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Monday, 21st June 2010

UK: Growing Pains: population and sustainability in the UK

Growing Pains: population and sustainability in the UK
Source: Forum for the Future
From the Foreword:

The economy dominated the 2010 UK election, but sustainability and population barely got a mention, either in the leader debates or the party manifestoes. Nevertheless, both should loom very large on the new government’s policy agenda. As advisors to Barack Obama have pointed out, the future for everyone will be dominated by scarcity – of resources, of land, of air space (for CO2 emissions). No economic recovery package will succeed unless it recognises these limits and seeks to offer life satisfaction and opportunity to all people within them. The more people there are the harder that will be.

The maths of sustainability is simple – the equation requires fewer people consuming less – yet we find it difficult to talk about either. Sex is used to promote consumption, selling everything from motorcars to magazines, but there is no ‘health warning’ about the possible consequences to the individuals involved or the planet of irresponsible procreation. Nor dare we admit to ourselves that greater efficiency in our use of resources will not be enough on its own; any savings we have made in energy use, for example, have been quickly wiped out by growth in overall consumption. Our human economy is, indeed, structured on the premise of growth based on more people consuming more, a diametrically opposed logic to the economy of the earth which needs us to do the opposite.

As the new parliament begins its work, this paper is designed to make it easier for decision-makers throughout the UK to address population as an essential factor in the sustainability equation. The context is the Office of National Statistics’ projection that UK population is set to increase by 10 million by 2033 – the equivalent of adding one Bristol or two Newcastles every year. We have talked to people around the country and brought forward some of the latest thinking in order to bust a few population myths and to promote sensible conversations about different choices we face. For example, the fact that over a third of all pregnancies are unplanned – a proportion similar to that of Africa – immediately suggests policies which could prevent economic and environmental costs, as well as personal pain.

+ Direct link to document (PDF; 2.5 MB)


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