The BioScience Article, and the 11,000 Scientists Who Agree the Human Population Needs to Stabilize and Decline
For a long time, the climate community has been loath to discuss the role runaway population growth has had on climate change. That all changed recently, as an article in BioScience showcased the consensus of 11,000 scientists on the actions required if we are to avert ecological catastrophe from climate change.
The article called out 6 areas for action entitled Energy, Short-lived pollutants, Nature, Food, Economy and Population. Each are critical, for sure. We have heard commentary on the first 5 of these areas from the climate community for years. But, this sixth area of population was new, and critically important. Their statement on population is as follows:
"Still increasing by roughly 80 million people per year, or more than 200,000 per day (figure 1a–b), the world population must be stabilized—and, ideally, gradually reduced—within a framework that ensures social integrity. There are proven and effective policies that strengthen human rights while lowering fertility rates and lessening the impacts of population growth on GHG emissions and biodiversity loss. These policies make family-planning services available to all people, remove barriers to their access and achieve full gender equity, including primary and secondary education as a global norm for all, especially girls and young women (Bongaarts and O’Neill 2018)."
When I reached out to the primary authors, William J Ripple, Christopher Wolf, Thomas M Newsome, Phoebe Barnard, William R Moomaw , about the thesis of my book, I was pleased at their positive and supportive response. It was refreshing to hear a scientific consensus unconcerned about wading in to the population discussion, despite the chronic population taboo that has led many scientists to avoid the subject.
I was particularly taken by the response from Dr. Phoebe Barnard, a conservation biologist, global change scientist, and sustainability strategist who has spent much of her professional career in Africa. Her blog post from a few days later not only captures our exchange, but gives you a glimpse in to how her personal experience informs her worldview on population and ecology. She was kind enough to mention my book. Please give her blog a read, and then share your own thoughts with the world.