PSN ensures population dynamics features at international conservation event for the first time

November 10, 2015

PSN Chief Executive, David Johnson, gave the opening address at this year's African Wildlife Consultative Forum in Limpopo, South Africa.


David SA

PSN Chief Executive, David Johnson, today gave the opening address at the African Wildlife Consultative Forum in Limpopo, South Africa. Delegates representing nine African governments, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, conservation academics and those implementing on the ground conservation programmes were present. It was the first time in the event’s fourteen year history that population was not only on the agenda, but the central topic of half a day of debate.

David also used the time in South Africa to meet PSN Network member the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT). PSN and the EWT are currently developing a programme which would incorporate education on sexual and reproductive health and rights within one of the EWT’s projects training marginalised farmers, in an arid area impacted by climate change.

COP21: Our Population, Gender & Sustainable Development messages and policy asks

October 30, 2015


PSN, as the Secretariat of the Population and Sustainable Development Alliance (PSDA), is bringing the population and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) agenda into the climate change discussions at the upcoming COP 21.


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Credit: © 2008 Kyaw Kyaw Winn, Courtesy of Photoshare

Linking reproductive health and climate change

We will be hosting a side event entitled "Breaking the silos for a healthier planet --addressing reproductive health matters to build climate resilient communities". Panellists will discuss the importance of empowering women and families with rights-based family planning to increase resilience in population and climate change hotspots. Discussants will present evidence on how addressing population and reproductive health issues is a cost-effective yet overlooked adaptation and mitigation strategy, and a win-win for women and climate compatible development.

PSN, together with network members, will be highlighting three key issues at COP 21 where the development community needs a greater focus and understanding, and where we believe we need to see policy changes:

1. Unsustainable consumption patterns and elevated Green House Gas (GHG) emissions from wealthy nations are accelerating and exacerbating climate change and global environmental degradation

Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and developing countries are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change --yet they have contributed least to it. Many of the world’s poorest countries face a double difficulty: having to ensure economic growth while already experiencing the effects of climate change. Many identify population growth and a lack of access to SRHR as exacerbating the effects of climate change, as well as outpacing and undermining poverty alleviation efforts.

2. Communities would benefit from men and women’s enhanced resilience and adaptive capacities to climate change

Population growth rates and other demographic dynamics have significant impacts on the state of the environment, intensifying vulnerability and adaptation challenges. Rights-based voluntary family planning programmes represent an integral component of adaptation, mitigation and resilience-building strategies.

3. Women’s human rights are a means to ensure climate change adaptation: a win-win for women and the planet

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) recognises family planning as a climate adaptation strategy, with family planning projects eligible for climate adaptation financing. Access to SRHR services is an important part of strengthening women’s capacity to adapt. Improved public health, economic well-being and women’s empowerment are crucial building blocks of resilience --a win-win for women and the planet.

In order to achieve improved and sustainable development outcomes for women and the planet, policymakers, in developed and developing nations must:

  • Put gender equality and women’s empowerment high on the international development agenda, and include women in important climate change decision making and achieve gender equality in climate actions by tackling the socio-economic and political barriers;
  • Revise and strengthen National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) and other climate change adaptation programmes to include SRHR; and
  • Acknowledge that the most vulnerable have contributed the least to climate change.

Through our engagement at COP 21, we aim to highlight that improved SRHR (including actions leading to universal access to voluntary family planning information, rights and services) should form part of our response to mitigating the impacts of climate change. This will ultimately empower men and women, improve food security, allow women to engage more effectively in productive income generating activities and increase the possibility of enabling environmental sustainability. As at the date of publication, we are not aware of any other COP 21 side event with such a focus.

This article is featured in MABH's newsletter.

UN adopts new Global Goals, charting sustainable development for people and planet by 2030

September 28, 2015


The 193-Member United Nations General Assembly have formally adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, along with a set of bold new Global Goals, which Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed as a universal, integrated and transformative vision for a better world.


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Credit: UN

A new global development agenda

“The new agenda is a promise by leaders to all people everywhere. It is an agenda for people, to end poverty in all its forms – an agenda for the planet, our common home,” declared Mr. Ban as he opened the UN Sustainable Development Summit which kicked off on Friday 25th September and wrapped up on Sunday 27th September.

The UN chief’s address came ahead of the Assembly’s formal adoption of the new framework, Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is composed of 17 goals and 169 targets to wipe out poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change over the next 15 years.

The Goals aim to build on the work of the historic Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which in September 2000, rallied the world around a common 15-year agenda to tackle the indignity of poverty.

The Summit opened with a full programme of events, including a screening of the film The Earth From Space, performances by UN Goodwill Ambassadors Shakira and Angelique Kidjo, as well as call to action by female education advocate and the youngest-ever Nobel Laureate, Malala Yousafzai along with youth representatives as torch bearers to a sustainable future.

