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The bill expands on a law that requires parents of minors to be contacted if their daughters get an abortion, but parents don’t have a say in the decision.
Another popular bill this session is aimed at illegal bear hunting.
Rep. David Smith (R) wants to increase the fine for illegally killing bears or for being in the possession of or selling a dead bear.
A bill trying to put more restrictions on tobacco products is gaining popularity. The measure would raise the age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21, require anyone under 30 to be carded before they can buy tobacco, and would only allow cigarette vending machines in places that restrict access to anyone under 21-years-old.
Lastly, a bill that would make nude beaches legal is being considered by the Senate.
Florida has a number of clothing-optional beaches and nude tourism is a multibillion-dollar industry, according to the bills legislative analysis.
Tomorrow is the end of the world, except where I am at the moment, where it is now tomorrow and the world is still intact.
Australia, New Zealand and Asia seem to be doing well. No tsunami’s, massive earthquakes, exploding Krakatoas, the Earth has not split, and the oceans have not boiled over and a few billion humans continue to go about their silly business of slowly destroying the planet.
There has been no rapture and the fanatical Christians are still with us unfortunately. I have not heard of any of them being swept en mass into heaven. I’m still hoping the nut bars from the Westboro Baptist church get raptured. They can protest babies entering heaven there instead of Connecticut.
But what about the Mayans?
Ahh the Mayans. They did not do so well at predicting their own demise.
I remember August 27th, 1987. That was the day that the Aztec calendar came to an end. They also were not that good at prediction. They did not see the fall of their own empire until they heard Spanish voices in their streets.
We place a great deal of reverence for ancient civilizations forgetting that they were in fact quite primitive, although probably more intellectual in many ways than modern society, at least for the very few who could actually read and write. Without television, they actually had to read, well some of them anyways, and without the modern music industry people actually had to sing and listen to musicians in small venues.
For the most part, be they Europeans, Meso-American Indians, Asians or Africans a great deal of time and effort was wasted on superstition and fighting wars over superstitious beliefs. Kind of like the situation today really.
And one thing that has not changed is this ridiculous belief that humans have some sort of special insight into nature and reality. Astrology for example does not include the planets that were unknown at the time which pretty much knocks all the equations flat on their ass by virtue of the fact that planets that were actually there were not influencing anything because nobody knew they were there and once discovered they still remained absent from astrology because all the signs and symbols were established and not subject to change.
The Mayan Calendar like the Aztec Calendar is round. It really does not end, it just starts all over again.
The fact is that a calendar’s days are numbered.
It’s like all the hype and hysteria at the end of millenniums and the strange thing is that millenniums are based on random dates that have no meaning. The year 2000 is not the year 2000 for the Muslims, the Jews or the Chinese for example.
Humans do not and never have controlled nature, physics, or the future. Human vanity may wish otherwise but the reality is that humanity is simply one of billions of species that have inhabited the Earth and humanity has only been around for a tiny fraction of the Earth’s history. The Earth will be around for a few billion years after humanity has disappeared.
Instead of worrying about silly predictions, we should be concerned about what we are doing to ourselves and our children with escalating population growth and diminishing resources. This is where the end will come about, the end of civilization first followed by extinction of the human species. We will be eradicated by our own ecological stupidity.
When will this happen? That I cannot say. In twenty years, a hundred years, but it will happen unless we curb growth and end the wasteful consumption of the planet’s diminishing resources.
When the Oceans die, we die.
When there is no more fresh water, we die.
When there are no more forests, we die.
When the land dies, we die.
When diversity dies, we die.
Why did the Mayans and the Incas disappear?
They disappeared because their populations grew greater than their resource base. That is the real lesson they left us.
If children were brought into the world by an act of pure reason alone, would the human race continue to exist? Would not a man rather have so much sympathy with the coming generation as to spare it the burden of existence, or at any rate not take it upon himself to impose that burden upon it in cold blood?~ Arthur Schopenhauer
I have been accused of being an anti-natalist. The accusations suggest my particular variety of anti-natalism is congruent with life as a serial killer. Because I do not appreciate being called such names without supporting evidence, I decided the issue was worth a quick etymological investigation.
The definition of natalism, according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, is “an attitude or policy favoring or encouraging population growth.” The definition includes no mention of serial killers. Indeed, the definition mentions no murder of any kind.
I decided not to have children of my own at the age of 19 years. At the time, it made no sense to me to bring another human into the world without his or her permission, particularly in light of the publication of Limits to Growth seven years earlier. It still makes no sense to me. So far, I have succeeded in my personal quest to avoid adding more people to Earth.
I explained the horrors of continued growth of the human population for more than two decades in college and university classrooms. Few students took my advice seriously. I learned to not be attached to the outcome of my efforts, in the classroom and beyond. I thank my students for serving as my teachers.
I am no fan of continued growth of the human population. At more than 7.7 billion and growing rapidly, I think there are plenty of us.
I am no fan of death. I am no fan of extinction, human or otherwise.
I know I will die. I am pretty sure you will die. I know our species, Homo sapiens, will go extinct. The only serious questions about death and extinction involve cause and timing.
I am certain my own death and extinction of Homo sapiens will occur soon. I am still no fan of death. I am still no fan of extinction, human or otherwise.
Apparently I am an anti-natalist. Apparently, based upon logic, I need not apologize for donning this label.
Too many humans, combined with an astonishing rate of consumption, have brought us to the brink of extinction. Too late to turn back now, I do not judge, shame, or blame people for bringing more humans to life. I am an educator, not a judge.
Thanks to muse Mimi German for inspiring this essay
“The heavens were all on fire; the earth did tremble.”
–William Shakespeare Henry IV, Part 1
For much of my life, I thought our species would soon go extinct. I assumed we might last another hundred years if we were lucky. Now I suspect we are facing extinction in the near future. Can I speculate as to exactly when that might happen? Of course not. My sense of this is based only on probability. It might be similar to hearing about a diagnosis of late stage pancreatic cancer. Is it definite that the person is going to die soon? No, not definite. Is it highly probable? Yes, one would be wise to face the likelihood and put one’s affairs in order.
First, let’s look at climate data. Over the past decade I have been studying climate chaos by reading scientific papers and listening to climate lectures accessible to a layperson. There is no good news to be found there. We have burned so much carbon into the atmosphere that the CO2levels are higher than they have been for the past three million years. In the last decade our carbon emission levels are the highest in history, and we have not yet experienced their full impact. If we were to stop emitting carbon dioxide tomorrow, we are still on track for much higher heat for at least ten years. And we are certainly not stopping our emissions by tomorrow.
