Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Controversial post on population

The Green Party has a population policy. [Shifts on seat nervously]

This is it... what do you think?


Background and Principles

P100 All Green Party policies are based on the principles of ecological sustainability, equity and justice.

P101 There is a limit to the level of ecological impact the Earth can sustain. The number of people on the planet, their levels of consumption and their local and global impacts are key factors determining how far the Earth's ability to renew its resources and to support all life is compromised. Even within this limit, high rates of population growth, as well as local depopulation can have a damaging effect on sustainability, equity and justice.

P102 'Carrying capacity' is the term used to describe the population that can be sustainably supported in any given region. It is not a fixed number but depends on consumption patterns.

P103 There is a need to explicitly consider population since, if it is ignored indefinitely, the risk of over-consumption of natural resources will increase, leading to conflict and ultimately a reduction in carrying capacity.

P104 There are many causes of population growth and some of these must be addressed to avoid overpopulation. Causes may be as basic as a lack of family planning information and contraceptives. Inequality and lack of opportunities can result in people having more children than they would otherwise want. On a wider scale, it has been observed that populations often increase following wars, social strife and environmental disasters.

P105 Green Party policies as a whole aim to reduce inequality, both global and local and to make educational and work opportunities available to all, throughout life. Green Party policies also aim to avoid social and environmental disruption that can trigger population growth.

P106 The Green Party holds that the number of children people have should be a matter of free choice.

P107 Long-term trends in population size are proper considerations for public debate and government policy in order to plan housing, health, education and other needs.

P108 The Green Party notes that the population of the UK currently supports its way of life by consuming more resources than can be sustainably supplied from within the UK, and more than its fair share of global resources - often to the detriment of the people and the environment in producing areas.

P109 A measure of the impact of a population is its ecological footprint. The Green Party believes that it is essential to reduce the UK's total ecological footprint. To this end the Green Party aims to reduce total resource consumption, ensuring maximum use of renewable resources, in order to reduce per capita consumption. This will ensure that the UK population leaves a reduced ecological footprint, eventually enabling it to become sustainable.

P110 The Green Party believes that it will be socially and environmentally beneficial for a decrease in resource consumption to be brought about by a range of policies. These policies will reduce overall resource use, maximise the use of technologies based on renewable energy, adopt a sustainable approach to economic development, design, planning and infrastructure, and will promote socially and environmentally sustainable population levels.

P111 The Green Party has a liberal migration policy and wants greater global justice and equality, so people who migrate can do so on the basis of choice, not economic hardship. Where migration patterns increase or decrease population levels it is essential that social, economic and environmental pressures are mitigated in such a way which fully respects the rights of migrants and existing local populations.

P112 There is a need for regional economic and land use policies that are sustainable with a stable or falling population rather than dependent on a continuing influx of, often exploited, labour from elsewhere in the UK or overseas. The Green Party seeks a more balanced and just approach to regional development in the UK so that there are not huge growth pressures in some areas and none in others.

P113 As the birth rate falls, and the so-called "baby boom" generation approaches retirement, the population will be one with a higher proportion of the elderly and very elderly.

P114 With Green health policies emphasising the need to further improve health with prevention rather than cure, we look forward to a society in which people of all ages continue to work as long as they wish. This, together with the reduced consumption of resources and the increased commitment to social welfare characteristic of a Green society, means that the increased proportion of elderly people will be economically manageable. We reject an economic order that supposes the need for an ever-growing younger population to support the retired.

P115 The UK, as one of the world's richest countries, owes the rest of the world far more in overseas aid than it now gives. The UK casts its ecological footprint over the world reflecting the real costs of a high, and still growing, population with high consumption. A Green government would seek to help poorer countries to develop their economies in a sustainable way so that migration was based on choice rather than economic necessity.

P116 It is essential that women have greater control over reproductive health care. Many of the world's poorest countries have formal government policies - often assisted by development agencies - which further this objective and also thereby lead to more stable, sustainable population levels. The Green Party acknowledges that poverty alleviation and education are crucial for women in poor countries to be able to exercise their reproductive health rights and take control over their own family planning. The UK and other rich countries should do more to support initiatives - both globally and locally - which uphold women's rights over reproductive health, increase education and which address poverty and potential pressures on the global environment. Given the much greater impact on the world's resources each person in a rich country has, the rich countries have a major responsibility to minimise their own impact as well as provide resources to poorer countries to ensure that they can develop sustainably.


weggis said...

This is one I am going to have to read while sober. It may be a while.

Chris Hyland said...

I can't really complain about that too much, it really needs to be considered with the whole of the rest of the policy. If peoples education and quality of life increases (without an increase in working hours and consumption), I suspect the birth rate will fall.

Dorothea said...

Sorry to be blunt, but this is just capitulation to the forces of globalisation.

This policy totally ignores the “acting locally” part of “think globally, act locally” and England’s Green Party is thus condemning us here in England to a downward spiral of urbanisation, suburbanisation and hyper-intensive agriculture, as under current rates, UK population is set to increase by ever more millions over the next few years, thanks to New Labour’s policies. All the extra people will add to demand for housing, food, water, work, cars, roads, social services, modern infrastructure of all kinds, with the habitat degradation and pollution that inevitably goes with it.

