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← U.K.'s Royal Society Finds No 'Silver Bullet' for Population Issues

U.K.'s Royal Society Finds No 'Silver Bullet' for Population Issues - Comments

justinesaracen's Avatar Comment 1 by justinesaracen

These sweeping recommendations are so obvious as to seem banal. Of what value is it to say, "We must reduce population growth" when we've known that for at least half a century?

I see little evidence of governments willing to act on behalf of anything other than the ruling powers in their respective countries. In my own very prosperous country, the US, those powers are well known and utterly resistant to sacrifice.

Sorry, but I passed pessimistic years ago and am now somewhere beyond nihilism.

Sun, 29 Apr 2012 14:20:24 UTC | #938151

littletrotsky13's Avatar Comment 2 by littletrotsky13

It is a problem with democracy that, in order to reduce population growth, you'd have to put a limit on family size. No one advocating or carrying out any form of policy like that would be elected/re-elected. In the relatively near future we could well be staring down at some pretty bleak options, most of which are horrific both in contemplation and execution.

Sun, 29 Apr 2012 14:38:27 UTC | #938155

Sjoerd Westenborg's Avatar Comment 3 by Sjoerd Westenborg

You never know what your genes manipulate you to do later, but I am planning to adopt. One drop in (or from?) the ocean but hey..

Sun, 29 Apr 2012 14:38:50 UTC | #938156

gordon's Avatar Comment 4 by gordon

Pipe dream. We never act before catastrophe.

Sun, 29 Apr 2012 14:47:55 UTC | #938157

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 5 by Peter Grant

Isn't there a pill for this? The only other options are infanticide or starvation.

Sun, 29 Apr 2012 15:21:32 UTC | #938162

Vicar of Art on Earth's Avatar Comment 6 by Vicar of Art on Earth

This article points to the critical work of people like Professor Dawkins, PZ Myers and many others in thinking rationally and why the religious leaders of the world are literally going to kill off millions more people.

Sun, 29 Apr 2012 15:39:07 UTC | #938166

Ode2Hitch's Avatar Comment 7 by Ode2Hitch

Given the absolute requirement to reduce the global population, it is perhaps an unfortunate yet inexorable consequence of Richard's most influential scientific discovery - the fact that we are [in the most general sense] survival vehicles for our genes - probably does not lend itself to population reduction. The fundamental, arguably single most important factor for why we have been able to survive and evolve for as long as we so far have, could ultimatley be the largest single contibutor to our demise.

But then what is life without irony....

Sun, 29 Apr 2012 15:40:51 UTC | #938167

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Comment 8 by Jonathan Dore

Education of and legal equality for women has been the sine qua non of every society that has managed to get its population growth under control, even before the widespread availability of contraception. It's going to take the same everywhere else.

Sun, 29 Apr 2012 15:54:47 UTC | #938171

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 9 by Stafford Gordon

7 and 9 are key; the rest is waffle.

Never mind what needs to be done, that's obvious, the question is how.

You are absolutely right esuther.

Sun, 29 Apr 2012 18:34:50 UTC | #938192

Functional Atheist's Avatar Comment 10 by Functional Atheist

Oh, please. Doom-and-gloom predictions regarding human population went in and out of fashion from Malthus through the 1970's, but are people really still wringing their hands over this issue?

Birth rates, globally, have been plunging for decades. Other than a few African and Arab/Muslim majority nations outside of Africa, population growth has slowed remarkably, and in some cases has reversed. The decline in birth rates in Asian nations like China, India, and Bangladesh (one of the Muslim-majority bright spots) has far exceeded predictions.

As the late Hitch was fond of noting, the greatest anti-poverty measures yet devised are to educate women, and give them access to cheap and reliable contraception. Those are also the best solutions for the relative handful of places on the globe where birthrates and population growth remain at unsustainable levels.

Sun, 29 Apr 2012 19:55:51 UTC | #938204

Mrkimbo's Avatar Comment 11 by Mrkimbo

Educate and enfranchise women. Educate and enfranchise women. Educate and enfranchise women.

(NB: you can count on the opposition of virtually all major religions while doing this).

Sun, 29 Apr 2012 20:37:59 UTC | #938211

Roedy's Avatar Comment 12 by Roedy

They pulled a punch in their eight points. One of the main causes of overpopulation is religion. The pope wants more Catholics. The Imams want more Muslims. It is an inter-religion contest that trashes the earth as a side effect.

We have to either derail the religions or derail their opposition to contraception.

We also need to start throwing metaphorical mud at anyone who uses any form of fertility enhancement (as distinct from sex enhancement). We need to persuade people it is morally reprehensible to create new children when there are still abandoned kids needing homes.

