Population Growth: the Neglected ‘Green’ Issue – A text for Rio + 20

Author: Editor 1 | Date: 31 May, 2012 | Category: Biodiversity News Rio+20 | Comments: 2

We all know population growth is a problem  –

(If you don’t, then read this box)

((The draft text to be submitted to the UN at Rio+20
is given half way down this post, here))

Population Growth is a Multiplier of all Other Environmental Problems:  Rising populations increase soil exhaustion, erosion, desertification, habitat destruction, deforestation, aquifer depletion, CO2 emissions, sea level rise, climate change and chemical pollution; Rising populations reduce the finite and dwindling natural resources available per person, increasing long term poverty.The  global population passed 7 billion in 2011 and is growing at 80 million per year, 10,000 per hour. The UN now project the population for 2050 between 8.1 and 10.6 billion – a range of 2.5 billion, or the Earth’s entire population in 1950. Do we want it to be 8.1 billion or 10.6 billion?

What can we do?

  1. Break the taboo. Don’t be afraid to talk about the issue.
    State clearly that population growth must be tackled.
    Politicians may be concerned privately about population growth, but they will only support policies about this if they know the public are concerned too.
  2. Donate to family planning charities
    Many women would like to have fewer children but the families are too poor to buy the contraceptives.
    In Sierra Leone one in seven women die in childbirth
  3. Support girls education projects
  4. Find out more:-
    4.1 Read  Resolution on Population Growth and the Environment – Sept 2010
    Adopted by the General Synod of the Australian Anglican Church
    4.2  Read:- Population Growth: the Neglected ‘Green’ Issue – A Text for Rio+20 (This is also printed at the end of this post)
  5. More things you can do 

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Some population and  environment organisations have produced a draft text that they would like to be used at Rio+20:-  Since the recent reports of the Royal Society (People and Planet Aril 2012)  and WWF (Living Planet Report May 2012),          pressure is rising for inclusion of population stabilisation among the themes for the expected new ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs), to succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), expiring in 2015. The text is printed lower down.

Population Matters has also produced an A4 document: Population Policy and the Environment Joint International Position Statement which has been signed by 15 international organisations, and the number of signatories is growing. Read the document here: http://populationmatters.org/wp-content/uploads/position_statement.pdf

This is the draft text:-

Population Growth: the Neglected ‘Green’ Issue

 A Text for Rio+20

“Population stabilization should be a priority for sustainable development”: Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General. (Key Recommendation of GHF 2009).

 “Either we reduce our numbers voluntarily, or nature will do it for us brutally”: Maurice Strong, Secretary-General first Earth Summit, Rio, 1992.

“It’s no use reducing your footprint if you keep increasing the number of feet”: popular saying.

1. Population Growth as a Multiplier of all Other Environmental Problems:

Each additional person: needs more food, water, energy, land, timber and minerals; and produces more waste, CO2 and pollution; the rich consuming and polluting more than the poor. Thus rising populations: increase soil exhaustion, erosion, desertification, habitat destruction, deforestation, aquifer depletion, CO2 emissions, sea level rise, climate change and chemical pollution; and reduce the finite and dwindling natural resources available per person, increasing long term poverty. Thus all environmental, and most economic problems become harder, and ultimately impossible, to solve with ever more people. Population stabilisation is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for sustainability. 

2. The ‘Sustainable Development Goal’:

Impact (on the environment) = Population x Affluence (resource consumption) x Technology – the ‘IPAT function. Thus long-term biophysical sustainability requires: improved technology, giving greater resource efficiency; and reduced resource-consumption by the rich; and stable or reducing populations. Smaller populations can sustainably consume more resources per person than larger ones, while remaining within the biophysical limits of a finite planet; and indefinite growth being physically impossible, it is certain that population growth will end in any case at some point. This can only happen: either (preferably) sooner by fewer births; or later by more deaths, overwhelming any attempt at a ‘Green Economy’.

