We know that babies add more to global warming than anything else in our home. Isn’t it time to cut back? 
Many people don’t like talking about our ever increasing human population, more than 6 billion, and likely to be 9 billion by 2050 . For some, population policies bring to mind the human rights abuses of past governments and beliefs such as eugenics. Greenhouse gas emissions from an ever growing human population will continue to exacerbate the greenhouse effect and subsequent climate change. This makes population one of the most important factors in climate change.
The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has a population policy in regards to Australia’s population, now over 21 million. The birth rate in Australia is less than two children per adult woman (below replacement rate), but the number of adult women is still increasing. The number of births per year exceeds the number of deaths by about 100,000 . Our longevity is also a contributing factor in this situation. This means Australia’s age demographic is changing, but an older population doesn’t mean less greenhouse gas emissions. In discussing Australia’s population, ACF President Ian Lowe says,
At the present migration levels, the population will continue to increase for the foreseeable future. 
Curtailing immigration isn’t a solution to world population levels, and I don’t agree that this is an appropriate solution for Australia.
Nazi Germany tried genocide, China tried forcing people to only have one child, but abusing people’s human rights is never effective in lowering population. The solution to part of the problem is contraception – the easiest method being condoms. They have the added bonus of preventing the spread of STIs and HIV.
The Vatican calls them evil, sinful and intrinsically disordered. Satanic rites, perhaps? Child molesters? Actually, something far more prosaic: condoms. Equally condemned is any other artificial contraceptive – even as a means to check the spread of HIV. 
At present two factors stand in the way of worldwide contraceptive use – the Catholic Church and current US government policy. (Perhaps soon to change?)
Before George Bush came to power, the US was the world’s world’s biggest and most effective donor of condoms and other contraceptive devices . His government instigated a policy that any NGO (Non-government organization) that promoted contraception, including condom use, would cease receiving funds from the US government. The policy promotes abstinence instead, hardly effective in a family with eight children and parents who want to have sex. In any case, a policy of abstinence is never appropriate for adults when condoms solve pregnancy and STI issues.
In developing countries where income may be hardly enough for food and shelter, condoms are a luxury item . This is where NGOs and aid agencies come into the equation. Education is also necessary, such as that undertaken by Oxfam in South Africa (although the objective of their education is HIV prevention).
Back to our life of luxury in Australia, I hope more people will consider not having children. There are a lot of children who need a loving and secure foster family. Unfortunately if this did happen, it would more likely to create other problems than solve our current ones. Our longevity is more of a factor in population growth in developed countries like Australia. I don’t know of any (practical) solutions to this issue, but I often wonder how long increasing population growth can continue without something beyond our control solving the problem.
Photo credit: crowded street in San Telmo, Argentina by Jeff C on Flickr
- Engber, Daniel (2007) “Global Swarming” Slate, 10 September.
- ABC News (2008) Crops more vital than forests, says expert, 17 April.
- Lowe, Ian (2008) “Population and a sustainable future” Habitat Australia, vol.36, no.1, p.21.
- Laurance, William (2007) “Cursing condoms” New Scientist, vol.195, no.2619, p.23.