Earth faces sixth ‘great extinction’ with 41 per cent of amphibians set to go the way of the dodo

December 17, 2014

SOURCE: The Guardian

Analysis for prestigious Nature magazine sounds alarm on the way that human activity, from overfishing to agriculture, is forcing a vast number of species to vanish from the wild.



Credit: John Clare via Flickr

Human activity to blame

A stark depiction of the threat hanging over the world’s mammals, reptiles, amphibians and other life forms has been published by the prestigious scientific journal, Nature.

A special analysis carried out by the journal indicates that a staggering 41% of all amphibians on the planet now face extinction, while 26% of mammal species and 13% of birds are similarly threatened.

Many species are already critically endangered and close to extinction, including the Sumatran elephant, Amur leopard and mountain gorilla. But also in danger of vanishing from the wild, it now appears, are animals that are currently rated as merely being endangered: bonobos, bluefin tuna and loggerhead turtles, for example.

In each case, the finger of blame points directly at human activities. The continuing spread of agriculture is destroying millions of hectares of wild habitats every year, leaving animals without homes, while the introduction of invasive species, often helped by humans, is also devastating native populations. At the same time, pollution and overfishing are destroying marine ecosystems.

“Habitat destruction, pollution or overfishing either kills off wild creatures and plants or leaves them badly weakened,” said Derek Tittensor, a marine ecologist at the World Conservation Monitoring Centre in Cambridge.

“The trouble is that in coming decades, the additional threat of worsening climate change will become more and more pronounced and could then kill off these survivors.”

The problem, according to Nature, is exacerbated because of the huge gaps in scientists’ knowledge about the planet’s biodiversity. Estimates of the total number of species of animals, plants and fungi alive vary from 2 million to 50 million. In addition, estimates of current rates of species disappearances vary from 500 to 36,000 a year. “That is the real problem we face,” added Tittensor. “The scale of uncertainty is huge.”

In the end, however, the data indicate that the world is heading inexorably towards a mass extinction – which is defined as one involving a loss of 75% of species or more. This could arrive in less than a hundred years or could take a thousand, depending on extinction rates.

The Earth has gone through only five previous great extinctions, all caused by geological or astronomical events. (The Cretaceous-Jurassic extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago was triggered by an asteroid striking Earth, for example.) The coming great extinction will be the work of Homo sapiens, however.

“In the case of land extinctions, it is the spread of agriculture that has been main driver,” added Tittensor. “By contrast it has been the over-exploitation of resources – overfishing – that has affected sealife.” On top of these impacts, rising global temperatures threaten to destroy habitats and kill off more creatures.

Climate change will have disastrous effects on biodiversity

This change in climate has been triggered by increasing emissions – from factories and power plants – of carbon dioxide, a gas that is also being dissolved in the oceans. As a result, seas are becoming more and more acidic and hostile to sensitive habitats.

A third of all coral reefs, which support more lifeforms than any other ecosystem on Earth, have already been lost in the last few decades and many marine experts believe all coral reefs could end up being wiped out before the end of the century.

Similarly, a quarter of all mammals, a fifth of all reptiles and a seventh of all birds are headed toward oblivion. And these losses are occurring all over the planet, from the South Pacific to the Arctic and from the deserts of Africa to mountaintops and valleys of the Himalayas.

A blizzard of extinctions is now sweeping Earth and has become a fact of modern life. Yet the idea that entire species can be wiped out is relatively new. When fossils of strange creatures – such as the mastodon – were first dug up, they were assumed to belong to creatures that still lived in other lands. Extant versions lived elsewhere, it was argued. “Such is the economy of nature,” claimed Thomas Jefferson, who backed expeditions to find mastodons in the unexplored interior of America.

Then the French anatomist Georges Cuvier showed that the elephant-like remains of the mastodon were actually those of an “espèce perdue” or lost species. “On the basis of a few scattered bones, Cuvier conceived of a whole new way of looking at life,” notes Elizabeth Kolbert in her book, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. “Species died out. This was not an isolated but a widespread phenomenon.”

Since then the problem has worsened with every decade, as the Nature analysis makes clear. Humans began by wiping out mastodons and mammoths in prehistoric times. Then they moved on to the eradication of great auks, passenger pigeons – once the most abundant bird in North America – and the dodo in historical time.