This blanket of carbon in the atmosphere has triggered, and will trigger, further runaway warming systems that are not under our control, the most deadly of which is the release of methane gases that have been trapped for eons under arctic ice and what is now euphemistically known as permafrost (much of it is no longer permanent frost).
Methane is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon, and much faster acting. In the first twenty years after its release into the atmosphere, it is 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Whereas the full effect of heat from a carbon dioxide molecule takes ten years, peak warming from a methane molecule occurs in a matter of months.
As if these emissions were not daunting enough, a heretofore little-known gas, sulphur hexafluoride or SF6, used in many green and renewable technologies, is 23,500 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon. It leaks from electrical production sites and stays in the atmosphere for a thousand years.
The Arctic and Antarctic icecaps are melting at rates far faster than even the most alarming predictions, and methane is pouring out of these regions, bubbling out of Arctic lakes, and hissing out of seas and soils worldwide. Some scientists fear a methane “burp” of billions of tons when a full melt of the summer arctic ice occurs, something that has not happened for the past four million years. Should such a sudden large release of methane occur, the earth’s warming would rapidly accelerate within months. This alone could be the extinction event.
The Arctic summer ice is currently two thirds less than it was as recently as the 1970s, and the arctic is warming so fast that a full summer melt is likely within the next five years. The continent of Antarctica is also rapidly melting at an acceleration of 280% in the last forty years. The massive ice melts that are happening there, such as the breaking off the Larsen B ice shelf defied scientific predictions; the ice shelf known as Larsen C, which broke off in July of 2017, was 2,200 square miles in size.
The Arctic ice has been the coolant for the northern part of the planet and it impacts worldwide climate as well. Its white surface also reflects back into space much of the heat from the sun, as does the Antarctic ice. As the ice melts, the dark ocean absorbs the heat and the warming ocean more quickly melts the remaining ice. Over the past three decades, the oldest and thickest of the Arctic sea ice has declined by a whopping 95%, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 2018 annual Arctic report.
The U.S., Russia, and China are now vying for hegemony of the Arctic region in order to get at the massive reserves of oil that exist there and will be accessible as the ice melts. Aside from the real possibility of military conflagrations over control of the region, moving tankers through and drilling in this sensitive eco-system would cause the dual destructions of rapidly deteriorating whatever ice is left, thereby speeding up the release of methane; and then burning all that stored carbon of newly found oil reserves into the atmosphere. For instance, Russia has recently launched a floating barge on which two nuclear reactors will be wired into its infrastructure to power gas and oil platforms in remote regions of the Arctic.
These and all the other warming feedback loops are now on an exponential trajectory and becoming self-amplifying, potentially leading to a “hothouse earth” independent of the carbon emissions that have triggered them. Each day, the extra heat that is trapped near our planet is equivalent tofour hundred thousandHiroshima bombs. There are no known technologies that can be deployed at world scale to reverse the warming, and many climate scientists feel that the window for doing so is already closed, that we have passed the tipping point and the heat is on “runaway” no matter what we do.
We are now in the midst of the sixth mass extinction with about 150 plant and animal species going extinct per day. Despite the phrase “the sixth extinction” making its way into mainstream awareness via the publication of Elizabeth Kolbert’s Pulitzer-prize-winning book of that title, most people still don’t realize that we humans are also on the list.
Some of the consequences we face are mass die-offs due to widespread drought, flooding, fires, forest mortality, runaway diseases, and dying ocean life—all of which we now see in preview. A few of these consequences could even result in the annihilation of all complex life on earth in a quick hurry: the use of nuclear weapons, for instance, as societies and governments become more desperate for resources; or the meltdown of the 450 nuclear reactors, which will likely become impossible to maintain as industrial civilization breaks down. Since 2011, when a tsunami struck the northeast coast of Japan and caused a near meltdown of three nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, it has taken more than 42,000 gallons of fresh water per day to keep the reactors cooled. Keeping the radioactive elements contained requires dangerous jobs for the workers and building a new steel water tank every four days to store the spent radioactive water.
If we were to make it through this gauntlet of threats, we would still be facing starvation. Grains, the basis of the world’s food supply, are reduced on average by 6% for every one degree Celsius rise above pre-industrial norms. We are now about one degree Celsius above and climbing fast; the oceans are warming twice as fast and have absorbed a staggering 93% of the warming for us so far. If that were not the case, the average land temperatures would be a toasty 36 degrees Celsius (97 degrees Fahrenheit) above what they are now. Of course, there is a huge cost for ocean warming in the form of dying coral reefs, plankton loss, ocean acidification, unprecedented storms, and increased water vapor, which is yet another greenhouse blanket holding heat in the atmosphere.
As I became aware of these facts and many hundreds like them, I also marveled at how oblivious most people are to the coming catastrophes. There has never been a greater news story than that of humans facing full extinction, and yet extinction is rarely mentioned on the evening news, cable channels, or on the front pages of blogs and newspapers. It is as though the world’s astronomers were telling us that an asteroid is heading our way and will make a direct hit destined to wipe out all of life to which the public responds by remaining fascinated with sporting events, social media, the latest political scandals, and celebrity gossip.
However, beginning about six years ago, a few books and other sources of information began to address the chances of full extinction of all complex life, and these became my refuge, even though the information was the most horrific I had ever imagined.
For decades, I had sensed that things were dramatically worsening, the rate of destruction increasing. As a journalist from 1982 to 1994, I specialized in social and environmental issues. I had written about global warming, the phrase we used in those days, numerous times in the 1980s, but because it seemed a far-off threat, we could intellectually discuss it without fear of it affecting our own lives in terribly significant ways. As time marched on, I began to awaken to how fast the climate was changing and how negative its impacts. It became a strange relief to read and listen to the truth of the situation from people who were studying the hard data as it affirmed my instincts and threw a light on what had been shadowy forebodings, dancing like ghosts in my awareness. It is an ongoing study that has taken me through a powerful internal process–emotional and cathartic–one that I felt might be helpful to share with those who have woken to this dark knowledge or are in the process of waking to it, just as I, over time, found comfort in the reflections of the small yet increasing number of comrades with whom I share this journey.
Because the subject is so tragic and because it can scare or anger people, this is not an essay I ever wanted to write; it is one I would have wanted to read along the way. But the words on these pages are meant only for those who are ready for them. I offer no hope or solutions for our continuation, only companionship and empathy to you, the reader, who either knows or suspects that there is no hope or solution to be found. What we now need to find is courage.
