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Saturday, May 16, 2009


Years ago, I read an essay by P. J. O'Rourke called "Just enough of us, far too many of you". I think it was in "All the Trouble in the World: The Lighter Side of Famine, Pestilence, Destruction and Death" but I can't confirm this in seven seconds of googling so we'll move on. Anyway, I remembered the essay when I read that noted BBC naturalist David Attenborough

has become a patron of the Optimum Population Trust, a think tank on population growth and environment with a scary website showing the global population as it grows.

[From David Attenborough: Our planet is overcrowded - opinion - 15 May 2009 - New Scientist]

I'm really uncomfortable with the word "optimum" here. For one thing, I'm sure all of the members of the Trust see themselves as part of the optimum population, so clearly they are thinking that there are some other non-optimum people who are going to be somewhat reduced in number. Fair enough, I suppose: they are entitled to think this. I think they should be a little more up front with their name though: what about "More Tigers, Less Indians"? It's snappy and to the point.

I have New Scientist in front of me, being a subscriber to said publication. Nowhere in the article does Sir David mention how the optimum population might be achieved other than some vague talk about persuading women to have fewer children. He doesn't, for example, discuss the most sensible and straightforward approach. If the Trust could persuade millions of people to join up and pledge to hurl themselves lemming-like off of cliffs at the age of (say) 50, then the population would be under control within a generation. And there would be less unemployment too. If they are not going to adopt this morally unimpeachable self-help approach, then I fail to see what plans they might be considering. Mass starvation? Mandatory contraception for people who are too poor to look after their children properly? (Wait a minute: that's a quarter of the population of the UK -- a decade of Labour maladministration means that a great many of our citizens would qualify for such a programme.

The children's minister, Beverley Hughes, said that in the current economic climate, "meeting the 2010 target is very difficult. It is very difficult to model the impact of the recession on child poverty".

[From No progress on child poverty, new figures show | Society |]

I would have thought that modelling it was rather simple: it will get worse. But not to worry, the UK is, apparently, the 24th best place in Europe for children to grow up. Let's hope the Optimum Population Trust don't set the bar too high.

Child Poverty Action Group has published a briefing drawn from a new league table of child wellbeing in European countries, in which the UK comes in 24th place out of 29 countries.

[From CPAG Press Release: New child wellbeing league table: UK in 24th place out of 29 European countries]

I have no sense that we are certain to make the cut.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

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