There are too many of us on this planet: Comment
July 22nd 2012
The UK is in the middle of a mini baby boom, but our birth-rate spike is small fry in a world growing ever bigger, says Rosamund Urwin [of the London Evening Standard].
The arts world is currently running a laudable campaign to stem population growth. It started in celluloid with I Don’t Know How She Does It, We Need to Talk About Kevin and the recently released Friends With Kids — three 100-minute ads for getting your tubes tied, so miserable do they make motherhood appear. Now, making the case with greater intent, comes Ten Billion at the Royal Court, the title a reference to the likely size of the global population by the end of this century. Ten Billion isn’t really a play, more an impassioned sermon. It is given by a real Oxbridge scientist, Stephen Emmott. This modern-day Malthus, who accidentally channels Hugh Laurie in House thanks to a back injury and a shared “thinking woman’s crumpet” appeal, paints a bleak picture of the environmental impact of our rapid multiplication. It feels well-timed. This week the first slew of data from the 2011 Census was released, showing that England and Wales are currently in the middle of a mini baby boom. The number of children under one is up a fifth on a decade ago.
This was expected. Immigration means there are more women of child-bearing age, immigrants tend to have bigger families and those (mostly British-born) women who delayed having children in their twenties have had them in their thirties and forties instead. And, as the baby-boomers’ children are now having children themselves, fertility may well remain elevated for some years. Of course, our birth-rate spike is small fry in a world growing ever bigger. But what was typical about the reaction to it is that economics trumped environment. The pessimists fretted about the impact on primary school places and housing, while the optimists — such as Tory MP Elizabeth Truss in the Times yesterday — saw only a financial boost in having more young people to pay for the elderly. It showed how desperately we need more voices like Emmott’s, who can make the case for manageable population decline across the world.
The old argument goes that we will “technologise” ourselves out of enviro-geddon but, as Emmott notes, we have “technologised” ourselves into our problems in the first place. I am a fully-paid up member of the Climate Change Club (a wholly-inadequate £3 a month to Greenpeace) but even those who aren’t should fear resources becoming ever more stretched. Walking home slightly dazed after Ten Billion, the old (inaccurate) quip by Sam Levenson stuck in my head. “Somewhere on this globe a woman gives birth to a child every 10 seconds. We have to find this woman and stop her.” I suspect by 2100, if we are 10 billion or more, that joke will have worn thin.
Source: London Evening Standard
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