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Population is not a front page issue

By Valerie Yule - posted Monday, 17 December 2007


Western countries have still not worked out how to maintain their prosperity with a stable population. They still fear lowered fertility, and have made a bogey of ageing populations, which need not be. Indeed, our increasingly healthy aged need less support than children. Almost every Western country in fact has a greater population than in 1950, and most are still growing. (US Census Bureau International Data Base population tables.)

Meanwhile European countrysides are filling up with housing. Water, oil and fish face future shortages. And millions of economic refugees in the world ensure that no country's population need shrink. Behind the beat-ups of fearing declining fertility rates and suppressing the real issue of world population growth is a different economic bogey. The paradoxical problems that are shaking the United States and hence the world are insufficient consumer spending and building construction in the world’s richest country. Yet it is this type of economic activity that most boosts greenhouse gas emissions.

It is possible for our capitalist system, which has always continuously evolved, to develop and be able to sustain prosperity without constant increase in material production, which requires increasing numbers of people to consume it.

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As things are, we can only observe. There may be no Bali declaration in 2007 about stabilising populations and thereby cutting the production of waste. Yet this, even more than carbon trading, would be a major strategy in cutting the human contribution to devastating our planet.

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Valerie Yule is a writer and researcher on imagination, literacy and social issues.

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