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The nation's environmental goals should be, first, stabilization of the nation's, if not the world's, human population. Second, no net loss of water or air quality. Third, stabilization of our food supply, to include quantity and quality. Fourth, stabilization of plant and animal biodiversity. Fifth, no net loss of wetlands; watersheds; national forests, parks, wildlife preserves, and wilderness areas; or lake, stream, or ocean commercial and recreational fisheries stocks. Sixth, continued monitoring of global climate change, such as global warming, acid rain, and loss of the ozone layer.

—Forum Participant Comment

Thus stabilization of population growth is necessary if a country is to reach both its economic and its environmental goals. However, large-scale worldwide demographic and health surveys have demonstrated a large unmet need for family-planning in nearly every country of the world. These needs are for low-cost, accessible, and safe means of contraception.

In developing countries, we cannot and should not deter economic development; but by recognizing the unmet need for contraception, we can influence the rate of population growth by helping people to manage their own fertility. People in developing countries want both economic development and smaller families. Many countries are already experiencing marked fertility declines; given additional resources and assistance, they can increase these declines.

Combining rapid economic development and increased resource consumption with rapid population growth will result in a compounding of the effects of economic development, which might overwhelm the capacity of a country to address them. As countries become more affluent, they are better able to address some aspects of industrial activity, such as air and water pollution, more effectively. If the resources of a country are needed to address the consequences of a rapidly growing population—such as depletion of potable water supplies, epidemics of infectious diseases related to increased population density, and increased need for fuel and nutrients—the environmental consequences of this growth cannot be adequately addressed.

The United States and all other countries have much to gain from efforts to stabilize global population and to improve living standards in developing countries, where 90% of the projected population growth will occur. The stress placed on the environment is a function of population and consumption. Therefore, the burden should not be placed entirely on developing countries. Priorities for developed countries, such as the United States,

What would be necessary to conclude that an environmental goal was achieved?

  • Slow rate of population growth.

  • Decrease the resource-intensiveness of developed countries.

—Forum Participant Comment



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