Population Matters

On track for 6 degrees

On track for 6 degrees

Just caught the news that the International Energy Authority thinks that, on current trends, emissions will double from 2009 to 2050. Basically, nothing we have done in the way of clean energy has affected the long term emissions trend leading to a rise in average temperature which will dislocate much of the environmental systems on which humanity depends.

Let’s hope we all start waking up, on technology, consumption and population.

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Mother – film review

Saw Mother the film last night at the Royal Society of Medicine. It has some great interviews with key commentators on population and sustainability, an overview of the history and issues around population and an insightful exploration of the challenges facing young women in Ethiopia. Worth seeing if you get the chance.

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For Earth Day, think smaller families

The single most important thing that anyone can do for the future of life on earth is to have a small family. The root of the environmental and sustainability issues we all face is excessive human impact and our ever rising numbers are a large part of that. Only 3% of Chinese people have a car; in the US it is 80% and China is already the world’s largest car market. This is just one illustration of how global per capita emissions and consumption of resources will grow over coming decades.

We need to do all we can to advance resource and emission efficiencies to limit future problems. Family planning is one of the cheapest and most popular mass technologies ever invented. Smaller families has to be part of the mix in discussions around sustainable development as we approach Rio+20.

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Birkbeck’s new population group

I attended the launch last night of the new Population, Environment and Resources Group of Birkbeck’s (part of the University of London) Department of Politics. Speakers talked about the decline in the number of demographers and how little recent academic research there was of the implications of population dynamics, so it is good to see this new group being formed. We wish them well.

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Africa’s underground water

The announcement of the discovery of a vast reservoir of water under the African continent sounded like great news, particularly given the prevalence of droughts, the hundreds of millions without access to safe drinking water or sanitation and growing demand for water for agriculture and a rising population. Used carefully, these reserves can provide a buffer during dry periods. However, scientists warned that they are not a substitute for rainfall. Rapid exploitation would deplete the aquifers, nullifying their buffering role.

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UK – drought ’til Christmas

The news that the current drought in the UK could last until Christmas is a reminder that water is a critical resource and one that cannot be taken for granted. For all the talk of climate change and peak oil, water is a key dependency as population rises, and one that will be further curtailed by climate change and lack of energy security. The many communities in the world which currently depend upon shrinking groundwater reservoirs, glaciers or water resources endangered by rising sea levels are particularly vunerable.

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Planet Under Pressure conference declaration “disappointing”

Attending this gathering of 3000 scientists and others, our stall attracted some interest and there were sessions devoted to population. Yet, the declaration, acknowledging our uncertain future, refers to population growth only in passing. Given that the growing human impact is accepted as the cause of all our ills, it seems perverse that the declaration failed to address the projected 40% increase in our numbers.

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When the stars went out

That half of the UK population cannot see many stars, according to a recent report, may seem a small issue when set against humanity’s need for housing, food and water, not to speak of climate change or biodiversity loss. Official responses focus on the immediate issue of public lighting. Yet the underlying cause is the acceptance by default of diminishing quality of life, and diminishing wildlife, as our numbers continue to climb.

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Population Concern groups meet in London

It was great to meet representatives of Population Institute, Population Institute Canada, Population Media Center and Sustainable Population Australia during the recent Planet Under Pressure conference. We face many of the same issues and population is of course a global problem. The number of population concern groups is growing as our listing shows.

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New play in London on population

Have just picked up on a new play in London on the subject of population. Called ‘Ten billion’, it is on at the Royal Court Theatre from 12 July to 11 August. Some performances are already sold out.

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