Comment and Analysis: population and environmental issues

This page is used to provide information and comment on a range of population and environmental issues. It is divided into two sections. The first is intended for brief comments, mainly on topical issues, the second for in-depth analyses. To go straight to the analysis section click on this button:



Comments are arranged in the order they were posted, the most recent at the top. Starting with the item of 9th March 2007, the date or month of posting will be given with each item. Click on the following links to go directly to individual items.
Comment on the New Government Draft National Planning Policy Framework: Consultation
A comment on a new report by the organisation OXFAM. “Global food crisis looms as crop prices set to rocket”. A report that fails to deal adequately with the significance of human population growth.
A comment that arose out of the unrest that developed across North Africa and beyond in February 2011. “Is this the beginning of the end of civilsation?”
An inconsistency in the Prime Minister's policies as far as immigration is concerned?. The pros and cons of the entry of Turkey into the European Union.
“5 Things you need to consider before emigrating overseas …”. Or are there more things?
The Jungle, Sangatte, and the relentless pressure on 'developed' (industrialised) countries to accept immigrants.
Election Protests in Iran. Were demographic factors involved?
The right to know. The duty to inform. Examples of 'Politically Correct Brigade' fears about uncomfortable facts being made known.
Population pressures on the environment and society.
Population growth and environmental deterioration: The neglected factor in a new report from Natural England.
Global food crisis. A very inadequate response.
By stealth and deceit. Camoflaged spread of Muslim influence?
Will we be able to feed the world population?
Shape of things to come — water crises.
Yes, we are right to give some emphasis to climate change on our web site that focuses on population growth and migration.
Student attempt to silence Oxford academic who has explored the adverse effects of immigration on society.
Elephant cull. And the global human population?
We feel we must reiterate: Improving technology and reducing consumption will not by themselves solve our problems. We need to control population as well.
Royal Society Warning to the G8 on Climate Change, but there is another warning that should also be given
Many if's and but's: comments on Limits to Growth
Los Angeles, exemplar of the world. Reflections on Diamond's book Collapse
New United Nations Ecosystems Warning
UK Sustainable Development strategy. The missing policy

Comment on the New Government Draft National Planning Policy Framework: Consultation. Posted 27th January 2012.

The present government is very concerned about existing planning policy, which it feels hinders economic development, especially the supply of housing required for the rapidly growing population, and this draft document represents the government's thinking on how to address this problem… But environmental organisations consider that if this Draft National Planning Policy Framework (henceforth DNPPF) becomes law, it will endanger the countryside.

In this DNPPF, the government tries to get people on its side. Thus it states that:
“These policies will provide local communities with the tools they need to energise their local economies, meet housing needs, plan for a low–carbon future and protect the environmental and cultural landscapes that they value. We have sought to free communities from unnecessarily prescriptive central government policies, empowering local councils to deliver innovative solutions that work for their local area.”

Now while we acknowledge that there is an urgent need for more housing (see later), in our view the DNPPF will make it more difficult to achieve the at least equally important objectives of safeguarding agricultural land for farming and maintaining and expand conservation areas for wildlife.

To our mind, the DNPPF is somewhat two faced. On the one hand, it is keen to stress how the government wished to protect the environment, but on the other hand, some other parts of the draft suggest that the government is determined to override protection in the name of ‘development’.

We will illustrate these two aspects by quoting from the document. NB. There is more than one version of the document.

On the one hand we read, for example:

“32. We announced our intention to become the ‘greenest government ever’. We take our responsibility to cut greenhouse gas emissions and protect the environment very seriously. We will not renege on our commitment.”

Protection of green areas
“35. The Framework contains a new Local Green Space designation to protect locally significant green areas which are special to local communities. Local people will be able to use the new designation in their local and neighbourhood plans.

Habitats and Birds Directives
“36. Taking into account the nature of the Framework as a document that sets out the Government's key economic, social and environmental objectives and core planning principles, and taking into account also the content of the Framework (including express recognition that development likely to have a significant effect on sites protected under the Birds and Habitats Directives would not be sustainable), the Framework is not considered, either alone or in combination with other plans or projects, to be a plan likely to have significant effects on protected sites so as to necessitate any further assessment. Habitats Directive appraisals must be undertaken at plan and/or project level and the policies in the Framework are set out so as to ensure the EU obligations are not compromised in plan and decision making.”

On the other hand we read:

Presumption in favour of sustainable development
“15. The planning system has a key role to play in rebuilding Britains economy, by ensuring that the sustainable development needed to support economic growth is able to proceed as easily as possible. The Framework introduces a strong presumption in favour of sustainable development. This is a key part of our package of reforms and is at the heart of the new, streamlined and consolidated policy framework.

“16. The Government's top priority in reforming the planning system is to promote sustainable economic growth and jobs. A positive planning framework is also critical to the provision of the infrastructure which underpins a successful modern economy, including the progressive decarbonisation of the energy generation and distribution system. The Chancellor made clear in this year's Budget the Government's expectation that the answer to development and growth should wherever possible be ‘yes’, except where this would clearly conflict with other aspects of national policy.

“17. The presumption turns this expectation into policy – a policy that works with the existing plan–led approach, by emphasising the role of up–to–date development plans in identifying and accommodating development needs. Where those plans are not up–to–date, or do not provide a clear basis for decisions, the policy establishes the clear presumption that permission should be granted, provided there is no overriding conflict with the National Planning Policy Framework as a whole.

“18. The presumption will provide more certainty to communities, developers and investors, and reinforce the emphasis on a positive, plan–led approach to sustainable growth.”

In effect, we think that the above paragraphs mean that the government will give priority to physical development (housing etc.), a presumption that will override conservation considerations. And we note that environmentalists know how the concept of “sustainable development” is a vague catch–all that can be used to justify almost anything.

We also note that the Chancellor George Osborne in his Autumn Statement of a review of EU Habitat Regulations in England and Wales argued that these regulations imposed a serious cost on British Business.

The DNPPF also lists a large number of existing planning documents that would be cancelled if the Framework was introduced. These include the important “1995 Planning Policy Guidance 2: Green belts”. Here are a few quotes from this document to illustrate the documents intent:

“ Planning Policy Guidance 2 (PPG 2) outlines the history and extent of Green Belts and explains their purposes. It describes how Green Belts are designated and their land safeguarded. Green Belt land–use objectives are outlined and the presumption against inappropriate development is set out.

Purposes of including land in Green Belts
1.5 There are five purposes of including land in Green Belts:

  • to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built–up areas;
  • to prevent neighbouring towns from merging into one another;
  • to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment;
  • to preserve the setting and special character of historic towns; and
  • to assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land

“Once Green Belts have been defined, the use of land in them has a positive role to play in fulfilling the following objectives:

  • to provide opportunities for access to the open countryside for the urban population;
  • to provide opportunities for outdoor sport and outdoor recreation near urban areas;
  • to retain attractive landscapes, and enhance landscapes, near to where people live;
  • to improve damaged and derelict land around towns;
  • to secure nature conservation interest; and
  • to retain land in agricultural, forestry and related uses.”

One can see that this 1995 guidance note has a very different objective and presumption about land use.

Now I turn to the central concern of Gaia Watch – the adverse effects of human population growth. As Sir David Attenborough wrote in his April 2011 article “This heaving planet” in the New Statesman:
“In this country (the population) … is projected to grow by 10 million in the next 22 years. That is equivalent to ten more Birminghams.”

There is obviously then a serious need for more houses. And even if the way that the massive extra population was housed was the most efficient, land–conservative way possible, our countryside is likely to be badly damaged – very much reduced in size and quality.

So a central preoccupation of our government should be to ensure that as little countryside land is taken over for housing and associated infrastructure as possible. While we acknowledge that the present Planning system needs simplifying to speed up development, it seems to us that, despite caveats like “provided there is no overriding conflict with the National Planning Policy Framework as a whole”, this DNPPF, if it became law is likely to result in developers being given so much power that our countryside would be much more seriously threatened than is really necessary.

Read the consultation document: DNPPF

If readers wish to see what some environmental organisations think of the DNPPF read the following:

“CPRE's response to the draft National Planning Policy Framework consultation.”
Campaign to Protect Rural England.

“Government must heed planning recommendations.”
Wildlife Trusts

“Response to National Planning Policy Framework (Draft) Consultation.”
Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland.”

“Global food crisis looms as crop prices set to rocket”. An OXFAM report that fails to deal adequately with the significance of human population growth. Posted 1st June 2011.

Oxfam has published a major report on the global food crisis, its causes and effects, and what should be done to solve the problem. The report was a cooperative venture with partner organisations.

