THE elimination of poverty is first and foremost a moral imperative; but it is essential for the protection of the global environmental and for the health of the global economy. On all these grounds, we can no longer tolerate a situation in which one in five human beings--a total of 1 billion people--lives in absolute poverty.
Protection of the environment is a requirement for ending poverty--a ruined and plundered resource base could not support our current and future numbers--and slower, more balanced population growth is both a precondition for, and an outcome of, finding solutions to the twin problems of the environment and poverty.
In the past, economic development was seen as the solution to poverty, and demographic transition (see box page 17) as the eventual solution to population growth. Some damage to the environment was accepted as a necessary, but only marginally important, cost of development. These assumptions are no longer justified.
In many cases development has not only failed to eliminate poverty but has actually increased it, with deadly effects on population growth and environmental damage. For when development efforts are ineffective, they disrupt existing social and economic systems without providing compensating benefits. Even when development is effective it vastly increases human sources of pollution and environmental destruction. The industrial technology in use in most of the world was developed without thought for its environmental effects.
An unwanted side-effect of incomplete development has been to encourage rapid population growth. …