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Creative action against nuclear waste

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Nuclear power has never lived up to the promise of cheap energy for all, but the costs have included displacement and sickness to nearby communities, contamination of land and water resources, and a build up of 70 years worth of nuclear waste.

In the UK, the costs of nuclear developments have been borne by the taxpayer. Under the ‘Contracts for Difference’ scheme, bills for electricity from the new plant at Hinkley C will be twice what we currently pay.

This does not cover the costs of accidents, which are underwritten by the Government. Nuclear plants typically run overtime and over-budget.

By Chris Bluemel, Stop New Nuclear Network

Replica barrels of nuclear waste

Nuclear power has never lived up to the promise of cheap energy for all, but the costs have included displacement and sickness to nearby communities, contamination of land and water resources, and a build up of 70 years worth of nuclear waste.

In the UK, the costs of nuclear developments have been borne by the taxpayer. Under the ‘Contracts for Difference’ scheme, bills for electricity from the new plant at Hinkley C will be twice what we currently pay.

This does not cover the costs of accidents, which are underwritten by the Government. Nuclear plants typically run overtime and over-budget.

Nuclear waste

The Government’s consultation about burying nuclear waste is about to end, kicking off a five-year search for a willing host community with ‘suitable’ ground conditions.

We are presented with two options: leave the waste in crumbling storage facilities like Sellafield; or bury it and let it contaminate the environment.

In Scotland, new surface-level management facilities are being built but in England this is deemed too expensive. It is clear that we need a solution to managing the waste before we create more of it.

Springfields is where nuclear fuel is produced for both civil and military use, and waste processed from both the UK and abroad.

‘Surround Springfields’ on 27 April is an opportunity to follow the route of radioactive waste and to understand how this issue affects everyone, everywhere.

Creative action 

We will even be dressing as barrels of waste in an attempt to break a world record for surrounding a nuclear site.

We will also be having a live conversation with indigenous people in other countries via a webinar about the impacts of uranium mining and nuclear waste. You can join this remotely if you cannot get there – check our Facebook page for details.

Do we choose a long term, socially responsible and ethical energy supply, with a moral commitment to the wellbeing of future generations?

We need to come together and make the Government approach these challenges with vision and creativity, not with the poverty of ambition, opacity and lack of foresight that characterises the nuclear solution.

Take part

Surround Springfields will take place on Saturday 27 April. For more information, contact the organisers.

This Author 

Chris Bluemel is a music teacher and campaigner and part of the Stop New Nuclear network. He has been involved in a wide range of campaigning from standing in elections as a Green Party candidate to direct action against road-building, fracking, the DSEI arms fair, and Trident.  He is also part of the radical protest-folk band Seize The Day.

Source: The Ecologist

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Saying Yes to Food Sovereignty, No to Corporate Food Systems

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No to corporate food systems! Yes to Food Sovereignty!

Read or download the Political Declaration of the People’s Autonomous Response to the UN Food Systems Summit

Confronting the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, climate chaos, increasing hunger and all forms of malnutrition, ecological destruction and multiple humanitarian crises, we, social movements, indigenous peoples’ articulations, non-governmental organizations, and academics assert our commitment to food sovereignty, and reject the ongoing corporate colonization of food systems and food governance under the façade of the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS).

Industrial food systems, global supply chains and increasing corporate control of food governance are responsible for the inextricably interconnected and existential threats faced by our populations and planet, including the climate crisis, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, land and ocean degradation, air and water pollution, hunger, marginalization, and countless human rights violations. An extractivist development model centered on corporate control of resources, policy debates, and regulatory processes has produced a global food system that has most recently left over two billion people under-nourished and economically destitute. Furthermore, ultra-processed industrial products cause malnutrition, excess weight, and obesity. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to unveil both the structural frailties and global inequities of this corporate market-based approach – a failed model that continues due to deep power asymmetries and a lack of political accountability to ensure that public institutions and policies serve the public good and demands and needs of the most vulnerable. Urgent political actions, from local to international levels based on democratic negotiation and political consensus-building, are needed to address growing inequality across and within countries, structural injustice, gender-based violence, and displacement. The status quo is simply untenable for the majority of the world’s population, and unviable for our youth and future generations. We cannot continue to divert the majority of public resources and institutional authority towards propping up false solutions that serve corporate interests and will fail to tackle these systemic global challenges.

