Green World is right not to run adverts for Population Matters
Someone isn’t happy. Here at Bright Green towers, we received a pretty miffed email from a member of the Green Party complaining about the party magazine – Green World.
They seemed to want us to expose Green World for “censorship”. So, what is the allegation?
Well, it boils down to this: Population Matters – the people who think that the population of the world should be a major element of public debate – wanted to advertise in Green World. The editorial board ruled that they shouldn’t be allowed to, because they support political positions we ought not to support. It seems that those who are cross about this ruling are exercising their right to shout about it. So, let me explain why I disagree with them.
First things first, this isn’t censorship, it’s editing. My right to free speech does not equate to my right to have anything I want published in any magazine I choose just because I am rich enough to buy an advert. The Green Party magazine must, on occasion, refuse to run things it finds problematic.
And Population Matters are problematic. Join the dots marked out by their campaign and you draw an ugly picture of a world where those blamed for environmental problems are not those who do most to cause them, but those who suffer most from their consequences: theirs is the doctrine which blames the unemployed for the recession, the people of Iraq for Saddam Hussein.
But before we get to why they are offensive, let’s look at why they are (mostly) wrong.
The birth rate in Mali is 6.29 births per woman.
In the USA it is 2.1.
So, if the problem is population, then Mali is where we should start to point our fingers.
But let’s look at another stat: the average person in Mali is responsible for 0.06 tonnes of CO2 per year. The average person in the USA is responsible for 17.
So, the average person in the USA is responsible for about 283 times more carbon than the average person in Mali. To put it another way, the average Mailian family is responsible for 1/136th of the carbon of the average American family.
In this context, complaining about another Malian baby seems foolish.
Population Matters might respond that yes, this is true, but that if we aspire to a world where Malians have a better quality of life than they do now, then they will each use more resource. And so this will only be possible with a lower population. And largely, they are wrong. It is possible for a society to live well and use less of the world’s finite resources. It just isn’t possible under the current economic system (capitalism).
For many, the certainty that population correlates to consumption comes from the belief that we should learn from ecology: too many rabbits in a garden can eat all of the flowers and then have none left. Each new rabbit means an equal increase in the rate of consumption of flowers. But humans are different. We are the only species with such vast inequality.
But that they are wrong isn’t why the point is somewhat offensive. It is offensive because the implication that we should blame Mali for a problem they do almost nothing to cause, but from which they will suffer more heavily than the richest, is cruel. Talking about population serves to shift blame from the rich in the west (and the capitalist system established by the rich in the west) and onto those who are least to blame.
And when we take a problem largely caused by rich white people, but highlight ways of discussing it which shift the blame onto poor black people, we are perpetuating white power and the racism in our society. This isn’t to say that the people who run Population Matters are intentionally racist – I am sure they are lovely. But just as it is possible for me to accidentally do things which contribute to a sexist society, what they do contributes to a racist, classist society.
It does something else too – something which climate campaigning is all too often guilty of. It shifts blame onto women. As Fiona Ranford has pointed out, it shifts blame onto women.
Now, this is a complex point. Because Population Matters aren’t fools, and they aren’t wilfully cruel. They don’t call for eugenics or one child policies. They call for something that no one could disagree with: women’s empowerment. Or so they say. But, as Fiona’s article explains, you are not empowering women to have more control over their reproduction if you pre-define the outcome of their family planning. This is like telling people they have democracy so long as they vote for you. It may be that fewer children is what women would choose. But we should give them control over their fertility because they ought to have that control – if they want fewer children, or if they want more.
Like people in poorer countries, women are likely to be the main victims of climate change. There are more women farmer. When natural disasters happen, usually, more women and girls die as sexist societies (ie all of them) prioritise help for men and boys, or support for the things men and boys need. And blaming women for this is nothing new: most solutions presented to climate change are domestic – changing lightbulbs, recycling, etc – things which usually mean more work for women. Yet climate change is driven by an economy owned almost entirely by men.
We live in a racist, sexist and classist world. This world props up its racism and its sexism and its classism by encouraging us to blame the victims of oppression for the problems they face. It is the responsibility of all progressives to challenge any voice which supports this process – intentionally, or not. And it is, therefore, for Green World, the only responsible thing to do to refuse advertisements from well meaning groups like Population Matters.
note – I’ve done some more research into Population Matters:
UPDATE 1: I’ve just found a policy statement showing that Population Matters (formerly the Optimum Population Trust) are in favour of no net migration to the UK. This immigrant bashing stance is more extreme than the Tories or, even, than UKIP.
UPDATE 2: They have a story on their website saying that population is ‘to blame’ for the HS2 train line, and that the solution to this is less immigration.
UPDATE 3: In 2009, Population Matters (then known as the Optimum Population Trust) launched a ‘carbon offsetting’ scheme – whereby rich people could, rather than reducing their emissions, pay for contraception for people in impoverished countries. (Thanks to a friend for highlighting this).
What a silly long-winded ex cuse for censorship of an inconvenient truth; that since the 1960s our species has doubled , and it’s set to double again by 2050. If you can’t see that is the problem, then you need to stop writing and start reading some more b ecause you really haven’t got it.
Your liberal virtue signalling marks you out as more of a liberal than any ki nd of green, even the pale green Green Party, who thinking recycling and knitting are more i mportant than anything. Your silly, juvenile attempt to brand an organisation with a track record of many more decades than you’ve been alive of serious research and campaigning as racist is about as deranged PC SKW as you can get, but I guess you are a millenial and most of you seem to be in the same SJW boat, all virtue signal;ling each other like it matters what you think. So you ignore the real threat of overpopulation being the prime motivation for destruction of Earth, and indulge in petty banning of ads, censorship and hypocrisy in one breath! Wow, and you’re an editor here?
I suppose you’l;l censor this in the cause of everyone being nice and not wanting anyone to have a hissy fit. I think I might be close to giving up on this planet and departing. It’s soon to be extinct human population is still close to idiocy despite best efforts.
I know it’s not the very best type of promoting, nevertheless it’s a fast
technique to increase installs over a brief time period.
Seems to be one of the best ways to get any real obtain numbers in lower than a pair weeks.
Hey I know this is off topic but I was wondering if you knew of any widgets
I could add to my blog that automatically tweet my newest
twitter updates. I’ve been looking for a plug-in like this for quite some time and was hoping maybe you would have some experience with something
like this. Please let me know if you run into anything.
I truly enjoy reading your blog annd I look forward to your new updates.
If yoou want too get much from this paragraph then you have to apply these strategies
to your won webpage.
my web blog; orquesta borinquen – Vernita,
What you are doing here is really completely siding with the capitalist agenda and siding against the ecological (excluding humans) world. Don’t you think that if there was money to be made from smaller populations that there would be more support for things like family planning and family planning awareness across the world. The food and commodities markets are rubbing their hands at the thought of out of populations that can barely feed themselves. They don’t care if people are pushed to situations where they may, directly or indirectly, kill wide swathes of wild growing flora and fauna. Corporations don’t support a population agenda. They leave that to the world of science and, hopefully, you.
Can I just point out to Peter that Adam and Adrian are to totally different people with slightly similar surnames.
Having quickly looked through the above comments (and do forgive me if I’ve missed it), I can’t find any reference to the impact on other animals as being an argument in favour of not increasing (and indeed, reducing) the human population.
Unless we are to be human supremacist and speciesist in our outlook (just as bad as racism, sexism, homophobia in my opinion) we have to accept that the human species takes up more than its fair share of the Earth in relation to all the other animal species that have just as much right to be here as we do and this is something we urgently need to do something about.
sony hdmi cable
By showing what the target audience wants, a brochure can immediately attract the attention
of people, regardless of the type of marketing message you are aiming for.
However, since the late twenty and early thirty years begin to realize you
do not want to jump from one flower to another, but
rather the solution of the instincts and nestling beginning to tickle the back of
your mind and understand that they no longer find the constantly changing partners and career challenges in a
positive way. ‘ According to a listing update from the organization on
I am not sure where you are getting your information, but great topic.
I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more.
Thanks for excellent information I was looking for this info for my mission.
my website – wat remover
Greetings! Very useful advice within this article!
It’s the little changes that will make the most important changes.
Thanks for sharing!
Hi, Neat post. There is an issue with your web site in internet
explorer, might test this? IE still is the market chief and
a large part of people will pass over your fantastic writing
because of this problem.
I’m so sorry to get away from topic, but I’m wanting to create a blog and was wondering what platform this is created on.
… And this is why as an Environmental Science graduate, I always have found it very difficult to support the Green Party at times:
[I think the first time I face-palmed was when you campaigned to remove the legal obligation placed on those poor impoverished supermarket chains of making arrangements for the collection and disposal of their plastic bags… By transferring the ownership of the bags to individual consumers as a consumable product. That really was both hilarious and eye-clawingly frustrating at the same time.]
The party seems mostly full of people with their hearts in the right place (which I love and admire!), with some idea that things are not as they should be (again very grateful this is so!). Unfortunately most of those people also seem to have a complete lack of rigorously grounded background knowledge or a talent for joining up the interconnectivity of multiple disciplines, not to mention being really bad at maths (unfortunately making you really quite dangerous when given any kind of advisory position of authority).
If you actually understood the term ‘sustainability’ properly, you’d appreciate that it’s all about balance and that population size (*and density*) are an integral part of that balance. In particular sustainability is concerned with rate of consumption versus rate of recycling of waste products from that consumption.
Both of those things are related to two factors: rates of those things *per person* and… (shockingly) the number of people concerned. You can’t just ignore one and say you don’t need to talk about it – whichever one you pick.
Focusing on reducing the number of people when you’re ignoring how much different people are contributing to those rates is utterly pointless. But it also works the other way around – focusing on the different rates at which people use resources and produce waste is pointless if you’re not also going to incorporate numbers for those different groups of people and look at the total balance as a whole.
What your writer fails to recognise is that the patrons of Population Matters are quite world-wise, learned, compassionate people who are especially good at grasping how things fit together. In other words, they are not so dumb as to do this and if your writer had paid attention to any of their work, your writer would noted that combating inequality it as the *heart* of solving population matters.
Strangely enough, when a woman has the choice of when and where and with whom she is going to have a child, and how many, she will actively make choices on those matters, usually to the sum total of less children, timed when the going is good, with a partner she feels safe and happy with.
When she is enlightened with an education she not only actively makes decisions on those matters but she tries to make *informed* decisions too. Also when she is not impoverished and feels equal to her male peers, she may feel she has the luxury of time and support for her to do other things with her time and her worth than child-rearing. Childbirth and child-rearing may or may not still play a role in her life, but it is her *choice*. She will have a family on her terms, if she wants one.
It’s important that she has that choice, whatever choice she then makes after careful consideration. Population Matters considers this of core importance, in other words: stamping out inequality is very important. Gender equality = equals less babies. Racial equality = less babies. Standard of living equality = less babies. Sexuality equality = less babies. Hell I feel I might as well say that equality in general not only makes everyone happier, but also makes us reproduce less for just so very many reasons I can’t possibly hope to fit here.
But according to your writer it seems that giving women their rights, mechanisms with which to retain them, education with which to make informed decisions and the respect and support that enable them to have equal opportunities, is a means of blaming them for the world’s problems. Next you’ll be telling me that despite the multiple documentations of http://www.page3stories.org that The Sun is all about the liberation of women and promotion of their value as more than just objects of sexual titillation.
Perhaps I should break this down into something a little more easy for people to understand. Imagine you’re organising a theatre show or a musical concert. You do *not* simply sell as many tickets or places as will sell – you sell the number of tickets or places as matches the maximum number of seats there are at your expected venue.
Now, I think it’s very fair that the Green Party – as do most other people – are pretty upset about the seating arrangements. After all, it really isn’t very fair that a select wealthy few get their own personal balconies and front-row luxuriously sized and felted seats, when the rest of us are crammed onto tiny plastic benches at the back of the venue where at best all you can see is a bunch of fleas leaping around on the icing of a cupcake. This is a *major* issue and it really isn’t fair, or right and *needs* to be dealt with as a priority. On that we’re all agreed, right?
But ignore *how many* seats you have at your peril. If you’re lucky, your production won’t be that popular and you’ll sell less tickets than you have seats for. If you’re unlucky, people will be dying of heat exhaustion and being crushed by the excess number of people wanting *in* to the venue that it does not have the capacity to hold.
You are *absolutely right* to note that in all the commotion on an unlucky day that the rich folk on the balcony are watching the chaos erupt with some amusement, safe as they are above everyone else behind firmly locked doors. However, please note that both are issues. What you fail to recognise is that Population Matters – unlike yourselves – do actually know this.
In fact in a lecture given at the University of Bath, the founder of Population Matters himself stated that for every one child born in the UK, they will consume in their lifetime the amount of resources as ten Malawians will in theirs put together. I find the fact that he mentioned this very funny next to the fact that your writer harps on about Malawians as if Population Matters hasn’t a clue about that difference.
But let me tell you something else, but this is from the point of view of a PhD researcher:
I’d like to see your rigorous scientific, mathematically and cross-disciplinary justification for “We don’t need to worry about population size because if we spread everything we use at the moment evenly across the entire world’s population we’d all be fine.”
I’d like to see your maths on that relating to projected UN increases in world population size. I’d also like to see your research on how you compensate for the fact that some nations – like Somalia and the UK, are vastly over their carrying capacity relative to their land’s native availability and renewable supply of resources of all kinds, including water, agriculture and less we forget a Green Party focal point (again something I really do appreciate): ecological services offered by wild lands and the simple value of their existence.
[Note: what’s different between Somalia and the UK? Well… The UK had this big stick at one time, which it used to forge an empire with in order to secure resources for a population size that was at the time already too large to be supported by its native resources – or at least some of them. Although our big stick is no longer as it was back then, our advanced technology (incl. military), we still have big sticks we wave around to coerce other nations to cough up their resources in trade to us, to subsidise the fact that we couldn’t sustain ourselves without help even if we tried (because there are too many of us).]
Most of all I’d like to see your research on the ideal standard of living, for how many people as a total world population, where distributed and in what densities, and the technology upon which we would rely for provision and distribution where population and location of resources are not coinciding.
I’d like to see that research not out of spite but because to my knowledge, partially thanks to the likes of your writer here, that research isn’t being done. The UK research councils generally consider population a taboo topic, as do most politicians.
The latter is was noted during a talk on water provision in the UK by the chief scientist of the UK’s most successful, most customer satisfactory and environmentally accredited water company – Wessex Water. He mentioned population not even once. But when asked about this his response was a very worried look and the words “Well that’s the even bigger elephant in the room isn’t it?”
