12 October 2020
Population policy and the environment.
International position statement :
1. The undersigned organisations recognise the following facts :
A. Past population growth from one billion in 1800 to 2.5 billion in 1950 to 6.8 billion today, together with rising resource consumption per head, has already: caused climate change, increasing pollution, rising sea levels and expanding deserts; and has been largely “funded” by rapidly depleting natural capital (finite resources such as fossil fuels, groundwater, minerals, soil fertility, forests, fisheries and biodiversity) rather than sustainable natural income.
B. The capacity of the Earth is finite, reducing with climate change, and cannot sustain indefinite growth in human numbers and resource exploitation.
C. Global population, increasing by 78 million per year (9,000 per hour) is projected to grow to 9.1 billion by 2050. The additional 2.3 billion, even in low-carbon countries, equates to two more carbon USAs.
D. Indefinite population growth being physically impossible, it must stop at some point : either sooner through fewer births by contraception and humane, pro-active population policy; or later through more deaths by famine, disease, war, and environmental collapse; or some combination of these.
E. Each additional person increases total human impact on the natural environment and decreases natural resources per head; so that all environmental (and many economic and social) problems are easier to solve with fewer people, and harder (and ultimately impossible) with more.
F. Environmental degradation and resource depletion is steadily reducing the number of people the Earth can indefinitely sustain.
G. Spreading industrialisation, urbanisation and first world consumption patterns are further reducing the ultimate carrying capacity of the Earth.
H. Global food supply is heavily dependent on cheap and abundant oil and water, both of which are rapidly becoming more scarce and costly.
I. Development (GDP growth per person) of the poorest countries continues to be hampered by high birth rates (ever more people).
J. The optimum population (best quality of life for all) is clearly much smaller than the maximum (bare survival).
Conclusion : Current population growth is environmentally unsustainable.
2. We recommend that the United Nations and intergovernmental organisations, governments, and non-governmental environment and development bodies should :
A. Recognise and acknowledge the factual truth of these statements.
B. Support, fund or ensure universal access to family planning worldwide, as agreed at the 1994 Cairo Conference and in Millennium Development Goal 5 for 2012.
D. Adopt non-coercive policies to stabilise or reduce populations at or to sustainable levels, including planning for an ageing population.
E. Take firm measures, especially in high-consuming regions, to promote the reduction of per capita resource depletion and environmental degradation.
Signatory organisations :
Optimum Population Trust (UK)
Population Institute of Canada
Population Institute (USA)
Sustainable Population Australia
Please contact OPT if your organisation is interested in signing up to this position statement.
Source : Optimum Population Trust