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Genus. 2005 Jul-Dec; 61(3-4):141-163.World demographic growth at the time of the Rome Conference in 1954 was characterized by unprecedented high rates of natural increase. This was the consequence of the combined effect of faster declines in death rates and sustained high birth rates. As a result, world population would double from three to six billion between 1960 and 1999 and from 5 to 6 billion in just 12 years (1987-1999), while it had taken the world four times as much to double from 1.5 to 3 billion and nearly a millennium to reach the first billion. What triggered this growth were primarily unprecedented mortality declines, a better control of major killer diseases and increases in survival particularly in the developing countries (life expectancy increased from 41 to 65 years on average over the last three decades). With such unprecedented growth rates, the theory of demographic transition acquired particular policy significance in the late 1950s to raise a serious concern about the impact of current and projected growth rates both within countries and internationally at the economic, social and geopolitical levels. This theory would soon become the driving force behind all population policy objectives aimed at third world countries where governments were encouraged to formulate population policies, establish policy institutions and programme structures to implement family planning programmes, bring about smaller-sized families and help couples avoid unwanted pregnancies. (excerpt)
Population and Development Review. 2005 Jun; 31(2):389-398.The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, an elaborate international project set up in 2001 under UN auspices, aims “to assess the consequences of ecosystem change for human wellbeing and to establish the scientific basis for actions needed to enhance the conservation and sustainable use of ecosystems and their contributions to human well-being.” It involves over 1,000 experts as panel and working group members, authors, and reviewers. Numerous reports are planned, covering the global and regional situations, scenarios of the future, and options for sustainable management. The first of these, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Synthesis Report, was issued in March 2005. The Report is organized around four main findings. The first two concern the past: what has happened and what it has meant for human welfare. The other two concern the future: what may happen and what might be done to improve matters. The time frame is the last 50 years and the next 50. Ecological change is assessed in terms of ecosystem services— the benefits humans receive from ecosystems. These include: provisioning services (supplying food, fresh water, timber, etc.); regulating services (climate regulation, erosion control, pollination); cultural services (recreation, aesthetic enjoyment); and supporting services (soil formation, photosynthesis, nutrient cycling). Of 24 services examined in the assessment, 15 are determined to be in decline or are being drawn on at an unsustainable rate. The welfare costs of these changes are disproportionately borne by the poor. Four world scenarios are developed to explore plausible ecological futures, varying in degrees of regionalism and economic liberalization and in approaches to ecosystem management. Under all of them the outlook is for continued pressure on consumption of ecosystem services and continued loss of biodiversity. In particular, ecosystem degradation “is already a significant barrier to achieving the Millennium Development Goals agreed to by the international community in September 2000 and the harmful consequences of this degradation could grow significantly worse in the next 50 years.” Remedy will be demanding: “An effective set of responses to ensure the sustainable management of ecosystems requires substantial changes in institutions and governance, economic policies and incentives, social and behavior factors, technology, and knowledge.” Such changes “are not currently under way.” The excerpt below, covering Findings #1 and #2 of the Assessment, is taken from the section of the report titled Summary for Decision-makers. Most of the charts are omitted. Parenthetical levels of certainty correspond to the following probabilities: very certain, = 98%; high certainty, 85–98%; medium, 65–85%; low, 52–65%. (author's)
Social Science and Medicine. 1990; 31(6):639-48.Sub-Sahara Africa (SSA) has gone from "classical colonialism to neocolonial debt bondage." this article traces SSA's deterioration from a master-servant relationship during colonialism to the present-day "hybrid of decay and anarchy" from which people's health status and health services in the region are being asphyxiated by the debt crisis. The tragedy facing the continent is a carryover from colonialism SSA remains dependent on outside multinational forces that continue to determine her policies, extract her natural wealth, and minimally invest in the SSA region. This continued "cola-colonization" or external control of SSA has resulted in the "catastrophic" decline of most of SSA's social and economic institutions reflecting the collapse in the economies of the West. By the end of 1986, SSA owed US $200 billion or 45% of its GDP--growing to over US$600 million by the year 2000. By 1990 all SSA countries had to accept structural adjustment policies (SAP's) imposed by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to monitor cuts in Government public spending, remove subsidies, trade liberalization and currency devaluation all leading to "tragic declines" in the standard of living. Health services in SSA also originated from colonialism and today remains dependent on the home government's. One of the major carry-over's is the urban/rural disparity; 70% of SSA's population is rural yet most health services and providers are in the urban areas contributing to higher infant mortality rates (2-5 times) in the rural areas. The debt crisis has compounded the magnitude of the lack of health services for the majority of people. Shortages exist for all essential drugs and equipment while social services and institutions have deteriorated, aggravating the already low health status in the region. SAP's have increased starvation, epidemics and the brain drain. Perhaps there is a need for a "Marshall Plan" to help SSA out of its underdevelopment.