So at last the world leaders are beginning to realise that the human race is in a bit of a pickle. The evidence has been staring them in the face for decades but they’ve chosen to concentrate on immediate, short term problems instead. Even now they are talking about a shortage of energy, a shortage of food and the problems of human pollution without facing up to the cause of all these problems – there are just too many of us on the planet and we’re increasing in numbers very quickly. The Chinese leaders, fortunately recognised the problem a generation ago and, because they were able to do so, took draconian measures to curb the growth. In democracies these kinds of measures are not as easy as any government that tried to introduce unpopular measures would be immediately voted out.

In most of the world, and particularly in the Western world, the freedom of the individual is given top priority. We should all be able to do what we like so long as it doesn’t harm anyone else. A very good principle in theory but in practice there are problems, particularly when there is a shortage of something. The planning laws managed to restrict the freedom of the individual to build anything anywhere and thus protected the countryside, cities and towns. Now we need to restrict the freedom of the individual in many other ways to stop the harm these freedoms are doing. Most of all we have to address ways of stopping and reducing the population. If women were allowed just two children with the threat that a third child would be automatically taken away and given to childless couples and then they would be sterilised this would have that effect. (I suggested that it should be men who were sterilised but my wife pointed out that although it was far easier to do this it was much more difficult to police and therefore wouldn’t be effective.) A initial gentler approach could be tried – using advertising to make it obvious that having more than two children was unethical.

Of course governments would not be happy to do this because they would frighten the electorate – or would they? And such a move would be contrary to the way the whole capitalist system works with annual economic growth. Also there would be difficult times as the demographics changed and the proportion of people in employment became less favourable for the economy. However, compared with the disaster we all face if we do nothing these problems are small.

At the moment our leaders are still pussyfooting around. The Club of Rome published its report Limits to Growth, which sold 30 million copies in more than 30 translations, in 1972. Although we have not yet experienced the traumas predicted then, mainly because of advances in agricultural methods and discoveries of gas and oil fields not anticipated at the time the basic premises have not changed and we have wasted 36 years. Climate change has brought these matters very much to the fore but still there is little sign that anyone is prepared to tackle the problem of our increasing population head on.

Third World Charities

Many of us in the West give to relieve the suffering of those less fortunate than ourselves in the third world. We rightfully take that as a sign that we are caring civilised people. However many of us also are aware that in saving the millions of lives that we do we are contributing to an even greater problem, the over and unsustainable population of our planet. Some of us actually withdraw some or all of their support for these charities because of this situation and it would be to all their advantage if they recognised this and altered their policies accordingly. All humanitarian aid should be accompanied by birth control policies that ensure population growth ceases.

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