And finally, in recent times, we have been responsible for the disappearance of the golden toad, the thylacine – or Tasmanian tiger – and the Baiji river dolphin. Thousands more species are now under threat.

In an editorial, Nature argues that it is now imperative that governments and groups such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature begin an urgent and accurate census of numbers of species on the planet and their rates of extinction. It is not the most exciting science, the journal admits, but it is vitally important if we want to start protecting life on Earth from the worst impacts of our actions.

The loss for the planet is incalculable – as it is for our own species which could soon find itself living in a world denuded of all variety in nature. As ecologist Paul Ehrlich has put it: “In pushing other species to extinction, humanity is busy sawing off the limb on which it perches.”

Read the report

This article, published by The Guardian, has been reproduced by PSN. Minor changes and cuts may have been made for the purpose of brevity and relevance.


PSN provides evidence to UK Parliament on Population Dynamics and Sustainable Development

December 16, 2014


PSN and the Population and Sustainable Development Alliance have made a joint submission to UK parliamentary hearings on Population Dynamics and Post-2015, advocating the importance of a focus on population dynamics and sexual and reproductive health and rights for achieving sustainable development within the next international development agenda.


APPG 250x250

Credit: APPG on Population, Development and Reproductive Health

World leaders are likely to adopt a ‘sustainable development’ agenda in New York in September 2015. The resulting goals, targets and indicators will be widely used to guide funding and programmes for global sustainable development.

With this in mind the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Population, Development and Reproductive Health launched parliamentary hearings on population dynamics in the post-2015 development agenda, with a call for written submissions of evidence and policy recommendations.

The submission advocates the importance of a focus on population dynamics and sexual and reproductive health and rights and explores the links between these issues, with a particular focus on the enquiry topics of urbanization, migration, climate change and conflict.

Case studies from Madagascar and Malawi are presented by Blue Ventures and LEAD, sharing reflections from their work about the potential to advance sustainable development through the use of integrated Population Health Environment Approaches which combining reproductive health services with environmental and other initiatives.

A number of policy recommendations are made to support parliamentarians and governments to advocate for a rights-based focus on population dynamics and prioritisation of family planning and sexual and reproductive health and rights in negotiations for the Post-2015 agenda.

Read the submission

Women must be partners and drivers of climate change decision-making, says Executive Director of UN Women

December 11, 2014


As leaders from around the world gather in Lima this week to discuss global cooperation in addressing climate change, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, calls for them to ensure that women are equal partners and drivers of climate change decision-making.



Credit: Felix Clay/Duckrabbit/World Fish via Flickr

COP20 climate conference

As global leaders gather in Lima this week at the COP20 climate conference to discuss global cooperation in addressing climate change, a woman in Guatemala will struggle to feed her family from a farm plot that produces less each season.

A mother in Ethiopia will make the difficult choice to take her daughter out of school to help in the task of gathering water, which requires more and more time with each passing year.

Women have proven skills in managing natural resources sustainably and adapting to climate change, and are crucial partners in protecting fragile ecosystems and communities that are increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

A pregnant woman in Bangladesh will worry about what will happen to her and her children if the floods come when it is her time to deliver.

These women, and millions of women around the world, are on the front lines of climate change. The impacts of shifting temperatures, erratic rainfall, and extreme weather events touch their lives in direct and profound ways.

For many, these impacts are felt so strongly because of gender roles – women are responsible for gathering water, food and fuel for the household. And for too many, a lack of access to information and decision-making exacerbates their vulnerability in the face of climate change.

Our leaders in Lima this week will meet to lay the critical foundations for a new global agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

They seek to resolve important questions about collective action to reduce carbon emissions that cause climate change, to build resilience in communities to the climate change impacts we can’t avoid, and to provide the finance needed for climate-smart development around the world. It is critical that in all of these efforts, our leaders recognise the importance of ensuring that climate change solutions are gender-responsive.

What does it mean for climate change solutions to be gender-responsive? It means, for example, that in formulating strategies for renewable energy women are engaged in all stages and that these strategies take into consideration how women access and use fuel and electricity in their homes.

It means that vulnerability assessments and emergency response plans take into account women’s lives and capabilities. And critically, it means women are included at decision-making tables internationally, nationally, and locally when strategies and action plans are developed.