You got me singing, even though the world is gone
You got me thinking that I’d like to carry on
You got me singing, even though it all looks grim
You got me singing the Hallelujah hymm
–Leonard Cohen “You Got Me Singing”
For the last quarter century of his life, Leonard Cohen was one of my closest friends. We would often talk at the small kitchen table in his modest home in Los Angeles until the wee hours of the morning, and when I would make a move to leave, he would bring out a fine port he had been saving or show me some of his recent drawings, or regale me with a story of his time in Cuba in the early Sixties. He loved engagement and there was no place in conversation he wouldn’t go. In his company I never censored my thoughts. Since his passing I have realized that he was not only a close friend but a life mentor. One of the most inspiring aspects in this regard was what one could call his heart bravery. It is, in my way of seeing, the highest form of courage. In fact, the word courage comes from the Latin coeur, meaning heart. Leonard’s special genius was his ability to communicate both the sorrow and the beauty of the world, even in the same sentence. He never looked away from either, not even in his final months when pain wracked his body. He had a twinkle in one eye and a tear in the other.
In those last years of his life, we had many conversations about climate chaos, as he knew I was studying the subject. He always listened intently and asked pertinent questions throughout our discussions. Although climate had not been his own focus (his was more a passion for world politics), there was no surprise for him in seeing how close we are to the edge. He understood human nature and assumed we would do ourselves in. One need only listen to his song, “The Future” to know how prescient he was on the matter.
And yet, we laughed over all the years. Laughed like crazy. Leonard was a master of gallows humor, and I have a well-honed appreciation for that form as well. The power of gallows humor, and I highly recommend it in these times, is that it allows a sideways glance at the gathering clouds while one is still sipping tea in the garden. All of these small moments of recognition serve to accustom our awareness to difficult realities, to hammer at the chains that bind, to allow us to let go a bit. In sharing gallows humor, it is also comforting to know that your friend sees the tragi-comedy as well. There is an amortizing of the burden when we share a heavy load.
Courage is often confused with stoicism, the stiff upper lip, bravado that masks fear. There is another kind of courage. It is the courage to live with a broken heart, to face fear and allow vulnerability, and it is the courage to keep loving what you love “even though the world is gone.”
DISTRACTION AND DENIAL
They are as children, playing with their toys in a house on fire.
Never have these words of the Buddha been more true. We love to be distracted from ourselves, and we have myriad ways of doing that in our time. We pay big money for the privilege and we run about chasing objects and experiences in its service. We seem to be evolutionarily designed to put aside or entirely ignore future threats and instead focus only on immediate concerns and personal desires. This is understandable since for most of human history there was nothing we could do about future possibilities or events occurring far from where we lived. With some notable exceptions, evolution didn’t select for long-term survival planning. Being concerned about climate change does not come naturally to us. Daniel Gilbert, author and Harvard professor of psychology, proposes four features for why our brains respond primarily to immediate threats.
First, we are social animals who have evolved to think about what the creatures around us are doing; we are highly sensitive to intentions, especially if they seem threatening. Second, climate change does not challenge our moral sense of right and wrong and thereby stir the brain to action. As Gilbert notes, if it was clear that global warming was deliberately killing kittens, we would all be marching in the streets.
Thirdly, unless climate chaos is a threat to us today, we don’t think about it. I find that a lot of the data we see in conservative climate reports refers to horrific changes that will happen by 2100. When we see the year 2100, we easily think, “Whew! No problem.” Of course, changes occurring by 2100 is an overly optimistic timeline, yet it shows how the brain responds to slow motion threat in the future, even when it will affect the lives of children whom we know in the present. Gilbert’s fourth reason for why we ignore climate threats is that for millennia we have relied on our highly developed sense apparatus as physical creatures to gauge changes and threats in our environment—changes of temperature, weight, pressure, sound, or smell. If changes occur at a slow enough pace, they can fly under the radar of our notice. The frog boiling in the pot that is only gradually being heated.
During the historic floods in Queensland, Australia in early 2019, the rivers broke their banks and washed into the city of Townsville. As a result, there were crocodiles and snakes in the flooded streets and in people’s back yards. It might well concentrate the mind and promote a flight response to find oneself wading in floodwater on a street or yard that contained crocodiles and deadly snakes. But short of such clear and present dangers, our threat response is slow.
It seems even our genes favor short-term gain over long-term trouble. The twentieth century biologist George Williams recognized that, due to our genes having multiple functions, some genes have opposing functions. That is, for example, a gene can have great benefits for early life and at the same time cause great harm in later life, a process known as biological senescence. Evolution naturally selects for those genes since the organism doesn’t always make it to later life, so the early benefit has been accrued while the later harm has less chance of being activated.
Biologist Bret Weinstein sees a cultural analog to this process, “culture is biology, downstream of genes.” As he explains, “Ideas that work in the short term but fail and cause vulnerability in the long term tend to survive in our system because they often produce economic benefit. So if you produce a technology that has benefits for humanity over the course of several decades but the harm of that technology comes only in later decades, you will have become wealthy in the short term and that wealth will have resulted in an increase in your political influence, which will reinforce the belief structures that made it seem like a good idea in the first place. The market tends to see short-term gains and discount long-term effects until the political structure has been modified by that success. Just as in biological senescence, cultural senescence manifests in a system that is incapable of going in reverse and would drive itself off a cliff rather than recognize that something at its core was leading us into danger. We now have a cultural system that is making us very comfortable in the short term, but it is liquidating the wellbeing of the planet at an incredible rate.”
Evolution also didn’t select for us to be overly conscious of personal death itself. It would otherwise be emotionally paralyzing. Ernest Becker’s seminal book The Denial of Death, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1974, examined the awareness of death on human behavior and the strategies that developed in humans to mitigate their fear of it. “This is the terror:” Becker wrote, “to have emerged from nothing, to have a name, consciousness of self, deep inner feelings, an excruciating inner yearning for life and self expression—and with all this yet to die.”
Sheldon Solomon, author and legendary professor of psychology at Skidmore College, spent thirty-five years conducting experiments based on Becker’s ideas. This body of work culminated in what Solomon and his colleagues call Terror Management Theory and relies on proving a central thesis of Becker’s work: that it is through cultural worldviews and through self-esteem that humans ward off the terror of death. As Sheldon told me in an interview in 2015, “What Becker proposes is that human beings manage terror of death by subscribing to culturally constructed beliefs about the nature of reality that gives them a sense that they’re valuable people in a meaningful universe…And so for Becker, whether we’re aware of it or not, and most often we’re not, we are highly motivated to maintain confidence in the veracity of our cultural worldview and faith in the proposition that we’re valuable people, that is, that we have self esteem. And whenever either of those, what we call ‘twin pillars of terror management,’ –culture or self-esteem– is threatened, we respond in a variety of defensive ways in order to bolster our faith in our culture and ourselves.” Listen to the full interview here.
