Blog: Dave LeggettPressures of population

Dave Leggett | 28 September 2007

We're all a bit screwed because the atmosphere is filling up with greenhouse gases that are slowly turning planet Earth into something more like Mercury, right? And we need to do something to stop all that nasty pollution stuff, yes?

While fixing myself an omelette last night (bit of ham, some tomato and basil salad on the side, a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing - it's a classic) I heard a programme on the radio which looked at the whole problem from the point of view of population growth.

The subject of human population levels doesn't get much of an airing these days. It just seems to be taken as a given that the world's population is growing (mainly in economically developing regions that are also rapidly embracing consumerism) and population control measures like they once had in India aren't too fashionable. 

But is there a sustainable population level for this planet? It's obviously a rather controversial subject, but it's one that perhaps needs consideration. The world's population has doubled, Malthusian-style, in the last forty years. More people equals more demand on the planet's finite resources.

There's a lot of effort going into things like cleaner cars, renewable energy and that's fine. But how much discussion is there about human population - the source of the activity that uses energy - levels? I guess politicians everywhere don't exactly see it as a vote winner.

Costing the Earth


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