Bare Bones Biology 184-repost – Power to Ponzi? Or to Us?

Rudy Sovinee   “Can you think of
any problem in any area of
human endeavor on any scale,
from microscopic to global,

whose long-term solution
is in any demonstrable way
aided, assisted, or advanced by
further increases in population,
locally, nationally, or globally?”

                  – Prof. Al Bartlet

Those are the words of Prof. Al Bartlett. Today I want to share with you some information Rudy sent. I’ll use Rudy’s words and my words and Dr. Bartlett’s words and our combined reference links. If you work through these references, you will have the fact-based information to understand why we worry about population now – TODAY– not for some future time when it will be too late. Additional, and much shorter descriptions of why the exponential function is so important to our welfare have been posted on YouTube by Chris Martensen and by Professor Suzuki and are linked on the blog ( and the web page (

Crash Course, regarding Exponential Growth:
Power of Compounding (this is the good one) Growth versus Prosperity
Prof. Suzuki’s description of exponential growth (another good one)

The accompanying picture illustrates Dr. Bartlett’s description of our dilemma:

“There’s a very profound lesson in that cartoon. The lesson is that zero population growth is going to happen. Now, we can debate whether we like zero population growth or don’t like it, it’s going to happen. Whether we debate it or not, whether we like it or not, it’s absolutely certain. People could never live at that density on the dry land surface of the earth. Therefore, today’s high birth rates will drop; today’s low death rates will rise till they have exactly the same numerical value. That will certainly be in a time short compared to 780 years. So maybe you’re wondering then, what options are available if we wanted to address the problem.

“In the left hand column (of the accompanying picture), I’ve listed some of those things that we should encourage if we want to raise the rate of growth of population and in so doing, make the problem worse. Just look at the list. “Everything in the list is as sacred as motherhood. There’s immigration, medicine, public health, sanitation. These are all devoted to the humane goals of lowering the death rate and that’s very important to me, if it’s my death they’re lowering. But then I’ve got to realize that anything that just lowers the death rate makes the population problem worse.

“There’s peace, law and order; scientific agriculture has lowered the death rate due to famine—that just makes the population problem worse. It’s widely reported that the 55 mph speed limit saved thousands of lives—that just makes the population problem worse. Clean air makes it worse.

“Now, in this column are some of the things we should encourage if we want to lower the rate of growth of population and in so doing, help solve the population problem. Well, there’s abstention, contraception, abortion, small families, stop immigration, disease, war, murder, famine, accidents. Now, smoking clearly raises the death rate; well, that helps solve the problem.

“Remember our conclusion from the cartoon of one person per square meter; we concluded that zero population growth is going to happen. Let’s state that conclusion in other terms and say it’s obvious nature is going to choose from the right hand list and we don’t have to do anything—except be prepared to live with whatever nature chooses from that right hand list. Or we can exercise the one option that’s open to us, and that option is to choose first from the right hand list. We gotta find something here we can go out and campaign for. Anyone here for promoting disease? (audience laughter)

“We now have the capability of incredible war; would you like more murder, more famine, more accidents? Well, here we can see the human dilemma—everything we regard as good makes the population problem worse, everything we regard as bad helps solve the problem. There is a dilemma if ever there was one.

“The one remaining question is education: does it go in the left hand column or the right hand column? I’d have to say thus far in this country it’s been in the left hand column—it’s done very little to reduce ignorance of the problem.”

These are the choices we do have as a human community in response to overpopulation. The odd thing, if you look on the web, is that these are not the choices we humans have chosen to discuss. We are, instead, leaning toward magic. We aren’t even talking very much about available technologies that could limit births, but much more about technologies that increase the certainty of death and suffering of humans after they are born. These discussions are framed as being about human rights, but in fact, it is very clear that overpopulation DECREASES human rights in many ways that are very profitable for the short-term interests of the corposystem.

( , ,

Neil deGrasse Tyson


So what do we-the-people do when our leaders withhold information that is critically important to human values and to the welfare of our children? We investigate it for ourselves – and educate ourselves, and our neighbors — for survival with a reasonably comfortable, sustainable way of living.


The podcast of this blog can be accessed at:

Bare Bones Biology 290 – What Can we Do?

We could try to evolve a sustainable new human social system to replace the corposystem paradigm that requires us to behave in terms of growth for gain, now that growth for gain is no longer sustainable.

Are some people already trying to do this?  Of course they are, there are many good efforts, most of which I do not know about because there are so many small efforts, and they are focused on Biosystem needs rather than advertising, because for the most part (but not entirely), the most admired and “successful” groups are successful beASC_1094*cause they are working within the corposystem paradigm of growth by competition for gain, and we cannot do that while at the same time working for the balanced sustainability of human life on earth.

Because it is the corposystem paradigm of growth by competition for gain that is the primary root cause of the problem we are trying to cure.

We cannot succeed in changing the corposystem paradigm by spending all our energies inside the corposystem paradigm.  We cannot grow our actions using competition without supporting and reinforcing the corposystem paradigm of growth by competition because it is growth itself that must inevitably unbalance (or over-balance) the corposystem so badly that it crashes,.  All we need do is wait – and many people are doing that.

But, at least we are finally talking about the right thing, the root cause of the array of human social problems, which is growth.  Over=growth of the human social system compared with all the other systems that sustain the Biosystem.  The Biosystem (that is Life, our environmental system) requires balance.

Will it take another 60 years or so before we can  understand you can’t do degrowth (that is rebalancing) of humans relative to the environment — while at the same time forcing growth of humans?  Without causing massive human suffering?  It is astonishing that we can talk about growth and degrowth as though those words were all completely separate from more than 7 billion – or is it 8 billion now? People.  While we could be making birth control available to everyone who wants it as a first tentative step in the right direction.  ASC_1079 copyHow can we expect economists and politicians to pull back on the technologies and etc., while just not concerning themselves about the growth in population?  Callous, that’s us.

Degrowth is absolutely essential or we will all suffer greatly;
We can’t have degrowth without degrowth.

This is what I hear people arguing about on the internet?
Does that make sense?
Then why are we still trying to force people who do not want babies to have babies?

It does not make sense.  Neither our arguments nor our behaviors.  It’s time to do something worthwhile.

I think all this nonsense is happening largely because we are allowing ourselves to be brainwashed by one little corposystem meme that isn’t even correct, and it is the same meme that created Hitler’s – or at least justified Hitler’s world view.  And I think that’s one reason we won’t talk about it.  “Survival of the Fittest” is the meme and it is incorrect.  That is NOT primarily how evolution works, so we are killing ourselves over something that isn’t even true.

Survival of the fittest does NOT refer to – let’s say all the rabbits fighting with each other and killing each other off.  Survival of the fittest doesn’t even say whatever we mean by fitness.  What we really mean by fitness is survival of the most useful SPECIES, not the individuals in the species, and then we must define useful.  ASC_1081 copy

Useful must mean the COMBINATION of species that can help the ENVIRONMENT (the Biosystem) to survive.  That is how evolved systems do survive, how evolution works, and nearly all our corposystem message is based on an opposite concept — competition – us against the Biosystem.  Not us helping the Biosystem to survive.  Well, if we keep it up, the Biosystem will not survive, or only the bare bones of it, and neither will Homo sapiens within it.

