The September 2006 issue of Scientific American was all about Climate Change and what potential impact the scientific community believes energy alternatives could have at reducing carbon emissions. It was a very interesting issue all around, but there was one article in particular which I found quite thought provoking: Lower Fertility: a Wise Investment by Jeffrey Sachs, in which he discusses the ramifications of world population growth to the environment. Sachs points out that the main problem is not the sheer number of people in the world, but the high consumption levels of people in the rich countries. Yes, us. But Sachs makes a good case for reducing fertility rates in both rich and poor countries, pointing out that people in poorer nations aspire to the lifestyle of the rich – a lifestyle that is resource draining and unsustainable. His “four-part strategy” for reducing fertility rates in poor countries is fascinating:
First, promote child survival. When parents have the expectation that their children will survive, they choose to have fewer children, with a net effect of slower population growth. Second, promote girls’ education and gender equality. Girls in school marry later, and empowered young women enter the labor force and choose to have fewer children. Third, promote the availability of contraception and family planning, especially for the poor who cannot afford such services on their own. Fourth, raise productivity on the farm. Income-earning mothers use their scarce time in productive employment rather than childrearing. [You can read the full article here].
Who would have guessed that gender equality, in addition to all its other benefits, is also good for the environment!