What’s Population Got to Do with Sustainability? A Panel on People, Numbers and Upcoming U.N. Conference

The Aspen Institute

Worldwatch President Robert Engelman joins Mary Robinson, other experts in weighing the links between human numbers, human rights and sustainable prosperity on the eve of the Rio+20 “Earth Summit”

When:              January 12, 2012 – 12:30 p.m.

Who:                Robert Engelman, President of the Worldwatch Institute

Mary Robinson, President of the Mary Robinson Foundation

Rachel Kyte, Vice President of Sustainable Development, The World Bank

Carmen Barroso, Regional Director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation

Where:             Kaiser Family Foundation, Washington, D.C.


Twenty years after the 1992 “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro, the promise of sustainable development will be revisited in June 2012 in Rio. In 1987, the Brundtland Commission first coined the term “sustainable development” and called upon the world to recognize that development should meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (also called the Earth Summit) established three pillars—economic, social, and environmental—as the interdependent foundation for developing sustainably.  That summit produced a global agreement called Agenda 21, which included two chapters on the relation of demographics and gender to sustainable development in the 21 century.

Today, the planet continues to face soaring social inequity and growing environmental problems. In this time of global economic upheaval, it is more important than ever to prioritize sustainable development investments that provide multiple benefits for families, communities, nations, and the world. As momentum builds to address climate change and other major challenges, the upcoming U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development (also called Rio+20 or the Earth Summit) summit presents a fresh opportunity to return anew to the critical question of how environmental, population, and economic concerns can be joined in a new vision for sustainable development.

Worldwatch President Robert Engelman will speak at the event. Engelman has researched and written actively, and is a renowned expert, on the environmental impacts and implications of population change. Prior to his work at Worldwatch, he served as the Vice President for Research at Population Action International.

Other environment and sustainable development experts will join Engelman on the panel:

Mary Robinson, the first female President of Ireland, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and founder and president of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative, will be sharing her expertise. In 2010, Robinson returned to Ireland to establish the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice in an effort to secure global justice for the many victims of climate change who are usually forgotten: the poor, the disempowered, and the marginalized across the world.

Rachel Kyte, the World Bank’s vice president for sustainable development, will bring her expertise from the Bank’s global work in agriculture, environment, energy, infrastructure, urban, and social development.

Carmen Barroso will offer her perspective as a widely acknowledged leader in the field of sexual and reproductive health. Dr. Barroso served for 12 years as Director of Population and Reproductive Health at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, was a founding member of DAWN (a network of Third World women), and is currently the western hemisphere regional director of International Planned Parenthood.