Going beyond the acknowledgment that men and women are impacted differently by climate change and thus, the need for climate policies and actions to be gender-responsive, we must also examine and support pathways to greater empowerment for women.

When women are empowered, their families, communities, and nations benefit. Responding to climate change offers opportunities to enhance pathways to empowerment. This requires addressing the underlying root causes such as gender stereotypes and social norms that perpetuate and compound inequality and discrimination.

Full access to SRHR is vital

Examples abound and these include removing restrictions to women’s mobility, providing full access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, ensuring access to education and employment opportunities as well as access to economic resources, such as land and financial services.

Enhancing women’s agency is key to a human rights-based and equitable climate change agenda. In September during the U.N. Secretary General’s Climate Summit in New York, UN Women and the Mary Robinson Foundation–Climate Justice brought together more than 130 women leaders for a forum on “Women Leading the Way: Raising Ambition for Climate Action.”

We heard remarkable stories of women’s leadership in addressing all aspects of the climate crisis.

Women have proven skills in managing natural resources sustainably and adapting to climate change, and are crucial partners in protecting fragile ecosystems and communities that are increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Women leaders mobilise communities, promote green investments, and develop energy efficient technologies. Indeed, if we are serious about tackling climate change, our leaders in Lima this week must ensure that women are equal partners and drivers of climate change decision-making.

This article, published by IPS, has been reproduced by PSN. Minor changes and cuts may have been made for the purpose of brevity and relevance.

225 million women in developing countries have an unmet need for modern contraceptives, new report finds.

December 4, 2014

SOURCE: Guttmacher Institute

A new report by the Guttmacher Institute and UNFPA finds that there are currently 225 million women in developing countries who want to avoid pregnancy, but are not using modern contraceptives; this figure has hardly changed since 2008 as increases in contraceptive use have barely kept up with growing populations.



Credit: UN Photo/Kibae Park

An urgent call to action

The report, Adding It Up: The Costs and Benefits of Investing in Sexual and Reproductive Health 2014, released by the Guttmacher Institute and UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, analysed data from a wide range of sources, including survey data from women in developing countries, to document the number of women who lack services, what it would cost to meet their needs, and the benefits of meeting these needs.

“Over the past two decades, we have achieved striking progress in making pregnancy and childbirth safer in developing countries. Despite those gains, these new findings make clear that universal access to sexual and reproductive health services must remain a global health priority requiring urgent attention,” said Ann Starrs, President and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute. “The report also makes clear that this is an affordable goal that will have a dramatic impact in improving the lives of millions of women and families.”

The study calculates that it would cost on average $25 per woman aged 15–49, roughly double the current level of spending, to provide a package of essential sexual and reproductive health services to all women in developing regions each year. This package includes: contraceptive services, pregnancy and newborn care, services for pregnant women living with HIV, including prevention of mother-to-child transmission of the virus and treatment for four other sexually transmitted infections.

“This report is an urgent call to action for increased investments in sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning. These investments save lives, empower women and girls, strengthen health systems and have a profound and lasting impact on development,” said Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA. “We must ensure the quality of services and availability of a full range of choices so women and men can get the health care they need.”

Providing this basic package of services to all women who need them in developing countries would have a dramatic impact. If all women wanting to avoid pregnancy used a modern contraceptive method, the number of unintended pregnancies would drop by 70% and unsafe abortions by 74%. If contraceptive needs were met and, in addition, all pregnant women and their newborns received the basic standards of care recommended by the World Health Organization:

  • The number of women dying from pregnancy-related causes would drop by two-thirds, from 290,000 to 96,000;
  • Newborn deaths would drop by more than three-fourths, from 2.9 million to 660,000;
  • Transmission of HIV from mothers to newborns would be nearly eliminated.

Cost of fulfilling unmet need varies widely by region

The report—which presents findings from Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean—found that the situation varies widely by region. According to the analysis, in Latin America and the Caribbean, the average annual cost of providing a woman with the needed health care would be $31, compared with $14 per woman in Asia. However, costs would be significantly higher—$76 per woman—in Sub-Saharan Africa, the subregion with the greatest need for services and where health systems are generally weakest.

