Friday, April 27, 2012

[EQ] People and the planet

People and the planet

The Royal Society - Science Policy Centre report 01/12 -  April 2012 DES2470

Available online PDF [134p.] at:


“………The 21st century is a critical period for people and the planet. The global population reached 7 billion during 2011 and the United Nations projections indicate that it will reach between 8 and 11 billion by 2050.

Human impact on the Earth raises serious concerns, and in the richest parts of the world per capita material consumption is far above the level that can be sustained for everyone in a population of 7 billion or more. This is in stark contrast to the world’s 1.3 billion poorest people, who need to consume more in order to be raised out of extreme poverty.

The highest fertility rates are now seen primarily in the least developed countries while the lowest fertility rates are seen in the more developed countries, and increasingly in Asia and Latin America. Despite a decline in fertility almost everywhere, global population is still growing at about 80 million per year, because of the demographic momentum inherent in a large cohort of young people.

The global rate of population growth is already declining, but the poorest countries are neither experiencing, nor benefiting from, this decline……….”


“…………..Population is not only about the growing numbers of people: changes in age structure, migration, urbanisation and population decline present both opportunities and challenges to human health, wellbeing and the environment. Migrants often provide benefits to their countries of origin, through remittances, and to their host countries by helping to offset a workforce gap in ageing populations.

Current and future migration will be affected by environmental change, although lack of resources may mean that the most vulnerable to these changes are the least able to migrate. Policy makers should prepare for international migration and its consequences, for integration of migrants and for protection of their human rights………”

“…..Developing countries will be building the equivalent of a city of a million people every five days from now to 2050. The continuing and rapid growth of the urban population is having a marked bearing on lifestyle and behaviour: how and what they consume, how many children they have, the type of employment they undertake. Urban planning is essential to avoid the spread of slums, which are highly deleterious to the welfare of individuals and societies.

Key recommendations include:

    1. The international community must bring the 1.3 billion people living on less than $1.25 per day out of absolute poverty, and reduce the inequality that persists in the world today. This will require focused efforts in key policy areas including economic development, education, family planning and health.
    2. The most developed and the emerging economies must stabilise and then reduce material consumption levels through: dramatic improvements in resource use efficiency, including: reducing waste; investment in sustainable resources, technologies and infrastructures; and systematically decoupling economic activity from environmental impact.
    3. Reproductive health and voluntary family planning programmes urgently require political leadership and financial commitment, both nationally and internationally. This is needed to continue the downward trajectory of fertility rates, especially in countries where the unmet need for contraception is high.
    4. Population and the environment should not be considered as two separate issues. Demographic changes, and the influences on them, should be factored into economic and environmental debate and planning at international meetings, such as the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development and subsequent meetings.

Other recommendations made in the report focus on:

- the potential for urbanisation to reduce material consumption
- removing barriers to achieve high-quality primary and secondary education for all
- undertaking more research into the interactions between consumption, demographic change and environmental impact
- implementing comprehensive wealth measures
- developing new socio-economic systems…”



Chapter 1 – Introduction

1.1 The evidence

1.2 The challenges

1.3 The search for solutions

1.4 The future

Chapter 2 – A diverse world

2.1 Introduction

2.2 Demography – a basic introduction

2.3 Recent population trends

2.4 Population challenges and opportunities

Chapter 3 – Consumption

3.1 Introduction

3.2 What is consumption and why does it matter

3.3 Material consumption patterns

3.4 Drivers of consumption

Chapter 4 – A finite planet

4.1 Introduction

4.2 Natural capital and ecosystems

4.3 Trends in environmental change due to population and consumption

4.4 Modelling human environmental impact

4.5 A finite planet?

4.6 Will markets and technology neutralize environmental constraints?


Chapter 5 – Wellbeing of people and the planet

5.1 Pathways towards sustainable development

5.2 Human wellbeing

5.3 Changing consumption patterns

5.4 Demography for wellbeing

5.5 Planning for change

Chapter 6 – Conclusions and recommendations

6.1 Human impact on the earth

6.2 Consumption, population and equality

6.3 Migration, urbanisation and ageing

6.4 Education

6.5 The role of science and technology

6.6 Economic governance

6.7 Road map


Appendix 1 Details of evidence received

Appendix 2 Country groupings



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