Population Stabilization and Planetary Stewardship: Making up for Lost Time
Thursday, August 13, 2015: 8:00 AM-11:30 AM
340, Baltimore Convention Center
Karin E. Limburg, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Jonathan J. Cole, Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies
William H. Schlesinger, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
Good stewardship of the planet requires guaranteeing the survival and health of remaining wildlife and natural ecosystems and repairing past damage to nature where possible, while improving people’s quality of life and standard of living. Such stewardship requires both a lowering of human numbers in all nations and a reduction in per capita rates of consumption and waste production especially in developed nations. Scientific and environmental communities have focused in recent decades very strongly on consumption and waste production issues at the local, regional and national scales. This is appropriate as those are the levels at which policy formation and political action is pragmatically possible. The issue of human population density and growth has in contrast been little discussed in ESA venues and then mostly as a global or third world problem. But as Garrett Hardin said in a 1989 essay, “We are not faced with a single global population problem but, rather, with about 180 separate national population problems.” The number of nations is now 196. Solving global overpopulation will require wise but different population policies in the majority of these nations soon. There is no international political body working on some “wise” global population policy to be imposed on individual nations. Development and implementation of population policies are not officially a part of ecologists’ or ESA’s “job description.” But ecologists have long been documenting the ecological damage done by expanding human populations. So we are at least as well qualified to discuss these matters as are those who in fact have long been driving population policies in most nations – the chambers of commerce, neoclassical and cornucopian economists, politicians, and religious factions. The talks in this symposium will discuss the obligations of scientists in these matters, population-environment relations and population policies in four developed nations, and one of the most successful programs for bringing about attitudinal changes toward family planning in developing countries.