“There are more people living today than have lived in the entire history of the world.”

The statistic came as somewhat of a shock to me, considering how long we’ve been around.  Humans as a species first evolved in Africa over 200,000 years ago.  50,000 years ago we began our migration across to Yemen and around the planet.  And today we occupy nearly every nook and cranny on earth.  But to think there are more of us alive today than ever existed before us…  Heaven might be about to get awfully crowded.

The statistic highlights the real challenge we face as a species.  The biggest threat to our future existence is in fact ourselves. Consider this.  China today has about 1.4b people, and despite a 1 child per couple policy, their population is still climbing by around 7 million each year.   Globally our population increases by 70 million annually.  By 2050, we’ll have between 10 and 11 billion people, up 50% on today’s figure.  If you think our planet is crowded now, come back and check it out in 40 years time.

For some reason though population control remains a taboo subject.  We believe we have an inalienable right to have as many children as we like, and any effort to curb this is seen as a impinging on a basic human right. China was largely lambasted when it introduced their one child policy. They were the first country in modern times to address population growth in any way, and yet despite this, their population is still increasing.

Western governments remain reluctant to do anything about population because growth helps their economies.  Immigration for example brings in capital, skills, cheap labour, and young people that will work for a long time before drawing a pension.  Wealthy countries such as the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia all have immigration policies promoting population growth via net migration.  The Abbott government in Australia seems determined to create its own baby boom to aid internal population growth.  Lord knows there are enough Australians already.  😉

The largest providers of immigrants currently are India, China, Pakistan and Mexico. From a human rights perspective we can argue these countries are already overcrowded and the rest of us have an obligation to ease their burden.  But in many ways this just compounds the problem.  Do we continue with increasing populations in all countries that have space until every last hectare has been occupied with ten houses, each with a family, a dog, 2 cats and a budgie?

On the face it, we clearly have enough people on Earth already.  A 50% increase will place huge strain on a planet already struggling with our demands.  As we increase in number, so to do our towns and cities that encroach further into already eroded jungles, swamps, forests and valleys. But how to curb population growth when most governments see it as a positive thing, and when the prevailing attitude of people is their right to bear any number of children?

In many ways, having large families should be considered selfish.  Three or more children per family places increased pressure on land, food, resources etc., and it locks future generations into a world of poverty and overcrowding.  We have become the ultimate invasive species and we seem incapable of even recognising it – Pete Bethune