Sunday 16th February 2020
Talk by David Hepper – after brief AGM.
David Hepper talked about the UK charity Population Matters and how it encourages policymakers, communities and individuals to make positive changes for a sustainable human population.
Patron Sir David Attenborough states: “All our environmental problems become easier to solve with fewer people, and harder – and ultimately impossible – to solve with ever more people.”
Adam Mynott writes
“The first Farnham Humanist talk of 2020 made for sobering but compelling listening. David Hepper talked about the escalating threat to planet earth posed by too many people. David is a member of ‘Population Matters’, a campaigning charity that started in the UK, but is in the process of ‘going international’. In a fascinating and data-filled talk, David laid out the effects and implications of unrestrained population growth.
In 1850 the world population crossed the 1 billion mark, and in the 170 years since, we have added more than 6 billion humans. David said that, while the rate of growth has started to slow, it’s ‘nothing like fast enough’. There are very few facts in population statistics from which to draw much comfort. In the developed world some countries are addressing rampant growth, most notably China, with its ‘one child’ policy. However, it is a myth to suggest that the problem lies entirely in the developing world. In one of a number of charts projected onto the wall of Daniel Hall, David showed that one of the largest countries in the world, the USA, is still growing fast with no apparent ambition to apply the brakes. The biggest current population threat lies on the continent of Africa where there are about 1 billion people now, with projections showing that number set to more than double in the next 30 years.
David said the key to the threat of population growth lies not in the numbers alone, but in consumption; and he took us through the IPAT equation: the Impact on the planet is a product of the number of People, their Affluence and the degrading effect of Technology. Untrammelled devouring of the world’s resources has propelled life on earth into the 6th Mass Extinction, which David said has already started.
The situation is not completely hopeless. Inspiring figures like Sir David Attenborough and Chris Packham are mobilising opinion, and ‘telling it like it is’. The UN and other bodies are addressing key factors like education, poverty and birth control. If every second family has one fewer child then the global population will fall by the end of the century. However, David stressed, action is needed now.
The talk prompted many questions from the floor including, what is the relationship between Population Matters and Extinction Rebellion and are their aims the same? Does the real answer lie in stringent legal/economic restraint on population growth or will social pressure work? A thought-provoking evening.”