As world population passes 7 billion, two strategies make for a sustainable future
Ensuring that women make their own choices about child-bearing and cutting waste are two important ways to ease the challenges of a more populous world.
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Empower women to make their own decisions about childbearing. More than two in five pregnancies worldwide are unintended by the women who experience them, and half or more of these pregnancies result in births that spur continued population growth. [Former journalist and Worldwatch Institute president Robert] Engelman has calculated that if all women had the capacity to decide for themselves when to become pregnant, average global childbearing would immediately fall below the “replacement fertility” value of slightly more than two children per woman. Population would then move onto a path leading to a peak followed by a gradual decline, possibly well before 2050. Women must be able to make their own decisions about childbearing free from fear of coercion or pressure from partners, family, and society. And they must have easy access to a range of safe, effective, and affordable contraceptive methods and the information and counseling needed to use them.Skip to next paragraph
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Consume fewer resources and waste less food. Humans appropriate anywhere from 24 percent to nearly 40 percent of the photosynthetic output of the planet for food and other purposes, and more than half of the planet’s accessible renewable freshwater runoff. In addition to overuse of finite resources, humans waste large quantities of food every year. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, industrialized countries waste 222 million tons of food annually. If fewer resources and less food were wasted, the world would be able to feed more people and use fewer resources. With nearly 1 billon hungry people worldwide, wasting less food would also mean utilizing existing resources – not new ones – to feed them.
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