The adoption ceremony was presided over by Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen and Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, who stressed the successes of the MDGs and the need for the full implementation of the new Agenda.

Speaking to the press after the adoption of the Agenda, Mr. Ban said: “These Goals are a blueprint for a better future. Now we must use the goals to transform the world. We will do that through partnership and through commitment. We must leave no-one behind."

In his opening address to the Assembly, which also marks the Organization’s 70th anniversary, the UN chief hailed the new framework as an agenda for shared prosperity, peace and partnership. “It conveys the urgency of climate action. It is rooted in gender equality and respect for the rights of all.”

Mr. Ban urged the world leaders and others convened at the event to successfully implement the Global Goals or Agenda 30 by launching ‘renewed global partnership.’

A call for international unity

“The 2030 Agenda compels us to look beyond national boundaries and short-term interests and act in solidarity for the long-term. We can no longer afford to think and work in silos.

Institutions will have to become fit for a grand new purpose. The United Nations system is strongly committed to supporting Member States in this great new endeavour,” said Mr. Ban.

“We must engage all actors, as we did in shaping the Agenda. We must include parliaments and local governments, and work with cities and rural areas. We must rally businesses and entrepreneurs. We must involve civil society in defining and implementing policies – and give it the space to hold us to account. We must listen to scientists and academia. We will need to embrace a data revolution. Most important, we must set to work – now,” added the Secretary-General.

“Seventy years ago, the United Nations rose from the ashes of war. Governments agreed on a visionary Charter dedicated to ‘We the Peoples’. The Agenda you are adopting today advances the goals of the Charter. It embodies the aspirations of people everywhere for lives of peace, security and dignity on a healthy planet,” said Mr. Ban.

General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft called the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development “ambitious” in confronting the injustices of poverty, marginalization and discrimination.

“We recognize the need to reduce inequalities and to protect our common home by changing unsustainable patterns of consumption and production. And, we identify the overwhelming need to address the politics of division, corruption and irresponsibility that fuel conflict and hold back development,” he said.

On the adoption of the new agenda, UN Economic and Social Council President (ECOSOC) Oh Joon said action on Sustainable Development Goals must start immediately. “The Economic and Social Council stands ready to kick-start the work on the new agenda,” he added.

This article, published by UN News, has been reproduced by PSN and does not necessarily reflect our views. Minor changes and cuts may have been made for the purpose of brevity and relevance.

UN reviews Development Goals, but again ignores population growth

September 24, 2015

SOURCE: Yale Global

An article by Joseph Chamie, former Director of the United Nations Population Division, argues that the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals fail to acknowledge world population growth among its goals or targets. The article however does not make reference to the role that increasing access to sexual and reproductive health and rights could play in addressing global population growth. 


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Credit: UNFPA via Flickr

SDGs should not overlook population growth

As world leaders convene for the UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York, to reflect on the progress of the Millennium Development Goals set in 2000 and adopt more goals for 2030, they ought to focus on the elephant in the room – a swelling global population that weighs on sustainability of social, economic and environmental development.

A swelling global population that has tripled since 1950, with a record high of 7.3 billion people, should not be overlooked in setting new international development goals.

According to the summit’s draft Declaration of the Sustainable Development Goals, the heads of state and government and high representatives resolve before 2030 “to end poverty and hunger everywhere; to combat inequalities within and among countries; to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies; to protect human rights and promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls; and to ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources.”

To achieve these lofty aims, the agenda includes a diverse set of topics, including 17 specific developmental goals and a broad range of 169 targets. Yet, population growth is not mentioned among the goals nor the targets.

Over the past 15 years, world population increased by 1.2 billion people and is now at a record high of 7.3 billion. During that time period, the population of the least developed countries grew nearly 10 times as fast as the more developed countries. The UN Population Division anticipates another billion by 2030 and at least 11 billion by the end of the century.

Today the average annual population increase of the least developed countries is 22 million compared to 3 million for the more developed countries. Also, whereas the combined populations of the least developed countries, about 954 million, represent 13 percent of the world’s population, they account for about 27 percent of the world’s annual population increase of about 84 million.

When the international community adopted the Millennium Development Goals in 2000, the population of the 47 more developed countries was about twice as large as that of the 48 least developed countries.

Due to the substantial differences in rates of demographic growth, the population of the least developed countries is expected to surpass the population of the more developed countries by 2030. Looking further ahead, the world’s least developed countries are projected to have twice the population size of the more developed countries by around 2070.