Currently, of the 125 million women in developing countries who give birth every year:

  • 54 million do not receive adequate antenatal care;
  • 43 million do not deliver in a health facility;
  • 21 million women and 33 million newborns do not receive care for medical complications;
  • 550,000 pregnant women living with HIV do not receive treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

Differences within regions are also considerable. In East Africa, 42% of women deliver in a health facility, compared with 62% in Middle Africa and 87% in Southern Africa. In Asia, just 32% of the poorest women deliver in facilities, compared with 92% of the wealthiest women.

Providing all women with the health care they need would also be cost-effective. With far fewer unintended pregnancies, the cost of providing maternal and newborn care to all who need it becomes more affordable: For every additional dollar invested in contraceptive services, $1.47 is saved in maternal and newborn health care.

“If we continue to underinvest in sexual and reproductive health, we will be missing out on a tremendous opportunity to save lives, improve the health and well-being of families, and ultimately build stronger nations,” said Ms. Starrs.

Read the report: Adding It Up: The Costs and Benefits of Investing in Sexual and Reproductive Health 2014

This article, published by Guttmacher Institute, has been reproduced by PSN. Minor changes and cuts may have been made for the purpose of brevity and relevance.

What’s next for climate change, sustainable development and sexual and reproductive health and rights?

December 3, 2014


PSN’s coordinator calls on the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) community to ‘get serious about population dynamics’ as they may be the key for ensuring that SRHR remain important international development issues in the post-2015 development agenda.



Credit: Steve Evans via Flickr

SRHR and the Big Picture

PSN’s Coordinator, Karen Newman, was invited to speak at this year’s EuroNGOs international conference, which focused on the theme ‘Putting the puzzle together, SRHR in a post-2015 world’.

The conference was designed around six interactive sessions and called for the inclusion of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in the UN negotiations that will lead to the approval of a new set of developmental goals in September 2015.

“The post-2015 framework is important for several reasons, but one of the most important is that it will shape development funding streams for the next decade”, explained Karen. 

The four biggest international development issues right now are: climate change, food/water security, poverty elimination, and fragile states. But the question is: how can we link SRHR to these big issues in order to ensure that they remain important international development priorities in the post-2015 framework? The answer, claimed Karen, lies in a nuanced understanding of  population dynamics

A call for action

What do we want? – sexual and reproductive health and rights! When do we want it? Now!

“Right now, millions of people are on the move; migration and urbanisation are two key population dynamics that shape the size and scope of the challenges we face. Others include population growth, population decline, and ageing”, said Karen. “Population dynamics [will] help us to prioritize SRHR as global priorities in the coming years”.

Karen called on SRHR advocates and policy makers to get involved in work related to population dynamics as they are key, critical cross-cutting issues in international development.

Karen explained that if the SRHR community do not get involved in advocacy and policy work related to population dynamics, then the field will be left free for people for whom a concern about respecting and protecting human rights is not a priority.

Climate change: the facts

The world’s poorest countries will be hit earliest and hardest by the effects of climate change and it is exactly those countries that are most vulnerable to its impacts and have the least capacity to adapt.

The five most frequently mentioned factors that will be made worse by population growth and climate change are:

  • Population pressures on fresh water availability
  • Population affective soil degradation/erosion, which will have implications for agriculture
  • Shortage of land per capita/over grazing
  • Deforestation
  • High population density/migration to coastal areas, thereby increasing vulnerability.

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) claims that “sixty percent of the world’s 39 metropolises with a population of over 5 million are located within 100km of the coast, including 12 of the world’s 16 cities with populations greater than 10 million”.

Rising sea levels will result in the need to move millions of people away from the sea.  That’s in addition to the millions of people who are moving away from war, persecution, poverty, starvation. 

How SRHR fits in

The SRHR community “need to understand [population dynamics and climate change] better in order to participate in the discourse about how to address them effectively” explained Karen, ”It isn’t hard to make the case that access to sexual and reproductive health and rights services is an important element of building climate-resilient communities, but you have to do it carefully, mindful of other factors, including differentials in consumption patterns, carbon emissions etc”.

The links between population dynamics and climate change are complex and controversial, but they are critical.  We need to reclaim the word ‘population’ in order to focus global attention on population dynamics, because that offers a promising avenue for prioritizing sexual and reproductive health and rights in the post 2015 landscape.

