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The population
The Kyoto Protocol

Population, Part Five

Population Home Part I Part II
Part III Part IV Part V

Can We Slow Population Growth?

If population growth slowed the global environment would suffer less stress. Following through with the solutions that maintain sustainable population growth may simultaneously alleviate many of the problems that the population explosion exacerbates. Many people seem to agree that the following elements would make for a more equitable and sustainable world:

  • Strong national leadership with the priority of population stabilization through raising women's status and speaking openly of reproduction.

  • Improved community health care and nutrition, especially for women.

  • Basic rights for women: reproductive autonomy, decision-making in the home, voting, owning land, opportunity to a job.

  • Protection of human rights.

  • Quick local access to family planning services and contraception sensitive to the needs of women.

  • Lengthening girls' school enrollment/higher literacy rates.

  • Higher female participation in the labor force/employment opportunities away from the home.

  • Access to micro lending or credit, especially for women.

  • Conservation and protection of natural resources.

  • Policies and tax structures to protect or restore farmland from development.

  • Development of sustainable technologies and agriculture.

It has been said that "stopping population growth is like stopping a speeding train: There is a long delay between putting on the brakes and coming to a full halt." That means that the sooner the brakes are applied, the fewer problems humans will cause. Unfortunately, no one strategy will solve the myriad of interconnected issues. Lowering birth rates is not the only answer. Relinquishing meat from our diets isn't either. But when it comes down to it, deciding how many children you will have does not require that you give up anything and it could have the biggest effect of all, especially in the future.


  • The U.S. spent half a trillion dollars in 1998: 50% went toward traditional defense; 6% was spent on education; health, the environment, and justice each received 5%, transportation less than 3%; economic development almost 2%; and agriculture and energy less than 1% each (9).

  • In Africa , 85% of women in rural communities produce 80% of the food, but because of female discrimination, less than 10% of the women own resources or land. "If given the same resources now available to men, women would be producing 10 to 15 percent more food and giving more of it to their families."(15)

  • Women engaged in small enterprises in Asia and Latin America have been found to average fewer children (13).

  • In 30 years of U.S. support of family planning services, 10 times as many couples in developing countries are using contraception and the average number of children per woman has gone from 6 to less than 4 (13).

  • By 1994, 60% of people in developing countries had easy access to some form of modern contraception (15).