Geboortebeperking en milieu
One of the Government's leading environmental advisers, Sir Jonathon Porritt, has called for British couples to have no more than two children to stop the planet becoming overpopulated.
Porritt schrijft op zijn blog al veel langer over de problemen van houdbaarheid van het huidige economische model. Zijn blog heeft een hoog Econoshockgehalte. Jammer dat ik hem pas recent ontdekte ...
And the mega-reality I'm talking about here is carrying capacity: how many people can the Earth’s resources and life-support services sustain on an indefinite basis? The answer to that is obviously determined in part by the level of consumption of each individual human being. But even if, by some currently unimaginable miracle, the richest people in the world today learn to lead what WWF calls "one planet lifestyles", does anyone seriously suppose that this would work for the next 3 billion people aspiring to live in the same way – and the next 3 billion who will be staking a claim on those self-same resources and services before 2050?
Dat is een van de kernvragen: hoeveel mensen kan onze planeet dragen? Alles hangt af hoe die mensen willen leven, welke resources ze willen opeisen. Als iedere aardbewoner het een recht vindt om ooit in zijn leven deEiffeltorenenPatagoniëte bezoeken, dan ontstaat er een probleem. Parrott combineert dus ook de demografische schok met de energieschok:
It's fascinating to see how many environmentalists have woken up in the last couple of years to the phenomenon of peak oil – the likelihood that we have either already passed or are very close to the "half-way point" in terms of using up existing oil reserves. But I'm not at all sure that the full implications of this have really sunk in. Our near-total dependence on oil makes it very difficult for people to envisage a life without it; activists in today's
movement are full of anecdotes of people’s horror as they become acquainted with this reality. Richard Heinberg (author of "The Party’s Over" and a leading activist in the Association for the Study of Peak Oil) likes to rub this in by reminding people th
at just three spoonfuls of oil provides the equivalent amount of energy as 8 hours of human labour!
De stap naar milieuproblemen is niet veraf. Het beslag op de planeet gaat verder dan olie.
Richard’s latest book is called "Peak Everything" – covering not just peak oil, but peak soil, peak wheat, peak rice, peak fisheries, peak precious metals and, perhaps most pressingly of all, peak water.
This is not just a question of more and more people at risk because of declining water resources. A recent report from WWF highlighted the invisible nature of the problem here in the UK. We ourselves are not "running out of water", so there is no direct threat to our current average water consumption of 150 litres per day. But each of us consumes on average thirty times as much "virtual water", which has been used in the production of food and textiles imported into the UK. Big exporting countries like Spain, Egypt, Morocco, Kenya, Israel, Pakistan, South Africa and Uzbekistan are all facing acute water stress – and it’s quite sobering to be reminded that just one green bean from Kenya takes four litres of water to produce. As we work our way through more than 4500 litres of virtual water per person per day, because of these imports, are we, in effect, simply exporting drought?
En dan komt inderdaad een logische gevolgtrekking dat al deze problemen een stuk minder erg zouden zijn zonder het enorme demografische probleem. Het klinkt dan erg malthusiaans:
Given all that, one has to point out that it would be a great deal easier to do it for 3 billion people than for 6 billion, let alone 9 billion.
Een opmerking die ik in het boek maakte, is dat deze aanpak van geboortebeperking in China werd toegepast. Hoe zou de wereld er hebben uitgezien zonder die maatregel in China?
That was exactly the sort of thinking China’s leaders went through 30 years ago: that it might just be possible to sustain a population of around 1 billion on China’s limited land and natural resources, but completely impossible to do the same for 1.5 billion. The "one child family" policy introduced at that time has pegged China’s population at around 1.3 billion; according to the figures the Chinese government uses, it would otherwise have been1.7 billion. That’s 400 million births averted.
Die geboortebeperking heeft gevolgen gehad voor de wereld:
This is where you have to start doing the sums. Per capita emissions of CO2 in China today are around 3.8 tonnes per person. An extra 400 million Chinese citizens legitimately going about their business of improving their economic standard of living, in exactly the same way that citizens of every single one of our rich nations have done over many decades,would today be emitting an additional 1.5 billion tonnes of CO2.When asked which country I believe is doing most about addressing the challenge of climate change, I’m only being partly mischievous when I tell my questioner that it is China.
