SUSTAINABILITY FORUM on the Population Factor
Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs | September 19, 2011
As part of our third annual SEPTEMBER SUSTAINABILITY MONTH, the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs presents the second of three roundtables.
Forum Editor, Zornitsa Stoyanova-Yerburgh
Environmental sustainability is inextricably linked with population growth and human activity. According to UN projections, our world will be home to more than 9 billion people by 2050 and more than 10 billion by 2100.
The planet is set to become a place of increased competition for livable space, critical resources such as water, and prospects for economic development. The biggest population increases will occur in the Global South, further exacerbating inequities in the distribution of resources and opportunities across states. Many fear that population growth and consumption will also gravely jeopardize our efforts to fight climate change.
Yet population policy is a fraught subject, not least because of coercive family control policies in the past. And focusing on numbers only often obscures the fact that population policy is fundamentally about the rights of women.
What ethical standards should guide the debate about reproduction and sustainability? How should current demographic trends inform our thinking about sustainability? Should we focus our efforts on controlling reproduction or, alternatively, over-consumption? Can technology keep developing apace to address the needs of future populations? What policies should be put in place to counteract trends that exacerbate the situation of the most vulnerable populations?
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