Good News and Bad News
Amid environmental destruction, species loss and climate disruption – none of which are tied by the media to the underlying cause of human population growth – there are, nonetheless, some good news developments and initiatives this week.
FIRST THE GOOD NEWS
Canada’s government is stepping up to support some of the most controversial, underfunded and neglected areas in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Human Rights (SRHR) in the developing world.
- At the 2018 International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) in Kigali, Rwanda, from November 12-15th, Canada’s Minister of International Development, Marie-Claude Bibeau, announced up to $104.4 million in funding for projects that “take a comprehensive approach” to SRHR, including access to family planning and safe, legal abortion. Some 214 million women who want to avoid pregnancy are not using any form of contraception and 830 die each day from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth. PIC is encouraged by the Minister’s remarks that Canada will continue to speak “frankly” with other countries on the need for contraception and abortion services, even if it remains controversial in some circles. Canada, along with the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, France and Belgium, is participating in the campaign to fill the gap left by President Donald Trump’s ban on US funding for projects that involve abortion, or even just provide information about the services available.
World Vasectomy Day, a once-a-year “vasectomy-thon,” also takes place this week.
- A social media communications project, WVD unites vasectomy providers and health care activists in a mission to increase men’s participation in family planning and is touted as the largest male-oriented family planning event in history.
AND NOW THE BAD
While a recently released report indicates an encouraging global decline in the number of children born, it’s important to recognize that all countries must ultimately reverse population growth for the health of the planet and its species.To cite but a few sobering headlines from the past few weeks:
- Between 1970 and 2014, populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians representing more than 4,000 species have fallen by an average of 60%.
- A century ago, as the human population explosion began, 85% of the world was undisturbed living space for all the other species. Only 23% of the planet’s habitable terrestrial surface now remains as undisturbed wilderness thanks to the spread of humans.
- Africa’s child and youth population is predicted to reach 750 million by 2030, and one billion by the middle of the century – representing approximately 40% of the global child and youth population. A new reportwarns that massive investment is needed to prevent a billion children and young people from becoming undernourished, semi-illiterate or illiterate, and jobless or underemployed by 2050 ‒ described as “a toxic mix” by Nelson Mandela’s widow Graça Machel.
- Global population growth is slowing but that is not enough; countries must reverse population growth for the good of the planet. In the UK, for example, the 1.6 million births expected by 2026 will consume as many resources as 8 million Kenyans, so having one fewer child will make a huge difference in high-consuming nations. And a smaller population in poor countries will ease pressure on natural habitat and the wildlife that is often consumed as “bushmeat.”
OVERPOPULATION IS A GLOBAL ISSUE, BUT EVERY COUNTRY MUST BE RESPONSIBLE FOR DEVELOPING ITS OWN POPULATION POLICY
The issue of human overpopulation is generally addressed only in passing, if at all, in reproductive health programs such as those supported by the Canadian government and initiatives like World Vasectomy Day. Nevertheless, in addition to promoting the health of women and the well-being of their families, such programs also benefit the health of the planet and contribute to the conservation of wildlife habitat and the survival of other species.
In this regard, the policy of the Canadian government to rapidly grow its own population is misguided. As one of the five countries containing 70% of the world’s remaining wilderness (outside of Antarctica and the high seas), and with wildlife habitat in the densely populated southern part of the country already under severe pressure, Canada seems set on a path to undermine its own sustainability. In addition to helping other countries to reduce their own population growth, Canada – one of the highest per capita consumers in the world – should strive to set an example by stabilizing, and eventually reducing, its own population.