Categories
Population

Remember Morley Ballantine

            Sometimes happenstance can make a large difference in one’s life. Deciding to move to Durango in 1976 was a stroke of good luck, partly because of Morley Ballantine’s presence here.

            My concern about human population goes back many years, and received encouragement from many mentors, including my parents. A chance meeting with a man from India helped me solidify my goal. It was just before college graduation and I had been accepted into medical school. I told him that I was going into medicine because of concern about overpopulation. “Come to India” he replied; “we need you.”

            Instead of India, we moved to Durango. Gail and I were married 2 days after she completed her graduate degree in teaching and I had finished my first year of medical school. Our 2 sons were born in New Mexico—Dave in Taos, where I was in general practice, and Bryan in Albuquerque, where I did specialty training in OB-GYN.

            We decided that Durango was the best place to raise our two boys, although it was not the most lucrative offer I received—my starting salary was $24,000 a year. While we didn’t know it when we made the decision, we were not the only people concerned about population in this town. The first hint came when small group got together a few times to discuss the issue—that is how I first met Morley Ballantine.

            Another population activist, John Byrd, suggested that we go with the Population Institute to the UN’s International Conference on Population and Development in 1994. It was a huge affair held in Cairo, Egypt with 179 governments participating and tens of thousands of people attending hundreds of events. Somehow, John managed to finagle a personal meeting with Under Secretary Tim Wirth. The former US Senator from Colorado, Wirth was in charge of the USA’s delegation to the conference. We told Wirth that we were able to obtain press passes with the help of the Durango Herald. Wirth paused for a couple of seconds then asked “How is Morley Ballantine?” I’m not sure if Wirth had ever been to Durango, but he certainly knew who ran the Herald! Morley’s influence extended far beyond Durango, and even further than Denver.

            I knew that the Herald won an “Award for Media Excellence” from the Population Institute in 1981. Remembering this, Morley was the first person I thought of when I had an inspiration.

            Twenty-five years ago Gail and I were driving home from listening to Paul Ehrlich speak on human population. He (with is wife, Ann,) had written the best-selling “Population Bomb”. I pulled over to share my brainstorm with Gail. I told her: “We could write a book like the very popular “green” book, ’50 simple things you can do to save the earth’, but call it ’50 simple things you can do to prevent overpopulation’.” During the rest of the drive home together we came up with 17 possible chapters. 

            Morley wasn’t able to help with publishing the book, but what she offered instead turned out to be much better. She agreed to serialize the book in the Herald, a chapter at a time. She proposed that I own the copyrights of the essays/chapters for future use in a book. I would get paid less than the going rate, and I’d donate that money to Planned Parenthood. When there were enough columns it would be easy to compile them into the book.

            Morley’s foresight still amazes me. By owning the copyrights to the articles, I can control what happens to them. For the past 14 years they have been posted on my blog, www.population-matters.org. Many of them have been reprinted by other organizations, such as the British nonprofit organization, Population Matters (they copied my choice of name). I also send out these monthly essays to more than 350 people in many different countries.

            Bill Roberts was my first editor at the Herald, although Gail has always been my first editor. Bill guided me with a gentle hand. I used to be verbose and exceeded my allotted count of 750 words. He sent me a gentle reprimand—just as he did when I strayed from the topic.

            I haven’t given up the idea of writing a book on aspects of human population, but have realized that a collection of re-worked Population Matters! essays would not sell well. My current plan is to include some essays and intermix them with stories from my 40 years of experience as an OB-GYN. What do you think? Please let me know.

©Richard Grossman MD, 2020

Categories
Population

Letter to the Editor to be published in the journal Contraception

Coming soon to Contraception and ContraceptionX!

Below is a Letter to the Editor that has been accepted and will be published soon in Contraception. It is in response to an editorial that appeared in March, which broke a long silence about the importance of voluntary contraception and abortion to the environment, among many people who are involved in family planning.