This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of

A copy of the podcast can be obtained at:

Bare Bones Biology 289 – How Long?

How long do we have? For me that question is so heavy with corposystem assumptions that I cannot answer it within my “vow” to do more good than harm. If I answer it straight, then I am reaffirming the validity of the corposystem mind-set and contributing to what I call “fake debates” that abound on the internet, functioning primarily as displacement activities that distract us from a discussion of problem-solving.

If I do not answer it straight, but begin to spout mechanisms and solutions, the corposystem world view cannot hear because if it has not already happened, then we believe the corposystem will take care of us we only need to wait a while. Unfortunately — it has already happened. People are starving, WWIII is under way, systems are crashing. All the things predicted in my early blogs — wait for what? It started in our yesterdays.

We have no time left to begin dealing with the primary modern cause of our biological problem, which is excessive growth in both population and other measures. The relationship between resources and numbers of people has been known for centuries. It’s too late to begin in time. It has already happened and is happening every hour. People all over the earth are already suffering and dying so that our corposystem can continue to profit from war, the births, the deaths and the transportation of all the products from the (suffering) Biosystem into our treasury. How can you talk to people who cannot understand this? Facts are facts, it is history, it already happened. It is too late to deal with the primary cause of the problem “in time,” and we are it.

So, unless we define what it is that we want to do, the question has no answer. It’s an example of how corposystem mind-set prevents us from doing what is required to change the corposystem mind set. The function of a system is to maintain itself, in this case by preventing us thinking about and discussing the issues that could succeed in solving the specific problem that is or could be under our control. Yesterday is not under our control. Neither is tomorrow if we continue to ask such questions.

I think it would be better to spend ALL our time thinking about things that ARE under our control and begin to deal with the most151216-WPsnow-ASC_0745RLSs important root cause things immediately so (with luck) we may extend the amount of time we have to do the next most important things. Because we do know that the root cause of our current biological problem is overpopulation, and it doesn’t stop.

Do we understand what overpopulation means biologically? It doesn’t mean there are other people making us uncomfortable. It means that the mice, or the rats, or the lemmings, or the people, eat up all the food and then they die. That’s it in plain terms.

How difficult would it be to make birth control available for everyone on earth who wants it — tomorrow? Nothing like as difficult as trying to conquer the laws of nature, or even climate change.

Is it more complicated than that? Of course it is, everything is complicated, but overpopulation is the biological root cause, and unless we believe we can overwhelm the laws of nature — of course we do believe that, but unfortunately we cannot, and let’s not sit around debating that either when we know for a mathematical fact, if it doesn’t change too drastically, that the earth COULD produce enough food to feed fewer people.

The question is not how long do we have before we must do something. The question is when are we going to start to do something that causes more good than harm.  In other words, will it empower the Biosystem more than it empowers the corposystem? Will it cause more good than harm?

This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of

A copy of the podcast can be downloaded at:


Bare Bones Biology 259 – Food and Population Growth

Guest editorial contributed by Steven Salmoney, Chapel Hill, NC.  Sentences in green have been edited out of the audio to fit the audio time frame. Thank you, Steven.


Recent scientific evidence (Hopfenberg R and Pimentel D. 2001. Human Population Numbers as a Function of Food Supply. EnvironDevSustain, 3, pp. 1-15) suggests that the governing dynamics of absolute global human population numbers is a remarkably straightforward and simple natural phenomenon. Despite all the misleading, intellectually dishonest and deceptively contrived ‘scientific research’ to the contrary, Homo sapiens can be seen as a species that is a part of and definitely not separate from the natural world we inhabit.


Experts in politics, economics and demography have willfully fostered and continue obdurately to countenance a perilous disconnect between ecological science and political economy. Their dogmatic adherence to misconceptions are broadcast everywhere and range from politically correct, so-called experts, to unscientific theories regarding fallacious ideas such as the automatic population stabilization around the midpoint of Century XXI and a benign demographic transition to a good life for the human community at large. These false assurances can no longer be accepted by responsible professionals in science. They are  directly contradicted by the best available evidence.


Texas060722_DSC0797F.sPerhaps politics, economics and demography are themselves disciplines that are fundamentally disconnected from science. They appear to have more in common with ideology than with science. To suggest, as many too many politicians, economists and demographers have been doing, that understanding the dynamics of human population numbers does not matter — or that the human population problem is not about numbers — or that human population dynamics has so dizzying an array of variables as not to be suitable for scientific investigation — is wrongheaded and dangerous. The skyrocketing growth of absolute global human population is recognizable and the cause of it  is knowable.


According to emerging scientific research, the size of the human population on Earth is a function of food availability. More food for human consumption equals more people; less food for human existence equals less people; and no food, no people. This is to say, the population dynamics of the human species is essentially common to, not different from, the population dynamics of all living things.


Global population growth of the human species is a rapidly cycling positive feedback loop in which food availability drives population growth and the recent, skyrocketing growth in absolute global human numbers gives rise to the ruinous misperception or mistaken impression that food production needs to be increased even more.


Data indicate that the world’s human population grows by approximately 2% per year. All segments of it grow by about two percent. Every year there are more people with brown eyes and more people with blue ones; more people who are tall as well as more short people. It also means that there are more people growing up well fed and more people growing up hungry. The hungry segment of the global population goes up just like the well-fed segment of the population. We may or may not be reducing hunger by increasing food production; however, we are most certainly producing more and more hungry people.


Please examine the probability that humans are producing too much, not too little food; it is the super-abundance of stupendous agribusiness harvests that are driving population numbers of the human species to overshoot, or explode beyond, the natural limitations imposed by a relatively small, evidently finite, noticeably frangible planet with the size, composition and ecology of Earth.


The spectacularly successful efforts of humankind to increase food production annually in order to feed a growing population, has resulted and continues to result in even greater human population numbers worldwide. If people are starving at a given moment of time, increasing food production and then distributing it cannot help them. Are these starving people supposed to be waiting for sowing, growing and reaping to be completed? Are they supposed to wait for surpluses to reach them? Without food they would die. In such circumstances, increasing food production for people who are starving is like tossing parachutes to people who have already fallen out of the airplane. The produced food arrives too late.

The idea that food production must be increased to meet the needs of growing human population is a prime example upside down thinking.

I think, this is Lynn, that it would be far more humane, and also less expensive, to make birth control available to all who want it so that we can prevent the massive starvation that we are creating and begin the process of helping the Earth to rebalance that she gave us — a system that provides our basic needs — earth, air, fire and water — to all its inhabitants.

Steve Salmony
Chapel Hill, NC

This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of FactFictionFancy and KEOS radio, 89.1 in Bryan, Texas.

A copy of the podcast may be downloaded at:

Knowledge and Wisdom


© 2015, Dr. M. Lynn Lamoreux
A Work in Progress: If you have a question or comment, or if you find something that needs to be referenced or defined or linked, and is not so indicated, please let me know.

