As we hurtle headlong towards the 7 billion mark and beyond, I find it alarming that in most environmental conversations (be it about fracking, climate change, saving the last 10 snow leopards or helping endangered toads cross our suburban roads) very few people mention our frightening capacity to breed and the fact that this has to be addressed. Pronto.
We all seem to tiptoe around the issue or struggle to make connections. But why? Why is it such a sensitive one and why are so many in complete denial? What on earth am I missing? The right to make more of ourselves seems to be so very ‘sacred’ to us as humans…and yet, we are actually behaving like a rather dim-witted bird – breeding ourselves out of our very own nest. And taking every other species with us.
Some jaded ecologists/conservationists (and I am sometimes in this camp when walking around a crowded shopping mall or watching housing estates pop up like bread mould) have come to the somewhat gloomy conclusion that there are simply far too many humans for there to be any chance of slowing down the rate of habitat destruction and the inevitable loss of species diversity.
We have thrown out a gigantic spinning top – in climate change – and we are all sitting around (on our hands) watching, waiting…. to see how it all ends up. This climatic speed wobble combined with swelling populations of increasingly poor, hopeless people will most likely (ultimately) issue forth a tidal wave of war over water, food and land.
And yet we keep on bringing more babies on board. Watch the population clock on the home page of the Population Institute’s website. Blink and you’ll miss another 10 babies taking their first breath. It’s horrifying.
The Population Institute recently released a report. It warns that our children, and our children’s children ‘are inheriting a world in which arable land and water are in increasingly short supply, food and fuel prices are steadily increasing, rivers and lakes are shrinking, water levels are falling, temperatures are rising, drought and flooding are intensifying, biodiversity is declining, the number of failing states is expanding, and the very future of ocean habitats is threatened.’
Once again though – there IS something that we can do. I found a lovely link to a comic done by Grist on the Population Institute’s website. It says it all. And cleverly.
I particularly like the WHAT YOU CAN DO list at the end. Number 5 is especially pertinent.
It really is about time we start talking. Loudly. We simply cannot keep producing more humans and adding to the bomb that is ticking louder every day. If we do….we face a very, very bleak future indeed.
Grist, the popular on-line environmental magazine, has found a fun and informative way to break down what 7 billion really means without being overly simplistic. “7 Billion, Unpacked—A Comic” does a masterful job of laying out why the 7 billion milestone is important and what needs to be done. By focusing on both the population growth expected in the developing world and the much larger impact of population growth in the developed world, the Grist comic talks about population and consumption in a balanced and insightful way.
While recognizing the challenge posed by population growth, it focuses primarily on the successes of the past and the benefits of continuing to expand family planning options for women. It notes that fertility rates fell from 5 children per woman in 1950 to 2.5 per woman today because of the smart investments that were made in girls’ education, family planning, reproductive health care, and the economic empowerment of women.
Best of all, the comic tells the reader what he or she can do:
1. Push your leaders to support family planning and abroad. (You can start by signing our Million for a Billion petition to tell Congress and world leaders to boost support for international family planning.)
2. Be conscientious in deciding how many kids to have—no decision you’ll ever make has larger environmental implications. Anyone who has more than 2 or 3 is just blatantly irresponsible. Sorry. (my bit in bold)
3. Don’t pressure other people to have kids (or to have two….’so that you don’t have that ‘only child issue’). Give everyone the space to decide what is right for them.
4. Push for better sex education in schools, and be frank with teens about sex and birth control.
5. Don’t be afraid to talk about population. It’s time to bust through that taboo. (One place to do that is Population 7 Billion, It’s Time to Talk.)
So check out the great comic and then take action!
Extract from the Population Institute’s website and link to comic: http://www.grist.org/population/2011-10-24-population-7-billion-unpacked-a-comic