Friday, 8 April 2005

More thoughts on the population bomb

In all the current talk about sustainability, sustainable development, biodiversity, conservation of natural resources, one factor is prominently missing. Human Populations.

In the solutions offered, re-use, recycling, sustainable harvesting and all the other clich├ęs are trotted out, but how often does anyone suggest curtailing the urge to reproduce? Around 30 years ago, the subject was much higher on the agenda, and I made the decision not to reproduce, a decision I have never regretted, and as I travel around the world and see the impacts of more and more people aspiring to more and more material wealth, I realise limiting reproduction to one or none, is the greatest single contribution any of us can make to the future of the planet. Particularly those who live in the developed, all-consuming world. Britain is now in a panic over its aging population, requiring medical care and pensions. However, the reality is that young populations are much more dangerous in terms of the need for resources. The elderly often have savings and property -- the problem is they want to hang on to them and not use them for paying for their medical care and retirement. They want to be able to pass them on to their family -- and the greater the number of decendents the more they want to hold on to.

The argument goes that if the birth rate falls there will be fewer young people to support the ageing population. But this is a myth. If the birth rate were to fall dramatically, many older people would work longer -- many don't actually want to retire -- and wealth tied up in an aging population is significantly greater than in a young population. It's simply a matter of ensuring that capital is released in their lifetime, and not just passed on to the next generation, thereby making the gap between rich and poor wider and wider.

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