I hope the colors come through onto the FFF page. (oh, yuck, they didn’t, ask me for a pdf if you want to see it as envisioned. If you wait until tomorrow it will have pictures.
Words in green, to be defined. In red, provide reference, In blue, provide link

150516-BrazosWaterfall-asc_6407RLSs copyFingers and toes stiff with cold, I sit in a cabin in a canyon, trying to squeeze enough energy out of my little solar system to operate a computer. Outside, cedar and pine softly sigh as the canyon breathes gently in the energy of the sunrise that finally bestows its welcome heat and light upon my desk. I watch as bubble after bubble forms at the bottom of a glass of cold water that is sitting in the sunlight.

The sun shines everywhere . . . (even) to the ravines and valleys of the mountains and streams.*

I step outside to warm myself.

Any person who believes that she has the right answers, doesn’t.
No person is God, and whatever it is that gives me these insights first thing in the morning when I wake up – that also is not God. Neither is any human knowledge or insight, because the human brain is not physically big enough to encompass the whole reality of God. Unless possibly God is using this vehicle of the Biosystem to implement Its vision/mission.

Because of our ignorance relative to the mind of God, it is critically important for humans to acknowledge the wisdom of age. Wise elders know they are not Gods (consider the Dalai Lama). Wise elders understand human limitations among the powers that generate our environments. And some wise elders can teach us to ask wise questions. Actually, everyone can contribute to the human process of generating wisdom, both individual and communal wisdom, because dumb questions are almost always as helpful in this process as are wise ones. That’s a good thing, because extremely few human young are wise.

In India, I understand, the custom is or was (Joseph Campbell) for sages to answer or ask questions for discussion and consideration. In the North American Onandaga (Oren Lyons) it is or was the custom for the wise women to select the chiefs (who could be removed for cause) and the chiefs to discuss tribal concerns in terms of what is best for the whole community unto the seventh generation. (I have heard that the Dalai Lama considers 700 generations as part of our communal obligations.)

In the corposystem, whoever is more powerful decides all the answers, usually before the questions have been raised. The corposystem will cite “Evolution,” which it defines as “survival of the fittest,” as its authority to behave in this fashion. However, the corposystem fails to define “fitness” in its claim to authority, and in any case, survival of the fittest is NOT how the “Law of Life” functions to maintain the Biosystem, though the corposystem has unfortunately trained us (both the “good guys” and the “bad guys” – that means you, whoever you are in our western culture) to believe that survival of the “fittest” is how the world works.

It’s not. It may be how the corposystem functions; it is not how the world works, or even the universe for you who prefer to study physics rather than the more complex and, therefore more confusing and interesting,world of Biology.

Unfortunately, in our culture, because we do understand the corposystem quite well, we believe in survival of the fittest as re-interpreted by the corposystem, and we use that meme to define evolution, which is not the same thing. At least not unless we can define fitness, and that would require us to study the Law of Life.

But we don’t study the real Law of Life because we believe we already know.

This unexamined assumption seems to be so engrained in the world view of both the “good guys” and the “bad guys” that I believe it to be the fatal flaw of our corposystem culture. For more information, I recommend “Powers of the Weak” relative to human power, and I recommend my chapter on the Law of Life, relative to Biosystem power.

1 – In short, if we decide to sustain ourselves within the only home that we have, we require a different paradigm, and the new paradigm must conform our human power to the Law of Life. Or, if we can’t do that, then we must define fitness in a way that conforms to the welfare of the Biosystem and to the human wisdom that is available.

# # #

Wisdom fact-checks everything it knows – even its own insights. In my generation we tried to embed that bit of wisdom into the rule of law of the corposystem (Precautionary Principle) but the corposystem refused to ask the right questions because the answers to these questions would interfere with profits, and the defined primary purpose of every corporation and even the UN is to behave in ways that generate the power of money.

2- The second task of our new paradigm, therefore, must be to define our new human paradigm around a more sustainable human quality than money. Perhaps wisdom?

# # #

Wisdom seems to be a creation of the human mind, and the human mind is just another system (all of LIFE is built around nested systems) that functions as do all systems by generating links, in this case among bits of biochemically encoded information, including knowledge, inborn (inherited) instincts and the world view that is given to us by our environment.

The human mind grows, during our lifetimes, more wise (if conditions permit it) using different ideas, understandings and facts that are in the conscious mind, and in our instincts and memories as well, making a web of cross-connections, as is true in any naturally evolved system (Law of Life: Levels of Organization, Systems). When questions are asked or the when some problem is confronted, the ideas, understandings and facts make cross-connections that generate a whole Worldview that is greater than and different from all the inputs added together. All world views are rational within the environment many world views are not wise, perhaps if the environment changes or our education is flawed relative to the current environment. Because no two environmental experiences are the same, therefore no two world views are identical, and, as Joseph Campbell has said, (get accurate quote, the mind can run on to flights of fancy)

I believe this self-sustaining mental system is the probable source of mysticism, religion, and the answers to questions asked, and the insights that I get in the morning after a night of dreaming. In other words, I believe these various kinds of “aha” experiences are very likely emergent properties of our brain system. Therefore our wisdom or lack of wisdom, especially in humans, is dependent on our education, and is very firmly attached to our rational world view, because without a rational world view we cannot sustain our “self.”

However, we are human, not the Biosystem, and we cannot impose our human emergent insights upon the system of LIFE, because LIFE is bigger, stronger and has a lot more systemic interactions than we have, and it doesn’t care what we think (as other humans actually do, regardless of what they may say). The Biosystem ignores our desires and opinions; it only follows its own Rule of LIFE.

In other words, whenever we believe ourselves to be omniscient or omnipotent, we are not being wise or realistic. Wisdom is not big-headed, it is not power unless it is put to use within an appropriate environment. Wisdom is well- informed, and does relate itself to our (changing) environment, but it is not useful to the community unless we-the-community agree TOGETHER to use it.

Individual wisdom is an emergent quality or characteristic of one individual, but communal wisdom can emerge at a higher level if the individuals involved remain connected by useful discussion or questions or education. Communal wisdom links the qualities that are available within the whole community by the asking and answering of questions (and their discussion) until the entire community becomes wise at a higher level (or not), and perhaps that is the definition of “fitness” – an emergent property of the community as a whole that is necessary for our survival within the Biosystem.

The corposystem, to the contrary, imagines itself to be fit because it was temporarily strong within the environment in which resources were plentiful. When the environment changes, if our wisdom is not up to the task, then we become no longer fit. This is now happening.

3- Thus the third characteristic that must be considered in building our new paradigm is a broad one – education in all its forms – and it must be guided by both the Law of Life, which IS our higher power, and those human instincts upon which we want to base our new human social paradigm, to replace the unsustainable themes of the corposystem, power, growth and money.

# # #

We-the-system only can work with what’s already in our system or available in the environment, so it’s very important that our wisdom must be fact-checked and/or tested by experience, preferably the experiences of many individuals over long periods of time (history), and/or by the scientific method (which is basically the same thing, codified). And it is also true that human wisdom cannot be omniscient because, for the most simple reason, we don’t have enough neural connections, even as communities, to understand all the connections of all the universe. Much less described the links. And certainly not to know the future, except in terms of the past and present.

