Tuesday, 14 December 2004

The ticking population time bomb

While travelling recently I switched on the hotel TV for the news and watched an interview with a few of this year's Nobel Prize Laureates. Among them was the winner of the prize for economics. What astounded me was the level of environmental ignorance of such an apparently distinguished personage. An American, he upheld the free market of world economics, and when asked what would happen in a world with an aging population, he blithely stated that we would all carry on working, and implied that we would all continue to aspire to higher living standards and quality of life. Absolutely no mention of resources, and resource depletion, and no mention of what would happen if a fraction of the rest of the world were to aspire to similar resource use as is found in North America.

It is truly depressing to realise that there are so many people, including a significant number of world leaders, who do not seem the least bit interested in the impact that the burgeoning world population is going to have on the world's non-renewable resources. All we get is knee-jerk reactions to crises in Africa -- rushing medical supplies and food to refugees. Never really bothering to solve the underlying problems of what causes the refugees in the first place, and certainly not thinking about what happens when all those refugees grow up and have families of their own.

Politicians seem more intent on creating scares about terrorists, than solving the problems that will really affect large numbers of people. Terrible though the events of 9/11 were, they pale into insignificance, when we contemplate the impact of pandemics of 'flu, or the death toll that could occur next time there is an earthquake like the 1908 Messina earthquake. Should volcanic eruption of the scale of that of Tambora occur, the crop failures worldwide would lead to massive famines, and starvation would probably occur even in the developed world. As was said many, many years ago: The fuse of the population bomb was lit a long time ago, it cannot be put out, and it is now a matter of when it explodes, not if it will explode.

1 comment: