Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Greens and Population: How many is too many?

The environmental movement always treads very carefully around the topic of population growth and migration patterns.

An interesting article by Madeleine Bunting in the Guardian discusses the green issue that dares not speak it name. This makes for a good read.

Greens need to grasp the nettle: aren't there just too many people?

It's the one issue no environmentalist organisation wants to talk about. Population. Thirty years ago, when international concern first began to mobilise about the planet's future, it was the pre-eminent question, but now you're hard put to get a straight answer. Does the UK need population management? Does the world need it?

I suspected the UK was crowded but I am not sure I buy this 2074 figure. We come down to forecasting and forecasting population growth is very difficult given the vagaries of immigration policy and other government initiatives. I would like to see the assumptions on birth/death and migration rates these figures are based on. it is ludicrous to base population figures on immigration rates in 2007 when the UK is booming and the EU has just undergone major structural reform.
But England is now the second most densely populated country in Europe, after Belgium, and at current rates of increase it could be second only to Bangladesh in the world by 2074. There are those who argue that there's no need for alarm, and that we can concentrate development in brownfield sites to accommodate all the millions of extra homes needed. But how many more people can you squeeze into cities that already seem to be choking under the weight of their population density - the buses and trains packed, the streets clogged and the parks on a Sunday afternoon teeming with people.

The concluding paragraph does however raise an important point.
There's no point giving up your meat and your car, recycling your rubbish and producing lots of children. The challenge is to have that debate while steering well clear of racism - or of the authoritarianism that lurks in the background of environmentalism.

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