The Population of the Earth is approaching 7 Billion. This is a serious matter, and while this is conventionally discussed a third world problem, I think it is something we need to face up to in the UK. I am glad that some MPs have raised the matter, but I dislike their ‘Christian Heritage’ arguments. For me there are two simple arguments that dictate that we must act. The first concerns house prices and the second concerns a sense of global equity.
House prices are bonkers: my salary of approximately £47,000 p.a. is an excellent salary in UK terms and I have no complaints about it. However, this salary would not allow me to buy a even a tiny house in Teddington. The most I could aspire to would be a one bedroom flat. Fortunately my wife works too and given that we began to buy our house 12 years ago, we can afford to live here. Many of my colleagues at NPL are not so fortunate. House prices are high because there is a shortage of housing compared with the number of people who want buy them, and setting a planning limit on population seems like a sensible back-stop to a policy designed to build enough houses for people to be able to live decently.
When discussing issues such as Global Warming, it is depressingly common for people to say things ‘Why should we bother doing anything if China just continues to develop?‘ The answer is simply that a good deal of the existing problem has been caused by developed countries and we can’t really ask other countries to act first when they have dire developmental needs. And given that one of the main drivers of carbon emissions is simply population growth, China’s draconian ‘one-child’ policy is really a major contribution to reducing emissions. And if we don’t act to at least plan our own population, the chinese may well be promped to ask the question ‘Why should we bother controlling our population if the west,with all its privileges cannot control its population?’ I think its a good question.
As China develops further, I think it behooves us to think about our own population, and perhaps consider a ‘two-child’ policy. I am not recommending a chinese style policing and enforcement, but simply that we stop subsidising families to have more than two children. As I write the words on the screen I can imagine people being outraged, but it seems to me a very simple first step.