sustainability Program.
I've spent years working on campaigns to protect animals and the environment, and I know I'm not alone in my passion to be a voice for other species. But I've always been bothered by this question: How can we get ahead of the climate or extinction crises if our population keeps growing? We can't pretend that 7.5 billion humans don't have an impact on the planet.
It's a conversation that needs to happen, but it's not easy. That's why the Center's Endangered Species Condoms are so amazing -- they give us a unique way to start talking about the pressure of human population on other species.
And there's another side to the population coin: overconsumption. The two are closely linked, which is why the Center's program is expanding to address both. In the coming months, you'll keep getting the Pop X news and Endangered Species Condoms you love, while we'll regularly flip the coin to the overconsumption side, with new materials and campaigns that highlight key sustainability issues, including meat production.
I can't wait to have these conversations with you -- feel free to email me. Together we can get people to understand what a choice like safe intercourse has to do with the dwarf seahorse.
An Interview With Bestselling Author Alan Weisman -- Watch Video
In his book The World Without Us (2007), journalist Alan Weisman imagined how the planet would heal if Homo sapiens vanished -- giving us a fascinating look at people's impact on the Earth. But since humans aren't going anywhere, it also led the author to look at how we can avoid a monumental crash -- how we can sustain our species' life on the third rock from the sun.
In his new book -- Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth? -- Weisman travels the globe asking what many experts called "the most important questions on Earth." He explores the number of people our planet can healthily support and what the dangers are of not protecting other species. He also looks at cultures, traditions and religions for ways to talk about population and our responsibility to the environment. The things he discovered may surprise you -- even renew your hope.
Countdown is an excellent tool in the conversation about what the world looks like with 7.5 billion people, what it'll look like with billions more, and what on Earth we can do to survive on Earth for a good long time.
I was lucky to be able to chat with Alan Weisman last week. Check out this video of our conversation.
You can also buy Countdown.
We Are the Walrus
There are a lot of reasons to talk about human population growth, but one of the biggest and simplest is that the Earth isn't getting any bigger. There are only so many places we can live, especially if we're going to leave room for other species. If our numbers keep growing toward the 10 billion projected by century's end, where will we put everyone?
A Pacific walrus herd near Point Lay, Alaska, shows us what that might look like. Walruses usually prefer to hang out on drifting sea ice during the summer, but without much sea ice left, they've been forced to move to the beach. This summer the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration photographed about 10,000 walruses packed onto little more than half a mile of beach. In recent years, biologists say, as many as 30,000 walruses have crowded that same strip.
Those close quarters are stressful enough to cause stampedes. There are also a lot of mouths to feed, and all those walruses eating in one place can strain the ecosystem.
Crowded walrus beaches are more than just an analog of human population pressure --they're one of its byproducts. The animals' sea ice has been melting due to the climate crisis. It's time to talk about human population growth, both for the walruses and for us.
More Birthdays = Fewer Species
As a human, I like the fact that people live longer than we used to. I'd like to stick around with my family and friends -- maybe finish that novel, see the sights, help save more species. Unfortunately, according to a prominent new study, that last goal may be a challenge as human life expectancy increases.
Researchers from the University of California at Davis studied 15 different variables, from agriculture to literacy, to see how they were related to the number of endangered species in an area. One factor rose to the top as a key predictor of extinctions: human life expectancy.
No one wants to shorten lifespans, but knowing that the longer we live, the more pressure we put on the environment, we need to reduce overconsumption throughout our lives and make sure everyone has access to family planning, so we can keep celebrating birthdays in a world rich with biodiversity.
Happy World Vasectomy Day!
Speaking of family planning, today, Oct. 18 is the first annual World Vasectomy Day, the largest male-oriented family-planning event in history. Jonathan Stack founded this event in the hopes of engaging men around the world in the conversation around family planning, population and the environment. More specifically, he wants to find men who are "willing to put their balls on the line for Mother Earth."
The goal, working with 100 doctors in 25 countries, is to perform 1,000 vasectomies in 24 hours. According to Stack, the vasectomies performed just on this one day have the capacity to lower our carbon footprint by more than what 28,000 people could accomplish in a lifetime of recycling, reusing and reducing.
You can find out more about World Vasectomy Day -- including catching live-streamed conversations about vasectomies and population, as well as watching actual surgeries as they're performed -- at WVD's website.
Until next time,
Population and Sustainability Director
Center for Biological Diversity | P.O. Box 710, Tucson, AZ 85702-0710
This is an unmonitored email address; please do not reply. To sign up for Endangered Species Condoms, click here. If you'd like more information on the Center's human population campaign, visit our website. To make a donation, click here. Specific population-related questions can be directed to email@example.com. Please allow a few days for a response. To stop receiving Pop X, click here.
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Photo credits: Pacific walruses at Togiak National Wildlife Refuge by Bill Hickey, USFWS; Endangered Species Condoms design (c) Lori Lieber and artwork (c) Roger Peet; Alan Weisman video screenshot; Pacific walrus cow and calf by Joel Garlich Miller, USFWS; birthday cake courtesy Morgue File; sperm fertilizing egg courtesy Wikimedia Commons.