More information about the EuroNGOs conference can be found on their website

Read more about population dynamics and SRHR in our briefing

The world has more young people than ever, says UNFPA ‘State of the World 2014’ report

November 18, 2014


Young people aged between 10 and 24 now comprise 25% of the total world population. World’s 1.8 billion young can propel socio-economic development, new UNFPA report shows.


Credit: UNFPA

Youth need investment

Developing countries with large youth populations could see their economies soar, provided they invest heavily in young people’s education and health and protect their rights, according to The State of World Population 2014, published this week by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.

The potential economic gains would be realized through a “demographic dividend,” which can occur when a country’s working age population is larger than the population that is dependent and younger, the report shows.
But to maximize the dividend, countries must ensure their young working-age populations are equipped to seize opportunities for jobs and other income-earning possibilities.

“Today’s record 1.8 billion young people present an enormous opportunity to transform the future,” says UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin. “Young people are the innovators, creators, builders and leaders of the future. But they can transform the future only if they have skills, health, decision-making, and real choices in life,” he adds.

With the right policies and investments in human capital, countries can empower young people to drive economic and social development and boost per-capita incomes, the new UNFPA report states.

Reaping the demographic dividend

The UNFPA Executive Director urges countries in pursuit of a demographic dividend to ensure the gains result in growth that benefits everyone.

“It is too easy to talk about the demographic dividend in terms of money, savings and economic growth, which have so far excluded many,” Dr. Osotimehin says. “The demographic dividend must be harnessed to achieve inclusive growth and offer opportunities and well-being for all.”

In the 1950s and 1960s, several East Asian economies invested heavily in young people’s capabilities and in expanding their access to voluntary family planning, enabling individuals to start families later and have fewer children. The result was unprecedented economic growth. The Republic of Korea, for example, saw its per-capita gross domestic product grow about 2,200 per cent between 1950 and 2008.

Nine in ten of the world’s young people today live in less developed countries. Because of lagging social services, these countries face greater obstacles to leveraging the advantages that can result from engaging a youthful, productive workforce.

The UNFPA report shows that demographic shifts taking place in about 60 countries are opening a window for a demographic dividend. The size of the dividend depends largely on how those countries invest in young people to realize their full potential.

If sub-Saharan African countries repeated the East Asian experience by making the right investments in young people, enabling them to participate in decisions that affect their lives and adopting policies to bolster economic growth, the region as a whole could realize a demographic dividend amounting to as much as $500 billion a year, for 30 years.

A demographic dividend of this magnitude has the potential to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and raise living standards and catapult economies forward, the report states. Critical youth investments needed to reap a demographic dividend are those that protect rights, including reproductive rights, improve health, including sexual and reproductive health, and provide skills and knowledge to build young people’s capabilities and agency. These investments can also accelerate fertility declines, which can in turn accelerate the demographic transition.

Read the report

This article, published by UNFPA, has been reproduced by PSN. Minor changes and cuts may have been made for the purpose of brevity and relevance.

Population Foundation India issues statement on sterilisation deaths

November 14, 2014


PSN member, Population Foundation India, has issued a statement on the tragic and shocking deaths of 13 women during a sterilisation camp in India, calling for action to ensure that family planning programmes are safe, respect and protect human rights, and provide of a range of contraceptive choices.


Indian woman 250

Credit: Meena Kadri via Flickr

Statement from Population Foundation India on the Chhattisgarh sterilisation deaths

Population Foundation of India is deeply anguished at the death of 13 young mothers during a sterilization camp at a hospital in Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh. The deaths should awaken us to the fact that the target-free approach, which India claims to follow, is not yet a reality.

Though the word ‘target’ has been removed from the Population Policy (2000), it has been replaced by ‘expected level of achievement’. The performance of the health staff in family planning continues to be determined by the number of women they round up for the sterilization procedure or the number they operate on. In fact, the awards and the monetary compensation they receive are directly linked to their performance on numbers instead of quality of services.

As an organisation working in the field of family planning for 40 years, we maintain that family planning is a way to save mothers and children; give them a healthier life. For repeated pregnancies, result in poor health for mothers and their babies. India has a huge unmet need for family planning.

