Public Libraries in a fascistic country

The first Library at UWA. I also sat exams in the Undercroft - bottom floor.

The first Library at UWA. I also sat exams in the Undercroft – bottom floor.

One of the things that distinguishes an educated, well read and intelligent country is its reverence for and preservation of learning in science, literature, research and creativity. The repository of collections of the recordings, writings and other media relating to these lies in Public Libraries, University Libraries, Archives and Museums.

On a national level, all countries have central collections of archives; publications are held and stored; thanks to people like Dewey we have systematic ordering of all our publications held in central libraries; universities have many libraries devoted to the writings and other recordings of different disciplines within their purview. This is good and a comprehensive record of human achievement. It sounds grand, maybe grandiose on this level.
When we come to the humble local public library, many of which serve communities within our countries, there is a lesser sense of grandeur and more a sense of how much do these small repositories of literature and research materials cost to maintain.

Well … to my mind, it matters not how much the monetary cost of maintaining public libraries. It matters that these public libraries are maintained and developed for the benefit of the populace. It is one of those educational and social repositories that all communities need.

So it is with dreadful distress that I have had to read this:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/mar/29/libraries-facing-greatest-crisis-in-their-history

One of the best places to spend constructive time.

One of the best places to spend constructive time.

Quote: ‘ Nearly 350 libraries have closed in Britain over the past six years, causing the loss of almost 8,000 jobs, according to new analysis.’
In a country that prides itself on its supremacy in education, erudition, science and research, it is dreadful, to me, that the UK can elect to spend £167 billion on renewing a nuclear weapons facility and warheads in an age of ‘austerity’ while allowing our cache of public libraries to be halved. And, of course, that is not all to be decimated, halved, privatised or otherwise fucked.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/cost-of-replacing-trident-is-167bn-double-previous-estimates-calculations-suggest-a6708126.html

Now we all know that we will never be consulted on whether or not Trident should be renewed and that is because the Westminster Government is beholden to the US and the US dictate what we will do in Defence spending in the UK.
But it is of absolute concern to me and many others that the education system (or should I say systems) is in utter disarray. We have so-called ‘faith schools’ burgeoning out of every city, ‘academies’ – otherwise known as the privatisation of schools – being snapped up by private groups and companies eager to get their grubby fingers on the largesse of funds being offered by our cash strapped government.
Besides, the control on the standard of education is slipping away like a greasy rope in the hands of those who no longer seem to care. Not that you would know it if you were to listen to the bleatings of the ultra right wing press that operates in the UK.

No – everything is fine so long as we agree to Westminster’s selective austerity programmes and tighten our already anorexic  belts and suck it all up.
Back to public libraries: my wee library is in Glenwood.

The Kid's Corner of a great wee Library

The Kid’s Corner of a great wee Library

A friendly place with good staff and a warm (I mean under floor heating) environment for us to access, use computers, wifi, borrow books, order books for borrowing and/or just sit and read the daily papers. It is what is called a community hub for the local catchment and the old folk who enjoy a blether, a good read and some comfort. There is a cat – a fixture and the whole atmosphere is one of welcome. The kids use the computers, the oldies read the papers, the not-so-oldies borrow books, DVDs and audios. In short it is a good place. I use it a lot. I often sit in the comfy armchairs and just read my current book.
This library is scheduled for closure and demolition. Apparently it is one of 16 public library closures in the next three years in the Kingdom of Fife. Fife Council is charged with making some £813,000 savings – partly because there is a reduction in the funds our non-independent Scotland receives from the Westminster Government.

So public libraries – to be fair, savings are being made across the local government board (even employees are being ‘retired’ – some 2,000 of them in Fife. It does make me wonder how often local government recruiting is used as a sliding indicator for national employment figures. God I am so cynical!) – and there are other areas in which ‘savings’ are being made. And, this is not the first time Fife has closed public libraries but I wasn’t living here then and didn’t know.

To target libraries is one of the most counter-productive actions I can think of. It is not just dear Glenwood suffering – new Council housing is in the offing in the Glenwood area  and that means more young families. Fife Council has closed two public schools – thus over loading the poor school charged with taking the educationally orphaned students – it is across the Kingdom that these 16 library closures are happening.

