7.7 Billion and Growing. That was the subtitle of a BBC TV Horizon programme last night on population. Chris Packham was the presenter. He said the world’s population was 5 million 10,000 years ago but by 2050 it is forecast to be 10 billion. He showed the impact of excessive population on biodiversity and on rubbish generation with lots of other negative impacts on the environment. It is surely one of the most important things to think about at present, and will have major economic impacts if not tackled.
The big growth is coming in countries such as Brazil and Nigeria. Sao Paolo is now 5 times the size of London and it’s running out of water. So are many other major cities including London. The growth in population is being driven by better healthcare, people living longer but mainly via procreation. A stable population requires 2.1 babies per family, but it is currently 2.4. In Nigeria it’s 5!
In some countries it is lower than that. It’s 1.7 in the UK (but population is growing from immigration) and it’s 1.4 in Japan where an ageing population is creating social and economic problems.
The FT ran an editorial on the 14th of January suggesting population in Europe needed to be boosted but it received a good rebuke in a letter published today from Lord Hodgson. He said “Global warming comes about as a result of human activity, and the more humans the more activity. This is before counting the additional costs of the destruction of the natural world and the depletion of the world’s resources. In these circumstances suggesting there is a need for more people seems irresponsible”.
I completely agree with Lord Hodgson and the concerns of Chris Packham. The latter is a patron of a campaigning charity to restrain the growth in population called Population Matters (see https://populationmatters.org/ ). Making a donation or becoming a member might assist.
For a slightly different view in Davos President Trump made a speech decrying the alarmist climate views and saying “This is a time for optimism, to reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse”. He was followed by a 17-year old with limited education who said just that and got more coverage in some of the media. I believe Trump and moderate environmental writers like Matt Ridley who suggest we can handle rises in world temperature and that the future is still rosy. But we surely do need to tackle the problem of a growing world population.
Too much population has a direct impact on air pollution and traffic congestion in London and the rest of the UK. More people means more vehicles – not just cars and buses but for delivery of goods.
Chris Packham reported how population reduction was done somewhat too aggressively in India and China but there are other ways to do it via education and financial incentives. Just ensuring enough economic growth in poorer countries will reduce population growth to the minimum. Let’s get on with it!
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