He then described how every time he had brought up this as a strain on future water supplies, that costs were being driven up and that ultimately there is only so much water that can be renewably sourced from the UK past which per person usage would *have* to be constrained… that he was met with disinterest and nervous avoidance of the topic.
I’m quite happy to back you up and say people do often support the same causes for very different reasons, and that must surely include Population Matters. I myself do battle with *fellow* members of Population Matters on occasion because we’re not all on the same page. Not all of them are bright enough to see the world as holistically as our patrons can (incl. Sir David Attenborough and a few other important names who know their stuff).
There *are* those who are panic stricken. You can expect there to be the occasional “Quick, sterilise EVERYONE!” attitude… BUT then again at every feminist group you’ll have someone who obviously doesn’t want equality, they want revenge – doesn’t mean gender equality isn’t an issue, does it? I’m afraid as an Environmental Science graduate the first thing I learned is “it’s never that simple” – least not as simple as most folks who’ve not the time, patience or specific skill-set to investigate a given topic think it is.
Even if you know a population should be smaller than it is, culling is what we do to animals, and I think the RSPCA would agree this usually has detrimental long-term effects that nobody likes (consider their backing of researchers on the matter of badger culling not working).
So it makes sense that killing off a large number of people probably isn’t a good idea either – nor are forcing one-child policies China-style. Those policies are what you come to when you’re making a last-ditch desperate attempt to solve a problem that has been ignored for way, way too long. The Chinese have since amended their policy to two children, because having a vastly imbalanced demographic heavy on the aging side is not a good idea.
If change needs to happen, that change too *has* to be sustainable. No panic-driven extreme resolutions like forced sterilisations in line with one-child policies. No victimisations or scape-goating like Nazi Germany did to improve the welfare of its majority at the expense of minorities.
Instead: tackle the problem both by equalising out the per person consumption of resources and production of waste AND the number of people consuming and producing waste together… Through things that will lead to a gradual drop, a sustainable change which means one by *choice* not by force. It really isn’t that hard, for all the reasons mentioned above: equality is a very big part of the argument. So you’re actually batting for the same team, don’t you see?
This is the right blog for anyone who wishes to find out about this topic.
You understand so much its almost tough to argue with you (not that I really would want to…HaHa).
You certainly put a new spin on a subject that has
been discussed for years. Wonderful stuff, just excellent!
my blog post solar power specials perth *http://kidslovefits.org/*
Oops, sorry for the typo. I meant to type the John TempleTON Foundation, the ‘starve the poor’ outfit that bestows the ‘Templeton Prize’!
Good article. Population Matters should be looked at more closely. Their CEO is a marketing guy, which isn’t surprising, because they are a propaganda organisation. Who funds them? Any connection with the Templeman Foundation, who advocate ‘the market’ (i.e. starvation) for ‘the problems of the third world’? You have to wonder how this kind of outfit gets charity status.
Oh my goodness! Impressive article dude! Many thanks, However I am experiencing problems with your RSS.
I don’t understand the reason why I cannot subscribe to it. Is there anybody else having similar RSS issues? Anybody who knows the answer can you kindly respond? Thanx!!
You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this
topic to be really something that I think I would never understand.
It seems too complicated and very broad for me. I’m looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the
hang of it!
Re food waste. You are reinforcing your preconception by looking only for facts that suit. There’s another debit side to current food production, its unsustainability, being heavily dependent on fossil fuel, using up soil fertility, and causing erosion. A green aim is to move away from all of these. Climate change is going to disrupt farming further and unpredictably. It isn’t just a question of feeding the present population, but of a future one of a possible 4 billion extra already in the demographic pipeline, and no end currently in sight. Nor is it just about feeding. More people means ever more loss of wildlife and wild space, and more pollution, more pressure on all resources. In this country it means ever reducing food and energy security, ever less green space, ever more housing shortage – ever less affordable, more building on flood plains..On the other pan of the scales, there is nothing wrong with addressing population. To do so brings so many different benefits, directly, indirectly, and by synergy with other health and social objectives. In the third world it means bringing health care, education and family planning to women, freeing them from drudgery and male domination. It enables families to educate their children and improve their living conditions. In the developed world it gets us off the tail-chasing madness of growth for growth’s sake.
If there is a narrative that links population concern to racism, it is those who think like you who have created it, and you who perpetuate it. You blame others for feeding this narrative just by addressing the issue. But it is by addressing it in a non-racist way that we kill the narrative, and we do that. It is you, and others of the same view, who perpetuate the narrative, by repeatedly leaping up and saying “you can’t talk about population because that’s a racist narrative”. Your argument boils down a circular one, it’s racist because there is already a racist narrative. Why is there a racist narrative? Because you keep saying there is. PM’s leaflet did not feed that narrative, but your article did. If you really want that narrative treadmill to stop going round, step out of it. Next time population crops up, ask “is there really anything racist about this, or am I just listening to a narrative in my head”. If its the latter, leave the narrative there instead of spreading it around to feed in some more people’s heads.
just a couple of comments on food:
Jonathan: re inequality, the reasons that people in the West use a huge amount more are a) waste, b) meat, and increasingly, c) biofuel:
on a) between 30 and 50% of total global food production is thrown away – almost all of this by people in rich countries (see http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jan/10/half-world-food-waste)
on b) huge amounts of food are grown as fodder to feed animals so that people in the rich West can eat more and more meat. Someone above, arguing against me, talks about increasing food demand in China. But that’s precisely the point. to give a couple of stats, 70% of US grain (and America is one of the world’s key grain producers) is used to feed cattle, and grain used to feed cattle is only 10% as efficient as a way of feeding people than feeding it to people directly.
c) with biofuels, the problem is obvious – land used for fuel rather than food. And whilst there is a upper limit on how much food we can feed to animals to feed us, and how much we can waste, we seem to be able to find ever more ways to burn fuel.
the problem here, to be clear, is power and ownership, and who makes decisions about distribution. We could easily feed the world – and more – with current global food production.
…and when I say ‘trade’, I don’t mean increased globalisation. I mean that, in specific areas who can’t produce sufficient food, I don’t see a reason why they can’t import surpluses from nearby.
Maybe the informative and calm contributions from AC, NR and RM have been of use to GP members who might never have studied the offending ad. ?
Reading your initial thoughts, Adam, which include me ( PM, GP member ) with those who blame the unemployed for the recession, and the people of Iraq for Saddam Hussein, and with those who are ( therefore ) offensive ( all the time ? ), I delayed reading your later comments, for fear of more home truths.
Now that I have done so, where does one begin ?
To keep it short, we will begin and end with A.
Africans and Animals.
“On hunger – there might, I suppose, be a theoretical point at which it would be impossible to feed the people on earth. But we aren’t anything like there. Hunger is an issue of distribution, and of inefficient useage (ie using crops as fodder for animals so people like me can eat meat).”
Tell that to the billion or so people who struggle to find enough food to survive.
They might not be impressed to know that the problem is down to distribution.
Which in small part it may be, but for us with our full bellies, to dismiss their misery in such disinterested terms suggests we may be living in our heads, heartless.
Many vegetarians have become tired of explaining to the curious, why we make such a choice, instead we point out that anyone who understands the cruelty, inefficiency and polluting effects of the livestock industry, and who eats meat and fish, puts their palate and stomach before their head and their heart.
Any explanation should be their responsibility.
“I believe that adverts for an organisation which I think shifts blame into women and people in the global South are oppressive. I think they cross that line. My anti-racist activist friends think that it’s amazing that we even have I have this debate and that it’s totally obvious we shouldn’t publish this,”
Is this based on your experience in the global South ? And your friends’ experiences ?
Thanks to many working trips to sub saharan Africa in recent years, I probably have more female friends in poor African villages that I have on your, posher, side of Offa’s dyke.
They share the burdens of women everywhere.
Abuse , domestic/physical/sexual.
They carry, deliver ( too often die doing so ) and nurse the children whose conception they often have little choice in deciding.
Until they die , they carry a disproportionate disease and trauma burden, compared to the male sex who misuse and abuse them so.
They are daily victims of male dominated cultures which are often more discriminatory towards women, than is our own.
They wish to have more control over their lives, and any advice or help to do so, wherever it comes from, is welcome.
They would laugh at any suggestion that a UK ‘organisation’ is a cause of their ‘oppression’.
We, the male sex, are the cause of their oppression.
Our need for dominance, power, sex, knows no bounds. Our anger goes often uncontrolled.
Racism is a pimple on our species’ face, compared to the plague of abuse and violence that we men inflict on women, regardless of colour, class, or creed.
About fifty years ago, Ronnie Laing, in ‘The Divided Self ‘ showed how labelling peoples behaviour ( mad, bad, psychotic etc ) enabled them to be devalued, dismissed, and often locked up.
This used to be a psychiatric habit, nowadays it is commonplace.
Discussion can be distorted, discussants can be ruled out of order, positions ridiculed, by the use of a few words.
Laing suggested that psychiatrists used a “vocabulary of denigration” to diminish or destroy their patients’ freedom and individuality, and their right to express themselves.
Today’s vocabulary of denigration is as long as a piece of string, but anyone who introduces words like racist into a discussion, needs to be quite clear what they attempting to do, or not do.
Why is this vocabulary of denigration so commonplace , fifty years on ?
Rereading Chapter 3 of our well thumbed copies of “The Spirit Level “ may provide some clues.
You are right Adrian in this. I would also like to address the attitudes displayed by Population Matters. My experience at a local level, is that not only does it want to reduce the population of the planet but the membership of the green party. It is quick to target individuals for stances which do not agree with its agenda, and generally abuse them and attempt to ‘intellectually’ bully them. Perhaps that is just an individual in PM but I feel it reveals the nasty right wing attitudes of the whole group underneath its shredding green arguments.
A lazy anthropocentric article that shows little understanding of population issues at all. Worse still is The Green Party running scared of the only issue that could ever make any difference; the amount of us that are making impacts. No let’s just allow the mass species extinction event to play out, empty the seas, lets exploit and kill ever more non-humans, lets just see how runaway climate change goes etc.
Even if we cut impacts per head by the impossible total of 50% it would be cancelled out if the population hits ten billion. To try and slur pointing out that reality as “right wing” is ridiculous and asinine.
Humans have always been greedy and selfish and formed elite groups who they favour above outsiders. Overpopulation is defined by the animals that occupy the turf, behaving as they naturally behave, not by a hypothetical group that might be substituted for them in your ideal utopia.
Poor people (with large families) do not produce large amounts of CO2 but they do consume large amounts of biodiversity, which is effectively ‘free’. Poor people do not intend to remain poor and will use the available means to escape poverty- eg, poaching parrots, kidnapping baby gorillas, removing rhino horns from the faces of rhinos, tusks from the faces of elephants, fins from sharks, selling undersized lobsters out of season and orchids pulled from the Nature Reserves and so on. As well as cutting down trees to use as housing and charcoal, polluting clean water supplies and much much more…
Thanks Adam. 115 helps somewhat, so I appreciate you posting it. Nevertheless, I still feel hurt and offended — and attacked — by 105, which you have left up here, which travesties my stance in the debate (Big thanks to Chris and Jonathan for attempting to respond/clarify ‘on my behalf’); so I’m afraid I won’t be taking any further part in the debate.
I just want to clarify three things:
I am not saying anyone here is racist.
I am not saying anyone here is fascist.
I am not saying anyone here is denying genocide.
I think that it’s important that we can all have conversations about the ways that we are all, in different ways, guilty of inadvertently perpetuating oppressions without immediately thinking we have been labelled as racist/fascist/mysoginist etc.
All of these oppressions happen not just because of racists, fascists, etc. they happen because we are all part of a society which is sexist, racist, etc. and we all inadvertently do things which prop systems. Unless and until we can talk about the ways we do this, we have no hope of ending those oppressions.
If it was a case of accepting a donation, you would be right, but an advertisement involves both income and publicity, so it is both. The crucial issue is that it was partisan on an issue where there is a range of views within the party.
I’ve very much enjoyed this debate. But choosing whether or not to run an advert is a question over who you wish to be funded by not censorship.
If the editorial board chose to close down debate over population and indeed Population Matters then yes that could be described as censorship. Not wishing to accept their money is not.
In the light of everything above, do you believe the Green World should maintain the ban on PM?
*Puts on Chris Morris’ “Paxman voice”*
Mr Read, he says you’re promoting racist narratives! Well, are you?
Read vs Ramsey
Ego vs Entitlement
It’s the posh version of the immovable object vs the irresistible force.
Neither has EVER been wrong about anything before. I expect fireworks…
I haven’t accused anyone – implicitly, or explicitly, of being either racist or fascist.
I have said that I believe that one thing people do inadvertently perpetuates racism. I have said that to refuse to even consider this argument as something other than an attempt to be ‘right on’ demonstrates a failure to take racism sufficiently seriously.
Neither of these things are ‘being racist’.
If people wish to take a binary, black or white, view of the operation of racism in our society, then we will never solve it.
I think you’ve arrived at a position where you seem to think that a goodly portion of the Green Party’s membership is adhering to positions that are intrisically racist.
Indeed you’ve implicitly accused people who I respect enormously of being racist.
It’s rather hard to come back from that one. It’s a case of put up or shut up – demonstrate the substance or your allegations or issue a grovelling apology. That’ll be very much your decision.
One issue you don’t seem to address very well is food. Despite the vast disparities in consumption of other items disparity in food consumption is far less (in % terms) not least because even rich people can only eat so much (and before you point to obesity in Western countries stop to consider that obesity in the West is generally linked with poverty and not wealth) and the minimum requirements of the poorest is just that – a minimum; eat less and sooner or later you suffer ill health or you die.
It’s an unavoidable fact that countries can outgrow their capacity to produce enough food for their populations. The market isn’t a fix and globalisation is unlikely to help – we’re seeing globalisation in food but almost every government is overwhelmingly concerned about its domestic situation not famine in the developed world. The Irish famines of the 1840s were so devastating precisely because the British government believed that the market would fix the problem rather than take action itself. The market didn’t. The Irish died by the million (cf Robert Key, The Green Flag).
Also stop to consider the wholesale acquisition of agricultural land around the world by the Chinese government (either direct or largely through proxies). China is now replicating, albeit by different means, many of the resource grabs previously made by the west.
China needs to diversify its food supply chains to guarantee its own internal security (indeed if there has been a preeminent reliable predictor of political unrest through history it has been food). This puts additional pressure on the food resources of other developing nations. When push comes to shove I’d bet China will put its own needs first – just like most other countries.
If a country’s population doubles it’s minimum requirements for food double. Even more efficient agriculture can only achieve so much. The likely outcome is a substantial increase in land given over to agriculture. That’s not only putting pressure on other species, but because land (and farmable land in particular) is a finite resource we hit the buffers at some point.
