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Counter Climate Change With Condoms

Mother Earth wants you to use a condom.

That’s right: these little latex wonders are the newest old green technology. “Fewer Emitters, Less Emissions, Less Cost,” a report from the London School of Economics, checks out what would happen to our carbon footprint if all the “unmet need” for contraceptives was, well, met.

The Alternet article asks the question: “Can Condoms Save Us From Climate Change?” The Optimum Population Trust, which commissioned the report, states in their press release: “The 34 gigatonnes of CO2 saved in this way [providing contraception] would cost $220 billion – roughly $7 a tonne. However, the same CO2 saving would cost over $1trillion if low-carbon technologies were used.” Providing contraception for unmet need is cheaper per ton than a host of other environmentally-friendly technologies, such as solar power, wind power, and hybrid or electric cars. Of the various sustainable lifestyle choices individuals can take, not having kids trumps–especially in developed countries, where the monetary and carbon costs of raising a child are far greater than in developing countries.

A key point here is that no one is suggesting we take a page from China’s book and institute kid quotas. The study considers the benefit of decreasing the number of unplanned, unwanted pregnancies by providing contraception to women who want it, but don’t have it. Furthermore, the study’s findings are underestimated because “unmet need” is only measured in married couples–and obviously there are many single, sexually active people out there, who are just as likely to face the problem of obtaining contraception as unmarried women.

Increased access to birth control for those who want it should already be a top priority in developing countries, since it combats other current problems: i.e. AIDS, hunger, poverty. Our contraception-distribution efforts and legislation such as PEPFAR (the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) have been severely weakened by conservative religious meddling that insists on teaching abstinence-only for the unmarried, creates a stigma around condoms, and ignores the gendered power imbalances that often make it impossible for women to abstain from sex or insist on a faithful husband who wouldn’t put her at risk for sexually transmitted diseases.

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