By: Ruben Oddekalv
Today, November 15, we are eight billion people on earth…….
We at the Green Warriors of Norway Association see little reason to celebrate. Overconsumption and overpopulation are the cause of almost all of our climate and environmental problems.
The UN Population Fund has calculated that the world passes 8 billion inhabitants on 15 November. The population has thus doubled since 1974 and quadrupled since 1927. In the same period, the number of wild vertebrates has been reduced by 63%...
In 2050, there will probably be 9.7 billion people on earth. The earth is already showing today that it is struggling to provide for us all, humanity is constantly turning up the consumption carousel and the world's nature and wild species are paying the price.
Loss of biodiversity, climate change, pollution, deforestation, food shortages and lack of clean water – all these problems are exacerbated by our huge and ever-growing numbers. Our impact on the environment is a product of our consumption and our numbers. We need to address both.
"8 billion strong, 8 billion opportunities, 8 billion innovators". That is the message that has come from the UN in recent weeks as we approach 8 billion people on the planet. But the reality behind the positivity is unfortunately a reality of limited opportunities and wasted potential for hundreds of millions. There are also 8 billion more, more, more and there is little to suggest that it is in human nature to limit oneself sufficiently.
8 billion is an important milestone for humanity, says the head of the UN Population Fund, Natalia Kanem, who is also pleased that fewer and fewer children die during or immediately after birth, and that the average life expectancy in the world is increasing. She goes on to say that she realizes that perhaps not everyone celebrates this milestone. Some are concerned that the world is overpopulated, but it is not the number of people that is cause for concern, she says.
Far from everyone shares her view. Sir David Attenborough, puts it this way:
"All our environmental problems become easier to solve with fewer people, and harder - and ultimately impossible - to solve with ever more people."
In Norwegian: "All our environmental problems are becoming easier to solve with fewer people, and harder - and eventually impossible - to solve with more and more people."
The gross inequalities that exist between nations and sometimes even within nations are a monstrosity that must be addressed.
Many of us consume far more of the earth's resources, and contribute far more to environmental problems such as climate change, than billions of poorer people in the world.
In a world where hundreds of millions have too little to eat and almost two billion are overweight, the distribution of resources is clearly a grave injustice.
But redistribution without slowing down and eventually ending population growth will not lead to sustainability. The earth simply cannot supply enough resources to go around.
We are not pessimistic by nature, but can't say we like the "hypocritical bloated" language around the milestone of 8 billion people. The way we have acted until now, we have already stolen the opportunities for, or destroyed billions of human lives, and Mother Earth is in a miserable condition as a result of the "modern" world's standard of living and constant expectations of increase. We fear that this language/rhetoric encourages pro-natal governments to increase their efforts to turn young girls and women into "baby machines". (pro-natal – the policy or practice of encouraging childbearing, especially government support for higher birth rates. Norway is in some areas such a state. Norway now has the highest fertility rate in Europe.)
We are realistic when we claim that there are at least one billion people without "future prospects" that should be subtracted from the imagined "8 billion possibilities". Of course, the UN goes on to say that we can only realize the possibilities "if we all act responsibly and take into account the vital interests of both people and the planet". Well, we believe that this is precisely where there is cause for concern: We have not done that so far and we are not doing that now either! So both people and the planet are already terribly burdened.
The truth is, that even if we were to manage what the UN suggests, it is already too late for billions of people and many other of the planet's species. Our pattern of action has been like a chronic disease/pandemic over several decades, which has particularly affected low- and middle-income countries where several billion actually live!
One of the most effective the means we can adopt to reduce our collective environmental impact are to choose a smaller family size, and to support and empower those who cannot make that choice freely, so that they have the opportunity to choose.
- We must challenge the conventional "knowledge" that more things, more consumer activity and more economic growth are good for us,
- We encourage those of us who already have enough to consume in ways that give our planet and our descendants a chance.