The way forward is to begin by focusing on quality of care by adhering strictly to prescribed guidelines, by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in its Standard Operating procedures of Sterilisation Services in Camps. According to the guidelines, one doctor should not do more than 30 sterilisations with three laparoscopes in one day. The doctor in Chhattisgarh is said to have performed 83 operations in less than five hours. The guidelines also state that all sterilisation camps must be organised in established government facilities. But these camps are often help in schools and panchayat buildings completely violating the rules. In Chhattisgarh, the camp was organised in a private charitable hospital, and according to reports, did not have even the basic life-saving facilities.

Population Foundation of India calls for the diversion of funds, now being spent on incentives to health staff and compensation to the women, to investment in quality of care in government facilities. Family planning saves lives. When it ends up taking lives of young mothers, or inflicts them with lifelong morbidity, it is a tragedy of monumental proportions as we have seen in Chhattisgarh.

The situation calls for an urgent response. PFI urges the government to make available a wide range of quality temporary contraceptive methods, give clear and adequate medically accurate information including the benefits and risks, so that individuals can choose the method they want to adopt.

Poonam Muttrija
Executive Director

The Endangered Wildlife Trust breaks the population taboo

November 12, 2014

SOURCE: David Johnson/Africa Geographic

An article by David Johnson, specialist Communities and Ecosystems Programmes Developer at PSN's newest network member, the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), has been published in Africa Geographic which discusses population, biodiversity and PSN's recent partnership with one of Africa's largest conservation NGOs.



Credit: Christopher Griner via Flickr

David's article:

Every conservationist I’ve met, during two years’ research on human population impacts, has agreed population growth to be one of the most significant threats to biodiversity. Finding a major regional or international conservation NGO which was prepared to say this was, until now, somewhat harder.

This week the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) became the newest member of the Population and Sustainability Network (PSN). Based in London, PSN is an independent body which also coordinates an international network of organisations recognising the importance of population and consumption impacts as significant factors in sustainable development. PSN raises support for, and investment in, sexual and reproductive health services which respect and protect rights. In becoming a member of PSN the EWT joins founder members including the United Nations Population Fund, the UK government’s Department for International Development, the International Planned Parenthood Federation and several smaller conservation organisations promoting the integrated approach to development known as “Population, Health and Environment”.

Biodiversity is not just a luxury for the rich, many poor rural communities rely on healthy ecosystems for their food, water and livelihoods. When population growth threatens those ecosystems, the local communities suffer too. Population, Health and Environment programmes respond to this by integrating improved sexual and reproductive health services with conservation actions and the creation of alternative and sustainable livelihoods. This integrated approach has been proven to lead to greater conservation and health outcomes than single sector actions but there are no Population, Health and Environment programmes in continental southern Africa. This is something I am seeking to change, with the EWT and others.

PSN is a global leader in advancing the understanding of the relationships between people, their health, the environment and development but they are not the only new partner for the EWT. Another partner is women’s rights NGO the Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme (TVEP). Based in Limpopo, TVEP’s work generates an attitude of zero tolerance towards all forms of sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse and HIV/AIDS stigma. TVEP passionately advocates for increasing women’s “agency” – that is women’s capacity to act. Access to voluntary family planning services is one thing, but male partners must also allow female partners to use the contraceptives of their choice and this is not always the case. TVEP’s programmes seek to eradicate abuse and discrimination and by increasing women’s agency ensure women can exercise their rights to make their own contraceptive and other decisions. TVEP’s Fiona Nicholson smiled when she told me about how one village chief in Venda, after TVEP had implemented its programmes in his village, proudly demonstrated to other villagers how to use a female condom, an inconceivable event before TVEP’s arrival.

The human population of Africa is anticipated to double by 2050, a reality which successful conservation cannot ignore. A woman empowered to choose the number and timing of her pregnancies, with access to contraception and who is able to implement her contraceptive choice is likely to have fewer, healthier children. With fewer children to support, fewer natural resources need be harvested, benefiting food security and the environment. This is the result if the EWT and TVEP collaborate.

The EWT and TVEP are seeking funding for a pilot project to be implemented at a site in KwaZulu-Natal where human settlements are encroaching on remaining habitats and where an absence of alternative livelihoods means some locals have little choice but to turn to bush meat to support their families. Sometimes the bush meat includes the endangered species the EWT is seeking to conserve. One potential funder is the Hivos Social Innovation Award, an award where the public vote for the top 20 entries to progress to the semi-finals. You can read about the EWT / TVEP application on the Hivos website by clicking here and can support their application by voting for them to reach the semi-finals.