Becker’s work relied on examining defense strategies for denial of personal death. We are now faced with the death of all. Therefore denial and defense of denial are accordingly amplified and dangerous. There is now a desperate rise of religious fundamentalism, superstition, and new age magical thinking, as predicted in 1996 by astronomer Carl Sagan in his final book, The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. To an increasingly anxious species, cultural and religious belief systems offer the promise of eternal life. And people will literally fight to the death for them.
Or they will offer up their children. From the Mayan priests who threw children from cliffs to the families of suicide bombers in present time who joyously celebrate the martyrdom of their son or daughter in the streets with their friends, people would rather see their children die than forego the preservation and defense of their culture or religion. In places where climate chaos is already underway, we are seeing a solidification of tribalism and battle lines drawn between communities who have formerly lived together in relative harmony. These pressures are bound to increase.
We also find it difficult to think exponentially. We might grasp the concept of an exponential factor but it is not our natural way to perceive. Therefore, as exponential warming triggers other imbalances that also become exponential, we perceive them only as linear problems and assume we will have time to address them. We carry on with business-as-usual and return to “the matrix,” the illusion that things are fairly normal, where our ordinary problems, comforts and entertainments await our attention, just like in the movie. But we have now come to the point of “amusing ourselves to death,” as Neil Postman put it in his 1985 book by that title.
As you begin to awaken to the specter of extinction, you will likely feel the powerful lure of your usual distractions. You may want to go back to sleep. But denial will become harder and harder to maintain because once your attention has turned to this subject, you will see the evidence of it everywhere, both locally and globally.
And you will find yourself among the throngs of humanity who are easily distracted and amused, playing with their toys as the house burns, “tranquilized by the trivial,” as Kierkegaard said, and speaking of the future as though it was going to go on as it has. After all, we made it this far. We have proven our superiority at figuring things out and removing obstacles to our desires. We killed off most of the large wild mammals and most of the indigenous peoples in order to take their lands. We bent nature to our will, paved over her forests and grasslands, rerouted and dammed her rivers, dug up what journalist Thom Hartman calls her “ancient sunlight,” and burned that dead creature goo into the atmosphere so that our vehicles could motor us around on land, sea, and air and our weapons could keep our enemies in check. And now we have given her atmosphere a high fever. But, as the old adage has it, (a phrase I first heard in the 1980s, which has informed me ever since), “nature bats last.”
You may find yourself in the company of people who seem to have no awareness of the consequences we face or who don’t want to know or who might have a momentary inkling but cannot bear to face it. You may find that people become angry if you steer the conversation in the direction of planetary crisis. You may sense that you are becoming a social pariah due to what you see, even when you don’t mention it, and you may feel lonely in the company of most people you know. For you, it’s not just the elephant in the room; it’s the elephant on fire in the room, and yet you feel you can rarely say its name.
I once asked Leonard for his advice on how to talk with others about this. He replied: “There are things we don’t tell the children.” It is helpful to realize that most people are not ready for this conversation. They may never be ready, just as some people die after a long illness, still in denial that death was at their doorstep. It is a mystery as to who can handle the truth of our situation and who runs from it as though their sanity depended on not seeing it. There is even a strange phenomenon that some of my extinction-aware friends and I have noticed: you might sometimes find relaxation in the company of those who don’t know and don’t want to know. For a while you pretend that all is well or at least the same as it has been. You discuss politics, the latest drama series, new cafes. You visit the matrix for a little R & R. But this usually doesn’t last long as the messages coming from the catastrophe are unrelenting.
The Parent Trap. There is one category of people that I have found especially resistant to seeing this darkest of truths: parents. A particular and by now familiar glazed look comes over their faces when the conversation gets anywhere near the topic of human extinction. And how could it be otherwise? It is built into the DNA that parents (not all, of course) love their children above themselves. They would sacrifice anything for them. So to think that there will be no protection for their children in the future, that no amount of money or homesteading or living on a boat or in a gated community or on a mountaintop or growing a secret garden will save them is too unbearable a thought to hold for even a second. I have also noticed a flash of anger arise in the midst of the distracted look on their faces, an almost subliminal message that says, “Don’t say another word on this subject.”
It is a subject I have learned to avoid in the company of parents although, to my surprise, I am recently finding more of them coming to terms with it. It is an added layer of grief, to be sure, and I can only admire and grieve with them in the knowledge that it is unlikely their children will live to old age, leaving aside what they may suffer beforehand.
I had my own battle of despair with this. As I began to realize the gravity of our situation, I quickly recognized that my own death was not much of an issue. After all, I have lived a long time, longer than most people in history. I certainly have preferences about how I would like to die, and I don’t make any claims about having no fear of death at all, but the fact of my own death is something I have considered since my teenage years and has been part of my many decades of dharma interest. No, the despair came from the thoughts about my young great nieces and great nephew with whom I am close. All nine of them were under the age of ten when I began to realize that they are not likely to have long lives. The anxiety and despair into which I sank was such that I became very ill. I developed a massive case of shingles covering large areas of my torso, front and back in two zones (apparently it is rare to have more than one zone) and I ended up in the hospital. Shingles (way too puny a word for a disease that feels like your nerves have been set on fire from the inside) is considered a stress-related illness. My anxiety and despair had made me physically sick. Once home and bedridden for the best part of a month, I had a chance to consider how unaffordable my fear and anxiety would be going forward. I had to find a perspective that would allow me to access at least some quiet underneath the profound sadness, some whisper that says, “This is the suchness of things. Everything passes.”
Of course, there are now many millions of parents in the world who have already had to come to terms with this. Hundreds of millions of climate refugees for whom any fretting about the future would seem the greatest of luxuries and privileges. They are struggling for survival due to climate catastrophes, even as you read these words.
I’ve seen the future, Brother.
It is murder.
—Leonard Cohen “The Future”
Of all the threats we face, the one I find most frightening is the breakdown of civilized society. We now see large regions of the world that are no-go zones. Failed states, where life is cheap and barbarism reigns. Huge swaths of Africa are now lawless and controlled by armed and violent men and boys roaming the countryside in gangs, engaged in despicable acts too sickening to write. The Middle East is much the same as are parts of South America. All of these areas are enduring severe drought. As professor and journalist Christian Parenti said in an interview with Chris Hedges, “How do people adapt to climate change? How do they adapt to the drought, to the floods? Very often, the way is you pick up the surplus weaponry and you go after your neighbor’s cattle or you blame it on your neighbor’s ideology or ethnicity.”
