›April 28, 2008 // By Meaghan ParkerAt a news conference (watch; listen; read) with the three presidential candidates’ environmental advisers, Constance Holden of Science dropped the population bomb, asking what each candidate proposed to do about the role of population growth in the climate change problem. The advisers immediately scrambled to duck and cover, mentioning China and its growing consumption, then quickly moving on to something—anything!—else.
Jason Grumet, environmental adviser to Sen. Barack Obama and the president and founder of the Bipartisan Policy Council in Washington, DC:
“It’s not just a question of population growth, but it’s also a question of the rest of the world beginning to aspire to the comforts that we have come to take for granted here. When people achieve an annual income of about $5,000 a year they start to buy cars and you are going to see somewhere between 3 and 500 million people in China find themselves in that position in the next decade.”
Todd Stern, adviser to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and partner at the Washington, DC, law firm WilmerHale:
“I don’t have an absolute direct answer on the population question, but let me make a point that’s perhaps relevant, which is that the controlling of CO2 and greenhouse gases in developing countries is going to be increasingly critical. I think 75 percent of emissions growth in the next 25 years is expected to come from developing countries and China is, far and away, the lead among them.”
Jim Woolsey, environmental adviser to Senator John McCain, former CIA Director, and attorney with Goodwin Procter:
“[W]e shouldn’t assume that just because the Chinese young couple who have finally kind of made it into the middle class want to buy an automobile, that for the foreseeable future it’s always going to be an automobile propelled by carbon emitting sources of one kind or another. The technology is changing.”
The upcoming SEJ Annual Conference in Roanoke, Virginia, will include a panel discussion on population and climate.
PODCAST – Fishing for Families: Reproductive Health and Integrated Coastal Management in the Philippines›April 28, 2008 // By Sean Peoples
At the Third National Population-Health-Environment (PHE) Conference in Tagaytay City, Philippines, ECSP editor Meaghan Parker spoke with Joan Castro of PATH Foundation Philippines, Inc., who manages the Integrated Population and Coastal Resource Management or IPOPCORM project. The Philippines’ rapidly rising population has overwhelmed the fisheries that have traditionally supported the country, but IPOPCORM’s innovative and integrative approach may save families along with the fish and their habitats. In the following podcast, Castro discusses how IPOPCORM’s integrated approach improves reproductive health and coastal resource management more than programs that focus exclusively on reproductive health or the environment—and at a lower total cost. A description of IPOPCORM and its results is available in “Fishing for Families,” the latest issue in our FOCUS series. For more information on population-health-environment connections, please visit our website, www.wilsoncenter.org/phe.
›April 28, 2008 // By Liat RacinThe news is filled with stories of how natural resources—including water—can lead to resentment, unrest, and even violent conflict. But the Good Water Neighbors project, launched by Friends of the Earth Middle East (FOEME) in 2001, seeks to use transboundary water resources as a means to build peace. According to a recently published analysis, the ongoing project, which brings Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian communities together to protect their shared water resources, has significantly improved the local water sector and helped build peace at the local level. For instance, two communities, Tulkarem in the West Bank and Emek Hefer in Israel, are now cooperating over olive mill waste issues. Until recently, waste from the Tulkarem olive mills was dumped into the Alexander River, which flows through Emek Hefer to the Mediterranean Sea. Today, thanks to cooperative transboundary management, “the waste from the mills is placed in a truck and taken to Israel for treatment, reducing to a big extent the pollution of the shared water resource.”
The Good Water Neighbors project, which has expanded from 11 communities to 17, pairs one community with another on the other side of the border to promote cooperative solutions to water management problems. The project strengthens the relationship between the two communities—or, in some instances, creates a relationship—and helps establish a shared collective identity.
FOEME is using the environment to build peace in other ways, as well. In 2007, partially due to FOEME’s efforts, Jordanian and Israeli municipalities affirmed their commitment to building a peace park where the Jordan and Yarmuk Rivers meet. The park, which will include nature and cultural heritage trails, a bird sanctuary, and eco-lodges, will represent the first significant cooperative step toward rehabilitating the Jordan valley region. It is hoped that the park will also attract tourism, promote sustainable development, and improve the strained relationship between the communities.
›April 25, 2008 // By Meaghan ParkerThe final results confirm the Maoist victory in Nepal’s historic elections earlier this month, paving the way for the end of the monarchy and the final resolution of the decades-long civil war that led to more than 13,000 deaths. But will they be able to maintain stability after so many years fighting to disrupt the system? The roots of the Maoists’ rise—and the underlying conditions that supported their insurgency—may hold some clues to the future.
ECSP speaker Bishnu Raj Upreti told a Wilson Center audience in November 2006 that a critical factor in the conflict was lack of access to natural resources. Twenty percent of Nepal’s land supports 78 percent of the population—and the poor own only a small fraction of the arable land. A rapidly growing population—projected to increase more than 50 percent by 2050—and migration from the mountain highlands into the fertile lowlands compounds the demand on resources.
In ECSP Report 11, Richard Matthew and Upreti state that environmental and population factors are “important elements of what has gone wrong in Nepal, and they must be addressed before stability can be restored.” It remains to be seen how the newly capitalist Maoists will tackle Nepal’s environmental degradation and rapid population growth, given their past history of using these problems to drum up popular support.
›An article in Time magazine surveys the growing awareness of climate change’s links to traditional and nontraditional security threats.
