In the UK, we often talk of over stretched health systems, lack of housing, busy road networks, global warming and other environmental and resource dependency concerns. Yet we fail to acknowledge the major common factor driving most of these issues. These types of concerns are not limited to the UK. For various reasons we have historically both encouraged population growth and made criticism of it a taboo. One example being the Economist culture to look for never-ending growth, as though our finite world and everything in it only matter within the context of economics instead of the practical reality that is the other way around. Many religions too push their own agendas and in various ways, directly and indirectly, influence population growth. In terms of birth-rates, the widely recognised key drivers of population growth are: limited access to education and family planning, lack of women’s rights and poverty.

But for certain parts of the world net migration is the bigger factor. The referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU has offered interesting insight into public awareness and concerns about migration.

In order to properly realise the extreme abnormality and danger of our current situation, we need to look beyond our daily lives, even our lifetime. What is apparently normal for us over our lifetime is not necessarily normal or healthily for our planet or its inhabitants in longer timescales.

Population is forecasted by changes in the size of a population through fertility rates, mortality rates, the age profile of a population and migration. These numbers are always fluctuating changing the projections over long periods of time. Global fertility rates have fallen drastically over the last half century due to the expectancy that the average woman is no longer expected to bear five children.

Life expectancy, or age population, has been rising around the world and is expected to continue to rise over the next four decades. Individuals are living longer due to increased access to healthcare, diet and hygiene, and effective ways to fight infectious diseases.

Population is heavily dependant on climate, food, habitat and water availability. Environments can only support a limited number of individuals in a population before resources run out. Currently, individuals are depleting resources, but population growth has continued to increase.  The lifetime of a human memory is short, so it is vital that we can demonstrate how abnormal and dangerous the situation has become.

Overpopulation is a state in which the human population rises to an extent that exceeds the carrying capacity of an ecological setting. Regions with high population density feel the effects and problems on overpopulation. The following factors directly affect overpopulation:

  • Ecological collapse and loss of biodiversity
  • Higher impact from weather and natural disasters
  • Resource depletion
  • Ever increasing pandemic risk
  • Environmental collapse

While a diversified population leads to a melting pot of ideas and cultures, it also shows that migration is a major factor in overpopulation.

If people can swam to areas of attractiveness, they will be more likely to diminish areas of value or the diversity of resources. As much as it may not seem fair in an ideal world, this is not an ideal world situation and there is much more at stake than individual freedoms.

The EU referring to freedom of movement as ‘one of its four pillars’ as though somehow handed down by God, instead of thought up in the idealised mind of a human being, seems to me a very short sighted and over simplistic, if well-intended idea. There are realities and practicalities that must be accommodated but are instead often avoided in the pursuit of over simplistic idealised thinking.

We have a need for cultural change. Even when broaching the subject of population in a passive and objective way I have found some are quick to take offence and suggesting that I am trying to make them feel guilty, which is not helping rational debate and responsible choices.

In The Matrix, the mindlessness of the growth and consumption of humans was likened to a virus in its self-destructive blindness. I am not suggesting we need any extreme measures, but we do need and deserve to be making properly informed, considered and honest choices. Promote access to education and family planning, improve women’s rights and do what we can to irradiate poverty.

As ever the solutions are in our hands and we need to do all we can to help educate, liberate and encourage responsible behaviours. Otherwise, nature will redress the balance and we will most likely be asking how such horrific disasters could have happened.