When my father was born there were 2Bn people in the world. When I was born there were 3.5Bn people in the world. Now there are 7Bn. We are facing a serious problem. Actually I’ll rephrase that – we in the West are facing a moderate problem but the poor are facing a potentially catastrophic problem.
However it appears that if we try to discuss this problem we expose ourselves to accusations of racism liberally bandied about by people who are quite illiberal when it comes to allowing reasoned debate.
Frankly I think it’s pretty shameful and it makes me extremely sad. This has generated more than 100 comments – most of them well informed enough to be given due consideration and yet you’re arguing that we should shut down any debate within GW.
God help us.
rather than engaging in the argument as to why this is problematic (which it patently is) he dismissed it as an attempt to be ‘right on’.
that’s not a witch hunt. That’s just what he said.
And you might not see the problems here, but I think it is crystal clear.
Adam, you accuse Rupert of perpetuating racist narratives, and treating anti-racism as a fad. You do this on no more basis than he (and a lot of others including me)are pointing out to you that there is no racism where you had thought there was some. Of course there is lots of real racism out there, but every now and agains someone goes off on one where there isn’t any, and that’s what happened here. By refusing to see this you are falling into the mindset of the witch-hunter. “He denies the witch is a witch, he must be a witch too, ..!” Only in a rather attenuated form of “to deny this racism is to perpetuate the racist narrative”. Open your mind to the fact that this once at least, the denial of racism is because, er.. actually, it isn’t there.
And, to hurry through:
On wilderness, it’s rich people with big gardens who cause most of the problem, not more people. In fact, looking at Britain, most rural areas (certainly the highlands) used to have many more people living in them.
The thing you haven’t addressed is how you are perpetuating racist narratives.
That you dismiss anti-racism as though it is some kind of fashion or fad, and that you try to argue that Rwanda wasn’t really primarily about race (and imply that it wasn’t a genicide) but rather about only environment displays an astonishing degree of white privilege.
Being anti-racist isn’t about being ‘right on’. That you think it is is, frankly, astonishing.
And your argument about sheer number has always come back to food. Which means it isn’t about sheer numbers. It’s about food.
It is quite right that people who are foolish shouldn’t be banned from adverstising. People who perpetuate racism should. This is an important difference you keep missing.
An excellent analysis,once again,Rupert.
Adam. You say repeatedly that I have refused to face your core proposition: that population is not the main issue, that sheer numbers are not the main issue, and that they are allegedly a dangerous distraction. But I HAVE faced it, in detail, and repeatedly. I have made extremely clear my view, that sheer numbers are indeed not the main issue so far as (e.g.) overall carbon footprint is concerned, but that they ARE a main issue, and NOT a distraction, when it comes to various other issues that are key to Greens: quality of life / not being surrounded the entire time by other human beings, wilderness-preservation, pressure on land leading to heightened risk of famine, etc.
(In any case, it is too late to put the genie back in the bottle. The debate is occuring – so PM’s propositions should be examined fairly and squarely on their own terms, on their merits and demerits; not slagged off irrelevantly using scare tactics.)
While I have addressed your main point, you have STILL not addressed a large part of mine. Please explain to us, Adam, how sheer human numbers do not put pressure on wildnerness, do not lead to it being difficult for human beings to spend time far from the madding crowd, etc. Good luck.
Your somewhat-distateful invocation of Nazism is a dangerous irrelevance. You seem to imply by it that the Rwandans who cited pressure on land as a reason for some of what happened in that country in 1994 were basically liars or racists, as the Germans who insisted on lebensraum were liars and/or racists. But that completely misses the point. Even where there was no racial conflict in Rwanda, there was mass murder – because, in part, of GENUINE pressure on land. By saying this, I am hardly justifying murder. Rather, I am saying that we need to work to reduce those factors that probabilify resource-conflicts (and thus mass-murders). One of those factors is population. This needs to be thought about very carefully, in a century likely to see hugely-intensified resource-conflicts (in part, because of population-pressures, especially in the context of likely massive climate-induced food-shortages, etc.).
You say, Adam, that “in practice, no famine ever has been the result of a shortage of food”. That is a falsehood. I take it you are meaning to expound something like Sen’s argument. But Sen’s argument does not have such a drastic – indeed, absurd – conclusion. There are numerous examples in human history of death by famine resulting from shortage of food: Diamond gives loads of them, in his book. You go on: “..and even if there were a shortage of food in one country then (unless we are going to make the most extreme food sovereignty argument), they could just import it.” That really gives the game away. You are relying on globalisation to save us. I take the opposite view. What you call ‘extreme food sovereignty’ I call simply food sovereignty! And localisation. And I am not alone: many critics of ‘developmentality’, from Debal Deb to Vandan Shiva, many of the millions upon millions who belong to La Via Campesina, plus folk such as Simon Fairlie and THE LAND in this country, broadly agree with me. Your “they could just import it” is really the most abstract and insouciant evasion of the impending realities of ‘food wars’, of which 2008 (when most of the world for a while stopped food exporting) was just a tiny taste.
Recall the late-Victorian famine-holocausts. You are right that those, unlike some other famines, were not caused by food-shortages alone (they were also caused by disgusting rampant capitalism and colonialism – and they were also caused by climatic shifts (the latter, and not just the former, should ring bells with us! – and is part of why Mike Davis wrote his book on this)) – but bear in mind that they were WORSENED by globalisation.
If you want to trust in benign globalism to save us from possible (likely) future food-shortages, then good luck to you. I would far far rather have a secure and more-than-resilient food system (see on this the latest Green House report: http://www.greenhousethinktank.org/page.php?pageid=recentpublications ). The stark reality is that population-growth fragilises our system(s), and makes us ever more dependent on the vagaries of (fragile) global systems. When one seeks to deny this, by trying to be a ‘right-on’ Lefty, one simply ends up saying things that are unbelievable, and dangerous.
It may well be that what PM are saying might be dangerous, in the present context. (I certainly think that crude invocation of overall population figures across the world as the alleged cause of all our ecological etc troubles is disastrously dangerous. But that, evidently, is not PM’s way.) But what you are saying, as I’ve pointed-up, is potentially dangerous too, Adam. Do I think therefore that you should be deprived of the right to take out ads in GW, if you wish to do so? Of course I don’t.
And nor should you, vis a vis PM.
The problem with ‘no brainers’, common sense and ‘it stands to reason’ arguments is that they can allow ideas which do not actually hold true to creep in and take root (and I’ve been guilty of this myself). I think we all need to engage our brains and examine our assumptions in order to build a consensus. Given that everyone here mostly shares the same concerns, this should not be impossible and need not be divisive.
BTW I wholeheartedly agree with you on the importance of action and campaigning, as against party politics. Another world is possible, but it won’t be gifted to us by politicians 🙂
On another subject.
Welcome to Bright Green. We do news and analysis for the green and progressive movement, and we’re one of Britain’s leading left wing blogs.”
Really think that you should be honest here and mention your Green Party affiliation.
I agree Roger,it’s a disgrace.But they are wedded to the party political system and it’s not a vote winner in their eyes although if you speak to the “ordinary” person on the street about it they all seem to think that its a problem and see the connection straight away between population and the earth’s ability to sustain it.It’s a no brainer.
The Green Party has always included population in its brief. See http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/pp
If the Green Party wants to change that, it should do so in the course of a national congress, when the subject is aired properly. If it was decided to drop population it would have at least have been democratically decided.
What angers me is that a small number of people in the party have decided that this topic should be suppressed, and have set about doing so without any consent from the party as a whole. This is simply WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.
Stuart Neyton wrote (in comment no 75) that Chile and Uruguay, with similar GDP per capita and Gini equality scores, also have similar fertility rates, though Uruguay has abortion on demand and Chile hasn’t.
I checked his source (the CIA world factbook) and found some other differences.
Uruguay’s population growth rate is less than one third that of Chile. Its mortality rate is less than twice as high and data on migration don’t seem to be available. After 25 years, if the growth rates stayed the same, Uruguay’s population would have increased by 6%, and Chile’s by 23%.
Other differences are inflation, population below the poverty line, and public debt, all much higher in Uruguay, and energy production, which is much higher in Chile.
An excellent piece. Thank you Adam.
I agree Donald, but you’re not suddenly going to change the consumption habits and the relentless pursuit of economic growth in the West by the way the Greens operate at the moment and have been doing so for the 25 years that,I’ve been involved, on and off, with them.A lot of talk, intellectualising,policy and very little action on the streets spreading the message.In my experience Greens,in general, only get active during election campaigns.Certainly here in Scotland.The most irritating aspect of it all is the underestimation of the urgency re the timescale involved here and the ridiculous beliefs that eventually they will form a Government and that those in whatever level of government at the moment(probably excluding Brighton)are having a real influence.
I suppose also that there is an argument then for population control in the West,but what green is going to be brave enough to say that!
I’ve run and am still running many campaigns up here in Scotland on sustainability and climate change and the greens are sadly conspicuous by their absence.A real paradigm shift has to take place and quickly in the party otherwise it will just keep plodding on and hope to get another couple of MPs by 2O50,when the planet no longer has a Green Party or much else.
Let’s examine the evidence:
1. 10 percent of the world’s population, around 700 million people, are responsible for over half of the world’s consumption.
2. The poorest 40 percent consume less than 5 percent of resources.
3. The poorest 20 percent, around 1.4 billion people, consume less than 2 percent.
If the poorest billion people were magically removed there would be hardly any change to global resource consumption. If though the standard of living of the richest 700 million people was reduced to the global average, resource use and pollution would be cut in half.
It’s clear that to effectively deal with the problems of climate change and resource depletion we should be challenging a political and economic system that depends on compounded economic growth forever and results in obscene inequalities of wealth and income.
If the populationists want to target the poorest for birth control then they need to make a case for it that does not include misleading claims on tackling climate change and over-consumption.
The last UN estimate was that 400,000, yes 400,000 people a year die due to the effects of anthropogenic climate change!
200,000 children are born every day. That’s 1.5 million a week!
Make of that what you will.
I think this debate will become almost irrelevant anyway as catastrophic climate change kicks in sooner than we think and we are wiped out in possibly billions.The biggest social justice issue of our time is climate change.It’s time the green party realised this and acted appropriately.
Rupert, 3 things:
1) I will read it. But that really doesn’t convince me. My earlier point is that what you are saying is that the thing people were afraid of was hunger, and they ascribed this to a land pressure. But in practice, no famine ever has been the result of a shortage of food – and even if there were a shortage of food in one country then (unless we are going to make the most extreme food sovereignty argument, they could just import it. If they can’t afford to, then the problem is poverty – and therefore capitalism, and colonialism.
For fear of losing because of Godwin’s law, you could by exactly the same token say that the second world war was about population. Hitler said it was about Lebensraum for an overpopulated German population. If you interviewed Germans at the time about its cause, I’m sure many would have repeated his propaganda – ‘we needed more living space’.
2) you still haven’t addressed the core of my argument. I have not denied that there may be a marginal extent to which population is a factor in things – clearly it is. My point is that to highlight this, as opposed to all of the other factors, if dangerous.
3) let me put this another way. Capitalism works by maximising resource use. If there is a capitalist system, and half the population we have now, we would still have all of the problems we have now: resources would still be used to the maximum. It may take a wee bit longer. But given that the vast majority of the resource is used by people who have the fewest children, and the population reduction under the policies proposed by PM would only really likely lead to a total lower number of poor people, this would only be marginal.
For as long as this is true, why talk about population? (especially if doing so shifts blame onto poor people. Which clearly, it does).
It is, perhaps time I declared a position on the central ideological controversy regarding population growth and its implications. I have so far only spoken about GWEB’s role in this controversy.
Being a geography graduate of the early 80′s, I am very familiar with Malthus’ An Essay on the Principle of Population , from way back in 1798. He describes unchecked population growth as exponential (1→2→4→8), while the growth of the food supply he anticipates to be arithmetical (1→2→3→4). Malthus then suggested that were two types of “checks” that could then reduce the population, returning it to a more sustainable levels. He believed there were “preventive” checks, such as moral restraints (e.g. abstinence, delayed marriage on economic grounds), and restricting marriage against persons suffering poverty and/or defects. These ideas have given rise to all manner of objectionable and heinous (indeed fascist) ideas, such as eugenics and genocide, which has led to anything vaguely Malthusian becoming a cause for left wing contempt, as seen in the various blogs on this Population Matters controversy.
However, Malthus also recognised “positive checks” (somewhat ironically named), which lead to ‘premature’ death: disease, starvation, war; resulting in what are sometimes called Malthusian catastrophes. The catastrophes would return population to a lower, more “sustainable”, level. The term has been applied in different ways over the last two hundred years, and has been linked to a variety of other political and social movements, but almost always refers to advocates of population control. This has become the ‘elephant in the room’ that my Green Left colleagues seem reluctant to get to grips with.
There are some stark facts that need to inform the ideological extremes on both sides of the divide. Simple logic dictates that the human population will not, indeed cannot, continue to grow exponentially as it has in the last 200 years. There is evidence that the rate of increase is slowing down, even the most optimistic predictions suggest we will not see the world population stabilise until somewhere between 10 and 12 billion. We are currently at 7.1 billion and counting ( http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/ )
The crux of the issue is whether we do anything at all to try and manage population, or whether we leave it to Malthusian catastrophes to control. Surely the only sensible way forward is to try to manage it in some way, but we ecosocialists, at least within Green Left, seem to be floundering to come up with answers. But the answers are in our core beliefs. Decrying (ancient) Malthusian ideas as misogynistic and racist is not enough. Ecosocialist solutions, based on overcoming poverty and empowering women, have to be fought for and, so far as I can see, are values largely shared with Population Matters (http://populationmatters.org/about/values/).
It is a matter of fact that high birth rates generally accompany poverty and lack of education. Most poor women do not actually want to spend their lives in childbirth and child rearing. A central demand of women’s movements across the globe has always been for better access to safe and reliable contraception and abortion. Poor people often have large families as an insurance against poverty in old age. When people become richer, birth rates go down. These are all established patterns that I have been teaching in geography lessons for decades. Collectivisation of housework has also been a demand of feminists and socialists, and we need to take a much closer look at this and the role it should play when considering alternatives to capitalism. Malthusian catastrophes will be associated with increases in domestic violence and violence against women. These things always increase dramatically during any societal breakdown.
A world of environmental catastrophe also opens up the danger of massively increased militarism, repression and war – Malthusian catastrophes compounded. Ecological collapse may be survived by the rich minority, but it will devastate the poor. The fight against it is a vital part of the struggle for ecosocialism. Ignoring the ‘population’ elephant in the room is not an option. The stark choice was posed by Rosa Luxemburg: Ecosocialism or Barbarism!