In his book, Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence, Parenti writes: “Climate change arrives in a world primed for crisis. The current and impending dislocations of climate change intersect with the already-existing crises of poverty and violence. I call this collision of political, economic, and environmental disasters ‘the catastrophic convergence.’ ”
In their desperation, people, especially women, sell themselves into prostitution and other forms of modern slavery. Or they are taken and sold by others. Human trafficking is now big business worldwide. People also sell their own children to save the rest of their families. I saw a CNN news interview with a widow and her son and daughter in a refugee tent in Afghanistan. Having left the drought-ridden area of her home region, she was explaining to the reporter that she was selling her six-year-old daughter to an old man so that she could feed herself and her son. The little girl sat quietly by her side, looking sad and bewildered, perhaps dimly aware that whatever change to come in her already difficult life was going to be a far worse fate. Nearby sat the old man who was purchasing her as a “gift” for his ten–year-old son, this rationale most likely for the benefit of the reporter, one that I didn’t believe as I suspected an even darker plan for the little girl. Apparently, this is a common practice now in the Afghan refugee community.
It is no wonder that people leave these hellholes with nothing but the clothes they are wearing and make their way, often risking death, to countries of greater abundance and saner policies. It is also no wonder that those countries don’t want them. At some point in loading a rowboat, even one extra person will sink it. And many of the refugees are nationals of countries with almost opposite values of those of their new host countries. Europe is now on the front lines of the refugee crisis and is struggling to hold itself together. It is one of the great historical ironies that the European countries, perhaps the most enlightened and progressive of all time, are employing greater and greater draconian measures to try to preserve what they have. But the refugees will keep coming, in the millions and then the hundreds of millions, and there will be no walls or armies strong enough to stop them. This is true not only for Europe but anywhere there is potential for a better life.
The places where there still exists “a better life” are rapidly deteriorating as well. In Chris Hedges’ book, America: The Farewell Tour, he forensically chronicles the decline of 21st century America. The “flyover” states, that is, almost everywhere except the coasts, are ridden with poverty, alcoholism, prostitution, drug and gambling addiction, porn addiction, violence, inferior education, depression and other mental illnesses, poor physical health, and suicide. “The diseases of despair” as sociologists call them.
These diseases of despair likely have a correlation to our severance from the natural world. At the 2017 Bateson Symposium in Sweden, Rex Weyler gave a thought-provoking presentation called “Ecological Trauma and Common Addictions.” Weyler, one of the founders of Greenpeace, defines ecological trauma as “the experience of witnessing – consciously or not – the pervasive abuse and destruction of the natural world, of which we are a part, and for which we have a primal affinity. Almost everyone in the modern, industrial world can tell stories of treasured childhood experiences in natural settings or wilderness sanctuaries that have been obliterated for a shopping mall, parking lot, highway, or other industrial, consumer function.
“Modern neuroses and addictions, prevalent in industrial nations, can be traced, at least partially, to the trauma of separation from natural security and the trauma of witnessing the abuse of nature. The marvels and conveniences of technological society provide only a thin veneer over our natural being. We remain biophysical animals akin to ants and raccoons.
“Regardless of prevailing conceits, we retain patterns learned from fifty million years of primate evolution, five million years of hominid development in productive ecological habitats, and 500,000 years of fire-bearing, tool-making hunter-gatherer culture. During this long genesis, humanity grew within the comfort and constraints of an intact ecosystem that supplied sustenance, vital lessons, wonder, and a home. Watching that home fall under the blade of industrialism shocks our system, whether we know it or not.
“Within the last few hundred years, industrial culture has widened this separation from nature, divided families, and destroyed communities, creating alienated individuals clinging to scarce jobs and rewarded with packaged food and entertainment, like the “bread and circuses” that Roman emperors bestowed upon disenfranchised peasants.”
In fact, for the past two years, average life expectancy in the USA has declined due to suicide and opioid overdoses. The U.S is now in the midst of the worst drug epidemic in its history; more people die from opiate overdoses than from car accidents or gun homicides. Due to the poverty existent in these communities there is also a breakdown of law and order as well as basic services. The local municipalities are going broke and are beginning to function like banana republics.
Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), the largest utility company in the United States, provides gas and electric power for two thirds of California. It just filed for bankruptcy protection against lawsuits of an estimated thirty billion dollars due to its power lines blowing about and possibly starting some of the deadly fires that recently occurred in California. Who bails out the utility companies when these things occur? The Federal Government, which means the taxpayers get the bill. How long can governments bail out corporations? The US national debt, for instance, now stands at 22 trillion dollars. At what point is the “let’s pretend” game of currency value over? How long will we be able to exchange pieces of paper for food? And what will happen when we are forced to make extreme sacrifices?
The richer countries are particularly intolerant of making even relatively small sacrifices that might have a future benefit; for example, the “yellow vest” riots that began in Paris in October 2018 and spread throughout the country.
The fracas started when French President Emmanuel Macron announced an “eco-tax” on fuel in an attempt to fulfill his campaign promise to address global warming. Soon after the rioting began, the government walked back any talk of the tax, but by then the rioters had added on a host of other grievances and the mayhem began to grow, becoming more violent, destructive, and deadly. These are not people who are starving or being removed at gunpoint from their homes. These are people who are being asked to sacrifice some of their income for the greater good. But as we are seeing there and elsewhere, short-term greed prevails.
What is happening in France is no doubt a cautionary tale to other progressive world leaders who dare to challenge Big Oil and its hungry consumers. It is a mark of immaturity to be unable to delay personal satisfaction for the chance at greater wellbeing for all at a later date. And it is yet another wearisome example of why we humans are in the mess in which we find ourselves. We see it throughout human history. Greed is not new to modern times. We can easily understand the greedy impulse as most of us are afflicted with it. Perhaps the evolutionary imperatives from ancient times would have had no use for delayed gratification since servicing immediate needs often meant the difference between life and death. However, we can now see that being enslaved to our base desires and impulses is contraindicated to our survival. Seeing disintegrations occur in the developed countries gives a glimpse as to what societal and economic breakdown will look like when there are widespread food shortages everywhere and when the infrastructures, including the electric grids, become spotty, too costly to maintain, or are no longer working.