While the average annual rate of natural increase – births minus deaths - of the least developed countries is 2.5 percent, the rates among some of the poorest countries are in excess of 3 percent, which translates into a population doubling time of less than 25 years. Most of this growth is in Africa: The populations of Burundi, Chad, Niger, Somalia and Uganda, for example, are expected to double by 2040. The countries projected to increase at least five-fold by 2100 include Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Somalia, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia.

In contrast, the average annual rate of natural increase of the more developed countries is about one-10th of one percent. In addition, with the numbers of deaths outnumbering births, some 18 developed countries are experiencing negative rates of natural increase, including Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy and Japan. Immigration is the only alternative to fertility for population growth. In the absence of sufficient compensating immigration, the populations of these aging countries as well as those of 20 others are projected to be markedly smaller by 2030.

The underlying reason for the rapid rates of demographic growth among the least developed countries is high fertility rates. While the average number of births for the more developed countries is around 1.7 births per woman, the average for the least developed countries is 4.3 births per woman. Considerably higher fertility rates are observed in many of the least developed African countries, such as Niger with 7.6 births per woman; Somalia, 6.6; Mali, 6.4; Chad, 6.3; Angola, 6.2; and Uganda, 5.9.

Many countries in various regions of the world have already passed through the demographic transition achieved by both low birth and death rates. At present nearly 80 countries, representing close to half of the world’s population, have fertility rates at or below the replacement level of about two children per woman. In contrast, about 21 countries, accounting for about 9 percent of the world’s population, have fertility rates of five or more births per woman.

Certainly lowering high rates of population growth to manageable levels is not a panacea ensuring sustainable development for the least development countries. However, reducing rapid rates of population growth will contribute substantially to the developmental efforts of those countries by making national goals easier and less costly to achieve.

Slower population growth rates will give those countries with more time to adjust to future population change. This in turn will strengthen their abilities to expand their economies, improve living conditions, educate youth, develop infrastructure and protect environments.

There is not a single issue among the sustainable development goals – including poverty, hunger, housing, education, employment, health, gender equality, human rights and environment – that would not benefit from reducing high rates of population growth. Lower rates of population growth among the least developed countries would also contribute to improving economic and employment prospects, while easing environmental stresses, thus reducing the pressures for young men and women to migrate to other countries to secure a decent standard of living.

Moreover, if fertility rates in the least developed countries were to decline faster than currently projected in the United Nations medium variant projection, the difference in population by the century’s close could be close to a billion people less, 2.2 billion versus 3.2 billion. Such a sizeable demographic difference would contribute to early stabilization of the world’s population.

As has been the case at previous global summits, world leaders will briskly walk into the UN General Assembly and deliver 10 minutes or so of largely forgettable prose. It would indeed be memorable if at least one leader recommended that the international community work together to address high rates of population growth.

In 15 years, the world population will have gained another 1.2 billion people and grow to 8.5 billion people. By then, nearly all of today’s political leaders will have either retired, been removed or passed away. Their replacements will address the UN Development Summit in 2030 – and by then, may find the courage to ask why rapid rates of population growth were repeatedly ignored for so long – and recommend that population growth be included in any future set of international development goals.

Joseph Chamie is an independent consulting demographer and a former director of the United Nations Population Division.

This article, published by Yale Global, has been reproduced by PSN and does not necessarily reflect our views. Minor changes and cuts may have been made for the purpose of brevity and relevance.

A health response to climate change

August 27, 2015


The Pacific region is facing rising sea levels and increasingly frequent extreme weather events, like Cyclone Pam which devastated Tuvalu in March this year. In this article, UNFPA looks at how family planning and maternal health are critical components of responding to the impact of climate change.


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Credit: Silke von Brockhausen/UNDP

The Pacific region: at risk

The relocation of villages as rising sea levels spoil crops among other things, has begun for several countries across the region including Fiji. In Tuvalu, the devastation caused by Cyclone Pam in March is still being talked about and for the Federated States of Micronesia, March marked the evacuation of about 1000 people on Majuro and 250 in the Arno Atoll: forced to flee massive king tides.

Outside the region, June marked the death of 2500 people in India and 2000 in Pakistan, from heatwaves. Such extreme events among others were indeed predicted in the inter-governmental panel on climate change (IPCC) fourth assessment report in 2007.

It is perhaps the reason response activities to the impact of climate change has largely been (physical) environment-centred, making issues like maternal health or family planning a lot more abstract and difficult to tie into the discourse around climate change impacts.

A pertinent question that perhaps needs to be asked more frequently as we navigate through the sea of climate change-related responses, is whether humanity's health vulnerabilities are being adequately addressed? This is what the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) means when it encourages people-centred approaches.

