From the department of the bleedin’ obvious

The Beeb’s department of the bleedin’ obvious reports that the “Millennium Development Goals” are being scuppered by population growth.

Gosh, what a surprise. We’ve exported the culture of expending huge efforts on keeping every person alive, but done nothing to bring down the birth rate. So population grows to consume all available resources and then more. Solve starvation in the existing population, and more are born to take up the slack.

In the UK and other developed countries, we have brought the birth rate down without excessive pain (though not without a lot of suffering and struggle: see for example Dickens). On the way there, we got away with growing the population way above what we can sustain by importing liberally from the natural resources of the third world. Nowadays, that includes oil and gas, manufactured goods, and a range of chemicals that artificially inflate the yield of our farmland and give the illusion of sufficient food – even a surplus. But it comes at a terrible cost to our land, air and water, and other species. And Africa doesn’t have the luxury of that option: there’s nowhere left to exploit.

In the 1980s, Saint Geldof & co relieved famine. In doing so, they enabled a huge and unsustainable population growth, so subsequent famines grow ever bigger. We’re very largely still doing that. I was one who refused on principle to donate to Geldof’s campaign, pointing out that in the long term, he was only making the problem worse. We may be on the point of starting to try and do something about population growth (which is something I would contribute to, if someone persuaded me they were doing a decent job of it) but I expect I’ll spend the rest of my life muttering told you so.

Posted on December 8, 2006, in news, rants. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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