“Oxfam states that decades of steady progress in the fight against hunger is now being reversed as demand outpaces food production. Depleting natural resources, a scramble for fertile land and water, and the gathering pace of climate change is already making the situation worse”. After many years when global food production kept pace with demand, the situation has now changed – demand is now outpacing production.

The report warns readers that the average price of staple crops such as maize will more than double by 2030, and since already the poorest people in the world spend up to 80% of their income on food, they will be the people worst affected by the price rises.

But for Gaia Watch, this report, although providing much useful analysis and a carefully developed series of proposals for dealing with the situation, almost ignores a fundamental cause of the food crisis problem, namely the continuing massive growth in the world human population. Although the Press release mentions the rise in the number of hungry people, it is silent on global population growth. We made a quote from the press release earlier, including “Depleting natural resources, a scramble for fertile land and water, and the gathering pace of climate change is already making the situation worse”. But no mention here of population growth as a factor making things worse!

In the report itself population growth is mentioned. It briefly speaks of generating agricultural surpluses to feed a growing population. It notes “the world is losing an opportunity to remove the spectre of hunger from an under–five population larger than all of the children in that age group living today in France, Germany and the United Kingdom”. It briefly notes divergences between population growth and “baseline productivity growth in agriculture”, and states that in West Africa the population will increase by 2.1 per cent per annum, whereas a “continuation of past productivity gains would only increase the productivity of maize by 1.4 per cent to 2030. And while this divergence “is less marked in other parts of the world” projections for Asia “point to a future in which agriculture struggles to keep pace with the demands associated with a growing population”. But one would have thought, where the report has many pages devoted to what should be done to deal with the food crisis, that a major section would be devoted to the need to slow population growth as much as possible and how to achieve this, including making available family planning services, but the subject is ignored.

Oxfam: Press Release
Oxfam: Full report

“Is this the beginning of the end of civilisation?” Posted 26th February 2011.

The recent unrest that has spread across North African countries, Bahrain and the Yemen, and according to Catholic Online, even to China, has various causes. Besides a universal anger with despotic rulers who have often committed acts of violence against their people, other causes of unrest have been lack of freedom, high levels of unemployment, shortages of food and other commodities, poor living conditions, and the big gap in standard of living between the ruling elite and the people. All this has led to speculation as to what comes next. Western Countries hope that eventually stability will be attained. And they hope that democracy will be adopted, or at least that the countries will not become (more) unfriendly towards the West.

We however, reluctantly think that lasting stability will not be attained, democracy will not be adopted, and that it is likely that militant Islam will come to dominate these countries. And we further think that unrest will spread across the world, probably first in other countries where a large percentage of the population is very poor and uneducated, but eventually in the established industrialised democracies of the world.
Here are our reasons.

  1. The people of the countries presently beset by conflict have never experienced national democracy: They have had no experience of what is rightfully expected of members of the public or officials, and leaders that arise will usually have had no experience of governing in a democracy and consequently lack the necessary political skills. Many people are probably naive, imagining that democracy can deliver, and deliver quickly, the things they desire, so their idealism will be sorely tried. And people will have straight away to start to deal with the backlog of many economic and social problems left to them by the dictators.
    Democracy is therefore unlikely to become a reality and even if it does, it is unlikely to persist.
  2. While at the moment, protesters are largely united in aims, if governments in their countries are not overthrown, squabbling is likely to break out. And if governments are overthrown, different groups within the protest movement – political, religious or ethnic – are likely to compete and may then, in the absence of the iron fist they have destroyed, end up clashing violently with each other.
  3. The global human population continues to grow. At the same time food and most other commodity prices continue to increase, often erratically. Global food production has kept pace with human population growth in the past, but this may not continue in the future. The planet is finite in size, so as the global human population continues to grow, and agricultural land continues to be degraded by excessive cropping and other means, there will increasingly be competition for land for different functions – food production, biofuel production, housing and infrastructure, and ecosystems that perform vital functions (for example, tropical rain forests that absorb the climate change gas carbon dioxide).

    Climate change will add to the problem of food production, since it will disturb climate systems in many parts of the world, and cause sea levels rises that will submerge vast areas of the most productive soils on the planet. The problem of producing food is further complicated by two things. First, food speculators, who buy up stocks of food only to release them when prices are high in order to make a large financial profit, thus providing one cause of erratic changes in food prices, making control of these prices more difficult. Second, and witnessed by such food speculation, is the fact that there is no effective control system for global food prices in place; such a system would necessarily involve negative and positive feed–back mechanisms (such as those which maintain a steady temperature in central heating systems or control the activity of the organs of the human body, control systems that come under the heading of cybernetic systems).

    All these factors indicate that food prices are likely to continue to rise. The crisis of food production will especially hit developing countries, for most future population growth will take place there while the same countries often lack good governance, exhibit considerable corruption in officials and other powerful people and lack adequate infrastructure and technical expertise.
    But developed countries will not be exempt from food shortages, price rises and price fluctuations, because much of the food consumed there comes from other countries, including developing countries. The purchase or lease of large tracts of land across Africa by industrialised and oil rich countries is approved by many commentators, since it brings with it training of farmers in modern agricultural techniques together with investment in development projects. But there is a serious downside to this activity, for local people lose control of their land which can lead to socio-political instability.

    All these matters are likely to lead to existing tensions within nations being exacerbated and new tensions developing, which might lead to conflict (people against the government, cultural/ethnic/racial group clashes and clashes between the haves and the have nots). And likewise as competion for food between nations increases, international tensions will increase, further promoted by countries adopting trade protection measures that limit free trade. Such tensions have a strong likelihood of becoming international conflicts.

    As for other commodities, the many more developed countries that are heavily dependent on oil gas and metal ore supplies located in developing countries, are likely in future to see supplies increasingly disrupted by conflict. The situation will be exacerbated by the fact that the earth's reserves are in many cases either becoming exhausted or are so situated and combined with other materials that it is much more difficult to effect extraction (for example, oil in sands). So, as with food prices, many commodity prices are likely to continue to rise, with consequential bad effects on national economies and increasing competition between developed countries that will probably damage international relations, with the consequent likelihood of internecine conflict.

  4. Rising sea levels, the result of climate change, will not only submerge agricultural land. For many cities are located on low lying land by the sea or in the deltaic plains of large rivers where they are already subject to some periodic flooding. So many cities are likely to be submerged. This will lead to massive within–country migration, causing immense disruption of activities making it more difficult for governments to function properly. This will probably cause conflicts.
  5. We have seen a massive recent increase of emigration from some countries in Africa, notably to the Italian Island of Lampedusa. This is just a foretaste of what is likely to happen in future. International migration will increase both through the 'push factors' of bad governance, food and other shortages and strife in home countries, and the 'pull factor' of better conditions in developed countries. Such migration is likely to gradually pull down developed countries towards the economic and social levels of developing countries and make it increasingly difficult and eventually impossible for governments in developed nations to operate effectively. Since developed countries all embrace liberal values, most notably human rights, their governments will not or will not until it is too late to be effective, take adequate measures to prevent immigrants reaching or staying in their countries. Or to put it another way, they are unlikely to adopt a lifeboat strategy (when the lifeboat already contains a safe quota of people, others are forcibly turned away).
    The submergence of cites already mentioned will, in addition to causing migration within the countries concerned, also stimulate a rise in international migration for the same reasons.
  6. More generally, as global environmental conditions deteriorate further, existing tensions are likely to be exacerbated, and new tensions arise, and these may well lead to conflict (see Homer–Dixon, T. F. (1999) “Environment, Scarcity, and violence”. Princeton University Press). Such effects may arise between ethnic, racial and religious groups. As far as religion is concerned We think that tensions and conflict are particularly likely between between Christians and Muslims, not only in many developing countries, but also in Europe and some other developed countries.

    As far as European countries are concerned, there is good evidence that while most Muslims may well simply wish to apply their religion to their own lives, and get on as well as possible in their adopted host countries, well developed networks exist in and between countries, of Jihad promoting groups whose aim is the conversion of the world to traditional Islam. At the same time, there is growing anxiety amongst indigenous peoples first through the massive rise in the Muslim populations, fuelled by continued immigration and high birth rates, and second through the rise of a very visible presence of an alien culture with its alien symbols (mosques and clothing). See for example Bishop M. Nazir–Ali (2006) “Conviction and conflict. Islam, Christianity and World Order” Continuum; W. Laqueur (2007) “The last days of Europe” Thomas Dunne Books; B. Bawer (2006). “While Europe slept. How radical Islam is destroying the West from within” Doubleday; M. Phillips (2006) “Londistan. How Britain is creating a terror state within” Gibson Square; C. Caldwell (2009) “Reflections on the revolution in Europe. Can Europe be the same with different people in it?” Allen Lane. See also our 2006 analysis “The Muhammad cartoons controversy – the context” accessed from the Analysis section of the Comment and Analysis section of our web site.

