It is actually terrific to see that the Royal Society is going to undertake a serious study on the impact of overpopulation on biological resources, air and water quality and biodiversity.
Not that I have seen the brief for this study. And it doesn’t matter that there are organisations devoted to global population, demographics, resource use etc. it is good to see one about to be tackled by the Royal Society. As one of the members of the working group, Jonathan Porritt, says, it is long overdue.
Global population has been an ever increasing concern of mine since the early 70s as I have said elsewhere, both in letters, comments and on this blog.
Mind you, here is Porritt saying that anything over replacement number is irresponsible. Well, yes. But it is getting to the point where even sticking to two children will not bring the overall global population down in a reasonable time. We will probably need a pandemic or two to achieve that.
If that sounds flippant, consider that we have exponential population growth at the moment even with the thousands dying from disease, starvation and wars (well, they are skirmishes by comparison with wars).
If we were able to introduce a reduction in infant mortality, an increase in longevity, a cessation of all wars and the eradication of all disease, how long do you think it would take for the global population to outstrip the planet’s carrying capacity. Let’s add good water and food and shelter for all into the above scenario. How long would it take?
My guess is the blink of an eye.
The problem has always been a political one; the hot potato of unsustainable population growth that no government will tackle. Porritt has been quoted well:
“Governments have just found it too hot to handle, and so controversial from cultural, religious and political points of view that they have just chosen to keep it under the radar and not deal with it in an upfront way,” Sir Jonathon said.
I have a little more faith that this group will have the strength and intellectual honesty to deal with the politicians on this. It is well overdue. We are nearly at the midnight of this planet’s ability to sustain us.