Family planning has role to play in climate battle


July 12th, 2019

Improved access to
contraception would benefit conservation, environmental and sustainability
efforts across the board, a UN-backed campaign has said today. 

The Thriving
Together Campaign
launched by the Margaret Pyke
Trust on 11 June to coincide with the United Nations’ World Population Day has
accumulated the support of 150 environmental and reproductive health
organizations from around the world and is advocating for the removal of barriers
of access to family planning. 

Such barriers can
present themselves in physical, financial, social, religious, personal and
legal manifestations, the campaign’s background paper
states. However, it finds, the ramifications aren’t limited just to the realm
of public health. 

Human population
growth and its impacts on urbanization, farmland expansion, unsustainable use
of natural resources and migration due to climate change disasters present
well-recognized risks to ecosystem and species survival, the background paper finds. 

Safely spaced, planned
pregnancies, would improve both the survival of mother and child and family
planning is a cost-effective strategy due to low service-delivery expenses when
compared to other forms of healthcare. 

Two out of five pregnancies
are unintended according to paper’s authors, resulting in an estimate of 85
million unintended pregnancies worldwide each year and 32 million unplanned
births, 4 million of which occur in high-income countries and the remaining in
middle- and low-income ones.

Current UN population
projections estimate that the global human population will rise from 7.7
billion to 9.8 billion by the middle of this century.  Increasing human
pressures are among one of the many challenges the planet faces and by harming
ecosystems, food and water security, as well as human health, is

As a consequence CEO
of Margaret Pyke Trust David Johnson said that “we threaten habitats and
species.”  The paper notes that “connections between human behaviour and
biodiversity are complex and not perfectly understood” and that resource
consumption both locally and remotely “plays a role in threats to ecosystems
and species.” 

However, in one of the sections that follows, the report reads: “as humanity advances demographically and economically, biodiversity retreats. Almost as obviously, this relationship is not coincidental but causal”. 

An additional benefit of increased access to contraception, the campaign also says, would be to conservationists who promote a “Half Earth” strategy, which would aim to conserve half the planet’s land and oceans as it would be easier to work towards with a smaller human population.

Improving family
planning as a means to slow population growth is a strategy that has generated
relatively recent public conversation. 

American environmental
journalist Dave Roberts observed in a piece in
November that female empowerment is “the most effective carbon mitigation

“Specifically, since
most of the new people are going to come from poor or developing countries, the
question is specifically how to slow population growth there,” he wrote. 

Fortunately, Mr
Roberts says, we know the answer to be family planning and female education as
the former “enables women to have only children they want and choose” and the
latter provides access to income opportunities outside the home. 

Empowerment on this
scale, he goes on to find, are the two most powerful agents in bending the
global population curve and are, “in and of themselves, an enormously powerful
climate policy”. 

In supporting his statement, Mr Roberts referenced the Drawdown Project, which ranked carbon-reduction solutions.  The combination of family planning and education of girls, it found, “carried the most potential to reduce greenhouse gases later this century, out of any solution”. 

About the Author

Kayle Crosson

Kayle is a multimedia journalist focused on climate and environmental issues and contributes to The Irish Times and The Green News.

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