Population, environment and sustainable development
RHM Vol. 22 No. 43 May 2014
The theme of RHM’s first journal issue, May 1993, was “Population and family planning policies: women-centred perspectives”. The papers addressed these issues in India, South Africa, Malaysia, Mexico and Japan: population change, land use and environment; population and development; abusive treatment of women seeking contraception and abortion; the “problem” of abortion; consequences of the decline of the birth rate; gender and population policies; and the effects of population policies on women’s lives. These papers are still very relevant, yet in 20 years much has changed. Fertility is declining rapidly all over the world, for example, and globally is almost at replacement level; only 18% of countries, the very poorest, still have high fertility. In fact, in a growing number of countries, fertility has dropped so far below replacement level that the dearth of children is perceived to be a source of serious economic and social problems, creating an opening for anti-SRHR forces to encourage governments to restrict the right to contraception and abortion. Even in China there is discussion about whether to roll back the one-child policy. Yet listening to some environmentalists, you could be forgiven for believing that population growth remains the biggest problem facing the world, and that reducing fertility is all that matters.
Globally, the combined problems of population, environment, development and sustainability are on the agenda of global agencies, governments, scientists, business, NGOs and activists in a wide range of fields. In 2005, the World Summit set out three mutually reinforcing pillars of sustainable development: economic development, sustainable development and environmental protection. Seven years later, the 2012 Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development drew huge numbers and generated fierce debate, including among SRHR advocates, and now the global discussion of what should happen to the Millennium Development Goals is in full force.
Meanwhile, in 2011, a conference called Population Footprints took place in London, where a multidisciplinary group of academics, scientists and others with expertise in public policy presented their thinking on what the world must do to keep the planet, ourselves and future generations alive and healthy. Along with what happened in Rio, it motivated the theme for this journal issue. The overarching goal put forward at that conference was the need to achieve equitable and sustainable development. The main conclusions were that too high levels of consumption are having a far greater impact on the environment than overall numbers of people, with a myriad of other contributory problems. This was far from the assertion that reducing population growth will solve all the problems. The conference called for “a million different actions”− on climate change, greenhouse gases, population and demographic issues, urbanisation, migration, depletion of resources, shortages of energy and water, farming practices, global food and nutrition needs, environmental disasters and degradation, high levels of waste, conservation of biodiversity, and productive and reproductive labour. The global economy is sometimes seen as an immoveable force, yet until the powers ruling global and national economies confront the reality of over-consumption and limited resources, and pursue alternative approaches that prioritise low ecological cost, they will block crucial changes and exacerbate the problems. All of these are, at least in small part, also SRHR issues and vice versa.
The aim of this journal issue is to reflect on global and national policy and perspectives on fertility, fertility control, population and demographic issues − in the context of economic and sustainable development and environmental protection − especially at country level and in a cross-disciplinary manner.
We welcome papers that discuss population, fertility, and decisions whether and when to have children that are grounded in 21st century realities and move beyond “family planning” – in order to respond intelligently and critically to what young people want and need. We seek analysis and perspectives on issues ranging from youth bulges to the consequences of too few children to the needs of ageing populations, from the reality of international migration to the role of the economy and the right to work to achieve an environmentally sustainable future.
Some questions and examples of issues we are interested in:
· What is “equitable and sustainable development”?
· What economic, social and political environments are needed to effect change?
· Given what happened at Rio+20, what comes next?
· Perspectives on 21st century population trends and policies, taking account of both high fertility and below-replacement fertility.
· How can a broader development and sustainability perspective support access to contraception, abortion and sterilisation services, especially where these are still legally restricted?
· Social and economic issues of gender and inequity, marginalisation and vulnerability in access to resources and jobs, education and health care, and human rights.
· How should the SRHR movement – nationally, internationally – deal with population, environment and sustainability issues in a 21st century manner, and how should population, environment and sustainability experts take SRHR on board?
Please share this with anyone who may be interested in submitting a paper.
RHM author and submission guidelines are at:
Read them before you start writing and again before you submit!!
Submissions now online at: http://ees.elsevier.com/rhm due 1-30 November 2013