3. Population Growth as a Variable, not a ‘Given’:

As the global population passes 7 billion in 2011, its growth (at 80 million per year, 10,000 per hour) is clearly a driver of all the new and emerging challenges. The UN now project the population for 2050 between 8.1 and 10.6 billion – a range of 2.5 billion, or the Earth’s entire population in 1950.  Clearly sustainable prosperity will be far easier to achieve, the nearer to 8.1 bn the population stabilizes. This will need priority, and resources: in developing countries for non-coercive family planning and women’s education and empowerment programmes (new programmes in Rwanda, Malawi and Ethiopia show what can be achieved); in developed countries for public information programmes/incentives, aiming to balance reproductive rights with social and environmental responsibilities to current and future generations.

4. Resources for Family Planning:

There are currently 215 million women (and rising) with an unmet need for family planning (FP). Total world aid for FP is only 10% of the Goldman Sachs bonus pot – a derisory figure.  EU aid for FP is 0.4% of total EU aid. Priority for FP is low, partly because the ‘population’ problem has in recent years been marginalised as one largely of sexual and reproductive health and women’s rights; whereas in reality it affects the long-term prospects of success for all programmes across all Departments. Some 40% of all pregnancies world-wide remain unintended. The total cost of meeting the unmet need for FP, some $6.7 bn per year, is less than Americans spend on Halloween.

5.  Action at Rio+20 – a draft Text:

Ignoring the population multiplier guarantees ultimate failure for all sustainable development initiatives, since ever-rising populations will overwhelm any development gains. To address this, the following draft text for Rio is proposed:

 

[The Conference]

Recognises: that all population growth, especially in developed countries, increases impacts on the environment, and reduces the natural resources available per person; that population stabilization in all countries is therefore a necessary condition of biophysical sustainability; that prospects for sustainable development will thus improve, the sooner population can be stabilized within ecologically sustainable limits; and that this can best be achieved by non-coercive population stabilization/reduction policies in all countries, comprising the provision of family planning and women’s education and empowerment programmes to meet all unmet need for contraception, and the promotion of a cultural shift in favour of smaller families;

Calls on:

All Governments to give priority to the introduction, promotion and resourcing of such programmes;

All Governments to implement a programme of assessment,  evaluation and reporting, both of their resource-sufficiency relevant to the well-being of their people, and of the impact of population growth on it;

Donor countries to give priority to support of these programmes.

Population Matters  (UK)
www.populationmatters.org

On behalf of the European Population Alliance: One Baby (Belgium); Demographie Responsable (France); Herbert Gruhl Society (Germany); BOCS (Hungary); Associazione Radicale Rientrodolce (Italy); Population Matters – Sweden; ECOPOP (Switzerland).

 29 October 2011

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 Read some comments on Population growth on Oct 2011 (when the population reached 7 billion) on CEL’s old website


Comments on "Population Growth: the Neglected ‘Green’ Issue – A text for Rio + 20"

Michael Bourne:

June 13, 2012

Hang on, hang on. Isn't it a bit of a leap from "Don't be afraid to talk about the issue" to "state clearly that population growth must be tackled"? Are we forbidden, in our discussions, to come to any other conclusion? More importantly, I'm all for family planning charities, and I'm even more for girls education projects, but mainly because those are good things in their own right, not as means to an end. This may seem irrelevant, but this huge-scale aim of curbing populaition growth makes me feel a bit uneasy, like I'm transgressing, simply by being alive. To (horribly mis-)quote Jesus (I think the principle still applies here), "The planet was made for mankind, not mankind for the planet". I should note that I'm firmly in favour of combating climate change, and other means of reducing the negative impact we have on our environment. It's just this one that makes me uneasy. Thanks Mike

Mike de Villiers:

June 12, 2012

It is vital that groups now unite to raise the profile of population pressure Creating a stir through media and public figures support is key Good luck


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