world population: Yale University G-econ
"What women want is not more children, but more for their children." reports VP Robert Engelman of Worldwatch in his new book More: Population, Nature, and What Women Want. He says societies which make it easy for women to safely plan the timing of births will experience stable or gradually declining populations, making it possible to build environmentally sustainable and socially just societies.
For 25 years Engelman has interviewed women in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The book combines the voices of actual women with wide-ranging research across history and the social sciences.
"Those who bear children and do most of the work in raising them should have the final say in when, and when not, to do so," says Engelman. "By making their own decisions based on what's best for themselves and their children, women ultimately bring about a global good that governments could never deliver through regulation or control: a population in balance with nature's resources." Decreasing farmland, urban migration, and climate change render extremely unsure the traditional practice of raising a large family as social security for parents in their old age; improved child health, the education of girls, and fair sharing of world resources render it unnecessary.
Earth's population, now 6.7 billion will reach an estimated 9+ billions by 2050. The planet cannot survive the unrestricted birthrate of the poor -- or the unlimited consumption of the rich.
But cultural and religious prohibitions, invented by men, force women to hide their contraceptive use, risk their lives in unsafe abortions, or (attempting to give birth at a time that is best for their child's survival) manage their fertility with dangerous or ineffective herbs. Men were so intent on social control that contraception was banned in parts of the United States from 1873 to 1965, and the Bush administration prohibits it in foreign aid. In Europe, the jealousy of male doctors made midwives, who helped women plan births, into prime targets of the 16th-17th c. witchhunts.
Engelman's study shows that in countries where women can choose the time of reproduction, they have two children or fewer. Without immigration, population gradually declines and living standards rise -- the demographic shift.
See also: Engelman interview on video, his article in Scientific American Earth 3.0 June 2009.
New Horizons lesson plans for schools.
Wikipedia on population trends, Millenium Development Goals, PRSPs, poverty reduction.
End poverty 2015 - the UN High-Level Event on MDGs Sep 2008, UN WomenWatch, and historical documents in IISD: International Institute for Sustainable Development links.
The international Population and Sustainability Network
Women for eco-justice: European Feminist Forum and GenderCC
TIG blogs by Abigail Ngulube and S.Ojeremen about women in Africa