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Sustainability, population and reproductive ethics

Dr Jan Greguš is a Czech gynecologist and philosopher of population and sustainability, women's health and rights, contraception and abortion, reproductive health and ethics at the Center for Outpatient Gynecology and Primary Care; Center for Prenatal Diagnostics; and Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic. Read the full 2023 paper from which this summary draws in the journal Czech Gynecology (Ceska Gynekol).



Introduction: The paper explores the links between sustainability, population and reproductive ethics, because sustainability goals and population matters both imply ethical commitments.

Materials and methods: This article is based on a critical analysis of current scientific and philosophical literature on sustainability, population and reproductive ethics.

Results: The idea of sustainability, as enshrined in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, is a concept whose goal is to protect the environment, strengthen human communities and foster prosperity; in other words, to create a world in which all can thrive and prosper. However, humanity is moving quickly in the opposite direction. The main causes of unsustainability are excessive human numbers and the excessive human economic activity to which they lead. Sustainability is achievable, but it requires a sustainable human population. According to the latest studies, that is somewhere around three billion humans. Reaching this goal requires targeting all four reachable roots of the population’s growth. Supportive measures, such as voluntary family planning, education and empowerment, combat (1) unwanted fertility and (2) coerced fertility. However, (3) population momentum and (4) wanted fertility also must be addressed.

Conclusion: The latter two can be approached through promotion of reproductive ethics of small families, ideally onechild families, as a new global ethical norm.

Keywords: sustainability – population – overpopulation – consumption – Sustainable Development Goals – contraception – family planning – reproductive ethics – one-child ethics – philosophy of overpopulation

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