Population Matters

Empowering women and melted ice: PM conference 2018

Empowering women and melted ice: PM conference 2018

Sara Parkin and Robin Maynard

On Saturday, Population Matters’s 2018 conference, Climate change and Us: more feet, more heat? took place in London. Despite appalling weather in the run up to the event, hundreds of people turned up for a fascinating and engaging afternoon of discussions. Our international panel covered a wide range of topics, including the effects of climate change, its impacts on food supply, the challenges of empowering women and the future paths of population and emissions.

Ice, sustainability and food

After a brief welcome by Population Matters director Robin Maynard, the conference first heard from PM patron, Adrian Hayes, and PM Advisory Council member, Prof Peter Wadhams.

In Adrian’s arresting keynote address, he gave a telling account of his experience as an adventurer in Greenland and the Antarctic, where melting ice was not an abstraction but a daily challenge and danger. Drawing a clear link between population growth and climate change, Adrian proposed a more comprehensive and holistic definition of sustainability than is often used, describing it as “the most over-used and misunderstood word in the English language today”.

Peter Wadhams

Peter’s presentation amplified and substantiated Adrian’s accounts of his polar travels. As one of the world’s leading polar scientists with more than 47 years’ experience of visiting and measuring ice at the poles, he provided a lucid and sobering explanation of the impact of global warming on the poles, and the way in which the disappearance of polar ice is itself hastening global warming, and contributing to extreme weather events such as the March blizzards preventing some people attending the conference.

Peter’s talk also highlighted the link between global temperature variations and food shortages and price rises, illustrating how the production of many staple grains will be reduced by climate change. With food demand set to soar as a result of rising global population, his talk provided a clear idication of how climate change will affect hundreds of milions of people’s lives very directly.

Womens’ empowerment and global justice

Farah Kabir

Peter was followed by Farah Kabir, the director of Action Aid Bangladesh, an NGO working across 40 countries to end poverty and empower people in the global south, especially women and girls. Farah’s presentation – Population and climate change: a South perspective – also addressed the challenges of population growth and food supply but she concentrated on the structural and economic factors also at play. She warned of the dangers of focussing solely on population and family size when people in the poorest countries are responsible for a fraction of the emissions of those in developed countries.

Farah noted that poverty, lack of education, culture and patriarchy – control of women’s bodies – are some of the key reasons for population growth and that models of development that fail to address inequality and favour industrialisation and consumption are bad for both people in the Global South and for the global environment.

The population picture

The final presentation before moving onto the panel discussion was by Robin, tying together the population and climate change picture. Robin repeated and amplified Farah’s point about the hugely disproportionate impact of people in the developed world, noting the conclusions of a 2017 study that suggested having one fewer child is by far the most effective individual measure to reduce emissions for a person in the developed world.

Robin also noted that there is little evidence in contraction of consumption in the developed world (or globally) and that “contraction and convergence” (ie less overall consumption and emissions matched with greater equality between nations across the world) will require lower numbers of people across the board.

His presentation examined how even countries with low average per capita emissions such as India can still be major contributors to climate change if their population is high. With population set to grow most dramatically in the developing world, Robin emphasised the vital role that family planning and women’s education can play, highlighting 2017’s Project Drawdown analysis of policy responses to climate change, which concluded that family planning and girls’ education were among the top ten practical solutions available today.

Conference discussions

Judy Ling Wong Farah Kabir
Farah Kabir and Judy Ling Wong

Following the break, the speakers were joined for the panel discussion by Judy Ling Wong, President of the Black Environment Network and Ambassador of the Women’s Environmental Network. (Former Guardian environment editor John Vidal who had also been expected to join the panel was defeated by climate change itself, with his train from Wales cancelled because of snow!).

Expertly chaired by Sara Parkin and guided by written questions from the audience, the panel’s wide-ranging discussions covered many aspects of the issue, with a great deal of emphasis put on the value of genuinely empowering women. Panellists also addressed the failings in the political response to climate change in the UK and elsewhere – and what message should be sent to the British Royal family regarding family size – to which Sara Parkin firmly answered “stop at two!”.

Concluding thoughts

Robin Maynard and panel. All photos: @roxeneandersonphotography

Robin Maynard wound up the conference, affirming the sense of positivity and constructive engagement that had emerged from it. He briefly touched upon next steps, including the work Population Mattes intends to take up working with international partners.

Both speakers and audience members seemed to judge the event a success and we are delighted that so many people – many of whom were new to the issue – joined us in spite of the weather.

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We need your support to extend the reach of our campaigning, advocacy and education activities. Please consider becoming a member* or making a one-off donation towards our work – and join thousands of people across the world who are already taking positive action to change policies and influence behaviour.

* Free or reduced rates are available for students, under 25s, over 65s and unwaged.

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Three-quarters-of-a-million more little Britons

pregnant_womanThe Office for National Statistics has today released its “Vital Statistics” report for 2015. It records that 777,165 babies were born in the UK in 2015. With 602,000 people dying, the “natural increase” in the UK’s population (excluding migration) was 175,000 people.