Although some people feel uncomfortable talking about population growth, there should be no need if the conversation is rooted in empowerment, women’s rights and education. This is the approach of the EWT, TVEP and PSN. Implementing southern Africa’s first Population, Health and Environment programme will not only help poor rural communities and species conservation but also develop the way we talk about population.

This article, published by David Johnson/Africa Geographic, has been reproduced by PSN. Minor changes and cuts may have been made for the purpose of brevity and relevance.

Help the EWT to get funding

The EWT has applied for the Hivos Social Innovation Award in partnership with a local South African NGO, the Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme. If they are successful, the funding will be put towards further developing their model to undertake conservation activities, create sustainable jobs and implement programmes empowering women, eradicating sexual and gender based violence and providing contraceptives. Only 20 of over 400 applications will progress to the semi-finals so your vote will be greatly appreciated!

Please help our newest member by voting for their application here. It only takes a second!

PSN welcome the Endangered Wildlife Trust into network for ground-breaking partnership.

November 6, 2014


PSN are proud to announce that the South African based conservation NGO, The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), have joined the Network. This pioneering partnership sees one of Africa’s largest conservation NGOs making the important connection between population, health and the environment for the benefit of people and nature. 


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Credit: Colin the scot via Flickr

Founded in 1973, the EWT works in southern Africa and parts of East Africa, conserving threatened species and ecosystems.

The EWT is currently active in 13 African countries, across diverse ecosystems including grasslands, wetlands, river catchments and systems, savannah, indigenous forests and Kalahari semi-desert.

The EWT’s work not only conserves Africa’s most iconic species such as rhino, wild dog and cheetah but also many of the less well-known, equally important and often even rarer species, such as the Amathole toad and riverine rabbit.

This year, the EWT began working with David Johnson, a specialist communities and ecosystems programmes developer, who is working to incorporate greater emphasis on human health improvement and educational and livelihood opportunities to the EWT’s programmes.

“It’s been proven that integrating conservation actions with improvements in community health and education lead to greater conservation healthcare and gender outcomes than single sector actions,” explains David.

“It’s not just about voluntary family planning, but also generating socially viable and economically lucrative alternative livelihood opportunities. By integrating approaches we can assure healthier communities and healthier ecosystems”.

EWT logo smallDr. Harriet Davies-Mostert, EWT’s Head of Conservation, explains, “In the rural communities where we work, people often depend on their local environment to provide them with their food, water, medicines and wood for fuel. Livelihoods are often dependent on natural resources, forcing growing populations to use resources unsustainably.”

“Preservation of healthy ecosystems is essential from a conservation perspective, but also for the wellbeing of communities themselves”, explains Dr. Davies-Mostert. 

PSN and the EWT are exploring a number of ways to collaborate more closely, including on an integrated Population, Health and Environment project, which would see South Africa’s first programme of its kind.

“We are particularly excited about such an influential environmental organisation lending its voice to the issues we work on, and the further opportunities that will hopefully bring to advance our shared agenda”, PSN’s Coordinator, Karen Newman explains. “We are extremely enthusiastic about the new programme under development and look forward to partnering more closely with the EWT in the near future”.

Find out more about the EWT

Read about David Johnson's 'Too much, too many' project

IPCC: rapid carbon emission cuts vital to stop severe impact of climate change

November 3, 2014

SOURCE: The Guardian

Most important assessment of global warming yet warns carbon emissions must be cut sharply and soon, but UN’s IPCC says solutions are available and affordable.


chimney 250

Credit: Raul Villalon via Flickr

Leaders must act now

Climate change is set to inflict “severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts” on people and the natural world unless carbon emissions are cut sharply and rapidly, according to the most important assessment of global warming yet published.

The stark report states that climate change has already increased the risk of severe heatwaves and other extreme weather and warns of worse to come, including food shortages and violent conflicts. But it also found that ways to avoid dangerous global warming are both available and affordable.

“Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in the message,” said the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, attending what he described as the “historic” report launch. “Leaders must act. Time is not on our side.” He said that quick, decisive action would build a better and sustainable future, while inaction would be costly.