Of course they will scream. They are destroying the earth. They don't deserve kid glove treatment.

Sun, 29 Apr 2012 21:36:51 UTC | #938224

GolgothaTenement's Avatar Comment 13 by GolgothaTenement

I'm just going to come out and say it: a worldwide agreement that there needs to be a license to have kids. As soon as anyone says this they are considered some Nazi, but as with every other ethical question we are talking degree (grayscale) rather than principle (black/white). If someone is, say, a heroin junkie, or a jihadist terrorist, anyone sane would agree, they shouldn't have kids and make more of themselves. Now expand that a little: then you've got the idea that a minimum IQ, income and etc is required to get a license to have kids. Indeed sterilization should be a universal, non-optional (but reversible) practice, and to reverse it you need to apply for a license.

The one reason I know that I'm not just arguing that society should be full of people like me is, that I wouldn't expect to get the license myself.

Mon, 30 Apr 2012 01:31:19 UTC | #938255

Akaei's Avatar Comment 14 by Akaei

education = lower birth rates

Let's try that.

Mon, 30 Apr 2012 01:33:28 UTC | #938257

GolgothaTenement's Avatar Comment 15 by GolgothaTenement

Shit down syndrome babies are already aborted 9/10 of the time regardless of the mother's beliefs, despite what piece of shit like Sarah Palin say, and no one has a problem with that. Abortion given predictions of the fetus's prospects is already eugenics, why is eugenics such a dirty word, why not have those predictions given all the information we totally DO HAVE before impregnation occurs. And despite the whining of non-science intellectuals, the IQ test is pretty objective, and who the hell could object to it, except people who idolize stupidity. In terms of framing, the religious right must be backed into the corner of admitting the idolize stupidity and hate science, and once they admit that and their pseudointellectual bullshit falls to pieces, we'll be able to start step 1 in saving the world, which is rather than keeping these idiots away from our schools, we'll be able to keep them from reproducing whatsoever.

(yes this is extreme, but tell me you don't see Glenn Beck and have, as your first thought, eugenics).

Mon, 30 Apr 2012 01:35:31 UTC | #938258

rod-the-farmer's Avatar Comment 16 by rod-the-farmer

I may be the only one here, but this bit

National Governments should accelerate the development of comprehensive wealth measures. This should include reforms to the system of national accounts, and improvement in natural asset accounting


???? What does this mean ?

Mon, 30 Apr 2012 01:45:45 UTC | #938261

Rawhard Dickins's Avatar Comment 17 by Rawhard Dickins

Populations are limited by the environment, and it will be no different for humans.

Even those on the fringes of sustainability will do their best to survive, reproduce and push those fringes ever wider and larger, and for these reasons I believe that much of the work done by the charities is ultimately futile.

Added to this is the desire of many religious groups to succeed by either out-populating others or having such ill-informed family planning as to have the same effect.

Sadly much of the human race is destined to proceed with the sort of suffering that applies to the rest of the animal kingdom, perhaps the only difference is that humans have the added torment of knowing that it is happening.

For those of us in the better parts of the developed world, enjoy it while you can!

Mon, 30 Apr 2012 07:44:13 UTC | #938297

Marcus Small's Avatar Comment 18 by Marcus Small

It quite simple really. It does have something to do with population, a third of the world's population consume two thirds of its resources, whilst the remaining two third have to settle for one third.

Those of us who have much, I include myself in this, have to learn to live less, a lot less.

Politicians don't really take the problem seriously, they seem to think that the solution to to our economic woes is to consume more and grow ever bigger economies. What happens when there is nothing left?

The answer is simple, if we were less greedy we could do it.

Government is not the answer, you and I are the answer. Where we lead they follow.

Mon, 30 Apr 2012 08:38:39 UTC | #938304

irate_atheist's Avatar Comment 19 by irate_atheist

Comment 18 by Marcus Small

The answer is simple, if we were less greedy we could do it.

The answers don't always have to be simple, or easy.

It may not be THE answer, but...

Mon, 30 Apr 2012 09:01:00 UTC | #938309

Vorlund's Avatar Comment 20 by Vorlund

Comment 11 by Mrkimbo :

Educate and enfranchise women. Educate and enfranchise women. Educate and enfranchise women. (NB: you can count on the opposition of virtually all major religions while doing this).

Agreed on both points, though you'd have to add to that eduating men as well since they stand in the way of the other. Did I say men? I should have said mysogynistic medieval primitive bogey believing nutters.

Shit down syndrome babies are already aborted 9/10 of the time regardless of the mother's beliefs,

We have a burgeoning world population despite the fact that rates of spontaneous miscarriage in our species is significant. doG is the greater abortionist. Having allocated a soul to a blastocyst he subsequently cares fuck all for it and kills it.