The necessity of rights-based approaches to combating crisis
The only just and sustainable way forward is to immediately halt and transform corporate, globalized food systems. The first step on this path is fully recognizing, implementing, and enforcing the human right to adequate food, which is a human rights obligation of States and UN agencies. While foundational, the right to adequate food is indivisible from other basic human rights, such as the right to health, housing, safe working conditions, living wages, social protection, women and LGBTQIA+ rights, clean environments, and civil-political rights including collective bargaining and political participation, which collectively should be central to any transformational process. With this critical rights-based orientation, public food policy and governance must put peasants, indigenous peoples, fishers, pastoralists, workers, landless, forest-dwellers, consumers, urban and rural poor, and among these women and youth, at the center of governance and policy-making tables. Governments, and regional and international institutions, must support these constituencies’ pathways for transforming corporate food systems through agroecology and food sovereignty. We reject any empty dialogue process which ignores human rights and fails to explicitly and meaningfully elevate the agency of these food systems actors.

UNFSS: illegitimate multistakeholderism enabling corporate power

The UNFSS 2021, initiated by the UN Secretary General shortly after signing a comprehensive agreement with the World Economic Forum (WEF), fails to meet these fundamental requirements. Established by 1000 of the largest corporations in the world, the WEF and its affiliates have been controlling the Summit’s design, structure, processes, governance and content. Large multinational corporations are increasingly infiltrating the multilateral spaces of the United Nations to co-opt the narrative of sustainability, and divert it back into the channels of further industrialization with digital and biotechnologies, extraction of wealth and labor from rural communities, and concentration of corporate power in national-global governance. The capital and technology focused agenda proposed by the UNFSS reflects these corporate interests and is politically, socially, economically and ecologically destabilizing. We denounce the UNFSS 2021 for disregarding the urgent need to address the gross power imbalances that corporations hold over food systems and this UN event, and we reject false solutions which will continue to oppress and exploit people, communities and territories.

Instead of being grounded in human rights, the UNFSS is a multistakeholder forum in which all actors, whether governments, individuals, regional/international agencies, or business/corporation representatives are portrayed as equal participants. But stakeholders are not necessarily rights-holders: people’s and communities’ rights and sovereignty should not be confused with private-sector business interests. While majority of the world’s food is produced by small-scale producers and workers, this individuated multistakeholder process gives outsized power to a few powerful corporations that control food, agricultural and capital markets. The so-called Scientific Group of the UNFSS impoverishes the scientific basis for responsible policy making: it advances narrow, corporate backed narratives and excludes diverse forms of knowledge and areas of expertise such as agroecology, indigenous knowledge and human rights. The lack of adequate Conflict of Interest safeguards in the Summit processes has allowed corporate-driven coalitions to position themselves as agents for implementing public policies with public resources, but without the accountability mechanisms, mandates and transparency standards of public institutions.

We will not accept this top-down, non-transparent and unequal process of deliberations that has resulted in corporate friendly “Coalitions of Action.” The capital-intensive, proprietary technologies and products proposed as “game changing solutions” will be ecologically destructive, deepen extractivism, colonialism, patriarchy and inequality, and open up more areas for corporate expansion and control.

The failure of the UNFSS governance structure has been laid bare, as many ‘stakeholders’ are walking away from the process and no political consensus has been reached among UN member states for truly transformative pathways forward to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda. In this context we find it unacceptable that the UNFSS, as a non-normative process with an illegitimate governance structure, is attempting to infringe on and undermine the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS), which is an intergovernmental system, and the foremost and most inclusive UN multilateral body for food governance, with the authority and legitimacy to lead food system dialogues and policy-making. The UNFSS does not have this authority and violates the CFS’s mandate and reform statutes. We demand that the inclusive vision and processes of the CFS be recognized and strengthened. We also remind UN leadership that the UNFSS has no mandate or legitimacy beyond September 23rd, 2021, and we urge our governments to defend multilateralism, and rights-based and participatory policy-making, as established by CFS member states regarding the rules of participation of civil society organizations and social movements.