    We note here that the term 'religious groups' is not entirely satisfactory, because in countries like the UK while most indigenous people tick 'Christian' when questionnaires enquire about people's religion, the majority rarely or never attend church or other religious meetings. For such people, although they may not be conscious of this, the word Christian carries with it the whole weight of Europe civilisation that has its roots in the enlightenment in the wider sense and further back in the Roman Empire and further back still in the work of philosophers of ancient Greece, especially Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, and with major contributions from Judaism and Christianity.

  7. Democratic deficit part one. Another cause of conflict will be something that again already exists, but will be likely, under the global decline of environmental and social conditions, to come to play an increasing role in causing strife within countries; we call this the 'demographic deficit'. Thinking just about industrialized countries, the attention of most people is focused on the here and now, the only time when they take a long term view being when they are thinking about mortgages, pensions or wills. Many people worry about jobs, young people about finding a job, older persons about redundancy. The range of pleasurable activities has expanded enormously, and people are so wrapped up in these pleasures, spend so much time watching TV and joining in web chat groups, and often supporting their home football or other sports team, that they seldom take time to take stock of the bigger environmental picture and population trends. Most People too, are so detached from the means of production of food, so detached from farming life and so lacking in understanding of the importance of ecosystems, that they cannot appreciate the seriousness of the present environmental situation.

    So long term environmental trends are not matters that they normally think about. The consequence is that it is these personal concerns (and sometimes ideologies) rather than major environmental issues that dominate the involvement of people in the electoral process. And in developing countries corruption of officials and other powerful people is often so great that ordinary people lose hope and become apathetic.

    And as far as environmental and natural history organisations are concerned – which one might expect to be in the forefront both of educating people about the consequences of continued population growth and of campaigning on this issue – they have in fact largely remained silent, often because it is politically incorrect to discuss such matters, but also I suspect because many members are also part of the dominant liberal elite and because members are demographically illiterate.

    The result of all these considerations is that governments are not pressurised by the public to take drastic action to deal with the environmental and social crises in the world. Yet there are very good reasons to suppose that unless drastic action is taken NOW to tackle climate change and ecosystem deterioration, disaster is almost inevitable, as James Lovelock and others have repeatedly warned (see two books by Lovelock: “The revenge of Gaia. Why the earth is fighting back – and how we can still save humanity” (2006) Penguin Allen Lane, and “A final warning. The vanishing face of Gaia” (2009) Penguin Books. The latter book has a foreword by Sir Martin Rees, then President of the Royal Society, and Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at Cambridge University. There Sir Martin writes of Lovelock “He is both a fine scientist and an eloquent advocate of action” and he ends his foreword: “It is no exaggeration to say that our civilizations long–term future depends on whether the 'call to arms'' in this riveting book is widely heeded”).

  8. Democratic deficit part two. As Professor Bartlett of the University of Colorado has observed, as population increases, democracy is diluted; for example, it is more difficult for people to meet their leaders. Focusing on the USA he thinks the ideal democracy is the New England Town Meeting, “where every citizen is expected to participate in the discussions, debates and decisions”. He takes as an example of democratic deficit the House of Representatives. The United States constitution requires that “The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand”. In 1790, there were far fewer than 30,000 people per representative. But population growth has led in 2000 to there being roughly 630,000 persons for each of the 435 members of the House of Representatives. Bartlett goes on to show how population growth has impeded democracy in fields as varied as government regulations, the power of money to buy political influence and power in the private sector (Bartlett, A. 2000. “Democracy cannot survive overpopulation”. Population and Environment 22, a: 63–71).
    So now, when local problems everywhere become more pressing through global changes, with people feeling less and less able to democratically influence events, tensions will arise or become inflamed with the likelihood of violence breaking out, so disrupting society that effective governance becomes impossible.
  9. Finally, the age profile of the countries presently experiencing unrest that we started this article with, is dominated by young people, as indeed the television coverage of the unrest has clearly shown. Other developing countries show the same age profile in varying degrees. Now young people are generally quicker to act before careful consideration of the issues than older persons. This particularly applies to testosterone laden young men who are often prone to be violent (see Potts, M. & Hayden, T. (2008) “Sex and War”. Benbella Books.
    All this increases the chance of conflict with consequential disruption of efforts to steer the ship planet Earth into safer waters.

These then are our reasons. See also our essay posted 2nd November 2007 entitled “Population growth and environmental deterioration. Are things finally coming together – for mankind's doom?”, accessed from the Analysis section of our Comment and Analysis page.

An inconsistency in the Prime Minister's policies as far as immigration is concerned? The pros and cons of the entry of Turkey into the European Union. Posted 1st October 2010.

For a long time, concerns about the level of immigration to the UK have been voiced by the public, and especially the extent immigrants are taking jobs in the labour market. Now foreign workers can be divided into two groups – persons from the European Union (EU) and persons from outside the European Union. Both groups make a large contribution to the total number of foreign workers, but the non–EU group makes a greater contribution than the EU group. The distinction between EU and non–EU workers is important, not least because under EU rules, EU workers are free to go anywhere in the EU. So any attempt to cap immigration can only apply to non–EU workers.

Now the Conservatives promised during the recent election to put a cap on immigration, and this is now declared policy of the Conservative–Liberal Government alliance.

An interim cap has now been imposed before a final decision is made next year on how big the cap will actually be. This interim measure will limit the number of workers from outside the EU to 24,100 between now and April 2001 – a reduction of about 5 per cent.

At the same time, David Cameron, in his recent tour in Asia has stated he favours the entry of Turkey into the EU. But if that takes place, this will allow Turkish people to emigrate to other EU countries including the UK. In terms of immigration then, the proposed cap on immigration and the proposed entry of Turkey into the EU have opposite effects on the actual amount of immigration to the UK. We think Turkish emigration to EU countries once Turkey joins the EU could be considerable, and that is why we have now written to David Cameron about this matter, and the letter is reproduced below (see footnote).

We think it is possible, even likely, that immigration from Turkey to the UK could more than cancel out the effect of reduced immigration from a cap.
We realise this is perhaps a rather extreme position to take. We may well be wrong. Certainly if the entry of Turkey into the EU continues to be delayed for a long time, the economy and employment in Turkey may improve and poverty be reduced. Then on entering the EU, there might be little incentive for Turkish people to emigrate. But what we are really considering is the effect of the admission of Turkey if it occurred soon.

However, it is best to prepare for the worse. And we would also like to point out that the actual cap, when it is finally agreed, may well be smaller than originally stated, because there is already considerable opposition to a cap. We all saw this during Mr. Cameron's visit to India – the Indian government and Indian business leaders are against a cap. In Britain, many business leaders are against the cap, and many MPs probably including even some Conservative ones are against a cap (and the liberal part of the government alliance is very uncomfortable with the idea). Trade Unions are against the cap, as is the Major of London.


Letter to the Prime Minister August 2010:

Dear Prime Minister,

I think there may be an inconsistency between policies you espouse.

With an immigration policy aimed at reducing net immigration, and acknowledging that you cannot control immigration from countries within the European Union (EU), you propose a cap on immigration from countries outside the Union.

At the same time you support the entry of Turkey into the EU. If this takes place, this will open the door to substantial immigration from Turkey:

Turkey has a population of nearly 78 million (appreciably more than the UK population – 61.3 million). Turkey has a comparatively youthful population (median age 28.1 years, compare the UK, 40.5 years) and a much higher unemployment rate Turkey: 14.1% compared with the UK: 7.6% (2009 figures). GDP per capita is Turkey: $11,200, UK: $35,200 (2009 figures). I take my information from the CIA Fact Book, a very useful source of information:

Finally, in terms of illegal immigration, the length of the eastern border of the EU is an important consideration. If you look at a map of Europe you will see that if Turkey joins the EU, that border will be considerably extended, with much of this new border being difficult to police.

Even on the basis of these considerations, the entry of Turkey into the EU will considerably increase total potential immigration to the UK from EU countries. But we should also take into consideration global environmental deterioration (climate change etc.), which is likely to increase immigration pressure on Western Europe. And with Turkey being at a more advanced state of economic development (and in some cases being more stable) than its neighbouring countries to the south–east, immigration into Turkey from these countries is likely to be exacerbated by environmental change, this in turn increasing the potential for emigration to the west. At the same time, Turkish treatment of its ethnic Kurdish citizens could mean some significant emigration westward of such citizens.


