The Family Planning and Environmental Sustainability Assessment (FPESA), a project of the Worldwatch Institute (USA), is surveying the field of health and environmental research for well-documented and evaluated data shedding light on how the use of family planning might relate to climate change mitigation and adaptation, sustainable water supply and food production, the maintenance of biological diversity, the future of forests and fisheries, and more.

Exploring multiple pathways of causation, we are assessing whether and to what extent global investments in family planning services and removal of barriers to their use can influence environmental trends.

The FPESA project also seeks to develop a network of research collaborators around the world working to better document and understand evidence supporting—or undermining—the hypothesis that this often-controversial linkage is real and that it matters.

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Our Question

Does scientific research support the claim that family planning brings environmental benefits and is worth supporting by those who care about environmental sustainability?

Our Challenge

Currently, many in the environmental and sexual and reproductive health and rights communities are concerned that:

  • An evidence base justifying shared goals and strategic alliance is not well established or articulated.
  • The potential linkage of family planning and environment is of little interest outside a few countries.

Our Objectives

We seek to identify and assess peer-reviewed scholarly literature published in the past decade that may provide evidence for or against the hypothesis that family planning benefits environmental sustainability. We also seek to build a diverse international network of researchers interested in studying, writing, and speaking about the family planning and environmental sustainability linkage.

Our Values

The project defines family planning as the voluntary use of contraception to achieve the reproductive intentions of users and their sexual partners. It considers research consistent with the exercise of reproductive and sexual rights and an acceptable quality of family planning services based on clients’ needs, their reproductive and sexual health, and their informed consent.

The project defines environmental sustainability as the maintenance of key environmental conditions and supplies of natural resources required for future human health and well-being. The survival value of ecosystems and species with no obvious human utility is seen as consistent with this definition, given the interconnectedness of all life and our imperfect understanding of these connections. Such components of social sustainability as peace, personal security, and access to nutritious food and acceptable shelter are seen as likely preconditions for achieving environmental sustainability, as well as worthy goals in their own right.

Worldwatch Institute