Adam, do read the relevant chapter in COLLAPSE, or the peer-reviewed papers on which it is based… The key, startling point is this: there was some ‘genocide’ (sic.), albeit it lower levels, in the one region of Rwanda where there are no Tutsis at all… And when people there were interviewed to seek to understand what on Earth could have been happening there, what emerged was a story about extreme pressure on land (common across most of the country) such that people are worried that any more pressure of numbers is going to lead to them starving. So they look to ways to avoid starving. Such as reducing the population somewhat.
When land is on (or beyond) the edge of environmental degradation, and when there is no ‘frontier’ to seek more land in, then numbers matter. Population matters.
Adam, I didn’t mean to imply that anyone had specifically called me a fascist, but someone (I can’t now find it) certainly used the word of population activists, of which I am one.
To refer to my post again, no-one has taken up my point that a number of countries have all successfully reduced their fertility rate entirely non-coercively. In each case this was an initiative of the country concerned. It what not white men telling black women what to do.
Also, please look at the website of an American organisation called Population Media Center, which has devised an effective method of teaching about fertility. It has and is being practiced in several countries, including the USA. By its nature, it cannot be imposed on people.It operates by invitation of the countries involved, and makes use of thepublic broadcasting services of those countries. The method puts NO pressure on anyone. The result of the method is confirmed by rigorous research which show that attendence at fertility clinics goes up, sometimes spectacularly. How can this be objected to? Please look at this site and read it without prejudice.
Population activists are well aware that consumption is destru7ctive. This springs fromtheir awareness that you cannot have unending growth in a finite environment. Why has it got to be either/or? Reduction of consumption can not solve our problem alone. Have you considered the problem of trying to get people to reduce their consumption? We can insulate our houses and walk to work until we are blue in the face< but we are running up a dpwn escalator unless we also consider population. Earth Overshoot Day, when the worlds natural resources for the year are
exhausted advances each year and is now in August
And, no one, unless I'e missed it, has mentioned climate change, which isnow nicely getting into its stride. Sea levels are rising, deserts are spreading, water tables are falling, topsoil is eroding, forests are diminishing, so that even if we can feed everyone now, we are not likely to be able to for much longer.
Population growth will come to an end sooner or later: it will do so either because there are more deaths or because there are fewer births. If you're not in favour of the latter, you give support to the former
Re narratives and your question, does that make sense? It makes sense in that I now understand what people mean when they use the term, and thanks for a clear explanation. I would use other language for a phenomenon I agree exists – most of the time most people – well all of us – follow the norms of their social group in what they believe to be right and acceptable, without stopping to think too much about it – but once we start thinking about it, that’s what we do, think. In contexts where people have plainly given thought (including PM’s website) The arrogance of those who accuse others of being victims of internalised narratives demands the response, “physician, cure yourself”, for it sounds like a mixture of arrogance (“I have superior powers of insight to you”), idleness (“I don’t have to follow your argument because I know you are only slave to a narrative”), and bigotry (“I don’t want to listen to your arguments because I daren’t change my mind”).
Reading through this, I think an underlying problem is that some campaigners have quite a black/ white way of looking at things (no pun intended) whereas we see things in perhaps a more pragmatic multi-dimensional way. You don’t think carbon offsetting will stop climate change. We agree but, as it is there, the money might as well be spent on helping people avoid unplanned pregnancies as on planting trees or whatever. The former is certainly more effective in reducing long term overconsumption. And, just as much of this family planning support from this offsetting product is spent here in the UK as in Africa.
Similarly, you counterpose rich white consumption with poor black consumption. Yes, by definition, the rich consume more per capita. But the forecast tripling of the population of the least developed countries will be devastating for those communities as well as the environment. And, yes, high consumptions levels, inequality and waste should be addressed. But there is no reason why that should be presented as an alternative to lowering fertility rates and slowing population growth. They can progress in parallel perfectly easily. No-one is saying that slowing population growth is sufficient to prevent environmental degradation. However, it is necessary, particularly as industrialisation and urbanization spread western consumption behaviour. Finally, development pressure, transport overcrowding, loss of habitat etc. in the UK have all sorts of causes. But a large and continued imbalance between emigration and immigration is bound to have some effect. So, instead of either…or…, we think addressing sustainability should be both…and…
If we can accept that there are a number of greater and lesser strategies, each of which would help us be more sustainable, we can move away from seeing each one as a diversion from all the others. Instead of pitting them against each other, we can then be comfortable promoting all of them.
On partisanship, I agree that there is a separate issue here: GWEB doesn’t have an advertising policy against which to assess what it should and shouldn’t accept. I think we ought to establish one so that future boards at least have the terms of debate defined for them when they discuss what to accept or not.
In such a policy, I would argue that it is ok to be offensive and rude, but that it isn’t ok to be oppressive. Others would, I’m sure, have a different balance. Once it was agreed, they’d still need to argue about what was what – and I would argue, we’re I there, that PM is oppressive. Obviously others might disagree.
It is a reference to the way that people piece together the information they are given – it is at the core of what I am trying to say.
Humans don’t normally interpret the world through a series of facts and logic trees of those facts adding up to conclusions. We subconsciously understand the world through stories. In any one person’s head, there are a number of competing stories which they (we) use to explain the vastly complex array of facts we hear every day.
And stories usually have moral lessons. So, we all partly like to believe the American Dream – that if you work hard, you can succeed. We also like to believe that good people win out in the end, etc.
Some of these moral lessons are things which are good for progressives. others are bad. I think it’s a good thing if people believe that co-operation is the key to success. I think it’s a bad thing if they believe in rugged individualism and think that we are all entirely responsible for our own fate.
These stories – narratives – are things we pick up from the world around us. Things that people say to use confirm or confront them. Every time we tell someone something, we aren’t just giving them one fact. We are confirming or challenging a broader story about the world. And because people hear thousands of facts about the world every day, the moral lesson is more important – because with the moral lesson, people will internalise – take into their subconscious – one story about the world or another.
This is why TV adverts don’t usually just list facts about a product, they tell a story about it (unless that story is that this is a product about which there is lots of evidence that it works).
The difficulty in politics is that we don’t start with blank slates. We start in a world where people are constantly told things by others which reaffirm or challenge the stories they use to interpret the world. And we have to be aware of that. Because if we shout something, then the main political impact of doing so will not be that people now know that thing. The main impact will be that it confirms or challenges a story.
So the main point I have been trying to make is that, in a world where people are forever being told that oppressed people are to blame for their own plight, that immigration is responsible for all of the ills of the world, etc etc, I think the effect of highlighting immigration is mostly to confirm to people the stories in their head which tell them to blame those of other races than themselves, those less rich than themselves, etc.
Does that make sense?
What does internalizing a narrative mean?
The carbon offset scheme: why is it acceptable? Because it taps into a source of revenue to support existing, respected, family planning charities which meet unmet demand for FP. It also provides a genuine scheme with an objective basis for its offset claims – unlike some which are scams. Also, remmeber PM does not exist in a Green Party bubble. There are people out there wanting to offset who are not going to give up their fossil fuel overnight. Which of us in the GP have given up all fossil fuel use? HOw many of us are offsetting all we do use? Don’t knock those who are tying.
Why does the statement on HS2 refer to immigration as a cause of population increase? Right now immigration is the major cause of population growth and PM tells it how it is, not what is convenient for any political dogma, left or right. It is not a political organisation. Again, PM doesn’t exist in a GP bubble. If we are not honest about this here are more than enough people out there waiting to pounce and say why don’t you mention immigration, and conclude we are dishonestif we don’t? We also keep emphasising how births are above deaths(the more so because an urban myth had got around that the reverse is true.)
I don’t know whether the decision to not put the leaflet in GW is an act fitting the dictionary definition of censorship or not. I guess it’s a matter of usage and you take your choice, but Andy Chyba has put it as well as anyone can,and he was there. The decision was partisan on an issue over which there is strong opinion on two sides within the party. That’s the problem, and it doesn’t matter whether you call it censorship or not, it’s the same problem. Those who have said they think the decision was right have also said that they oppose PM. In fact they seem to be saying that this is the very reason that they think the decision was right. They are saying GWEB’s role is to be partisan, as long as it’s partisan on their side. Will they be the first to support it if some future GWEB is partisan against something they feel strongly about?
One last thing I forgot to mention.
Shouldn’t our focus be on reducing the UKs per person CO2 emissions and not worrying about where a person is immigrating from and whether that will increase their emissions or not.
Adam, you said I am saying, “population is the cause of a problem. Poverty is effect.” I wasn’t at all. The causes and effects are interactive. Poor people are concentrated in poor countries (and currupt ones that don’t spend their riches on public services). The people lack both personal means to access family planning and governments able (or willing) to provide them as a public service. Ditto education. Large families keep people in poverty. Rising populations outstretch the ability of poor countrie to provide services, and round and round.
I don’t understand how this can be described as censorship. Green World is a publication of the green party. By definition the Green Party has the right to have editorial control of the content of Green World, even of the advertizing content. That editorial control is free speech being demonstrated. Just in the the same way that Population Matters has editorial control over its own publications and can decide against anything that might be published. That is them demonstrating their own freedom of speech. The Green Party has no obligation to have the propaganda of another organization being published in its own publications.
Newspapers are supposedly neutral and I’m sure the Green Party has as much trouble getting access to Newspapers to get its views across as Population Matters. But newspapers are the forums where there should be a balance of discussion, not Green World which like it or not is a piece of Green Party propaganda and that is the way it should be.
Population Matters has so internalized the blame the victims narrative that the racism is implicit throughout their content as noted by Adam and the list of recent articles on their website.
Not all immigrants to the UK come from countries with low carbon emissions, are we going to allow them because by coming here they will be reducing their emissions, but not people from other parts of the world. Immigrants coming from countries with low CO2 emissions don’t necessarily raise their emissions in the UK. There is a huge discrepancy in emissions between rich and poor in the UK and very few immigrants from poor countries wont suddenly become high consuming upper middle class members of society when they arrive.
It is not impossible for the UK to feed itself it is just in our current globalized economic system it is not profitable to do so. As a result the way we use our farmland is about maximizing profit, which in terms of food production is very inefficient. This is a political choice that we make.
You said that Rwanda was about famine. That’s not the same as saying it’s about sheer numbers.
And you haven’t addressed my core argument which is not that there isn’t *any* extent to which population is a factor, but that highlighting it is unhelpful and dangerous.
Also, no one has yet explained to me why the carbon offsetting scheme is acceptable.
Spot on Rupert!
Adam – Sadly, can’t make conference as this is my daughter’s GCSE year, but hopefully Autumn. Have a good one.
Adam; you say that in a better world we could have this debate. But look: we ARE having it. So it is irresponsible and intellectually-weak to say that because we live in a big nasty world you are going to dogmatically take up a hard-line stance in the debate, even though that stance isn’t fully justified by the evidence!
I find it worrying that Andy C felt he had to resign from GWEB over this. Is that really the kind of outcome you want, Adam et al? Was it worth it? Was it worth refusing the ad from PM so that we could tear ourselves apart over this? Wouldn’t it have been better to have (had) the debate?
Furthermore: Your response to my points above is in the main extremely weak, Adam. It looks to me as though you are _losing_ the debate (the debate that you didn’t even want to have). The evidence and the arguments provide only weak support for most of your assertions. You have still failed to address the fundamental point I made, that there are many reasons why sheer population rise, within a nation and/or worldwide, IS a problem, even if straight carbon emissions in situ isn’t one of them. For example: Rwanda, where some people killed each other over food under cover of a genocide, is not on another planet. It happened here on Earth. And in fact, it might be much closer to Britain than most people imagine. BRITAIN CANNOT FEED ITSELF. We cannot feed ourselves, and yet supposedly population is not a problem.
Shit just got real…
I wish I could be 100% confident that we will not have to worry about the fact that Britain cannot feed itself, worry in terms of us literally not having enough food, in our lifetimes. I am very far from such confidence. Global supplylines are weak and absurdly long; it is very easy to imagine ‘Black Swan’ events that will disrupt our food supply very severely within days. (Remember the fuel protests?)
We should reduce our fragility and build our resilience and antifragility. Increasing population increases fragility in a number of ways. There is no way around this point. It needs to be accepted, and reflected upon.
Jonathan – as you say, there is a line. We elect an editorial board presumably partly to make decisions on our behalf about where that line lies. I believe that adverts for an organisation which I think shifts blame into women and people in the global South are oppressive. I think they cross that line. My anti-racist activist friends think that it’s amazing that we even have I have this debate and that it’s totally obvious we shouldn’t publish this, you seem to think it’s totally obvious that we should publish. That there is clearly such strong opinion on either side shows the position the editorial board were in.
I don’t believe simply spreading reproductive rights even has an impact on population. For example Uruguay and Chile have similar levels of equality (Gini) and a very similar GDP/capita, are nearby (though not neighbouring) and aren’t worlds apart culturally. Uruguay has abortion on demand and Chile bans abortion in ALL circumstances. The 2012 CIA world factbook lists the fertility rate in both these countries as 1.87. I support women’s rights to free and safe abortions everywhere, but this isn’t going to limit population growth, and is absolutely not going to save us from an overheating planet.
@Adam “an advertisement which serves to perpetuate an oppression” – well that’s a pretty fine point. All sorts of ads might fall under that heading in the view of some people.
The point is you shouldn’t be making such a fine judgement on behalf of other people when its the organ of a democratic political party that embraces a range of views. You’re editorial policy seems to amount to ‘I disagree with that, I find it offesive, end of debate’.
Of course sometimes editors get it wrong – The Observer’s failure to recognise Julie Burchill’s transphobic rant as hate speech was bad editing (and the paper quickly admitted as much, though The Telegraph’s Toby Young seemed to think it’s decision to pull the piece was worse) – but ‘serves to perpetuate an oppression’? It sounds line a line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Please stop trying to sheild me from views I might find offensive Adam. I’m a big grown up person and I can cope, thank you.
Having now read this whole thread, most of the comments are critical of this article for very valid reasons.You don’t allow an advertisement from PM but you allow this article from Adam Ramsay.I presume the editorial Board reviewed this article before it was published?
@Andy – I do think there is another question here about process. As I understand it, it isn’t at all clear what the role of the editorial board is in such matters. In this context, it is quite reasonable for you, on the one hand, to think that what matters is that the broad opinion of the party is represented whilst others, on the other hand, believe that they have a key function as elected members in filtering out adverts which they see to be problematic/offensive. The lack of an advertising policy seems to be the problem here – because you then could at least have agreed the terms of the debate if not it’s outcome. So we must resolve that.
On Rupert’s point on a similar matter – that an incoherent argument shouldn’t be sufficient to ban an advert – sure, I agree. But for me, there is an important distinction between an advertisement which serves to perpetuate an oppression. And we shouldn’t allow the latter. My point is that I believe that PM are the latter.
