GAIA Initiative’s fundamental concern is that planetary human populations are the primary contributor to global warming /climate change. Each human – rich or poor – contributes to our global carbon-footprint.
Regional Project Categories: GAIA Initiative awards 32 grants each year in two funding cycles. In Fall 2022 there will be 16 grant awards of which 8 grants are to be designated for Global North projects. Our two regional project categories – Global North and Global South – are based upon what is generally understood to be the economic developmental stage of nations or regions. The project priorities set forth in this web page relate to the more developed nations of the Global North region.
Global North: CUMULATIVE Greenhouse Gas Contributors
The existential threat to our global environment is not the result of some evolutionary phenomenon in the natural world. The developed economies of Global North are responsible for the massive accumulation of greenhouse gas emissions which over time have created the preconditions for the impending ecological catastrophe of global warming/climate change.
There has been sustained failure of societal institutions – corporations, government, and universities — that have a leadership role in determining critical infrastructure to support the industrial state and incentivizing a range of consumer choices. The history of the past century underscores the leadership failure of these powerful institutions to anticipate and manage the environmental impacts of consumerist economies.
The consumerist economy was designed to focus on satisfying the expressed needs/wants of individuals. But consumers for their part have acted without protective awareness of the environmental consequences of their choices. The behaviors and lifestyle choices of billions of humans have been the economic driver that sustains the market-based economy: its manufactured products, transportation options, energy sources, industrial-scale agriculture and exploitation of ocean fisheries, mining of raw materials, forest harvesting for an ever-expanding urban landscape, and of course – the countless electronic gadgets for every home and work setting.
Many individuals in rich Global North nations may wish to assign responsibility for their economy’s dire ecological consequences entirely to failed societal institutions. But attempts to relegate the responsibility away from individuals simply fail to recognize the deeper truth: it is the consumerist demands of individual humans that maintain this greenhouse-gas-emitting market economy.
In the Global North, consumer demand is nearly universal for the enumerable lifestyle conveniences of 21st-century existence. Notwithstanding its tremendous economic success, the implicit shared responsibility – between societal institutions and consumers – has failed to protect our environment. The dynamic interchange between informed consumer choice and responsible institutional leadership in the market-based economy has failed in its fundamental objective to protect the planetary environment from the detrimental effects of consumerist economies.
Global North: PER CAPITA Greenhouse Gas Contributors
A region’s total greenhouse gas emissions can be thought of as the cumulative result of the total activity needed to meet the needs and wants of all the individual humans living in that region. Most humans living in the Global North have sufficient wealth that they have been able to express their needs and wants by extreme high-consumption lifestyles. Their choice of products and services – all of which generate greenhouse emissions – enable lifestyle preferences that pervade all aspects of the societies of the highly-developed economies of Global North nations.
These consumerist choices made by humans living in the Global North are widely recognized for their environmentally-destructive distinction: the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions on our planet. They are the source of the continual accumulation of greenhouse gas emissions which drives global warming /climate change. They are even today posing a threat to the continued existence of other humans in vulnerable regions. Their devastating ecological impacts pose a direct threat to the animals and plants attempting to survive throughout the earth’s natural habitat.
Global Strategy – in North and South – to Avert Environmental Catastrophe
The global strategy – if we are to avert environmental catastrophe – must include two essential components.
First Component: This urgent short-term challenge is for human ingenuity to modify – in the shortest possible number of years – both the industrial infrastructure and the marketplace of consumption choices in order to radically reduce the per capita greenhouse-gas-emissions of humans.
- The evidence is clear and irrefutable: the members of our human species in overwhelming numbers desire the myriad of lifestyle conveniences of 21st-century existence.
- Those living in the wealthier North – who can afford to purchase these lifestyle conveniences – have in the past and will in the future do so.
- Those living in the poorer South currently can not afford to purchase and therefore do not have access to these lifestyle conveniences; and given widespread poverty in most of these countries, in the near term they likely will not have access to them; but when in the future their developing economies produce sufficient wealth for them to afford these lifestyle conveniences, we can expect them to make the same consumerist, high-polluting choices.