Scotland has been a country of villages since its habitation by humans. It is so linguistically insular that you can tell the difference in speech within a few miles and a different village. The libraries that operate in these villages are far more than an operational budget item. They are the hub of small villages. They are the meeting place for the local people.

In the early 2000s, there was a directive in international standards that required a triple bottom line in accounting.  Called the 3BL, it is an accounting framework that incorporates social, environmental (or ecological) and financial bottom line figures.  It behooves companies to adopt this framework but it would appear that many haven’t bothered. I surrendered a directorship in an agricultural co-operative because the rest of the Board wouldn’t address these criteria.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triple_bottom_line

What is happening now seems to me to be a refusal to understand the social, environmental impact of financial decision making. If it is recognised at all, it is ignored. We have a burgeoning global population and a seemingly fascistic central government called Westminster. At the very  least, Westminster under Tory rule is aping US republican libertarianism. I have said before that the Tories eat Ayn Rand for breakfast every day.

Mind you, my friend in Australia is very sympathetic and also very pissed off – he sees the same thing happening in Australia and so I think – what on earth happened to the socialist left wing politics that put people before profit? That developed welfare safety nets, state funded secular education and a health system for all? We all seemed to gravitate to that in the 1970s and (sort of 1980s) when we were aware of our fellow man. What happened to all that? I do know the answer, of course. Globalisation happened and we knew it was on the door step in the 1970s. But it doesn’t stop me asking the question – what happened to our humanity? It seems to be dying as so many species are dying weekly, slowly etching out our own demise. What has it all been for? Our smarts have been our downfall and ultimate extinction. What a fucking waste!

 

TOO MANY PEOPLE! CONFRONTING THE POPULATION DILEMMA

Can this planet sustain the number of people our population is heading for? Almost certainly not, but rarely do we hear calls to reduce our numbers. 2011 Edinburgh Medal recipient Carl Djerassi, co-inventor of the contraceptive pill, Sara Parkin, founding director of Forum for the Future and Aubrey Manning, zoologist and broadcaster, discuss the thorny issues of religion, contraception, economics and women’s right to choose, as they take on the population taboo. Chaired by Richard Holloway, former Bishop of Edinburgh.

The Edinburgh International Science Festival is chock-a-block full of all sorts of events and one of them was the above described event. I am glad we went.

No answers were forthcoming – as usual. The topic itself has been of interest to thinking people since at least Thomas Malthus wrote An Essay on the Principle of Population that was published in 1798. In it, he argued that the human population would increase inexorably until it was halted by what he termed ‘misery and vice’.

This is Darfur repeated throughout the world

I first started reading about the impact of global population growth in 1970 in a book called The Ghost in the Machine by Arthur Koestler. I have watched this exponential population growth with increasing horror ever since. It is virtually impossible to discuss or otherwise politicise such debate as is necessary if we are not to become the shortest lived species on this planet.

I think all of us would agree that as a species we are disunited individually and nationally, politically and economically. The only thing we do as a species imperative and with gay abandon is reproduce like rabbits.

Yep. Thats us.

Aubrey Manning mentioned that death control has worked extremely well over the past 50 or so years but birth control still has to come to the party. He is absolutely correct. The tracking of global population figures since I have been alive attests this. As David Attenborough said within his address to the Royal Society in March this year:

 Fifty years ago, when the WWF was founded there were about three billion people on earth. Now there are almost seven billion. Over twice as many – and every one of them needing space. Space for their homes, space to grow their food (or to get others to grow it for them), space to build schools and roads and airfields. A little of that space might be taken from land occupied by other people but most of it could only come from the land which, for millions of years, animals and plants had to themselves.

 The impact of these extra millions of people has spread even beyond the space they physically occupy. Their industries have changed the chemical constituency of the atmosphere. The oceans that cover most of the surface of the planet have been polluted and increasingly acidified. We now realise that the disasters that continue increasingly to afflict the natural world have one element that connects them all – the unprecedented increase in the number of human beings on the planet.

