© Eric R. Pianka
With the support of Margaret Sanger, birth control pills based on the hormone progesterone were first invented and tested in 1954 by endocrinologist Gregory Pincus and John Rock. Pincus and Rock rightfully should have won the Nobel Prize for this important discovery, which came in time to control burgeoning human populations before we reached overshoot. Compared to alternatives such as war, famine, or pandemics, birth control is certainly the most humane way to control runaway human population growth.
"The pill" was approved for contraception by the US FDA in 1960 and despite considerable controversy, became widely used by American women during the early 1960's. Birth control is opposed by organized religions, but was legalized by the U. S. Supreme Court in 1972 for all American citizens, irrespective of marital status. Zero Population Growth (Z.P.G.) was founded by Paul Ehrlich in 1968 and became an aggressive political movement advocating birth control. Unfortunately Z.P.G. was greatly weakened or even disbanded for political reasons in 2002 when its name was changed to the Population Connection. In 1967, Planned Parenthood was charged with committing genocide by providing the controversial pill to poor minority neighborhoods. An anti-pill campaign based on putative health risks followed and sales fell. A second generation of new birth control pills, including Lybrel, Norplant, Ocella, Seasonale, Yaz, and Yazmin, among others, ensued along with uterine implant devices or IUDs. Half a century after FDA approval, thousands of lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies are pending based on alleged detrimental side effects. Alas, birth control wasn't adopted or practiced widely enough to head off overpopulation and we humans quickly exceeded sustainable densities. Once again, we missed our chance to ease into a stationary world. However, for humans to control our own population, contraception must certainly be on the table despite inevitable opposition from political and religious groups.
Last updated 10 September 2014 by Eric R. Pianka