Those of us concerned about population growth and economic growth on a finite earth often feel we’re in a small, lonely minority. This feeling is intensified by the discussion of climate change. We hear plenty in that context about the need to reduce consumption. That tackling climate change will necessitate also stopping growth — both population growth and economic growth as we’ve come to know it — is the elephant in the room. It’s the huge topic we can’t avoid, but which, for now, the mainstream media hesitate to touch.
One cannot think about this without being troubled. It means the mainstream media, and in fact most of the alternative media as well, are avoiding coverage of the most destructive activity in which humans are now engaged. (No, I’m not discounting the destruction or tragedy of war at all.) So it’s always a pleasant surprise to come across an exception to this unofficial media ban on these topics.
My most recent surprise of this sort comes from the New Zealand Herald. There, Allen Cookson, a retired science teacher, offers a guest column which reads like a condensed version of The Growth is Madness! Story. It’s a short, quick read, highly unusual in acknowledging both the problem of population growth and that of economic growth. Here are a few quotes with my own responses:
“[Population] is the crucial factor in pollution, resource depletion, global warming and loss of biodiversity, all issues central to Green politics.”
“People must acknowledge that the Earth is, for practical purposes, finite in area and natural resources.”
That’s the gist. Amazingly, there are people who try to dispute that. They do it for financial gain, by the way. Many of them even have children and still do it. That’s just sad.
“If women are liberated from oppression, and education and health are improved, birth rates drop.”
Here we see the overlap between the view of environmentalists concerned with population growth and those, such as Betsy Hartmann, whose concern is directly for the women mentioned, to the point that population growth is seen as a mere distraction. In both cases the interventions should be similar.
“Our economic system… is unable to function without continued economic growth. Yet curbing greenhouse emissions requires cessation of growth other than that resulting from improved technology and efficiency.”
Bravo to Allen Cookson for standing up and shining the light on both population growth and the problem of ongoing economic growth. I feel a little less alone today.