Logic alone should tell us that the resources and habitable land available to us and all other species (people in their arrogance seem to forget that we only share this sphere not own it outright and to the detriment of everything else) is limited on a finite planet. But developing countries have every right to tell us post industrial nations to pull out heads in if we try to curtail their development by preaching to them whilst we enjoy the over-ripe fruits of our own development.

There is no more water now than there ever was but it gets used with such profligacy that anyone looking at us from afar could be forgiven for thinking that water was being manufactured at an ever faster rate of knots.

Desertification is rampant and rising sea levels encroach more and more on (at this stage) small Pacific islands. The Boxing Day tsunami showed us what would happen to The Maldives and other low lying atolls and shores that Kubla Khan wouldn’t even have dreamt of building on.

Carteret Islands abandoned to rising seas in 2009

Carl Djerassi  peppered his address with figures for abortions both legal and illegal at about 1 million per 24 hour period worldwide. Of course Djerassi was a co-founder of the oral contraceptive pill for women in the 1950s. He hasn’t got an answer either, but he was combative about what he sees as wishy washy talk fests that don’t address the large and looming problem that is likely to have devastating effect around 2050.

Sara Parkin is the founder of Forum for the Future. Her concern is with women’s reproductive health and education. She talked about sustainable population growth. I actually do not think there is any such concept in reality. It sounds good but doesn’t take into account the nature of our species.

We all want more. Maybe not children if you live in poverty and watch at least half of your live births die within a few years. But we always seem to want more for ourselves – more food, clothing, space to live, accoutrements for pleasure and lifestyle. That just isn’t sustainable at the levels we desire. We can’t (or won’t) afford to feed our current refugees let alone try to feed a growing population.

Most of these kids wont make it - 2011

So what to do? Question time after the talk included one from a woman who postulated punitive measures like increased taxation and decreased support availability for families birthing more than two children. It is one of my ideas as well. Djerassi pooh poohed it as virtually useless in a global sense since only developed post-industrial countries could implement such measures. Of course, he is right.

I have mentioned before that Australia’s worst Treasurer (in recent times), Peter Costello, implemented a scheme whereby he gave Australian women a one-off payment of $A5,000 to have a third child ‘for the country’; talk about wilful irresponsibility! He later resigned though not because of that!

Djerassi pointed out that, although Italy has a below replacement population growth, the contraceptive measure in that supposedly most Roman Catholic of countries is by far condom use. The contraceptive pill accounts for only 5% of Italian contraceptive measures. Until recently the most common contraceptive measure in Soviet Russia was multiple abortions!

The problem is still an unmentionable – the elephant in the room. It seems to me we are unlikely to see the end of this century in any sort of good evolutionary shape. We shall be sliding off this rather nice planet that will keep whizzing around in this rather nice galaxy without us.

These are some essentials in this race against time and space:

Contraception of all sorts, including free, safe abortion is essential.

Education of women everywhere in family planning and taking control of their reproductive functions is essential.

The removal of religious and political interference in human reproduction is essential.

Are we up for it? Somehow I don’t think so. Only in our increasingly nightmarish dreams.

GM Food Products

Cloned cattle munching

I noted a couple of days ago now that the ‘campaigners’ are up in arms because cloned meat has been sanctioned for sale and consumption by the Food Standards Agency’s chief scientist, Andrew Wadge. Milk from cloned dairy cows is also on sale on supermarket shelves.

Wadge made his statement based on the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes’ conclusion that cloned food products are safe for human consumption. Actually the decision is based on food products from cloned animals and their offspring.

By and large it would appear that ‘campaigners’ of one sort and/or another tend to be a tad hysterical and are often driven by conspiracy theories that lay blame at the feet of those capitalist companies, individuals and governments that make money.

So nothing has changed. Except the burgeoning number of newspaper articles as journalists scramble to create as much controversy as they possibly can over what is perceived as controversial.

This issue poked its head up during August when some offspring from US cloned cattle embryos that had been imported into the UK ended up on supermarket shelves. No recording traces had been kept on those offspring and the outcry that ensued was loud but short-lived as I would imagine this one will also be.

There are a couple of reality checks that need to be applied here:

Biological and genetic science is fairly easily monitored. Public Health and Food Safety may not be exact sciences but both disciplines have come a mighty long way in the past century.