Food sovereignty for food system transformation

The struggle for sustainable, just and healthy food systems cannot be unhooked from the realities of the peoples whose rights, knowledge and livelihoods have gone unrecognized and disrespected. We have the viable solutions to address the systemic problems in our food systems. As we have demanded in our People’s Autonomous Response to the UN Food Systems Summit, the transformation of food systems must be ecological and socially transformative, putting forward a feminist vision of equality and justice. Since 1996, social movements and civil society have been building a global movement and community-based processes of governance around the vision of food sovereignty, based on agroecology, and the rights and aspirations of small-scale food producers, workers, indigenous peoples, women, youth and rural-urban communities.

In this 25th year anniversary of food sovereignty, we reaffirm our unity and commitment to push for radically transformative strategies which recognize peoples’ needs, accord dignity, respect nature, put people above profits, resist corporate capture, and work collectively towards a fair and decent food system for all.

Source: CSM: Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples Mechanism

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La Via Campesina: The UN Food Systems Summit is hogwash. It is a threat to peoples’ food sovereignty

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La Via Campesina’s Press Statement | September 22nd 2021, Harare:

La Via Campesina is among scores of other social movements of organized small-scale food producers, workers and indigenous people boycotting the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS), slated to take place in New York – September 23rd, 2021. Peoples’ movements are united in condemning the illegitimacy of this ‘summit’ and in denouncing the attempt by transnational corporations to usurp the institutional spaces within the United Nations.

Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples’ Mechanism (CSM) that comprise social movements including La Via Campesina has pointed out that the pre-summit events held in July are now erecting parallel governance structures. UNFSS is undermining the existing institutions and multilateral bodies responsible for developing global policy frameworks for food and agriculture. Several member states are left wondering what this Summit intends to achieve and whether its outcomes would be binding upon developing national policy frameworks. It will override the existing institutions such as the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) and forebodes a corporate takeover of the global food governance.

For sure, the global food systems must undergo a radical overhaul. Rising hunger, ecological harm from food production, including deforestation, soil degradation, loss of biodiversity, decimated fisheries, polluted waters, growing rural poverty, the continued repression of peasant and indigenous movements worldwide, displacement and climate crises – all point to the need for urgent transformation. The demand to transform the global food system and skew it in favour of small-scale food producers has been a long-standing one, stated first during the Civil Society Forum in Rome in 1996.

Yet when the Secretary-General of the United Nations announced two years ago that a Food Systems Summit (FSS) would be held in late 2021, the news was puzzling. Why did the Secretary-General initiate this food summit in partnership with the World Economic Forum – a private sector body – when the FAO hosted all the previous editions after specific mandates from the Members States? To leave no further doubt about the corporate interests driving the Food System Summit, the Special Envoy appointed for the Summit, Agnes Kalibata, is the president of Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). This Gates/Rockefeller funded agency is pushing high input, high tech agriculture and GMO seeds. Founded in 2006, this Alliance has worked in 13 African countries to increase productivity for 30 million smallholder farming households by encouraging industrial farming adoption. Despite AGRA’s promises of doubling crop productivity and incomes while halving food insecurity by 2020, backed by billions of donor dollars, it has been unable to provide documentation of delivering on these goals. AGRA’s failures on the continent and Ms Kalibata’s apparent conflicts of interest in her role as UNFSS Special Envoy resulted in broad resistance from social movements and civil society.

The farce of ‘inclusiveness.’

The Summit organizers follow a multi-stakeholder approach as against a multilateral arrangement. Multilateral Summits, based on human rights, with transparent decision-making processes and accountability mechanisms, are meant to prioritize the voices of rights-holders and hold governments responsible for upholding those rights. But this “UN Food Systems Summit” is based on the idea of “multi-stakeholder” – treating all stakeholders as equal, without considering power imbalances or their position in the system. This fiction of equality leaves the powerful both unchallenged and unaccountable, hiding or ignoring any conflicts of interest. By conflating private corporate interests with the public interest, it overrides and erases the latter. To advertise “inclusiveness”, it has proliferated a dizzying array of platforms, dialogues, consultations, committees, documents and forums for participation. Private citizens and governments are being drawn into these processes. Some of these are open, but many are for invited participants, bypassing and undermining autonomous, democratic organizations while favouring hand-picked individuals. The entire process lacks transparency and legitimacy. Who is making decisions? On what grounds? Who is accountable? To whom?