While Turkish citizens might be particularly drawn towards Germany, with its substantial Turkish population, other citizens will be drawn further west, past France with its policy of laïcité to the comparatively very tolerant UK where the premier world language is spoken.

Taking these facts and this argument into consideration, it is possible, and I think likely, that the increase in immigration to the UK from the EU caused by the entry of Turkey into the EU, could exceed the number of non-EU people prevented from coming here by your cap .

We should also bear in mind two things.

First, human rights organisations tell us human rights standards in Turkey, in practice, are still well below western standards, and there is still some serious persecution of Christians, so on human rights grounds, Turkey should not I think, at present be allowed to join the European Union.

Second, the vast majority of Turks are Muslims. A massive immigration of Turkish people into the EU with its population predominantly holding to a Christian tradition and a spirit of open enquiry developed from ancient Greece onwards, might pose difficulties for social cohesion.

Finally these considerations should be viewed in a wider context that I give on the attached sheets.

Yours sincerely,

John Barker

J.F. Barker BSc (Hons), PhD, CBiol, MSB

Correspondent for Gaia Watch,

Charity Objectives: To advance the education of the public by conducting research into (1) the growth and movements of human populations and the relationships of these factors to all aspects of environmental health and social well–being (2) all aspects of mans impact on the environment (3) the ecology of remaining natural and semi-natural areas in the world, and to disseminate the useful results of such research.

Visit our web site to find key facts about population growth and migration, globally and in the UK, and explore how these factors impact on the environment and societies or

Gaia Watch Registered Charity (UK) Charity Number 1060769


To put these matters in a wider context.

You will probably be aware of the view that there is an urgent need to reduce immigration to the UK on environmental grounds. I wish to draw your attention to specific matters in this respect.

First, are you aware of Carrying Capacity estimates, made through the new science of ecological footprinting? Carrying capacity is the maximum population that can be supported, can be sustained indefinitely in a given region or country.

Ecological footprinting is a technique that translates all mankind's needs into land area, an area that can then be compared with the actual land area of the region or country concerned that is available (for example, land for growing crops, land for forests to absorb carbon dioxide). Ecofootprinting studies tell us that the carrying capacities of the whole world and the UK are far below the respective actual population sizes. With the UK the carrying capacity at current levels of consumption is probably less than half the present UK population size!

A few years ago I wrote an article about the technicalities of footprinting and giving the main conclusions of footprinting studies. The data has changed since then, but the conclusions remain basically the same. This article can be accessed from the bottom of the Comment and Analysis page of our web site. Title: “How many people can the earth support? Part Two. Ecological footprints”.

Consider now food security, threatened even as I write by the fires in Russia and the floods in the Pakistan/India sub-continent. One estimate of the UK's recent food security is, that in terms of home production, the UK is around 60% self-sufficient in food overall, and around 74% self-sufficient in the types of food than can be grown here. However, these figures mask wide variations between commodities, and also hide the extent to which foods ostensibly produced in the UK depend on imported inputs such as energy or animal foodstuffs.
(D. Barling et al, 2008, “Rethinking Britain's food security”. City University, London).

Coping with the increase in the UK population. The UK population is projected to grow by 23.7 million to 85.1 million in 2081 – an increase roughly three times the present size of London. Immigration is projected to be the prime driver of this growth Where are all those people to be housed? Despite all attempts to make use of brownfield land, large areas of countryside will be needed for houses and infrastructure. Yet we urgently need to increase our food production while simultaneously retaining countryside areas for recreation and 'natural' ecosystems. On top of that, there have for a long time been warnings about possible water shortages in the UK. Where is the water to come from to support this massive increase in population?

There is then an urgent need not just to reduce our population growth, but to aim for an eventual reduction of total population. So, while we commend your desire to decrease immigration to the UK, we think that the reduction of immigration needed is probably greater than you envisage.


The economy. We need a fundamental re–think of economies, moving to a steady state economic system as advocated by Herman Daly who was senior economist in the World Bank's Environment Department from 1988 to 1994.

Daly points out that economists still fail to grasp the simple message that Earth's resources are finite, fail to realise that man made capital cannot substitute for natural capital and they leave out ecological costs in their accounting. Economic growth is becoming increasingly uneconomic, especially in affluent countries: costs are beginning to outweigh benefits.

He says the most important change on earth in recent times has been the enormous growth of the economy, which has taken over an ever greater share of the planet's resources. World population has tripled, the numbers of livestock, cars, houses and refrigerators have increased by vastly more. Our economy is now reaching the point where it is outstripping Earth's ability to sustain it. Resources are running out and waste sinks are becoming full.

In a steady state economy, the value of goods can still increase through technical innovation and better distribution, but the physical scale of the economy must be kept at a scale the planet is able to sustain. Two articles by Daly explain to the layman what the problem is and what needs to be done:
“Economics in a full world”. Scientific American September 2005 pages 100–107.
“On a road to disaster” New Scientist, 18th October 2008.
See also:
“Reconciling the Economics of Social Equity and Environmental Sustainability”. Population and Environment 24, 1: 47–53.




FOOTNOTE. The above letter was sent 9th August 2010, with a small alteration sent the following day. The letter printed here includes the alteration.


Prime Ministers letter page 1
Prime Ministers letter page 2


“5 Things you need to consider before emigrating overseas …”. Or are there more things? Posted 5th May 2010.

Mr. Martin Leet drew our attention to his interesting article on emigration that he posted onto the web, and we responded to it. Since we think that our readers may be interested in the article and our response, we now reproduce both.

The article

5 Things You Need to Consider Before Emigrating Overseas That Can Save You a Fortune

Let me ask you a quick question, what do everyone interested in moving overseas have in common? You answered right – the belief that somewhere else the grass is greener than where you are now.
Although this might be the actual case, looking below the green grass and searching for some mud under it might be a great idea before actually taking the leap into the unknown.

  • Know your reasons and have your inner–talk

    Before you make the big decision of emigrating overseas, take a moment to think it through. Is it really what you want? Or is it some kind of social pressure that forces you to move?
    Are your reasons real or are they just based on recent failures that you want to forget? If that's the case, a short trip to Seychelles might just do the trick.
    Whatever your reasons are – I'm not your judge; just make sure your reasons are valid.

  • Choose the right country

    Decide on a couple of different possibilities and start your research. Do you like your own kind? Or are you emigrating never to see them again? If one of the reasons you want to emigrate overseas is to live with new and interesting people and not to see your old countrymen, don't be a Brit and don't go to Australia.

  • Do you know any other languages than your own? Do you know the new local language? Or if you don't, do the people over there know yours? French people don't.

    Is the salary in the chosen country acceptable for you or do you have anything to do with your skills in their job market at all?
    These are just some questions you need to be able to answer before making your final decision.

  • Do your research, prepare for surprises

    In many countries, before soldiers go to Afghanistan for the “peacekeeping” missions, they have at least one test trip, which results in half of the soldiers putting their reserve applications on the table and run like hell.
    As the soldiers see the sights first, so should you. And as do the soldiers, many of you who might want to emigrate overseas now, end up changing your mind after the test trips. It's normal. Changing your mind after you have already made the final move is a lot more problematic.
    Know the immigration rules and history. Learn about the local visa system. A few years ago a young man from United States moved to Netherlands. Due to some mess–up with his visa, he traveled from his apartment to court and court to his apartment for a whopping 5 years followed by victory. But the headaches, and the fees paid to his lawyer, this all could have been avoided.

  • Look at your wallet and property

    How's your current financial situation? How's the job market abroad? How old are you? No, I didn't ask the last question just to annoy you. If you're “old enough” you need to learn about the local pension system – how does it work for a guy like you? Will the pension be fixed or will it keep rising until the next financial crises that results in the loss of the entire country's pension funds. Just a thought.
    And what about your earthly possessions, do you have a lot of things? Are you a light–weight mover or do you need the entire 9th deck of an oceanic cruiser to move your things? If you have lots of stuff, get rid of them – only this way can you make a true new beginning, cheaply. Or if you really feel the need to bring in all your broken cars, make sure you use a reputable moving company which at the same time wouldn't rob you broke.

  • Know what you leave behind

    When you emigrate overseas, obviously it will be you, not you and everyone you know. How do you feel about that? Are you ready to leave them all behind? And if you are, do you still want to see them every once in a while? Often? Do you have the money to travel back and forth to keep visiting them?

Thinking everything through before making the big move is essential in order to be happy with your decision.

