Listen to Representative Coram

January 24th, 2016

LARC_combo

A recent Durango Herald article detailed the “New Year’s resolutions” of three Southwest Colorado lawmakers. There is an important issue that was not mentioned in this article, and Rep. Coram may have part of its solution.
Let me start by trying to summarize what is on each of the legislators has said. State Senator Ellen Roberts is focusing on rural healthcare costs—for good reason! Although we in the USA spend the most per capita of any country in the world, our health statistics lag behind many other countries. Senator Roberts is also concerned about problems brought up by the Gold King Mine spill. I am confident that her excellent legal mind can help pass a “good Samaritan” law for mine mitigation, and decrease barriers between states in dealing with emergencies. Finally, she is concerned about the monstrous wildfires we have experienced recently.
J. Paul Brown, our Representative in the Colorado House, rightly picks transportation and water as key issues for the legislative session that has just begun. He and I probably disagree about transportation because I support public transportation as well as highway improvement. But we definitely agree about water! J. Paul’s website states: “Water is the most precious resource on Colorado’s West Slope…. As your State Legislator, I will work tirelessly to protect our water.” Globally, water is the most precious resource.
Don Coram represents people a bit to the north and west of La Plata County, nevertheless he was included in this article. The only issue mentioned is voter registration, but I admire him for another topic. In 2015 he was one of the sponsors of a bill to provide safe, effective contraception to low-income women. A Republican, the bill had a Democratic cosponsor. Unfortunately, the bill failed. Fortunately, however, a coalition of private donors has temporarily picked up part of the slack.
You probably recall that a foundation funded provision of Long Acting, Reversible Contraceptives (LARCs) here in Colorado. LARCs consist of IUDs and a hormonal implant, all of which are safe and appreciated by women, but are usually out of the price range of those who don’t have insurance. They are much more effective than over-the-counter methods such as condoms, and are even 20 times as successful at preventing pregnancy as “the pill”. That grant was for a 5-year period which ended in 2015. This funding had a remarkable effect! There were fewer abortions in Colorado, and our teen pregnancy rate dropped by 40%.
Despite Representative Coram’s best efforts, the legislature would not approve funding to continue the program. The reason given for disapproval by other legislators was that IUDs sometimes cause abortions. The best medical knowledge is that IUDs do not cause abortions—but it is well known that unplanned pregnancies often end up being aborted.
Public health sources state that each dollar spent on family planning saves from 4 to 7 healthcare dollars. This is a better return on investment than just about anything else! Personal benefits, such as allowing a young woman to finish college are of even greater value. Other advantages, however, go beyond the obvious. The cost of insurance is lower if there are fewer unplanned pregnancies, Senator Roberts. Some of the highest healthcare costs are those associated with premature birth. The pregnancies that LARCs prevented in this study would have likely been to the women most likely to give birth prematurely—young and poor.
What is causing those terrible wildfires that we are having trouble paying for? Climate change is a major factor. What is the least expensive way to slow greenhouse gas emissions? You guessed it—family planning! Fewer people mean fewer emissions. LARCs won’t provide a short-term solution for either climate change or wildfires, but they can help in the long term.
Representative Brown, please remember that the more people who drive on our highways, the more costly they are to maintain. Likewise, the more people there are in Colorado, the greater the need for water. Most of the growth is on our state’s Eastern Slope. As its population increases, the pressure for them to get our Western Slope water will increase. Again, LARCs won’t solve transportation or water problems right away, but funding them can reduce the size of the problems that our children and grandchildren have to deal with.
Thank you for your courageous stand, Representative Coram. I am sorry that I cannot vote for you, but hope that you will find new allies in support of another bill to pay for LARCs.

© Richard Grossman MD, 2016

Woodman, Spare that Tree

December 28th, 2015

Autumn-Lake-Reflection-800px

 

                       Woodman, spare that tree!

                           Touch not a single bough!

                        In youth it sheltered me,

                             And I’ll protect it now.

                                                George Pope Morris

 

Twelve years ago at this time we had just returned from Costa Rica to celebrate Christmas at home. Close to where we had stayed we watched the beginning of a new building going up, using steel instead of wood.

In this country with vast forests and where all steel is imported, why wouldn’t they use wood? I was told that it was to preserve the trees. When I asked what the building was going to be, I was told… but you need to read to the end of this column to find out!

There is an estimate that humans have cut down or damaged three quarters of the forests that existed before we became the dominant animal on the planet. Costa Rica is no exception; Ticos had cut down large portions of its forests. Fortunately, thanks to that country’s exceptionally good conservation policies and good luck, second growth forests now cover about a seventh of the country’s land area.

