One of the traits that makes us human is the ability to plan – to look into the future and envisage the consequences of our actions. We’re obsessed with planning. Businesses plan cash flow and marketing strategy; charities plan fundraising and volunteer recruitment; even nature reserves have management plans dictating which species should live and those that shouldn’t. And as individuals, in an effort to make the best use of our time and resources, many of us plan to the nth degree. As a society we don’t like to leave anything to chance. We strive to ensure wherever possible, positive and sustainable outcomes. It all makes sense but with all this detailed planning going on, you’d think that we’d have a pretty comprehensive plan in place for our future as a species. Not so. This is the elephant in the room, the plan that no one wants to make.
In a geological blink of the eye (85 years to be exact), the Earth’s human population has rocketed from 2 to 7 billion and is predicted to rise further to an estimated 9 billion by 2050. We are presently consuming 50% more of the Earth’s natural resources than it can replenish. Factor in the very understandable desire on the part of so-called developing countries for a more prosperous, yet consumptive lifestyle, and it’s easy to see why we need a plan. And by the way, this is not an issue to simply be laid at the door of Asia or Africa: the UK population is already three times higher than what is considered to be sustainable. Any rational thinking person can see that without a plan that addresses population levels and material consumption, our attempts to plan for future prosperity, health and contentment are necessarily short-term and ultimately futile.
So why has no one made a plan? Because talk of curbing our basic right to reproduce, cuts across almost every political, cultural and religious boundary that has been established in modern history. The Plan that No-one Dares to Make is perceived as political suicide and yet according to most opinion polls, most people – at least in the UK –recognise that the global population is too high.
In recent years prominent conservationists have spoken out about population levels, recognising that any amount of effort to conserve other species or the habitats on which they depend, is worthless in the face of growing human demand for food, materials and space. In other words we can spend millions on protecting tigers, restoring native woodlands, even trying to curb climate change but without a reduction in the very pressures brought about by a mushrooming human population, those efforts are arguably wasted.
I’m a fervent supporter of many conservation initiatives but I also recognise that our aspirations to conserve other species must go hand in hand with a pragmatic approach to the growth of our own.
Check out www.populationmatters.org for a very sensible Plan.
“You know, when we first set up WWF, our objective was to save endangered species from extinction. But we have failed completely; we haven’t managed to save a single one. If only we had put all that money into condoms, we might have done some good.”
Sir Peter Scott, founder of WWF.