@70 I have to agree with Andy. The debate on this article alone shows that it’s an issue that needs to be thrashed out and not an issue that needs to be closed down.
I’m appalled that anyone thinks that shutting down a debate is a good thing. We are not the bloomin’ SWP or UKIP. We talk about things.
I also think people accusing those who are concerned about population of racism, thinly veiled or not, should tread carefully. Accusing someone of racism is also a way of closing down a debate, fine if the person really is racist but abhorrent if they just happen to hold different views from the accuser. By the same token I’m very much with Adam on people using mental health epithets as terms of abuse. It’s really not good particularly given that we are pledged as a party not to use them.
So please let’s stop using censorship unless it relates to hate speech.
As for population – those who think it’s a complete non issue need to consider the very real link between poverty and women’s ability to control their fertility and exercise choice. As people’s economic standing improves they tend to choose to have fewer children, also having fewer children tends to better secure those children’s future as parents are able to provide better for them.
We simply need to avoid placing the responsibility for pressure on resources and for CO2 emissions onto those trying to escape poverty. As many people have observed the developing world contributes relatively little. However we have also managed to create a global consumer culture without recognising that consumerism doesn’t scale to 7 Billion people without a very real impact on the planet. It’s complex, it’s awkward, but we need to explore it in a way that’s mindful of the right of everyone on this planet to life, health, education, shelter, food, safety, respect and dignity. We won’t be able to explore it if people are told that certain views (short of those that are racist) are off limits. We need to persuade not censor.
This thread demonstrates the reason why I felt I had to resign from GWEB over the refusal to take the flier from PM. There are very many GP members on both sides of the argument, and therfore, it had to be incumbent to GWEB to reflect that spread of opinion, rather than effectively censor one side of the debate.
Let me further calrify my position as it is getting quite a complicated web of issues.
The GWEB that I found myself a part of consisted of three passionate young guys and Miriam Kennett, who I know a bit about, but have not (to this day) ever met. My understanding of the role, perhaps based on naive assumption, was that the magazine should reflect the full range of opinion within the Party, as well hoping that it may perhaps provoke debate and discussion more than it appears to have done in the past.
When one member of GWEB voiced opposition to taking the flier from Population Matters, I thought it was ridiculous. It is not that I have a strong opinion on the organisation, and it would not have been relevant if I had.
The fact of the matter is that there are very many Green Party members that not only sympathise with PM, but are active members and supporters of it. I therefore made the case, within GWEB, that it was preposterous to turn down advertising from an organisation that clearly had support from within the Party, especially as there is a disclaimer in every issue that makes it clear that, and I quote: “views in Green World do not necessarily express the views of the Green Party. Products and services advertised in Green World are not necessarily endorsed by the Green Party”.
I thought this line of argument would put the issue to bed, but it soon emerged that GWEB was split down the middle, with 2 members entrenched on each side of the argument, and the Convenor sitting very uncomfortably on the fence.
I again made it clear to GWEB members that I considered our own ideological positions on this issue irrelevant, as the magazine had to reflect the range of opinion within the party and not effectively censor elements of it. I suggested that if anybody had such strong views about any organisation associated with the Party, the proper means to address this would be through Conference. I considered this situation could set a very dangerous precedent and I was not happy to work with a Board that was not prepared to reflect the whole Party, but seek to impose their own perspectives. Thus, I felt the principles at stake here were such that it had become a resignation issue – so when the Convenor chose to favour the call to refuse the advertising, I duly resigned.
I do not rule out returning to GWEB, indeed I think I would like to do so at some point, but I hope this whole episode might precipitate some useful and beneficial debate on a number of issues related to both Population Matters and Green World at Conference and beyond.
Population does matter and your latest “finds” of discrediting information about Population Matters don’t help in any way to create a positive dialogue. Maybe I should start to troll the Green Party archives and find information that discredits you.I find your tone patronising and your content skewed to focus on one issue that you can attempt to prove them wrong about.I believe you should give them a proper right of reply on here. So what is the Green Party policy on population then and for that matter the number that the earth can sustain in perpetuity? Looks like you don’t want to talk about it because of political ” expediency”. Not a vote winner is it. But it is your DUTY as greens to face this issue head on and not shy away from it.
@Chris I take on some of your points, but you can’t ignore the fact that China’s greenhouse gas emissions are up nearly 200% since the year 2000 in spite of a controlled population. Limiting population growth is a complete red herring.
I enjoy reading Green World and I am happy it didn’t run the Populations Matters advert.
Without repeating the points both you and Fiona made in your blogs which I strongly agree with. In my opinion the Population Matters agenda amounts to thinly veiled racism.
No one would deny that we live in a rapidly expanding world. But what is dangerous is when this is viewed as a problem to be curbed. Clearly a growing population poses massive challenges if we are to reduce carbon emission levels and avoid 4-6 degrees climate change and the associated climate chaos.
What we need to do is looking at taking responsibility in Western society. To reduce not only our personal carbon footprints but also pressure business and government to make a rapid transition to a low carbon energy sector.
We can’t expect that in developing countries people will continue to 0.6 tonne carbon footprints. For centuries we have pillaged the developing world for fossil fuels and other natural resources. Hopefully these “developing countries” (I hate that term but struggling for a different one) can improve their general standards of living and they are fully justified in having a higher carbon footprint than they do currently.
We are the ones not people in Mali who need to adjust our consumption and lifestyle habits. We need to re-learn how to live in harmony with nature. And advocating population controls in far flung places, leaves a nasty taste in my mouth.
Keep writing powerful, truthful pieces.
“some people have used some pretty offensive language – including ableist language (‘crazy’ ‘mental’ ‘retards’). Please keep it civil her”
I apologise and take back the word “nutters”
Chris – it’s very different. You are saying population is the cause of a problem. Poverty is effect.
Good post Adam. The idea that people here have the right to tell people elsewhere that they are having too many children is absurd – at least. That is what, in effect, PM are doing.
Current global problems such as poverty and shortages of food have nothing to do with population. They are caused by capitalism. The latter is due to speculation and distribution not actual shortage. Neither is climate change caused by people from these countries as you pointed out.
The global population will fall when people in developing’ countries, particularly women, are empowered and can control their conception and economies. This can only be achieved if we move away from capitalism.
Rupert – sorry, I’ve not had time to read back all the longer comments. So, here goes:
1) on immigration to the uk, the per capita emissions in fact mask another thing – that there is huge disparity in consumption in the uk. Immigrants, some of the poorest people in the UK, don’t tend to have anything like the same consumption levels as the average.
2) On hunger – there might, I suppose, be a theoretical point at which it would be impossible to feed the people on earth. But we aren’t anything like there. Hunger is an issue of distribution, and of inefficient useage (ie using crops as fodder for animals so people like me can eat meat).
Finally, I’ve not read collapse. But I’d make the same argument as above – there is a whacking great chunk of peer reviewed evidence that famines are almost always a distribution problem.
But I think that none of these points address my concern: the vast majority of the problem is an economic system controlled by rich white men for rich white men. In a perfect world without power imbalances, etc, we could have a conversation about the marginal extent to which increases in population are a contributory factor Ito environmental problems. But in the racist, sexist, imperialist world we live in, highlighting these problems as opposed to those directly linked o those who own and control our economy perpetuates the power structures on which the system depends, and so ultimately do more harm than good – through both the direct harm of the victim blaming oppression, and by deflecting attention from the core issues.
some people have used some pretty offensive language – including ableist language (‘crazy’ ‘mental’ ‘retards’). Please keep it civil here – I’ve met many of the people on both sides of this discussion and you are all lovely (if I happen to find it infuriating arguing with some of you about this!). And, more to the point, ablist language (language which perpetuates discriminations against disabled people) isn’t really OK.
(and, @Jess, indeed – thanks for commenting – hope to see you at conference?)
Just a few more things on Population Matters:
the top news stories on the wbsite at the moment are:
1) – a carbon offsetting scheme whereby rich people can assuage their carbon guilt by paying for contraception in Ethiopia http://populationmatters.org/2013/population-matters-news/climate-change-grants-contraception-ethiopia-uk/
2) HS2 – population to blame: the first cause listed for this ‘too many people’ problem is ‘immigration’.
3) lower birth rates needed to end hunger: http://populationmatters.org/2013/population-matters-news/birth-rates-needed-hunger/ – this is a response to the Enough/If campaign – again talking about the global South
4) ‘Is Humanity a Plague?
Interstingly, the first two countries mentioned in this piece about how people are like locusts are Ethiopia, and Mali (the same example as I give above, by chance) – who have particularly fast growing populations, we are told in the piece: http://populationmatters.org/2013/population-matters-news/humanity-plague/
So, PM tell us that they talk mostly about the UK. But the random sample of things currently on their homepage gives different evidence (though I accept it’s a limited sample). When they do talk about the UK, the first thing they mention is immigration.
Adam; you haven’t addressed my central, substantive points, including:
>> That it makes sense to seek to find decent ways of preventing population rise in the UK, including of reducing immigration, precisely because our footprint here is high;
>> That it is disingenuous to focus only on the per capita footprint of those living in high-population growth countries, especially if you are not proposing to limit immigration (see previous point), because of the possibility of population movements;
>> That there are in any case obvious reasons, which I gave some examples of, of why sheer population numbers matter, as well as footprint mattering. Another example of this that I could have given is of population-growth raising the likelihood of famine: for human beings have a minimum calorific intake etc [and thus a minimum amount of land, in effect] to even stay alive. This, it is clear, was a major factor in the Rwandan genocide. See on this e.g. the relevant chapter in Jared Diamond’s COLLAPSE, a chapter that is very well-sourced to academic peer-reviewed articles on the contribution to the genocide made by potential-famine-pressure resulting from population-pressure.
…It would be great if these points could be addressed. Otherwise, one will have to conclude that you have no answer to them. Which would be fatal to your argument.
A most excellent, if frustrating, debate! I’ve learned a lot, cheers all.
I’m often a heart-sleeve kind of gal, so as long as I’m certain of my motives & the motives of those around me, I’ll continue to work & liaise with my PM/Pop.Research colleagues & friends across the globe in their emotional & supportive work.
I take my lead from them, working inordinate hours in their home countries, including Britain, Papua NG, Denmark, Holland, Tanzania & Chili.
It is the work that few want to do & I admire them working in some of the most desperate of circumstances.
You can break down large families by any number of categories I am sure: country, religion, colour, poverty, education, and you will find huge variation in all of them. The fact is there are strong causal links (between nations) with birth rates and both poverty and education, and none with race (or religion which surprises many) Since you focus on Africa, it suffers from high levels of poverty, lack of education, lack of health care, and just general poverty. People are clever enough, in your words, to know that. Does that drive you to say people shouldn’t campaign on these issues, lest these clever-enough people, who know that Africa is where these problems mostly occur, will blame the Africans for it, and that will be racist? There are even charities that concentrate solely on Africa. It is no different at all with population than with any other issue.
You ask questions based on false premises.
“Why aren’t PM acknowledging the fact that consumption of the Earth’s resources varies vastly depending on which corner of the planet you happen to live on?” Answer: it does, full stop.
“Limiting population growth doesn’t solve any of the world’s environmental and human problems. China’s one-child policy has been defended by PM nutters. This has resulted in huge numbers of biologically female babies being abandoned, aborted or put up for adoption (often to western families) because their patriarchal society favours men.”
What should we deduce from your resort to calling PM supporters (that’s me for one) “nutters”? You answer your own question by pointing out the patriarchal nature of Chinese society. Infanticide is ages old in China and until recently was common, and was driven by starvation, lack of birth control, and low status of women. How does PM’s policies cause any of those? They have the opposite effect very strongly.That a cultural acceptance of abandoning girls still persists in some places is hardly the fault of the Chinese policy, especially as a key part of the policy is to persuade people that girls are as valuable as boys.
“Why has hunger and famine also been a huge “problem in times of much smaller populations as it is today?”
Im previous ages we did not have access to the huge fossil fuel resources that fuel much of modern agriculture. There was less concern by governments over the starving poor less effort was put into increasing production that might have been. Today, we have broken in almost all suitable farmland, are facing a crisis through the use of fossil fuel (it takes far more energy in oil to farm food in the industrialised world, than the resulting food contains). Soil fertiliteis are declining throughout the world due to erosion and over use. Basically were eating oil now, and we can’t go on doing that.
I’ve posted enough. I need a break
Roger – I’ve just done a *ctrl* F search on the above, and no one is calling you a fascist – certainly not me.
Chris, I disagree – I think it’s very clear when you talk about population that the cause of overpopulation (if it exists) is the people who have the most children. And they are almost all impoverished and black. People are clever enough to know that. I am not saying ‘you can’t say anything in case someone comes to a racist conclusion’ I am saying ‘if you talk about things which are mostly done by black people as the cause of a problem, then people will end up blaming black people’. I thin that’s very simple.
Also, I agree that we should trust people. I wouldn’t advocate banning PM from saying what you want in public. I just don’t think that the Green Party should agree with PM, or should allow people to get the impression that we do.
When the left want to abuse those who advocate action on population, they accuse them of right wing politics, of ‘blaming the poor’, even, as one kind contributor to this discussion did, of being ‘fascist’.
Those on the right, however, tend to accuse them, as one speaking on the radio did recently, of being ‘Greens, who are all covert Marxists, who want to impose their Marxist ideals on the world’.
Both these reactions are ways to avoid confronting the biggest challenge of the age, which has nothing to do with politics, but everything to do with biology and the limitations of the planet. The Earth is finite: there must be an upper limit to the number of people it can support. So, sooner or later, the growth of population will come to an end. This could be very unpleasant. In the twentieth century, the two most destructive wars ever, a flu epidemic that killed more people than WWI, the AIDS epidemic, numerous lesser conflicts famines and purges made scarcely any impression on the graph of rising population, so the end of population growth, if we leave it to happen by itself (i.e. Nature’s way) will be catastrophic way beyond all the things that have happened in the last century. We must recognise the truth of that, surely? And what is wrong with wishing to avoid that?
Population has more than trebled in my lifetime: if I was only four years older, I could claim that it had quadrupled. In most of that century, population growth was exponential, doubling every forty years: it appears to be no longer exponential, but the rate of growth has not declined. The last billion took twelve years, just at the one before it did, and every day nearly a quarter of a million are added to our numbers. Human beings account for 30% of mammalian mass on the planet, and our livestock and other animals another 67%: wildlife accounts for just 3%.
