The popular Big Green Purse
blog, written by best-selling author Diane MacEachern, recently asked the Worldwatch Institute’s Robert Engelman, “What’s the Link between Population and Nuclear Energy?
” The blog, which encourages women to use the “power of the purse” to improve the environment, wanted to know: “Why aren’t we talking about reducing population as part of our global strategy to minimize dependence on power sources [like nuclear energy] that pollute the environment and threaten people’s health?”
While “reducing population” is not possible, slowing population growth may be, if fertility rates continue to fall. As always, Engelman answered the tough question with thoughtful aplomb, offering three core values as a starting point:
One: see the global environmental dilemma not as a problem to be solved but as a predicament to be responded to. We can’t control our future, but we can act with integrity as we aspire to build just societies in an environmentally-sound world. Addressing our numbers can become part of that.But I’m wondering how the readers of Big Green Purse – which is replete with media-friendly lists like “Top Ten Eco-Tricks” – can translate population and its messy intersection of human rights, health care, and consumption levels into an individual purchasing decision.
Two, embrace human rights as a foundation for our actions. All people – even if too many or consuming too much – have dignity and a right to be here. As it happens, population policies based on the right of all women to choose whether and when to bear a child actually slow the growth of population. …
Three, acknowledge that no one can claim a greater right than anyone else to use energy and natural resources. This is called equity. We cannot object if the poorest people living today and yet to be born succeed in gaining the means to consume as much as Americans do.
As Engelman writes, “The idea that we can easily trim our individual consumption to come into balance with nature – worthy as that effort is – looks increasingly naïve. If people in the developed world slash their per capita greenhouse emissions by half, their effort could be counterbalanced by people in developing countries boosting theirs by just 11 percent.”
Photo Credit: “Trojan Nuclear Power Plant,” courtesy of flickr user tobo.