GAIA Foundation Grants are focused on encouraging organizations to develop innovative niche projects to address a population issue which may have a potential impact on the sustainability challenges to our planet posed by the cumulative atmospheric greenhouse gases with its devastating effects on global warming/climate change.
There are a significant number of organizations with expertise and experience dealing with the range of problems related to human population and we invite their participation in our program. GAIA grants are intended to address one of these four broad areas related to reproductive health services: education, media, public policy, and shaping attitudes about family planning.
There are important considerations that should be acknowledged as potential grant applicants formulate specific project proposals. There is the evolving historical time context – from antiquity to the present – and our growing awareness of the ways the human population now impacts our planetary environment. There are the values issues that must be considered with any intervention related to reproductive health choice – the personal, familial, and cultural issues.
The Evolving Impact of Global Human Population
There is a relationship – one both complicated and stark – between rising human population, increased supportive economic activity, and their combined cumulative impact on planetary levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases.
From antiquity – beginning 12,000 years ago – it took until 1800 AD for global population to rise to one billion humans. Before the Agricultural Revolution and before the Pre-Industrial Society, death rates and birth rates had been high and roughly in balance, and consequently, global population growth rates were near zero.
To understand the evolving relationship of population and greenhouse gas, the above display is instructive as it shows for the last 350,000 years the global atmospheric CO2 concentrations measured using preserved ice cores. The natural variations shown are from a myriad of sources (volcanic eruptions, wildfires, meteor strikes, etc) and the CO2 base is on average a level of 220 parts per million.
For the last 200 years it is most important to appreciate the dramatic shifts depicted: human populations have rapidly increased from 1 billion to 8 billion, and greenhouse gas emissions have far exceeded the base level 220 ppm.
Economic Development and the Transition to Lower Birth Rates: “Demographic Transition Theory” describes the evolution of societal fertility rates that has accompanied various economic and social developments:
- Before the Agricultural Revolution the population growth rates were near zero; death rates and birth rates were high and roughly in balance for 10,000 years.
- As societies began to experience economic development, the death rates dropped as improvements in food supply and sanitation began to increase life expectancies; without a corresponding fall in birth rates – an imbalance occured resulting in large population increase.
- Modernizing societies in the 19th century began to have declining birth rates due to various “fertility factors” – urbanization, increases in wages, a reduction in subsistence agriculture, an increase in the status and education of women, greater parental investment in the education of children, and other social changes; this declining fertility trend was reinforced in the mid-20th century with broadened access to modern contraceptives.
- It is important to acknowledge that many societies experienced birth rate decline in the 19th century before modern contraceptives; decline in societal fertility depends on a transition in cultural and personal values – not just availability of contraceptives.
Priorities for GAIA Foundation Grants in Fall 2022
GAIA Foundation understands that issues related to population which are most crucial in a particular location may be determined by the economic developmental stage of nations or regions. The Fall 2022 funding cycle will award 8 GAIA Foundation grants – four projects for the Global North region and four projects for the Global South region. Grant applicants should review and understand the general and regional topics are set forth in this Project Priorities webpage.
Organizations with a project idea should select the appropriate application form which includes the regional topic priorities. There are two versions of the Expression-of-Interest form (Global South and Global North projects) which can be downloaded and completed. See Applying for a Grant webpage.
Priorities for Project Grants lists both the GENERAL TOPIC Priorities and the Geographic/Economic Development REGIONAL Priorities that the Project Review Committee will be considering in its decision about which projects to select among first-stage EOI applicants and later, to which organizations receive grant awards for their final-stage project proposals which include more detail about the goals and methods and assessment capabilities of the organization.
The Global South region: In the developing Global South nations there are special concerns about threats to family well-being caused by extreme population growth. Parents in extreme poverty families are faced with the terrible dilemma – again and again – as each additional unplanned pregnancy drives large poor families further into desperate circumstances. Most women will – when given the option – choose to have fewer children who are healthier, more educated, with brighter future prospects in life. These less-economically-developed nations are characterized by:
- generally low per capita income;
- children’s education not widely available beyond grade four;
- family planning services not well understood, not accessible, and not embraced as desirable;
- high birth rates and high proportion of dependent children under age 14 years – at or near 50 percent of the population;
- national governments having not effectively deployed birth control services;
- widespread absence of autonomy for women to choose when to have children; and
- cultural attitudes that encourage large family size/numbers of kids even where poverty is pervasive.
In Global South nations there is very low per capita carbon output and very high population growth rates – some nations doubling population in less than 20 years. See application form denoted as: Global South Project Expression-of-Interest.
The Global North region: In the developed Global North nations, the consumerist choices made by humans living there are widely recognized for their environmentally-destructive distinction: the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions on our planet. These consumerist decisions are the source of the continual accumulation of greenhouse gas emissions which drive global warming /climate change. They are even today posing a threat to the continued existence of other humans in vulnerable regions. These economically developed nations are characterized by:
- significantly higher average per capita income;
- universal children’s K-12 education;
- widespread popular understanding and embracing of family planning services;
- low national birth rate;
- national governments and private insurers largely pay for birth control services;
- women having autonomy to choose how many and when to have children; and
- cultural attitudes that generally favor smaller family size/numbers of kids among couples of all income cohorts.
In Global North nations there is extremely high per capita carbon output and very low population growth – most nations having below replacement level birth rates. See application form denoted as: Global North Project Expression-of-Interest.
Innovative Project Proposals favored by the Grants Review Committee:
Organizations interested in a grant award should first consider the two priority sets – Global South and Global North – in order to determine which type of project proposal for which they are best suited.
We encourage thinking in terms of innovative approaches – niche projects that are bold and even experimental. As you formulate your project description, perhaps try an approach with the potential to make a difference that other funding sources might be reluctant to support.
GAIA Idea-Grant Awards: GAIA Foundation grants – from $5,000 to not greater than $10,000 USD – are awarded to qualified applicants who describe creative and potentially impactful project ideas.
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 Foundation Grants.