For the past three years, the Parisian NGO Committee for International Cooperation in National Research in Demography (CICRED) has funded programs around the world on the connections among population, environment, and development. Last week, representatives from these research programs—the overwhelming majority of whom are natives of the countries where the work was done—presented the findings of their studies at an international colloquium at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris.
Twenty studies, representing countries throughout sub-Saharan African and Asia, were presented. Although each study produced unique findings, common themes emerged: inter- and intra-national immigration and rapid urbanization are cause for concern. In many of the studies, the rates of urbanization were such that urban planning could not keep up, leading to shortages of basic services like water and sanitation.
While immigration is often looked at in terms of the impact on the country of destination, presenters emphasized the negative impacts in the country of origin. Emigration often creates imbalances in gender and age cohorts (i.e., differing proportions of males and females, and a partially “missing” generations of younger people). The loss of social bonds and relationships—a phenomenon that Harvard’s Allan Hill calls a breakdown in the “moral economy,” as well as the loss of available labor, leads to less labor-intensive agricultural practices which sacrifice the environment and favor short-term gain for long-term need. Finally, although climate change was not the focus of any of these studies, its potential impact on the environment and livelihoods was an ever-present theme.
Background documents, PowerPoint presentations, data sets, and other valuable tools will be available soon from CICRED.