One contributor puts forward the argument that amounts to ‘population activists say they want to enable women. Of course that’s what we want also but we want it for the right reason: they want it for the wrong reason’. What sort of argument is that? Why is it assumed that there is anything devious in what we are asking for in this respect? We want enablement for all the reasons you want it, and we are aware (all the evidence points to it) that enablement frees women to choose not to have to bear a child every year, or to be ground down by having a family of ten by the time they are thirty. This is a direct counter to poverty and to suffering. According to UN, 210 million women have no access to modern means of contraception, and over 40% of pregnancies are unintentional. Forty two million women have an abortion annually, of which 20 million are unsafe, with large numbers of deaths and permanent disabilities resulting (WHO). The Railway Children charity tell me that though they cannot be certain, they believe there are several million children who have been abandoned by their families who could not support them. For Pete’s sake, I want to do something about that: why does that make me a ‘fascist’?
Yes, yes, I know all about consumption, especially in the developed world, and I am fully in agreement that it is damaging the world and that we should do everything in our power to reduce it: but suppose we manage to reduce per capita consumption by 50% over say 50 years, and the population doubles in the same period, we will be not one whit better off. And then we’d have to start off again all over again. Do you think people will take kindly to that?
Let me tell you whom we will ally ourselves with if we do not tackle population. They are the patriarchal religions who denounce contraception and belittle women; big business and economists, who can only think in terms of growth, because more babies means more people to sell things to; military dictatorships who want to be ‘strong’; and any culture where women are not respected. In this respect I would rather be linked with countries like Taiwan, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Thailand, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia and Bangladesh, all of whom have achieved dramatic reductions using entirely non-coercive methods of precisely the sort advocated by Population Matters.
Adam, to me you seem to be displaying the very faults in thinking you accuse others of. Aren’t your arguments highly convoluted? The long trains of cause and effect by which you attempt to predict that any concern over population must end up blaming, variously, the poor or immigrants, are more convoluted than those you criticize. Tbey also rely on supposing most people will ignore the facts. Of course that may apply to some people, but to pick the worst sort of prejudiced reasoning that anyone might follow, and then claim that this will be, or is, the general behaviour is nonsense. You forget that prejudices are balanced by opposite prejudices, and the only way to get decent decisions is promote freedom of speech and expression, and then trust the people. That way the aggragate outcome will be fair and reasonable. You say, “Once you point a finger you can’t control which direction people will look”. I don’t like the implication of that. I trust people, in aggragate, and believe that freedom of speech and democracy are the only protection against prejudice we have. Once you start thinking that you can only say things you are sure will control people into thinking like you, you open the door to the very thing you are most afraid of.
Very sorry Adam. A sign of age? Quite pleased really as I had mistaken you for Adrian whom I knew and greatly respected when I was more active some years ago, and was a bit disappointed with his=your stance here.
I don’t really think you’ve really addressed my and some others’ comments adequately and it doesn’t seem at all likely that you will. So we’ll have to agree to disagree I guess.
I’m sure we still have far more in common than most of the world out there so best wishes anyway.
Blaming impoverished black and asian women for the world’s environmental problems might not be the aim of the Population Matters supporters, but by looking at the issue through the prism of population, that’s exactly what they’re doing. If it’s simply campaigning for reproductive rights across the globe, why not support a group that actually does that, instead of one that states over and over that there are too many people. Who is here who shouldn’t be? Why aren’t PM acknowledging the fact that consumption of the Earth’s resources varies vastly depending on which corner of the planet you happen to live on? Why has hunger and famine also been a huge problem in times of much smaller populations as it is today? Limiting population growth doesn’t solve any of the world’s environmental and human problems. China’s one-child policy has been defended by PM nutters. This has resulted in huge numbers of biologically female babies being abandoned, aborted or put up for adoption (often to western families) because their patriarchal society favours men. Their one-child policy has also done nothing to limit China’s environmental footprint, which has been growing rapidly even with a stable population. PM’s support for immigration controls is a position I find abhorrent, and contradictory to GP policy. Their support for either population controls or targets directly contravenes GP policies PP106 & PP111. Blaming the world’s poorest women for environmental problems is racist, sexist and classist. Attempting to solve environmental problems by controlling these people’s reproduction is imperialism. Please look at the bigger issue of inequality of wealth and consumption. This is caused by capitalism, not by the number of babies we have.
Peter, just to be clear, as has been said before, I am Adam, not Adrian. I say this because you seem cross about this and I don’t want you to be cross with the wrong person.
Otherwise, all of your comments have been addressed above.
Your assertion regarding “shifting blame to poor black people and perpetuating white power and racism” is such flawed reasoning and a terrible argument against tackling population growth head on. And to say you are not empowering women to have more control over their reproduction if you pre-define the outcome of their family planning. For goodness sake!
Your attack on PM is quite disingenuous. With your USA/Mali comsumption comparison you infer that PM are soley concerned with the majority world, and of the issue of contraception. So wrong. Their leaflet highlights the UK’s rising birth rate with the highest teenage pregnancy in Europe. It calls for universal convergence of lifestyles and encourages opinion makers and individuals to engage sustainable lifestyles.
If you explore their website you will discover their four main campaigns comprise: population awareness; access to family planning; conserving the natural environment and promoting sustainable consumption. Under these banners they are campaigning on a wide variety of issues including education, gender equality, child marriage, homophobia, full employment and measures to reduce gross inequalities in income and wealth.
Campaigning to provide access to family planning services where needed, whether under the banner of population or not, does not succour racism or white supremacy. If anything, it is denying over 200 million women access to contraception that is racist. Maybe you should ask some of these women who spend most of their short adult lives in pregnancy, ignorance, slavery and squalor..
PM are kindred spirits. They share our aims values to eradicate poverty, inequality and self-destruction. Their members and supporters are far more likely to support the Green Party, who after all have a Population Policy which reflects the PM mission. With the forces mounted against us it’s crazy to attack green organisations in this way.
Ironic that those who don’t want to support PM’s reproductive health campaign for fear of promoting racism and white supremacy lend support to the worst offenders – the US Republican Party, who slashed US funding to the UN family planning programmes.
Simon and Roger,
Thanks for your comments.
But again, they don’t address any of my concerns. As I have said above, I am not saying that you are racist. I am saying that, in a world which is racist, I believe your contribution to the conversation is one which, inadvertently I’m sure, perpetuates racist narritives. That’s a pretty important difference. I am sure that there are lots of things I do which inadvertently perpetuate racist, sexist and class oppressions in our society. When people point then out to me, I try to stop doing them. This doesn’t make me racist, it just means we all need to think about the numerous and complex ways in which oppressions are perpetuated.
Secondly, Simon, your argument is convoluted. No one anywhere has said that people shouldn’t provide contraception.
Thirdly, you are confusing “blaming women for having too many children” and “shifting blame onto those who have lots of children”. Once you point a finger, you can’t control the direction people look, which is obviously going to be at women in the global south. And, even if, as you say, you do mainly talk about Britain, all that means is that you are shifting blame onto immigrants. And again, no matter how nuanced your position might be, it is highly politically naive to think you can do this in a way which doesn’t support those who shift blame onto immigrants more generally. And in a way, that’s more problematic – if what you are concerned about within the uk is resource use, the idea that you would start the conversation by talking about immigrants – some of the poorest, and therefor least likely to consume – is astonishing. Worse, given that those people will live somewhere, where they live is only globally pertinent if we believe that the UK is so overcrowded that it is becoming a significant problem. I can see a case for more housebuilding in the North/Highlands etc. but other than that, I just don’t see the problem.
Also, perhaps you could explain how the carbon offsetting scheme isn’t offensive?
Peter. You are repeating a falshood which everyone else reading this discussion seems to have recognised. Population pressure is a problem across the board and no one is “blaming the poor” for it. Growth in industrialised countries – and the industrialising ones – contributes to the growth in CO2 emissions and other global resource problems far more than it does from poor countries, true. But growth in poor countries does contribute to these things too, but also has a larger impact on local environments through forest removal, over-grazing and so on, as well as the difficulties faced in the cities of poor countries, in trying to provide proper services to ever growing shanty suburbs. This mantra that any concern over population growth “blames the poor” is nonsense. It is factually untrue in that no one in PM or who supports the GP’s policy on population says it or believes it, and your view that it is somehow implicit in population concern of any kind to blame the poor does not stand up to rational analysis.
We think people in poor countries should enjoy the same right of access to family planning that the people of rich countries have enjoyed for, what, three or four generations, and have long sinced properly regarded as a basic human right. It’s a fact that people choose to have smaller families on average given the choice. How can it blame them to give them that choice?
The poor are the chief victims of unsustainable population growth. The rich can buy their way out of the problem, at least temporarilly until climate change really hits. If you read the financial columns – that represent mainstream global capital – you find their comments on population growth usually refer to it “driving down wages” and as that being a good thing. I’ve seen that all over the place in response to China’s recent announcement that the population in the 16 to 59 age range had fallen slightly. There is concern from global capital that as this is set to continue, Chinese wages will rise, ending the supply of dirt cheap goods from China which has been providing their profits.
That’s where the real blame lies.
I think the problem here is that there is a ‘common sense’ argument about population that hides a very real shift of blame from the rich to the poor.
We all know and accept that the environmental crisis is as a result of massive overconsumption by a very, very small number of people. If we are to address the environmental crisis we must first address this problem.
Arguments that distract from that, like those which point the finger at the poor and women (as population arguments inevitably do), are unhelpful. Doing things about population in our current economic system will only perpetuate the problems we face. So if you want to distract yourselves with arguments about population that look and sound like they are racist and misogynist, feel free to do so, but the Green Party and its publications shouldn’t connive in that distraction.
And I think it’s time to review that policy, which thankfully the Scottish party has removed.
thanks for this. But you don’t contradict anything I say.
1) as I have said repeatedly, I too am passionately in support of more access to contraception for everyone.
2) I haven’t said that anyone at PM is racist. What I said was:
“when we take a problem largely caused by rich white people, but highlight ways of discussing it which shift the blame onto poor black people, we are perpetuating white power and the racism in our society. This isn’t to say that the people who run Population Matters are intentionally racist – I am sure they are lovely. But just as it is possible for me to accidentally do things which contribute to a sexist society, what they do contributes to a racist, classist society.”
My point is that if we push population, rather than other causes, to the front and centre of the debate, then we serve to highlight a cause with which one group of people – poor, black people – are more associated.
Now, you could quite reasonably say that the benefit to the planet of highlighting this cause is greater than the cost of a portion of focus and blame being shifted, and that’s a perfectly reasonable position. But, as it happens, because of the cost, I disagree. If what PM want is to empower people to take control of their fertility, then I am all in favour of a group with does just that.
1) in what way did these comments contradict what you’ve heard about PM – nothing Jess says contradicts anything I’ve heard about them.
2) on immigration. I am happy to have an academic policy argument with you about why I happen to disagree with you at some other time, but I really don’t think that’s the point. Contributiuons to public discourse don’t happen in a vacuum. If you put out a press release saying that ‘immigration is to blame for HS2’ at a time when fascism is on the rise across Europe, you are being highly irresponsible. You don’t need to be racist to do it – I’m sure they are not – but their arguments perpetuate a racist discourse which causes real and significant harm.
I have found Chris Padley’s, Jessica Goldfinch’s, Roger Martin’s and Simon Ross’s comments very useful. It appears that those attacking PM may have somewhat misled me and others as to what exactly PM’s real views were. If so, that is a real shame, and has muddied the waters.
I think that GW should make available a platform, at the very least online, for PM to be able to rebut such apparent-misrepresentations. Ironically, we can now see even more clearly how silly the GW decision not to allow PM to pay for an ad was. For GW may well end up having to give PM or their advocates space for free…
It was a bad article Adrian. If PM’s policies are racist and misogynistic then so are those of the Green Party.
From the Green Party’s official Population POlicy, as found in the MFSS and on our website:
PP103 There is a need to explicitly consider population since, if it is ignored indefinitely, the risk of over-consumption of natural resources will increase, leading to conflict and ultimately a reduction in carrying capacity.
PP104 There are many causes of population growth and some of these must be addressed to avoid overpopulation. Causes may be as basic as a lack of family planning information and contraceptives. Inequality and lack of opportunities can result in people having more children than they would otherwise want. On a wider scale, it has been observed that populations often increase following wars, social strife and environmental disasters
PP117 To achieve a level of consumption and, through education and the free provision of family planning services, a birth rate consistent with the goal of long term sustainability.
In fact reading the PM leaflet, most of it could have been inspired from the MFSS, and GWEB were misguided to ban their leaflet. Hopefully they will apologise to PM and we will all receive a copy in the next issue of Green World.
My personal view on the immense problem of overpopulation made possible by the overextraction of the worlds finite resource of geological fuels. They take millions of years to form so we should be only taking a tiny fraction of what is there, leaving the rest for our unfortunate descendants. Since the world population has grown from 2 to 7 billion in my lifetime the least that I can do to atone for my and my generation’s natural desire for a more comfortable and convenient life is to voluntarily end my life when I am no longer able to contribute to the welfare of the world through my actions in the Green Party.
My views are as follows:
1) Of course, population and family planning is only ONE part of the web needing attention to tackle climate change and promote sustainability, but it is a crucial & sensitive part to address. It is obvious that approaches including fairer distribution of all resources go in tandem, but it should be a human right for women and men, but especially women, (because they are often left holding the baby), to NOT have their fertility controlled by religion and ‘men’ or anyone and also for men by other men, but to have proper education & access to family planning & sexual health protection. Especially as distribution of wealth and resources isn’t going to happen over night.
2) As we know, in this country, we still have girls, (and boys), growing up in environments where choices, (often driven by poverty, lack of education & opportunity, cultural pressures/ social norms), are stifled and overridden. They are often subjugated and trapped by teenage pregnancies – I have two close relatives caught in this spiral, luckily they turned things around, but not without health problems and great emotional pain.
3) I am a member of PM (OPT) after my experiences working with/helping family, friends & colleagues from all over the world in Population Studies Research (equivalents to PM), inc.Chili, India, Tanzania, Papua NG.
One friend/doctor, (Dr. Mkini), said that initially only he, (because he was a man), could operate in Family Planning and only with men. However, now he has since trained other women & men, all genders and ages have access to sexual health care & family planning, but many have to seek help secretively.
4) I have never met a member of PM(OPT) or any associated Population Research Group across the globe who is trying to deflect responsibility for sustainability onto poorer countries’ women’s fertility or anyone else’s fertility. My colleagues ARE from these poorer countires. A gradual reduction of population in all countries should be a “no-brainer” and is in line with GP policy as far as I see it, as long as ‘good practice’ is monitored & maintained.
5) Neither have I heard so-called ‘rich white men’ trying to deflect responsibility for their ‘rich lifestyles’ and tell poorer women what to do with their bodies.
