My name is Céline Delacroix, I am a PhD Candidate in Population Health and Scientific Director of the Family Planning and Environmental Sustainability Assessment Project (FPESA). I became passionate about the need to reflect on the balance between population size and environmental impact when I realized that addressing this issue could promote environmental sustainability whilst simultaneously advance reproductive rights. In practice, advancing reproductive rights means helping everyone fulfill their basic right to decide the number and spacing of their children, and have the information, education and means to do so.
But how do environmental impact and reproductive rights intersect? Quite simply, actually: Research shows that when we have access to modern methods of contraception and learn about reproduction, we have less children. In turn, slowing population growth significantly reduces human environmental impact.
But solutions are never simple: talking about the linkage between family planning and environmental sustainability is a delicate matter, and population size is only one of many factors that contributes to sustainability. More work needs to be done for the family planning, population size and environmental sustainability linkage to become a more accepted and less divisive issue. This is what I focus on at FPESA and in my PhD research. I look for the right language and framing to address this linkage. For example, many scholars still refer to the need for “population control” to reduce environmental impacts. This term evokes past coercive and racist practices and triggers immediate rejection and hostility.
There are many other ways to frame this issue, including as a win-win situation for reproductive rights and environmental sustainability. As part of my PhD research, I interviewed stakeholders of the reproductive rights and environmental movements to better understand how they perceived the family planning, population size and environmental sustainability linkage. A large majority of these stakeholders wished to integrate the reproductive rights ideological framework in a wider sustainability frame reflecting environmental considerations. But results also showed that this linkage remained extremely controversial and polarizing, and that we were still far to reach a consensus on its framing.
With the FPESA project, I also collect evidence on how reproductive rights and environmental sustainability are related, as well as on how population size impacts the latter. I aim to create a network of researchers, activists and policy makers who work on this linkage to encourage communication and the identification of best practices.
It is exciting to know that we have a window of opportunity to improve reproductive rights and environmental sustainability ahead of us.
– Céline Delacroix