We rented a cozy cabin for most of the 3 months that we lived in Monteverde. Perhaps its best quality was its location, bordering the Children’s Eternal Rain Forest. Trees in this area had been cut down for agriculture, and more recently they were allowed to regrow. The land was bought with donations from all over the world. Most impressively, the movement to preserve and rehabilitate this land was started by Swedish elementary school children.

Trees are pretty amazing. In addition to being attractive and fun to climb, they provide shade and purify air and water. They are also part of the carbon cycle, as many kids can tell you. Using sunlight for energy, they suck out carbon dioxide from the air, synthesize cellulose and release oxygen. If that wood burns, the CO2 is returned to the atmosphere. If a tree is allowed to slowly decompose, some of its carbon joins the soil and increases its fertility.

All trees are not created equal, however. In a natural forest there are many different species of trees, plus undergrowth, all filling different ecological niches. On the other hand, a tree monoculture, especially if treated with lots of chemicals, is a poor substitute for a natural forest.

Shade-grown coffee is an example of a good compromise between agricultural production and good ecology. Trees shade the coffee bushes as well as providing homes for many beneficial animals. Hungry birds gobble up harmful insects on the coffee bushes, for example.

Part of the reason we selected Monteverde, Costa Rica as the place to spend a sabbatical was the Quaker connection. Several Quaker families chose to live in the only country in the world that did not have a military force; they founded Monteverde in 1951. They bought a large amount of land very inexpensively, and preserved much of it to insure the purity of their water supply. This uncut, undeveloped cloud forest has become a haven for plants and animals—and for the biologists who study them.

Brazil, in stark contrast to Costa Rica, has been unable to control devastation of its Amazon rainforest. Called the “lungs of the planet”, the Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest and is key for the planet’s health. In 2014 the destruction (by harvesting tropical wood and clearing for cattle and other agriculture) has increased by 16%. An area larger than Delaware was cut down in just one year!

Palm oil production is big business in some Asian countries. Often grown in huge plantations, in Indonesia alone the land devoted to palm oil monoculture is almost as large as Connecticut. The native forest is often burned to prepare for the land for planting oil palms, causing terrible air quality. Sadly, this has lead to the destruction of habitat for orangutans and tigers, among other creatures.

What can we do to spare tropical trees? Avoid buying products made with exotic woods. Eat less beef—you’ll be healthier, too! When possible, pass up foods that contain tropical oils such as palm oil.

We visited Monteverde about a year after the sabbatical and found a group of people outside that little building built with steel instead of wood. Most of them were kids, since school had just let out, and they all looked happy—for a good reason. The shop was selling locally made ice cream! Indeed, Monteverde has some of the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted—coffee is my favorite flavor.

© Richard Grossman MD, 2015

This Poem is a Shocker!

November 25th, 2015

This is the second column of “population poetry”. Thanks to poet Thomas Rain Crow, here is “Overpopulation

From OVER  Human-Tide-

 

People and Trees
© Yann Arthus-Bertrand / www.altitude-photo.com, used with permission

“One of the great challenges today is the population explosion. unless we are able to tackle this issue effectively we will be confronted with the problem of the natural resources being inadequate for all the human beings on this earth. . . . the only choice—limited number . . . happy life . . . meaningful life. too many . . . miserable life and always bullying one another, exploiting one another.”
—His Holiness the Dalai Lama
The image and quote are from the book
“Overdevelopment Overpopulation Overshoot”.
“OVER” is available for purchase, or you can view it and request free copies to use in your population activism at: http://populationspeakout.org/

