The spiralling human population is threatening to ruin our extraordinary planet, writes Jim Duffy.
As many of the 1980s bands make a comeback, there is one band that stands out as pioneering in its time. Its songs were great and the group even had a Bond Movie theme song to boot.
That band is Duran Duran. Thirty-five years ago, I was not a major fan. I’m afraid my tastes were not that sophisticated. But I have grown into Duran Duran as I’ve matured and they play regularly on my Spotify playlist.
There is a terrific song that stands out for me called Ordinary World. The song was so good that Simon Le Bon, the lead singer, performed a vocal with the great Pavaroritti. Check it out on YouTube.
Ordinary World is a reflective song and when I hear it, it really makes me think about my life and where we all are in life right now.
And I’m worried and have been for some time. In fact, it would appear that Prince William is also worried and shares the same fears as me. How on Earth are we going to sustain ourselves as world population rises? And it is ratcheting up at an alarming rate.
Let me start by bringing this discussion back to Earth and specifically to the new town of Livingston. I visited the shopping malls there this weekend along with the strip malls and supermarkets.
The whole place was buzzing. The car parks were full to the brim with impatient and angry drivers, the eateries queued out the doors and the shops packed with people.
There were people everywhere, buying, eating, parking and generally consuming. I could not wait to get out of there and back to the relative calm of my cottage. To be fair I lasted two hours in the pre-Christmas maelstrom.
This is being replicated across towns and cities in Scotland, the UK and beyond. Globally, the picture is the same. Places like China and India, where growth in population and consumerism is quite literally going ballistic, are just starting their crazy journey.
The world’s population is growing steadily with about 75-80 million additional people a year taking up residence on this planet.
It has grown from about a billion in the 1800s to seven billion in 2012. And, wait for it, by 2050 it is estimated that 9.6 billion people could be living on Earth, which really makes me terrified about the prospect of Christmas shopping in Livingston!
So here it is, I have big lofty question now that some of you will just not like.
How can we, as a species which has assumed responsibility for this planet, condone such rises in population? And perhaps more polemically, what are we going to do to stop it? The first argument I expect I will hear is that we all have a right to life, to procreate and to produce children, while consummating relationships etc.
Many of you of a religious persuasion will attest to abortion being immoral, contraception being wrong and against church teaching, and generally argue that we have no right to interfere with “God’s plan”. I respect your faith. But, while that may have been all the rage 20 centuries or so ago, with precious resources and reserves running out, is it such a reliable position now? Do we not have a social responsibility to think things through and to plan children?
The next argument I am likely to encounter is that there is plenty of food and goods to go around. Yes, there is just now and it might seem that all is well.
The coffee shops are full, Amazon deliveries are plentiful, tens of thousands of bottles of water are consumed every day in the UK, and the new iPhone X will do just fine as it sells out the world over.
But, at some point, just like the Stock Market, this explosion in human population growth and consumption over the past two centuries has to be corrected. Folks, it is simply not sustainable. Or if it is to be made sustainable, we will all have to pay for it.
No-one really likes paying tax. And as politicians in all countries tinker around with tax, ostensibly to win voters at elections, we move from recession to boom time and so it goes on.
But, if we really want to make sure that all these additional people coming into the world each year are properly looked after, then we have to be prepared to be taxed more to pay for it all – I guess in effect putting charities out of business.
Put simply, it is not just that we cannot sustain population growth, we cannot afford it either. Taxation levels would have to double just to keep up with all these new people and to ensure they are fed, looked after and educated so they can then contribute to world society. And is this not the real crunch question that everyone is afraid to ask – especially vote-hungry politicians – what does contributing to society really mean and what opportunities do we need to present in order to assist in this massive endeavour?
I’m going to follow Prince William’s thoughts on this issue and see where they lead him. I do note that he is expecting his third child, so that’s another mouth to feed. I’m looking for him now to come up with some radical solutions and lead by example. But, I’m not sure that they will be game-changing.
Duran Duran sang of an Ordinary World, but I think it’s extraordinary. However, if we keep expanding our population, while not truly living up to the need to be honest about what is happening, then alas it could indeed be just that for those who follow – ordinary.