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Sustainability- We Need to Take the Pop out of Population Growth


If you are a regular visitor to EarthFirst you will be aware we promote the little things we can all do to have less of an impact on the Earth and use less resources. While doing our little bit can help, there is something even more profound that world leaders must consider - population growth. So how seriously are these politicians taking the need for a halt to an increase in the world’s population, and are they letting economics get in the way?

In order for the human species and animals to survive on this planet, the need for sustainability needs to be addressed more seriously. One of the biggest factors in the decimation of our resources is the ever increasing need for food, water and ‘things’ by a rapidly increasing world population which now stands at over seven billion.

Thankfully, in first world countries such as Australia, United States and Europe, our populations are no longer increasing, despite the government’s financial incentives to make it a more attractive option for women. Figures shown in this graph from The conflict: Woman & Mother reveal that birthrates have decreased in these countries since the 1970s.

table source: The Conflict- Women and mother by Elisabeth Badinter

So even though our birthrates in these countries are decreasing, our consumer driven society, as designed by governments and big business, ensure even though there are less of us, we will continue to consume more and more. To guarantee the continuing ‘economic growth’, which so drives government policy, the Australian Government is encouraging women to have more children. But at what cost? Increases in population mean housing shortages, more congestion, pollution and a decrease in the quality of life.

In third world countries population growth is still occurring with no evidence it will slow down any time soon. This is having an immense impact on our resources but how do you tell a poor farmer not to have any more children when his livelihood and survival are only ensured with the labour of those many children?

If we want a decrease in world population we need to address the issues that are causing it, which include (but are not limited to):

  • Better economic conditions for those in developing nations
  • Access to, and education about, birth control
  • Empowering disadvantaged women by improving their position socially, politically and economically

There are organisations who are lobbying governments to increase their focus on this important issue. Population Matters is a fantastic website which encourages action by approaching government to resolve this issue and has set up some initiatives which will help us to move in the right direction. 

I don’t know how realistic it is to ask people to stop having children, but maybe consider having one or two children instead of three or four. If that sacrifice is too much to ask, we can still consume less and push for reforms and aid that will assist others in poorer countries to have a better quality of life and education, so they actually have a choice when it comes to having children. I know it’s a sobering subject but it’s one we ignore at future generation’s detriment.

What do you think?