The publisher, Elsevier, allows a final draft to be published–here it is. Please let me know if you would like a .pdf, once it has been published. I can share it with peers, but don’t think I can post it on my website.

Richard

Thank you for recognizing the importance of family planning to our environment

Richard Grossman MD, MPH

Affiliated Faculty, Biology Department

Fort Lewis College

800 Heartwood Lane

Bayfield, CO  81122

U.S.A.

richard@population-matters.org

Keywords: Family planning; Population growth; Environment

Corresponding Author: Richard Grossman

Highlights:

  • Voluntary family planning has successfully slowed population growth
  • Larger population means more impact on our environment
  • The Commentary “Family planning, population growth and the environment” is welcome

To the Editors:

I was delighted to read the March, 2020 Commentary, “Family planning, population growth, and the environment” by Jeffrey Jensen and Mitchell Crenin. It connects the increase in human population, and our consumption, to the environmental problems, such as climate change, we are facing. Although I have been reading Contraception for almost all of its 50 years of publication, I can remember few articles in the past that makes this connection.

The Commentary celebrates the work that family planning workers have done over the past decades. Without access to contraception and abortion, our human population would be much larger than it already is, and environmental problems even worse. We tend to be most aware of and stress the importance of voluntary family planning to individuals. However, other species and the overall health of the planet also have benefitted greatly from our efforts.

Because of our services, the patients we serve are healthier—and so are their families. Empowered by our services, women are able to continue their education, live up to their potential and take leadership positions in our society. We also have made huge positive impacts on society.

I agree with the Commentary when it states: “As family planning specialists, we should devote part of our effort to educating policy leaders and the public about the importance of our work from an environmental standpoint.” Indeed, several of us have, but not enough. My contribution has been monthly essays on aspects of human population.1 Warren Hern, another Fellow of the Society, has written on this subject for decades.2, 3

Many others have studied the interrelationship between human population and the environment, often commenting on the value of family planning. O’Neill et al. estimate the potential of family planning to decrease carbon emissions.4Bongaarts & O’Neill lament that the IPCC doesn’t pay more attention to population.5 Population, health and environment programs that incorporate family planning may help to save biodiversity hotspots.6 The Center for Biological Diversity uses Endangered Species Condoms, which it gives away, to inform people about the connection between human population and endangered species.7

In the past some family planning providers have been shy about acknowledging the connection between family planning and the state of the environment. I performed an (unpublished) survey of the Society’s Fellows in 2014. Some of the responses recognized the importance of family planning to the environment, while others seemed to take offense at this idea.

I look forward to reading more in Contraception about the importance of voluntary family planning to the state of our environment.

References:

[1]       Grossman R. Population Matters-USA. www.population-matters.org Accessed 5-2-2020.

[2]       Hern, W. Is human culture carcinogenic for uncontrolled population growth and ecological destruction? BioScience 1993; 43(11):768-773. https://doi.org/10.2307/1312321

[3] Hern, W. Choose between candidates who understand global ecological realities, and those who don’t. The Colorado Statesman 2012; 113(9):1535. https://www.coloradopolitics.com/opinion/choose-between-candidates-who-understand-global-ecological-realities-and-those-who-don-t/article_2933b6c0-5791-5c05-889e-bc5bf0751a99.html accessed 4-30-2020

Also available at: https://tinyurl.com/yd7m5xuj

[4]       O’Neill BC, Dalton M, Fuchs R, Jiang L, Pachauri S, Zigova K. Global demographic trends and future carbon emissions. 2010; www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1004581107

[5]       Bongaarts, J & BC O’Neill. Global warming policy: Is population left out in the cold?  Science  17 Aug 2018: 361(6403):650-652 DOI: 10.1126/science.aat8680

[6]       Blue Ventures. https://discover.blueventures.org/madagascar-health-environment/ Accessed 5-2-2020.

[7 ]      Endangered Species Condoms. https://www.endangeredspeciescondoms.com Accessed 5-2-2020.