We live on a finite planet. We can’t just keep adding 75 million people a year to the human population while also increasing the average resource consumption per person without collapsing the biological systems that support us.
Current projections have the world population rising another 2-2.5 billion in the next 40 years to peak around 9 billion before beginning a gradual descent. But that is likely too be too little, too late. We are already well above the population carrying capacity of the world; we are consuming not only the natural resources we need but degrading the ability of the world to produce more resources that we can consume. Barring some technological miracle, the human population will start to fall. The only question is whether we manage the process by lowering our birthrates to significantly below the replacement level (2.1), which has already happened in many developed countries, or we wait until its too late and collapse is forced on us.
Which is why it is such a shame that we can’t even talk about population management in our politics. Even the Greens’ policy to “Ensure that all potential and existing parents have full and free access to family planning services so that informed decisions about the number and spacing of children can be made by the parents concerned” has come in for attack as if it was some kind of call for a One-child policy. I expect that kind of reactionary, head-in-the-sand garbage that National and ACT came out with from them but the Maori Party disappointed me. There is also a long history of population management among Polynesian peoples and we can look to Polynesia for the classic example of what happens when population exceeds carrying capacity: Easter Island. I would have thought the Maori Party might have a more mature attitude to the need for our population to be in harmony with our environment.
The Greens do not, and would not, propose any kind of compulsory limits on birthrates. Like all Green politics at heart, the Greens’ population policy is about informing people and encouraging them to take responsibility to the consequences of their choices. It’s a tragedy that our political discourse is not mature enough to have that conversation.