AOSC Seminar
September 14, 2017

Science, Population and the Environment: What Is, What Could Be

Robert Engelman
Worldwatch Institute

A variety of obstacles block progress in understanding how human population growth influences environmental change. One is a relative scarcity of research aimed at deconstructing and quantifying this influence. In 2014 the Worldwatch Institute embarked on a multi-year project to collaboratively assess, working with an international network of researchers, recent peer-reviewed literature exploring this linkage, along with others connecting family planning to environmental sustainability. The project’s final report, launched in June 2016, concluded that a strong population-environment linkage is widely accepted among scientists in an abstract sense, but the linkage is rarely explored empirically. Some specific conclusions of the assessment will be discussed, such as the importance of water and food security as population-related issues identified in research, along with a significant interest in this linkage among African researchers. As time and discussion interest allow, we will speculate as well as about linkages between population, the environment and social sustainability, trying to imagine research methodologies that might explore this important but under-studied set of linkages.


Bio of presenter:

Robert Engelman is a Senior Fellow at the Worldwatch Institute, an environmental think tank based in Washington, DC, where he served as president from 2011 to 2014 and as vice president from 2007 to 2011. From 2014 through 2016 Engelman directed the Worldwatch Institute’s Family Planning and Environmental Sustainability Assessment project. As a newspaper reporter who covered science, health and the environment as well as national politics from the late 1970s to the early ‘90s, he was founding secretary of the Society of Environmental Journalists and reported from Mexico, Central America, and Haiti as well as the United States. His writing, including peer-reviewed scientific papers, has been published in Nature, Science, Scientific American, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. His book More: Population, Nature, and What Women Want (2008, Island Press) was recognized with a Population Institute Global Media Award. He has served as a visiting lecturer on the faculty of Yale University, where over several years he co-taught classes in the College on population issues.