5.9 Address the crisis of global population growth

The world’s population has been growing at an exponential rate. Two thousand years ago, when the historical Jesus of Nazareth was born, he was one of an estimated 200 million people on the planet. It took 1 500 years for human numbers on the planet to double to 400 million. In the last fifty years alone, human numbers have more than doubled from three billion to almost seven billion in 2011. The United Nations estimates that, thanks in part to reduced fertility levels, the population will not double again, but should stabilize at nine billion people by 2050.

The Worldwatch Institute warned us in 1999 as we reached the six billion mark that we were outrunning our water supply. Water tables were already falling on every continent, rivers were being drained dry before reaching the sea, and millions of people were lacking enough to satisfy basic needs. The question of the Earth’s carrying capacity is a critical one. We only have one Earth. Exceeding it has dire consequences.

While consumption is a key issue, so is technology. Our ability to split the atom, and exhume fossil fuels from their burial places to burn them at profligate rates, threatens to tip the planet from its life sustaining cycles into catastrophic die-offs of human and non-human life forms.

Issues of migration, trade, equity, militarism and environmental degradation are all important factors in the question of whether there are too many humans. Yet, ideas for curbing population growth have, in the past, been ineffective and unacceptable. Some have violated basic human rights. Forced sterilizations of women are but one example of the worst kind of inhumane population policies.

Fortunately, the solution to population growth is within our grasp. It is well established that when poverty is alleviated and particularly when women and girls are educated, and have access to primary health care and family planning, political autonomy and economic power, fertility rates drop. This has been demonstrated time and time again, in nations around the Earth. One particularly instructive example is Saudi Arabia. It is the only nation where high levels of literacy and health care and economic well-being have not led to declining fertility. Saudi Arabian women lack economic rights and political autonomy. All elements are essential to respect women’s human rights and to reduce the dangerous spiral in population numbers as much as possible.

Green Party MPs will:

  • Significantly increase Canadian overseas development assistance focused on improving the education, and the social and economic power and status, of women and girls;

  • Integrate goals for reduced fertility into the overall efforts to eliminate poverty;

  • Ensure that maternal health programs funded by Canada do not limit access to any form of family planning and primary health care, including access to safe, legal abortions;

  • Address the problem of global overpopulation through a foreign policy committed to environmentally sustainable local economies, improving education and health care, and fostering political and economic rights of women as equal participants in society;

  • Integrate goals for improved health care and spreading knowledge of birth control methods and efforts that increase the availability of birth control equipment and supplies into the overall efforts to eliminate poverty;

  • Provide development aid to assist countries in building up their capacity to support improved public services and provide greater income security for support in old age so that security is not dependent on the number of one’s children;

  • Recognize that the high level of per capita resource consumption in developed countries makes the impact of their populations much more serious;

  • Realize that failure to stabilize and reduce human population within a reasonable time will result in the inevitable reduction of human population by means of high death rates as the Earth’s human carrying capacity is not only exceeded but reduced by the consumption of resources and the destruction of biological capital, resulting in poverty, starvation, disease, great human suffering, and possibly social disruption.