Ban added a message to investors, such as pension fund managers: “Please reduce your investments in the coal- and fossil fuel-based economy and [move] to renewable energy.”

The report, released in Copenhagen on Sunday by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is the work of thousands of scientists and was agreed after negotiations by the world’s governments. It is the first IPCC report since 2007 to bring together all aspects of tackling climate change and for the first time states: that it is economically affordable; that carbon emissions will ultimately have to fall to zero; and that global poverty can only be reduced by halting global warming. The report also makes clear that carbon emissions, mainly from burning coal, oil and gas, are currently rising to record levels, not falling.

“We have the means to limit climate change,” said Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC. “The solutions are many and allow for continued economic and human development. All we need is the will to change.”

The new overarching IPCC report builds on previous reports on the science, impacts and solutions for climate change. It concludes that global warming is “unequivocal”, that humanity’s role in causing it is “clear” and that many effects will last for hundreds to thousands of years even if the planet’s rising temperature is halted.

Climate change effects already being felt

In terms of impacts, such as heatwaves and extreme rain storms causing floods, the report concludes that the effects are already being felt: “In recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans.”

Droughts, coastal storm surges from the rising oceans and wildlife extinctions on land and in the seas will all worsen unless emissions are cut, the report states. This will have knock-on effects, according to the IPCC: “Climate change is projected to undermine food security.”

The report also found the risk of wars could increase: “Climate change can indirectly increase risks of violent conflicts by amplifying well-documented drivers of these conflicts such as poverty and economic shocks.”

Two-thirds of all the emissions permissible if dangerous climate change is to be avoided have already been pumped into the atmosphere, the IPPC found. The lowest cost route to stopping dangerous warming would be for emissions to peak by 2020 – an extremely challenging goal – and then fall to zero later this century.

The report calculates that to prevent dangerous climate change, investment in low-carbon electricity and energy efficiency will have to rise by several hundred billion dollars a year before 2030. But it also found that delaying significant emission cuts to 2030 puts up the cost of reducing carbon dioxide by almost 50%, partly because dirty power stations would have to be closed early. “If you wait, you also have to do more difficult and expensive things,” said Jim Skea, a professor at Imperial College London and an IPCC working group vice-chair.

Tackling climate change need only trim economic growth rates by a tiny fraction, the IPCC states, and may actually improve growth by providing other benefits, such as cutting health-damaging air pollution.

As part of setting out how the world’s nations can cut emissions effectively, the IPCC report gives prominence to ethical considerations. “[Carbon emission cuts] and adaptation raise issues of equity, justice, and fairness,” says the report. “The evidence suggests that outcomes seen as equitable can lead to more effective [international] cooperation.”

These issues are central to the global climate change negotiations and their inclusion in the report was welcomed by campaigners, as was the statement that adapting countries and coastlines to cope with global warming cannot by itself avert serious impacts.

“Rich governments must stop making empty promises and come up with the cash so the poorest do not have to foot the bill for the lifestyles of the wealthy,” said Harjeet Singh, from ActionAid.

The statement that carbon emissions must fall to zero was “gamechanging”, according to Kaisa Kosonen, from Greenpeace. “We can still limit warming to 2C, or even 1.5C or less even, [but] we need to phase out emissions,” she said.

Politicians must act now

Sam Smith, from WWF, said: “The big change in this report is that it shows fighting climate change is not going to cripple economies and that it is essential to bringing people out of poverty. What is needed now is concerted political action.” The rapid response of politicians to the recent global financial crisis showed, according to Smith, that “they could act quickly and at scale if they are sufficiently motivated”.

Michel Jarraud, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organisation, said the much greater certainty expressed in the new IPCC report would give international climate talks a better chance than those which failed in 2009. “Ignorance can no longer be an excuse for no action,” he said.

Observers played down the moves made by some countries with large fossil fuel reserves to weaken the language of the draft IPCC report written by scientists and seen by the Guardian, saying the final report was conservative but strong.

However, the statement that “climate change is expected to lead to increases in ill-health in many regions, including greater likelihood of death” was deleted in the final report, along with criticism that politicians sometimes “engage in short-term thinking and are biased toward the status quo”.

Read the latest IPCC report

This article, published by The Guardian, has been reproduced by PSN. Minor changes and cuts may have been made for the purpose of brevity and relevance.