How does this relate to the Law of Life (that is, to the natural processes that generate time and change)?
My first answer would be to recognize how those processes work as it has been shown by our fact-base, which is provided by science and history. That is, to apply factual/experiential questions to the basic root processes of nature that we cannot change, that created humans in the first place. To do that, I must have in my head an understanding of those processes. Then at that point I ask the questions, I ask them via science and history and of LIFE and whatever else is knowable and relevant.

4- Our fourth task must be to develop a reliable fact base list-for-discussion of things we cannot do even though we can imagine them. Our fact base will change a bit as the environment changes, but at this time the number one criterion must be to avoid further overpopulation of humans because overpopulation is likely destroy any chance we have of building a sustainable new paradigm.

# # #

What happens during overpopulation events? Because there is no doubt we are experiencing an overpopulation event, and no rational person who understands simple math can deny that is a fact. I answer this question as it has been observed and recorded by science and history. Very briefly, among other things, the social network/system/interactions break down. This is happening to us now.

For many decades I have asked the question: why are we knowingly colluding in our own destruction, in the face of all the scientific knowledge and the history and wisdom that all proclaim clearly that we are using our technologieal power to destroy ourselves, at a time when we have already available the technological power to save ourselves?

I can answer in many ways, but it’s important to say that our overpopulation would not have happened in a stable society that had maintained respect for science and for its own wisdom, and of course that answer brings us to question education. But education, also part of the social system, also breaks down in overpopulation events.

And then I think about human youth. Especially human youth in overpopulation events. They lack both wisdom and history (especially in our culture that is intentionally erasing these things). They believe themselves to be right (or wrong) by the criteria of their own immature world view, without accessing other wisdoms, and so they set about to “fix” things all over again in the same ways that didn’t work the last time we tried. This is probably an evolved advantage to the species, because wisdom can be very set-in-stone and relate to a historic environmental reality. When the environment moves toward change, then new ideas are imported into the system by the young. But, as in all things natural, sustainability lies in maintaining the balance, and as a culture in this paradigm we are not even trying to do that. The young are simply doing more and harder what is required by the old corposystem paradigm that is based in power and money obtained through growth. That paradigm is what caused our current difficulties, so I say (over and over and over —) — it won’t work. But there are so many young that the elders cannot be heard above the fray.

With overpopulation comes a vast breakdown in (among other things) the balance (without balance within the Law of Life, remember there is no hope for sustainability) between wisdom and the “right/wrong” worldviews of youth. Another thing that happens with overpopulation is a breakdown in the balance of power to make things happen, because in spite of the corposystem denial, true power lies more in numbers and in behaviors than in money (or wisdom).

Therefore, rather than the elder explaining why this way doesn’t work, and how we have tried it this way so many times through the millennia and eons, and what we can determine of the expected results using computers and good data and science and the precautionary principle – in spite of all this, the cycle merely repeats and repeats, because the youth can’t hear. They are determined to learn by their own experience, and human experiences include a component of instinct that is biochemically encoded in the body and therefore does not change in response to elder wisdom.

Even progress (if any) is not either/or, good/bad. It’s a cycle in time, which is to say, spiral, and it depends NOT upon what we do to change anything now, but primarily on how our behaviors change the environment in which the next generation grows its own world view.

And that is how overpopulation leads to cultural breakdown. NO MATTER WHAT YOU TRY SO HARD TO DO TO STOP IT. The balance is lost (in the human situation) between wisdom and the forces of of change.

# # #

1504021-Bitsy_-ASC_6481RSsWhile I was writing the above, Bitsy worked out the main part of the trail the packrats use to get into the cabin. Bitsy and I sent them packing last year, and the wise adults remembered that experience. But, as always, this year’s youth are taking the risks, exploring new territories and increasing the population in the cabin, even in the face of the inevitable outcome. Bitsy is now outside following the trail the other way. Pack rats are not as smart as humans, but they are very fast, so she may not get them.

Humans can think about the trap we have fallen into, and think about the difference between a planned, co-existence within the Biosystem, and our accelerating corposystem battle against the Biosystem, that results in massive suffering, if only we are wise enough to make that choice. If we do choose, that will be evolutionary history; but it cannot be done by working within the corposystem paradigm. Quite a few groups are trying, but it’s too late. It won’t work fast enough to prevent incredible overpopulation and massive acceleration of the violence required to maintain the corposystem growth paradigm. We humans have run out of eons in which to make up our minds whether we would rather have a struggle for fame, fortune and human power, or a reasonably comfortable and peaceful new social paradigm that is sustainable unto the seventh generation. Or the seven hundredth.

If we want to IMPLEMENT a new paradigm, the necessary first step is to reduce our population to a level that is sustainable, and proceed now to do this in a compassionate way before the war arm of the corposystem ratchets up to a level of conflict that we cannot survive. Because saving all human cells is impossible in any case, and if it were possible it would ONLY INCREASE OUR COMMUNAL LEVEL OF SUFFERING.

If we continue to refuse the option of reducing our numbers, then the Law of Life will do it for us – already is. We will find the BIOSYSTEM solution a good deal more painful than asking well defined questions, based in science and history and the wisdom traditions, discussing the answers, and working together as only humans can to transform our intelligence into action. These are our strengths – right now we are riding our weaknesses into oblivion. But all the wisdom and intelligence and technology in the world is only play-time in the absence of behaviors that impact the Law of Life. As far as the Law is concerned, not deciding is the same as deciding to not.

# # #

1504021-Bitsy_-ASC_6470RLSsAnd while we were having fun thinking, the migrating hummingbirds have come back to the canyon today, and some kind of flycatcher bird is building its nest in the gable of our cabin. The sunpower charged up both my laptops, and now the sun is setting, the cold air flowing up the other side of the canyon, and I pull on a couple of layers of sweaters. And Bitsy ALMOST caught her prey — right before my eyes!!! Not a packrat. It’s a squirrel, living under the house, a ground squirrel, probably the same one I saved from drowning in the water tank last year. And it reminded me pack rats can carry Chagas disease; Peromyscus mice, Hanta virus; ground squirrels, the black plague.

Instinct is not an option, knowledge is useful; wisdom is a choice.

(*Paraphrase from Lotus Sutra. I think there is something like this in the New Testament and the original Bible. And the Lotus Sutra sounds to this basic biologist a lot like the concept of emergent properties.)

The P Word

Well Look at This

Conservation Magazine, after years and years of dancing around the May pole has used the P word.

I don’t believe it, especially, the idea that television can give women power, without regard to what is ON the television, but a step in the right direction is a step.

Below is what I have been lately thinking about.

Dr. Susan Clayton
The Psychology of Biodiversity Conservation:
Connecting People to the Natural World
A seminar I recently attended

Front. Ecol. Environ. 11(7):377-382
Front. Ecol. Environ. 11(7):355-361

This is not a summary of what Dr. Clayton said in the seminar, that you can get by reading her excellent papers, so much as it is a description of how her seminar settled in my mind and gave me a new idea about how to approach our common problem. Which I would term more as connecting people to the self-evident reality that we are living in an over-stressed Biosystem.