The guise of progressive language

In July this year, La Via Campesina was among the members of the CSM that co-organized counter mobilizations – to call out the unacceptability that has come to define this year’s food systems summit. A wide variety of attendees came together and catalyzed and amplified a counter-narrative to the official proceedings. With critical articles and pieces published in major media outlets, and several thousands of #FoodSystems4People posts on social media seen by potentially 10 million users, the counter-mobilization succeeded in reaching a broad public with its vision for genuine transformation of unsustainable food systems.

This organized resistance rattled the organizers of the official Summit. In response, they have now ramped up the use of progressive language (“sustainability”, “nature-positive-solutions”, “planetary boundaries”, “women’s empowerment”, etc.) and references to human rights in their documents. But the primary orientation of the FSS remains firmly rooted in the corporate interests that initiated it rather than the demands and rights of people producing food and those most impacted by current food systems. It continues to confirm a narrow range of scientific partisans data while ignoring the traditional and experiential knowledge of small-scale farmers, indigenous, peasant, and rural peoples. Digitalization, genetic modification, precision agriculture, and other chemical-, capital-, and fossil fuel-heavy approaches are taking centre stage because these so-called solutions are the most profitable to corporations (at the expense of the environment and farmers’ livelihoods).

As the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food notes, “Intensive industrial agriculture relies on high-input, high-output agricultural systems, dominated by large-scale specialized farms. Ever since Governments started adopting the Green Revolution in the 1950s, the world’s food systems have been increasingly designed along industrial models, the idea being that if people can purchase industrial inputs – synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and carbon-reliant machines – then they can produce a large amount of food. Productivity was not measured in terms of human and environmental health, but exclusively in terms of commodity output and economic growth.”

Unfortunately, the UN Food Systems Summit ignores all these warnings and continues to bat for an intensive corporate-led agricultural model that masquerades as “solutions”.

Forebodings of a new global governance structure?

This Summit attacks from the front and will undermine existing global policymaking spaces and institutions like FAO and the CFS. Instead, it erects a parallel architecture to suit agribusiness interests. The Summit organizers are now encouraging stakeholders to form “coalitions of action” to implement “solutions”. Governments are encouraged to develop “national pathways” with stakeholder coalitions, many of which will inevitably be dominated by those who can afford to fund them. Middle and Low-income countries are vulnerable to entering “coalitions” with investors and philanthrocapitalists, such as the Gates Foundation, to carve out “national pathways” profitable for their coalition partners.

The resistance to this parallel structure is coming from within the official Summit too. In her resignation letter (dated August 25/21), Dr Kristy Buckley, Chair of the UNFSS Governance Action Area, derided the attempts to view the global food governance “through the lens of innovation, finance, technology and data, with no regard to human rights, gender, and Indigenous Peoples”. Her statement is a vindication of what social movements have been warning for a long time.

The real solution to climate crises, hunger, distress migration and extreme poverty lies with the people. It must emerge from the principles of food sovereignty and social justice. It must recognize food as a fundamental human right and not as a commodity for speculative trade. It must respect the diverse agroecological small-scale food systems that exist in our territories.

The “UN Food Systems Summit” of 2021 is an anti-thesis to these principles and threatens peoples’ food sovereignty. La Via Campesina will not remain silent. The UNFSS has no mandate, legitimacy, or authority to extend beyond September 23rd, 2021. We must prevent the Summit’s corporate affiliates from further embedding the multi-stakeholder structure into the UN food and agriculture agencies. Throughout this week, La Via Campesina’s member organization will hold counter mobilizations in Asia, Africa and Europe. Our North American members and allies will be holding a virtual counter-summit on September 23rd to expose the real agenda behind this Summit while also presenting the elements of the radical transformation we seek in the global food systems.

Source: La Via Campesina

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Economics

Our Population Challenge Beyond Climate Change

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Do we plan for a secure and better life, or carry on blindly toward a minefield of lethal limits? 

 

By Brian McGavin, writer and environmentalist, is a director of Scientists Warning Europe. 

Most people are left in ignorance by politicians and mainstream media, who rarely think beyond the here and now. When informed about unsustainable consumption and human population growth they are shocked or deny the depth of interconnected challenges and the steps we need to take for a sustainable future, that go well beyond action on climate change.