A fifth IPCC assessment report has since been released; Working group II and working group III of the IPCC actually had a Pacific launch of its report at the University of the South Pacific in May 2014. In terms of adaptation options for our Pacific nations, a project involving UN agencies and the Fiji Government's Ministry for Health, in relation to climate change-sensitive diseases, has been successfully concluded.

It is a given that we all are experiencing, or will indeed experience, the impact of climate change in our lives in one way or another, though some linkages may still be too abstract for better appreciation; suffice to say, the assumption that economic growth is a prerequisite for a population's health needs to be revisited.

Good health is essential

Good population health in itself has to be considered essential for economic growth: the sustainability of any socio-economic development will depend on a population base that is healthy and has an enabling environment for consultative, inclusive and non-discriminatory socio-economic progress.

When considered in this context, it is affirming for UNFPA, which argues that if individuals are assured sexual and reproductive health (a physical, emotional, mental and social level of wellbeing to have a pleasurable and safe sexual experience free of coercion, discrimination and violence) and reproductive rights (when all persons and couples can freely and responsibly make decisions on the number of children they want, their timing and spacing and they have the information and the means to do so) then we can deliver a future where every pregnancy is wanted, all childbirth is safe and every young person's potential is fulfilled.

What are lived reproductive rights?

  • When a woman can decide if she wants to have children or when she can have the next child; or we can continue business as usual and perpetuate the global reality of 800 women dying from pregnancy or childbirth complications daily.
  • Ending the societal scourge of girls becoming mothers when they themselves are still children: or we could reverse current global statistics of 70,000 adolescent deaths from pregnancy and childbirth complications annually.

United Nations member states are responding in various ways to the imminent impacts of climate change according to their national priorities, work to which development agencies like the UNFPA contribute.

On International Youth Day (August 12) this year for example, Tuvalu launched a youth policy, borne out of a collaboration with the UNFPA, as youth is a core mandate area for the organisation. The policy has six components - career pathways, governance, wellbeing, peace-building, sustainable development and (youth) mainstreaming.

While the pillars are inextricably linked, there are specifications like the promotion of healthy families, equitable accessibility to health services and the development of positive health programs and activities with among others, a focus on sexual and reproductive health - which are critical components of responding to the impact of climate change albeit abstract

Youth centred development is essential

For a resilient population, apart from beginning with good health particularly in terms of maternal health and family planning, placing young people at the centre of development is crucial for sustainability.

"We have been privileged as an organisation to work with Tuvalu's youth," Dr Laurent Zessler, UNFPA Pacific sub-regional office director and representative said.

"The youth policy is a sign of the government's intentions of making good their commitment to regional frameworks like the S.A.M.O.A Pathway, which also specifies sexual and reproductive health and rights.

"We must focus on young people's potential and invest in it, without prejudice or being judgmental."

A starting point could probably be questioning more frequently the level of people-centeredness of our response to the impact of climate change.

This article, published by UNFPA, has been reproduced by PSN and does not necessarily reflect our views. Minor changes and cuts may have been made for the purpose of brevity and relevance.

Population Dynamics and the Sustainable Development Goals

August 19, 2015


An article written by PSN’s Carina Hirsch has featured on Stanford University’s MAHB blog. The article highlights a new report by the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health on Population Dynamics and the Sustainable Development Goals.


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Credit: UN Photo/David Ohana

Population Dynamics and the Sustainable Development Goals

A new report by the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development, and Reproductive Health entitled Population Dynamics and the Sustainable Development Goals was launched in early July, coinciding with the celebrations of World Population Day and the preparations for the UN Sustainable Development Goals summit in September. The report calls for greater attention in international development to the links between population dynamics- including migration, urbanization, and growth- and climate change.

The report was informed by evidence presented by the Population and Sustainability Network (PSN) on the linkages between population dynamics, reproductive health, and sustainable development.

PSN is a UK-based organization and international network working to advance understanding of the relationships between population, health and sustainable development issues and to promote and implement integrated approaches to these interconnected challenges. PSN brings together civil society organizations from the Global North and South in cross-sector discussion and collaboration to increase awareness of the significance for sustainable development of both population and consumption factors and the importance of universal access to reproductive health and rights, including voluntary family planning services. As a network encompassing the Global North and South, PSN aims to strengthen the voice of civil society in policy and advocacy forums and processes.

The presentation delivered by PSN during the parliamentary hearings is a prime example of the advocacy work undertaken by the organization nationally. At the international level, PSN will participate at COP 21 in Paris later this year to raise awareness and provide recommendations on how to mainstream sexual and reproductive health and rights in climate change adaptation and mitigation approaches.