OVERPOPULATION AND CO-EXTINCTIONS
In 1952, when I was born, there were approximately 2.6 billion people on earth. There are now 7.7 billion, a more than threefold increase in my lifetime. Our use rate of resources would allow for our planet to sustainably host only about one billion people. As William Catton explained in his 1980 book Overshoot, we are in “carrying capacity deficit.” In other words, the load on resource use is far in excess of its carrying capacity. Of course, the only way we have been able to pull this off is by stealing from the future, just as we might have a garden of food that could last ten people through the winter and instead we have a wild party for a thousand and go through the entire supply in an evening.
It is also troubling to realize that whatever reasonable measures we might attempt to mitigate our situation, and there are none known that can be done at scale, the addition of roughly 220,000 humans per day (births minus deaths) would curtail our efforts at mitigation.
According to many scientific studies, some of the inevitable outcomes of overpopulation are severely polluted water, increased air pollution and lung diseases, proliferation of infectious diseases, overwhelmed hospitals, rising crime rates, deforestation, loss of wildlife leading to mass extinctions, widespread food shortages, vanishing fish in the oceans, superbugs and airborne diseases along with diminished capacity to treat them, proliferation of AIDS, less access to safe drinking water, new parasites, desertification, rising regional conflicts, and war. As astrobiology professor Peter Ward explained in a story on the BBC, “If you look at any biological system, when it overpopulates it begins to poison its home.”
Of course, when we speak of overpopulation we specifically refer to humans. In fact, human activity is causing massive die-offs of the other species.
Martin S. Feldstein was a great economist who changed the world through research, teaching, public service, hundreds of op-eds in these pages over 40 years, and leadership of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Marty, who died Tuesday at 79, didn’t lack for recognition. He earned the American Economic Association’s John Bates Clark medal and then its presidency, chairmanship of President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers, numerous honorary degrees, and memberships in prestigious scholarly and policy groups.
It was all well-deserved and has been well-chronicled in his obituaries. For me, though, Marty’s death isn’t merely the loss of an economics superstar; it is the loss of a mentor and friend who, through his teaching, generosity of spirit and example, made possible everything I have been able to achieve professionally. Countless others can say the same about him, in their own ways.
The Journal also published on the same page an article which contained excerpts from four of Feldstein’s earlier op eds. You can read those here.
However, it was the last one, written on March 21, 2019 less than a month before he died that prompts this op ed.
The most dangerous domestic problem facing America’s federal government is the rapid growth of its budget deficit and national debt.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the deficit this year will be $900 billion, more than 4% of gross domestic product. It will surpass $1 trillion in 2022. The federal debt is now 78% of GDP. By 2028, it is projected to be nearly 100% of GDP and still rising. All this will have very serious economic consequences, and the CBO understates the problem. It has to base its projections on current law—in this case, the levels of spending and the future tax rules and rates that appear in law today.
Those levels don’t match realistic predictions. Current law projects that defense spending will decline as a share of GDP, from a very low 3.1% now to about 2.5% over the next 10 years. None of the military and civilian defense experts with whom I’ve spoken believe that will happen, given America’s global responsibilities and the need to modernize U.S. military equipment. It is likelier that defense spending will stay around 3% of GDP or even increase in the coming decade. And if the outlook for defense spending is increased, the Democratic House majority will insist that the nondefense discretionary spending should rise to match its trajectory….
Lawmakers don’t like to cut spending, but they have to do something. Otherwise the exploding national debt will be an increasing burden on our children, economic growth and our future standard of living.
Limits! Something our finite planet’s inhabitants are constantly ignoring whether it be in spending beyond our capacity or polluting our environment as so eloquently observed by many experts or in adding human numbers who can’t be taken care of! The Population Connection’s June 2019 article citing the opinion of E.O. Wilson that “Runaway population growth (is) at epicenter of environmental problems.”
How long before the Armageddon predicted above occurs? I guess the human lottery game being played by all of us leaves that question for the future. Having 7 great granddaughters I truly care for their future. But the trend toward a dangerously attacked planet, our only home, has been well documented by the numerous articles on this website and others over the years. At 88 I expect to learn by 2025 that that there will be 8 billion of us which will mean world population has grown 4 times in my lifetime.
Former US Navy officer, banker and venture capitalist, Donald A. Collins, a free lance writer living in Washington, DC., has spent over 40 years working for women’s reproductive health as a board member and/or officer of numerous family planning organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Guttmacher Institute, Family Health International and Ipas. Yale under graduate, NYU MBA. He is the author of From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013.
From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013
By Donald A. Collins
Publisher: Church and State Press (July 30, 2014)
ASIN: B00MA40TVE Kindle Store
The Origin of “Limits to Growth” – Interview with Dennis Meadows
UN biodiversity report: What extinctions mean for humanity | DW News
Vatican control of World Health Organization population policy: An interview with Milton P. Siegel
Catholic Church – Unethical Obstruction of Family Planning
The growth will increase humanity’s footprint on the planet, which could exacerbate hunger, poverty and climate change, experts say.
A crowded railway station in Hyderabad, India. A new report projects that India will become the world’s most populous country by about 2027, surpassing China. Mahesh Kumar A. / AP file
By Denise Chow
The world’s population could swell to 10.9 billion by the end of the century, a new United Nations analysis found, raising concerns that adding more than 3 billion people to the planet could further deplete natural resources and accelerate global warming.
The increase, up from the current count of 7.7 billion people, is expected despite a continued decline in the global fertility rate, which has fallen from 3.2 births per woman in 1990 to 2.5 births per woman this year. Experts say the global fertility rate will continue to decline, but the world’s overall population will still rise, hitting 9.7 billion by 2050.
The new report predicts slower population growth than the U.N.’s last assessment, released in 2017. That estimate projected that the world population would reach a staggering 11.2 billion by the end of the century. The revised figures reflect the downward trend in the global fertility rate, which means the populations of more countries are shrinking.
The fastest growth, according to the new report, is most likely to occur in sub-Saharan Africa, which is expected to double its population in the next 30 years. The report also projected that India would become the world’s most populous country by about 2027, surpassing China, which is expected to see its current population of 1.43 billion dip 2.2 percent by 2050. Over the next 30 years, 54 other countries are expected to see population declines, including Lithuania, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Japan.
The United States is estimated to grow from 329 million people in 2019 to 434 million people by the end of the century, with most of that projected increase owing to migration.
According to the U.N., many of the fastest-growing regions are among the poorest, which could exacerbate issues of hunger and displacement.
