Why We Should Care about Family Planning this Earth Day

“This is our water,” the woman said and pointed to a parched hole from which a small stream of earth-dyed water trickled. She bent over with her water jug to demonstrate how the women in her village angled the jugs to obtain the water with as little mud infiltration as possible.

This was their water source? What the women, their children and their families were drinking? Washing? Cleaning with? Using at the local clinic? I was shocked.

As Earth Day approaches I’m reminded of that moment again. At the time I was visiting a project site for Wangari Maathai’s Greenbelt Movement and it was the first time I saw the devastating impact climate change has on women. In that part of rural Kenya, there were no trees. For various reasons deforestation was almost complete, and it had stripped the land of its natural bounty. The environmental changes affecting the area were devastating, in particular for the women who had to walk miles to this tiny stream. Lost pregnancies and infants were high. Medical care was scarce. And family planning was almost non-existent.

The women were passionate about wanting change. They were thrilled the Greenbelt Movement was helping them learn how to plant trees to reenergize the soil, provide shade, and serve as a resource. They were excited to be starting their own business as a women’s cooperative, making baskets, which they sold to a vendor who exported them to the United States. But as much as they were learning about the land and economics, they were not learning about family planning.

Last year the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs at the United Nations Secretariat wrote, “if current family planning efforts are not strengthened and current levels of fertility were to remain unchanged, then world population is projected to reach 11 billion by 2050, rather than the 9.2 billion that is projected in the medium variant.”

How does this affect women and the planet?

“Population growth will interface with climate change in ways that intensify several other mechanisms, especially shelter, food, and water scarcity. Population growth also puts additional stress on already weak health systems and exacerbates vulnerability to the adverse health effects of climate change,” according to The Lancet from May 2009.

And women bear the biggest burden. Many women are the primary sources of water and food for their families. Women are also at risk for dying in unhygienic conditions during pregnancy and childbirth.

Family planning is one of the many interventions that, if invested more strongly in, could make an incredible impact now. It is wanted by couples (200 million women in the world want, but lack access to modern contraceptives), has a proven track record of improving health and saving lives (the recent study on the decline in maternal mortality indicated family planning was one of the biggest contributing factors), and the technology exists right now in simple and effect forms—no more waiting for crazy experiments to put air conditioners into the atmosphere to cool the earth. Not to mention of course that it’s also a woman’s right to control her own body.

To ensure the future health of the upcoming generations, we must leave behind a habitable, healthy planet and family planning can play a great role. Better contraceptives and the establishment of organized family planning programs can meet the demand for families and decreased fertility. When people are able to manage family size, they have more time to gain knowledge and participate in local governance, they are then better able to contribute to their local communities, become involved in environmental care programs and help their families move out of poverty.

To help women like the ones I met in Kenya, we need more projects that combine reproductive health and conservation. That way not only will there be greater involvement in natural resource management, but women can also make decisions about their own bodies and futures.

So this Earth Day take action to ensure more women have access to the reproductive health care and family planning they need. Sign this petition to show your support for reproductive health care. Together we can make a big change for women, our world and our future.








Pathfinder International: Sarah Day, Uganda


William C
William C10 months ago


W. C
W. C10 months ago

Thank you.

Jennifer C.
Past Member 7 years ago

Thanks for this great article.

Deborah P.
Intuitive S7 years ago

Women are people too - not 'the other' - not second class planetary inhabitants.. Certain traditions have had a stranglehold on women's awareness & ability to see ourselves as equal cohabitants of Earth.These family planning tools are essential & must be maintained to negotiate our own lives as well as make conscious choices about our futures & our own needs & health. Going against this is just an excuse to keep women down & keep mom-wives incessantly pregnant & serving others. More choices, more options, more platforms for our voices, more power for women everywhere.

Ms.R. S.
MsR S8 years ago

Care2 had a family planning site to donate butterfly credits to but it's been taken away. I've over 4K credits I want to give to family planning, to help avoid overpopulation, but no longer have the choice to give it.

Lisanne D.
Lisanne D8 years ago

Two, one, or none. What is wrong with that? Animals have their seasons to mate and give birth. But we are ready & willing every single month, no wonder we are so overpopulated. But there is such a thing as birth control, use it HUMANS!!! I have lived 41 years without having a baby, and I'm sure not dying over it. I knew as a youngster that we were overpopulated. I'm sure in the minority. How sad.

Anne F.
Anne F8 years ago

Freedom for women to plan their childbearing is important.

Adam I.
Adam I8 years ago

Thank you, Dietrich S.
Things are being quietly done - at least, thought of - within the US administration.
Meet Dr. Fedoroff, the US State Department chief scientist and adviser of Hillary Clinton, March 23, 2009: "famines that strike a billion people are quite possible in a world where climate change has damaged food production and the human population has risen to nine billion."
Dr. Fedoroff echoes comments by John Beddington, Britain's chief scientist, who forecasts a "perfect storm" of food, water and energy shortages by 2030, when she told BBC One, that humans had exceeded the Earth's "limits of sustainability".
"We need to continue to decrease the growth rate of the global population; the planet can't support many more people," Dr Fedoroff said, stressing the need for humans to become much better at managing "wild lands", and in particular water supplies.":

Furthermore, Australian scholars, moderate environmental advocates and members of the business are joining forces and will in a political party - the Stable Population Party of Australia - , in order to promote awareness of and humanly tackle overpopulation and hence ensure a sustainable development in their country: http://www.populationparty.com/Home

And one could even detect some sign of desperation in the call of these scientists: "Save The Planet, Have Less Kids": http://www.livescience.com/environment/090803-children-carbon-footprint.html

Dietrich S.
Dietrich S8 years ago

Thank you so much for this precise analysis of the facts. In pherology, there is an immense effort to make this publicly known, but the opposition against it - mainly by religious, nationalistic, and self-proclaimed "political-correctness"-groups is unbeleavably strong.
So, once again, Care2 is the wonderful defender of the free speech.
Special thanks to Adam I. for his comment and the excellent link.
And I fully agree with Alfred Supe. Yes, some people try to nonsensically compare us with Hitler - but he wanted at as many people as possible for the claim to power. We aim at the downright contrary!

Adam I.
Adam I8 years ago


Lorelai R.,
I have got your point and the news is pretty uplifting, thanks.

Member Alfred Supe,
I definitely won't say so: your views are objective, sober, rational and highly humane - and many share them, out there:
- Mr. Bradford Plumer: 'Is There Enough Food Out There For Nine Billion People'
- UN Study of 18 November 2009: Slower Population Growth To Help Environment:
- CNN 'Cafferty File: Overpopulation & the Earth's Limited Natural Resources':
- Optimum Population Trust, 'International Statement on the Need to Act Urgently on Overpopulation': http://www.optimumpopulation.org/opt.int.statement.html
- "Muslim Ulama & Implementing Restrictive Family and Population Policies" (Year 2005):
- "UK POPULATION MUST FALL TO 30M! ", says Porritt, one of Mr. Gordon Brown's leading green advisers; March 22, 2009:
- Richard Pindar; 09 Sep 2009: 'Contraception cheapest way to combat climate change':
...and so on...