In my opinion, they already know that; they primarily want to pretend it isn’t so.

Dr. Clayton said – Identity: Our identity is a sum of our experiences
Early experiences
A label embraced by ourselves
A label imposed by others
A framework that incorporates values and worldview.

Me: I recognized our old friends, levels of organization, upon which the Biosystem and all systems are based and which arise out of evolution (as it really is, not as we have been taught).

I find it interesting in that Dr. Clayton’s system of identities recognizes the biological levels of organization that represent the systems of which we are a part, including ourselves as individuals; ourselves in our communities; ourselves in relationship with the corposystem values — of which ourselves and our communities are integral parts — and ourselves in relation to the Biosystem itself, that is the whole of Life.

This reminds me that each system – every system and subsystem that has naturally evolved – has emergent properties that arise as the “phenotypes” that maintain the specific system as a unitary whole. I always think of limbs in animals as my example. However, human social systems also have emergent characteristics. For my example below I will use the corposystem. A very interesting system, and because of my primary interest in ecological evolution, I have watched how it has evolved during this critical late phase of its existence.

The corposystem has a number of obvious emergent characteristics, but I will use for my example a dominant one – growth. This may be a property of all biological systems, but that is a different subject. My question is – why does the system have a property that is not shared by the worldview (identity, values) of many or most of the individuals that make it up? Of course, this is an old question: what are emergent properties? Important, because emergent properties (phenotypes) – and the environment – direct evolution.

And basically evolution is what Dr. Clayton hopes to influence, though she didn’t use that word, and she is not alone.

We all are threatened primarily by our own overpopulation, that arises from the corposystem requirement for growth and the fact that an evolved system’s primary function is to perpetuate itself (that is, to perpetuate it’s own emergent value system, which is growth in this example). But the personal values of most individuals who make up the system, I would reckon, do not focus on growth. Thus, in my opinion, what Dr. Clayton is working to change/understand is not the actual cause of the emergent phenotype, or at least not the proximate cause. (ref. The Shift)

So I think it very likely that we cannot change the growth ethic (which is very likely to be the cause of our demise) by changing the value systems (identities) of ourselves individually. Or at least that is the question that arose in my mind during the seminar. I think the growth ethic of the corposystem is primarily a top-down phenomenon that is maintained as an emergent property generated by the whole of the system, not as an additive bottom-up creation.

Dr. Clayton: “We want to find a way to make an impact in the face of these problems.”
And she discusses experiments that relate to changing identities (worldviews, value systems).

Me: My observation is that most people want to be important within the system – not make an impact on the system (there is a difference, expressed by behaviors but not by language), and that desire is the main driver of the system. Even or especially extreme activists; what they primarily want (if they can’t have both) is recognition within the system — not whatever change they are advocating. I think that is the human driver of our corposystem emergent characteristics.

But the corposystem, of course is NOT HUMAN, and therefore cannot be evaluated using human psychology. Therefore, at the level of the system, neither psychology nor human values is relevant.

It is not at all clear to me that we can change the corposystem by understanding the psychology of humans. I think it’s more likely that the corposystem will find a way to use this information to reinforce its own emergent property (growth). That is, of course, why it supports academic research and keeps the results of that research out of the hands of “us” as individuals.

The human behaviors that Dr. Clayton studies are relevant at the human level. It is valid and useful research. And her experiments seem to rather strongly suggest that our self image and values as individuals are mostly informed by our social environment. So, the social environment would be what the corposystem uses to maintain itself, and what we potentially might use to change the (ex.) growth ethic of the corposystem.

I have been experiencing a strong dose of social influence lately, living for one month in the black community of Bryan, another in the privileged part of Chama NM, back and forth each month, and then all summer alone with the Biosystem. And then when I am brave enough to go back into my former world as one of the first women faculty in the College of Science at Texas A&M, sitting in a seminar, I sense my life and my past to be so different from that of current women students that they cannot imagine who I am. Nor I them. Who we are and what we worry about depends very strongly upon our cultural environment. Much more so than we realize if we stay put somewhere. And we can’t avoid that fact.

What I envision is that the pathway between human self-image and change in the biosystem is mediated via the corposystem reward and punishment methods of maintaining itself. Simply because that’s how systems evolve. Systems evolve by building and testing variations on whatever made them successful in the first place. They become better and better at what they are good at. (As example, the giraffe.) Reward and punishment arises out of this mandate, and humans follow the reward. Not the other way around. I believe it makes very little difference to individual humans what is rewarded and what is punished, so long as they have a chance to be recognized as important within the system.

The result, in my observation, is that “we” will do whatever is necessary to NOT rock the boat — because we do not want “things” to change from those upon which our identity (what I call our worldview) is based. Those “things” values/beliefs are imposed by the system. The function of a system is to reinforce itself, and changing our identities may not be an option until the system crashes. I think Dr. Clayton’s takeaway message points to this reality; but I think the causes and effects are reversed. In other words, we are not at the center of the story; we are not in control of the mechanism, and cannot ever be so long as we believe that we are. We are teaching our women to think like European men, rather than teaching our men to think like Asian women, with respect to systems over which we do not have direct physical control.

The result in my example is that we are all afraid to talk about or study or even think about overgrowth, overpopulation – not because we are physically afraid, but because the corposystem will (1) reward us for doing something else, and (2) it will punish us if we keep trying to point out a truth that is harmful to the corposystem as it evolved. While American individuals and communities espouse our right to our own beliefs, the corposystem enforces our “vow of silence” on the subject of growth, and it is a vow that runs from academia to the highest office in the land and down to the lowest of the low. Even though it is the one subject that must be discussed if we are to survive, we are afraid to open our mouths.

Another system belief that we have currently taken to our hearts is that human systems are more powerful than natural systems,, a false believe shared by most highly educated people. But I will stick with growth for my example.

Dr. Clayton discussed ways in which “nature” can be linked with our identity and some very interesting experiments around that question.
Political identity
Social identity

Me: I came away with an impression that our social identity is so powerfully connected with our environment (“peer pressure”) that the effect is close to irresistable. Thus, what we say we want, and we believe that we want — are not connected with what we actually do want.

When I talked with Dr. Clayton after the seminar, I was a bit surprised (and pleased) to find that she is very concerned about overpopulation. And yet the word was not mentioned. And when I mention it in academia, the reaction is essentially the same as when I mention it anywhere else. We can’t talk about that. Usually with no reason given.

My bottom-line take-away for myself and my own activism is as follows:

1. The corposystem tells us that we must not talk about overpopulation. Mostly it tells us this by telling us how we MUST talk about issues, in a way that excludes real discussion of solutions and instead mandates “aintitawful” ranting and/or sound bites or euphemisms in our public utterances. I have chosen not to participate in these “acceptable” displacement activities, basically because I believe in not “feeding” the growth of the corposystem (as described much better by the attached

And yes, the punishments exist. First, you can’t get published if you fail to conform to the norms defined by the corposystem, which as far as I know are not based on anything except how to get published. (Research papers excepted, as they are. originally at least. based in the scientific method. However, we do not see the word overpopulation in scientific or political discussions of the causes of our wars, starvation, extinctions, climate change, and it is the most obvious thing in the world that these social phenotypes would not be necessary if human populations did not exceed the carrying capacity of the earth. And that we cannot resolve them so long as our populations do exceed the carrying capacity of the earth.)

