In a lecture called “Sex and the Environment,” Bonnie Tillery, population issues coordinator or the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, explained the effects of sex education on the world. The program was sponsored by Water Watch.
There are about 6.5 billion people on earth today. “Per person, the U.S. consumes more than any country around the world. For all of us to live at U.S. standards, we would need four planets,” Tillery said.
The global strain on energy and food sources is well-publicized, but water is the key, according to Tillery. Only one percent of the earth’s water is drinkable. As the world population doubles at a faster rate, “The wars of the century will be fought over water,” she said.
According to Tillery, U.S. policy largely ignores the root of the population explosion – unprotected sex. One Sierra Club initiative is to encourage sex education and the use of contraceptives. The initiative would slow population growth and resource exhaustion by reducing unintended pregnancies and spacing out intended pregnancies.
“Sex education should be comprehensive . so that people can make informed choices about their sexual health. The amount of sex education in public schools right now is dangerously lacking,” Claire Manning, senior political science and international studies major, said.
According to the Population Reference Bureau, the United States had a total fertility rate of 2.1 in 2001. That means in 2001, women were expected to have about two children by the end of their childbearing years. That number is deceptively high.
“The U.S. has some of the highest fertility rates in the developing world; we are second only to the Russian Federation,” Tillery said.
According to the CIA World Fact Book, fertility rates in the United Kingdom, Japan and Italy are only 1.66, 1.4 and 1.28, respectively.
“We need to do a lot better job talking about sex in the U.S. Virtually nothing has been spent on comprehensive sex education,” Tillery said.
According to Advocates for Youth, comprehensive sex education includes medically accurate, age-appropriate information about contraception that stresses abstinence. Programs would also include information on relationships, decision making and assertiveness.
“I think what Tillery discussed about sex education is so important. I’m an intern for Planned Parenthood and it’s really troubling how many girls I interview don’t understand contraception,” Rita Gesualdo, junior English major, said.
According to the Guttmacher Institute 2006 report, New Jersey’s sex education policy is abstinence-only. Overall, New Jersey ranked 43rd in the country for laws and policies, public funding and service availability regarding contraception.
Any New Jersey student receiving abstinence-plus or comprehensive sex education obtains it at their district’s discretion.
“My health teacher in high school almost got fired for changing the curriculum and acknowledging that kids in high school sometimes have sex. Not everyone is devoted to abstaining from sex until marriage, and teens of a reasonable age should be given the facts,” Dan Smith, junior history major, said.
According to Advocates for Youth, $700 million of federal and state funds have been spent on abstinence-only education since 1996.
In addition, 79 percent of junior high and 45 percent of high school teachers in the United States fail to teach about condoms.
“Comprehensive sex education is a necessity. I don’t see how you can argue that. Someone is going to have sex, a lot of someones, in fact,” Scott Latyn, senior graphic design major, said.
In 1984, President Ronald Reagan enacted the Mexico City Policy. The policy cut off U.S. funds from any non-government organization (NGO) that administered or discussed abortions. Even if NGOs use their own money to provide information about abortions, they lose U.S. funds.
“I hope you see the political link here,” Tillery said, noting the the U.S.’s policy of promoting abstinence in both domestic and foreign politics.
In 1993, President Bill Clinton lifted the Mexico City Policy. However, President George W. Bush reinstated it in 2001. The money at stake is minimal, but could save millions of lives. “Less than one percent of the U.S. Federal budget is spent on international aid, outside of the military,” Tillery said.