Having 1 less baby better for climate than a Prius or solar power. Madeline Ostrander and Alisha Graves.
The old saying about the circus: "There's a sucker born every minute". But hundreds of new humans are born every minute, as the human population continues to multiply. Many will be Western-style super consumers, the ones who drain resources and fill the skies with greenhouse gases. If we can't control that urge, a major climate disruption may do it for us.
"Green sex" - Do it for the climate. We'll find out what that means with Alisha Graves. She has a Masters in Public Health from the University of California. She's co-founded and leads a group called the OASIS Initiative, which stands for Organizing to Advance Solutions in the Sahel.
Alisha Graves is also a research fellow for Project Drawdown, a group of scientists and other experts working to create a livable climate future, led by Paul Hawken.
Public health expert Alisha Graves:
To hear some environmental groups tell it, all we have to do is install solar energy and drive electric cars - problem solved. But can we really tackle the climate issue without talking about population?
Our instant mental defense is to tell ourselves it's those billions of peasants "over there" somewhere who are responsible for the population impact. What's wrong with that idea? Think of it this way: if you decide not to have a child, you have done far more to reduce greenhouse gases than buying an electric car or installing solar panels. That is because every new consumer born is a heat engine.
We talk about the IPAT formula: I = P × A × T
As Wikipedia explains it, "Human Impact on the environment equals the product of Population, Affluence, and Technology. This shows how the population, affluence and technology produce an impact. The equation was developed in the 1970s during the course of a debate between Barry Commoner, Paul R. Ehrlich and John Holdren."
Sex is such a powerful urge. It can drive our lives even when our brains are barely involved, maybe especially when our brains are weak. Do you believe that rational debate can change sexual behavior? It's interesting to discover that half the babies born in the United States were unintended. So fifty percent of the time, there was no conversation like "should we do this?" Meanwhile, states like Texas are making it harder and harder for a woman to access a safe and legal abortion. At times I'm sure we are going backward in population control, not forward.
Then Alisha gives us a quick snapshot of conditions in the Sahel. That's the region in Africa just south of the Sahara Desert. The Sahel country of Niger has the highest fertility rate in the world: huge families born into utter poverty and lack of health care. Studies show that half the children of Niger are stunted, both physically and mentally. The Oasis Initiative is seeking solutions.
Alisha links to the paper titled "Reproduction and the carbon legacies of individuals" by Paul Murtaugh and Michael Schlax as being useful in this whole debate on climate and population. You can read the full text as an online PDF here.
Of course, you should also check out the Project Drawdown web site.
You can listen to the podcast here.