The 50th anniversary of Earth Day, 22nd April 2020, marks the one day of the year we celebrate the Earth for all its natural wonder, and try to recognise that we need to stop our rampant and accelerating destruction of nature.
Earth Day’s cause is lost, however, while we continue to add another 80 million people to the planet every year, all wanting a good way of life. In 1970, the wonderfully named Gaylord Nelson saw we needed to consider human numbers when he first began Earth Day. Nelson was a remarkable man, achieving a great deal for the US with creation of national parks and alerting the public to the rubbish and pollution increasing so fast in the booming and prosperous country. Nelson said “Population is the most important environmental issue that we face”. The effects of population growth were recognised then, and should be recognised now – even more so as our consumption rates are far higher now than 50 years ago. But visit Earth Day now and there is no mention of population. Why?
In 1970, following books such as Silent Spring, the environmental groups appearing everywhere realised the damage we were inflicting on the earth was rapidly increasing, and huge numbers of people took to the streets to stop the destruction of nature. Today, half a century on the world is a very different place. We have polluted and destroyed the natural world, as Nelson and others warned we might. As Pogo said – ‘We have met the Enemy, and He is us’
Other charities have neglected their founding principles too, by airbrushing out overpopulation, including the WWF. The WWF’s founder Sir Peter Scott, realising how overpopulation was swamping all their work said ‘If only we’d put that money in to condoms we might have done some good’. Visit the WWF’s website and there is no mention anywhere of the benefits of slowing population growth. The UK’s Green Party’s founders created the party following their realisation of the effects of overpopulation in the 1970’s after reading an article about the Population Bomb by Paul Ehrlich. Yet today the Green party never mentions overpopulation, despite its continued rise and huge impact on everything. Of all parties, the Green Party should aim to stop population growth, after all, a lower population makes everything better, from traffic, to pollution, to greenspace and urban sprawl.
Charities need donations. Donors don’t want to here unpalatable truths such as the planet being overpopulated. Their marketers prefer to sell the image of helping the cuddly panda. Political parties need votes. Voters don’t want to hear unpalatable truths either, so the politicians say it’s your human right to have as many children as you want, as long as you vote for me.
We know global population is scheduled to plateau at some point and birth rates have fallen, but given the dire state of the planet and forecasts of melting icecaps, depleted soils, mass extinctions, rising temperatures, acidified oceans etc, we can’t continue to ignore the number of humans on the planet. In 1970, none of these things even existed and yet we were concerned about population and the impacts on the natural world. Today we are facing an existential crisis, yet we continue to pretend there isn’t a problem and insist Emperor is fully clothed.
Now, more than ever, we must double down on lowering our rates consumption, but also on ways to tackle population growth. Ignoring population as part of the equation is like trying to lose weight through exercising, but carrying on eating a bag of donuts every day. And population is so easy to address when compared to consumption. We have the technology. The greatest invention ever created. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…. contraception in all its wonderful forms! Go forth and make love as often as you like, but without multiplying!
Plan your family. Have a small family. Think about the impact a new person will bring, for the entire duration of their life. Think of the limited resources we have that need to be shared out globally. As Bill Gates and others realise, contraception is fundamental to a sustainable future. Give everyone on the planet free access to contraception. Encourage small families everywhere. Don’t worry about ageing populations and how to look after them, that is a false argument and just continues the human Ponzi scheme. We have the machinery and technology to grow food without the need for the massive labour force of the past, giving us time to look after our parents and grandparents ourselves if and when they need it.
Earth Day should return to its original principles and make population awareness, together with free global access to contraception, one of the central messages for a better future. Everyone should know about overpopulation. Every environmental charity should be aware of overpopulation, increase awareness and have policies to halt and reduce population size at the heart of their cause. The leaders of these organisations shouldn’t be sleeping at night while this isn’t the case.