"Many of today's most-respected thinkers, from Stephen Hawking to David Attenborough, argue that our efforts to fight climate change and other environmental perils will all fail unless we 'do something' about population growth." This, says Fred Pearce frankly, "is nonsense." Far from surging out of control, population growth is actually slowing, he says. Writing in the British magazine Prospect, Pearce argues that the Western preoccupation with the overpopulation issue isn't just silly, it's hypocritical:
In fact, rising consumption today far outstrips the rising headcount as a threat to the planet. And most of the extra consumption has been in rich countries that have long since given up adding substantial numbers to their population, while most of the remaining population growth is in countries with a very small impact on the planet. By almost any measure you choose, a small proportion of the world’s people take the majority of the world’s resources and produce the majority of its pollution.
In other words, argues Pearce, focus on the population "problem" is essentially a matter of the rich "downplay[ing] the importance of our own environmental footprint because future generations of poor people might one day have the temerity to get as rich and destructive as us." He's not making any exceptions in his condemnation: "Some green activists need to take a long hard look at themselves."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.