(January 2012) Rural communities in developing countries often face the complex and linked challenges of extreme poverty, poor health, and environmental degradation. Population growth often exacerbates these challenges. Health programs that include family planning in communities that face environmental challenges, along with high fertility and high maternal and child mortality, can have great benefits for the health and well-being of women and families and have positive effects on the local environment as well.

Meeting the reproductive health needs of women and ensuring environmental sustainability by linking family planning with environment programs has proven to be a “win-win” strategy. Yet this link has often been seen as controversial or viewed as irrelevant to environmental policymaking.

In this interview, Robert Engelman, president of Worldwatch Institute, discusses how family planning can benefit the environment, why the perceived gap between population and environmental concerns persists, and how to bridge the gap.