The tens of millions of people clamouring to come here want,quite naturally, to get their share of all the environmentally destructive “goodies” that they know Britons have access to. The notion that the all too real growth in population can be offset by improvements in sustainability that are as yet mostly on the drawing board or in the imagination of environmentalists, is pie in the sky, as is the idea that new people will disperse evenly to under-populated and peripheral areas. They won’t. Experience shows that most will contribute to further densification and stress in already overcrowded areas in England like the south-east and the midlands.

The Green Party also does no favours to poor countries in washing its hands of the impoverishing consequences of migration for those left behind. For there to be more Sri Lankan psychiatrists in London than in Sri Lanka, for example, shows that the really poor are being abandoned by the skilled middle classes, with disastrous results. Poorer nations desperately need their doctors, nurses, plumbers, engineers, scientists and other educated people. Encouraging the brain-drain from poor to rich countries might suit employers who wish to dispense with training costs, but works completely against the stated aim of seeking “to help poorer countries to develop their economies in a sustainable way”. (P115).

The Optimum Population Trust has the courage to say that Britain’s carrying capacity, living as we do now (which will be an uphill task to alter) is only 17m. The Green Party policy you have here, by contrast, is heading in completely the opposite direction.

As to the number of children, why should having 4, 7 or even 12 children be considered reasonable, any more than fly-tipping, cock-fighting or drunk-driving. These things used to be accepted as normal, but are now rightly seen as selfish, damaging and / or anti-social and legal deterrents have been agreed democratically.

There’s plenty more I could say, but it would be rude.



“The UK will become an environmental disaster area if no action is taken to curb the unprecedented growth revealed in new official population projections, the Optimum Population Trust said today (Tuesday October 23).

The new projections, which show the UK population rising to 65 million over the next 10 years, 70 million in 2028, 77 million by 2051 and over 85 million by 2081, are significantly higher than the previous projections, published in 2005. In 2071, for example, the last year covered in the 2005 projections, the UK is now projected to have nearly 12 million more people than previously forecast.

“There is no parallel in our history for population growth of this magnitude,” said Rosamund McDougall, of the OPT’s advisory council. “It will blow a massive hole in any national climate change strategy, impose huge strains on our infrastructure and environment, seriously damage quality of life and make Britain one of the most crowded and stressful places in the world. It may well pose questions about energy, food and resources that we cannot answer.”




Joe Otten said...

OK, I've read that. Where is the actual policy? (P116, which is good, aside.)

Shouldn't the headline that the GP pretends to have a population policy, courting all the unpopularity that goes with it, but doesn't actually have one.

Would the GP encourage development in the rest of the world, or would trade policies have the opposite effect?

Did you all see the Newsnight piece at the end of the "ethical man" series where everybody, Tory, Labour, etc, seemed broadly to agree with your analysis of population, but, like you guys, couldn't think of anything to do about it.

All that said, I'm not convinced the scare numbers add up. I don't see why the planet couldn't feed 12 billion, and provide energy for them all near to current western standards. Sure it would be expensive to do it cleanly, but we are rich and getting richer.

Jim Jay said...

Joe first:
To be honest I think I agree with you to a large extent. A lot of this is reasonably obvious uncontroversial statements.

If there's to be a populatino policy it should look far more like P116

Jim Jay said...

Now Dorethea:
I don't disagree with everything you've said here but I'd like to pick up on a couple of points.

The OPT's figure of 17m is based on living how we do now - the key task is to change how we live (which frankly is less of an uphill task than culling over 40m people which I hope we're all agree would be seen as a horrid thing to do)

I also don't agree that people are clamouring to get here. The recent example of the poles is instructive - they come here to work when there is decent work to do and leave when there isn't. They're aren't silly.

The simple fact is that in the West the population is pretty stable - dire predictions of massive expansion choose to ignor this. It's the way we live that is the problem, not the fact we are alive.

What I'd like to discover though is when people say we should reduce to 17 million people in the UK how are they proposing to do this? Over what time scale?

By reducing birthrates we're talking about what... a century to start achieving reductions?

I don't think it's a terribly constructive view as its based on an unutterably authoritarian and misanthropic world view and does not seem to have any "roadmap" to how we get there anyway.

weggis said...

All a bit woolly isn’t it?

This is what is actually happening.

1. The ageing population is at or very near its peak. Those now in their 80s grew up in what we would see as abject poverty. They are a hardy generation. They had fresh fruit and vegetables, and exercise. No cars then. They could not afford cigarettes, sweets, chocolate or alcohol in quantity and there was no Fast food. Once they are gone life expectancy will fall. Modern lifestyle will take its toll.

2. Frogs can change their sex when the circumstances require it. Many animal species can turn off their reproductive system in times of hardship. We are an animal species and we do not really know how over population will affect our chemistry. There are reports of increasing incidence of infertility in both men and women.

3. Our social structures are crumbling. Elle Seymour writes about how difficult it is these days to find a mate [link below]. The incidence of singles still living with their parents is now quite significant even without those who just live on their own.

4. Even for those who do find a mate the practical difficulties of accommodating children in the modern context eliminates the possibility. Except if they are on benefit and THERE lies our big problem. One that we really need to address.

Nature works in mysterious ways. She will have the last word.