Scientists are also concerned about the effect of population growth on climate change. As the global population increases, so will humanity’s footprint on the planet.
“Our impact on the climate is tied up with population in lots of different ways — what resources people are using, how much industrial production is going on, how much energy is needed for heating, cooling and transportation,” Amy Snover, director of the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group, said. “All of these things affect greenhouse gas emissions, so the more people we have and the more resources we use, the harder it will be to cope with the risks and impacts of climate change.”
But population growth is just one of the factors driving climate change. Consumption habits also matter, and they’re far from uniform across countries.
“There’s a massive disconnect between where the most population growth is happening and where the greatest consumption is happening,” said Corey Bradshaw, director of the Global Ecology Laboratory at Flinders University in Australia. In other words, the average person’s lifestyle in the U.S. is more detrimental to the environment than the average person’s in sub-Saharan Africa. That means rapid population growth in Africa won’t be as damaging to the environment as a similar population increase would be in the U.S.
On Thursday, ecologists at the University of California, Berkeley, released a study published in Science Magazine that indicates animals are adjusting their habits to avoid the stresses of human encroachment on their habitat.
According to the research from Kaitlyn M. Gaynor, Cheryl E. Hojnowski, Neil H. Carter, and Justin S. Brashares, human population growth is having a profound influence on the way animals go about their business—specifically, when they choose to go about their business.
It seems that a number of mammalian species have become nocturnal in an effort to avoid us.
Scientists admit that this probably works for the animals, but could have potential “ecosystem-level consequences” we don’t yet fully understand.
It’s been acknowledged in the past that mammals have been adjusting to the presence of humans by moving less, retreating to remote areas, and spending less time looking for food, according to Phys.org, who spoke with Gaynor, the leader of the study. All these altered behaviors contribute to overall stress in the animals.
Gaynor’s study indicates that even things like camping and hiking could be having a negative effect on wildlife.
“It suggests that animals might be playing it safe around people,” said Gaynor. “We may think that we leave no trace when we’re just hiking in the woods, but our mere presence can have lasting consequences.”
The research was a cumulative meta-analysis of 76 studies of 62 species from six continents. That analysis revealed an increase in the nocturnality of animals in response to disturbance from humans by an average factor of 1.36.
It didn’t matter what continent they looked at, the findings were fairly consistent across species, habitats, and the activities of humans in the area, from hunting to farming.
While this shows remarkable adaptability in the animals, scientists warn “such responses can result in marked shifts away from natural patterns of activity, with consequences for fitness, population persistence, community interactions, and evolution.”
Some of the animals in the study included Tanzanian lions, otters in Brazil, coyotes in California, wild boars in Poland, and tigers in Nepal, showing a remarkable diversity of animal behavior changing across environment and species.
But it’s not necessarily all bad. There are animals that can be suited to life as night owls.
“Humans can do their thing during the day; wildlife can do their thing at night,” added Gaynor.
This would allow humans to share the environment with “many other species that are just taking the night shift while we’re sleeping.”
The comprehensiveness of the data is remarkable to other scientists, as this sort of information hasn’t been so exhaustively compiled before. Ecologist Marlee Tucker of Goethe University Frankfurt in Germany, helped with some aspects of the study, and remarked how it changed her perspective on the effect humans have on other living creatures.
“It’s a little bit scary,” she said. “Even if people think that we’re not deliberately trying to impact animals, we probably are without knowing it.”
America’s fertility rate is in steady decline: In 2018, it dipped to an all-time low, down 2 percent from the year before, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report published Wednesday. American women are now predicted to have an average of 1.73 children over their lifetime. The absolute number of births has also fallen to a historic low: Roughly 3.8 million babies were born in the United States last year, the smallest tally since 1986, when the country was just starting to emerge from a recession.
Some observersare worried that theongoing decline will have grim economic consequences in the not-so-distant future. Without enough new babies, the theory goes, America’s demographic makeup will tip further toward older generations, whose members will grow needier and less productive with age. A shrinking workforce could, over time, make this imbalance all the more unsustainable.
If the trend holds fast over the next few years, those fears may prove valid, Karen Benjamin Guzzo, a demographer and sociology professor at Bowling Green State University, told me. But, she says, the trends revealed by the new report are more complex than just the declining fertility rate, and it contains some hopeful news as well: The teen birth rate dropped by 7 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to the CDC’s analysis. Meanwhile, the rate for women ages 30 through 34 was virtually unchanged, and their counterparts in their late 30s and early 40s experienced a slight uptick in birth rates, up 1 percent and 2 percent, respectively. Generally speaking, the older a woman is when she has her first child, the better that child’s socioeconomic outcome.
Against this backdrop, Benjamin Guzzo argues, using that 1.73-children-per-woman stat to predict catastrophe doesn’t make sense. The common measure of a country’s fertility rate is known as its total fertility rate, or TFR. The TFR predicts the expected number of children an average American woman will have in her lifetime. Importantly, it isn’t some ongoing tally—rather, it gathers the actual fertility rate of, say, U.S. women in their 40s and extrapolates from that number to assert what the rate for women currently in their 20s will be two decades from now. TFR is a useful metric because it’s simple and enables apples-to-apples comparisons globally, Benjamin Guzzo says. But in a country and an era in which more and more women are delaying motherhood, she argues, TFR is an estimate that is bound to be skewed.
That’s especially true because, by and large, the rate at which American women of childbearing age express an interest in starting a family hasn’t changed much in the past decade, suggests research presented at a recent meeting of demographers. Nor have notions of the ideal number of children in a family. Meanwhile, a growing body of research challenges traditional assumptions about the risk factors of so-called geriatric pregnancies. Women, Benjamin Guzzo notes, have long had children in their 40s—it’s just that, in the past, they were often having their third or fourth kid.
While some of this apparently declining fertility rate may be attributable to delay, notably, a woman’s decision to delay a baby does increase the likelihood that she won’t end up ever having one. “We need to be changing how we talk about this from mostly a story about delayed births to, increasingly, a story about births that these women are simply never going to have,” Lyman Stone, a researcher at the Institute for Family Studies, told me in an email.
Whatever’s going on, people decide not to have children, or to delay having them, for all sorts of reasons, not always because they’re not interested. For instance, a 2018 study surveying healthy, egg-freezing women in the United States and Israel on their motivations found that “lack of a partner” was the primary driving force. Specifically, the study participants pointed to a “massive undersupply” of men who are university-educated and committed to fidelity, marriage, and/or parenthood.