End of article
link to article
The UK government itself has provided extensive advice on
living abroad


Our Answer

From John Barker

You have some very useful points with which I largely agree.

But I would definitely add two more.

Point One. Globally, water shortages are increasing, but especially in the warmer parts of the globe, and they will get much worse. This impacts on residents and visitors alike in any given place. Take for example, the whole of the south-eastern part of Spain. Water has become so scarce that Spain began to divert water from the North–West of the country, provoking protests from that region that also needed that water. There was not enough water to feed residents, including new immigrants and visitors and provide for agriculture (vegetables and fruit to inhabitants and export to other countries in Europe).
This situation will get much worse. The underlying problem is human population growth (the more people, the more water needed).

Point Two. A more general point. Climate change. Recent events first – the volcanic eruption in Iceland and cancellation of air flights in the UK and elsewhere. Then it is clear that severe floods have become more frequent globally in recent times.

And now to James Lovelock. He is the author of the 'Gaia Hypothesis'. You can read about this in my review of his book “The revenge of Gaia” that you can find on the Book Reviews page of our Gaia Watch web site: or

Briefly the hypothesis states that the whole world is a self regulating climate system. It can withstand minor perturbations. But Lovelock shows how recently positive feed-back loops have developed (ordinary language – “vicious circles”). For example. The Arctic. Snow covering ground reflects back almost all sunlight, and stays cold. But bare ground, being darker, absorbs sunlight and so gets warmer. This bare ground round the edge of the ice sheet consequently melts some of the ice, creating more bare ground that absorbs heat, and so on. Lovelock argues that our emissions have so perturbed the whole system that there may be a tipping point beyond which the whole world will fairly suddenly go to a much hotter state. He argues again and again that the underlying problem has been human population growth and desire for a higher standard of living.

Now Lovelock has written a new book. “A final warning. The vanishing face of Gaia”. He says that all our proposed methods of dealing with climate change are far, far too little, and almost certainly it is now too late. Within a few years (this decade or the next few decades), the whole earth will most likely fairly suddenly change, so that most of the world will become uninhabitable (far too hot). Some regions (like arctic regions of Canada, Scandinavia and Siberia, and a few mountainous regions where water or snow continues to fall, and a few islands like the British Isles and Japan) may escape the worst.
Millions, nay billions of people will try to move north.
But how could the north feed them? At present the UK is nowhere near self–sufficient with food. Therefore, Lovelock writes, we should be giving at least as much time to considering how we will adapt to the changed world, as we spend on trying to reduce carbon emissions. For examples, we need to find ways to increase the UK's food production massively, repeat, massively while still retaining sufficient natural ecosystems and we may need to strengthen our army to repel the massive wave of would be immigrants.

(Note. “In terms of home production, the UK is around 60% self–sufficient in food overall, and around 74% self–sufficient in the types of food than can be grown here. However, these figures mask wide variations between commodities, and also hide the extent to which foods ostensibly produced in the UK depend on imported inputs such as energy or animal foodstuffs: "Rethinking Britain's food security”. City University London. Also note official UK statistics that project the UK human population will increase by roughly three times the present size of the London population between 2006 and 2081, and this ignores Lovelock's predictions!).

Please note. Lovelock is not some mad amateur. He has published very important scientific papers. He is a fellow of the UK Royal Society. And the forward to his new book is written by Sir Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society and Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at Cambridge University. In this forward Rees writes “It is no exaggeration to say that our civilization's long–term future depends on whether the 'call to arms' in this riveting book is widely heeded”.

***So, to come back to your article. I think it would be foolish for any residents of the British Isles to emigrate to warmer countries or to so–called “developing countries”.***

Best wishes,

John Barker.

End of our answer

The Jungle, Sangatte, and the relentless pressure on 'developed' (industrialised) countries to accept immigrants. Posted 23rd September 2009.

Through the years since the beginning of the present century the UK media has repeatedly focused on the attempts by would be immigrants in the neighbourhood of the French port of Calais to gain entry to Britain. Many of these persons came to be housed in the camp at Sangatte, where, according to the Red Cross, the peak number of persons was 2,000. Eventually the camp was closed by the French authorities. But then the large and makeshift Sangatte camp developed near Calais and became known as 'the Jungle'. Yesterday (22nd September 2009) this camp too was closed. Officials said that they took into custody 278 migrants, but it was thought that 1,000 had already left, forewarned of the imminent police action. As many observers have said, these actions by the French government directly address only a symptom, not the cause of the problem.

We would like to emphasize that this problem is in our view likely to get much worse in the future. The arrival of would be immigrants to Britain is part of a global phenomenon, namely, the movement of people from poorer countries to so–called 'developed', industrial or 'first world' countries for a variety of reasons – to escape persecution, to find employment, to join family members who have already migrated, or simply to achieve a higher standard of living. In addition there is a large flow of people from one poor country to another, and from one part of a poor country to another part of the same country to escape famine, war and persecution. Such movements put great strains on the resources of governments.

The size of this overall problem is daunting. Take just refugees. Estimates of just how many refugees there are vary. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees estimates that at the end of last year there were 42 million people "forcibly uprooted by conflict and persecution". This number includes 16 million refugees and asylum seekers and 26 million people displaced within their own countries.

Years ago people were warning that the overall situation will get much worse. Consider just 'environmental refugees' – people who can no longer gain a secure livelihood because of environmental deterioration (desertification etc). Norman Myers in a Royal Society paper in 2001 estimated there were already at least 25 million environmental refugees in 1995. Myers was warning that by 2050 or earlier, rising sea levels caused by global warming may cause displacement of large numbers of people. In China, it could be 73 million, Bangladesh 26 million, India 20 million, Egypt 12 million, elsewhere including small islands 31 million, making a total of 162 million. He noted that global warming will also cause drought and disruption of rainfall regimes; at least 50 million people could be at severe risk through such climatic dislocations. We reported on this paper by Myers on the Other Literature page of our web site a long time ago.

Then what about migrants seeking employment or a better standard of life? The recession might have temporarily cut down immigration into the UK and other European countries, but it seems likely that the differences in employment prospects and standards of living between currently rich and poor countries are likely to be maintained or increased in years to come.

And what about people fleeing conflict and persecution? Just think how conflict keeps bubbling up in Saharan and sub–Saharan Africa. Think about conflict and persecution in the Middle East. And just considering Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a real possibility that democracy will not take root there and tribal and religious–sectarian conflicts may become the norm. Just think of the Khyber Pass region. This may well return to the situation it was in for centuries – uneasy peace between various tribes.

Conflict and persecution is not confined to the old world. Think of conflict between and within several Northern South American countries in recent times. David Spencer in his paper "Potential conflict in South America" gives four reasons for thinking conflict there may increase – see David Spencer. First, while “some democratic structures” have been established, this has not stopped “the practices of corruption and patronage politics from thriving”. Minority groups have been ignored, national treasuries bankrupted and political decision making stymied. Second, while “economic liberalization and globalization” has taken place, this did not benefit the majority of the people. “The gap between rich and poor in most Latin American countries has grown wider, and quality of life for the poorest has decreased significantly”.

Third, there has been “exponential growth of efficient illegal economies, particularly drug trafficking”. Those “who control these vast illicit funds are precisely the forces and elements that can produce the most chaos. This means that, unlike the past, would–be revolutionaries don’t have to appeal to an outside source for money, resources and weapons. They can merely tap into the vast reservoir of profits available from drug trafficking and other illegal economies to push their agenda. These profits are increasingly accessible to agents of political violence because of the breakup of the large cartels and their replacement by the much smaller 'boutique cartels'”. And fourth, “ungoverned space and illegal economies create ...the appeal to foreign, particularly Islamic, terrorist organizations to establish support (training, logistics and rest) facilities in the region...”.

Spencer is writing just about Northern South America. But what he writes resonates for us with conditions in some other developing regions of the world.

We conclude that despite all the effort by the United Nations, individual governments and non–governmental organisations, the tide of conflict in the world has not been effectively stemmed. In our view it is likely to get much worse.

Altogether then, Sangatte and the Jungle are probably only foretastes of worse things to come. The relentless pressure on 'developed' (industrialised) countries to accept immigrants is likely to increase.

Election Protests in Iran. Were demographic factors involved? Posted 24th June 2009.

The recent street protests in the Iranian capital Tehran over the result of the election have received considerable coverage in the BBC. It could be argued that, irrespective of the question of whether the results were rigged or not, the BBC in its coverage of events did foment unrest, as claimed by the Iranian authorities. It certainly gave the protests headline treatment, and seemed to be hoping the protests would continue. We have no grounds for disputing either that many Iranians thought the election, or at least the counting of votes had been rigged, or that the protests reveal a deep-seated power struggle that goes right to the top within Iranian leadership. But we do think that a demographic factor may have played a part in causing the protests.

