World Population Awareness Week Looks at Tough Issues

The earth’s population will soon reach a whopping 6 billion with no signs of slowing. What does this mean for ecosystems, wildlife, and humans, and how do we deal with this growth? World Population Awareness Week (WPAW), at Fort Lewis College in Durango, addressed these issues recently. "Our Impact: Population, Consumption, and Sustainability" included four speakers, a workshop, and student theater, making the week both entertaining and thought-provoking.

Dr. Mathis Wackernagel, co-author of Our Ecological Footprint, noted that humans consume more of the earth’s resources than can be regenerated. We’re beyond carrying capacity, but the results aren’t immediate enough to warn us. Our measurements of economic health and progress do not take into account the many costs associated with progress and growth, including depleting irreplaceable resources. We need to redefine progress and get more feedback about how we’re harming our ecosystems. Creating, rethinking, and implementing sustainability strategies are further addressed in Wackernagel’s book and are worth review.

"Sustainable Communities" was the focus of Dr. Lamont Hempel’s speech. According to Hempel, author of Environmental Governance, the four greatest challenges to sustainable communities are population, consumption, equity, and governance. Our numbers and lifestyles threaten the capacities of nature. He, too, pointed out that the GNP does not include the staggering loss in ecological wealth. He discussed how corporations are a threat to people, the environment and to fair, impartial governance. Hempel’s book offers good ideas for change and action.

Marilyn Hempel, founder of the Population Coalition and editor of the Population Press newsletter, spoke on "International Women’s Issues." She discussed three UN conferences where women from various nations, political and cultural backgrounds came together to support each other and discuss how they can help improve the world.

"Simplicity: A Cultural Revolution", was discussed by Mary Romano, founder of the Sierra Club Lifestyle/Education Committee. With an emphasis on reducing consumption, Romano presented ways to incorporate environmentally sustainable habits into our daily lives. Reexamining present values, goals, and choosing to simplify our activities can lead to changes that can benefit the individual, community and environment. Her Voluntary Simplicity workshop explored personal habits and offered new options. For more information on the topics discussed during WPAW, contact the Sierra Club office, 303- 861-8819.