Ian Shannahan has been sounding alarm about the population explosion here and elsewhere over the last few weeks, so I thought it was time to give it and the environmental issues surrounding it some focus.

Dispite our differences over immigration and refugee policy, I agree with Ian that overpopulation is something we should be concerned about. Indeed I take the dire warnings of environmental and civilizational collapse with upmost seriousness.

I was watching a David Attenborough documentary the other night and the statistics and the scientific evidence behind them is truly frightening. The world population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. We are living unsustainably and it’s starting to catch up with us. What I found particularly interesting though, was David Attenborough’s proscription for survival. Basically, he sees the mega-problem of environmental stress as composed of three interrelated problems:

  • The growing number of us
  • The amount we waste
  • The amount we consume

The solution is equally simple, even if its easier said than done:

  • Reduce population growth (so that there are less of us)
  • Increase efficiency (so that we waste less)
  • Rethink lifestyle (so that we use less)

David Attenborough suggested that each of these is important for improving sustainability. The carrying capacity of the land may be improved by working on any of them. For example, if we could reduce pollution per capita in proportion to population increases, we could keep the total pollution levels steady. If we could reduce population growth in proportion to consumption growth, we could keep total consumption levels steady.

But we probably need to work on all three, since we’re not after steady state but restoration. Of particular interest, he noted that the evidence suggests the best way to reduce population growth (short of violent imposition by totalitarian dictatorship) was the education of women. The evidence from around the globe shows, the more educated the women, the more likely they’ll choose with their partners to have less children.

This all has very interesting synchronicities with the lifestyle Jesus advocated. He said we should live simply, invest what we are given wisely, and by his own example he showed he considered women’s education important. So it would seem that the way of Jesus, taken seriously, offers us a way out of this mess.

Unlike Ian I’m not so focussed on border control. Environmental crisis respects no borders. We need a global solution, not a national one. But I agree its an important issue, and indeed, an important issue of faith. Do we have faith we can live with less “stuff” as Jesus clearly called wealthy people (like us) to do? Are we prepared to be faithful with the resources God has entrusted to us to invest on his (not our) behalf? Do we have compassion for the women of the developing world who are trapped in grinding poverty and see large families as their only lot in life? Are we prepared to do what it takes to open an alternative world up for them?

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