Family planning as a contributor to environmental sustainability: weighing the evidence

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Purpose of reviewTo highlight recent evidence that family planning, readily accessible to all who seek it and exercised as a human right, can contribute to environmental sustainability. As global concern increases about the health of our planet, better understanding of the role family planning programs play in maintaining a sustainable environment could bolster public and policymaker support for access to family planning.Recent findingsA recent Worldwatch Institute review of scientific literature (FPESA) exploring this relationship covered two potential cause–effect pathways: one demographic, one personal. Although nonconfirmatory, a decade of reviewed studies overwhelmingly supported the hypothesis that family planning benefits environmental sustainability. A complementary review by the Evidence Project of population, health and environment projects over a similar time period strongly suggests that transdisciplinary efforts including family planning can yield multiple benefits – health, empowerment, economic and environmental.SummaryCumulative research generally supports but cannot confirm the thesis that family planning contributes to efforts to achieve environmental sustainability. This does not equate to no relationship but rather a lack of adequate methodologies. For research on complex relationships like this, novel research designs may prove more effective.

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