NEWSMAKERS/GLENDA BOOTH – Activist urges Congress to address threats to planet


Living within our environmental means took on a new meaning recently for Alexandria resident Glenda Booth, who joined a work-study tour with conservation advocates in the Philippines.
The worlds rapidly expanding human population threatens water supplies and food security while exacerbating deforestation and species extinction, concluded Booth, who recently returned from a trip focusing on sustainable development. 
The Mount Vernon area where I live has 19 people per square mile.  Manila has 15,617 people per square mile.  Walking through impoverished communities in the Philippines was an eye-opener to the daunting challenges facing the world, said Booth.
In the Philippines and in many other countries, rapid population growth hampers economic development. We saw families struggling to survive on degraded land, with little access to basic services like clean water, shelter, and health care. Population growth also threatens the countrys unique biological diversityhundreds of plant, animal, and marine species found nowhere else in the world, said Booth. In a country whose population is on track to double in the next 30 years, these trends are alarming.
Booth attended the 3rd National Conference on Population, Health, and the Environment in Tagaytay City, Philippines. The National Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, and the Izaak Walton League of America organized a group of 13 conservation advocates to attend the conference March 5-7.
Global population is growing so rapidly that the United Nations recently warned that our planet does not have the natural resources to sustain us.  For example, scientists predicted earlier this year that at our current rate of resource consumption, bird extinctions will increase by a factor of 10 during the course of the 21st century.
While we press for sustainable development and energy policy, the U. N. has made it clear that slowing population growth is key to restoring the health of our planet and living on it responsibly, said Betsy Loyless, Audubons senior vice president for policy in Washington, DC. This is an international challenge. It requires leadership at every level, which is why we are thrilled that Glenda could represent Audubon at this conference.
After competing to earn a spot in the conference delegation, the National Audubon Society selected Booth, a board member of the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia.  The group studied the connections between the environment, population, and development while in the Philippines, and will advocate for greater U.S. support for population and sustainable development programs around the world.
Understanding the relationship between population, human health and the environment is critical to addressing many of the challenges facing the world today, said Booth, a legislative consultant and freelance writer.  We saw first-hand the problems that occur when a large and rapidly-growing population presses beyond the capacity of the environment to provide sustenance for people and wildlife. We also had the opportunity to visit small-scale development projects in which communities are working to address the related challenges of population growth, health, and environmental protection.
Booth pointed out one of the central challenges. In the Philippines and around the world, millions of couples would like to plan their families but they lack adequate health services, she said. We spoke with many people who want and need services that will allow them to determine the number and spacing of their children. They believe with smaller families, they will be better able to rear healthy children and send them to school.
But these programs need resources, Booth said. Historically, the U.S. has been a world leader in providing effective, voluntary international family planning programs through the U.S. Agency for International Development. Unfortunately, U.S. funding for these programs has declined, and the U.S. trails most of the developed world in supporting family planning. Our Congressional delegation must do more to meet this needfor people and for the future of the planet.