Cows (and other animals) born from cloned embryos and bananas grown from tissue-cultured stock are products of the same process. Each method – cloned reproduction in the case of animals and vegetative propagation in the case of plants produces exact clones of the parent tissue.

As bananas go, and you buy them every day in the green grocer’s shop, you can’t get a better, more technically perfect piece of fruit (just ask Ray Comfort!!). It has been suggested that I link to Ray Comfort’s video on youtube in case readers haven’t come across this creationist kook before.

Ray Comfort Gods Banana

Meat and milk products from animals produced by cloning represent greater homogeneity and therefore greater control over non-diseased and as clean food that you can reasonably expect.

Tissue culture as a method of propagation in the plant world produces exact clones of parent plants with desirable qualities. Here: have a quick read of good ol’ Wikipedia on tissue culture.

At what point do those of the ‘natural foodstuffs only’ brigade who call vociferously for sustainable agriculture on a realistic grand scale start to realistically address the feeding of the world’s population. A lot of this population lives on the margins of agriculturally viable land and are poorly fed. Malnourishment is rife.

Agriculturalists, governments and world health authorities are trying to provide nutritious food for a burgeoning global population. Some of the most abundant food available is the least nutritious and GM is addressing the rectification of this problem.

They are attempting to produce GM engineered staple food stuffs as intensively as possible because of the subsuming of good agricultural land by that same burgeoning population for residential purposes. Cities and towns tend to grow up around waterways, on coasts and around river deltas into which waterways spill and pollution becomes concentrated. As agriculturally viable land, such areas become less able to produce food.

Let’s rewind a few thousand years before science and GM. What did we eat and how did we determine what to eat? Our evolutionary history gave us the tools whereby we knew what to eat. If it was good, we ate more. If it wasn’t we didn’t eat it or if we did, we didn’t reproduce and we died. Good way to learn.

As the meerkat says: Seemples.

I will be accused of being simplistic. Today, we are arguing about only what minor detrimental effect GM or tissue-cultured foods may have on our short term health. Maybe there will be possibly long term cumulative effects on human health.

Prof. Pam Ronald

Nowadays we have the likes of Pam Ronald (a Plant Pathologist) and her research. Her blog Tomorrow’s Table is a wealth of information.

In the face of ever increasing global population and decreasing resources, long term effects are irrelevant.

The same basic evolutionarily derived rule of taste equalling good and bad taste equalling bad, therefore reject still applies.

Some commenter on one of the newspaper articles linked to snidely tried to tie BSE and Wadge together in an attempt to disparage and discredit him in his professional position. It is a straw man argument. Erecting the straw man of BSE distracts from the discussion (I don’t think there is  a meaningful discussion to be had anyway) and is totally irrelevant to the question.

If disaster befalls us and I am forced to eat a fellow human being, I will be an equal opportunity consumer and not distinguish between anti GM and GM supporters as I am certain they will both taste equally well and perform the function of nourishment thereby keeping me alive at least in the short term which will be all I can expect in an uncertain world.

China on the Consumer Path

Shanghai Traffic at night

China is one big mother of a country. Its current population is about 1.4 billion. The world’s population is about 6.7 billion. So China constitutes about 19.5% of the global population. These figures are worth keeping to the forefront of one’s mind as a ready reference point when people start talking about what is happening on this smallish, bluish globe hanging around in the solar system and on which we live.

This was brought again to mind when I attended a discussion at the International Book Festival which is one of (I think) 11 International Festivals that together come under the aegis of the Edinburgh International Festival which is held annually mainly in August when the weather is mild enough to attract thousands of visitors from all over the world.

The International Book Festival has a new director this year, Nick Barley, who has listed the themes under his stewardship including The New World Order, America Now and the more normal components of a book festival including literature, book awards, children’s programmes and an intriguing selection focussing on Re-writing the 20th Century after the Wall: The new Europe Cities: The Urban Explosion: The Meaning of Money.

As Barley says, this Book Festival is probably the most prestigious in the world and is beloved of authors. It is, in large part, a writers’ book fest that allows writers to showcase their current works and offers a forum where they can address the issues they write about in lectures and debate.