Second Component: This longer-duration challenge is for decisive and sustained interventions to voluntarily reduce – beginning immediately and continuing through this century – our human population. This is especially important for those who are able to afford and continue to express their preferences for high-consumption lifestyles – particularly those now living in the North and also, in the future, those in the South.
- The evidence of progress in the North is positive – as birth-rates have been reduced below replacement levels in most wealthy nations.
- There has been gradual but insufficient progress in the South – as birth-rates continue to be very high (some national populations doubling in less than 20 years).
- The immediate challenge is to achieve broader worldwide birth-rate reductions so that human populations globally stabilize and then can over time be reduced.
- The longer-term challenge – both in the North and in the South – is how to maintain lower population grow-rates. We must evolve effective countervailing arguments when national public policies begin responding – as they have in some North nations – to inject aggressive pro-natalist policies. Some nations even provide substantial financial incentives lasting many years – if residents will have more children and larger families.
The ultimate measure of our species’ adaptive success will depend on meeting these goals: short-term – to make dramatic reductions in cumulative greenhouse emissions; and, longer-term – to persist with stabilizing and then reducing global human population.
Global North: POPULATION ISSUES
The focus of our GAIA Grants Program is on population issues for which there is good news for the Global North. The already low fertility rates in Global North nations have now declined further to below the 2.1 children per woman – which is considered the “replacement rate.” The low current birth rates in most economically developed nations provide hope for long-term stable populations. And if this low birth rate trend holds, then when the next generation of children reaches child-bearing age – even with modest in-migration – these nations could experience ongoing annual reductions in their populations.
Alternate Life Patterns and Reproductive Choices of Young Adults
The decline of birth rates in Global North nations over the last 100 years is attributable to many social, cultural, and economic factors, including 1- the departure from boundaries of cultural and religious group identities; 2- secular education that promotes less traditional roles as spouse and caregiver of children – especially for women; 3- young adults delaying marriage and choosing alternate lifestyles to satisfy their own individualistic identities; 4- the shifting of generational expectations – younger adults not being geographically accessible or emotionally obliged to take care of their parents in old age; 5- the synergy of rising levels of personal education and wealth: including expanded opportunities for higher-income careers for women, widespread adoption of modern birth-control methods, and greater autonomy for men and women to choose alternate family structures.
In 2022 with technologically advanced economies in Global North nations, there has been a marked attitudinal shift among young adults regarding their future life-plans. Young adults are focusing on satisfying careers, expressing extreme anxiety about the future, postponing marriage, having an unparalleled expansive range of personal lifestyle choices, rethinking childbearing, being reluctant to invest twenty of their younger years to bear and nurture children, and in small but increasing numbers – young adults are choosing to be childfree-for-life.
Grant Funding Priorities
Global North Projects
GAIA Grants focus on four broad areas related to reproductive health services: education, media, public policy, and shaping attitudes about family planning. The ultimate goal is to demonstrate the social value across cultures of having fewer children per family.
Consideration of Project Proposals by the Grants Review Committee: Organizations interested in any of these areas are encouraged to think of creative innovative approaches – to propose projects that are bold and even experimental – to consider whether there are ideas with a potential to make a difference that other funding sources might be reluctant to support. Special consideration will be given to project proposals that address the designated above “Grant Funding Priorities – Global North Projects.”
Final Commentary: We should be clear that no one organization – even one with resources to fund massive intervention – can entirely resolve the complex societal issues related to patterns of human reproduction. However, it is vital to our collective future that we start to recognize and better understand the sustainability implications of human population: in the North, the extremely high and problematic per capita carbon output; and, in the South, the extremely high growth of population and the problematic future cumulative carbon output.
If your organization shares our view that constructive change is possible, then join in this effort and consider applying for one of our Idea-Grants. To get started with the application process just complete our web-accessible one-page form: Expression of Interest for Idea-Grant.