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Global Population and Environment

Started by: chrisk



I am a volunteer with the Sierra Club Global Population and Environment Committee.  We are a National Committee and deal with international issues.   Below is Sierra Club's Population Policy adopted by the Board in 2007.   The earth now has over 7 billion, and we understand that it is not only the number of people on the planet but our overuse of resources. 



I. Vision

The Sierra Club envisions a world where every person has a good quality of life, with

access to education, basic and reproductive health care, and economic and social

opportunities. We envision a world where women participate equally in every facet of

daily life and in family, community, and national decision-making. We also envision a

world where human beings live in harmony with nature and protect it.

From 1900 until 2007, the human population grew from 1.7 billion to 6.6 billion. That

rapid growth not only threatens humanity’s ability to achieve what we envision, but also

threatens the natural environment on which all depend for survival. The larger the human

population, the greater the economic output must be to raise individual living standards to

acceptable levels. Industrialization and modernization have brought great economic

strides – but also pollution of air, water, and land; loss of wilderness, wildlife, and

biodiversity; and changes in our global climate. Places where poverty persists suffer

environmental damage stemming from poverty itself as people struggle for the resources

they need to survive.

Population pressure causes environmental harm, but so does the excessive use of

resources associated with Western consumerism. Any call to reduce stress on Earth’s

resources by slowing global population growth must include an equally energetic call to

stop destructive consumption and create environmentally responsible societies.

Far more can be done through wiser policies to mitigate environmental damage. But the

fact remains that the larger the human population, the greater the stress on the natural

world. Mounting scientific evidence shows stress on the natural world from a global

population at 6.6 billion (including a U.S. population of 300 million) is approaching the

breaking point – or has already moved beyond it.

Despite advances in science and technology, one person in three still lives in severe

poverty. There is a long way to go to provide for today’s population in environmentally

sustainable ways, to say nothing of future generations. Recently, population growth has

begun to subside – birth rates are now falling faster than death rates. But the UN projects

population growth will subside only slowly, so that the global population will stabilize at

over 9 billion people in 2050. That prospect is daunting.

It would be easier to provide for the global population in environmentally sustainable

ways if it were smaller. But smaller numbers will be possible only after growth stops and

the population stabilizes. Stabilization requires roughly two children on average per

family. Fortunately, worldwide evidence now shows there are policies that work to lower

birth rates. In many European countries, families now have fewer than two children, so

that populations may start to fall. Population declines bring their own challenges but can

make it easier – many would say make it possible – to preserve the natural world,

alleviate poverty and ensure a good quality of life for all people. The Sierra Club

therefore welcomes non-coercive, culturally sensitive policies that will help lower birth

rates, stabilize global population, and make a smaller population a realistic possibility.

Evidence shows that a three-part program works. Those three parts include the following:

A range of voluntary family planning services and information, so that people can learn

about family planning and avoid unwanted pregnancy;

Basic health care for all; and

Education, social and economic opportunity and empowerment, especially for women.

Typically, reaching a two-child family requires effort on all three fronts.

Where nations have widely instituted such a program, birth rates have decreased sharply

as couples have smaller, healthier, and better-educated families. The problem is that this

program has not yet been carried out in enough locations, particularly where poverty

persists or tradition profoundly affects women’s choices. In contrast, more coercive

approaches have generally proved counterproductive, often leading to a backlash against

family planning.

Given the grave implications of population growth, the Sierra Club urges greater effort to

explain how population pressure is affecting the environment and stronger support for the

program – family planning, health care, and education and opportunity for women – that

most effectively encourages smaller families.

There is cause for hope. The program described above can improve families’ well-being

immediately and help bring populations to more sustainable levels, both in the U.S. and

globally. With enough effort, world population could stabilize at well under 9 billion and

could eventually decrease —solely because of lower birth rates. But humanity cannot

afford to rely on hope alone. Global population is already larger than can be sustained

over the long term. The situation is urgent and deserves far more attention than it is


There is no time to lose.

