The COVID Baby Bust

From Stephanie Feldstein, Population and Sustainability Program Director


The past year's public health crisis, economic fears, and uncertainty about the future have created the perfect storm for people to put off their reproductive plans: There will be about 300,000 fewer births in 2021. Predictably, the headlines call the expected COVID-19 baby bust a "crisis." Ms. magazine published an op-ed by our Population and Sustainability Organizer Sarah Baillie about how the media get these stories wrong. In fact, she says, we should celebrate the increased empowerment and equality that's slowing growth and reducing pressure on the climate and environment.

Read on to learn why environmental educators need to discuss population issues, the latest research on sustainable diets, how California sprawl is raising fire risk, and more.

Crowded Planet

Monkey with face mask

Analysts estimate that 52 billion masks were manufactured in 2020. Even if people properly dispose of most masks, hundreds of millions still wind up littering the landscape — like this mask a monkey picked up in Costa Rica. Yet that's just a drop in the bucket of plastic pollution.

Join the movement calling on President Biden to curb the plastic pollution crisis.

Population fact

To Kid or Not to Kid

Watch: Population Film Series

The Center is running a film series spotlighting issues around reproductive rights, empowerment and conservation. It kicked off last month with the documentary To Kid or Not to Kid, which takes a personal look at the question, "Why can't we talk about not having kids?" We hosted a panel discussion with the film's director, Maxine Trump; the Center's Population and Sustainability Campaigner Kelley Dennings; and Kristie Duff, a young leader from Women Deliver, a global organization championing gender equality, health and rights. Watch the discussion about choosing to be childfree.

The next film in the series will be Our Gorongosa, about work in Mozambique to mitigate human–elephant conflict, build programs that empower girls, and support health clinics for women and families. Look for a signup for the April 29 webinar in next month's issue of this newsletter.


Research Links Meat to Climate, Health Crises

Two new studies underscore the need to shift from meat- and dairy-heavy diets toward plant-based eating. The first looked at the greenhouse gas emissions associated with dietary guidelines in seven countries. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. guidelines have the biggest carbon footprint. Even their vegetarian version's footprint was larger than that of other countries' guidelines due to the amount of dairy recommended. India's guidelines, which focus on plant proteins, had the smallest footprint.

The second recent study found that eating red meat, processed meat or poultry at least three times a week is linked to increased risk of nine different illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes and pneumonia. This study specifically looked at noncancerous illnesses, though high intake of meat has also been associated with higher risk of several types of cancer.

Here's one thing you can do: Check out our recipe collection on Default Veg to get help swapping out meat and dairy for delicious plant-based food that benefits your health and the planet.

Pillow Talk event

The Missing Piece of Environmental Ed

The International Union for Conservation of Nature recently passed a motion recognizing that removing barriers to rights-based family planning is key to saving nature. While this is a sign that the conservation community is starting to acknowledge the connection between these issues, most environmental nonprofits and educators leave it out of their outreach and lesson plans.

The Center's Pillow Talk program has brought interactive games and presentations to dozens of museums, zoos and science centers — even Girl Scout troops — to help show people how population growth and consumption are linked to issues like habitat loss and climate change. The Center's Sarah Baillie wrote for the North American Association for Environmental Educators blog about the need to put population back into the conservation conversation.

Here's one thing you can do: Know of a local institution or group that might be interested in Pillow Talk? Email us.

Forest fire

Report: California Sprawl Increases Wildfire Risks, Damages

A new Center report found that if California doesn't rein in its development practices, developers could build as many as 1.2 million new homes in the state's highest wildfire-risk areas by 2050. Built to Burn shows how the reckless approval of sprawl projects in high-wildfire zones increases ignition risk, puts people in danger, contributes to higher fire-suppression costs and damages, and harms ecosystems and wildlife.

"When local officials approve more development in fire-prone areas instead of focusing on increasing affordable housing near city centers, we all pay the price," said Senior Scientist Tiffany Yap.

Here's one thing you can do: If you live in California, urge your state legislators to support Senate Bill 55 to ban new development in very high fire-hazard severity zones.

Follow Us on TikTok

TikTok logo

The Population and Sustainability team just joined TikTok, where we post short, shareable videos about population, consumption, reproductive rights, Endangered Species Condoms, sustainable food, plant-based recipes and more.

Follow us at @ChooseWild, then DM us your favorite accounts to follow.

Not on TikTok? You can also find Choose Wild on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Endangered Species Condoms

Earth Day Condom Giveaway

Earth Day is soon — it's time to sign up to get free Endangered Species Condoms for your socially distanced Earth Day celebrations. Even though larger events may not be happening next month, our volunteers have shared lots of creative ways they're safely promoting protected sex. Whether in social media or on a video call, you can share the condoms' message about the pressures our population puts on wildlife. You can also use them as giveaways for your virtual event. Request your Endangered Species Condoms today.

Humboldt marten

Wildlife Spotlight: Humboldt Marten

Humboldt martens are cat-sized relatives of wolverines, river otters and minks. They'll eat berries if they have to, but mostly they're voracious carnivores, living solitary lives of hunting in the forests of Northern California and Oregon. Once thought extinct, these critters were rediscovered in 1996 and have been near extinction ever since. Logging is a major threat to martens, along with wildfires and other human-driven pressures.

Now Humboldt martens may face a new threat: COVID-19. In 2020 infected minks escaped from fur farms — and could infect martens. The Center has endorsed a new Oregon bill that would phase out mink farming by the end of 2021, ending a cruel industry in the state while protecting martens and other wildlife.

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Photo credits: Toddler via Canva; Stephanie Feldstein; monkey with face mask by Sarah Bajwa; To Kid or Not to Kid courtesy Helpman Productions; cows via Pixabay; Pillow Talk event by Erick Marchello; forest fire via Pixabay; TikTok logo; Endangered Species Condoms courtesy Center for Biological Diversity; Humboldt marten by Mark Linnell/USFS.

Center for Biological Diversity
P.O. Box 710
Tucson, AZ 85702
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