2. “Peer pressure” or “social identity” seems to be the strongest direct influence over human behaviors, and the emergent “value” of the corposystem itself (growth in our example) is an indirect, but stronger influence on our identity-based behaviors. The result is that individuals don’t, won’t or can’t act out their own personal value systems.

Of course my efforts have been strongly negated by this astonishing “conspiracy of silence.” The sky is falling on our species, but we are not permitted to talk about it, and if we can’t talk about population, then we can’t talk about what conditions the Biosystem must have for its healthy sustenance.

My takeaway conclusion from this seminar is in fact very useful to my activism. Obviously, I cannot change an emergent property of the system of which I am a part, but possibly I could influence the social values of the subunits (us).

I already know that ranting and raving about things that other people don’t understand is of no particular use in getting them to understand; I also know that they aren’t interested in understanding (they would rather be important within the corposystem, or just carry on the lives they expected to have), so logic and evidence won’t do the job.

What I learned from the seminar is to fit peer pressure into this schema; to simply act and speak and converse, on a regular basis, as though EVERYONE DOES TALK ABOUT IT and refer casually, as though it were common knowledge, to whatever references I choose to mention. I will no longer be afraid to talk about “it” because “they” are afraid to talk about it. Instead I will pretend that discussion of overpopulation is commonplace, normal, non-threatening in all contexts, and anyone who is not discussing overpopulation must be a member of the out-group.

Bare Bones Biology 241 – Fracking II

The movie “Gasland“ by, Josh Fox (, was aired in College Station in 2011, followed by discussion. Now I would recommend Gasland 2, One of the questions asked at the College Station airing (and recorded if you want a copy) was:

“. . . every industry is having problems, and that goes into agriculture, that goes into everything. This is not just a problem for this industry, this is every single industry. How are people in my generation who are completely apathetic and feel there is nothing we do that matters . . ?”

141227-snow-ASC_3667RLSsYes indeed, every industry is having problems. Of course they’re having problems, because industries are not more powerful than God, and they’re not more powerful than nature. And for at least the past 200 years, they’ve been behaving as though they think they are. The answer is up to you, of course — what do you propose to do about it?

If you want what you want, regardless of what the living earth needs, then you will make your town and your world worse than it is now. Of course you will, because worldwide we have reached the point where human activity is depriving the Living Earth of the things it needs to keep itself alive. Regardless of whatever you believe or I believe — our reasons, emotions, opinions, intentions, desires, wars, tantrums, Presidents, cannot change what the earth needs to stay alive. The living earth does not operate according to whatever people want.

If you mean to force the world to operate the way you think it should, then the answer still is that you cannot. If you mean how can you have yours, regardless of who must pay the price, that behavior will end soon, because the corposystem has already destroyed a large portion of what the earth needs to provide for our needs, and your generation is about to pay the price.

If you mean you are very angry because the corposystem — your culture, in which you deeply believed – probably still believe – has been lying to you, then I don’t blame you. So am I. But being angry will not change what we have done. Neither will blaming someone nor griping nor apathy nor doing nothing. No living thing on this earth has ever had the power to get whatever it wants, over the long term, without doing what is required to get it.

And that means you must study and discuss WHAT THE EARTH NEEDS TO BE HEALTHY, because we are a part of life on Earth, and when the Earth is unhealthy, then we and our industries will also be unhealthy. First we all need to study and discuss (not debate, discuss) what are we doing that makes the Earth unhealthy. Then we need to study what is possible and what is not possible for humans to do on the small surface of this tiny living planet, and then we must stop doing behaviors that make the Earth unhealthy. Those are not choices. The only choice that we have remaining now is whether or not we want to survive on this Living Earth.

If we ignore the requirements of Life because we think physics and human engineering are more powerful or less complicated — then the laws of physics will survive because they are truly laws of nature. But Life as we know it will not survive, because Life is more complicated than the laws of Physics.

Physics functions just fine on the sun and the moon and the Earth, but Life on Earth is more than the laws of physics, and it will not survive if we take away what it needs to survive, which is mostly a viable balance among all its parts. The Earth will simply ease back to the simpler state and stop supporting Life. We don’t even know what all it’s parts are, and with fracking we are killing a huge subterranean ecosystem without even trying to find out what that ecosystem does to help sustain all of the Life of Earth, including us. It’s all connected – all of Life is an interconnected system.

In fact, Life on Earth is not surviving in good health, as you clearly describe when you say all the industries are failing. But I think your focus on industry is failing. Water is not an industry; air is not an industry; soil is not an industry, energy is not an industry. These things are the commons by international law because they are made available to us only by a healthy living earth. Yes, they are failing, because the living earth is not healthy, because we have unbalanced it.

If you want all that living ecosystem to stop being sick and suddenly start to do what you want it to do? Ahhhhh, should we try force? A revolution? A war against the ecosystem? We’ve been doing that for the past 200 years. It makes the problem worse because it DOES NOT GIVE THE EARTH WHAT IT NEEDS TO BE HEALTHY.

For 100 years at least we humans have very clearly understood the problem. The problem is too much growth – too many people to feed, in addition to the other living things the earth must feed if it is to continue providing us with air, water, soil and energy. We have known what we must do to fix it. We must reduce the growth – and the human population. We don’t want to do it. So we just throw another technological tantrum and complain when it only makes the Earth that much sicker.

This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of FactFictionFancy and KEOS radio, 89.1 in Bryan, Texas. A podcast of this program can be downloaded at:

Key Words – War against the ecosystem, blaming, griping, apathy, doing nothing, living earth, corposystem, technological tantrum

Links, References and Trackbacks
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Bare Bones Biology 213 – Thinking in Questions

We-the-people of the New Ethic are willing to learn new ideas and discuss solutions to communal problems. Last week I said we must ask the right questions — or we won’t get useful answers. Before we start to argue, we need to agree on what is a useful answer. “Useful for what?” Or we might end up with answers that do not support our own long-term goals. The questions we ask must relate to our communal goals. That’s why we nced a fruitful discussion with others who also are serious about growing our new ethic, the good questions will arise out of a good ongoing discussion that includes inquiry. That is, learning about things we didn’t already understand rather than fighting over things we do already understand.

140628-Territorial-ASC_9678RLSssTwo-sided debates are very satisfying for some people because fighting over simple questions shows that they care – they are willing to fight and suffer to accomplish the goal. And they are. But caring about problems does not solve the problems. And all that suffering is wasted if we fight for an answer that ends up causing more harm than good. So maybe that’s why another correspondent said:

“I think survival of the individual, the family, the group, the country, is the four dynamics we should begin to evaluate first.”

This is a very good subject for discussion, and better yet it includes a plan of action. But again, we can’t discuss anything without agreeing about what we want our action to accomplish, so instead of beginning with an action — let’s begin with :

1. A long term goal, and

2. Good questions that relate to that goal.

My goal is to help grow a reasonably comfortable, sustainable, human community within a healthy Biosystem on this earth. For the grandchildren.

