How The Pandemic Is Changing Birth Control Choices

Birth control is again on people’s minds
Birth control is again on people’s minds
Anne Sophie Goninet

As the pandemic's first wave of lockdowns began, there was plenty of chatter about how it would affect couples, relationships and sex — and consequently what it would mean for contraception. Earlier this year, the UN warned in a report that more than 47 million women in 114 countries could lose access to contraception if health services continue to be heavily disrupted.

As many now brace for COVID-19's second wave, and renewed restrictions, birth control is again on people's minds. A recent report in Canada found that the health crisis has prompted many to reassess their main method of contraception.

Not the best time to be pregnant: According to the report from polling company Léger published by La Presse, around 42% of Canadian women indicated that they were considering or planning to change their main method of contraception and more than half also say they plan to ask their doctors to reconsider their main method of contraception in case of a second wave of cases.

• The main reason: women want to make sure that they have the best contraceptive method possible: 3/4 of the women who took part in the survey felt it was important to avoid unwanted pregnancy during the pandemic because of the uncertainty and instability it has generated.

• This is also true in the United States, where a study conducted by the Guttmacher Institute revealed that 49% of women surveyed had changed their plans about when to have children or how many children to have.

• The increased difficulty or inability to see a doctor in person is also an additional worry for women.

Choosing the best method: The Léger report also reveals that more than 3/4 of participants who used a contraceptive in the last six months have chosen the pill — a method which requires greater regular discipline to be effective, according to a nurse practitioner.

• "All our habits have been modified, the pandemic has changed people's routines … For example, women who stay at home all day with their children teleworking, it changes their daily life, and they risk forgetting their pill more often", Julie Poirier told La Presse.

• The Guttmacher Institute study found that 23% of women reported thinking about getting a longer-acting contraceptive method such as an IUD or an implant.

• Anna, a 24-year-old American, told online magazine Bustle that she switched from the pill that she'd been taking for nearly a decade to an IUD to get her birth control "all lined up" and feel more secure for a few years.

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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