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Sustainable Society:  A society that balances the environment, other life forms, and human interactions over an indefinite time period.







U.S. Sustainable Population Policy Project

Planning Document

June 20, 1998


"The time has come to speak more openly of a population policy. By this I mean not just capping the growth when the population hits the wall, as in India and China, but a policy based on a rational solution of this problem: what, in the judgment of its informed citizenry, is the optimal population.... The goal of an optimal population will require addressing, for the first time, the full range of processes that lock together the economy and the environment, the national interest and the global commons, the welfare of the present generation with that of future generations. The matter should be aired not only in think tanks but in public debate."
E.O. Wilson, "The Diversity of Life", p. 329


Project Title: U.S. Sustainable Population Policy Project

Project Focus: A multi-phase project leading to a population policy for the United States to achieve long-term environmental and economic sustainability

Executive Committee*

Irwin Sonny Fox, Senior Vice-President, Population Communications International

Marilyn Hempel, Executive Director, Population Coalition (Leagues of Women Voters)

Dr. Doug LaFollette (Co-chair), Secretary of State, Wisconsin

Frederick A.B. Meyerson, Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

Dr. David Pimentel (Co-chair), College of Agriculture/Life Sciences, Cornell University

Bill Ryerson, President, Ryerson & Associates, past Executive Vice President of Population Communications International

Beth Curry Thomas, Founder, Past President, Planned Parenthood of Hilton Head, SC

Carole Wilmoth, National Audubon Society, Human Population & Resource Use Department

*All titles used for identification purposes only -- does not imply endorsement by any organization or entity.


Executive Summary

The fundamental threat to the health of the planet and its inhabitants posed by human population pressures has been studied by international scientists and policy makers for many years, particularly during the last three decades. A number of countries have instituted policies intended to help stabilize their respective populations. Unfortunately, the United States is not one of these countries.

Despite efforts begun in 1970, with the Commission on Population Growth and the American Future, and participation in three international population conferences, the United States has failed to adopt an official policy identifying population stabilization as a national goal. The United States has grown to the third most populated country in the world, and continues to grow by about 3 million people each year. Because of this growth, combined with its high level of consumption, the U.S. population continues to exert ever higher tolls on the national and global environment.

In an effort to address these issues, this project proposes a three year interdisciplinary project that will combine national polling and focus groups, a working conference of experts, a national population policy conference and follow-up activities to develop and implement a coherent, fair U.S. population policy. The project will produce specific population policy goals by incorporating recent data and building upon the recommendations of previous national and international commissions and conferences. The project will seek to incorporate the views of as broad a range of individuals and organizations as possible, including (but not limited to) environmentalists, family planning and reproductive health organizations, scientists, civic groups, religious leaders, educators, minorities, social justice groups, corporations, and the media.

The project will have five parts:

* National Population Policy Focus Groups and Participant Organization Recommendations. Through a series of focus groups, national polling, and citizen dialog sessions channeled through participating organizations, the project will measure and assess American attitudes and opinions concerning current social, economic, environmental, religious and psychological issues related to U.S. population and public policy. In addition, cosponsors, participating organizations and other interested parties will be invited to participate in this process by expressing their views on the subjects covered by the focus groups and on other issues that may relate to national population policy.

* Pre-conference Working Sessions. The project will convene approximately 10 specialists representing the environmental, agricultural, biological, health, energy, ethical, public policy, communication, economic, and social science disciplines for a 4-day working session. The specialists will review and integrate the data and recommendations of the focus groups and participant organizations, as well as the work of past commissions and conferences, particularly the U.N. Cairo population conference, in order to provide a focus for national consideration for the development of a comprehensive and equitable U.S. population policy. The specialists will prepare a draft outlining various options for a population policy and stabilization levels, exploring the costs and benefits of each option. They will make their recommendation as to the best U.S. population policy among the options that they consider. The specialists will also recommend various approaches to achieve acceptance and implementation of a population policy and will discuss and finalize the topics and format for the regional preparatory conferences and the National Population Policy Conference. This draft will be reviewed by approximately 20 additional multidisciplinary specialists and

* amended where appropriate. The draft will then be sent to the participating organizations (cosponsors) in preparation for consideration at the Prepcons.

* National Population Policy Preparatory Conferences (Prepcons). The draft U.S. Population Policy options and recommendations developed in the working session and suggested approaches to achieving acceptance and implementation of such a policy will be reviewed and discussed in regional preparatory conferences on national population policy (Prepcons). These conferences will be patterned after the "PREPCOM" process which occurred in preparation for the 1994 UN Cairo Conference on Population and Development and the 1992 UN environmental conference in Rio. All participating organizations will be encouraged to comment on the recommendations, to offer suggestions or alternative proposals, and to discuss key issues. The Prepcons will include plenary discussions as well as sessions focusing on particular aspects of population policy. At the conclusion of the Prepcon process, the participants of the pre-conference working session will re-convene to consider changes in light of the comments made and amendments offered during the Prepcons. The recommendations for a U.S. Population Policy and suggested approaches to achieving acceptance and implementation of such a policy will be presented for discussion and final adoption at the National Population Policy Conference.

* National Population Policy Conference. The project will convene a national conference, attended by national, regional and grassroots organizations and individuals to discuss the recommendations and concepts developed in the pre-conference working session and preparatory conferences, to arrive at a coherent, fair, national population policy, and to identify avenues for its implementation.

* National Population Policy Implementation. The project will engage in activities (identified during the previous process) designed to encourage adoption and implementation of a coherent, fair, national population policy, including a call for establishment of a national commission to formulate a population policy for the United States. Strategies for generating broad-based support will be generated through cooperation with governmental and non-governmental entities and the media. Follow up activities, including the publication of two books, will also serve to educate the American public about the recommendations of the project, population-related issues, and the social, economic and environmental ramifications of population on both the national and international level.

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