Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Sustainability and population growth: A contradiction?

There are many global issues that need addressing, but because they are so closely interlinked, solving them is that much more difficult. One issue, however, stands out from the rest, and will act as a massive roadblock on the path to a sustainable future if not considered thoroughly. This is the issue of continued population growth. At the moment, the world’s population sits somewhere close to 7 billion, and it is estimated to rise to between 7.5 and 10.5 million by the year 2050.

Now, I’m not saying that population growth is the cause of our sustainability issues, although it is partially to blame for many of the measurable environmental impacts. Instead, it is merely a symptom with many deep rooted causes. Population growth is a huge hindering factor to sustainability, because it means we are constantly trying to find sustainable solutions to problems that are continuously growing in scale and complexity. But why then is it so often ignored? As Sir David Attenborough so eloquently puts it, “Why is population growth, which affects every department, no one's responsibility?”

There are many ways to integrate population growth concerns into the way we live and solve problems, but where do we begin this difficult transformation? Well firstly, we need to include the subject more actively in sustainability conversation. Once it is officially and publically considered as a major contributing factor and a serious concern, we can start laying the framework for future action.

There is a great global collaboration needed in order for this to happen, and it isn’t going to be easy to convince the world to stop, think and act on the fact that our species may be reaching a critical tipping point. But no matter how difficult it will be, one thing is for sure: We cannot hope to keep up with demand, consumption and resource requirements in a finite system if we are constantly increasing the percentage by which we require these resources every year. Change is coming whether we like it or not, so let’s become more resilient by embracing the change together. It all starts with a little education.

Nicholas Wiid
Junior researcher & writer at green24

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