The pros and cons of procreation
The Observer, Sunday 28 March 2010
To spawn or not to spawn? Naturally the planet has a view. Hitherto its mouthpiece has appeared to be the Optimum Population Trust (patron: David Attenborough)Proc. Its core message: that the projected 70-80 million additions to earth every year represent environmental catastrophe.
Every day 10,000 new inhabitants will, according to the OPT, begin using life-sustaining resources and emit carbon when the planet just can't take it. We are no longer able to live on the interest from the earth's natural capital – we are eating into the actual capital. The OPT's "Stop at Two" pledge encourages us to stop procreating after we've replaced ourselves.
But eco warriors send mixed messages. For every Norwegian sex activist wanting to "Fuck For Forest" (a non-profit "erotic ecological organisation" which involves more than just treehugging), there's a green campaigner angsting over oestrogen pollution from the pill and condoms killing coral reef.
Meanwhile, environmental writer Fred Pearce, in his book Peoplequake, argues that we've misinterpreted growth statistics. Look long term and factor in a time lag, and population is declining. Environmentally, he says, it's about overconsumption in rich nations, not overcrowding globally.
Green factions will just have to slug it out like Punch and Judy until someone's left holding the baby…