Despite the recent news that human population has grown over 6,666,666,666, population control is not a subject most people choose to discuss. The subject brings up strong reactions as it directly contradicts our belief in our inalienable right to reproduce. Population control also raises controversy because it translates to immigration control in the United States and in many developing nations it translates to birth control, both deeply controversial issues.
We must start discussing population control, as it is an essential part of planning our sustainable future: a future that includes a balance between population growth, social justice, and the environment. The United Nations, in developing their Millennium Development Goals, has outlined the following principle:
Sustainable development as a means to ensure human well-being, equitably shared by all people today and in the future, requires that the interrelationships between population, resources, the environment and development should be fully recognized, properly managed and brought into harmonious, dynamic balance. To achieve sustainable development and a higher quality of life for all people, States should reduce and eliminate unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and promote appropriate policies, including population-related policies, in order to meet the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
If we are to make population control part of our planning for a sustainable future, then we must ask ourselves some basic questions. First, do we have the resources on this earth to sustainably meet the needs of all of these people, from basic sustenance to ending poverty, universal primary education, gender equality, and the improvement of general health while protecting our environment? Second, if we do not have the resources to meet these needs while protecting the environment, would it be preferable to limit the needs that are met for some or all humans or to limit the number of humans whose needs must be met? Third, do we believe we can create a sustainable future without addressing the number of people that will require resources from the earth?
We must start the planning process by asking these same questions of our own community. For example, do we know we have the resources to meet the needs of our current population when over 10% of Washoe County residents live below the poverty line, thousands of people are food insecure and a new tent city for the homeless has just been developed in downtown Reno? Do we have enough water to provide for the current population or future population? If we do not have the resources to meet the needs of our community, should we limit the population of Northern Nevada or continue with the pattern of only meeting the needs of a portion of our community? Do we believe there is another way to create a sustainable future for Northern Nevada without balancing the needs of our community, the resources available to meet those needs, and our environment?
All of us are interested in a sustainable future for Northern Nevada and the world. As we work to plan for that sustainable future, we must include population growth as it is a critical underpinning to any successful planning effort. I look forward to this subject becoming part of our planning processes locally, nationally, and internationally as it is currently conspicuously absent.