Two topics that encapsulate the human relationship with the natural environment are population and consumption. How we impact the environment and its many facets largely comes down to these two key areas.
Consumption is normally measured as GDP (gross domestic product) per capita (per person) and is about the best yard stick we have for comparing consumption rates of various country’s citizens around the world. The US and European citizens have very high rates and most of the rest of the world has very low rates of consumption. As the middle class of a country expands in number and wealth they tend to increase the rate of GDP per capita for the country. This has been happening noticeably in the far east and increasingly so in China and India and certain Arab Gulf States.
Theoritically the impact of high consumption rates can be debated and solutions sort to reduce that impact. Less packaging, less energy per unit of production and even ‘downsizing’ one’s lifestyle are fairly common discussions these days. What is less talked about is population.
Save the Children have recently brought out a very interesting report entitled, ‘State of the World’s Mothers: Saving the Lives of Children Under 5.’ This link offers a video summary report or you can download a pdf of the full report.
Egypt, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nepal and the Philippines made the greatest strides in reducing child deaths. All saw women’s use of contraceptives rise and fertility rates decline. Mothers were less likely to be physically depleted by having too many babies in too short a time. With fewer children , families were also able to invest more in the care of each child. Disease education and control programmes have also been key to these successes. Bangladesh has promoted family planning, a strategy that has enabled women to have fewer children, space the births and strengthen their own health and that of their babies.
This approach to family planning also allows for population growth to slow and even to stablize. In fact in some European countries the population total would be in decline if it wasn’t for imigration. All in all a win, win situation for mothers, their children and the environment. The target then becomes ‘unnecessary’ and excessive consumption of the Western countries and increasingly of the middle classes in a growing band of nations. That could well be an even tougher nut to crack!