Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
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Population policies, programmes and the environment

J. Joseph Speidel

J. Joseph Speidel

Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, University of California, San Francisco, 3333 California Street, Suite 335, PO Box 0744, San Francisco, CA 94143-0744, USA

[email protected]

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,
Deborah C. Weiss

Deborah C. Weiss

Population Council, One Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, New York, NY 10017, USA

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,
Sally A. Ethelston

Sally A. Ethelston

PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, 7500 Old Georgetown Road, Suite 1200, Bethesda, MD 20814, USA

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and
Sarah M. Gilbert

Sarah M. Gilbert

Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, University of California, San Francisco, 3333 California Street, Suite 335, PO Box 0744, San Francisco, CA 94143-0744, USA

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    Human consumption is depleting the Earth's natural resources and impairing the capacity of life-supporting ecosystems. Humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively over the past 50 years than during any other period, primarily to meet increasing demands for food, fresh water, timber, fibre and fuel. Such consumption, together with world population increasing from 2.6 billion in 1950 to 6.8 billion in 2009, are major contributors to environmental damage. Strengthening family-planning services is crucial to slowing population growth, now 78 million annually, and limiting population size to 9.2 billion by 2050. Otherwise, birth rates could remain unchanged, and world population would grow to 11 billion. Of particular concern are the 80 million annual pregnancies (38% of all pregnancies) that are unintended. More than 200 million women in developing countries prefer to delay their pregnancy, or stop bearing children altogether, but rely on traditional, less-effective methods of contraception or use no method because they lack access or face other barriers to using contraception. Family-planning programmes have a successful track record of reducing unintended pregnancies, thereby slowing population growth. An estimated $15 billion per year is needed for family-planning programmes in developing countries and donors should provide at least $5 billion of the total, however, current donor assistance is less than a quarter of this funding target.

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