Mon, 30 Apr 2012 10:44:04 UTC | #938322

Marcus Small's Avatar Comment 21 by Marcus Small


By simple I do not mean easy, Simplicity of living is not an easy answer, especially in an economy and culture predicated upon consumption.

Mon, 30 Apr 2012 10:57:08 UTC | #938323

irate_atheist's Avatar Comment 22 by irate_atheist

Oh, I know. But there is great cause for optimism. As are declining global birth rates.

Mon, 30 Apr 2012 11:00:46 UTC | #938325

Grundibular's Avatar Comment 23 by Grundibular

"It raises questions about..."

As ever, this is shorthand for a report that says nothing we didn't already know, but wishes to convey the impression that it has somehow "added to the conversation". How much did this exercise cost?

Mon, 30 Apr 2012 11:11:18 UTC | #938327

GeeBee's Avatar Comment 24 by GeeBee

Comment 3 by Sjoerd Westenborg

I'm not interested in having children (happy with my nieces :)), but if I were, I would also adopt or foster. It is the right thing to do.

I find this issue truly frightening. All I know is that the education and empowerment of women is crucial. Religion stands in the way.

Mon, 30 Apr 2012 11:20:07 UTC | #938328

inquisador's Avatar Comment 25 by inquisador

The western democracies have been seeing pop. decline for decades now. Except for the effects of immigration.

The vast increases in human numbers have come overwhelmingly from non-democratic, non-western nations. Usually enabled by UN and charitable intervention as required at times of crisis. Also enabled by food aid, advances in agricultural technology, crop genetic engineering and irrigation technology.

The larger problem of global over-population is actually a result of sitting down with scientists every so often and saying ' how can we feed this rising population in 10 or 20 years time?' And then coming up with solutions. And implementing them.

Then all is fairly well until the next plague, drought or famine, is either upon us or is foreseen.

This seems to be resulting in increasing numbers of people who are increasingly dependent on aid of some kind; and who expect such aid to be there in the future.

My worry is that there may come a time when a catastrophic failure occurs and for some reason, aid will no longer be available. The losses of life could exceed anything seen before. In which case it would have been better if developed nations had never intervened, but had instead left the previously self-reliant populations to continue their traditional ways while developing at their own pace.

Mon, 30 Apr 2012 11:43:27 UTC | #938330

isisdron's Avatar Comment 26 by isisdron

just like bacteria in a dish...eventually, the food runs out, and the increase in population will quickly become a sharp decrease in population.

Mon, 30 Apr 2012 14:48:22 UTC | #938368

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 27 by Alan4discussion

Comment 26 by isisdron

just like bacteria in a dish...eventually, the food runs out, and the increase in population will quickly become a sharp decrease in population.

Or - as my pet explanation puts it:

Humans need to collectively decide and demonstrate if they have more foresight and intelligence than a yeast culture in a barrel of fruit-juice.

... Or if they will fail, - and like the yeast, - consume all the resources until there is nothing left to consume, - whereupon they will starve & be pickled in their own waste products.

Mon, 30 Apr 2012 15:02:33 UTC | #938370

Marcus Small's Avatar Comment 28 by Marcus Small

Comment 26 by isisdron just like bacteria in a dish...eventually, the food runs out, and the increase in population will quickly become a sharp decrease in population.

Yes but where? the danger of relying on that scenario to play out is that the part of the world's population which has consumed the most won't have to to pay the price of the over consumption. Where do most obese people live?

Mon, 30 Apr 2012 15:04:34 UTC | #938372

nickthelight's Avatar Comment 29 by nickthelight

Great interview with Sir John Sulston on the BBC's 'HARDtalk'

Mon, 30 Apr 2012 16:19:43 UTC | #938393

inquisador's Avatar Comment 30 by inquisador

We know that the current level of population is unsustainable and still rising, with another estimated 2.5 billion to come.

To save the misery of many millions starving, we need to launch a campaign promoting prophylactics and responsible planning.

But we know that alone will not work. So mass starvation is likely to happen sooner or later.

Marcus worries about the fairness of poorest people dying. But I think the likelihood is that the greatest food shortages are going to be in the most crowded areas. Those who depend on imported food rather than, or as well as what can be produced locally are going to be most vulnerable.

That could include places like the UK.

Where do most obese people live?

Saudi Arabia?

Oh, the USA.

Well, at the same time, there is some justice in that the Americans are by far the world's leading exporter of food to the rest of the world. Also Pres. GW Bush increased food and other types of aid to Africa to total $15 bn. (from memory). Obama has no doubt raised that figure again.

Mon, 30 Apr 2012 16:42:08 UTC | #938397