This number of births puts our current total fertility rate (TFR) at 1.8. TFR is the average number of children a woman of childbearing age would be expected to have in the UK at current birth rates. A TFR of 2.1 is considered the “replacement rate” at which numbers of births and deaths will balance out in time. The UK’s TFR has not been above 2.1 since 1972 but “population momentum” and net immigration have led to a population increase of nearly 10 million people since then.

Population momentum arises because the number of women of child-bearing age in the population reflects the higher birth rates of previous generations – as there are more of them, they produce more babies overall, even though the number of births per woman has fallen. Only when TFR has been at replacement rate for decades in a stable population do the numbers of births and deaths actually become equal. This is why further reducing the size of families is still required to limit population growth. The 2015 TFR for the UK is also higher than it was at any point between 1992 and 2005.

The UK’s death rate (number of deaths per 1,000 people) has fallen from  12.1 in 1972 to 9.3 in 2015. In addition to birth rates and migration, death rates are the third factor in determining population.

Global picture

The UK’s total fertility rate is significantly below the global average of 2.5. According to the United Nations Population Fund, the country with the highest TFR is Niger, at 7.5, while Portugal’s TFR is 1.2 and Italy’s 1.5. Global average TFR has been falling since the 1960s but in the least developed countries, remains almost double the replacement rate at 4.0. Disturbingly, in some African countries the reduction in fertility appears to be stalling.

While the total fertility rates of developed nations are far below those in many developing nations, the environmental impact of each individual in high-consuming richer countries is far greater. A UK citizen is responsible for 40 times the CO2 emissions of a person from Sierra Leone. In emissions terms, the 777,000 little Britons born last year are equivalent to more than 30 million babies there.

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Population Matters AGM and Conference 2016

The Population Matters Annual General Meeting and Conference 2016 will take place in central London on Saturday 8 October, 2016.

The event is open to all members, and attendance is free. Members for whom we have an email address will be sent an online booking form that will help to reduce administration.

You can join Population Matters at any time before the event.

Professor Diana Coole will be asking: ‘What’s the problem with population stabilisation?’

The morning — with tea/coffee from 10.30am, and then commencing at 11.00am — is the business section, comprising corporate reporting and approvals requirements, together with the presentation of Awards. You can choose to attend this morning session or not.

The afternoon session comprises presentations and discussions. It will commence with a talk from Professor Diana Coole (Birkbeck, University of London) entitled: ‘What’s the problem with population stabilisation?’

Following questions, there will be a presentation marking our 25th anniversary, and some short presentations on our activities and plans.

This will be followed by discussion sessions, with audience participation, on specific topics chosen by members.

These will finish by 5pm, following which those who wish to will be cordially invited to repair to the upstairs bar.

A draft agenda can be found here.

We very much welcome and appreciate our members’ input at the AGM, and look forward to seeing you on 8 October!

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Population and Ethics colloquium

‘Population and Ethics: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Birth and Death’

Cumberland Lodge, Monday, 26 September 2016 — 9:00am to 9:00pm

Undoubtedly, many of the most pressing challenges of our age relate to changes in human population.

Yet these questions receive little attention from academics, and public debate is often led by unconsidered opinion and ideological divides about the ethics of birth and death.

Many of the most pressing challenges of our age relate to changes in human populationThis presents opportunities for interdisciplinary researchers to break new ground and make significant contributions to contemporary policy decisions.

A one-day colloquium taking place at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor, UK, this September will bring together scholars who can combine ethical analysis and scientific rigour to address these challenges head on, and to forge new lines of academic inquiry.

Researchers from philosophy and the social sciences, as well as practitioners and policy makers, will share their knowledge and concerns, learn from one another, and forge collaborative relationships.

This will not simply be a conference for the paper givers, but an opportunity for open and honest debate of challenging issues and fundamental questions.

Key themes of the colloquium will include:

  • The morality of birth: why do people decide to have children, and what role can, and should, morality play in such decisions?
  • The changing shape of society: how are large-scale demographic changes, such as growing life expectancy and shrinking family sizes, changing the dynamics of our lives, and how should society respond to this?
  • Human populations and the environment: how do growing human populations interact with other species and what challenges does this raise for our planet?
  • Optimum demographics: what role does population play in economic and social development, and is there such a thing as an optimum population?
Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta
Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta

The colloquium will close with a keynote public lecture entitled ‘Population Ethics and Earth’s Carrying Capacity’, from Population Matters patron Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta, Emeritus Professor, Frank Ramsey Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Cambridge.

Day attendance at the colloquium is free, and prospective attendees can register online at www.eventbrite.co.uk. Overnight accommodation can be arranged at extra cost, if required.

For enquiries about the event, please contact populationethics@cumberlandlodge.ac.uk.

More information: http://www.cumberlandlodge.ac.uk/populationethics

This article first appeared on the Cumberland Lodge website.

