Scientists, leaders and policymakers are starting to address the need for some long-term population common sense

Niger’s president, Mahamadou Issoufou, is calling for “responsible parenthood” and says a misreading of Islam is to blame for the country’s high fertility rate. An article in The Guardian this month reports that Niger’s government has been proactive about reducing the country’s fertility rate through access to contraception, keeping girls in school, and establishing family planning schools for men.
Image: Wikipedia Commons
There are indications that the issue of overpopulation is (finally!) being taken more seriously now.

Scientists for the Population Council recently published an opinion piece in The British Medical Journal (the world’s oldest medical journal) calling for wider family planning access to ease climate threats, and it is garnering modest attention from mainstream and scientific news outlets including Reuters, Yahoo News and Science Daily.

Their abstract is notable for its plain, direct wording; after pointing out that the human population is expected to reach 10.9 billion people by 2100 (up from today’s 7.7 billion, most of which will take place in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia), they conclude: “Rapid population growth has pervasive adverse effects on societies, economies and the natural environment. In particular, with an additional 3 billion people producing greenhouse gases, the global warming problem will become even more intractable in the coming decades. Slower future population growth could reduce emissions globally by an estimated 40% or more in the long term.”

British daily The Guardian recently focused on how the president of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, is dealing with the issue of population growth in his country, noting that he speaks plainly about the challenges. At 7.2 children per woman, Niger has the highest total fertility rate in the world. Its population has grown from 8 million in 1990 to 22.4 million today and is projected to double in the next 17 years.

Given that Africa’s population is projected to grow from 1.3 billion today to 2.4 billion by 2050, it’s critical that other African leaders also take the issue seriously. The countries of the Sahel, which includes Niger, will be major contributors to the projected 230 million migrants by mid-century. President Issoufou says that his government is focused on lowering Niger’s birth rate by keeping girls in school until age 18 and establishing more family planning schools for men. PIC hopes that Mr.Issoufou’s words on population growth translate into meaningful action in providing accessible family planning services for the millions of women and men who want to control their family size, and that more African leaders will follow his example.

The connection between population and climate change was also made by the CBC, Canada’s national broadcaster, which reported a few days ago that population and climate change scholars largely agree that while limiting human numbers is insufficient by itself to solve the climate crisis, the issue of population is “under-reported, under-rated and under-talked-about” as a factor.

Climate change has become the pre-eminent symbol of the unsustainability of human activities in our cultural zeitgeist, and population growth must be recognized as one of its root causes. Please support our efforts to make voluntary and comprehensive family planning available to all women and men so that they can make choices to plan their families for a better future for themselves and a healthier planet for all.