All of which is to say: The record-low fertility rate likely isn’t a sign that the United States’ younger generations are rejecting having children. Rather, the way Benjamin Guzzo and many other observers see it, it’s a sign that the country isn’t providing the support Americans feel they need in order to have children.
I understand the author is seeking to assuage fears being reported about our country’s declining fertility rate but I strongly object to both this professed fear and the need to mitigate it. Grim economic consequences because people aren’t populating fast enough to become working drones? It’s hard not to laugh at the absurdity of such a thought when everything indicates the opposite is actually the cause for grim writing on the wall. If humans don’t change our global industrial economic model, and soon, human civilization will be collapsing in our lifetimes. And we’re taking just about everything else out the door with us! This Great Extinction Event we’re experiencing is begging human civilization to live differently—breed less, consume less, harm less. This should be the mantra guiding us all right now.
I’m one of many U.S. child-free women who opted out of child-bearing and -rearing intentionally—not only because I wanted to spend my professional years serving others not of my own making, but also because our world’s burgeoning and exponentially increasing human population is well past sustainability. I actually considered the personal act of bringing a child into the world immoral, given the state of affairs of our current world and the ecological crisis that is mounting. In short, I concur with one of the author’s theories: dropping fertility rates do in part reflect women like myself who are looking at climate doom & gloom and choosing not to procreate. For Earth’s sake, I’m just grateful I’m not alone.
“JOIN ME by not having sex until we get bodily autonomy back,” actress-activist tweets
Rosemary Rossi | May 11, 2019 @ 9:46 AMLast Updated: May 11, 2019 @ 9:49 AM
Alyssa Milano responded to Georgia’s anti-abortion law Friday night, calling for women to just say no to sex “until we get bodily autonomy back.”
“Our reproductive rights are being erased,” the actress-activist tweeted. “Until women have legal control over our own bodies we just cannot risk pregnancy. JOIN ME by not having sex until we get bodily autonomy back. I’m calling for a #SexStrike. Pass it on.”
The message was accompanied by a giant pink “x” and the caption “If our choices are denied, so are yours.”
Milano’s call to action by female voters kicks up her protest of Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s signed state legislation this week banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. Earlier in the week, she championed a boycott of the state of Georgia as a location of filming and where the second season of Netflix’s “Insatiable” is currently in production.
“I will do everything in my power to get as many productions as possible — including ‘Insatiable’ — to move out of this state which continues to put forth oppressive, hurtful policy that contradicts everything the entertainment industry stands for,” Milano said in a statement to TheWrapThursday.
She added: “Obviously, those who are already contractually obligated to be there, should fight to get their show out of Georgia while continuing their contractual obligation. I have to be there for another three weeks but you can be sure I will fight tooth and nail to move ‘Insatiable’ to a state that will protect our rights. And if it doesn’t move to another state, I will not be able to return to the show if we are blessed with a third season. This is my leverage. I will use it for the betterment of society and our great country.”
Good Morning America: At Delta, Piloting is a Family Business – One Mother, Two Daughters
Pilot mother and her two pilot daughters reach for the sky together
According to Georgia Trend, the Peach State overtook California as the top location for production of feature films in 2016, leading to an economic impact of $9.5 billion in fiscal 2017 and $2.7 billion in direct spending.
President Trump is a peddler of misinformation about abortion, and as someone who meets with patients in the exam room every single day, I see the real impact of the lies and stigma he spreads.
I am a physician who has spent years studying and practicing medicine, and have dedicated my career to sexual and reproductive health. I know the importance of providing my patients with the scientific facts they need to make health care decisions. It would be ethically irresponsible to provide misinformation to patients, and politicians should be held to the same standard.
It also troubles me to see the direct impact these policies have on people’s lives. It is my duty to set the facts straight to try to reduce some of the misinformation forced on my patients by medically inexperienced politicians.
Abortion later in pregnancy is not infanticide, and there is no such thing as so-called post-birth abortion. The Reproductive Health Act, recently passed in New York, permits abortion to occur after 24 weeks if the pregnant person’s health is compromised or if the fetus has a condition that is not compatible with life.
Most anatomic anomalies cannot even be diagnosed until after 20 weeks. I have had patients discover that their pregnancy was no longer viable and not have the financial support to travel out of state to get care. However, because of the RHA, if pregnant people in New York find themselves needing an abortion after 24 weeks, they may seek that care with fewer barriers — this means that access to care will be improved.
Abortion is safe, necessary health care. In fact, recent studies have affirmed that abortions don’t increase the risk of suicide or breast cancer. Yet several states force physicians to tell their patients this. While working in Texas, I was mandated by state law to tell patients that abortions can cause breast cancer. This is not only false, but it also causes patients to experience distress.
State-mandated scripts, ultrasound requirements, waiting periods and insurance bans do not safeguard reproductive health. These laws cause patients to wait longer, travel further, and pay more money to receive medically unnecessary interventions and counseling filled with fictional scare tactics.
Anti-abortion activists participate in the ‘March for Life,’ an annual event to mark the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, DC, January 18, 2019. SAUL LOEB/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
In March, the Trump administration released the Title X “gag rule” despite widespread opposition from medical organizations, activists and progressive politicians. The rule will make it impossible for health care organizations that receive federal funds through the Title X program for basic sexual and reproductive health services to provide patients with information on abortion or refer them to clinics. The gag rule is yet another way to attack abortion access and shuttle funds from organizations like Planned Parenthood and federally qualified health centers.
It seems Trump has done what he promised—put two anti-abortion justices on the Supreme Court. Now, as the court could further weaken abortion rights, we fear that abortion care could be dismantled and that pregnant people and their health care providers could be arrested and sent to jail.
A recent trend across the country is to ban abortion at six weeks. As an abortion provider, I know firsthand that most people don’t even know they are pregnant at six weeks. Incredibly, Texas lawmakers took the deeply disturbing step of holding a hearing on a bill that would allow pregnant people to be charged with murder for having an abortion. Murder is a capital crime that carries the death penalty in Texas. All of these bills are attempts to prevent patients from accessing abortion care and spread shame, stigma and fear in the process.
Abortion is a safe, legal medical procedure that one in four American women has in her lifetime. Abortion is health care; it is within the full spectrum of reproductive health care. Unplanned pregnancies are prevented with increased access to contraception and comprehensive sex education for young people.
Ideology has no place in health care policy. We must trust our patients and recognize that their intersectional life experiences bring them to the decision to have an abortion. As a physician, I took an oath to do what’s best for my patients: use evidence-based medicine and honor my patients’ decisions. Trump and all of our lawmakers should be letting health care providers do our jobs.