“All of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears.” John F. Kennedy’s words are echoed by a remarkable medical experiment now underway in Pittsburgh. Patients suffering severe trauma are having their blood replaced with ice cold seawater in an effort to buy desperately needed time. The young president declared, “We are tied to the ocean.” Yet today, we are in danger of killing the very expanse where life originated.
Some pundits have labeled the November results a “wave” election. But there are other, far greater tides that threaten the course of our planet’s future. If the oceans fail, countless living creatures will be on life support, with virtually no prospects for long-term survival.
When I visited the University of Oregon recently, an aspiring oceanographer helped me realize that rapidly changing oceanic pH levels may be the single most devastating shift on our planet. (Check out the articles in this issue for some cogent analysis.)
It’s both easy and accurate to blame technology, especially our harnessing of fossil fuels, for this oceanic crisis. But other technologies, namely modern birth control, can help us turn the tide in the right direction.
While cost and awareness are vital, the reason most commonly cited by women in less developed nations who seek to avoid unplanned pregnancies for not using modern contraception is fear of side effects. This is due partly to the peddling of deliberate misinformation. Fixing this requires building trust on a personal basis. Despite funding shortages, family planning professionals are doing just that every day in some of the poorest places on Earth.
Now vital funding may find itself on the chopping block in the new Congress. Like Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), I’m no scientist. Unlike them, I trust dedicated researchers. Maybe these two men will now decide to supplant their shameful snubs of science with serious substance, duplicity with decency, and brazen arguments with bold action. Alas, history suggests otherwise.
The real breaking news is that the planet is broken. Oceanic pH levels don’t follow election returns. The day the ballots were counted, world population grew by some 200,000 people—just as it did the day before. And Election Day only brought thousands of threatened and endangered species 24 hours closer to extinction.
Make no mistake: Population stabilization is not “the answer.” But without it, there are no real answers. And there is no better place to begin today than by charting a clear course toward universal access to voluntary contraception.
Shakespeare warned: “There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune … And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.” Time is short. Damage mounts daily. Act or fail.