Expanding the capacity of all women to choose when to bear children is the surest route to achieving an environmentally sustainable population, according to a new book 'More: Population, Nature, and What Women Want.'
According to the book, written by Robert Engelman, Vice President at the Worldwatch Institute, in countries that make effective personal control of reproduction possible for all, women invariably have two children or fewer on average.
Such low fertility levels ultimately lead to gradually declining populations in the absence of net immigration.
"It makes sense that those who bear children and do most of the work in raising them should have the final say in when, and when not, to do so," Environmental News Network quoted Engelman, as saying.
"By making their own decisions based on what's best for themselves and their children, women ultimately bring about a global good that governments could never deliver through regulation or control: a population in balance with nature's resources," he added.
The book explores the association between population and the environment through the lens of sexual relations and women's efforts to influence the timing of their reproduction.
Engelman's book is based on interviews with women in Africa, Asia, and Latin America over a period of more than 25 years.
Combining stories from these conversations with wide-ranging research across history and the social sciences, More investigates the roots of sexuality and procreation to discover how women's lives and status have influenced cultural evolution, history, and modern society.
In the book, Engelman wrote that the answer to "what women want," is not "more children, but more for their children, and we can be thankful for that."
He said that women have been so intent on reproducing at a time that is best for their child's survival that they have hidden their contraceptive use from their husbands and religious leaders, or have risked their lives to manage their fertility with dangerous or ineffective herbs or unsafe abortions.
Likewise, societies have at times been so intent on rooting out the use of contraception that it was banned in parts of the United States from 1873 to 1965, he said.
Engelman said that based on this record and contemporary findings, societies that make it easy for women and their partners to safely plan the timing of births will experience stable or gradually declining populations.
And that, in turn, will ease the staggering challenge of building environmentally sustainable and socially just societies.
The book was published by Island Press.