Population – the taboo topic

Everyone alive contributes to the environmental degradation of the world. Those in developed countries like Australia have a larger impact, even while trying to practice a low-impact lifestyle.

Dr Barry Walters is Clinical Associate Professor of Obstetric Medicine at the King Edward Hospital in Perth. He has proposed a baby levy or carbon tax for larger families. His ideas have attracted many negative responses. But what he is saying has merit. Below is an extract of his writings.

Every family choosing to have more than a defined number of children should be charged a carbon tax that would fund the planting of enough trees to offset the carbon cost generated by a new human being. The average annual CO2 emissions by an Australian individual are about 17 metric tons, including energy usage. As a biomass of trees in a mature forest sequesters about 6 metric tonnes of CO2 per ha per year, each child born should be offset by planting 4 hectares of trees, to allow for the time they take to reach maturity, and attrition through crop losses, bushfires, dieback and so on. This infers a child levy of at least $5,000 at birth (to purchase the land to plant the trees) and an annual tax of $400-$800 thereafter for the life of the child (for maintenance of the afforestation project, based on 1990 figures, and probably more now).

By the same reasoning, contraceptives, intrauterine devices, diaphragms, condoms and sterilisation procedures should attract carbon credits for the user and the prescriber that would offset their income taxes and lead to rewards for family planning clinics and hospitals that provide such greenhouse-friendly services.

The topic has also raised hackles in the British Parliament …

As for … fertility of the human race – we are getting to the point where you simply can’t discuss it, and we are thereby refusing to say anything sensible about the biggest challenge facing the Earth; and no, whatever it may now be conventional to say, that single biggest challenge is not global warming. This is a secondary challenge. The primary challenge facing our species is the reproduction of our species itself.

Depending on how fast you read, the population of the planet is growing with every word that skitters beneath your eyeball. There are more than 211,000 people being added every day, and a population the size of Germany every year.

The UN … is predicting that there will be 9.2 billion people by 2050, and I simply cannot understand why no one discusses this impending calamity, and why no world statesmen have the guts to treat the issue with the seriousness it deserves. How the hell can we witter on about tackling global warming, and reducing consumption, when we are so relentlessly adding to the number of consumers? The answer is politics and political cowardice.

British MP, Boris Johnson 25.10.07

“By 2050, the world population will have reached 10 billion, and farmers here and across the world will, over the next 40 years, need to double the total production of food, triple yields per hectare and do it on less land, using less water.”

British Conservative Cabinet Minister Baroness Shephard of Northwold  11.12.07 Western Mail

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