Climate Change Activists Need To Talk About Population Too
“The environment does not exist as a sphere separate from human actions, ambitions, and needs, and attempts to defend it in isolation from human concerns have given the very word ‘environment’ a connotation of naivety in some political circles.”
These words come from the foreword of “Our Common Future: Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development,” a landmark United Nations report that was written when the world’s population reached five billion. The report triggered the 1992 “Earth Summit” in Rio De Janeiro and a number of United Nations treaties and agreements all focusing on sustainable development.
Today, the global population is more than seven billion and the impact of all these people is the hot topic of discussion as nations prepare to gather in Brazil this June for a follow-up conference entitled “Rio+20.” On January 12, the Aspen Institute held a panel discussion, “The Road to Rio: Climate Change, Population and Sustainability,” that began with a discussion of this quote and whether Rio+20 should address population growth and the health and reproductive rights of women, which play an obvious role in population growth.
“There is a value in marking anniversaries with a purpose of both taking stock of what has been achieved and what has still not been achieved and that would be for me in the area of reproductive health and family planning.” noted former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, who launched the Mary Robinson Foundation–Climate Justice to address the impacts of climate change on the most impoverished parts of the world.
All four panelists, which also included Rachel Kyte, The World Bank’s Vice President of Sustainable Development, Carmen Barroso, Ph.D., Regional Director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region, and Robert Engelman, President of Worldwatch Institute, questioned why world leaders were not considering women’s health and reproductive rights in the current crunch to figure out how to reduce emissions.
“2012, with Rio+20 as its highlight, offers the opportunity to reframe the global conversation on sustainable development today,” said Ms. Kyte. “We need to bring data and evidence to facilitate decisions on the policy choices and trade-offs necessary for greener and more inclusive growth.”