By Sara Novak, Planet Green
A recent article in Time Magazine highlights what the pill has meant for women and society. In 1960, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of the first pill for women. Shortly thereafter, nearly 1 million women started taking the pill. Today, over 80 percent of women will take the pill at some time during their reproductive years.
That’s not to say that the introduction of the pill wasn’t met with controversy. Even today, many religions believe that the purpose of sex, even within marriage, is reproduction. Outside of these social controversies, however, the pill, like all pharmaceuticals, has an effect on the planet. So, what effect has the pill had on the once exploding U.S. population? And, with so many women today taking the pill, how can we mitigate the adverse ecological effects that this powerful pharmaceutical has on our water supply?
A Declining Birth Rate?
The overall decline in the fertility rate over the past fifty years may be attributed, in part, to the spread of industrialization and a correlated rise in income in societies that are becoming highly urbanized and more educated so that there is less reliance upon the family to support production, as is the case in agrarian societies. Nevertheless, the increase in family planning since the introduction of the pill has undoubtedly played a part in lessening the birth rate in nations where methods of birth control are readily available.
According to a recent article in the Huffington Post, access to contraception has led to a decline in unplanned births, shotgun marriages, and adoptions and delayed family formation in some cultures until the late twenties and early thirties. With more women than ever taking the pill, the birth rate is falling. In fact, the number of children per household in this nation has gone from 3.6 to 2 children over the last fifty years. And the trend has increased in the last several decades. According to a CDC report, the birth rate fell [pdf] to 13.9 per 1,000 persons in 2002, down from 14.1 per 1,000 in 2001 and down a full 17 percent from the recent peak in 1990 (16.7 per 1,000).
Overpopulation and the Planet
As we all know, fewer offspring means fewer people drawing on the planet’s finite resources. Recent studies have forecast what exploding populations will eventually mean for the planet. Environmentalists have long been concerned about the resources threatened by rapidly growing human populations, which can exacerbate phenomenon such as deforestation, desertification, air pollution, and global warming. But the most detrimental impact of overpopulation, according to Lawrence Smith, president of the Population Institute, may be the lack of fresh, clean water available to already overpopulated areas.