An End to Population Growth: Why Family Planning Is Key to a Sustainable Future

June 27, 2011 • Family Planning, Reproductive Health, Daily Email Recap

From Solutions Magazine. See:

An End to Population Growth: Why Family Planning Is Key to a Sustainable Future

By Robert Engelman, Executive Director at the Worldwatch Institute

In Brief: The widespread assumption that world population, now at 6.9 billion, will inevitably grow to 9 billion by midcentury is wrong. Population could peak before then and at a lower level, ameliorating environmental risks associated with climate change, water scarcity, biodiversity loss, and food and energy insecurity.

The equally widespread belief that an earlier, lower population peak would require coercive “population control” is also incorrect. Population growth rates and average family size worldwide have fallen by roughly half over the past four decades, as modern contraception has become more accessible and popular. The average number of children born to each woman worldwide is not much higher than replacement fertility, an average that would eventually end population growth. Yet more than 40 percent of all pregnancies are unintended, with higher proportions in developed than in developing countries.

As these figures suggest, it might be possible to end and then reverse human population growth through a strategy aimed at elevating women’s status and increasing access to contraceptive services, so that essentially all births result from intended pregnancies. Preliminary calculations based on conservative assumptions suggest that global fertility would immediately move slightly below replacement levels, putting world population on a path toward an early peak followed by gradual decline. The success of such a strategy would have many other benefits, such as reducing disability and deaths among mothers and their children and freeing more women to earn money and participate actively in social affairs.

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