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Introduction to an Important Essay on a Global Context

Address by Sir Shridath Ramphal
to the

INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON POPULATION & DEVELOPMENT
on behalf of

THE COMMISSION ON GLOBAL GOVERNANCE
and the EARTH COUNCIL

Cairo, September 6, 1994

So let me turn to my message on behalf of the Earth Council. Maurice Strong should have been here him himself; he cannot be; but his heart is in Cairo.The Earth Council which was born out of Rio feels a special duty to identify with the purposes of this Conference and its first message is that to which President Mubarak gave expression at the Opening Session - a 'spirit of solidarity and common responsibility' with Cairo and ICPD.

The Earth Council has prepared for ICPD and will circulate to members a special paper entitled 'CONSUMPTON; THE OTHER SIDE OF POPULATION AND DEVELOPMENT'. The objective of the paoer is to present the importance of consumption vis-a-vis population and development and to discuss their direct linkages. It draws on the Vallentyne 'demotechnic' index to combine and interrelate population and consumption, obtaining estimates which allow fair comparisons of countries in terms of their global environmental stress.

The conclusions obtained from these estimates of populaton adjusted by consumption sesriously question the assumption that countries with larger populations pose a greater environmental risk. They show, for example, that the US and former USSR each with relatively low populations, have 'consumption adjusted populations' that dramatically surpass those of the more populated but less developed countries of China and India.

Sustainable development, the Earth council emphasizes, is premised on a balance between population and consumption within the overall limits imposed by nature. It has become clear to the Council and it is central to its message to this Conference that not only population but also consumption have to be reduced if sustainability is to be achieved. What is needed, the Council's presentation concludes, is rolling back consumption levels in the North and reducing population growth in the South.

Which brings us back to the need for ICPD to be imbued now with a special spirit of solidarity and common responsibility.

Consumption: The Other Side of Population for Development

Paper prepared for the International Conference on Population and Development, 1994

Francisco J. Mata, Larry J. Onisto, J. R. Vallentyne,

Francisco J. Mata, Earth Council. P.O. Box 2323-1002 San José, Costa Rica. Phone:(506) 256-1611 E-mail: fmata@terra.ecouncil.ac.cr

Larry J. Onisto, Ontario Hydro.700 University Avenue,Toronto,Ontario. Canada M5G 1X6 Phone: (416) 592-8595 E-mail: onisto@hydro.on.ca

J. R. Vallentyne, Canada Centre for Island Waters. P.O. Box 5050 Burlington, Ontario. Canada L7R 4A6 Phone:(905) 336-4586

Abstract

World population is growing at an alarming rate, and thus population has become a major topic insustainable development fora. In these debates, it is often asserted that developing countries with large populations pose a greater threat to the world environment than developed countries with smaller populations. Because of this view, developed countries often appeal to developing countries to reduce their population growth.

However, it is well known that developed countries have higher levels of consumption than developing countries and that consumption exerts pressure on the environment. Although awareness of the importance of consumption for development and the recognition of the relationship between population and consumption are increasing, population still takes precedence over consumption as the major concern for sustainability.

The objective of this paper is to emphasize the importance of consumption vis-a-vis population for development and to discuss their direct linkages. We draw on the work by Vallentyne 1982, and use his demotechnic index to combine and interrelate population and consumption. By doing so, we are able to adjust population by consumption, obtaining estimates which allow for fairer comparisons of countries in terms of their contribution to global environmental stress.

The conclusions obtained from the estimates of population adjusted by consumption seriously question the assumption that countries with larger populations pose a greater environmental risk. Sustainable development is based on the premise that there has to be a balance between population and consumption within the overall limits imposed by nature. Therefore, it becomes clear that not only population but also consumption has to be reduced if sustainability is to be achieved.

FULL ARTICLE