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Cambridge Uni conference to explore Malthus’s ideas

Thomas Robert MalthusA two-day interdisciplinary conference — “Malthus: Food, Land, People” — is to take place at Cambridge University this summer to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Thomas Robert Malthus’s birth.  It is expected to be the most substantial reassessment of Malthus, his ideas, and his global significance for several generations.

Thomas Robert Malthus (1766 – 1834) was the author of An Essay on the Principle of Population, the most famous book on population ever written. Since its publication in 1798, his book has never been out of print — nor out of public discussion, as its substance touches many currently-pressing issues: good and bad government; equality and inequality; food and agriculture; demographics and human behaviour; sex and gender; land and property; development trajectories, and economic predictions, histories and futures.

Historians, economists, literary scholars, political theorists, geographers, demographers, and philosophers will share their views on Malthus and Malthusianism in and for his own centuries, and for ours — a century defined by accelerating public debate on environment, population, and food security.

Jesus College - CambridgeThe conference aims to escape (although perhaps, if beneficial, to analyse) the bifurcated pro- and anti-Malthusian stances that have accumulated since 1798. Speakers will ask different questions of Malthus and his famous text, such as: What is the long history of development here? Was gender a key element for Malthus, and if so, what do the major changes in cultures of gender and sex mean for his thesis? How did (and does) the extra-European world figure? Does Malthus help us think through the connection between economy and ecology? What has the foregrounding of “climate” in recent years done to the principle of population?

“Malthus: Food, Land, People” is open to the public, and takes place from 20 — 21 June 2016 at CRASSHH (Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities) and Jesus College, Cambridge, with a dinner at Jesus College on 19 June to launch the conference and welcome speakers and delegates. The standard attendance fee is £50 and £25 for students.

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Sponsor our athletes this summer

Supporters will be participating in both the Vitality British 10K London Run on 12 July and Prudential RideLondon bicycling event on 1 August under the Population Matters banner to help raise funds for our work.

The athletes — Nick Chetwood, Linda Houston, Eric Stevens and Heath Buck — have created a JustGiving page via which you can donate.

If you’re in London, England, come out to cheer on Heath, Eric, Linda and Nick at the events — they’ll greatly appreciate your support.

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Baroness Tonge to speak on 10 October

Baroness Jenny Tonge, a member of the United Kingdom House of Lords and Joint Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health, will be the keynote speaker at our Annual General Meeting and Conference on 10 October.

Baroness Jenny Tonge

Attendees will get an opportunity to hear one of the foremost voices on family planning and women’s rights discuss how gender empowerment can help create a better world. A former spokesperson for international development and children, Baroness Tonge will speak about the benefits to society and the environment that can come from women’s control of their own fertility. Following the talk, there will be time for questions from the audience.

This talk is not one to be missed.

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We march against climate change

On 7 March around 20 Population Matters members gathered together in Central London to participate in the National Climate March. We marched in the event to call for government support for family planning and women’s rights.

National Climate March

The beautiful sunshine and warm weather fuelled our enthusiasm and excitement as we began the march at Lincolns Inn Fields. Our new blue and white Population Matters sail flags helped us stand out in the crowd, which was well over 20,000 people in size, according to the Campaign Against Climate Change organisers. Throughout the march, we handed out leaflets and badges and spoke to many of the people watching the march as well as individuals marching near us. Seeing that so many people were interested in Population Matters was great.

The event ended with a number of speeches by people such as Caroline Lucas, former leader of the Green Party; Fatima-Zahara Ibrahim, a member of the United Kingdom Youth Climate Coalition; and Francesca Martinez, a comedian and actress. The highlight of the speeches was one made by a 12-year-old who made clear demands for politicians to act now.

We hope to have even more Population Matters members marching with us next time!

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Join us for National Climate March in London

Calling all Population Matters members and supporters! Please register to join us in marching in the National Climate March in London, UK on 7 March. Participants in the march will be calling on the government to take action to limit climate change.

We are going to march in the event to call for government support for family planning and women’s rights. We will be part of the Women’s Bloc.

People protesting

The official assembly point for the march is Lincoln’s Inns Fields in London and participants are supposed to meet at 12:30 PM. However, the Population Matters group will meet at a location nearby at 12:15 PM and head to Lincoln’s Inn Fields together. We will meet outside the London School of Economics and Political Science’s New Academic Building. The address is 54 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3LJ. The Building is easily accessible from the Holborn Tube station.

If you have a Population Matters T-shirt, hoodie or fleece, please wear it! Feel free to bring along friends and family — the more the merrier!

We will be there rain or shine.

Please contact Campaign Coordinator Elizabeth Wells if you’d like any additional information.

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Runners and bicyclists wanted


We are looking for runners and bicyclists to represent Population Matters at two events this summer. We have places for three cyclists at the Prudential Ride London – Surrey on 12 July and for six runners at the Vitality British 10K London Run on 2 August.

Each place is free and we’ll provide you with one of our T-shirts to wear for the event. This is a great opportunity to help raise awareness of population issues and Population Matters as a whole whilst also racing in two of London’s most popular events. Fundraising would be a great bonus but is not essential.

If you’re interested in participating in either event or would like more information please contact Sam Alvis.

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