Looking at the protesters in the footage given on BBC television, we were struck by the fact that most protesters seemed quite young. And we note the fact that the Iranian population as a whole is quite youthful – the age structure is estimated to be as follows (Central Intelligence Agency world factbook):
0–14 years: 21.7%
15–64 years: 72.9%
61 and over: 5.4.

There is a growing body of evidence that certain population changes are strongly associated with increased risk of political violence (J.A. Goldstone. “Population and security: how demographic change can lead to violent conflict” Journal of International Affairs 56, 1: 3-22, on which the following note is largely based). One such change is when a youth bulge develops in the population (an expansion of the 15-25 age cohort relative to the overall adult population). Historically there has been a correlation between the presence of a youth bulge and times of political crises - as was the case with the 17th century English revolution, the 18th century French revolution and most twentieth century revolutions in developing countries. Large young cohorts are often drawn to new ideas, and the unsatisfactory state of the economy in Iran, with intense competition for jobs, and for the well educated, a situation where there is a relatively limited, semi-closed structure of elite positions, could heighten tensions. We think then that the age structure of the present Iranian population might have been a facilitating factor in the recent protests.

The right to know. The duty to inform. Examples of 'Politically Correct Brigade' fears about uncomfortable facts being made known. Posted 13th February 2009 then a few small alterations 14th and 15th February.

The release of a statement by the Office of National Statistics on employment trends in terms of UK born and non–UK born persons (link ONS), has evoked a strong protest from certain quarters, the blame for the release being pinned on Karen Dunnell, the National Statistician – see our News item of yesterday combined with the day before (11th and12th) – we will refer in this comment to various entries in that news item.

We wish to assert two general principles.

First, citizens of any nation have the right to be kept informed about any significant trend or trend change in a nation's environmental, economic or social situation.

Second, and correspondingly, it is the duty of a nation's senior officials to keep the public informed about such matters. It is particularly important that officials inform the public about any significant trend change.

Well, are trends based on whether or not persons were born in the UK showing any sign of significant change? Has the public expressed any concern over possible changes, or indeed the overall longer term trends?

The answer to both questions is yes. And the graphs given in the News Release, which plot data on a monthly basis, show clearly an apparent change as the recession begins to bite. The graphs suggest that it is the UK born category persons rather than the non–UK born category persons that are suffering most through the recession, whether or not this might turn out to be a temporary blip in longer period trends.

Therefore, also, some senior official should inform the public about the situation in clear, simple, unambiguous terms.

The Office of National Statistics has done just that and should be commended for its action.

The release of this information on employment provoked strong opposition in some quarters. Why?

Three reasons. First, it is argued that the publication of the figures may provoke criticism on the grounds that the information given is misleading or inaccurate. Second, the publication of the figures may be opposed because it is considered the information, albeit correct, might have a harmful effect on society. Third, the publication of the figures might confirm the widespread suspicion of ordinary people that the government is dishonest and wants to cover up facts that do not fit with its ideology. We will consider each of these reasons in turn.

First. The publication of the figures may provoke criticism on the grounds that the information given is misleading or inaccurate.

We note that Keith Vaz in his article (see our News item for yesterday) says that the statistics “have to be accurate, relevant and very clear”, implying he thinks the information given in this News Release fails on one of these counts. But he provides no evidence whatsoever that the information is inaccurate; further, it is obviously relevant , as indeed the rest of what he writes shows convincingly he recognises, and the information could not be clearer! He does later say that statistics from the ONS should always be accompanied by a detailed explanation. But that is exactly what News/Press releases do not usually give.

It is said that Ministers think the figures are meaningless because they do not distinguish between the different categories of work – temporary workers, Europeans, and those on indefinite leave to remain (“Statistics chief Karen Dunnell inflames row over foreign workers” in today's News item). We certainly think that to distinguish different categories of work would have been very useful, and of interest to the public; however we also think that to say the lack of such a differentiation renders the figures meaningless is a gross exaggeration.

The Guardian correspondents (see our news page) add a relevant detail: The non–UK born category includes immigrants who came here as children and are now entering the work force; so, it is argued, we must not think of the non-UK born employment figures as signalling “a sudden rush of migrant workers”. But for British people born of British people, all this detail does not change their perception that the British population is changing so that people of foreign origin are increasing both in absolute numbers and as a proportion of the total population. It does not alter their wish to know more about these changes.

Some MPs thought the heading of the release “UK born and non–UK born employment” was misleading since many of the people “born outside the country had since become UK citizens” (the “Statistics chief Karen Dunnell...” item on our News page) But why does that make the heading misleading? Try asking ordinary working–class persons what they think; we do not think that would make any difference to the majority of them. Surely there is a big difference between the rights of British people who were born here, mostly from parents who were born here, and those who were born in some other country. In parenthesis we note too that critics seem to have largely ignored the fact that the News Release also gives results in terms of Nationality (UK nationals and non–UK nationals).

Finally, we would like to point out something that seems to have been ignored in this debate, something that does we think enhance the relevance of the News Release. There is much public interest in the changing size of the populations of immigrants from the European A8 accession countries (the eight East European countries that joined the EU in 2004), and the extent that these particular immigrants are presently employed in the UK. Also, we think, native British people make a distinction in their minds, whether or not they articulate it or are even aware of it, between different immigrant groups in terms of ethnicity, religion, the degree of civilization of the countries of origin, and the degree of similarity between these civilizations and British civilization, or European civilization in which British civilization is so firmly rooted. We think the public has a right to know about population changes in these terms, and that differences in these terms do affect the extent that social cohesion is developed or maintained.

Now the News Release contains some data tables. The first table partitions non-UK born employment rate (not number employed) between countries and groups of countries as follows.

EU14; EUA8; USA; Africa excluding South Africa; South Africa; Australia and New Zealand; India; Pakistan and Bangladesh (we were surprised at the absence here of the rest of Asia). It is very interesting to plot, for recent times, the changing rates of these different components (for example compare EUA8 (with a falling rate) and either India or Pakistan and Bangladesh (with a rising rate).

Second, the publication of the figures may be opposed because it is considered the information, albeit correct, might have a harmful effect on society.

We would argue that in general, it is better to release information rather than to conceal it. Is this not the democratic way? Surely, generally, more harm will eventually be caused by concealing information than revealing it.

Keith Vaz in his article writes that the information could be misused by people who “do not support the view that Britain should be a diverse and multicultural society”. What he writes seems to imply that a diverse and multicultural society has been proved to be, or is self–evidently, or is agreed by the vast majority of the population to be, the best type of society, and this we very much doubt. And we think many people, probably a majority of the largest ethnic group, the White: British, and significant proportions of ethnic minority populations do not approve of multiculturalism. And we note that the black chairman of the Equality and Human Right Commission, Trevor Phillips (formerly chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality) has strongly argued that the present pursuit of multiculturalism is harmful to society. And behind all this there is, we think, a general principle. One should not withhold information because a small minority may misuse it by exaggerating its significance.

The “Statistics chief Karen Dunnell...” article already referred to claims the News Release “risked inflaming tensions in many British workplaces” and that Union leaders argue the figures could be used to “stoke resentment” during the present times of rising unemployment. However, supposing the facts were concealed for a while. When they eventually came to light, as they would, would the risk not be much greater? And that leads us to our third reason.

Third. Third, the publication of the figures might confirm the widespread suspicion of ordinary people that the government is dishonest and wants to cover up facts that do not fit with its ideology.

We think the government would indeed like to conceal the facts, but argue that concealing this information only stokes the suspicion that many, perhaps most workers have, that the government is indeed trying to conceal the facts. As Sir Andrew Green writes in his article, the polls suggest 80 per cent of the population suspect the government is not truthful about immigration. And, once again, suppose the information was successfully concealed for a time. Imagine the reaction when the truth was eventually uncovered, as it would have been.

We note, at it were in parenthesis, irrelevant comments that Keith Vas puts in his article. He writes that people born abroad make a great contribution to the life of the country, and under the EU treaty we agreed to allow free movement of labour. To which we say, so what? Does that alter the facts? Does that mean we should not publish them?

We think the government holds to the ideology expressed by Keith Vaz, namely that multiculturalism is the best policy for our country, and that the free movement of people is a good thing. We think further, that the government would rather conceal anything that could be used to challenge in any way, these particular value judgements. The same can be said for the whole of what we term the Politically Correct Brigade.