- We must fight the social, economic and marketing pressures that encourage us all to buy more than the planet can afford.
We mean no way that we have all the answers to how the problem of overpopulation can or must be solved. What we are very convinced of, however, is that we as a world community must dare to start the debate, so that the various nations and parts of the world can begin to make the good choices that will in the long run promote a slightly better world, with slightly better space and resource distribution for our descendants. The population problem will certainly not go away by itself.
It is now that we have to start the debate, for the sake of people, nature, the climate and the planet!
MORE ABOUT THE SOLUTIONS TO ACHIEVE A SUSTAINABLE POPULATION
1) STRENGTHENING THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN AND GIRLS
Where women and girls themselves have the opportunity to choose what happens to their bodies and lives, fertility rates plummet. “Empowerment” means freedom to choose education and career, economic independence, easy access to sexual and reproductive health services and ending terrible injustices such as child marriage and gender-based violence.
Overall, advancing the rights of women and girls is one of the most powerful solutions to our biggest environmental and social crises. Solutions 2 and 3 below are both closely linked to female empowerment.
2) REMOVE BARRIERS TO PREVENTION
Currently, more than 200 million women who want to avoid pregnancy do not use modern contraception. There are a number of reasons for this, including lack of access, concerns about side effects and social pressure (often from male partners) not to use it. These women mostly live in some of the world's poorest countries, where the population is expected to increase by 3 billion by 2100. Overseas aid support for family planning is important and necessary - both to ensure that the amount is sufficient, that the delivery of the service is effective, in hand with promoting equality and engaging men.
Around the world, some people choose not to use contraception because they are influenced by assumptions, practices and pressures in their home countries or communities. In some places, very large family sizes are considered desirable; In others, the use of contraception is opposed or prohibited. Working with women and men to change attitudes towards contraception and family size has been a central part of all successful family planning programmes.
Religious barriers can also be overturned or sidelined. In Iran, a highly successful family planning campaign was launched when the country's religious leader declared that the use of contraception was in accordance with Islamic beliefs. In Europe, some predominantly Catholic countries such as Portugal and Italy have some of the lowest fertility rates.
3) GOOD EDUCATION FOR ALL
Ensuring that all children receive a good education is one of the most effective steps one can take to achieve sustainable development. Many children in developing countries are out of school and girls are hit harder than boys due to gender differences. Education opens doors and gives disadvantaged children and young people a "way out". There is a direct correlation between the number of years a woman spends in education and how many children she ends up having. According to one study, African women with no education have an average of 5.4 children; Women who have completed upper secondary school have 2.7 and those with university education have 2.2. When families are smaller, it also gives women the opportunity to get more education, take up work and thereby improve their financial opportunities.
A UN survey showed that the more educated the respondents were, the more likely they were to accept that there is a climate crisis. This means that a higher level of education can lead to electing politicians with stronger environmental policy agendas.
4) GLOBAL JUSTICE AND SUSTAINABLE ECONOMIES
The UN estimates that population growth over the next century will be driven by the world's poorest countries. Escaping poverty is not only a basic human right, but an important way to reduce birth rates. Above all, the solutions contribute to reducing poverty. In addition, lower child mortality through better access to health services and improved financial opportunities leads to smaller families as well. International aid, fair trade and global justice are all tools that help bring the global population back towards sustainable levels. A more equal distribution of resources and transition away from our harmful growth-dependent economic systems is the key to a better future for both people, the planet and its other "inhabitants".
5) PERFORM THE SELECTION
In the rich part of the world, most of us have the opportunity to choose the size of our families - although here too we can face pressure of all kinds. When making a choice about this, it is important to remember that people in the rich parts of the world have a disproportionate impact on the global environment through our high consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions – in the UK, for example, each person produces 70 times more carbon dioxide than anyone from Niger. When we understand the consequences of a growing population for our environment and our children's future, we can realize that choosing smaller families is a positive choice we can and should make.
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