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Page added on January 30, 2008

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Population growth is a threat. But it pales against the greed of the rich

It’s easy to blame the poor for growing pressure on the world’s resources. But still the wealthy west takes the lion’s share


I cannot avoid the subject any longer. Almost every day I receive a clutch of emails about it, asking the same question. A frightening new report has just pushed it up the political agenda: for the first time the World Food Programme is struggling to find the supplies it needs for emergency famine relief. So why, like most environmentalists, won’t I mention the p-word? According to its most vociferous proponents (Paul and Anne Ehrlich), population is “our number one environmental problem”. But most greens will not discuss it.


Is this sensitivity or is it cowardice? Perhaps a bit of both. Population growth has always been politically charged, and always the fault of someone else. Seldom has the complaint been heard that “people like us are breeding too fast”. For the prosperous clergyman Thomas Malthus, writing in 1798, the problem arose from the fecklessness of the labouring classes. Through the 19th and early 20th centuries, eugenicists warned that white people would be outbred. In rich nations in the 1970s the issue was over-emphasised, as it is the one environmental problem for which poor nations are largely to blame. But the question still needs to be answered. Is population really our number one environmental problem?


Guardian



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