Over the coming weeks, the Family Planning and Environmental Sustainability Assessment (FPESA) project will be providing advance peeks at peer-reviewed scientific papers from the last decade that offer evidence on the link between family planning and environmental sustainability. We’ll include brief annotations, hyperlinks to the papers or their abstracts, and summaries of our assessments of their value to our hypothesis that family planning benefits the environment. These assessments are still a work in progress, and they probably will remain so even after we publish a report this spring on our findings. We hope to continue and learn from this work for some time to come.

But first, a word on our sponsor.

Family across the world

No, not the funders that have made this project possible, though it’s true that we wouldn’t be here without them.

Universal Access Project

Turner Foundation

Wallace Global Fund

Rather, in a broader sense, our work in assessing the scientific evidence base for environmental benefits of family planning is rooted in a common global understanding that has evolved over several decades. There is now a fertile ground of shared values that allow us to work on this sensitive and often controversial linkage with confidence that we are not dehumanizing any group of people or urging coercion or imposition of some kind of environmental obligation on the reproductive behaviors of women or couples.

Children survival

Our work on the FPESA project is consistent with the consensus of those in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights and related fields that the use of family planning must always be based on the fundamental human right of all individuals and couples to decide for themselves the timing and spacing of pregnancy. Even if some of the scientific evidence we assess suggests an urgency to slowing the growth of population to ease pressure on natural resources and the environment (and some does), this principle is paramount. So is the principle that the importance, value, dignity, and rights of girls and women should be equal everywhere to those of boys and men, and that politics, economics, law, and culture should reflect and support this equality.

There have certainly been times when these principles have been undermined or shunted aside—sometimes in the interest of boosting population growth, sometimes to slow it down. China tries to control its population even today by restricting childbearing. The population field has to live with its history—and with at least one misguided policy in the present. But we at FPESA believe that the mindset of demographic control is passing and is unlikely to return given growing respect worldwide for human rights and individual choice.