By Iain Deason, RG Chapter intern
What does population have to do with the environment? Everything.
This and other questions were presented when a collection of national social and environmental advocates were challenged to make a change through the Global Population and Environment Fellowship Program.
I was one of a group of 11 young social and climate activists in a Sierra Club-sponsored training in the national office in the heart of bustling downtown Washington D.C. “Considering that over 50 percent of the world’s population is under the age of 25, we recognize the critical role that today’s youth will play in the future of our planet.” said Kimberly Lovell, the national conservation organizer who led the fellowship. We learned that many overlaps exist between the world of environmental sustainability and population growth, and what the significance of our generation is.
Within our lifetimes the planet is expected to reach a population between 8 billion and 11 billion; the former is significantly more conducive to a healthy environment. The United States does play a role in helping organizations across the international scope, but with Congress stymied, it is up to constituents to take action to address these issues with their legislators.
The fellowship started in 2007 to help youth environmental activists consider population growth’s environmental ramifications and think about ways we can affect our local elected officials.
“Helping young people understand the complex intersections between population and the environment—and training youth to take action, advocate, and lobby for solutions that integrate these links—is a primary goal of our Fellowship Program.” said Lovell.
Through rigorous introspection and learning exercises at the training, new ideas started to develop and many “a-ha” moments were had by all. Media presentations included data from countries across the world and examples where Milky Ways, Twixes and other delectable treats represented the amount of energy discrepancies that exist across the world.
We heard from professionals from Population Action International and the U.S. Agency for International Development as well as from organizers with the Sierra Club’s national Population and the Environment campaign. They spoke about the topic’s broad implications and aspects, including poverty, women’s rights and environmental justice; they also presented strategies to address the many challenges we face.
We must consider how to transition these ideas into actionable plans back in our communities and campuses.
With a new arsenal of information and planning, the fellows gave our farewells, fought tears, and parted ways, returning to our own regions to start projects and inspire others.
I will use the opportunity to create a dialogue around the approaching world population increase to 7 billion; several indoor and outdoor art pieces will be presented to illustrate how healthy families can lead to a healthy environment.
To learn more about the Sierra Club’s Global Population and Environment Program, visit http://www.sierraclub.org/population.
If you have any questions or would like to get involved, contact Iain Deason, email@example.com.