With the world’s population reaching 7 billion this past fall and women’s reproductive health a hotbutton issue in American politics, our 2012 Annual Meeting—“Population 7 Billion: Finding Balance on a Crowded Planet”—was a timely opportunity to study the interconnected issues of population, the environment, and gender. Co-chaired by Pam Bevier of New York and Marianne Gabel of Ohio, nearly 50 members and guests joined us in Washington, D.C. for a three-day immersion in this important issue.
- Esther Agbarakwe of Atlas Corps and Population Action International, Sarah Craven of UNFPA (The United Nations Population Fund), and Cara Honzak of World Wildlife Fund described women’s desire for family planning services and echoed the effectiveness of these services in empowering women, giving them the tools to sustain healthier families and a healthier planet.
- Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire spoke to members over breakfast, and emphasized that access to family planning services is imperative for all women.
- Panel discussion of population’s impact on the work of five Environmental Leadership Liaisons, including Nan Aron of Alliance for Justice, Jamie Rappaport Clark of Defenders of Wildlife, Maggie Fox of Climate Reality Project, Mary Klein of NatureServe, and Mary Beth West of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
- Panel discussion with Jason Bremner of Population Reference Bureau, Geoff Dabelko of the Woodrow Wilson Center, and Heather D’Agnes of USAID, who detailed the impact the world’s growing population has on natural systems.
- Christine Clapp led a media workshop guiding members to develop their voices and speak with authority on the issues they support.
- Roger-Mark De Souza of Population Action International provided a lively introduction to the issue of population and explained the “sense, cents, and scents” of international family planning.
- John Seager of Population Connection emphasized the importance of voluntary family planning in improving the lives of women in the developing world.
- Robert Engelman of the Worldwatch Institute inspired members over a dinner discussion of women’s crucial role in the international environmental movement and the importance of enabling women to take charge of their reproductive health.
- Rachel’s Action Network, our sister 501(c)(4) organization, hosted a reception with communications expert Ann Lewis and former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack, who discussed the critical need for more women in public office.
- Kim Lovell of the Sierra Club and Cassie Mann of Population Action International provided lobbying tips and talking points as members headed off to appointments with legislators and staffers.
- Population writer Laurie Mazur served as our closing speaker, wrapping up the meeting with a discussion of the ways funders can impact global population issues.
Population has long been perceived as a complicated issue for the environmental community. An estimated 215 million women in the developing world want to plan their families but lack access to modern contraception, causing strain on communities and ecosystems. By the meeting’s end, members gained a fresh perspective on the interconnected issues of population, environment, and women’s empowerment and the urgent need to ensure women around the world have access to basic health services.