Today, almost everywhere we turn, we are inundated with negativity about the state of our world. There is climate chaos, economic uncertainty, terrorism, inequality, environmental degradation, overcrowding, poverty; the list goes on and on.
It can be overwhelming to think about global issues and global problems. However, they can’t be ignored, or if they are, we do so at our own peril. Take the issue of population growth, for instance. It is often referred to as the “elephant in the room” because for many years this issue has been associated with negative actions, government control, and people telling others what to do and how to live their lives. Yet despite the doom and gloom in our world, there's actually much we can do to overcome it.
A new report by the Institute for Population Studies suggests the best way to discuss population growth and the myriad of problems confronting the planet today is through a rights-based, holistic approach. Most importantly, this should be an inclusive approach that includes both people and the planet. We are way past finger-pointing and complaining. We face serious issues that must be dealt with now.
People’s Rights, Planet’s Rights: Holistic Approach to a Sustainable Population recommends focusing on the following issues to create a path to a sustainable world population:
Women’s Rights – providing voluntary family planning services to the 222 million women in developing countries who want access to family planning services but do not have access to contraceptives;
Youth Rights – providing comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education to the nearly 3 billion young adults under the age of 25;
Rights of Nature – recognizing the legal right of ecosystems to exist;
Rethinking the Economy – accepting that endless economic growth is unsustainable and more efficient global indicators of human and environmental well-being should be adopted.
Author Suzanne York attended several prominent international conferences this year where population issues were discussed, though these issues were not always front and center. From the Aspen Ideas Festival to the Rio+20 Earth Summit to the Montreal International Conference on Degrowth in the Americas, population growth was always found somewhere on the agenda and relevant to the many social, environmental and economic challenges society faces today.
At conferences and in living rooms, this topic needs to be talked about in a more open manner. York writes, “Talking about population growth doesn't have to be a contentious issue. If choice, voluntary measures, improved education and access, inclusivity, interconnectedness, and rights-based and holistic approaches are made the norm, then the world should be able to come together for the sake of women, families, and the planet.”
In a world of 7 billion people and growing, it will be a challenge. But for the sake of present and future generations, we owe it to them to find solutions that work. The report concludes that “The best way to achieve this and positively address population growth is to support and enhance the rights of women and youth, reduce unsustainable levels of consumption, and consider new (and old) concepts that protect people, nature, and the earth that we share. That’s how we build the future we want.”
Let's give it a shot, because we have nothing to lose by doing so, and so much to gain. It just might make the world a better place.