Sir Richard Ottaway, Inquiry Chairman, former Chair of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, and PSN Chairman, explained:

"We know that many of the Millennium Development Goals and targets have not been achieved, and the planned follow-up framework, the Sustainable Development Goals, may suffer similar pitfalls. Many countries face the challenge of productively engaging large populations of young people to achieve a demographic dividend. Others will need to adjust to aging populations. The report offers recommendations to governments at a time when they are struggling to cope with the needs of young populations on the one hand and aging ones on the other, while simultaneously trying to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change and conflicts".

According to Population Dynamics and the Sustainable Development Goals, to achieve sustainable development, governments, as well as their national and international partners should:

  • Increase funding for family planning and the wider sexual and reproductive health agenda to 10% of official development assistance and 10% of national development budgets.
  • The Sustainable Development Goals and targets must not be renegotiated. The draft framework contains goals on healthy lives and gender equality and targets on sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, including family planning. It is imperative that these goals and targets are subsequently included in all national development plans.
  • Advocate for Sustainable Development Goal indicators at a global level and in national development plans that are reliable and comparable, and that measure progress in achieving universal access to family planning and the sexual and reproductive health and rights agenda, as listed in the full recommendations. These indicators must be disaggregated by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location and other characteristics relevant in national contexts.
  • Urgently press for further commitments to reduce resource consumption and carbon emissions, and support investment in low-carbon forms of development.
  • Amend the UK International Development Act 2002 to mandate the Secretary of State to consider the impact of development assistance on population dynamics, and vice versa.
  • Utilize the economic arguments presented in this report to support governments, and finance ministries in particular, to develop appropriate laws, policies and investments that promote universal access to family planning and the wider sexual and reproductive health agenda.
  • Legislate and develop policies to combat gender-based violence and invest in long-term planning capabilities with better quality data on population dynamics, contraceptive prevalence and unmet need for family planning.
  • Support and invest in secondary education for girls to promote gender equality and empower women.
  • Champion universal access to health care and remove unnecessary barriers, particularly for young people and migrant workers.
  • Work with conflict, humanitarian, security and climate change groups to promote a holistic approach to sustainable development that ensures universal access to family planning and sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Access the full report 

August 13th is Earth Overshoot Day this year

August 13, 2015

SOURCE: Earth Overshoot

In less than eight months, humanity has used up nature’s budget for the entire year, with carbon sequestration making up more than half of the demand on nature, according to data from Global Footprint Network, an international sustainability think tank with offices in North America, Europe and Asia.


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Credit: Global Footprints Network

Earth Overshoot Day

Global Footprint Network tracks humanity’s demand on the planet (Ecological Footprint) against nature’s ability to provide for this demand (biocapacity). Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s annual demand on nature exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. Earth Overshoot Day has moved from early October in 2000 to August 13th this year.

The costs of this ecological overspending are becoming more evident by the day, in the form of deforestation, drought, fresh-water scarcity, soil erosion, biodiversity loss and the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The latter will significantly amplify the former, if current climate models are correct. Consequently, government decision-makers who factor these growing constraints in their policy making will stand a significantly better chance to set their nation’s long-term economic performance on a favourable track.

“Humanity’s carbon footprint alone more than doubled since the early 1970s, which is when the world went into ecological overshoot. It remains the fastest growing component of the widening gap between the Ecological Footprint and the planet’s biocapacity,” said Mathis Wackernagel, president of Global Footprint Network and the co-creator of the Ecological Footprint resource accounting metric. “The global agreement to phase out fossil fuels that is being discussed around the world ahead of the Climate Summit in Paris would significantly help curb the Ecological Footprint’s consistent growth and eventually shrink the Footprint.”

The carbon footprint is inextricably linked to the other components of the Ecological Footprint — cropland, grazing land, forests and productive land built over with buildings and roads. All these demands compete for space. As more is being demanded for food and timber products, fewer productive areas are available to absorb carbon from fossil fuel. This means carbon emissions accumulate in the atmosphere rather than being fully absorbed.

A Second Chance

The climate agreement expected at the United Nations Conference of Parties (COP) 21 this December will focus on maintaining global warming within the 2-degrees-Celsius range over pre-Industrial Revolution levels. This shared goal will require nations to implement policies to completely phase out fossil fuels by 2070, per the recommendations of the U.N.’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), directly impacting the Ecological Footprints of nations.

Assuming global carbon emissions are reduced by at least 30 percent below today’s levels by 2030, in keeping with the IPCC’s suggested scenario, Earth Overshoot Day could be moved back on the calendar to September 16, 2030 (assuming the rest of the Footprint would continue to expand at the current rate), according to Global Footprint Network.

This is not impossible. In fact, Denmark has cut its emissions over the last two decades at this rate: Since the 1990s, it reduced its carbon emissions by 33 percent. Had the world done the same (while not changing the rest of the Footprint), Earth Overshoot Day would be on October 3 this year.


