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Climate Change Activists Need To Talk About Population Too

National Geographic | 01-13-2012

“The environment does not exist as a sphere separate from human actions, ambitions, and needs, and attempts to defend it in isolation from human concerns have given the very word ‘environment’ a connotation of naivety in some political circles.”

These words come from the foreword of “Our Common Future: Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development,” a landmark United Nations report that was written when the world’s population reached five billion. The report triggered the 1992 “Earth Summit” in Rio De Janeiro and a number of United Nations treaties and agreements all focusing on sustainable development.

Today, the global population is more than seven billion and the impact of all these people is the hot topic of discussion as nations prepare to gather in Brazil this June for a follow-up conference entitled “Rio+20.” On January 12, the Aspen Institute held a panel discussion, “The Road to Rio: Climate Change, Population and Sustainability,” that began with a discussion of this quote and whether Rio+20 should address population growth and the health and reproductive rights of women, which play an obvious role in population growth.

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