Associate Minister's March Letter

Population Matters

 

On February 3rd the Budleigh Salterton Festival Science Forum held a day of lectures on the subject of Population – a huge subject and one that is so important for the future of life on this planet. 

 

An extra 1 Billion people are added to the world every 12 years!  We passed 7 Billion last year but how long before peak population is reached?  One thing I learnt from the day was how hard it is to predict population but the trends are clear.  Europe has already reached its peak and most of the rest of the world will be there by 2050.  Africa is the continent where population is predicted to grow the longest.  In 2100 there could be twice as many in Africa as in China!

 

In the 1970’s I remember being very worried about population growth.  There were  only half as many people alive as there are today.  Yet now population control is never mentioned and funding to help people plan for the family size they want has shrunk to insignificant levels.  What has changed?   Partly realisation that coercion does not work and giving incentives distorts real choice.  Then there is the racial sensitivity when westerners tell others what is good for them.

 

I remember when I was in Pakistan a Catholic Missionary Priest taking women who wanted to be sterilised to a clinic.  Those women knew they had more chance of being able to live to see their existing children grow up if they didn’t wear themselves out having yet more children.  I don’t think he or those women ever regretted it – I hope their husbands didn’t either!

 

What will the future bring?  How will this planet be able to support so many people, especially when more and more want to live the consumer lifestyle?  Only when those who consume most are prepared to use less and go without.  It won’t be easy but cannot be avoided.

 

As Maurice Strong, secretary general of the 1992 Earth Summit put it: "Either we reduce our numbers voluntarily, or nature will do it for us brutally."

 

I don’t believe God wants that ‘brutal’ scenario to blight world’s future.  Let us all do what we can for a better future.

 

Christopher Cant


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