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

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Abstract

Purpose of review

To 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 findings

A 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.

Summary

Cumulative 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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