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Conversation with Rosanna Marie Neil, Sustainable World Initiative

Rosanna

Rosanna Marie Neil is the Director of the Sustainable World Initiative, an advocacy program at the Population Institute. A Jamaican native, Ms. Neil earned a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism at Howard University and a JD degree at Harvard Law School. Her legal studies had a strong emphasis on international human rights and involved advocacy work in South Africa, Argentina and Australia.  Prior to joining the Sustainable World Initiative, Ms. Neil spent five years practicing law in Washington, DC. She began her career as an attorney at a civil rights organization, and later worked in private practice at two global law firms. She has since devoted her career to advocating for environmental, social and economic sustainability in the non-profit sector.  

What is the mission of the Sustainable World Initiative?

The Sustainable World Initiative (SWI) is dedicated to educating political leaders and the public about the global sustainability challenge and making policy recommendations for balancing human development with the sustainable supply of natural resources. As Director, I lead the organization’s advocacy efforts and collaborate with scientific experts to quantify and assess human demands for fresh water, energy and biologically productive space and compare them to the resource capacity of different countries and the planet as a whole.

Global Overshoot Day: How can we reduce consumption?

While economic policy is the primary driver of production and consumption patterns, individuals have a significant degree of choice.  The way we spend our money should reflect our priorities.  We have the choice to purchase bottled water or use a water filter, for starters.  We have the choice to consume large amounts of beef, other types of meat which have a much lower ecological footprint, or a diet high in grains, beans and vegetables (which is also healthier).  We have the choice to buy more consumer goods that we don’t need or save money for the future.

What photo really grabbed you/had an emotional impact for you? 

The photo of the luxury apartments adjacent to an over-crowded slum and the image of the dying whale were the most poignant photos to me because they depict the ruthless ways we treat each other and many other species.

Can OVER be a tool for change and motivate people to take action?

I would love for the OVER book to be required reading in schools.  It places human development and population growth in perspective, and conveys the urgent need for us to transform our societies and live within the means of the planet.  It’s a powerful educational tool that can inspire change.

Words of wisdom for Global Population Speak Out readers and activists.

The global sustainability challenge is not just an environmental issue – it’s also a question of ethics and inter-generational justice.  Are we entitled to deplete resources that are vital to human life and destroy the planet’s ecosystems for economic gain?  It’s especially important for young people to take a stand, make better choices and demand justice because this is our future.

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