How times change. It seems like only yesterday that anyone who dared to suggest the world’s environmental problems could be fixed by a healthy dose of population control would be accused of racism or imperialism or any other -ism you can think of. This week, the new head of London’s Science Museum says that reducing population is a much more cost-effective route to cutting carbon emissions than investing in renewable energy sources.
In a recent Observer interview, Professor Chris Rapley, currently head of the British Antarctic Survey, says:
“I am not advocating genocide. What I am saying is that if we invest in ways to reduce the birthrate – by improving contraception, education and healthcare – we will stop the world’s population reaching its current estimated limit of between eight and 10 billion.
“That in turn will mean less carbon dioxide is being pumped into the atmosphere because there will be fewer people to drive cars and use electricity. The crucial point is that to achieve this goal you would only have to spend a fraction of the money that will be needed to bring about technological fixes, new nuclear power plants or renewable energy plants. However, everyone has decided, quietly, to ignore the issue.”
He’s not the first to come out of the closet on population issues. The Optimum Population Trust, of which Professor Rapley is a patron, has published a report advocating voluntary population stabilisation programmes, concentrating on education, awareness and removing barriers to women’s control of their own fertility. A combination of high population and rising consumption levels means that humanity is currently outstripping the biological capacity of the Earth by 25 per cent each year. The author, Professor John Guillebaud, said: “No one is in favour of governments dictating family size but we need to act quickly to prevent it.” By investing in voluntary schemes now, such as the ‘two-child’ policy in Iran which halved fertility in eight years, it may still be possible to prevent the introduction of coercive measures by governments in the future.