“Unless some way can be found to stop the explosive rise in food prices generally, and rice prices in particular, we will see sharply higher mortality….This will not be mass starvation, with people dying in the streets, but it will be sharply higher infant and child mortality and weakened adults succumbing prematurely to infectious diseases,” said Peter Timmer, an expert on agriculture and development and a current Center for Global Development non-resident fellow, in an interview earlier this week.
A report on “How a Changing Climate Impacts Women,” a high-level meeting sponsored by Council of Women World Leaders, the Women’s Environment and Development Organization, and the Heinrich Böll Foundation North America, is now available online. Gro Harlem Bruntland and Mary Robinson, among other speakers, explained that women—who constitute the majority of the world’s poor—will be more vulnerable to many of climate change’s expected impacts, including reduced crop yields, the spread of infectious diseases, and increasingly frequent and severe natural disasters.
›April 24, 2008 // By Sonia Schmanski“The impact of climate change is going to be most likely so harmful that it would threaten governments,” said 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner and chairman of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Rajendra K. Pachauri in an interview with Reuters earlier this week. Pachauri focused his remarks on Africa, whose one billion people are among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and whose governments frequently lack the capacity to adapt to the impending changes.
“If the situation in Africa is a scar on the conscience of the world, then if the world has a conscience it has to remove that scar,” Pachauri said. While a number of high-profile conflicts in Africa’s recent history have revolved around natural resources, Pachauri warned that environmental change could soon eclipse the so-called “resource curse” as a driver of conflict, citing research predicting that by 2020, climate change could leave between 75 million and 250 million additional Africans without access to water and could reduce the yields of farmers who depend on rain-fed agriculture by half. “Climate change has the potential to be a problem for the maintenance of peace,” he said.
The rapidly worsening global food crisis has hit certain parts of Africa particularly hard—instigating riots in Egypt and Burkina Faso, for example—and with food and water becoming increasingly precious commodities, dire outcomes seem increasingly likely. “The answer,” Pachauri said, “is for developed nations to realize that we are living on one planet. We are all inhabitants of spaceship earth.” But, he conceded, “we are nowhere close yet.”
›April 22, 2008 // By Wilson Center Staff
In his keynote address at the 5th Annual Unite for Sight International Health Conference, held earlier this month, Jeffrey Sachs argued that world leaders must redouble their efforts to alleviate poverty, protect human and environmental health, and balance economic growth and sustainable development. He advocated many of the same solutions that appear in his new book, Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet, including increasing investment in sustainable technology research and development; hastening the diffusion of sustainable technologies to the poorer regions of the world; and allocating a smaller percentage of the national budget for military spending and instead achieving the international target of 0.7 percent of GNP for foreign aid.
One part of Sachs’ presentation that was not included in his book was a memo to the next U.S. president, consisting of ten objectives to achieve global sustainability. Included in this list were the following recommendations, which illustrate Sachs’ view that human health, the environment, economic growth, and security are all integrally linked:
- “Stop putting food into the gas tank.” Sachs spoke out against the current U.S. subsidies for converting corn into ethanol. He linked the initiative to the recent global increase in food prices and the resulting turmoil in areas such as Haiti and Burkina Faso.
- Create a global forum for the leaders of dry lands. Sachs argued that it is important for leaders of areas such as Senegal, Mali, Chad, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and California to discuss water scarcity, its impact on livelihoods, and strategies to ensure human security.
- Immediately send a U.S. envoy around the world to back climate change negotiations. Sachs emphasized the need for the United States to step up as a leader on curbing climate change and its environmental and social impacts, rather than stalling international cooperation and progress, as he believes the current administration has done.
- Increase U.S. funding for the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). Sachs disapproved of the U.S. government’s decision to decrease its financial support of the UNFPA, which he argued is instrumental in fueling the voluntary decline of fertility rates in less developed countries. He identified access to contraceptives and reproductive services, the empowerment of girls and women, and the promotion of maternal and child health as crucial strategies for slowing population growth and maintaining resource sustainability.
- Make the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) the heart of international development policy. Sachs noted that he had heard President Bush make reference to the MDGs only once during his two terms in office. He hoped the new administration’s approach to foreign relations and international aid would put a stronger emphasis on achieving the MDGs, which aim to increase health, stability, and prosperity worldwide.
›April 21, 2008 // By Rachel WeisshaarAn article in today’s Washington Post explores the interconnected problems of poverty and rapid population growth in the Philippines. Many factors contribute to the country’s high poverty rate, including corruption and traditional land ownership laws, but a birth rate that is among the highest in Asia is also significant. Eighty percent of the Filipino population is Catholic, and both the influential Catholic Church and the current government—in power for the last five years—oppose modern family planning methods. Filipinos are permitted to buy contraception, but no national government funds may be used to purchase contraception for the millions who want it but cannot afford it.
The situation may be poised to worsen, notes the Post: “Distribution of donated contraceptives in the government’s nationwide network of clinics ends this year, as does a contraception-commodities program paid for by the U.S. Agency for International Development. For years it has supplied most of the condoms, pills and intrauterine devices used by poor Filipinos.”
Yet the story is not entirely gloomy. A recent brief by Joan Castro and Leona D’Agnes of PATH Foundation Philippines, Inc. describes IPOPCORM, a development program that has successfully delivered family planning services to impoverished Filipino communities while simultaneously promoting environmental conservation and overall human health. Based on this success, some municipal governments in IPOPCORM’s service areas have set aside money in their budgets to purchase family planning commodities directly. A major conference in 2008 (building on an earlier conference in 2006) addressed population, health, and environment connections in the Philippines; featured speakers included former Congressman Nereus Acosta and Joan Castro.
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