We stay for a moment with Keith Vaz. We take the following extracts about him from his biography that can be accessed from the Parliament web site.
Keith Vaz

“Keith Vaz was born in Aden, Yemen on November 26th 1956. His parents were from Goa, India, and the family arrived in Britain from Aden 1965.

On the 26th July 2007 Keith Vaz was elected Chairman of the influential Home Affairs Select Committee – the body charged with examining the expenditure, policy and administration of the Home Office and its associated public bodies.

Between 1993–1994 he was a Member of the Executive Committee of the Inter–Parliamentary Union. Keith is a member of the Labour Party's National Executive Committee. He is also Chair of the Labour Party's Ethnic Minority Taskforce”.

(Parliamentary material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO on behalf of Parliament).

The Home Affairs Select Committee, is a committee directly concerned with safeguarding the nation, and should in our view be very concerned about protecting the nation's ethos, its traditions. And Britain is a country with many centuries of history. So we think this committee should always be chaired by some person who indisputably comes from a long generational line of British people. We think that to have the committee chaired not just by someone of recent foreign origin, but more specifically a first generation immigrant, not even the son of immigrants, is wrong. Such a person, however good his or her intentions, however upright a citizen he or she might be, will always be tempted to look first after the interests of immigrants, rather than the long genealogical native stock. And even if the person was scrupulous to avoid this, the majority of the general public may well suspect his or her intentions.

Reaction to the film by Geert Wilders

We now turn to another recent event that has caught the interest of the media, the refusal of the British government to allow the Dutch politician Geert Wilders to enter the UK. Wilders had been invited by a member of the House of Lords, Lord Pearson, the UK Independence party peer, to be present at a showing of his film about Islam and the relationship of that religion to terrorist attacks by extremist Muslims today. The film may be seen and heard by clicking here:
Film about Islam. Geert Wilders

This is a moving and frightening film. It links together quotations from the Koran, film shots of terrorist attacks, Muslim crowd scenes, placard bearing Muslims, and speeches by Muslim clerics and others. The later part of the film focuses on Wilders own country, the Netherlands.

Wilders had planned to come to Britain, but on Tuesday he received a letter from the UK Home Office telling him he would not be allowed to enter the UK, and then yesterday he was refused entry on arrival here.

In the UK the ban has won the support of a couple of Muslim organisations and a Liberal Party spokesman, but has been opposed by the National Secular Society.

The grounds for the government refusal? The opinions of Wilders “would threaten community security and therefore public security”.
The Telegraph “Dutch politician Geert Wilders lands at Heathrow despite ban over anti–Islam views”.

Chris Huhne, The Liberal Party spokesman on home affairs, while saying that “freedom of speech is our most precious freedom of all”, supported the ban, on the grounds that one must draw the line against possible incitement of violence or hatred, and the film had overstepped the line.
BBC News “UK's ban of Dutch MP criticised”.
For another article about the arrival of Mr. Wilders and the film see The Guardian “Anti–Islamist politician Geert Wilders arrives at Heathrow in defiant mood”.

The issue of the ban was taken up yesterday by the BBC's Mr. John Humphrys in the morning radio Today programme at 7.35 am. He interviewed Chris Huhne about this ban (the government had refused an invitation to put a minister up for the programme). Humphrys started by saying freedom of speech was very important, perhaps the greatest freedom of all. Huhne said he was a great advocate of free speech but there had to be a 'dividing line' beyond which what is said topples over to incitement to hatred or violence.

Humphrys took him up on this. He pointed out that the Koran said gay people should be flogged. And some people interpret what the Koran says on homosexuality to mean that such people should be put to death What is the difference between this and the alleged incitement to hatred and violence of Wilders? Humphrys said there were imans in London and various other places who had preached that homosexuals should be put to death. What about them? “Many people in Britain think that Muslims can say nasty things about us, but we must not say nasty things about them”.

What do we make of all this? Well we return to the concept of “the right to know...”. We think that now people have learnt about this issue from the media, they have the right to see the film. Further, we think it is much better to let people make up their own minds rather than giving them a very brief account of how the film portrays Islam and extremism, together with the conclusion that the film incites hatred and violence.

As for the film itself, there can be no doubt that there are things said in the Koran that incite violence, including the command to kill Jews and other non–Muslims and homosexuals. And it is widely acknowledged that such parts of the Koran have been instrumental in causing a small proportion of Muslims to take to the path of violence, other causal factors being the assault of Iraq and Afghanistan by western powers, and the massive support of the USA for Israel. So we think Wilders is right to make the connection he does make between the Koran and terrorism. In the section of the film about the Netherlands, Wilders documents the massive rise in the Muslim population and provides evidence supporting the view that radical Islamic forces have already taken significant steps along the road to taking over the country for Islam. We do not know enough about the situation to be able to assess his view that this take-over process is well under way.

While the media has on occasion drawn attention to the parts of the Koran just mentioned, since these koranic statements are so clear, and clearly have had a harmful effect on security, it is worthwhile to draw peoples attention to the connection between Islam and terrorism again.

It should not be necessary for us to say this, but just to set the record straight. We also know that the Koran says things with which most western people would agree, and some commands there are compatible with the commands of the Christian faith. We also believe that many Muslims are set against violence and they abhorred terrorist attacks like nine–eleven. But this film is not about Muslim peoples in general, although it does allege that many Muslims in the Netherlands and some elsewhere have been seduced by interpretations of the Koran that provoke violence and hatred.

Population pressures on the environment and society. Posted 13th October 2008.

The adverse effects of population size and growth on the state of the environment and society seem to be mounting and becoming more widely recognised.

A recent press release from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature painted a dismal prospect for the future of wild life globally IUCN. For example: “ least 1,141 of the 5,487 mammals on Earth are known to be threatened with extinction”. While the press release mentions habitat loss and degradation as the cause of the situation, and increasing human activities causing deforestation, it never gets down to the underlying multiplier of the problem, namely, the massive size and rapid growth of the human population. This population factor has for years now been clearly and succinctly stated on the Home Page of our web site: “At the global level, human population growth is one significant cause of environmental problems - destruction of natural ecosystems, increased rate of species extinction, soil erosion, falling water tables and depletion of aquifers, pollution of rivers, seas and coastal waters, increase of harmful emissions to the atmosphere. Population growth has in our view, already taken the human population beyond the carrying capacity of the planet.”.

Our Home page goes on to say: “Through its adverse effect on the environment, population growth is a significant cause of the increase in the number of environmental refugees (people who can no longer secure a livelihood in their own area because of environmental problems such as desertification)”.

Now there seems to be a growing recognition in various quarters that forced migration is having harmful effects of the environment and society. For example, in the declaration on climate migrations adopted at the conference on climate migrations organised in the European Parliament in June 2008 by the Green/EFA group we read in connection with climate change:
“Considering that there are well-founded fears according to which the populations fleeing from unliveable environmental conditions could increase exponentially over the course of the next few years; Considering that the causes of migrations are numerous, complex and interdependent; that the climate factor, which is still not taken into consideration very much in these processes, could experience increased incidence; Considering that these displaced persons might remain within their country, but might also be forced immediately or in the long term to leave it, depending upon the nature and the magnitude of the environmental degradation; that the population movements created can be diffuse and continuous as in the case of desertification, or massive and specific in reaction to a brutal climate event; Considering that these climate migrations can be seasonal and temporary, but also sometimes definitive, that they are in line with climatic and geopolitical regional problems; that it is therefore necessary to envisage both a local and a global point of view...”.

But the declaration nowhere draws attention to human population growth as a fundamental cause and underlying multiplier of other causes of climate change and the consequential adverse effects of same, either in the main account of effects of climate change or where it later considers what to do about the situation! Green/EFA group.

The growing seriousness of forced migration led to a conference in Bonn, Germany, on environment, forced migration and vulnerability that has just ended. This conference had papers delivered with titles such as:
“Forced Migration from Sub–Saharan Africa: the Conflict-Environment Link”; “Western Sahara: Migration, Exile and Environment. A Case Study”; “A Country Made For Disasters: Environmental Vulnerability and Forced Migration In Bangladesh”. EFMSV. It was noted at the conference that in contrast to economic migrants – the majority of whom are young and seeking employment –environmental migrants mainly constitute poorer people, especially women, children and the elderly. And “All indicators show that we are dealing with a major emerging global problem”, said Janos Bogardi of the United Nations University. “The issue of migration represents the most profound expression of the inter-linkage between the environment and human security”.