What I have witnessed is groups of men & women, from various walks of life, across the globe trying to get each and everyone of ‘us’ in their respective communities to play their part in preventing competition over dwindling resources. To prevent lingering distress, the agony of starvation, STDs, abandoned infants and high mortality and emotional trauma across the globe.
6) My colleagues overwhelmingly reported that women (and men) empowered by knowledge and general education including about their bodies, sexual health, child rearing etc. will opt to take contraception and many favour 5 year implants.
7) Women particularly, but also men, are often stifled and pressured by religious and cultural imperatives to have children and prove virility, not accept contraception or seek abortion services. Girls, reported as young as 9, have died in childbirth. Women’s bodies are ravaged by the strain of multiple pregnancies and die young often orphaning many children, their husbands having died or abandoned them.
8) Girls’ & women’s lives are ‘chained’, (often literally “barefoot & pregnant”), by their lack of control over fertility and I am furious & tearful that girls the same age as my daughter do not have access to the most basic right to control their own fertility.
Men, too, often opt for contraception inc. vasectomy when offered the chance.
9) My colleagues have reported that some men & women are taking contraception and then ‘feigning’ infertility through illness, so that they are no longer pursued or subject to the pressures of child bearing or proving male virility.
10) Often, so desperate to reduce the levels of abandoned babies & infant/maternal distress & mortality, parents can be offered incentives e.g. Solar radios! I can’t imagine being so desperate.
11) Family planning is also offered & encouraged alongside HIV & sexual health education/ medication & treatment and outreach clinics at home & abroad are often the first ports of call in preventing female genital mutilation, trafficking and sexual abuse.
Women & men, girls & boys, everywhere should have the opportunity NOT to have children and people who are informed, invariably opt for smaller families, whoever they are and wherever they are from.
Jessica Goldfinch (Norwich GP)
I write to clarify two further misunderstandings.
Our primary aim is to stabilise the UK population, and then reduce it to an ecologically sustainable level by voluntary means, as well as reducing resource-consumption per head. That level depends on average resource-consumption per person – the sustainable ecological limits of any land area can support fewer people the more each person consumes, and vice versa; because total environmental impact equals, by definition, average impact per person multiplied by the number of people; and natural resources per person equal, by definition, total natural resources divided by the number of people – the more we are, the less for each. At its current population and consumption levels, the (2012 Blue Planet Award-winning) Global Footprint Network estimate that the UK is ecologically 71% overshot.
Grants from our carbon offset scheme PopOffsets are always divided 50/50 between developing countries and developed. We have just made grants to the Population, Health and Environment Network in Ethiopia, and to the Margaret Pyke Centre in London. We always stress that carbon offsetting should be complementary to, and in no way a substitute for, maximum efforts to reduce our carbon footprints. (I for instance do not heat my house). The notion that helping women take control of their own fertility and avoid having unwanted children is somehow ‘blaming the poor’ is absurd.
The UN project that the global population in 2050 will be somewhere in the range 8.1 to 10.6 billion – a range of 2.5 billion, or almost exactly the entire population of the planet when Oxfam was founded to eliminate hunger in 1947. It is also only a little over the (rising) number of hungry people in the world today. We all want the poor to become richer, ie to increase their consumption; but as/if they do, it will make an ever-increasing difference to the total human impact on the planet if they number 2.5 billion more or fewer. As the Royal Society report ‘People and the Planet’ last year repeatedly stressed, population and consumption cannot usefully be considered in isolation from each other.
The ‘racist’ slur is simply contemptible. I, for instance, met and marched with Martin Luther King (who called overpopulation a “plague”), still carry a scar from an Alabama police cattle-prod, and have the most multi-racial family I know (part-Indian wife, Nigerian/Caribbean daughter-in-law and Thai/Chinese step-daughter-in-law).
Chair, Population Matters
Perhaps I can make Population Matters’ views clearer.
We all know that there are increasing problems with biodiversity decline, resource insecurity and climate change. That human numbers will triple in my lifetime is not the only reason for these, but it does not help. So we would like everyone to have small families. It is like recycling more or wasting less, but far more impactful.
We don’t blame poor people (men and women) who have large families. That is often due to poverty, lack of family planning or lack of women’s rights and we need to address all three through increasing our aid budget. We can see that this would work because most people, given the choice, choose to have smaller families. Where people do have the choice, as in this country, we don’t apologize for asking them, in a world with finite resources, to think about having a smaller family, just as they might make other choices to live in a sustainable, low impact, way.
That does not bring down capitalism. But it is progressive, arguing for gender equality, universal healthcare and poverty alleviation. And we always say that greater social equality and use of resource efficient technologies must go alongside addressing population growth in seeking a sustainable future.
On migration, no country can be sustainable with continually high inward population flows, so we think balanced migration (around the same number settling in the country as leaving it) seems reasonable. That was the situation for most of the post war period and, on current figures, would mean for the UK several hundred thousand moving in each direction. That is pretty close to current government policy.
It would help if people got their facts right about PM. It campaigns just as much on first world population growth as third world. For exactly the reasons we all point out – high consumption levels per person in the first world. Yes, it points out that net immigration is a large factor in the increase of the UK population (A first world country). What is it supposed to do? Lie? It takes a long term view and wants everywhere to move to a more equal balance between immigration and emigration(which he UK was close to not long ago). It recognises the enormous dilemmas this creates, but doesn’t want to hide from reality. It totally supports UK’s obligations under international refugee treaties.
I could go on, but there are people who just need a demon out there to do with population, and if they can’t find one they will make one up, and read into what they read what they want to believe in order to have their demoh.
Look at the stretched arguments: it’s wrong to provide contraception services if you believe one effect will be a reduction in population growth because women should have choice. They will still have the choice! Smaller families will have lots of other good outcomes (better nutrition and education for the children they do have). If you believe that, does that make it wrong to provide contraception! The thesis is this “giving people choice is a bad thing if you believe people are capable of making better decisions for themselves when they have a choice. It’s only a good thing if you believe their choices will be random events with no better outcomes”.
The attack of PM for being racist can only be made out of total ignorance. It is not. It’s a nasty snide, dishonest attack unsupportable by evidence. Ask anyone who says it is which members of PM they know who is a racist, and ask them to justify it. The fact is the people who write that kind of thing have no evidence at all for what they say, and it just plain isn’t true.
Thanks for the comments above – I’m at work now so don’t have time to read and respond, but will try to later.
Whether you’re agreeing or not, I’m glad we can have this debate.
There was indeed unwarranted censorship. It was done in a very high-handed way and with no political justification.
The disgraceful events have been described in a circular by Andy Chyba who resigned from the Green World editorial board (GWEB). It is also noteworthy that the only woman in the GWEB has published a statement dissenting from what was done (so much for the claim that the leaflet was anti-women). It must be stressed that the overwhelming majority of the GP would not have known about all this if the proverbial whistle had not been blown.
Population Matters (PM) is a legal and democratic organisation. We should be prepared to listen to its views. At a general level, there is a broad congruence between its position and that of the Green Party in its Manifesto for a Sustainable Society. Of course, there are differences in the details. Otherwise the two organisations would fuse.
PM has a legitimate right to canvass for its ideas. As my original circular tried to show, PM is firmly part of the broad green tradition. That is why a peer-reviewed academic like Professor Andy Dobson (himself a GP member) underlined in his books the centrality of human numbers in green analysis (as well as, of course, many other dimensions).
No serious Green can doubt that population pressures are critical. Here are two good summaries why:
Such literature refutes many of the claims you make.
Sadly your blog is part of a tendency that would sweep under the carpet what is in fact a critical matter. Some America examples are reviewed here:
It is reflected in organisations such as FoE who completely ignore the issue. With friends like that!
Of course ought to be worried about many other issues. But it is surely not an either/or choice. The threat from, say, nuclear weapons & CBW is appalling. We desperately need tax justice. The financial sector must be brought to heel and money reformed. The food supply system is clearly rotten and needs root-and-branch repair. But it is still myopia not to see the population elephant in the room.
For example, the birth rate in England has gone up by 20%, while lifespans continue increase. To keep things just as they are, that means 20% more nurseries, 20% school places, 20% more houses, 20% more jobs etc, at a time when the ecological base on which everything depends is contracting. Take another example. London’s population is set to growth by one seventh in the next 10 years. Will that makes its problems better or worse, easier or harder to resolve? Across the world, some 42% of all pregnancies are, apparently, unwanted. Is that a good thing? Does it improve the health and opportunities of women?
Obviously there are all sorts of economic and cultural issues here but numbers per se still have their direct impact and, uniquely, multiply the impact of all other variables such as per capita consumption and technology (for the scale of growth, see: http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/).
Denial of population’s role in the overall crises we face is, quite frankly, incredible and no Green should let it go unchallenged.
However I am against censorship. Green World also needs money. Oxfam, for example, has long denied any problem with human population growth. In that respect, its views differ more markedly from the Green Party than do those of PM. But Oxfam’s voice should be heard if it wants to pay for a flyer insert. If the Guardian columnist George Monbiot wanted to give us money for a flyer advocating that we change our energy policy to back his pro-nuclear position, that too should be acceptable. Debate is healthy… providing, of course, it is with organisations who do not break the law (incitement of racial hatred etc.).
PM is a pressure group, lobbying for specific policies. It is not a party with a comprehensive programme so it beats the drum about its chosen issue. Yet a study of its literature would confirm that it does talk about ‘appetites’ as well as ‘mouths’. Amongst its patrons are veteran Greens such as Jonathan Porritt. I have shared public platforms with Roger Martin, its chair, and well know that he and others in PM well recognise the role of factors such as poverty, inequality and powerlessness.
Actually, to be honest, I think that our specific policies on population are mealy-mouthed and ineffective, given the scale and urgency of the challenge. I would take on board what PM advocates. But that is a matter for democratic debate. It should not be decided by behind-doors censorship.
I hope fellow Green Party members will support the principles of openness and accountability, whether or not they agree with everything PM advocates. Indeed, in my experience, some of its critics have never even looked at its website.
member Newcastle Green Party
Jonathan – good points.
Dunc – looks like you and I are in agreement!
james? – have you read my and others’ comments?
Gordon Donald – ditto. Your points are sound, but they do NOT yield a good argument against taking an ad from PM, for the reasons I have given (and that Jonathan has given).
The populationist argument has been rebutted by Ian Angus and Simon Butler in their book ‘Too Many People. Population, Immigration and the Environmental Crisis.’ A review of the book can be seen here:
Angus and Butler take on both the issue of carbon emissions by the poor and that of ‘too much consumption’ by the growing populations in developing countries. The later point is also taken up by Fred Magdoff in ‘Global Resource Depletion: Is Population the Problem?’ (Monthly Review, January 2013). he makes the point that “we are forced to conclude that when considering global resource use and environmental degradation there really is a ‘population problem.’ But it is not too many people – and certainly not too many poor people – but rather too many rich people living too ‘high on the hog’ and consuming too much. Thus birth control programs in poor countries or other means to lower the population in these regions will do nothing to help with the greater problems of global resource use and environmental destruction.”
@Adam Good editing is, at least in part, about promoting intelligent debate. That includes publishing points of view that you disagree with. If Bright Green has a fault it’s that it’s not plural enough. I don’t want my own prejudices and beliefs confirmed all the time, I want them challenged because I want to test them against the alternatives and, at some point, when I take those beliefs out into the real world I like to know what those who oppose those views are likely to say by way of criticism. Forewarned is forearmed.
If a publication simply promotes a very narrow point of view it becomes redundant. Even the Telegraph carries comment that runs counter from people like Peter Oborne or even Charles Moore on occasion – and very good that comment can be too, even of I don’t agree with it.
The fact is that there are some in the party who have sympathy with some of the views advanced by PM. Those views need to be explored. You, in the article, and Rupert (and others) in their replies, have demonstrated quite eloquently that those ideas can be thrashed out. We’re not the BNP. Intelligent ideas and intelligent debate are not a threat. We are the party committed to evidence based policy making and to take full account of current science, remember. So put the damned leaflet in with GW and let people make up their own minds. Have challenging pieces on BG and let us debate. If you have real confidence in your views and in your own judgement you won’t be scared of difference and dissent. And we certainly won’t get where we want to be going – and PM and the Greens share concerns, they simply differ in their methodology – by stifling debate. That’s unpleasantly authoritarian and that makes me feel pretty much as nauseous as outright prejudice and bigotry.
You’re an intelligent persuasive bloke Adam, so FFS get out there and persuade. There’s nothing to fear.
@Lewis – yes I’d take a leaflet from the Labour Party is they’re dim enough to throw money at us. I spent years in a country that doesn’t allow Muslims to be proseletysed and where some religious leaders claimed that if you allowed people to convert away from Islam hundreds of thousands would abandon their faith. Pah. Utter b@&^ocks. I met almost no Muslims who wanted to abandon their faith (though I knew quite a few who wanted the fanatical and poorly educated religious police to butt out of their private lives). I thought the failure of those leaders to trust their fellow believes was pretty insulting of their faith. By the same token I don’t believe that 1 green in a thousand will join Labour because they see an ad. Aside from a bar on hate speech I think we could refuse adverts that deliberately, knowingly mislead. Beyond that I trust my fellow Greens – yes you lot, all of you – to form your own opinions thoughtfully.
this seems to me to be a bit of a dialogue of the deaf where people will read something different than what people actually say. i just want to say that i think the post represents a good representation of what population matters views are and that they are anti to the green party. it disturbs me that we have been letting these people have stalls at conference for last five years. i feel happy just to read someone expose them properly please can you write a revamped version of this and submit it to green world
Carbon emissions are not the only environmental problem. Arguably, they’re not even the most pressing environmental problem to the poor in high-population growth countries – they’re more immediately concerned with the availability of food, fuel, agricultural land, and fresh water. All of these issues (and the wider ecological impacts of attempting to satisfy them) are directly related to population. It’s actually terribly bourgeois to focus on climate change (which I agree is a problem of our making) to the exclusion these more immediate concerns.
I am sympathetic with Jonathan’s point. There are plenty of people in the GP who are to some degree sympathetic with PM, and it is really quite misleading to suggest that the wording of the ad preaches any racist doctrine. It is unwise to block PM from GW. One should only refuse ads that are clearly ethically unsound. Advertising is not editorial content! The editors don’t have to agree with every word of every ad in their papers; they just have to think that the ads they run (and the organisations who run those ads) are not, from the point of view of the organisation they are running/representing, clearly heinous. One allows payment for ads that one wouldn’t by choice run as editorial content; that is part of how one keeps publications afloat, financially, and part of how one ensures that the editorial line doesn’t exclude all other lines of argument in a publication, thus ensuring some level of pluralism within it. There are reasonably-well-defined limits – one wouldn’t of course accept ads from Shell, or from the Taxpayer’s Alliance – but one should seek, within those limits, to be open-minded and permissive.
