World Vasectomy Day 2016: Yes Virginia, Family Planning is for Men Too

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By Leon Kolankiewicz

Leon is an Advisory Board Member and Senior Writing Fellow with CAPS. A wildlife biologist, and environmental scientist and planner, Leon is the author of Where Salmon Come to Die: An Autumn on Alaska's Raincoast, the essay “Overpopulation versus Biodiversity” in Environment and Society: A Reader and was a contributing writer to Life on the Brink: Environmentalists Confront Overpopulation.

In a career that spans three decades, three countries and more than 30 states, Leon has managed environmental impact statements for many federal agencies on projects ranging from dams and reservoirs to coal-fired power plants, power lines, flood control projects, road expansions, management of Civil War battlefields, NASA's Kennedy Space Center operations and a proposed uranium mine on a national forest. He also has worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop comprehensive conservation plans at more than 40 national wildlife refuges from the Caribbean to Alaska.

The writer's views are his own.

November 16, 2016

Contrary to the hopes of those who care about an environmentally sustainable future for humanity and the biosphere, world population growth is actually speeding up, not slowing down.

According to the demographers at the respected Population Reference Bureau in Washington, D.C, approximately 90 million people have been added to the planet’s population since last year, at the average rate of 246,000 more humans (net, or births minus deaths) every single day.

This compares to an annual rate of increase of 81 million a decade ago. There are now 7.4 billion people on Planet Earth, and demographers expect the world’s population to continue increasing to the end of this century and beyond, that is, if the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse don’t intervene first.

This accelerating population growth is extremely bad news for a planet already suffering from climate change, fossil fuel depletion, deforestation, suffocating air pollution and sickening water pollution in developing countries, widespread extinctions of wildlife, collapsing fisheries, loss of arable soils and good farmland, worsening water shortages, urban congestion and sprawl, failing states, civil unrest, war, terrorism, extremist ideologies and mass migration on an unprecedented scale.

In view of this dire demographic situation, a welcome, timely and hopeful event is scheduled for Friday, November 18, 2016: World Vasectomy Day. An annual event started in 2012, this year it will be held in Kenya, but hundreds of men from dozens of countries all across the world will participate and subject themselves (or a wee bit of themselves) to the scalpel.

As the organizers’ website explains, World Vasectomy Day will be a live-streamed, male-oriented family planning event. The goal of hosting the full day of events is to inspire men “to stand up for their children, their wives and our future.”

Worldwide, almost a thousand doctors in some 40 countries will be performing vasectomies on November 18. In Kenya alone, an estimated 25 to 50 men are volunteering to have the procedure. Their vasectomies will be conducted by an experienced team of Kenyan medical specialists and international experts. The event will take place at the Kenya National Theatre in Nairobi. It will include panel discussions with recognized leaders in the field as well as conversations with men, vasectomy providers and activists from all around the world. Poetry, music and a health fair geared towards men will also be part of the day’s activities.

The founders of World Vasectomy Day are Americans Jonathan Stack (a documentary filmmaker) and Doug Stein, M.D. (a urologist), along with Australian film producer Simon Nasht. These three deserve enormous credit for their vision and determination in building and managing the growth of this remarkable event, which started as an inspired idea and is growing into a global phenomenon, all to heighten awareness about men’s crucial role in family planning.

Stack produced the 2013 documentary, The Vasectomist, featuring Dr. Stein’s work. Stack says:

“…after 20 years making films about the most horrible expressions of human cruelty, witnessing them [vasectomy patients] declare love for their wives, their families and our future was eye opening. I asked myself a question, how could I aggregate these individual acts of kindness into a collective movement for change...I thought let’s make World Vasectomy Day.”

I myself underwent a vasectomy after my second child was born. As a committed population activist and environmentalist, it was a decision in keeping with my beliefs and priorities.

At a time when a myopic backlash to family planning has gathered force around the world – just as unsustainable population growth is once again speeding up – World Vasectomy Day should be publicized and celebrated. Those husbands and fathers who opt for this elective procedure are not only showing they care about their own families, but about the well-being and sustainability of their countries and, indeed, Mother Earth.

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