Symposium on Sustainability

The human population surpassed seven billion in October 2011, a milestone noted by many concerned about our planet’s capacity to sustain additional billions in the coming years. Inspired by this milestone, FHI 360 hosted a symposium on “Population, Development, and the Environment: Integrated Solutions for Global Challenges” on February 19, 2012 at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting in Vancouver — one of the world’s largest and most diverse general scientific gatherings. Presented with our colleagues Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka and Vicky Markham, the symposium follows on a 2010 Policy Forum in the journal Science that addressed the ways in which population growth intersects with other areas of human development, including reproductive health, social and economic development, and environmental sustainability.

First, we highlighted the connection between sustainability and the 215 million women worldwide who have an unmet need for family planning. In particular, we demonstrated how improving women’s access to contraceptive choice positively affects other areas of human development such as maternal and child health, educational attainment, HIV prevention, gender equity, and social and economic development. We underscored the critical role the scientific community has in further examining and addressing these essential connections.

We also shared the preliminary outcomes of a groundbreaking project in Uganda that aims to improve the health of both human communities and mountain gorilla communities, demonstrating that economic development and environmental sustainability can go hand in hand.

Finally, we explained how the United States has an essential role to play as it represents only 1/20 of the planet’s population but consumes one quarter of its natural resources. We looked at the impact of these factors on both the global environment and on women around the world.

The session was very well attended. Our audience included scientists, engineers, development workers, students and technology professionals, all of whom expressed enthusiasm about our message that healthy people and a healthy planet are interdependent.

Connections are at the heart of sustainable development — connections among population growth, reproductive rights, global and public health, food security, livelihoods and environmental preservation. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with champions from diverse fields to achieve truly comprehensive global health and development.

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