 

The media invariably cloak population growth in terms of ‘increased demand’ – which narrow thinking growth economists portray as ‘good’ for growth. The key driver of overpopulation is at best ignored for ‘downstream’ sticking plaster responses by politicians and too often by ‘Greens’ who target ‘rights’ over ecological and resource realities.

 

“There is no social justice on a wrecked planet” –Brian McGavin

 

The type of powerful question put to former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders – and his reply was notable. We need to frame more clear questions to our politicians like this.

 

“Human population growth has more than doubled in the past 50 years. The planet cannot sustain this growth. I realize this is a poisonous topic for politicians, but it’s crucial to face. Empowering women and educating everyone on the need to curb population growth seems a reasonable campaign to enact. Would you be courageous enough to discuss this issue and make it a key feature of a plan to address climate catastrophe?”  

Sanders responded unambiguously: “Well, Martha, the answer is yes.”

 

Issue avoidance

A WWF reference to ‘mitigate human and elephant conflict’ in a newsletter doesn’t shout ever more human overpopulation pressure as a causal factor, or anything WWF wants to do about this. WWF advertising is a constant reset button of ‘save’ animals and give money so we can fight this decline – and it has been going on for over 50 years as our amazing bio-diversity crashes. NGOs and politicians need to engage in a much more honest dialog.

We face Systemic Population Denialism that is intellectually bankrupt and dangerously ignorant.  Where drastic exaggeration is used by people resistant to reality. When we raise our voices, we are obstructed by ill-informed media commentators with predicable recycled challenges on ageing population scares and how we need to increase births and immigration. Low birth-rate countries like Japan are NOT suffering a socio-economic crisis – and there are still 38 million people in the Tokyo metropolis alone!

Former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger observes:

‘Good democracy relies on good information’.

 

Professor John Beddington, UK Government Chief Scientist in March 2009 warned that:

Our food reserves are at a 50-year low, but by 2030 we need to be producing 50% more food, we will need 50% more energy, and 30% more fresh water.”  

In 2017 over 20,000 scientist in 189 countries signed a Second Warning to Humanity, warning that humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in solving foreseen environmental challenges and most of them are getting much worse.

We simply don’t have the time for a gradualist message and we have to speed up the timeframe for action in people’s minds. Simplistic propositions by ill-informed, growthist commentators that developed economies were ideally placed to take in Africa’s exploding populations need shredding. Nor are we facing a ‘fertility collapse’, as growth pundits try to claim.

If governments won’t talk population, then they are not serious about cutting emissions, ensuring food supplies and a secure quality of life for our future.

At the heart of green politics is the simple premise that our prosperity depends completely on a healthy, functioning planet. Go on abusing the planet, go on ignoring climate change, go on ignoring population growth, and all else fails – including our deepest yearning for human rights.  (Jonathon Porritt, environmentalist)

We face huge interconnected challenges but it is easier to attract support for simple projects like saving a forest, than addressing ‘big-picture’ global problems. Major environmental groups keep their marketing too simple for the scale of the problems. Many environmental problems impact poor communities, but the social justice movement shows little interest in working with environmentalists on key challenges like biodiversity, resource depletion and overpopulation, deeming the latter as a racist agenda. We need to be clear and assertive not apologetic.

Environmental groups like XR and WWF talk about climate breakdown and ecological collapse but refuse to acknowledge the underlying over population demand driver, as they see it as ‘divisive, threatening or toxic’.

Unless we work collectively and stop creating wilful barriers of ignorance, because it might disturb people’s beliefs and comfort zones, we are leading our children to the abyss. A toxic intergenerational contract.

 

The ‘coercion’ taboo

Population concern organisations often run scared of any hint of population coercion. This can’t be sustained much longer as key resources decline and societies start to fall apart. In fact, society readily accepts values that could be interpreted as ‘coercive’ for the common good, with legal sanctions on the ‘freedom’ to drive at high speed in built up areas and fiscal incentives to discourage harmful behaviour. If we are to have any chance of a sustainable future we need to ‘incentivise’ fewer births rather than more, through the tax system and increase understanding so people make informed, socially responsible decisions in family size rather than merely saying it’s an individual choice.