 Credit: Global Footprints Network

This is not to say that Denmark has already reached a sustainable Ecological Footprint. Humanity would require the resources of nearly three planets if everyone lived like the Danes, which would move Earth Overshoot Day to May 8.

Business As Usual

By contrast, business as usual would mean using the resources equivalent to two planets by 2030, with Earth Overshoot Day moving up on the calendar to the end of June.

This projection assumes that biocapacity, population growth and consumption trends remain on their current trajectories. However, it is not clear whether a sustained level of overuse is possible without significantly damaging long-term biocapacity, with consequent impacts on consumption and population growth.

Tipping Point

“We are encouraged by the recent developments on the front line of renewable energy, which have been accelerating worldwide, and by the increasing awareness of the finance industry that a low-carbon economy is the way of the future,” said Wackernagel. “Going forward, we cannot stress enough the vital importance of reducing the carbon footprint, as nations are slated to commit to in Paris. It is not just good for the world, but increasingly becoming an economic necessity for each nation. We all know that the climate depends on it, but that is not the full story: Sustainability requires that everyone live well, within the means of one planet. This can only be achieved by keeping our Ecological Footprint within our planet’s resource budget.”

Additional Resources:

More on Earth Overshoot Day:

Follow on social media: #overshoot

To calculate your own personal Ecological Footprint, and learn what you can do to reduce it, go

About Global Footprint Network:

Global Footprint Network is an international think tank working to drive informed, sustainable policy decisions in a world of limited resources. Together with its partners, Global Footprint Network coordinates research, develops methodological standards, and provides decision-makers with a menu of tools to help the human economy operate within Earth’s ecological limits.

This article, published by Global Footprint Network, has been reproduced by PSN and does not necessarily reflect our views. Minor changes and cuts may have been made for the purpose of brevity and relevance.

Trailblazing South African NGO welcomed as latest PSN Network member

August 5, 2015


PSN is proud to announce the Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme (TVEP), an NGO implementing unique programmes combatting sexual and gender based violence, as its latest Network member. This partnership will lead to a greater focus on family planning in TVEP’s work and PSN harnessing TVEP’s on-the-ground expertise improving women’s agency.


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TVEP staff with a community member at a project site in Mangondi, Limpopo

A novel South African approach

In rural South Africa sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) is both rife and largely unreported. However TVEP are working to change this. TVEP’s empowerment projects are varied, from its community based “Zero Tolerance Village Alliance” programme combatting SGBV through workshops, support groups and infrastructural changes (such as the development of safe houses for SGBV survivors), to its Trauma Centres providing essential services to survivors of sexual assault. TVEP also undertakes advocacy work holding clinics, the police and government accountable.

TVEP data shows that, upon initial implementation of its projects, reporting of SGBV increases by greater than 500% and that this increased reporting is followed by a subsequent reduction in those crimes. TVEP is one of the largest community-based organisations in southern Africa.

Fiona Nicholson, TVEP’s Programme Director, said, “TVEP focuses on generating community-wide attitudes of zero tolerance towards all forms of sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse and HIV/AIDS stigma, as well as informing communities of their rights relating to those issues. Whilst we work in the sexual and reproductive health and rights arena, with the assistance of PSN we can enhance our programmes to also include additional voluntary family planning actions, further empowering women and giving them choice.”

TVEP is currently implementing an integrated project with existing PSN Network member, the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), in a community adjacent to South Africa’s Kruger National Park. The project, known as Hayi Laa! (meaning “Not here!” in the local Shangaan language), aims to generate community-wide attitudes of zero tolerance towards not only SGBV but also another form of largely unreported rural crime: poaching.

Hayi Laa!

Hayi Laa! is the first time TVEP’s work has been integrated with that of the EWT. As a further project component, TVEP is placing greater focus, with PSN support, on challenging local contraceptive and family planning myths and providing information to the community on healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy.

David Johnson, Chief Executive of PSN, said “TVEP’s innovative programmes demonstrate that substantially greater results are possible when programmes do not merely work with service providers and/or inform women and communities of their rights but also empower those women and communities to exercise those rights – this is ‘agency’. We need to place a greater emphasis on increasing women’s agency and TVEP’s expertise in this field will help PSN when we develop new integrated programmes”.

PSN believes integrated development projects that improve women’s rights, sexual and reproductive health and rights and conservation outcomes can be more impactful than single sector models. PSN is actively working with TVEP and other Network members to establish such further integrated projects.

Hayi Laa! is financially supported by the UK Prosperity Fund, administered by the British High Commission in Pretoria.

