“The one child family norm in China has fixed the global imagination around population to be around doing something which constricts people’s and women’s choices, rather than expands women’s possibilities to take control of their lives,” said Karen Newman, the coordinator for the UK-based Population and Sustainability Network. But contemporary population programs are about educating people on and providing access to voluntary reproductive, sexual, and maternal health services.
Newman spoke to ECSP, during the Planet Under Pressure conference this year, about family planning efforts and the connection between population dynamics and the environment.
“You have what I would describe as a sort of kaleidoscope of complexity” between climate change and population dynamics – not just growth, said Newman, but urbanization and migration.
“It makes it more difficult to say in a sound bite that ‘OK, population and sustainable development, it’s the same conversation,’ which I believe it to be.”
The Population and Sustainability Network, working through the Population and Climate Change Alliance, collaborates with international organizations from North America, Europe, Ethiopia, and Madagascar to support on-the-ground groups working on integrated population, health, and environment programming. These programs address environmental issues, like marine conservation and deforestation, while also providing reproductive health services, including different methods of contraception, diagnosis and treatment of sexually-transmitted diseases, antenatal and postnatal care, and emergency obstetric care.
“As a result of people wanting to place a distance between those coercive family planning programs in the ‘60s and the way that we do reproductive health now…because it’s such a large package, there is a sense that…this reproductive health thing is too much, we can’t really get ahold of this,” said Newman.
“What I think we need to do is keep people focused on the fact that these are women’s rights,” she said. “But we at the same time have to say ‘this is relevant if you care about sustainable development and the world’s non-renewable resources.’”