Overpopulation
for Lawrence Ferlinghetti

copyright Thomas Rain Crow, used with permission

I hear it coming. I hear the sound of the trains. Trains rolling into town. Into the station. Into the aurora borealis of the dark. I can hear it coming. Coming like thunder through a pouring rain. All Aboard!… Coming from the dining rooms of the rich, coming from the ghetto of the poorer than poor, coming from the Horn of Africa and the burning rain forests of Brazil, from the streets of Harlem and Calcutta, from the hills of Honduras and the city of Ho Chi Minh, from the ash of Eastern Europe and the fishboats of Vietnam, from the freeways of Los Angeles and sandstorms of Cairo, coming…. Coming at 300,000 a day, coming 100,000,000 a year, coming to 5,000,000,000 by 1986, coming to 7,600,000,000 by 2015, coming to 11,000,000,000 by 2100. All Aboard!… At 250,000,000 at the time of  Christ. At 500,000,000 when Columbus reached the New World. At 1,000,000,000 by the Declaration of Independence. At 2,000,000,000 by the time of the bomb. At 5,000,000,000 with men on the moon. Coming to America. Coming to Russia. Coming to Japan. Coming to China. Coming to Brazil. Coming to Africa. Coming. Coming. Coming. Coming…. Overpopulation. Overpopulation. Overpopulation. Too many people. Not enough  space. Too many people. Not enough space. Not enough space. Not enough space. Too much sex. Not enough sense. Too many people. Not enough space. Too many babies. Not enough food. Too many babies. Not enough space. 300,000 a day. 100,000,000 a year. Too many people. Not enough space. Population explosion. Population bomb. Overpopulation. (Women with only seven years of school have 3.9 children. Women with no schooling have 6.9 children. Less than 10% of married couples using condoms and pills.) Women have control of the world. Women have the world by the balls: No sex! No sex! No sex! Overpopulation. Too many people. Not enough space. Too many people. Not enough money. Too many people. Not enough jobs. Too many people. Not enough space. Too much sex. Not enough sense. Too many people. Not enough space– Overpopulation. Overpopulation. Overpopulation. Population explosion. Population bomb. Too many people. Not enough space. Too many people. Not enough food. Too many people. Not enough time. I can hear them coming. Coming like trains. Coming like thunder through the rains… Overpopulation. Overpopulation. Overpopulation. Population bomb. Bomb. Bomb. Bomb. Bomb. Babies begging to be born. Cities and sex. Cities and sex. Cities and sex. Sex in the cities causing too many people. Too many people causing too many problems. Too many people: not enough space. Too many people: not enough food. Too many people: not enough money. People. Pollution. People-pollution. Air pollution. Water pollution. Mind pollution. Money pollution. Moral pollution. Heart attack. Heart attack. Heart attack. Nicotine. Nicotine. Nicotine. Caffeine. Caffeine. Caffeine. Cocaine. Cocaine. Cocaine. Crack. Crack. Crack. Alcohol. Alcohol. Alcohol. Divorce. Divorce. Divorce. Violence. Violence. Violence. Murder. Murder. Murder. Starvation. Starvation. Starvation. AIDS. AIDS. AIDS. Denial. Denial. Denial. Denial bomb. Population bomb. Big bomb. Bigger bomb. Bigger bomb. Bigger bomb. Biggest bomb. Boom bomb. Boom bomb. Boom bomb… Bomb of nation. Bomb of war. Bomb of rich. And bomb of poor.  Bomb of smart. And bomb of dumb. Bomb of all. And bomb of some. Bomb of Sodom. Bomb of Baal. Bomb of Krishna. Bomb of Paul. Bomb of Christ. And bomb of hope. Bomb of Ishtar. Bomb of Pope. Bomb of Buddha. Bomb of Nod. Bomb of Satan. Bomb of God. Big population bomb. Big overpopulation bomb. Big bomb. Baby bomb. Boom bomb. Boom bomb. Boom bomb…. Abort! Abort! Abort!… Abort all the isms. Abort all the lies. Abort the mind-pirates who never ask “why?” Abort those who hoard money. And those that grow greed. Abort those among us that plant death and not seed. Abort all the racists. Abort all the wars. Abort the non-feelers. Abort the mind-whores. Abort what they tell us, is good for the group. Abort all the dogma that is nothing but poop. Overpopulation. Overpopulation. Overpopulation. Too many people. Not enough space. Too many people hung up on their race. Too many people. Not enough space. Too many people carrying mace. People living by sex as matter of course. Contemplating scrotum instead of the Source. Too many people with genital brains. By 2010 become history’s stains. Too many people just saving face. Moving about at too fast a pace. Too many people with not enough rest. Too many people not at their best. Too many people climbing up walls. Too many people with too many balls. Too many people alone in the dark. Too many people who can’t hear the lark. Too many people too far from the dove. Too many people hard up for love. Too many people who are ready to fight. Too many people who can’t see the light. Too many people on a little round Earth. Too many people and too much damn birth. Too many people who see forest for trees. Too many people too busy like bees. Too many people who should look to the past. Too many people whose look may be last. Too many people, too fast and too soon. In the next millennium will live on the moon. Too many people that don’t care about place. Too many people: the next human race. Too many people will wake up with the Dawn. Too many people with the human race, gone… And all that is left will be only remains. Of 10,000,000,000 nightmares and 10,000,000,000 pains. With nothing but wind as it blows through the trees. And nothing but God there down on his knees. Down on his knees there alone in the rain. Asking forgiveness and waiting for trains.

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States.