David Johnson: +44 (0)20 3317 5486
Fiona Nicholson: +27 (0)15 963 1222

World population projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050 with most growth in developing regions, especially Africa, says UN

July 30, 2015


The current world population of 7.3 billion is expected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100, according to a new United Nations report, launched yesterday.


Credit: Chris Ford via Flickr

World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision

The report, World Population Prospects: 2015 Revision, launched yesterday, indicates that India is expected to become the largest country in population size, surpassing China around 2022, while Nigeria could surpass the United States by 2050.

“Understanding the demographic changes that are likely to unfold over the coming years, as well as the challenges and opportunities that they present for achieving sustainable development, is key to the design and implementation of the new development agenda,” said Wu Hongbo, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.

Most of the projected increase in the world’s population can be attributed to a short list of high-fertility countries, mainly in Africa, or countries with already large populations.

During 2015-2050, half of the world’s population growth is expected to be concentrated in nine countries: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, United Republic of Tanzania, United States of America (USA), Indonesia and Uganda, listed according to the size of their contribution to the total growth.

Shifts in the current population rankings

China and India remain the two largest countries in the world, each with more than 1 billion people, representing 19 and 18 % of the world’s population, respectively. But by 2022, the population of India is expected to surpass that of China.

Currently, among the ten largest countries in the world, one is in Africa (Nigeria), five are in Asia (Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, and Pakistan), two are in Latin America (Brazil and Mexico), one is in Northern America (USA), and one is in Europe (Russian Federation).

Of these, Nigeria’s population, currently the seventh largest in the world, is growing the most rapidly. Consequently, the population of Nigeria is projected to surpass that of the United States by about 2050, at which point it would become the third largest country in the world. By 2050, six countries are expected to exceed 300 million: China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and the USA.

Growing population in Africa

With the highest rate of population growth, Africa is expected to account for more than half of the world’s population growth between 2015 and 2050.

During this period, the populations of 28 African countries are projected to more than double, and by 2100, ten African countries are projected to have increased by at least a factor of five: Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Somalia, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia.

“The concentration of population growth in the poorest countries presents its own set of challenges, making it more difficult to eradicate poverty and inequality, to combat hunger and malnutrition, and to expand educational enrollment and health systems, all of which are crucial to the success of the new sustainable development agenda,” said John Wilmoth, Director of the Population Division in the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

While there is always some degree of uncertainty surrounding any projection, the large number of young people in Africa, who will reach adulthood in the coming years and start having children of their own, ensures that the region will play a central role in shaping the size and distribution of the world’s population over the coming decades.

Slower world population growth due to lower fertility rates

Future population growth is highly dependent on the path that future fertility will take, as relatively small changes in fertility behaviour, when projected over decades, can generate large differences in total population. In recent years, fertility has declined in virtually all areas of the world, even in Africa where fertility levels remain the highest of any major area.

Ageing population growing rapidly

The slowdown in population growth, due to the overall reduction in fertility, causes the proportion of older persons to increase over time. Globally the number of persons aged 60 or above is expected to more than double by 2050 and more than triple by 2100.

A significant ageing of the population in the next several decades is projected for most regions of the world, starting with Europe where 34% of the population is projected to be over 60 years old by 2050.

In Latin America and the Caribbean and in Asia, the population will be transformed from having 11% to 12% of people over 60 years old today to more than 25% by 2050.

Africa has the youngest age distribution of any major area, but it is also projected to age rapidly, with the population aged 60 years or over rising from 5% today to 9% by 2050.

Higher life expectancy and the contribution of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

Life expectancy at birth has increased significantly in the least developed countries in recent years. The six-year average gain in life expectancy among the poorest countries, from 56 years in 2000-2005 to 62 years in 2010-2015, is roughly double the increase recorded for the rest of the world. While significant differences in life expectancy across major areas and income groups are projected to continue, they are expected to diminish significantly by 2045-2050.

Progress in reducing under-five mortality, one of the MDG targets, has been very significant and wide-reaching in recent years. Between 2000-2005 and 2010-2015, under-five mortality fell by more than 30% in 86 countries, of which 13 countries saw a decline of more than 50%. In the same time period, the rate decreased by more than 20% in 156 countries.

Populations in many parts of the world are still young, creating an opportunity for countries to capture a demographic dividend

Populations in many regions are still young. In Africa, children under age 15 account for 41% of the population in 2015 and young persons aged 15 to 24 account for a further 19%. Latin America and the Caribbean and Asia, which have seen greater declines in fertility, have smaller percentages of children (26 and 24 %, respectively) and similar percentages of youth (17 and 16%, respectively). In total, these three regions are home to 1.7 billion children and 1.1 billion young persons in 2015.