And the books!! Oh my, the books!! Too much fiction for my taste, not enough science and the book tent shelves have a predominantly Scottish flavour. Not that that in itself is a problem, it is just that a better balance could have been reached.

I found myself a copy of When a Billion Chinese Jump by Jonathan Watts. Now I had just spent an hour listening to him and Richard McGregor, two Sinophiles, discussing what their experiences in China indicated for the future of that country and its relation to the rest of the world.

Both men know China from the inside because they live there. Watts, most certainly is an informed author and a Guardian journalist and gets big ticks from critics for this book. There are some terrific reviews, two of which can be found here and here.

Because Watts is closely involved with environmental issues that resonate with my own intense interests, I was unable to resist buying his book. I haven’t had time to read it – it is a big book, but I can skim to find important information and the two reviews are good. I just have an urge to talk about what is happening to our planet mainly because of our occupation of it. It is far too important to shelve until I have read Watts’ book.

I guess there are things that need to be mentioned here as areas that take our interest.

One of course, is the massive waste that China produces now and which will only increase in coming years. I think Watts estimates that by 2025, China will be producing more waste than the whole of the rest of the world. That’s a pretty big WOW! This shows part of the extent of pollution in China today.

Waste dump in China

The big push to consumerism hasn’t abated and who can really blame the Chinese for wanting, at least as much as their western counterparts. The West set the example after all.

Of course, the waste that China is now producing will be added to the already increasing polluting gases made by other developing and developed countries. The effect of pollution on Chinese communities is growing. Some 100 to 400 (very hard to get accurate figures from a country that is unused to collating such statistics) villages show an incidence of cancer clusters that are far above average rates because they are located so close to polluting industries discharging waste into rivers. These areas are in Henan, considered by most Chinese as dirty, poverty-ridden and not to be acknowledged.

The resources needed, to allow China to develop at the fastest rate of knots it can summon, will mean that other countries supplying these resources will inevitably increase their carbon footprint regardless of the fact that their own populations will consume more and more as time marches inexorably forward. It will not stop until the resource boom(s) finish. Australia is resource rich and will export whatever it can to keep its economy buoyant while its population increases unsustainably.

The growth in agriculture in China has and will continue to consume more water than the rivers in China can deliver. It is in pretty dire straits at the present time with water and water storage. The pollution of China’s waterways not only kills fish. Remember the Yangtze Dolphin (Chinese River Dolphin), extinct since 2007 despite valiant efforts to save it. The rivers spew toxins out into the sea and that helps to pollute areas that were not hitherto subject to pollution. Rivers that actually run properly and don’t become unmanageable during increasing flooding scenarios are decreasing.

Now extinct Yangtze Dolphin

There is one such unmanageable scenario right now – thousands dead and homeless in China from extensive flooding . One thing that both Watts and McGregor said is that climate change is not mentioned in China. No one wants to know about it and authorities don’t consider it. Whew!

Three Gorges Dam, Yichang - flooding

Until we started to muck around with rivers, they were self cleaning as so many processes were until we dipped our fingers into the ecological mix.

At the moment there is a dearth of potable water in the North West of China. Plans to pump water to the region are horrendously expensive. The water table is falling by a metre a year in Northern China. That is a massive amount – that means the underground water, filtered through the land and stored for thousands of years – not replenishable in our lifetimes – is being used more quickly than is possibly sustainable. As Mirsky says

“the North China water table now sucked so dry that it has become nearly impossible to plumb”

This historical stored water resource will never be sustainable, ever again. The problem of potable water is a problem everywhere. It is worth a sober contemplation of the ‘Water Wars’ that may not be so far off in the future. For some reason, I find that people don’t seem to realise that no new water is ‘made’. The water we have is all we have and will not increase in volume.

Of course, China will become more like western countries in that infant mortality will drop and longevity will increase. Growth at both ends of the population continuum is unsustainable. However, medical technology is not about to stop its development of vaccines and other health measures. It is the concern of medical technology to develop damage control measures. That means the global population increases because of medical interventions. You can’t blame people for wanting offspring who survive infancy. Neither can you blame people for wanting to live as long as possible.

