Speaking Out On Population
The Global Population Speak Out is a programme of fundamental importance promoted by the Population Institute in Washington DC. It is, they say … designed to bring new voices into the realm of population activism and public education. By demonstrating that population is an approachable issue, especially in the context of international sustainability initiatives and discussions, the capacity of the human community to achieve long-term sustainable living scenarios with our planet is strengthened.
7 billion people
2011 is the year in which the global population will reach 7 billion people – a truly unimaginable number of human beings on the same small planet as when the population was just a tiny fraction of that figure.
And it is, as we know, critically important that those of us blessed with (sometimes comparatively) fortunate lives and well-being in the so-called ‘developed’ world recognise that population is ultimately just as much an issue for westerners as it is for others elsewhere. It is wealthy families whose children happily will survive to adulthood which consume the most resources, not impoverished ones with heart-breakingly high early years mortality rates.
But how does this relate to the here-and-now in, say, the UK?
Half UK conceptions are unplanned
Evidence suggests that up to half conceptions in the UK are unplanned, and that about a third of babies actually born were unexpected. This amounts to more than 300,000 ‘extra’ babies every year in Britain alone.
Put like this, perhaps policy makers and service deliverers will become more convinced that they need to think very carefully about population issues on our own doorstep.
The analysis for 2008 just published of preventative work on teenage pregnancy indicates that the rate is falling, and that, in the words of Marie Stopes International:
‘When men and women of all ages are given sex and relationships education coupled with access to a variety of contraceptive methods, real reductions in unintended pregnancy rates, and consequently abortion rates, can be achieved’.
Cut the birth-rate and emissions
Writing recently about climate change and Cancun, the Guardian’s Peter Preston said that best way to cut emissions is to have fewer babies – but in his view you won’t find that proposal in any politician’s vision.
Fewer (unexpected and unplanned) babies would however reduce not only emissions but also pressure on housing, infrastructure and resources of all sorts, as well as on all UK (and other nations’) public services – whilst at the same time increasing opportunities for well-being for children and parents alike. So it must surely be just a matter of time before politicians start to address this vital issue in an open and sensible manner.
If the powers that be are currently willing (as we know they are) to impose draconian fiscal measures on the citizens of the UK, should they not also be willing to offer a genuinely helping hand to those same citizens when they seek to take considered responsibility for the size of their families?
‘Nudge’ or entitlement?
Call it nudge or call it entitlement, good and fully accessible family planning services are something which most people welcome and the state, in all parts of the globe, has plenty of reason to provide.
Perhaps you too will want to Speak Out on this fundamentally important issue?
A version of this article was first published on the New Start Blog of 7 January 2011.