More importantly, I think what garry glass is trying to say, which I agree with, is that there are at least two very important dimensions along which population is important, EVEN IF Adam’s argument is basically right:
1) Sheer numbers matter, in respect of numerous variables: e.g. pressure on housing, and pressure on green spaces / on wilderness. Yes, Malians [to use Adam’s example] have far far less impact than Americans per capita, in terms of carbon footprint and in terms of some components of ecological footprint; but sheer numbers of people affect other things that Greens care about, such as space available for non-humans to live in, and the capacity to spend time alone or in small groups rather than always being constantly surrounded by other people. It would be a pretty dreadful world, if one never saw non-human nature and if one never had the capacity to spend time alone in wilderness. That world is at risk of approaching, and ‘over-population’ brings it ever closer. ‘Over-population’ is a real category in terms of these matters, even if, as Adam points out, it is a suspect category in terms of the standard footprint measures.
2) Malians who come to the UK/US swiftly take on a footprint similar to the rest of us. Partly because of (1), it is likely that some will so come – especially if Mali becomes ‘over-crowded’ (incl. relative to its food-production-capacity etc etc.). So it is disingenuous to just harp on and on about the different footprints of Malians and Americans. If population keeps rising and rising in ‘Third World’ countries, more and more of these people are likely to end up in other, HIGH-footprint countries.
…This is especially so if one allows unrestricted immigration into the UK etc – and obviously so!! In Update 1, Adam tells us that PM’s immigration policy is nastier than UKIP’s and the Tories’. But I am not convinced of this: Is ‘no net migration to the UK’ really a bad policy? The answer is: it is not a policy at all. It is a policy-OBJECTIVE. It seems to me an extremely sensible policy objective. We live on an overcrowded island: we cannot feed ourselves, it is very hard to escape from the presence of other human beings when one wants to, we have virtually no wilderness and what we do have is under pressure, and we have a high / unsustainable footprint per capita. Given these points, it is pretty self-evident that it would be desirable to _reduce_ our population. It is much more important, in fact – and in saying this I am of course simply drawing on parts of / implications of Adam’s own argument – for us to reduce our population than it is for Pakistan or Nigeria whoever to do so. Now: How easy will it be for us to reduce our population if we keep allowing significant net immigration?! The answer is obvious. …So the only question is how we might reduce net immigration, ideally to zero, without taking nasty measures. Difficult, but there are of course answers: e.g. We should massively increase intelligently-organised foreign aid, to help to make life in ‘Third World’ countries better for people there, so that they are less likely to want to flee in despair to (high-footprint) Britain. I.e. Reduce the ‘push’-factors in migration.
It seems to me that these points together very signicantly undermine Adam’s arguments. I don’t see, in fact, how those arguments are coherent. I don’t see, for instance, how one can intelligently maintain that nothing that Greens care about is damaged by sheer population-growth; or that British population-growth matters more than Malian population-growth and yet Britain should (allegedly) not aim for no net-immigration. I don’t see what the basis can be for banning adverts for people who disagee with these foolish propositions that Adam appears to be maintaining.
Adam has pointed out that PM’s argument is at least one key point dangerously incoherent (Far from Malian mouths to feed mattering more, carbon-footprint-wise, than British mouths, the _reverse_ is true). Well done, for insisting on this. But would we refuse Adam the right to pay for an ad in GW (thus supplementing the income of a publication that is costly to us all, as GP members), on the grounds that his arguments are themselves, at key points, dangerously incoherent? I hope not.
Ergo, we shouldn’t refuse PM either.
GW has shown bad judgement. The GW editorial board should be held to account.
Thanks for the clarification Stuart.
I might do the speech bubbles anyway.
Doug, conferences committee didn’t come to any conclusion or POV because we didn’t have time to. Population Matters’s advert in the conference brochure was very last minute, 2 hours before the it went to print.
Jonathan Kent – presumably you wouldn’t have a problem with an advert from the Labour Party, McDonalds etc?
Green World isn’t a national newspaper, it’s the magazine of a political party. All of the content within it, including adverts, must not therefore go against the values of the party.
@Garry – on the point about emission per capita, I kind of agree. Kind of because I certainly don’t believe in carbon foot-printing – carbon, like wealth, is socially created.
@Jonathan – I think there is a difference between a party magazine and a newspaper. A newspaper is meant to have a relatively neutral stance. A magazine is meant to be an organ of communication of the party.
@punkscience and @Daniel – so, here’s how it goes for me:
there are some things which, though true, are liable to perpetuate oppressive stereotypes, problematic power relationships, etc. So, population is clearly a factor in environmental matters – an offensive one, but a factor nonetheless. The question is whether campaigning about it does more harm than it does good. I never say in the above that population isn’t a factor at all. All I say is that it isn’t in any way a major factor, and that there are serious problems with talking about it.
Disappointingly, the same approach to population matters has not been taken by the conferences committee – and there is a full page advert of David Attenborough, blaming poor people for problems they didn’t create on the inside front page.
Perhaps we could bring along some stickers to conference and come up with speech bubbles for it – the best speech bubble could win a prize…
I’m interested, of those who are in general agreement (at least on Adam’s views on PM), do you think the worldwide human population will NEVER be an issue with regards to resources and consumption, either with OR without changes to economic systems, if it continues to increase?
Thanks for covering this, this is such an important argument – so many ‘green’ish folk I speak to attribute all of our ecological/economic crises to overpopulation. And it’s just baws, as you suggest.
Incidentally, there’s some more info on Population Matters here: http://www.powerbase.info/index.php/Population_Matters
Also, Bookchin tackles the myths of growth and overpopulation here: http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_Archives/bookchin/planet/planet.html
Would be good to see something delineating links between ‘mainstream’ use of overpopulation narrative with contemporary lifeboat ethics/eco-fascism/fascism.
Most national newspapers carry ads from groups they disagree with. I don’t agree with population matters however I’m quite capable of figuring that one out for myself, just as I’m capable of distinguishing between editorial and advertising.
Refusing an ad is a form of censorship. They’re not indulging in hate speech, just promoting a policy we disagree with.
I’d ask myself how I’d feel if the BBC refused them a platform — and I’d feel pretty disgusted. I’ve had to deal with far far worse there – dealing with a far right Rabbi declaring, within hours of landing in the UK, that mosques were springing up on every corner and spewing all sorts of unpleasantness. I’ve had to interview religious extremists, racists, homophobes, sexist bigots and report their views to the best of my ability whilst filtering out those elements simply expressed to stir up fear and hatred.
It is not good editorial judgement to refuse the ad (and FYI it’s apparently only been defered for a month). Nor have you set out a good case for why to refuse the ad. What tyou have done is set out a good case why we shouldn’t agree with them – fine. Having now read their pamphlet I’ve been able to make a judgement -and I agree with you Adam.
But refusing to treat me as an adult capable of making that judgement both insults my intelligence, sells your own ability to make a case short and highlights the fact that whatever else you are, and having worked with many I admire, you are not my idea of a good editor.
The arguments against rich countries imposing population control on poor countries does not require a dichotomy between birth control and CO2 per capita — false or otherwise.
The point of combating climate change is to preserve a planet that is able to support high levels of evenly distributed human well-being. Any intended means to that end that do not explicitly challenge existing inequalities in wealth and power — or worse still, fortify those global inequalities by simply following a path of least resistance — are necessarily self defeating.
This is a very ‘icky’ subject to talk about. I don’t know much about population matters but as it’s been said in previous comments here, the subject is often deflected.
I can’t help but think the race angle in this piece has been artificially levered in to make this debate more about race and less about population, because if you’re arguing on a platform of anti-racism, a) More people are likely to agree with you on your arguments about race and are then drawn in to the rest of your argument, due to your points on race and not your points on the original subject and b) People who disagree with you are less likely to speak up for fear of being labelled racist.
In short it looks to me that you’ve outed population matters as racists simply to try and gain an easy win in the argument.
That being said I agree about it being our right to not run their ad.
… some references on the CO2 per capita stuff would be nice though, would it be possible to email over to me?
Adam, you are guilty of the logical fallacy of the false dichotomy. As several commentators have alluded, this is a complex issue and is not at all black-or-white: birth control or emissions per capita. In the next thirty years we are set to see the world’s population rise by billions. Treating population as a taboo subject that cannot possibly be addressed is a morally weak position that cannot be defended. I follow the population debate quite closely and whilst it is certainly a stomping ground of retards and fascists there are strong arguments to be made that ignoring the issue and hoping it goes away is a recipe for failed policy and political scorn.
Truly excellent piece.
Bob – it’s Adam not Adrian. Different people.
Garry – keep up the good work. ( We met during the first Ratcliffe trial in Nottingham.)
Thanks for such a great article. Population Matters’ facebook page, particularly, seems to churn out a lot of articles about immigration, and their popoffsets scheme is breathtakingly racist.
and also urbanisation, as I alluded to, and population aging and the pensions crisis.
Its fairly limited problematizing over-population simply in terms of any single variable,not least carbon emissions. I would offer that seeing things on a per capita basis conflates divergent socio-economic realities that are about social relations and crucially access and entitlement. Further this is usually done on a nation by nation basis, with somewhat arbitrary spatial boundaries. While I resonate with the need to introduce class and anti-racist analysis and arguements to combat the tide of nonesense that comes with neo-malthusianism, I would offer that people like the greens might develop a more critical approach to the population debate vis a vis the substantive material issues of resource scarcity and localised pollution which are inherently geographical problems with specific nuanced solutions in any particular place and also the role that trade has combatting environmental determinism. Too much of the global and the general, not enough detail on the specifics really. At the risk of giving too much away to the fascists I think people tend to avoid taking strong positions on population growth and tend to, for the most part, deflect the arguement. Any kind of footprinting excercise totally undermines analysis of class and how production actually functions. Finally it makes no sense to talk about population without also taking about migration.
Graham – kind of. If we lived in a world where rich people were having a bazzilion children each, then I think maybe we might need to talk abou that. But that’s just not where we are – rich people are barely replacing themselves.
First of all, you’ve not addressed the problem of birth-rates-as-CO2/annum in the Western world, only the lack of problem in the Southern world.
Second, it takes two to have a child and Masculinist concepts like virility need tackling too. Its all well and good Obama saying men should stick around, but men should also think twice before having unprotected sex.
If you’ve got so much money you can afford to house and feed kids, you can afford to have your disabled, jobless and downtrodden friends come live with you, or better still, a single mum who’s kids you can be additional parents to.
Smash patriarchy. Literally.
Why, then, isn’t ‘Population Matters’ called ‘Empowering Women’ if you are so convinced its about the latter?
The name Population Matters clearly indicates they do NOT have a neutral stance on the issue and clearly want a reduction in the population.
Secondly, considering Western consumers are responsible for 283 times more emissions than people in the Global South, surely this is the problem we should be talking about? I mean, population pales into insignificance compared to consumption, hence people like Adam are very wary when white Westerners decide to talk about population. It stinks of racism and Western imperialism.
My problem is that I’m happy to campaign for things like more widely available family planning, but if I campaigned on the basis that I thought there were too many people I’d expect a lot less of the public to be in favour of it.
and on buses… the point is this – if people who use buses want to takl about buses, that’s fine. The problem is if people who use lear jets talk about buses. When people in the West talk about population, it’s like Lear Jet flyers calling for fewer buses because they pollute.
But I have never said that we shouldn’t give poor people contraception. I am all in favour of giving poor people contraception – as I say above ‘we should give them control over their fertility because they ought to have that control – if they want fewer children, or if they want more.’
Lots of organisations do greeat work supporting women to have the resources they need to take control of their fertility. Doing so if you have already pre-determined the outcome of their decision – that you want them to have fewer children – is not empowering. It is telling people what to do. It’s like saying ‘oh, we may be called the Green Party, but all we really care about is getting everyone registered to vote’.
But I think you’re wrong there. You can separate the buses from the people. In fact that conversation is going on about buses in London at the moment on twitter. JJ and others are talking about the poor ambition of Boris for cleaning up their emissions. No one is referring to those who ride on the buses. It would appear a completely neutral discussion as far as that’s concerned. Moreover, if pressed, I think that those involved would say that the fact that poor people are involved makes it _more_ important.
The same argument applies to contraception. They need access to contraception because they are poor. What are we supposed to do? Wait until they are rich and then do it?
Moreover, not campaigning to give poorer people access because it constitutes blaming them for climate change sounds as weird as not campaigning to provide them with the wherewithal to grow food because that would constitute blaming them for not being able to grow enough.
@Bob – well, let’s seperate the three points.
1) the world’s richest 7% or so are responsible for 50% of all emissions. So whilst obviously lear jets is just a simple way of expressing this, the point stands entirely.
2) Cleaning up the particulate pollution caused by buses is a good thing and impacts most on poor people. But that’s a seperate point from talking about their climate impacts.
3) but to your main point – that you can talk about buses without reference to those who use them, yes you don’t have to say the words ‘poorer people’. But if poorer people are also more reproductive people, then it doesn’t matter if you use the words. You mean the same people.
The buses analogy is deliciously bad. How many buses are there compared with lear jets? Reducing the effect of all the buses would be far more effective than that of lear jets, I think.
Moreover, a campaign against buses could be run on the basis of their pollution without referring to the people who use them. What would be execrable if the campaign message was “Buses pollute, poor people use buses, kill poor people”! But “Clean up the buses as they are damaging the health of poor people” is a valid campaign, is it not? In fact, not campaigning like that implies that poor people are not worth protecting.
Equally, the campaign against urban 4x4s _was_ run without referring to those who drive them, wasn’t it?
My point is that it’s not a neutral stance if you are saying that they ought to have ‘more choice’ but the person saying that is clear that they ou want one of those choices.
And, to explain how it’s shifting blame, let’s talk about transport. Buses pollute. Lear jets pollute. Poor people use buses more than rich people. Rich people use lear jets more.
You could run a campaign saying that we should talk more about how buses cause climate change – ‘buses matter’. But if we did so, we would talk less about how Lear Jets cause climate change. As a result, the sum total of public debate would shift: from the talking about the things which rich people do to polluteuch more, to talking about the things poor people do which polluteuch more.
”Population Matters” are rather like “buses matter” would be, if they existed. They (inadvertently, I am sure) shift the debate onto things poor people do and so away from things rich people do, when, in fact, the things rich people do are much more significant.
Nope, still don’t get it!
PM want to give women contraception to gain control over their fertility. Adrian, you’re saying this constitutes blaming them for environmental degradation. Is this what is said in PM’s literature in majority countries? That women _must_ use contraception to avoid degrading the environment? Or is it a neutral stance i.e. use this to make up your own mind when you have children? Contraception in itself is neutral. It would only be a problem if the attitude surrounding its giving out blames women.