Inequality and Population
I’d recommend that people read Danny Dorling’s article in today’s Guardian. It is calm, makes a lot of sense and covers some of the key points in the population debate. The article is great but misses out a huge truth that we must talk about.
We are living in a crucial point in human history. There are more of us now on the planet than there have ever been, but inequality is as extreme as it ever has been. Malnutrition is the root cause of death for 3.1 million children every year.
To put that into perspective it means
- that there are 8,500 children who die every day
- that there are 350 children who die every hour
- that one child dies of malnutrition every 10 seconds
I’m a parent. To me that is someone’s daughter or son. That is someone’s niece or nephew, or grandchild. Can you feel that pain? Can you empathise? Can you imagine if it was someone close to you? Every ten seconds. Are you angry? I am.
At the other end of the scale we have the richest 10 people (and their families) on the planet. Their cumulative wealth is $450 billion. Every one of them, and every single one of those 3.1 million children could have $145,000 US dollars each, if the wealth was spread evenly. If you are not angry now, I’m not sure what else to say.
Number 2 on the list is Bill Gates. Whatever criticism you might make of Gates, he at least is trying to do something with his wealth to help some of the least advantaged, but as a wise man once said, “…it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle…” We cannot expect those who hold and possess the wealth of this world to give it up easily for a better world. Excuses, ignoring the fact, discounting the human pain and suffering make it easy for us to go about our daily lives.
We know that the population of this planet will peak at about 10 billion people, although probably slightly less, in the second half of this century. This will be the most populous world that any human has lived in, or is likely to live in. It will also be a world with less food security, rapid environmental degradation, sea level rise and water shortages.
Right now our only balance to help us face those challenges is the development of better technology. That will not be enough. We need a more equal world (and I haven’t even spoken about banking or corporations in this post). How will we bring that about? Unrestrained economic growth will destroy our planet. It can’t be sustained. There will be growth of living standards through technological innovation and knowledge, but the acquisition of material wealth as the primary focus of our short individual existence must end if the huge gains we’ve made as a global society are to survive and thrive.
So to those who are worried about population growth I’d argue that your energies are best placed not in trying to influence human behaviour in one small part of the world, but to put your energy and your struggle into helping us tackle inequality. Those at the bottom can and should have better lives. Those at the top, consultants, CEOs and those who live off financial speculation will have the most to give up.
The Greens have been prepared to cut executive pay when we can, so the lowest paid can get a living wage. While we’ve done that successfully, we should do it again and squeeze harder at the top because 11:1 is still a profound inequality. While it might not solve all the financial problems that local councils face, our country faces, or we face globally, it will help if we stay focused on what we want to achieve. It will show we are committed to a different way forward.
So I get frustrated at those who seem to be angry with people who want to have children (and those people are often but not always white middle class men). Children are a joy and a wonder to behold, as they grow and learn in the world. We should be angry at a world that is so cruel that one of those children will die every 10 seconds, today, tomorrow and every day, because they do not get enough nutrients from their food.
Every ten seconds.
Hold that thought for a minute. Hold it for an hour. Feel the pain, the despair and the sadness of those parents, brothers and sisters.
One of the reasons I’m in the Greens is that we don’t accept that change isn’t possible or that it is too difficult, or that humanity has to tolerate the death of a child every 10 seconds from malnutrition.
There are things we can change. Better rights for women around the world may mean that population peak will below 10 billion, but the bigger challenge is tackling global inequality. It won’t be easy. There will be difficulties on the way and we have huge social and environmental challenges to overcome, but you can join us. We are not just a one country party. We are a global political movement in politics, and we have to be to tackle the global problems we are facing.