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The Pill’s Impact on the Planet After 50 Years

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The Pill’s Impact on the Planet After 50 Years

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.

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Megan, selected from Planet Green

Planet Green is the multi-platform media destination devoted to the environment and dedicated to helping people understand how humans impact the planet and how to live a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle. Its two robust websites, PlanetGreen.com and TreeHugger.com, offer original, inspiring, and entertaining content related to how we can evolve to live a better, brighter future. Planet Green is a division of Discovery Communications.

76 comments

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7:10PM PDT on Jun 21, 2012

Considering the condition our environment is in, getting rid of birth control wouldn't make a big difference. Getting rid of green house gases would.

2:58PM PDT on Apr 2, 2012

thanks :)

9:39AM PDT on Mar 29, 2012

It's absolutely crazy. I had already read an article about the feminization of fishes. When you think of all the trash we through in our oceans. It totally disgusts me. How terrible ! I'm glad I'm a medication-free, pill-free person & I intend to never cease improving my eco-friendly skills !

4:40AM PST on Jan 11, 2012

Thanks for the article.

1:34AM PST on Jan 1, 2011

Thanks for the info.

10:18AM PST on Dec 17, 2010

Please read my petitions advocating municipal environmental contraception funding, which is increasingly politically realistic due to The Big Sort in more and more towns, and helps women's right's, quality of life, and school taxes as well as being at least 5 times more cost-effective than any other environmental effort. http://www.change.org/petitions/view/transfer_all_environmental_funds_to_contraception

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/transfer-all-environmental-funds-to-contraception-especially-municipal/

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/childfreetown/

http://www.thebigsort.com/maps.php

4:20AM PST on Nov 13, 2010

This is so ridiculous. Surely, it doesn't take a genius to work out that a myriad of chemicals + water = bad.

4:01AM PST on Nov 13, 2010

This has changed so much! Now women take this just to stay regular.

4:03PM PDT on Jul 14, 2010

:/

11:35PM PDT on Jul 12, 2010

Wow, interesting. I wish there were more places near my house that would properly dispose of unused medications. I had no idea of the dangers. Kind of scary when you think about it. I'm all for birth control though. There are millions of people in this world who have no business having kids at all. Anything that will reduce the population growth is a good thing. The world is overcrowded as it is.

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