Get a Vasectomy, Save the Planet!

Nov 6th, 2014 | By | Category: Family Planning

By Suzanne York,

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Family planning efforts are mainly directed at women, which makes sense.  Yet too often men are disregarded, and they should be part of most discussions on family planning. Involving both men and women will not only help families, but the environment too.

One overlooked topic when it comes to women, men and pregnancy is a vasectomy.  Given that November 7th is World Vasectomy Day, it’s a great time to shine the light on why vasectomies should be considered a valuable tool in the family planning arsenal.

Last year, documentary filmmaker Jonathan Stack and Dr. Doug Stein launched World Vasectomy Day. The intention was “to inform people about vasectomies, bring these services to those furthest afield, and to inspire men to engage in the conversation about family planning.”  Over a 24 hour period, they inspired 100 doctors in 25 countries to perform 1,000 vasectomies, which were broadcast live.



For most men, using a condom is a simple thing to do, and so is getting a vasectomy.  It might be emotionally challenging, but as a method of family planning, it is an efficient and underused procedure.   A vasectomy is a safer, cheaper procedure that causes fewer complications than tubal ligation in women. No scalpel required. (Of course, condoms are needed to protect from sexually transmitted diseases.)

A vasectomy is also very a successful procedure – as a method of birth control, vasectomies are 99.85% effective.

According to WebMD, a vasectomy is a very reliable, permanent form of contraception.  Only one in every 2,000 vasectomies fails to make a man infertile. The operation is done under a local anaesthetic; the whole procedure takes between 15 minutes and half an hour.

Family Planning and Climate Change

The current world population is over 7.2 billion, and we are on track to hit between 8 to10 billion by 2050.  And while it’s not just about population numbers, but how much people are consuming, population statistics can’t be ignored.  Humanity is growing, we are consuming more and more finite resources, and we are not the only species on the planet.

Population and consumption are driving factors of climate change and environmental degradation. Today, people are using 50 percent more resources than the Earth can replenish in a year. In fact, humans use the equivalent of 1.5 planets per year. By 2030, humans will use the equivalent of two planets each year.  If you’re an American, you use over four planets worth of resources every year.

Consider per capita carbon emissions for a handful of countries (in metric tons, based on World Bank data):

USA:              17.6

Australia:      16.9

UK:                  7.9

Indonesia:     1.8

Philippines:    .9

Nigeria:           .5

The first three countries have low fertility rates and high consumption (yet still increasing due to immigration); the last three have high fertility rates and low consumption.  Universal, voluntary family planning could help in all countries.

Family planning is a cost-effective technology for reducing climate change impacts. A 2010 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences, which looked at population growth and carbon emissions, showed that slowing population growth could provide 16–29% of the emissions reductions suggested to be necessary by 2050 to avoid dangerous climate change.

Many Options

Don’t want a vasectomy?  Then advocate for a male birth control pill, which may someday see light. Globally, an estimated 40% of pregnancies are unintended.  Men and women both play a part in lowering that figure.  And in doing so, they can help protect the planet. Family planning is not just a woman’s responsibility – after all, this is the 21st century.

Be sure to check out “Ten Reasons Why I support World Vasectomy Day” and maybe watch a live vasectomy being performed somewhere in the world tomorrow.


Suzanne York is a senior writer with the Institute for Population Studies.

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