Now, let’s restate the readers’ opinion in the form of a question, because answering good questions is a challenge in which we all can participate, whereas beginning with a plan of action tends to generate arguments and debates, rather than questions. Try this question:

“Should we begin by evaluating survival of the individual, the family, the group, the country.”

And then we must ask: “What do we need, as individual humans, families, groups and country, if we are to survive?” Not what we want or what we think is good, but what do we NEED?

So now, I stand at the blackboard, you tell me everything we need, I write it all down, and when we have finished we will realize that we need two sets of things. One set is provided by human-to-human interactions. The other set is provided by the healthy Biosystem and cannot be obtained in any other way. Think what you would need if there were no other people on earth. Those are the things that must be obtained from the Biosystem as we know it. Air, water and food. Those are the human survival needs. Those physical needs have now become the limiting factors ( ) of human life on earth.

Then the question becomes: How can we live without destroying our air, water and food. That is the good question of our day, and our answer will be our human legacy to the grandchildren. “Can we grow a healthy biosystem for the grandchildren?” Then – of course — the next question is: “How?” Beginning with whatever the Biosystem requires to maintain its balance as it is now, making air, water and food. We won’t find the answer to that question on the television, which is all about what people want to watch, and we won’t find the answer by discussing what people want, and we won’t find it by how clever are human technologies. The only answer to that question is another question we are NOT ENGAGING because we are too busy fighting for our particular human conviction.

‘If we can only get enough energy we will be OK”
Not if we use more than our share. The Biosystem also needs energy to survive.

“If we only can win this war we will be OK.”
The Biosystem is not interested in this war.

“If we only we could be happy we would be OK.”
We can’t be happy if the Biosystem can’t fulfill our needs

“If we teach nonviolence it will solve our problems.”
Not unless nonviolence can also resolve the problem of Biosystem health.
Which is not impossible.

And who is asking: “What does the Biosystem NEED, in order to be healthy?

I didn’t say what humans believe it should need. I said what does it need really? The question without which we can’t answer any of the other questions. What the Biosystem needs, bottom line, is fewer humans sucking the life out of it.

Only when we understand that, can we address the problem of human dynamics.

This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of FactFictionFancy and KEOS FM, 89.1, Bryan, Texas.

A podcast of this episode can be downloaded at:

The Facts from Earth Policy Institute

Bare Bones Biology 190 – Planned Parenthood

Certain subjects, especially important subjects, if we talk about them, someone will attack us. Or even worse, our friends might shun us. Planned Parenthood is one of these subjects. We would rather fight than talk, a thing I do not understand.

100317_dsc5989SsSo I decided to talk about it. At the Planned Parenthood clinic there are often pickets outside the fence. The pickets sometimes yell at the clients, who come (most of them) for routine health care, including contraception. Some clients do not like to be yelled at, and so there are volunteers inside the fence who escort clients to their cars and out the gate. I asked volunteers, on both sides of the fence, why they volunteer their time at Planned Parenthood. The replies were quite consistently related to the levels of human welfare that I label as Level One-Individual Welfare; Level Two-Community Welfare; and Level Three-Biosystem Welfare.

All the protestors on the outside of the fence, in one way or another, spoke about individual welfare. For two examples: “Jesus loves the little children . . .” “People that we don’t see, due to distance, in utero development, or indifference, still have value and deserve care & compassion. Each of us can’t help everyone, but we can and should help someone.“

My understanding of their point of view is that it is a “level one” argument, and by that I mean they are trying to ensure the welfare of individuals who can’t help themselves.

The volunteers on the clinic side of the fence talked about community welfare: “I don’t think anyone likes abortion, but I know it is sometimes a sad necessity and I do not want to go back to the days of illegal abortions, which will only drive them underground and endanger the lives of many women and their children.” “Why do I volunteer for Planned Parenthood? Because I think that affordable, quality reproductive health care should be available to everybody.”

Clearly, they are all right. First, in a compassionate human relationship, we must protect at-risk individuals. Therefore, Level One Individual welfare is important to human ethics and survival. At the same time, individual human welfare is not possible without a Level Two social system that provides for the needs of the community as a whole, including our ability to equitably provide food, housing and education. No wonder this is a never-ending fight. Everyone is right. And our culture teaches us that it’s better to fight than talk, and it’s better (or at least easier and more fun) to win rather than talk about difficult problems. Everyone is right.

100317_dsc6087LSsSo then I went home to think about this situation, and I think it is very sad, because both sides are also wrong.

There is a third level of human welfare, Level Three, that is essential to our survival, and that is the whole Life of Earth, the Biosystem that generates all of our food, water and air. I did not bring up this subject during my little research project, but neither did anyone else. When I do mention the welfare of the Biosystem, almost everyone from all sides responds: “There is plenty for everyone.” And because this is not true, therefore the people are fighting over issues that cannot solve the problems they care about.

There is no longer plenty of food on earth for everyone because so few people are standing up for the welfare of Level Three and because there are so many people eating up the food produced by Level Three. Therefore, even if we could get an agreement between the people on the two sides of the fence, this is actually a three-sided problem, and until we are willing to consider the welfare of all three sides of the problem – we will all continue to lose.

“The real tragedy is not the conflict of good with evil, but the conflict of good with good. That leaves a problem with no solution.” Gaudy Night, Dorothy Sayers

This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of FactFictionFancy and KEOS radio, 89.1 FM, Bryan, Texas. A podcast of this blog may be downloaded here:

Progress in Population

I am posting this report mostly because it IS a report, as opposed to someone’s skewed propaganda, and I have then annotated it.  I hope, if wordpress will cooperate, with my comments in red.


Ms. Beatrice Mwago introducing Bill Ryerson at the University of Nairobi

Access to family planning alone won’t stop the population boom

Beatrice Khalayi Shibunga is a community health worker and family planning champion, working in the slums of Korogocho in Nairobi. She goes door-to-door to offer women in her community family planning information. In her work experience, she has met women who use contraceptives but without the knowledge or consent of their husbands.

“Because some men are unco-operative, some women are forced to use contraceptives without the knowledge of their husbands,” she says.

Elizabeth Lule, director of family planning, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, confirms this: “Injectables (contraceptives) are popular because it can be used covertly because men may not give consent to their wives to use contraceptives.”

(Availability of contraception is an absolute first-step requirement.  Using excuses to not make them availab le is unacceptable.  Dealing with the reasons is a necessary second or concurrent step)

During a forum organised recently to assess the progress that Kenya has made towards expanding contraceptive access and options to its citizens, experts spoke of the need to expand access to family planning options so as to improve the lives of women and infants.

That is an excellent idea. However, from Shibunga’s revelation, it seems that the population problem is more complex than simply providing more contraceptive options.

In a speech last year at the University of Nairobi, Bill Ryerson, president of Population Media Centre in the US, said changing the current situation where married couples are still not using family planning as a means of controlling their families will take more than provision of more family planning methods.

Abraham Rugo from the Institute of Economic Affairs says up to now, many Kenyans don’t realise the connection between family size and development. He says this is so because it does not make a difference if you are poor. However, he says the government should come up with programmes that motivate people to have small families.

