Some thoughts from the Breakthrough Institute
and the Washington Post
on the world's survival of the supposed population bomb. Some interesting points here (and fantastic images), but I turn to David Lam's 2011 presidential address
at the Population Association of America conference for more.
He justifies the 1960s era fear of the population bomb and his explanation is more robust than cultural exposure such as television. Namely 1) economic factors: Market responses, innovation (especially the green revolution), globalization
and 2) demographic factors: urbanization, fertility decline and investment in children. When we see growth rates of food output or GDP of 7% and 10% per year we can see how countries like Vietnam, China, and India outraced the Malthusian devil in recent decades. The point is not that population growth does not create challenges for economic development, but that these challenges can be overcome when forces like market liberalization lead to this kind of rapid economic growth.It may seem that fertility decline alone is a simple explanation for surviving the population bomb
, but this would undermine the effect of economic factors and incentives on fertility. Even as someone who studies the effect of simple access to family planning on fertility, I know they're all related. Hat tip: NAJ, DL
After many valid but ignored requests for a way to read this blog by email, I have finally added a FeedBurner email option on the sidebar. Enter your email address and follow. Happy half birthday, BLK.
1. For the 3% of the population that gets these jokes (though slightly higher in this community), this is hysterical.
2. The fascinating realism of academic fraud:“There are scarce resources, you need grants, you need money, there is competition,” he said. “Normal people go to the edge to get that money. Science is of course about discovery, about digging to discover the truth. But it is also communication, persuasion, marketing. I am a salesman."
3. On GDP metric improvements: But the head of a statistics agency would choose to invest in different things if his outside financial incentives tilted towards getting external donors and academics the GDP and MDG measures they want for their big reports. That’s not necessarily the information governments need to govern well.4. Does saving the Isle Royale wolves undermine the nonintervention principle of wilderness?
5. Threats of politicians involved in academic peer-review? Not cool.Hat tips: CB, NAJ, LCN, CP
Family Planning educational posters in village dispensaries. My new favorite thing to photograph.
Having spoken to a lot of women who seem legitimately interested in family planning (although I have also developed a strong social bias detector), I'm more aware of the logistical challenges that Mama from Mwajidalala village might actually face in adopting contraceptives. Dispensaries are fairly well stocked and family planning is almost entirely free. For the most part, the Ministry of Health staff appears well-trained and dedicated to their work.
The big hold up to access is combination between timing and distance. It's Ministry of Health policy that women cannot start on a contraceptive unless 1) they've had a check-up to ensure that the method is the right one and 2) the big logistical challenge, that they are on their period on the day they visit the clinic. Both of these policies are standard health procedures and fairly consistent with my experiences in the states. The methodology behind timing adoption with current menstruation is to be absolutely sure that Mama from Mwajidalala isn't pregnant.
However, the crucial information of 1) and 2) from above are not very well-known (although the CBDs in my study are very hopefully spreading the word). If Mama from Mwajidalala, who works up the gumption to leave her work in the cotton fields for a day and walk to the closest dispensary, four hours away, she might finally arrive and be told that she hasn't come on the right day of the month. This is obviously frustrating and time consuming for Mama from Mwajidalala, so she might gives up there.
There's hope with the mobile clinics- the Ministry of Health's way of addressing the fact that villages and subvillages are so spread out in Meatu. The health center and district hospital operate a schedule of visits to each village every month for outreach. But for Mama from Mwajidalala, the timing is again a challenge since the mobile clinic schedule likely does not coincide with her menstrual schedule. The probability of Mama being able to adopt contraceptives from the mobile clinic, is about 5/30, or 1/6.
All this timing and access challenge makes me grateful that my intervention lasts a full year. But even this feels too short.
My Swahili name is Tabasam. My Swahili professor gave me the name two years ago in class. I wasn't exactly the best student, but was very enthusiastic. So of course, when he called on me, I wouldn't know the answer but I was happy to participate anyway. Having a Swahili name is awesome. It saves me a lot of trouble of correcting people on pronunciation
, which I clearly get enough of in the states (no offense, M&D, a very original spelling). Plus, you can't frown when someone just introduced themselves as smile. It's a great ice breaker before asking for a cold coke or a huge amount of phone credit. It's a little challenging to be taken seriously, though. When I have to (infrequently, thank Mungu) meet with a district administrator or medical officer, its slightly more awkward to say something like this: "I'd like you to write letters of introduction to each of the village executive officers directing them to democratically elect female representatives to participate in a seminar on family planning and community health. And by the way, my name is Smile."