 

Many people driven by self-centred beliefs will completely ignore calls for socially responsible decisions if this is all we are prepared to say. Yet social justice lobbies call for us to change to a vegan diet and travel less to compensate for ‘unavoidable’ population growth pressures.

 

 A long-term sustainable population is a ‘life-affirming’ message with many benefits for living standards and reduced infrastructure pressures.

 

Several countries, like Taiwan, Japan, Iran and Bangladesh) have transitioned to lower birth rates without coercion.

What about the rights of children to a sustainable future, rather than the ‘rights’ of parents to have large families?

 

The Ageing Population Scare – a transition not a crisis. The challenge of supporting aging populations is grossly over emphasized.  We spend more on cosmetics than we will need to support a temporary rise in older people. It is a phony argument that we need more people and more immigration to support ageing populations. Young people generally cost society more – in crime, in education and other ways. With typical short-term vision, we forget that all these extra young people get old too and will need support. The media and politicians never highlight this.

Mainstream media invariably frames any population decline as a ‘bad’ that has to be reversed for our continued well-being and economic growth.

 

A typical example appeared in The Times (UK) July 4, 2019 headlining Italian birth rates fall to lowest since 1861, “Prompting fears that the country is facing a sharp demographic decline.” “Russia is facing an even graver demographic crisis after the UN warned that its population could fall to half the present level by the end of the century.”

 

Another country with a ‘worryingly’ declining population is ‘stagnant’ Japan.  Yet the greater Tokyo metropolis is currently the world’s most populated city at around 38 million. Japan is well organised and on current fertility rates is projected to leave the list of world’s largest cities to be replaced before 2100 by Lagos at 88 million, Kinshasa 83m and Kabul in 10th place at 50m. (Population predictions for the world’s largest cities in the 21st century, Daniel Hoornweg, University of Ontario and Kevin Pope) 2017).  These cities are already chaotic at their current populations. Imagine them facing such numbers.

 

Sustainable numbers and UN Goals

The Second Scientists Warning to Humanity in 2017 listed 13 action points. The last point (m) said: “estimating a scientifically defensible sustainable human population size for the long term. Rallying nations is the UN’s job, but how do we define a long-term sustainable population?   

Global population is still growing at 1.036% a year and consumption at 3% a year, with resources declining rapidly.

Using Global Footprint data, the current average ecological footprint per capita would mean a sustainable population size for the long term would now be around 4.4 billion. But since there is no allowance made in this regularly updated snapshot for leaving any bio-capacity to conserve biodiversity, or depletion of non-renewable resources and enabling developing countries to reach more equitable living standards, we have to look at a lower population stabilisation nearer 3 billion – a number endorsed by respected ecologists like David Pimentel and Paul Ehrlich.

 

Unless we work collectively and stop creating wilful barriers of ignorance, because it might ‘disturb people’s beliefs and comfort zones’, our society and much of the planet’s bio-diversity will collapse before the end of the century, as critical food, energy and water resources become ever scarcer. Some might survive in an oppressive dystopia. We must plan for an equitable and responsible transition that preserves much of the diversity of our planet and a viable future for our children.

 

Cycle of silence.

Media coverage of environmental issues varies but remains historically low given its critical importance. There has been an upswing of concern with climate change and Extinction Rebellion protests but the media soon drifts back to celebrity gossip, economic growth and sport.

 

Today’s social media, with its narrow-framed ‘follow’ tags and identity politics, too often fails to see a wider connected picture. Dealing with complex issues on Twitter in 140 characters is practically impossible in a chain of slogans and responses. Celebrity manufactured social media gossip is off the scale of any proportionality and meaning. The baby boomer generation, not content with hoovering up household wealth and pensions of the generations below them are stealing from the future to pay for the present, while millennial media bubbles obsess with identity politics and seeking ‘safe space’. What matters is shaping the complex interactions and events we are all living through – absurd house prices, growing ecological collapse and the declining hope that tomorrow will be better than today

 

We are facing multiple and urgent global challenges, while the sheer stupidity of global turf wars for domination in fragile countries across the Middle East and Africa continue. We must appeal to sanity and the wider issues we must tackle.