“I think the government can create incentives such as subsidising provisions for the first two or so children. Also, where cost of living is lowered and opportunities for development assured, then people would not need to have large families for social security,” he says.

(It is not possible long term to fight population growth by using economic growth.  Mathematically and physically impossible on a depleted earth,  LL)

During the just concluded International Conference on Family Planning in Addis Ababa, Kenyan researchers said myths and misconceptions on the side effects of using contraceptives are among the reasons why women do not use the services.

The Addis Ababa meeting was a follow up of a meeting that took place last year in London, at which global leaders committed themselves to provide an additional 120 million women and girls in the world’s poorest countries with access to modern contraceptive information, services and supplies by 2020.

In the 2012/16 National Family Planning Costed Implementation Plan released last year, the government has identified low male involvement as one of the traditional barriers to family planning uptake, and says that it plans to develop a comprehensive strategy for male involvement in family planning issues.

(Training women to think like men – as was done to “help” me –will not repair our corposystem culture of male dominance.  We might try is training men AND WOMEN to think like women if we want to approach a viable balance in our cultures.)

Prof Fred Segor, Principal Secretary for Health, told the forum that the government was on course to achieve its goal of reaching a 56 per cent modern contraceptive prevalence rate by 2015. He said that in the 2013/14 financial year, the government had committed $9 million (Sh765 million) to family planning programmes. This is a marked improvement compared to previous years.

The PS says this will help increase the contraceptive prevalence rate from the current 45.5 per cent to 56 per cent by 2015, as part of interventions to accelerate achievement of Millenium Development Goal 5 and Vision 2030. Prof Segor said the poorest women and those with the lowest level of education report the highest ‘unmet need’.

“Family planning is one of the most cost-effective methods to improve the health of women and provides them with the tools to plan their families and their lives,” he said.

‘Unmet need’ refers to women who want to delay their next pregnancy by at least two years but were not using a modern method of contraception. The reasoning of policy makers has been that if there was a gap between what people want and what they are doing, improving access to contraceptives would close that gap.

According to Charles Westoff of Princeton University’s Office of Population Research, a review of numerous demographic and health surveys determined that about half the women categorised as having an ‘unmet need’ have no intention of using contraceptives even if they were made freely available.

This sounds pretty great to me.  When the cultural pressures reach the point where those with smaller families are visibly better off (which is more likely to happen as communities learn better methods of land usage) then there will probably be a rapid switch of many families.  Of course, with another population doubling in a decade or two, this goal may be impossible, but the other option seems to be not to try, so providing negative data might not be helpful.

Ryerson says the confusion between the term ‘unmet need’ and ‘unmet demand’ has misled policy makers to assume that such ‘unmet demand’ could be overcome by improving family planning services and contraceptive distribution. He says the discrepancy between attitudes and behavior has less to do with availability.

Well indeed if all the unmet demand has already been met, then it is time to put more stress on environmental issues, but that should not be used as an excuse to back off on the provision of services.  This is not an either/or problem.

Major global health players have come in to help meet this ‘unmet need’. Bayer HealthCare recently reduced the price of its long-acting and reversible contraceptive implant, Jadelle, by more than 50 per cent over the next six years. Merck Sharp & Dohme has also halved the price of its long-acting, reversible contraceptive implants, Implanon and Implanon NXT.

However, Ryerson points out other factors that hinder the use of contraceptives. According to the 2008-09 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, 96 per cent of currently married women and 98 per cent of husbands know about modern contraceptives. Of the married women who are non-users, 40 per cent do not intend to ever use contraception.

So what?  That is not a reason to withdraw services from the 60 percent who do (which I know some will attempt).

Among the reasons given for not using contraception by women who are not pregnant and do not want to become pregnant, only 0.8 per cent cited lack of availability of contraceptives. The top four reasons among those who are still capable of bearing children were concern with the medical side effects of contraceptives (31 per cent); religious prohibition (nine per cent); personal opposition (eight per cent); and opposition from husbands (six per cent).

Ryerson says these issues are best addressed by information and motivational communications, rather than focusing only on increasing the prevalence of contraceptives as government and health partners are currently doing.

I believe the remaining people will have to see some evidence of the benefit of smaller families by actually making it beneficial, and that will take time.  I also believe the only long-term useful way to do this is to work as Gates and also Jane Gooddall do to improve the conditions of the community.  We MUST STOP thinking within the corposystem box that forces us into either/or confrontations.,  This biological problem CANNOT be solved by dichotomous corposystem thinking.  Biology doesn’t function that way.  On the other hand, if we can pull together a new cultural vision, we might make it.

Changing the situation requires helping people to understand the personal benefits in health and wealth for them and their children of limiting and spacing births. It also involves role modeling family planning use, and overcoming fear that contraceptives are dangerous. It requires getting husbands and wives to talk to each other about use of family planning, Ryerson says.

“Access to family planning methods is not sufficient if men prevent their partners from using them, if women don’t understand the relative safety of contraception, compared with early and repeated childbearing throughout the reproductive years,” says Ryerson.

Many population planners measure progress in reproductive health on the basis of contraceptive prevalence rates. Ryerson agrees that this is critical, but he says that it will not result in population stabilisation if desired family size is five or more children.

A survey done by Health Rights Advocacy Forum, a health rights advocacy group, concluded that the budget for contraceptives by government is inadequate since the budgeting process is guided by bureaucratic considerations, rather than by priorities identified by the department of reproductive health.

Further, the Heraf report says 90 per cent of all funds allocated for reproductive health goes to procuring contraceptives while the remaining 10 per cent goes to distribution of the same. This shows that there is little that goes to advocacy and communication.

“The government needs to provide full choice and full access to those currently demanding contraceptives, as it improves its efforts to increase demand in the regions with poor contraceptive prevalence rate,” says Josphine Kinyanjui, a programme officer with Heraf.

Rugo says that little is being done to change the attitude of Kenyans about family planning. He adds that most of these efforts (reproductive health) are donor-funded and contraceptives come from the same countries, and thus the reason for the skewed focus.

“Moving forward, there is need to spend more money on focal areas of attitude change but that would mean that the Kenyan government will have to spend its own money,” he says.

Part of the wider strategy could include non-medical interventions like raising women’s status by providing mandatory and free education for children, especially girls. If we have more young women staying in school, they will most likely join the workforce and provide a better future for their families.

Again, teaching women to think like men will only reinforce the existing cultural imbalances.

Available information shows that no country has gone from developing status to developed status without first reducing birth rates and population growth rates. Reduced family size enables couples and nations to save more and invest in education, infrastructure, health and industry.

Providing family planning services has helped reduce fertility rates, particularly in Asia and Latin America. But meeting unmet demand for contraceptives is only part of the solution. Such countries have emphasized changing attitudes of the people regarding the role of women, ideal family size, age of first pregnancy, and the benefits of using modern contraceptives.

“We can solve the population problem voluntarily and relatively quickly, if we apply what we know, and mobilise the relatively small amount of funds needed, to provide all people with family planning information and services,” says Ryerson.