Unless its from a child, I don't respond to mzungu
much anymore. Or Aine, for that matter. I even have a Sukuma (the main tribe of my research district) name too: Wonday. The family planning workers have told their kids (and clearly the neighbor's kids) that my name is Wonday, which they start shouting before I get out of the car. And since the small selection of passanger-mutually-agreed-upon-across-cultural-barriers music includes Akon (What! You guys don't like the dulcet hipster tones Yeasayer and Local Natives??), every time I'm greeted in the village, I get One Day
stuck in my head. Sometimes we all just start singing along. Still working on teaching the rest of the chorus to these kids...
In the mean time, I'll pretend that all their lives they've been waiting for, they've been praying for, for the the people to say... WONDAY! WONDAY!
I am back from another supervisory trip to visit the family planning workers in the study villages and amazed that its May 1. Supervisory trips sounds more official than adventures in less-drowsy dramamine and paper chasing across sunflower farms.
We've hit a nice stride, my field assistant, our district family planning trainer and myself. Having visited eight villages three times with three workers each, and had more-or-less the same discussions about how to fill out the questionnaires, we are on the same page. Kama kawaida. Or, as usual. It's basically reminiscent of the 8th day of a boundary waters canoeing trip. My chaco tan agrees.
We decide at the same time that a certain beans-and-rice cafe is clearly not up to sanitary par, and silently coordinate our sassy disapproving departure. There's not much communication, either, when we all get out of the car and move a giant acacia tree off the meager rocky path we're pretending is a road. When its time to distribute payments and get signatures of receipt, we simply say: mvua uniesha. Or, make it rain.
I also seem to have toughened up a bit to fit into the stride. I sleep extremely lightly but can fall asleep anywhere. I woke up yesterday when the lizard in my room ate a spider. I'm fascinated by how refreshed and clean I can feel with only with a bar of soap and 2 liters of cold water. I haven't slept in the same bed for more than a week in a row since February. I'll take this transient pace over the last guest house, where the way to lock the door was by rotating a bent nail in the door frame (it was the nicest place in town at $4/night). I have more of a "usual spot" bar than I've ever had in my life, every waiter knows what football teams I support and greets me by (my Swahili) name.
My research permit ends in a couple of weeks and I transition into tourist. I'm going to miss this life.
It is nearly impossible to forget that I'm an outsider in Tanzania. I'm white.
In my study villages, my whiteness explains the fact that I arrive in a truck, that I carry a lot of papers, that I give out bicycles, that the village chairman wants to meet me and that I don't stay long. Even in the office, where I'm working with Tanzanians of a similar education level who are also passionate about development and conservation, my outsiderness lingers in missing Swahili jokes, my direct communication style, misunderstandings of workplace culture and frequent consumption of peanut butter. To me, these things mean I'm a graduate student and American, but to everybody else, this is all summarized by the fact that I'm white.Tanzanians don't go out of their way to make me feel this way, its an inevitable part of expatriate life. In fact, the consistency of this feeling is part of what leads to the intimacy of expat communities. But I have found refuge from the spectacle. The only space where I am momentarily free of my mzungu
spectacle badge, is on a small field or muddy plot of land with a handful of gangly teenage boys, two make-shift stick goals and a ball in the middle. In other words, playing football. When the ball goes out, they giggle and remember that I'm white, but when the ball is in play and we are attacking
out of the back after a quick turnover, all that matters is that I'm open.
Same content, new flavor. A wider screen, better for viewing pictures and a little relief for the strenuous life of your overworked scrolling fingers.
I'm the white one.
In an effort to incentivize household visits and family planning consultations throughout the entire village (i.e. make sure this intervention actually happens), my project is giving "work materials." While a bicycle, backpack, raincoat and gumboots are certainly helpful work materials for tromping around distant subvillages and filling out forms, they are also particularly awesome gifts.
And I got to be part of distributing these gifts. It was a lot of fun.