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February 2020

As traditions go, it was quaint. At a baby’s birth, a nurse would impress the newborn’s footprint on a certificate. It was a baby’s way of saying, “I’ve arrived!” But those footprints really don’t have any value for identification purposes. Today’s birth certificates are computerized; footprints have no place on them. Some hospitals still provide a foot-marked document, but it’s just a souvenir of a blessed event.

But footprints have taken on a whole new meaning. We talk about carbon footprints, the greenhouse gas emissions of individuals, organizations, events, and products. Those are the gases we create in driving a car or lighting a stove, and the gases created in manufacturing and distributing them. There are also land and water footprints, the resources we directly or indirectly consume in our lives. We all have footprints. We all make them.

It’s no secret that for years, people have been concerned about our environment and how we use it. Worries about global warming have morphed into worries about global climate change. Certainly, climate changes do occur over time.   Thousands of years ago, the upper Midwest was one big glacier. It’s gone now.

But the big concern now is that our climate is changing because there are too many footprints, or more precisely, too many humans making them.   That has been the subject of considerable disagreement, for there weren’t many people in the Midwest when that gigantic glacier melted. Not many cars either.

Yet the calls for population reduction are growing louder. We hear it from politicians, who question whether we are having too many children. One professor—probably more—has suggested that we “should limit our indulgence” for children. It’s an academic’s way of saying, “One is enough.” In England, a population control group criticized Prince William and Princess Kate for having too many kids. Then there’s HBO comedian Bill Maher, who not jokingly says that it’s better for Mother Earth that people “not have kids, die and stay dead.” How strangely ironic that no one ever suggests suicide as a way of controlling the population. After all, a baby is not the only one who leaves a footprint.

Having less kids means more contraception, for like all other species, human beings naturally produce. Perhaps the most widely used forms of female contraception over the last 60 years have been “the pill” and its various delivery methods. They contain a hormone that both suppresses ovulation—a woman’s production of an unfertilized egg—and thickens mucus on a woman’s cervix to prevent male sperm from reaching any egg present.

But the pill has its own footprint, and it’s huge. U.S. women consume 3,375 gallons of its hormone annually.  That’s almost 200,000 gallons since the FDA approved the pill in 1960. That contraceptive footprint is very dangerous to the environment. Critically, the estrogen in the pill cannot be filtered out of our water. The pill affects fish at one nanogram—one billionth of a gram—per liter.   By comparison, a poppy seed weighs 300,000 nanograms. One thimbleful of estrogen can seriously disturb a lake 300 yards in diameter.

The environmental damage from the pill is frightening. The pill’s hormone feminizes male fish, delays reproduction, and damages the livers and kidneys of both sexes. It has created a 10-to-1 imbalance of female-to-male fish in areas of high birth control usage.   In Canada, the hormone has eliminated an entire species of small fish, which threatens the survival of larger fish that would otherwise eat them. A biologist studying the problem said: “It’s the first thing I’ve seen as a scientist that really scares me.” It has also affected land animals. Sheep grazing on land fertilized by sewage containing birth control hormones were found to have highly abnormal testes, ovaries, uteri, brains, and thyroid and adrenal glands.

In humans, problems are also surfacing. Studies have shown that girls as young as 6-7 are developing breasts. In men, fertility is declining because of the estrogens in water. Besides these problems, the pill’s long-term risks include cardio-vascular problems—blood clots, heart attacks, and strokes. And it may play a role in causing cancers.

God gave us dominion over the whole world and everything in it. With that gift came the undeniable responsibility to be good stewards of it. But just as our personal consumption of resources has left its footprint, so has our personal consumption of sex. Our problem isn’t too many children, for we need future generations to support and carry on the work of current generations. Our problem is that we seek the pleasure of sex without the consequences of children. But contraception has its own consequences—and they’re worsening.

There are solutions—if we have the sense to use them. For the unmarried, the solution is abstinence. In the history of mankind, it has never failed to avoid a pregnancy, nor has it failed to protect the environment. For the married, there is natural family planning, which tracks the natural signs and fertility indicators during a woman’s menstrual cycle. It has been shown to be 99% effective. It’s safe. Most importantly, both methods cooperate with God’s Will that we be His good stewards.

Years ago, a poet dreamt about walking down a beach with the Lord. The poet complained that at the worst times of his life, he only saw one set of footprints. The Lord responded, “That was when I carried you.” The message is not just to trust God. It is also that God trusts in us. He could have left us on the beach. Alone. He trusts us to protect His creation and His people. So why don’t we follow His plan. It’s much better than ours.


Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics. He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois and have six children.

© Paul V. Esposito 2020. Culture of Life. Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted. Visit us at and on Facebook.

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