APLACE FOR THE DEMOGRAPHIC CASE
in developing countries?• What is the connection between the demo-graphic transition and political stability indeveloping countries?Finally, I will suggest some ideas and directionsfor future population-environment (PE) fund-ing and work.
Population Trends: Underrated,Uncelebrated
Increasing population density is, of course,hardly the only or most immediate factor inNiger’s hunger or Kenya’s land conflicts. If thereis any consensus on population’s influ-ence on human affairs and the natural envi-ronment, it is that its role is complex, indirect,and inevitably entangled with other factors(Marquette & Bilsborrow, 1999). For decades,the poorest of Niger’s rural population havesuffered severe hunger periodically, and the2005 crisis has been blamed in part on free-market policies that the country’s governmentadopted under pressure from the World Bank (Timberg, 2005; Vasagar, 2005). Based onbenchmarks developed by Population ActionInternational (PAI) for population-relatedshortages of critical natural resources, forexample, Niger is neither water-stressed norshortof cropland on a per capita basis.
Itdoeshavelittle forested land, however, and its pro- jected population growth would make it water-stressed within roughly a decade.IfNigerien and Kenyan farmers wereas pro-ductiveasthose of Iowa or Thailand, and if their governments werecomparably effectiveand accountable, it is reasonable to presumethat none of this would be happening today.Butarethese “non-demographic factors”likely to improveenough to negate the impact of con-tinuing population growth in Niger and Kenya?Ifhigh food prices in the West African regionaleconomy areafactor in Niger’shunger,forexample, might those prices stem in partfrom a dynamic in which demand is rising faster thansupply,adynamic that weak governments areunable to prevent or mitigate? Those of us con-cerned with population and reproductive healthshould be trying to find answers to questionslike these.The historic slowing of the world’s popula-tion growth in recent years is in large part dueto four decades of private and public donorassistance to the international family planning movement. Most current analysts fail to ask why this demographic revolution is happen-ing—and then assume that it is now completeor soon will be. It is neither. The planet’shuman population still gains more than200,000 people a day, a quarter of them in Africa, where the fastest growth occurs.
Yet well over half the daily increment is Asian,enlarging populations in China and much lessstable regions, including the Middle East,South Asia, and the Philippines. More than5,000 a day areborn in the United States, which, like many developed and developing countries, also gains a fewthousand peopleeach day who were born in other countries,on other days.From governmental policy papers to thepages of newspapers, however, ongoing popu-lation growth is notoriously hard to makeexciting, fresh, or worth exploring.Demographic pundits take more interest inpopulation aging. Environmental pundits takemore interest in consumption. Poverty andconflict pundits take moreinterest in anything
the dynamics of human population. Thereasons areunderstandable: population hasalways been controversial, and, frankly,itsrelation to human and natural well-being
complex, indirect, and inevitably entangled with other factors. What makes it worth pur-suing byadvocates and donors, however,isarguably morerelevant than ever: slower pop-ulation growth—yielded bywomen and cou-ples bearing the number of children they intend—has major cross-cutting benefits thatmultiply with time. Itis hardto imagineanother achievable development trend with somuch long-term promise for environmentalconservation and global stability.