population action international

Suzanne Ehlers on climate change and population
  • Lisa Hymas, Grist: How would you describe the link between population growth and climate change?
  • Suzanne Ehlers, PAI: I think the most important way that we've pursued in recent years has been on the adaptation side of climate change. We're seeing huge environmental devastation, and it typically hits hardest those who are most vulnerable and least able to adapt to change, which are the poor and most often women and their families. I go back to the 215 million with unmet need. If you give people access to the services they have said they already desire, you make their families healthier, you therefore make their families wealthier, you make them better able to adapt to the impacts of climate change, they're more resilient, they're less vulnerable.
Way to go, Suzanne Ehlers, for not taking the "of course not in a coercive way" bait
  • Lisa Hymas, senior editor and cofounder of Grist: It would be hard for a sane person to argue against women or couples having the tools and freedom to determine the size of their families. But if we're looking at a rising population and worrisome resource-consumption trends, is that enough? Is there a need to spread the word, of course not in a coercive way, about the potential benefits of smaller families, whether from an environmental standpoint or maybe a personal standpoint?
  • Suzanne Ehlers, president of Population Action International: I'm glad to see that conversation is alive and well in a lot of politically diverse ways. It's not where PAI plays its strategic hand. There are 215 million women out there who say they want access to family planning and basic contraception and don't have it. So let's work to meet their needs. I really trust women to take care of it themselves. You find that in [developing] countries when you give people access to education and services, they achieve kind of the same thing that you've just described. They do tend to have smaller families, they do want to see all of their children go through school, they do absolutely put a priority on girls' education, and the woman in the family does often return to work and engage in the professional sphere. It's the magic of family planning. We in the West take for granted these options and this autonomy, and we forget all that flows out of it.