Ik geef toe dat ik het nog nooit zo had bekeken: de Chinese geboortebeperking is misschien wel de belangrijkste milieumaatregel geweest van de afgelopen dertig jaar.
But logic does not come easily to the hundreds of millions of people who are only just waking up to the threat of accelerating climate change. To be told that the best thing you can do by way of a personal contribution to the problem is to have fewer children (or enable the millions of women all around the world who would just love to have fewer children to do exactly that) comes as a bit of a shock. If, instead of 70 million additional people arriving every year, we had 70 million fewer, then we might still have a chance of arriving at a sustainable future for the whole of humankind. Without that, we are looking at very long odds indeed.
There's a double irony here. Every single one of the multiple socio-economic issues that preoccupy campaigns today would be eased by full-on, government-led interventions to help reduce average fertility – especially in the world’s poorest countries. And we know exactly how to generate that double dividend: massively increase funding for education for girls, for improved reproductive and other health interventions for women, and for ensuring access for women to a choice of reliable and cheap (preferably free) contraceptives. That's what successful family planning looks like.
Yet to listen to critics of family planning, you would still think it’s all about coercion and control. Whilst only too happy to regale you with the shocking statistics about compulsory abortions and sterilisations (let alone very high levels of female infanticide) in China, they know nothing of the success stories in places like Kerala, Thailand, Korea – and even in Iran. With the full support of Islamic leaders in that country, their total fertility rate fell from 6 children per woman in 1974 to 2 children per woman by 2000. And a brilliant education campaign was at the heart of this success story.
The wilful ignorance of environmentalists is one of the reasons why funding for family planning and reproductive healthcare has been falling over the last decade, instead of increasing, despite a rising number of requests for financial support from countries the world over. The other main reason is the vengeful fundamentalism of the George Bush regime, which decreed nearly 8 years ago that no organisation would receive US funding if it so much as acknowledged that abortion is a necessary (though always regrettable) part of any concerted strategy on family planning. Great company for such right-on environmentalists to be keeping.
This is not some abstract lament, detached from the reality of people's lives. In countries like Ethiopia and Kenya, there are tragedies unfolding in front of our eyes right now. In Kenya, the total fertility rate declined from 8 children per woman in 1979 to 4.7 children by 1998. Good news - but then, funding collapsed and average fertility is now on the rise again. If the downward trend had been continued, the population of Kenya in 2050 would have been 44 million. On current trends, it will be more than 80 million.
It's case studies like these (both good and bad) which persuaded the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health to re-engage in this debate in 2007. Its report, ("Return of the Population Growth Factor"), couldn't have been clearer in its overarching conclusion: "The evidence is overwhelming: The Millennium Development Goals are difficult or impossible to achieve with the current levels of population growth in the least developed countries and regions."
So what exactly is going on here? The governments of many of the poorest countries in the world are crying out for financial support for family planning, but are not getting it. The lives of countless millions of women are devastated by their inability to manage their own fertility, and hundreds of thousands die every year because of illegal abortions or complications from unwanted pregnancies. But their voices go largely unheard. On top of all that, every single one of the environmental problems we face today is exacerbated by population growth, and the already massive challenge of achieving an 80% cut in greenhouse gases by 2050 is rendered completely fantastical by the prospective arrival of another 2.5 billion people over the next 40 years.
Yet most environmentalists will still find this article offensive. They will go on banging their utterly inadequate "over-consumption drum", and somehow sleep easy in their beds that they are doing "a good job". I think not.
In sommige andere media werd zelfs de link met het boek gelegd, zoals bijNetto:
Ook Geert Noels wuift de idee niet weg in zijn beststeller
: "De demografische schok heeft vooral vorige eeuw plaatsgevonden... maar de schok voor de economie arriveert slechts met een vertraging van 30 jaar. (...) Misschien moeten we het Chinese voorbeeld straks wel anders evalueren en wordt het model een wereldwijde noodzaak." Noels verwijst naar historische beschavingen (cf.
) die hun status zijn kwijtgespeeld omdat ze proportioneel meer grondstoffen verbruikten dan er door de aarde werden aangemaakt. Gecombineerd met een krimpende Westerse beschaving en een exploderende Oosterse beschaving zet dat heel wat zaken op losse schroeven. Geboortebeperking, het wordt ongetwijfeld een discussie van de komende jaren.