Why Population Matters
Why Population Matters
Population numbers and global
Stephen Bown, University College London
Malmesbury School and Bath University
Global Connection Conference
Friday 5th July 2012
HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE THERE IN
THE WORLD TODAY?
This number is increasing by more than 1.5
million per week - about 9000 more mouths
to feed during the course of this one hour
through the ages
= 1 million
170 million to 7 billion!
(X40 increase in 2000 years)
One dot = 1 million people
Should we worry about these figures?
What will happen if we do nothing?
Should we do something?
If we should, what should we do?
THE AIM OF THIS WORKSHOP IS TO HELP
YOU UNDERSTAND THE BASIC FACTS AND
TO MAKE YOU THINK ABOUT THEM AND THE
What determines how many people
the Earth can support?
• What we eat and drink
On a vegetarian diet, much larger numbers
can be fed
• What we do
How restrained we are in the use of
• The balance between humans and all
other animal and plant life
In the natural balance of nature, any major
changes, we make at our peril
How many people can the planet support?
Global Footprint Network
Ecological Footprints and Biocapacity
(global hectares per person, 1961-2009)
This is all about sustainability
We want a good quality of life for everyone, now and for future
We want every child to be wanted, healthy, well educated, happy
and to have a rewarding life and to be able to anticipate the same
for their own children
• The way the human race is acting at present, this dream is
at risk, due largely to:
• OVER CONSUMPTION OF LIMITED RESOURCES
TOO MANY PEOPLE
Threats to our environment
Two sides of the same coin
World population – past and future
What about the UK?
(UK ONS – Office for National Statistics)
2030 (Projected) 73 million
DOES IT MATTER?
YouGov poll in 2011
80% said yes.
What affects animal population
Animal populations stabilise at sustainable levels,
but often explode and collapse
Are humans different?
• Are we subject to the same constraints
FAMINE, DISEASE, WAR
• Or can we rise above these limits through
• Are we upsetting the balance of nature?
• Why is the climate changing?
Perhaps there are some desirable aspects…..
What are more people and over
consumption doing to the following:
Agricultural land area and food supplies
Fish stocks (freshwater and sea)
Biodiversity and wild life habitats
Oil, coal and gas reserves
Mineral and plant resources
Weather and the climate
• NOW IT’S TIME FOR YOU TO THINK
Divide into small groups to discuss ways of making
consumption and population sustainable on our finite planet
Consumption: how to make limited resources go further
• Group 1: Food and water
• Group 2: Energy and technology
Population – how to encourage fewer births
• Group 3: Family and cultural considerations
• Group 4: Government policies
so where are we now?
• The world population is slowly stabilising,
but to a level where it would be difficult to
maintain a good quality of life for all
• With appropriate motivation, the stable
number can be reduced
• This requires reducing the number of
children being born
“The elephant in the room…..
….that nobody talks about”
We have identified ways in which the effects
of over population and over consumption
might be addressed
The key question now is how these
options might be implemented!
How many people will be willing to reduce
their consumption or have fewer children
than they would like for the sake of
sustainability on Mother Earth?
Ignoring over population is
like rearranging the
deckchairs on the Titanic
What actions are likely to be most
Education. Men and women need to understand the
consequences of large families and over consumption.
Overcome the “MAD TABOO” of not talking about population
Contraceptive advice and supplies should be available and
affordable (preferably free) to all who want them
Every woman should have the right to determine how many
children she has, but she must also accept the responsibility to
society and to the earth for each child that is born.
“Contraception should be used on
every conceivable occasion”
Good guideline: 2 offspring, replace the parents
We all love children – we want them to be healthy,
happy, well educated and to live in a sustainable
world. It can only happen if population and
consumption are stabilised
Decline in Total Fertility Rate (average
number of children per woman) in
Nations with Well Organized Family
Planning Programmes (UNDESA)
Good education; Contraceptives available & affordable;
People and the Planet
(report by the Royal Society)
Rapid and widespread changes in the
world’s human population, coupled with
unprecedented levels of consumption
present profound challenges to human
health and wellbeing, and the natural
Good news from the top: Will and Kate
Prince William reveals wish
for two children
The Duke of Cambridge has reportedly
revealed he would like to have two children
with his wife. Prince William made the
comment when asked how many children he
would like, during the second day of the
couple's Diamond Jubilee tour to Singapore. A
teenager at one walkabout said the prince had
responded by saying "he was thinking about
Source: BBC 12 September 2012
Supplementary slides providing further
information on population growth and
Further information for schools can be found
on the Population Matters Website;
“The Tragedy of the Commons”
EACH farmer thinks it better FOR HIS
FAMILY to put yet another cow on
the disappearing grass. Until…. all
the grass goes and all the cows die!
Population policies - Iran
• Declaration that Islam favoured families with only two children".
• Introduced free contraceptives - pills, condoms, IUDs, implants,
tubal ligations, and vasectomies, including mobile teams.
• Birth control classes required before a couple could get married.
• After the third child, withdrew food coupons, paid maternity
leave, and social welfare subsidies.
• Population growth fell from 3% a year between 1956 and 1986 to
0.7% a year by 2007.
• Was Iran right or wrong?
Population policies - China
• Before the one child policy, there was a sharp reduction from more
than five births per woman in the early 1970s to 2.5 in 1980.
• One third of population is subject to the one-child policy.
• Violators are fined and may lose their work bonus.
• The fertility rate fell from 2.63 births in 1980 to 1.61 in 2009
• However, the policy itself is probably only partially responsible for
the reduction in the total fertility rate.
• Criticisms: Was such a draconian approach required? Is it fairly
applied? Were there human rights abuses? Was the preference for
boys worsened? Do single children lose out?
• Was China right or wrong?
55% say they never intend to use contraception.
Total fertility rate is 5.7 children per woman, and
the women think 7 children is ideal. The men think
9 children is the ideal number.
Only 0.2% of Nigerians say they don't use
contraceptives because services are not there.
Overcoming this situation takes more than access
to contraceptive services.
It requires helping people understand the personal
benefits in health and welfare for them and their
children of limiting and spacing births.
• See: www.populationmedia.com
Awareness of over
population and the
been raised in
story lines on local
Population growth is a significant factor in essentially all
the major environmental problems we face today
FACTS, NOT OPINIONS....