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Wake-up Time.

It is astonishing that there are still many people who don't believe that a serious crisis looms for all humanity due to continuing population growth and accelerating depletion of the resources necessary for decent living standards in an increasingly stressed environment. An excellent antidote to such population growth/ecology crisis denial is Beyond Malthus: Nineteen Dimensions of the Population Challenge by Lester R. Brown, Gary Gardner, and Brian Halweil (W. W. Norton and Company, 1999).

Brown--founder, president, and senior researcher at the Worldwatch Institute and the American Humanist Association's 1991 Humanist of the Year --is widely known for his pioneering work on environmentally sustainable development. Worldwatch and Norton have published the authoritative State of the World reports annually since 1984.

In Beyond Malthus, Brown and his colleagues explore the population/ecology problem with remarkable thoroughness and succinctness, considering the complexity of the issues involved. They cover the relationship between population growth and grain production, fresh water supplies, biodiversity, energy, fisheries, employment, infectious diseases, cropland, forests, housing, climactic change, urbanization, education, waste handling, and meat production. Beyond any doubt, humanity will need to bring population growth into sync with our finite and diminishing resources or it will be done for us through starvation, disease, social disorganization, and violence.

None of this is new, of course. But the leadership faction within the Roman Catholic church has been fairly successful in impeding the United States' and United Nations' efforts to deal with the problem, thanks to its political savvy and its unique position as a Non-Member State Permanent Observer at the UN General Assembly. In this latter connection, the AHA and the International Humanist and Ethical Union have both endorsed the "See Change" campaign initiated by Catholics for a Free Choice to have the Holy See (headquarters of the Roman Catholic church) demoted to NGO status like all other religions and humanist groups.

As for finding a solution to the population growth problem, there has been an important breakthrough: a nonsurgical sterilization procedure known as quinacrine sterilization (QS), invented by Dr. Jaime Zipper in Chile and introduced by Stephen Mumford and Elton Essel. The procedure is described by population consultant Sarah G. Epstein:

Delivered by a trained midwife or MD in any office, using a modified IUD inserter, a 252 mg dose of 7 tiny quinacrine pellets is placed at the fundus of the uterus. The pellets dissolve quickly. The fluid causes inflammation and then scarring at the opening of the fallopian tubes. This prevents further births. With two treatments a month apart, studies show low failure rates with no evidence of cancer. As the drug is off patent, the cost of the pellets and inserter is under $5. Surgical sterilizations often cost well over $2,000 in the United States.

As with every method of contraception developed so far, tests have been conducted in many countries. The famous birth control pill had many such test sites. QS has now been used in some cases for over 20 years and in 25 countries, producing a shelf of sound scientific studies demonstrating a safety record superior to surgical sterilization. But its opponents are implacable, often resorting to devious measures to undermine confidence in the procedure.

Opponents of QS question its safety. But quinacrine has been in use for over sixty years to treat malaria, lupus, and giardiasis for over 100 million people worldwide. According to Dr. Jack Lippes, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the State University of New York at Buffalo, QS is safer than surgical sterilization. QS is being used presently in fifteen countries, and no life-threatening incidents have been reported in over 100,000 uses.

The National Medical Committee of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America has recommended that PPFA obtain Food and Drug Administration approval for QS clinical trials. QS has already proved to be a lifesaver for women in Bangladesh and elsewhere and could aid tremendously in dealing with the population growth/ecology problem.

Edd Doerr is president of the American Humanist Association, executive director of Americans for Religious Liberty, and the author of Catholic Schools: The Facts (Humanist Press, 2000). More information on QS is available on the Internet at
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Doerr, Edd
Publication:The Humanist
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 2000
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