 

Overpopulation and demand drives people to destroy the very resources they need to survive – freshwater, soils and forests. The social justice movement shows no interest in working with environmentalists. They simply have no concept of the impact of endless growth in our numbers and demand on biodiversity, infrastructure pressures and food security.

Religious extremism, from fundamentalist Christians, to ultra-orthodox Jews, to patriarchal Muslim cultures who all believe large families are integral to their beliefs and ignore the multiple environmental and social impacts is another barrier to sustainability. The denial of fertility management support translates into coercive child-bearing.

.

Given the immense challenges that will likely see starvation and conflict over remaining resources in the lifetime of people alive today, why would we think it better to create energy shortages, food shortages, lowered quality of life, a housing crisis, grid-locked traffic, bio-diversity loss, and many more calamities caused by ever increasing population pressures?

 

A lower population offers an enormous upside to environmental and social problems.

 

  • We avoid awful things like mass starvation, resource wars, rising pollution and catastrophic bio-diversity loss.

 

  • Small families in developing countries helps parents to afford their children’s education.

 

  • Ever more people simply drives humanity to a lower and lower standard of living.

 

  • Climate breakdown is an acknowledged danger, yet governments ignore the simple, most cost effective step we can take to reduce emissions – having fewer children. Several studies have shown this. (See drawdown.org and Wynes and Nicholas).

 

A number of tactics are widely used to grossly exaggerate claims and suppress discussion. There are common sense answers to all these challenges.

 

  • Population shaming Worrying about population growth and advocating for stabilisation and reduction is motivated by morally reprehensible characteristics like racism.
  • Population growth is good. Economies thrive with more people – increasing consumption. Population and technology gamble will resolve environmental problems of more people. Population fatalism Population may be a problem but there’s nothing we can do about it. Don’t scare the kids is a new media angle since climate warnings by teen activists.
  • Large families are caused by poverty. But large families amongst the rich go unnoticed. Regular TV shows showcase large families without any thought of the impact on others.
  • Lack of infrastructure is the fault of austerity not demand. Lack of housing and hospital beds is blamed on government cutbacks. We simply turn swords into ploughshares and infrastructure will be delivered. But the need to reduce total throughput and impact is ignored.
  • China’s former One-Child policy was coercive and denied ‘human rights’. In fact, China’s one-child policy was widely supported by the people because they were well informed by the government on the benefits. It lifted millions out poverty, helped China’s spectacular rise in living standard and only applied to people in cities. People in rural areas could have two children.  Now China has dropped the limit, with a still huge population because it swallowed the scare that there will be too few young people to support the transient phenomenon of an ageing population.
  • The Ageing Population Scare – a transition not a crisis. The challenge of supporting aging populations is grossly over emphasized. We spend more on cosmetics than we will need to support a temporary rise in older people. It is a phony argument that we need more young people and more immigration to support an ageing population. Young people generally cost society more – in crime, in education and many other ways. We forget they get old too and will need support. The media and politicians never highlight this.
  • Malthus was wrong. We are doing fine. Thomas Malthus’s essay in 1798 on the Principle of Population, predicting mass starvation if human numbers kept on rising, was only wrong in his timing. He couldn’t then know of the one-time binge the discovery of fossil fuels would give to global economic growth and how oil enabled the development of intensive agriculture.

 

Population Ignorant statements

Many media commentators ignore “doomsday” warnings, not because there is no supporting evidence, but because it does not fit with their long-held convictions of how the world works. Other tactics include ‘the practice of ‘Defamation’ to censor inconvenient truths.

Being a ‘National Treasure’ appears to be a license to talk rot.  (Alex Massie. The Spectator, 26/9/2013). Take the case of Sir David Attenborough. The poor booby is another neo-Malthusian. Which is another reminder that expertise in one area is no guarantee of good sense in another.

 

Australian bishop raps Green Party campaign on population fears 19/8/ 2010. Bishop Anthony Fisher. “The fears of a population explosion are absurd. Australia has close to the lowest population density in the world. Most of our country by far is uninhabited.”   (Yes – it’s desert!)

 

We have to change the mind-set of political leaders. Swedish Minister Ylva Johansson said her country “would take in refugees and “improve its population demographics with a smile.”

 

Brian McGavin, writer and environmentalist, is a director of Scientists Warning Europe. 

 

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