II. Sierra Club Support for the ICPD Approach

To address population growth, the Sierra Club urges greater support for the approach

ratified by 179 country governments and thousands of nongovernmental organizations

from around the world, including the Sierra Club, at the United Nations International

Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo in 1994. This approach,

reaffirmed in 2004, calls for universal access to voluntary family planning, allowing

people to decide the number and spacing of their children. The Sierra Club calls for

increased support, including funding by both government and the private sector for the

full range of ICPD goals. Working toward these goals with partners from around the

world, the Sierra Club seeks a sustainable planet where all living beings have a clean,

healthy environment.


1. Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger

Smaller families and wider birth intervals allow families to invest more in each child's

nutrition and health, and can reduce poverty and hunger for all members of a household.

At the national level, fertility reduction may enable accelerated social and economic

development. Smaller families allow women to engage in more income-producing


2. Achieve Universal Primary Education

Families with fewer children, and children spaced further apart, can afford to invest more

in each child's education. This has a special benefit for girls, whose education may have a

lower priority for families than that of boys. Preventing early pregnancy can help keep

adolescent girls in school who may otherwise be forced to leave.

3. Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women

Controlling whether and when to have children is a critical aspect of women's

empowerment. Women who can plan the timing and number of their births also have

greater opportunities for work, education, and social participation outside the home.

4. Reduce Child Mortality

Prenatal care and the ability to avoid high-risk pregnancies (e.g., those to very young

women and those spaced closely together) help prevent infant and child deaths. Children

in large families are likely to have reduced health care, and unwanted children are more

likely to die than wanted ones. They are also more likely to be deprived of nutrition and


5. Improve Maternal Health

Preventing unplanned and high-risk pregnancies and providing care in pregnancy,

childbirth, and the postpartum period save women's lives.

6. Combat HIV/AIDS and other Diseases

Sexual and reproductive health care includes preventing and treating sexually transmitted

infections, including HIV/AIDS. In addition, reproductive health care can bring clients

into the health care system, encouraging diagnosis and treatment of other diseases and


7. Ensure Environmental Sustainability

Providing sexual and reproductive health services, and avoiding unwanted births, may

help stabilize rural areas, slow urban migration, enhance women's role as resource

managers and balance natural resource use with the needs of the population.”

III. Other Issues

Beyond the ICPD goals, the Sierra Club is a pro-choice organization that has worked for

population stabilization since 1965. Action by individuals, families, and governments is

necessary to achieve population stabilization at sustainable levels. We endorse and work

for comprehensive, voluntary reproductive health care for all. We encourage wider

opportunity for women as well as men, particularly education. We help to educate people

on the linkages between population growth and environmental stress. We advocate

stronger policies and support increased domestic and international funding to meet these

goals. Reflecting the vote of its membership, the Sierra Club takes no position on

immigration levels or on policies governing immigration into the United States. We

address the root causes of migration by promoting environmentally sustainable

development strategies that keep families and environments healthy, as well as improved

maternal and child health care, improved labor and environmental standards in all trade

agreements, and the education and empowerment of women.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, November 17, 2007

Reasons for working in this topic, project or business:

To work toward a peaceful future,  where all species have a healthy environment, including clean air, water, and adequate food. 

Root causes of the problems in this field and main barriers:

Population, including the overuse of resources, such as oil, coal etc. 


What is needed to overcome barriers to implement solutions:

Political leaders who think long-term.

In 2014 people need to vote.

Networking with others.


Specific needs and/or support requests:

Overturning Citizen United.


Suggested best local solution for this topic:

 A range of voluntary family planning services and information, so that people can learn

about family planning and avoid unwanted pregnancy;

Basic health care for all; and

Education, social and economic opportunity and empowerment, especially for women.

Alternative energies, such as, solar and wind power. 

Political changes, such as, overturning the 2010 Supreme Court Decision "Citizen United"  which allows corporate leaders to buy politicians.

Respect for all cultures.


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