All this has a cost and it concerns me that the majority of people do not seem to see or understand the cost. If they actually do understand, then they are making a terrific job of pretending that there is no problem; as though climate change and global warming are just part of a normal global cycle and what 6.7 billion people are doing isn’t having any appreciable effect at all on global systems.

My heart sinks when I think about this. I would like feedback but have little hope that there can or will be anything positive about our continued tenure on this planet.

More waste than we can imagine

Food Production in the Years to Come

Aerial View of my Hydroponics Farm, NSW

I had reason to comment in The Independent yesterday on the article I blogged about on the Royal Society’s undertaking of a serious new global population study to be reported on in 2012.

One or more of the commenters mentioned the need for more sensible and extended land usage as populations increase and more food production is required. It prompted me to write briefly about a small farm I had on the North East Coast of Australia.

It isn’t actually the best place for a hydroponics farm that is uncovered. The aerial photo shows the layout of the tables but not much else. The tables themselves cover approximately 2 acres so it is not a big area to manage at all.

I grew some in-ground crops as well. Good old rocket does better in soil than in the tables. The farm was 10 acres all up and could have been developed more than I did.

The sub-tropical climate is often unstable and the lettuce and herbs suffered from blistering heat in the summer. It wasn’t in the hail belt but received its fair share of water and wind damage.

So the best time to grow crops is through the autumn, winter and spring.

Wide view of planted tables

The good thing about hydroponic growing is that there is minimal land degradation. The nutrient delivery and return pipes are laid just under the surface of the ground. That makes for easy access for repairs etc.

The other good thing is that a lot of produce can be grown in a concentrated area. Because nutrient is delivered straight to the roots of the plants the turn-around time from seeding to harvest is between 6 and 9 weeks depending on the season.

The Covered Seed House

The seeding area is covered to protect the trays from damage and to concentrate nutrient in the first weeks before planting into the tables.

On full production, the tables shown in the aerial view can produce about 600 kilos (edit – I have reduced the output to a more realistic figure) of lettuce, asian vegetables and selected herbs every week. Not bad for a small area. You can see that if small scale hydroponics were used in small local areas, then the market in that area could easily be satisfied. All the produce grown on my farm went to the local Byron Shire area. There were about 5 hydroponic growers in the Shire at the time I had the farm.

The Netherlands and parts of Asia have taken hydroponics and aquaponics to another level. Hundreds of hectares are devoted to hydroponic and greenhouse food production with massive infrastructure. All the tables are covered in the Netherlands.

Practically all EU packaged mesclun, gourmet and other mixed greens product come from the Netherlands to my knowledge. Sweden is producing as well.

Nor is the style of hydroponic growing that is detailed in these photos of mine the only methodology. So it isn’t just greens that can be produced in intensive ways.

It seems to me that as more food needs to be produced, our eating habits will undergo change that reflects what we can grow with minimal land use.

The large agricultural conglomerates will always be with us and their economies of scale actually reduce the cost of food while increasing its nutrition. Agricultural science also has a lot to offer in increasing the nutritional value of basic food stuffs grown and eaten in the poorer parts of the world.

I heard a passionate talk given by Michael Specter on TED called The Danger of Science Denial. He talked, inter alia, about the ability of science to introduce genetic material into nutrient-poor basic food stuffs to increase the nutrient value of these food stuffs.

He mentions that the woo woo crowd calls genetically engineered food Frankenfood. It is dangerous to label things in scare-mongering terms while knowing nothing about the subject.

I know as well as the next person that humans have been playing around with seeds to increase yield and nutrient value for the past few thousand years. Corn, otherwise known as maize, is a big one. It is used in many ways today and is present in heaps of different processed foods. It feeds masses of people. It wasn’t always like that.

It used to be, in Mesoamerica thousands of years ago, a small wispy grass with a tiny ear of seeds called teosinte. It bears no relation to anything like the corn we know today. But the Mesoamericans engineered or created maize from teosinte and it is the closest relative to maize that we know today.

Food production will have to be addressed as the global population increases and land becomes ever more used for housing and other infrastructure. And land degradation from constant monoculture means that dust storms increase and artificial help is required for continued growing. I am not at all convinced that this is sustainable.

Royal Society and Population study

I am starting to sweat as well!!

More than One Too Many

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.