Human population growth is a serious biospheric problem yet is largely overlooked. Because of the neglect of demography, environmental policies — while well-intentioned – are unlikely to succeed.
This book gives a concise review of world fertility rates and population growth, and offers a valuable summary of studies of the impact of over-population on the biosphere. In addition, the book explains key demographic variables to consider when formulating law and government policy relevant to childbearing, and it summarizes findings of social science research – findings that contradict popular assumptions about the impact of government interventions addressing the frequency of childbearing and immigration.
The chapter points out that the disciplines of ecology and sociology both rely on the concept of a system and thus have a basis for collaboration even though the phenomena they study are substantively dissimilar. The character of a system is explained, and the implications of a system are discussed for human societies, for law and government, and for the consequences of government undertakings to alter the incidence of key social activities such as fertility. The chapter proposes that, because childbearing has been found to decrease as population density increases, urban planning may be able to reduce human fertility by promoting high-density housing.
The chapter returns to the absence of human-population size and growth from the paradigm that is currently dominant among environmentalists. This paradigmatic flaw is underscored by a discussion of (1) the melting of polar glaciers and (2) levels of human mortality from outbreaks of disease, both of which are affected by the size and growth of the human population. The chapter recommends that, in attempting to curb population growth, law and government policy should be used cautiously and formulated with inputs from a wide range of disciplines.
The chapter offers insights into the demography of human-population growth in the world as a whole and in nations grouped by income level. Graphs are used to examine trends since the middle of the twentieth century in age-specific fertility rates, mean age of childbearing among women, and total fertility rates. The chapter also discusses childlessness and the importance of the extent of childlessness to population growth.
The chapter discusses some methodological pitfalls in assessments of the effectiveness of law and government policy that address society-important social activities. A summary and analysis of quantitative research indicates that law and policy, including policy promoting family-planning services, have had just a limited impact on the frequency of childbearing. Research also indicates that law and policy have not had a large effect on the incidence of abortion or on the volume of immigration.
The chapter identifies primary and secondary negative environmental impacts of the numerical size and growth of the human population. Findings of scientific studies, especially findings of multivariate analyses of quantitative data, are summarized on the effects that human population size, density, and/or increase have had on the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, on human death rates generally, and on the climate of the planet. Through climate change, population size and growth have had secondary effects: Research indicates that climate change has increased wildfires, damaged agriculture, hurt economic activity, intensified hurricanes and typhoons, caused flooding and droughts, and diminished biodiversity.
The chapter points out that the current paradigm of environmentalists ignores the negative impact that human population size has on the biosphere. To counter this lack of concern with population size and growth, the chapter uses graphs to show that the ecological footprint of the global human population has appreciably expanded since the 1960s; that the numerical increase of the global population remains substantial even though the rate of population growth and the total fertility rate have fallen; and that large numbers of human beings are projected to be added each decade to the global population until at least the year 2050.
The chapter considers whether company law and corporate governance-related initiatives provide effective mechanisms for holding corporations to account for their contribution to climate change. A key regulatory device targeted at corporations is disclosure, the goal of which, in this context, is to achieve greater transparency regarding the risks and opportunities connected to climate change. The chapter explores to what extent climate change-related reporting contributes to the efforts towards reducing global warming. It is argued that there are a number of significant problems with climate-related reporting in its current state, in so far as there are many different requirements, including standards, codes, guidelines, at industry or sector level as well as at national and international levels; all these combined create a chaotic reporting landscape. Moreover, there is no meaningful link between the disclosures required under company law and initiatives within the area of environmental protection; hence it becomes difficult to identify clearly what the key reporting information is and what the responses and possible legal consequences of any such disclosures should be. Consequently, corporations’ accountability for their contribution to climate change is open to question.
This chapter focuses on the contemporary framing of sustainability in the context of the adoption of Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this setting, we consider the potential coherence and tensions between attempts to protect ‘people’ and the ‘planet’ while promoting ‘prosperity’, ‘peace’ and ‘partnership’. We begin by examining the identities and intentions of the policy actors engaged in formulating the SDGs, as revealed preparatory documentation. We then address the scope for debate (and even conflict) regarding the content of the SDGs and their interaction. Finally, we consider the processes created for supervision of SDG implementation at the UN level by the High Level Political Forum (HLPF). SDG 16 would seem to enable inclusive dialogue with diverse participants offering alternative knowledge bases for policy development, while SDG 17 conceives of a global partnership for development. The crucial question is whether the orchestration offered by the HLPF has that participatory potential.
This important volume steps beyond conventional legal approaches to sustainability to provide fresh insights into perhaps one of the most critical global challenges of our time. Offering analysis of sustainability at land and sea alongside trade, labour and corporate governance perspectives, this book articulates important debates about the role of law. From impacts on local societies to domestic sustainable development policies and major international goals, it considers multiple jurisdictional levels. With original, interdisciplinary research from experts in their legal fields, this is a rounded assessment of the complex interplay of law and sustainability—both as it is now and as it should be in the future.