When I think of a militant ‘feminist’ I tend to think of someone who sees too many children as getting in the way of a woman’s success in the workplace and generally in life.  While this might be true, even militant feminists do not think that women should be forced or encouraged not to have children if they should happen to want them. Interestingly, because international feminist groups naturally support the autonomy of women, they now find themselves in opposition to the population control advocates they have previously partnered with in support of widespread abortion and birth control rights.

The clash became apparent during the inaugural meeting of a new United Nations environmental body that met for the first time last month to discuss universal development goals and air pollution, among other agenda items.  For many, the solution to environmental woes is still the continued reduction of fertility rates, despite them having fallen to below replacement rate all over the world.  Some, such as controversial Australian ethics professor Peter Singer, have even suggested that a woman’s desire to have children could be forcibly overridden to address environmental problems.

It is not that surprising then that ARROW, a group which advocates for feminist polices at the U.N, took to social media to refute the “dubious linking” between population and climate change arguing that “population control strategies inevitably lead to abuses, coercion, and the violation of women’s fundamental rights.” 

The group is highly sceptical of wealthy Northern countries’ efforts to reduce the fertility of women in poor countries in the name of stopping climate change.  News source, C-Fam, reports ARROW as saying that linking population and climate change means “developed countries may be content with funding family planning in developing countries as climate change strategy,” in effect sacrificing poor womens’ fertility to protect their own high levels of consumption.

Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, head of the UN Population Fund, has also been smart enough to point out that rapid decreases in population is leaving countries with “more 65 year-olds than 5 year-olds.”  Osotimehin has said that consumption of resources, not just population growth, impacts environmental sustainability, and that a “a homeless person in Denmark actually consumes more than a family of six in Tanzania.

To prove this point, ARROW tweeted an infograph showing countries with the highest rates of population growth are also those with the lowest rates of energy consumption, stating that strategies to address climate change “should not displace responsibility for carbon emissions upon those least responsible for them.” That sounds fair enough to me.   

Shannon Roberts

Shannon Roberts is co-editor of MercatorNet's blog on population issues, Demography is Destiny. While she has a background as a barrister, writing has been a life-long passion and she has contributed...