Given that I have never found snow in winter by any means newsworthy, only two stories have really attracted my attention this week. The first occurred on Monday in Cambridge when some self-righteous dipstick took it upon himself to lob a shoe at the Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, in addition to objectively assessing him a “dictator”. Presumably a more civilised form of protest was beyond the man, as indeed was devising one that was remotely original. – Further proof perhaps that our home-grown extremists and fringe groups look increasingly towards the Middle East for guidance.
The second story, seemingly unrelated (though I’ll do my best to shoehorn) comes from a statement from Jonathon Porritt– a man I once had the pleasure of receiving an award from – who chairs the government’s Sustainable Development Commission. He has called for serious global measures to curb population growth in an attempt to tackle climate change. In addition to making some very valid points about the need for personal responsibility in procreation, he also criticises a number of ecological pressure groups for their apparent hypocrisy on the issue:
“Many organisations think it is not part of their… You [friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, etc] are betraying your members by refusing to address population issues and you are doing it for the wrong reasons because you think it is too controversial”
Controversial? He’s not wrong there. Barely skimming through the list of comments on the related Times online page could tell me that. A large number come from serial breeders in the US who have littered the planet with numerous (presumably) like-minded offspring. More often than not god(s) or scripture are invoked as justification for such recklessness. Despite all this, the US isn’t really the problem; whilst their disproportionate use of natural resources and consumption per head is nothing to shout about, natural population growth has pretty much evened off. Same goes for most of Europe.
So here’s where the real controversy rears its ugly head. What to do about the vast hordes of Africa, Latin America and Asia? Whilst discussing this may ring the distant alarm bells of xenophobic and even racialism, cold hard facts are that the enormous increase in global population from less than 1 billion in 1900 to over 6.7 billion today (and potentially up to 9 billion by 2050) predominantly comes from precisely these regions.
Now call me cynical, but I know that even suggesting that this growth is a significant global problem puts me at the risk of attack from all sorts of agitators. Labels like Eurocentrist, Neo-colonialist, and even racist would no doubt be applied (and consequently devalued) to any economist or ecologist who seriously proposed large scale cuts (“Population reduction”) in third world population growth.
So this is where China comes in. Twenty-nice years ago, the Chinese government made what was, in my view, one of the most difficult governmental decisions ever made; they introduced the One Child Policy. Now I personally have numerous criticisms of the Bejing regime; but on this issue I believe they draw a lot of unwarranted attacks. Someone famous (I forget who) once said that government is about the “choice between the unpalatable and the disastrous”. The One Child Policy was an ultimate last resort for China; a last ditch attempt to avoid the population explosions and famines which have dogged the nation’s history.I’m not proposing anything so “draconian” for sub-Saharan Africa quite yet, but it’s worth noting that if humanity doesn’t take steps to limit our numbers, nature will do the job herself.
as the Tories once argued that it is not necessarily racist to discuss immigration, I will argue that it is neither racist, nor an infringement of human rights to talk about population. And it is a discussion that needs to start soon.
Comrade Chris Nash, BULS Controversey Officer