A dying planet? Let’s blame the children

Professor John Guillebaud has his heart in the right place, but his speech to GPs on 8 October sounds a bit of a mess, frankly. He urges new British families to have no more than two children, in order to help save the planet. Fair enough: you don’t have to be a population extremist to find something horrifying in the prospect of nine billion monkeys setting fire to things by 2050. More problematic is the way Guillebaud makes a porridge of quite different and distinct issues – at least as reported by Rebecca Smith in the Telegraph. What on earth has Kenya’s “youth boom” (49 per cent of the country’s population is under 15) got to do with the UK’s wobbly teenage pregnancy rate? The fact is, the world’s human population is likely to collapse in our children’s lifetime: a classic case of population overshoot that within a hundred years will reduce human civilisation to a handful of nomadic tribes stumbling around a resource-depleted planet.

In the long term, the values we teach our children are likely to have more impact on the planet than our mere begetting of them. Educating, investing in and dealing fairly with women in poor countries will bring down world birthrates faster than depriving the developed world of children. And, in case that doesn’t work, I’m teaching my two to grow food…

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