Difficult Questions about Population by Roger Plenty and other Quakers.

It is sometimes hard to find the right answers when challenged about Over population, especially without warning. Newspaper articles too can leave us seething, but unsure how to handle them. It is always worth answering letters in the press, as it can lead to useful dialogues. We have now published a collaboratively written booklet that brings together many of these questions in a neat, easy to read bundle, with information, graphs, cartoons, case studies, book lists etc.

Questions include,

Surely Nature can be trusted to solve the problem?

Isn’t it a question of Consumption rather than Population?

Is concern over population racist?

How can we possibly reduce the current population to 2 billion?

Plus comment on  the greenest action you can take, depopulation, how Bangladesh reduced its birrth rate and how the empowerment of women  is fundamental to the solution, and much more.

 Access the pdf of the  whole  booklet here

Paper copies of the booklet will be available from the Friends House Quaker bookshop and from Edinburgh Meeting House, when the coronavirus lockdown ends

On reading George Monbiot’s article in The Guardian 27.08.20: a Quaker responds.

Unfortunately this letter was not published, but several excellent letters were

“Many Friends will have read George Monbiot’s criticism of population activism in The Guardian last Thursday. His article is misguided in several ways.

He asserts that such a movement is motivated by ‘the rich’ who ‘blame’ the poor for the present crisis. To the contrary, I see no evidence of this. Indeed, President Trump, for example, and whom we must consider to be a friend of the rich, seems to be doing everything he can to deprive women of the right to choose their own family size.

 He asserts that the real issue is consumption, not population. This is a false dichotomy. Population activists are well aware of the need to restrain consumption. Of course we in the developed world consume too much. The argument that the poor of the world consume very little is valid only if we suppose the poor are never to get out of their poverty.

 He assumes that the issue of population only occurs to white people. I receive newspaper articles from around the world, via Population Media Center, and many, especially from Africa, bemoan the fact that in their country is growing faster than they can provide infrastructure to support it. This means that many in those countries are deprived of education, employment, clean water, sanitation, roads etc. 

He assumes that the object of population campaigning is always black people. On the contrary, activists also direct attention to the need to reduce fertility in the developed world. Recent research has shown that the act of most benefit to the environment that anyone could take is to have at least one child fewer than they originally intended. This greatly exceeds all the usual things people can do to reduce their emissions. It saves an entire lifetime of carbon dioxide. This is particularly true of the developed world

 He assumes that population measures have to be imposed on unwilling people. On the contrary, contraception and the support around it tends to be welcomed. A Guardian article some years ago stated ‘While the west waffles on about providing aid for family planning, Africans are asking for it. I met one woman called Hawa in a remote village in Kenya who knew about contraception but was living far from a clinic. She hadn’t been able to use it and was struggling to feed her five children. She was very angry…It’s not the west telling us to do something.’ The author was an African woman who was Kenya country director of Marie Stopes International.

He assumes that coercion is the only means being advocated. On the contrary, no activists nowadays advocate coercion. Successful and entirely non-coercive efforts to reduce fertility have happened in several countries, sometimes with dramatic results: notably Bangladesh, Iran, Kerala and Brazil. The consequences in Bangladesh, for example, are that ‘contraceptive use increased markedly, fertility declined rapidly, and women’s health, household earnings and use of preventive health care improved. Children…were more likely to survive to the age of five and to attend school…’

 He is particularly cruel, though unintentionally no doubt, in not recognising the human suffering resulting from an inability to access contraception. The fact that nearly fifty percent of pregnancies are unintentional, and the high rate of abortion, both safe and unsafe, suggests a huge unmet need for contraception. Many children are born unwanted and are subsequently rejected: such a child is damaged emotionally from birth” 

Roger Plenty, Nailsworth