Friday, October 06, 2006

The Fat Man gets it.

David Nicholson-Lord has penned an article for the Ecologist called the 'Numbers Game'. As he rightly points out 'trying to discuss human population growth these days is like placing your head on a stand at a coconut shy.' You're caught between a rock and a hard place...'The Right will accuse you of authoritarianism and permissiveness, the Left of being racist, fascistic or neo-Malthusian.'

It's true and utterly ridiculous that the hugely important issue of human population numbers is now skimmed over, avoided, become the elephant in the room, so to speak. All the so-called joined up thinking that is meant to go on with environmental issues is wasted if the population subject is left out of the equation. In fact it is morally irresponsible to do so and I for one cannot take a campaigning organisation seriously if they don't take the issue head on. What we get instead are arguments around the impact of Western countries' 'ecological footprints'. The 'fat man' of the west is consuming more per person than the 'skinny Indian', way more. OK, all true and a very important area to focus on but, population numbers must be part of the discussion.

By 2050 planet earth is expected to have 9 billion human beings competing for its resources, up from the current 6 billion. Some demographers theorize that this number will begin to tail off as we head on towards 2100. Apparently more folk will head into the'middle classes' and have less children, just like in the 'west'.

Tied up with the population issue are other weighty topics like economic wealth , imigration and nationalism. Governments believe their population must continue to grow to help feed such dynamics as pensions growth. Some accept some sort of immigration process to help feed such needs and other countries like Japan would prefer their own women would have more children.

The point is is that the issue of 'population growth' is so explosive, even emotional, that many organisations avoid it altogether for fear of alienating their membership and therefore their funding base. This is wrong, it is morally corrupt and plainly irresponsible. For now it seems.....The Fat Man gets it.

To see an introduction to the article , the Numbers Game from the latest issue of The Ecologist go to; The Numbers Game.


At 12:39 pm, Blogger Keith Scott said...

So what is an optimal population? I have heard 2 billion people. Would this result in too rapid economic decline and could it work with the ageing population we have? More importantly how can this be done without restricting people's personal freedoms. Has China set an example the world wants to follow with its one child family? It's been discussed since the time of Malthus but we seem to be no nearer a conclusion. Does free movement of people help or hinder us restricting population growth?

At 1:49 pm, Blogger Matt Burge said...

> So what is an optimal population?

Does anyone know this?!! I think what we are beginning to realise is that the current rates of resource use and levels of waste streams are becoming unmanageable. We've been hoping that technology and better systems would lower the environmental impacts but, things are running away from us. 'Modern' countries are for example shipping their waste to poorer countries. Out of site, out of mind.

So, some people are beginning to debate the population question (yes, again). It's a complex debate that needs all of society involved so that the complex answers can be arrived at. I can't pretend to have the answers myself!


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