In a world increasingly thought of as overpopulated, sparsely populated spaces remain a dominant feature: 57% of Asia, 81% of North America, and 94% of Australia have population densities below 1 person per square kilometer, equivalent to the population density of most of the Sahara desert (1). These vast, sparsely populated landscapes include rural settlements, towns, agricultural spaces, extractive economies, indigenous lands, and conservation areas. They are crucial for climate change adaptation and mitigation, from carbon sequestration to provisioning of water, food, and energy to cities. Yet governmental and nongovernmental initiatives tend to mostly pay lip service to the diverse views and needs of their populations. Without more inclusive governance, attempts to mitigate and adapt to climate change and conserve ecosystems will be compromised.
To the editor: Darrell Bricker and John Ibbetson state that the United Nations Population Division's prediction of 11.2 billion people at the end of this century would trigger a crisis that would lead to famine, war and environmental devastation. They counter this dire prediction with data that suggest the global population will stabilize between 8 and 9 billion by 2050 and then start to decline. They seem to believe that the real problem will be how the U.S. and other countries can find a way to replace their missing babies in order to sustain economic growth. The current world population of more than 7 billion has already led to environmental devastation, famines and wars. By focusing on consumption, the authors ignore the additional resources necessary to support 2 billion more people and how obtaining those resources will affect the quality of the air, water and land necessary for all life on our planet.
HONOLULU – Federal authorities took most humpback whales off the endangered species list Tuesday, saying their numbers have recovered through international efforts to protect the giant mammals. The move applies to nine of the 14 distinct populations of humpback whales. However, four distinct populations remain endangered and one is now listed as threatened, some of which inhabit U.S. waters. The Fisheries Service proposed removing most of the world's humpback whales from the endangered species list last year, but all the mammals are still protected in U.S. waters.
DAR, ES SALAAM - Elephant and rhino populations in Tanzania have begun to rebound after a government crackdown dismantled organized criminal networks involved in industrial-scale poaching. A prominent Chinese businesswoman dubbed the "Ivory Queen" was sentenced to 15 years in prison by a Tanzanian court in February for smuggling the tusks of more than 350 elephants to Asia, marking a major victory for the government. "As a result of the work of a special task force launched in 2016 to fight wildlife poaching, elephant populations have increased from 43,330 in 2014 to over 60,000 presently," the presidency said in a statement. The number of rhinos, an endangered species, had increased from just 15 to 167 over the past four years, it said. Although the presidency put the rhino population at 15 four years ago, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species estimates that Tanzania had 133 in 2015.
Should slowing population growth become part of the international push to tackle climate change? That question is raised by US environmentalists writing in the journal Science. They argue that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ought to view it as a potential "policy lever" in a warming world. To their credit, the authors advocate only voluntary fertility-reducing measures such as education and access to family planning services. Unfortunately, history shows that such good intentions are not enough to prevent abuses, that voluntary programmes frequently turn into the opposite.