These children and young people are future workers and parents, who can help to build a brighter future for their countries. Providing them with health care, education and employment opportunities, particularly in the poorest countries and groups, will be a critical focus of the new sustainable development agenda.

About the report

The 2015 Revision of World Population Prospects is the 24th round of official UN population estimates and projections that have been prepared by the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

This article, published by UN News, has been reproduced by PSN and does not necessarily reflect our views. Minor changes and cuts may have been made for the purpose of brevity and relevance.

Could the Pill save the polar bear?

July 28, 2015

SOURCE: The Conversation

Conservationists tend to spend their time worrying about protecting forests, catching poachers or keeping carbon out of the atmosphere. But all these things (and more) are driven by humans. Given that it’s easier and cheaper to reduce the human birth rate than it is to address these other issues, why aren’t more conservationists talking about population?


Turtle condom

Credit: AIDS/SIDA NB vis Flickr

Addressing unmet need

After all, it is estimated that more than three-quarters of the world’s ice-free land has been modified by people. We are already overstepping the planet’s boundaries and our actions are causing climate change and the sixth mass extinction.

By 2050 human population growth alone will threaten a further 14% of the planet’s species; this is on top of the 52% decline in numbers of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish over the past four decades.

Only 13 years ago, we were 6 billion; just seven years later, we hit 7 billion and by 2100 we could be as many as 12.3 billion people. Shockingly, with each child a woman has, her carbon emissions legacy is increased six-fold. It cannot be denied that our size, density and growth rate all increase wildlife extinctions.

But all is not lost. Fertility rates decline the longer a girl spends in school. By simply providing better female education, the overall population in 2050 could be 1 billion less than current projections. This is because women who are empowered through education have fewer children, as well as having them later in life and therefore have the resources to provide them with better care. Along with this, one in five women – 800m worldwide – have an unmet need for modern contraception; in developing countries this can be as high as 60%.

We aren’t suggesting any evil population control schemes here – it’s about providing resources to girls who want an education and women who want access to family planning. The benefits can be seen relatively quickly: between 1960-2000, contraceptive use by married women in developing nations increased from 10% to 60%, reducing the average number of children per woman from six to three.

However, we still pay surprisingly little attention to what this all means for the world’s wildlife.

Conservation NGOs are on the case

A small but growing number of organisations are beginning to integrate wildlife conservation with family planning. Blue Ventures, a marine conservation organisation in Madagascar, has trained local women to provide contraception in rural villages close to protected areas. In three years, the project reduced its own ecological footprint by 267 global hectares purely by providing access to family planning.

A slightly different approach was taken by The Center for Biological Diversity in the US. On World Population Day last year the organisation distributed 40,000 condoms wrapped in packaging depicting endangered species with catchy slogans such as “Don’t go bare … Panthers are rare”. It is unclear whether this had any effect on human behaviour, but the emphasis on bringing the issue to a developed country with a high consumption rate is commendable, given the typical focus on stemming population growth only in developing countries.

A more holistic approach combines family planning and other healthcare services with alternative livelihood options – this has been implemented in some key high biodiversity areas that have an unmet need for contraception and healthcare. One programme in Nepal led to an increased use of condoms and reduced wood fuel usage equivalent to saving nearly 9,000 trees annually.

Challenges to overcome

There is an increasing gap between donations and demand for contraception. Filling the unmet need for family planning across developing countries would cost US$8.1 billion annually; finding this amount of money will clearly be challenging. Furthermore, contraceptive use and female access to education are affected by strong cultural and religious problems. We cannot simply advocate for more access to family planning and education without addressing barriers to access.

Population growth doesn’t seem to be a major concern for conservationists but it should be. Researchers should investigate the effects of human population interventions on wildlife, while conservationists could form alliances with other sectors of society, such as reproductive choice and womens' rights groups. As environmental organisations often integrate educational aspects into their programs, it would not be difficult to direct further educational materials towards women and girls.

We now have evidence to show the links between human population size, growth and density on the environment, but we need to increase our research efforts on how contraception and female education policies affect biodiversity. Conservation scientists cannot dismiss the effects of overconsumption on the natural world, but we also cannot disregard the effect our sheer population size and growth have on the planet.

Addressing human population growth may be a relatively fast and cheap remedy for wildlife loss, which can help reduce consumption and brings us closer to achieving true sustainability. The sooner we start to pull the brakes, the easier it will be to eventually come to a stop. So what are we waiting for?

Article by Niki Rust is PhD candidate in Carnivore Conservation at University of Kent and Laura Kehoe is PhD research in wildlife conservation and land use at Humboldt University of Berlin.

This article, published by The Conversation, has been reproduced by PSN and does not necessarily reflect our views. Minor changes and cuts may have been made for the purpose of brevity and relevance.