This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at:

Monday, May 7, 2012

Bringing the Population-Sustainable Development Debate to a Higher Level

Today is the first day of a PERN (Population-Environment Research Network) cyberseminar on "Bringing the Population-Sustainable Development Debate to a Higher Level.” The cyberseminar will be open through Monday, 14 May, and you can participate by sending an email to: If you are reading this after 14 May 2012 you can find the posts to the cyberseminar at the CIESIN website at Columbia University.

PERN is a is a project of The International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP), and the International Human Dimensions Programme (IHDP) on Global Environmental Change. Bill Butz of IUSSP sent out these background notes to the cyberseminar:
The title of this seminar is meant to suggest that the pathways through which population factors affect development are higher, broader, and more complex than any one dimension.  Population size is one dimension.  So is the rate of population growth or decline.  Likewise, distribution by age and geography.  Alongside are the acquired characteristics of people: their schooling, health, and nutrition.  And their behaviors:  consumption, work, migration, and how they live together in households and networks.  Gender considerations may be important in any of these areas. In general, any of these dimensions may influence people’s ability and willingness to engage in mitigation of environmental challenges, their effectiveness in adapting to such challenges, and their success in developing and adopting new approaches and technologies across the spectrum of daily life.
Which of these dimensions are important in which geographic, environmental, and economic circumstances is a matter for research.  I hope that our discussion this week will bring to the table the research that exists and, equally important, help to prioritize the data and research still required, for policymakers and the interested public around the world to know which policy areas—education, health, family planning, consumption awareness, or others—deserve attention in particular circumstances.
As background information,  two recent international efforts have focused on bringing population considerations into prominence at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development to be held in Rio in June (Rio+20). In one effort, a global forum of experts met under UNFPA sponsorship in late November at IIASA in Austria to bring data and research to bear on these  higher-level population relationships. Under the broader umbrella of the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital, their summary document, the Laxenburg Declaration on Population and Sustainable Development, was announced in a 24 February 2012 letter in Science magazine. In the other, The Royal Society's expert international working group, chaired by Nobel Laureate Sir John Sulston FRS, oversaw a study which resulted in a major report, People and the Planet, which was released on 26 April 2012 ( They conducted a wide-ranging evidence-gathering exercise involving meetings with government, industry, academia, and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations in the UK and overseas, as well as an open public call for evidence. Some of the experts from the IIASA and Royal Society studies will be joining our discussion.

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