Women's Earth & Climate Action Network, International
The Women's Earth & Climate Action Network is a solutions-based, multi-faceted effort established to engage women worldwide to take action as powerful stakeholders in climate change and sustainability solutions. For Our Earth and Future Generations A project of Women's Earth and Climate Caucus and its partner eraGlobal Alliance
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Population, Rights and the Environment

photo of Suzanne York

Started by: SYork


Population, Rights and the Environment
I wrote on population and human rights issues with a small NGO in Berkeley called the Institute for Population Studies.  From my experience, population growth should be framed within a rights-based, inclusive, and holistic approach if we are to achieve a "sustainable" world for both people and the planet.

Reasons for working in this topic, project or business:

Globally, there could be 8 to 10 billion people by 2050. If the world takes action and positively addresses the impacts of population growth, it could keep that number down to 8 billion people.
Population growth issues are popping up more in the news than they have for some time, yet it's still often treated as a taboo subject, despite the fact that population is connected to so many issues: species extinction, resource scarcity, pollution, poverty, gender, social justice, regional conflicts, etc.
The keys to keeping population numbers closer to the low-end projections are promoting women's rights and empowerment, reducing poverty and inequality, curbing unsustainable consumption, rethinking how we define economic growth and living in balance with nature.

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

The root causes of unsustainable human population growth are poverty, gender inequality, lack of education and healthcare, overconsumption, colonialism, racism, and an economic system reliant on never-ending growth in a world of finite resources.

One main barrier to success is overcoming negativity around the issue of population due to past efforts at controlling growth through coercive measures (namely China's one-child policy and sterilization).  Related to this is getting people to talk again about positive and pro-active steps that can be undertaken to empower women, families and communities, and ways to protect the environment.

What is needed to overcome barriers to implement solutions:

It's important to get people and groups to include population size in discussions and efforts on human rights, empowerment, climate change, protecting ecosystems, and so on.  It's also critical to get more funds invested in education on family planning and reproductive rights, and provide access to voluntary family planning services.  Overall, what is needed is to promote women's empowerment in terms of health, education, food security and sustainable livelihoods as the way to address gender issues and environmental challenges.

Specific needs and/or support requests:

Specifically, sharing our work (mainly blog posts and reports) on other websites, facebook, twitter, etc.  More generally, including population growth issues in others' work.

We are open to ideas on ways to highlight this topic and get the interest and involvement of other organizations.

Suggested best local solution for this topic:

Extending alliances beyond environmental groups to include organizations working on sustainable economy issues, reproductive rights, and land use.  It is important to bridge gaps between environmental and reproductive health/rights groups to properly confront the challenges we all face.  Until women are empowered and rights respected, there will not be effective environmental protection.

See our blog titled 6 Degrees of Population at


Networking opportunities:

At the Institute for Population Studies, we host the occasional local event in the San Francisco Bay Area  - usually films and/or speakers.  We often have co-sponsors and have co-hosted events with other environmental and human rights organizations. 

Suggested best global solution for this topic:

One solution that has a lot of merit is PHE - population, health and environment.  It is an integrated approach to stabilizing population, empowerming communities, and protecting the environment.

PHE projects are relatively new in the development sector, but this holistic approach recognizes the interconnection between natural resource managment, family planning/reproductive health, and sustainable livelihoods.

Best practices and policies:

Please see our report “People’s Rights, Planet’s Rights: Holistic Approaches to a Sustainable Population" for best practices and policies.  The link is http://howmany.org/Articles/PeopleAndPlanetRights-IPS.pdf




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Toni Glick posted

I'm in, this is definitely one of the major threats to our existence. I have been thinking many of the same things - that it's rarely mentioned and unpopular but needs to be addressed properly. I really like the emphasis on positive pro-active approaches to dealing with this. I will spread the word.

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