Women, Environment and Population by Dr. Sasha Breger Bush

The recent national controversies over Planned Parenthood provide an opportunity to consider the importance of protecting and advancing women’s reproductive rights. This is not just an important social issue in the United States. Ensuring that women have reliable, safe and affordable access to family planning and other reproductive health services is a global environmental necessity.Women without Access to BC

The United Nations Population Fund notes that some 225 million women worldwide who would like to avoid pregnancy do not have access to safe and effective family planning methods.  Many of these women live in the world’s poorest countries (though there are plenty of women in the world’s richest countries who also have unmet family planning needs). The global advocacy group for women and girls Women Deliver estimates that this unmet need for contraception results in 74 million unplanned pregnancies, 28 million unplanned births, and 36 million abortions every year.

In the past, many women stated that they did not use family planning services because they did not know it was available to them.

By contrast, the Population Connection Action Fund finds that today “many women and their partners are concerned about health and potential side effects.” Population Connection has found that social and cultural misunderstandings and barriers to contraceptive use are widespread, including

  • women’s low level of decisionmaking power within families
  • differences in fertility preferences between partners
  • the stigma attached to unmarried women’s sexual activity and use of contraceptive services

Women’s rights—reproductive and health rights as well as economic, political and social rights—thus appear central to meeting women’s reproductive health needs.

Global population growth is one important consequence of women’s unmet needs for family planning services, and global population growth means greater competition for the world’s resources.

Take water, for example. One commentator argued recently that, “In the world’s most “water poor” countries, population is expected to double by 2050. Slower [population] growth is not a panacea for the world’s water problems, but it could ease pressure on scarce resources and buy time to craft solutions.”

Indeed, population growth is directly linked to most if not all of today’s most pressing global environmental problems, including climate change. “No doubt human population growth is a major contributor to global warming, given that humans use fossil fuels to power their increasingly mechanized lifestyles. More people means more demand for oil, gas, coal and other fuels mined or drilled from below the Earth’s surface that, when burned, spew enough carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere to trap warm air inside like a greenhouse”, says Scientific American.

Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, UN Undersecretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund, speaks eloquently to the interconnections between women, population and the environment:

“We know that reproductive rights are a prerequisite for women’s empowerment and gender equality. We also know that any challenge – whether terrorism, climate change or Ebola – cannot be solved by only half the population; it requires all of us.”

Please join us!

On Monday, October 5, members of the Auraria Campus community can learn more about these issues at a movie screening of Mother: Caring for Seven Billion.

A representative from the Population Connection Action Fund will attend and answer questions afterwards. Pizza and beverages will be served.

Please join us in AB-1 1500 on Monday October 5 from 5pm-7pm.

Sasha Breger BushAbout the Author: Sasha Breger Bush is an Assistant Professor in thePolitical Science Department at CU Denver. She teaches and researches about international political economy, global finance, food and agriculture. Sasha’s first book, Derivatives and Development, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.

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