The Refugee Studies Centre Oxford (RSCO) has recently produced a report on human migration (FMR31) RSCO. Here Achim Steiner writes:
“Human migration, forced or otherwise, will undoubtedly be one of the most significant consequences of environmental degradation and climate change in decades to come. Many experts argue that large numbers of people are already on the move, with millions more expected to follow as evidence of climate change mounts”.

And we read “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and UNEP's Global Environment Outlook have recently delivered sobering assessments of the physical and environmental impacts of climate change. For example, sea-level rise and unsustainable human development are contributing to the loss of coastal wetlands and mangroves and increased damage from coastal flooding. Millions of people are projected to be flooded annually by the 2080s due to sea-level rise. Densely-populated and low-lying areas where adaptive capacity is relatively low and which already face other challenges, such as tropical storms, are especially at risk.”

We note that an increase in environmental refugees has been forecasted for years now – see our note on the 2001 essay by N. Myers “Environmental refugees: a growing phenomenon of the 21st century” accessed from our Other Literature page. And we also note that our essay we posted on the web 2nd November 2007 “Population growth and environmental deterioration. Are things finally coming together for mankind's doom?” (accessed from the Comment and Analysis page, Analysis section) clearly shows the danger continued population growth poses for the effort to maintain global food supplies.


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Population growth and environmental deterioration: The neglected factor in a new report from Natural England. Posted 21st May 2008.

It is a recurring theme of our web site that population growth is one cause or the main cause of the deterioration of the countryside and wildlife in England and elsewhere. Perhaps the Common Agriculture Policy of the European Union has been the main more proximate cause of this deterioration, a policy that was set up to ensure that Europe never went short of food because of population growth or conflict. So what does a new major report by an official body, Natural England, published May 2008 say about this? The answer is very little.

The report tells us about the loss and decline of wildlife habitat and the decline of wildlife. The foreword gives some examples: bad woodland management has meant that woodland butterflies have suffered a 50 per cent decline. Grasslands, one of the largest habitats in England (grassland including rough grazing occupies 36 per cent of the land area) used to be plant species rich. Now only 3 per cent of grasslands retain this former richness. Decline of lowland wetlands has caused the “virtual extinction” of breeding snipe in these wetlands apart from in nature reserves. And now climate change is driving a range of species further northwards.

Surprisingly, the foreword claims only 20 per cent of landscapes show sign of neglect. We disagree — see our two books “England AD 2,200. How would you like it to be?” (published 1998) and “England in the New Millennium. Are we prepared to save our countryside?” (published 2000).

The report does mention population growth. In the introduction to chapter five “Pressures and Risks” we read that “ Social issues are increasingly dominated by population change”. The introduction then briefly reports on this growth of the population and very briefly refers to this causing further demands for the development of housing, infrastructure and transport, even adding “increased migration introduces some uncertainty“ in this respect.

This same chapter five classifies risks under five headings: Climate change, Invasive species and diseases, Use of land and sea, Land and sea management and Pollution. One would have expected to see a heading 'Population growth', but there isn't.

One might also have expected that the pressures from population growth might be discussed in detail in the section on use of land and sea. But the heading to this chapter suggests that will not be so, as it states that they “will look at the impacts of three drivers of change in land and sea use: energy generation and the demand for alternative renewable sources, development, and the growing demands for water”.

However, population growth is mentioned in sub-section where we read that “population increases and other social changes, such as more single–person households... will increase the demand for water, which in turn will exacerbate existing impacts... and further jeopardizing water–dependent habitats...”. Then sub-section 5.6.3 notes that population pressure will affect pollution risks and increase pressure on sewage infrastructure and by increasing demand for water result in reduction of water levels and reduction of river flows, and exacerbate the harmful impact of high nutrient flows. The final section of the chapter 'overview' mentions that “More widely the scale and impact of expected increases in population and development are clear”.

The final chapter of the report, 'conclusion', does not mention human population growth.

All in all, the report fails to sufficiently draw attention to the manifold effects of population growth, despite the fact that the report makes it very clear that Natural England is well aware of these effects. And one of us, a few years ago, pointed out the connections to Sir Martin Doughty, Chairman of the Board of Natural England, at a meeting of a local Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) meeting.

In failing to highlight the effects of population growth, Natural England falls in line with most environmental organisations, most notably the Campaign to Protect Rural England (formerly the Council to Preserve Rural England then later The Council for the Protection of Rural England).

It is of course politically dangerous to draw attention to population growth, and especially the effect of international migration on that growth, and the report's only mention of this migration is the statement in the introduction to chapter five that increased migration introduces some uncertainty into the demands for housing and infra structure.

Yet this migration is in fact the main driving force of population growth in England.

The BBC gave a brief account of the report:BBC News, and you may read the report at
Natural England. State of the Natural Environment 2008.


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Global food crisis: A very inadequate response. Posted 26th April 2008.

The last three months has seen a spate of warnings by environmental organisations, government leaders, celebrities, the television, radio and newspapers, about the world food crisis Now we have one more warning, this time from the Head of the United Nations Food Programme, and it has received wide coverage in the media.

At present, biofuel production seems to be generally identified as the main culprit: Increasingly land has been appropriated for the growth of biofuels, reducing the area of land available for growing food for human consumption. We need therefore, we are told, to restrict the growth of biofuel production, or even to cut production back, and concomitantly, make every effort to increase food production.

Other causes of the crisis are variously mentioned, including climate change, rising oil prices and the burgeoning economies of some countries in the developing world, especially India and China. Of course, subsumed under burgeoning economies is population growth in the countries involved, and hence more mouths to feed, but population growth as a factor is sometimes not specifically mentioned. And nowhere in the articles we have read is population growth identified as the underlying driver of the whole food crisis. Of the articles we have read, a BBC article “the cost of food: facts and figures” comes closest to recognising the true significance of population growth since it draws attention to facts about that growth, but without recognising that this population growth is the fundamental driver of the problem.

And what should we do about the situation? Well we must restrict biofuel production, encourage peasant farmers (farmers of smallholdings) in the developing world to produce more food, end developed countries restrictive practices on food imports from, and exports to developing countries, improve the coordination between developed countries in responding to the situation, increase funding for agricultural research and, as an immediate emergency response increase food aid to the poor countries of the world. In our view the basket of proposed responses is seriously inadequate.

We pointed out quite a long time ago now (early November last year), what were the principal causes of the world food supply crisis and hence the food price crisis, in our essay “Population growth and environmental deterioration. Are things finally coming together for mankind's doom?” (Analysis section, Comment and Analysis page, but also directly accessed from the Home page) :
There are four basic reasons:

  • continued global human population growth, hence more mouths to feed;
  • dietary change in developing countries: the move towards eating more animal products, when animal food production requires greater land area than plant food production to produce a given quantity of protein;
  • increased bio–fuel production (partly driven by rising oil prices), making use of land that could be used for human food production;
  • extreme weather events (climate change, reducing agricultural productivity).

And we mentioned rising fuel costs and conflict as contributory problems.

In our view, any attempt to devise a rational and effective strategy to overcome the present world food price crisis must involve action over all four of the above causes. The most important omission in the proposed policy response to the situation is, in our view, the omission of the need to curb human population growth.

An article in the Economist magazine (“The new face of hunger”) illustrates the need to curb population growth. The article sees increasing food production by 'smallholders' in the developing world as a key factor in any strategy. Yet that same article acknowledges a fundamental problem with this proposal. It notes that smallholdings in many countries 'are fragmenting' (farmers dividing up the land amongst their offspring); this makes it more difficult, says the article, to do business with large retailers, and to get loans and new seed. We would emphasise that for millions of peasant farmers individual holdings have frequently become so small that farm area is too small to grow enough food to sustain the owners and their families. Now the article does say this fragmentation is partly due to population growth, and it also mentions that there is now in most countries very little fallow land left that could be converted to food production. But the article does not propose any action to curb population growth. The article also mentions the need to maintain or increase the use of fertilisers in developing countries and the need for better irrigation.

Well let us look for a moment at population growth, fertiliser production and irrigation.

For some decades now, the greater part of human population growth has been taking place in the developing world, not the industrialised or developed world. And this growth in the developing world has been greatest in the poorer countries — just the countries where we most need to have an increase in food production, whether by smallholders or not. Furthermore, it is in the developing world that most future population growth is projected to take place!

Fertilser production requires energy, and this comes mainly from oil or gas. So in a situation where oil stocks are dwindling, the need for these supplies is increasing (and of course not only increasing to produce fertilisers). And fertilisers, while improving production in the short term can damage soils structure and reduce long–term production.

And what about irrigation? Widely in the world now, water reserves are falling and have reached crisis levels in some areas. This is not only because of increased irrigation, but, perhaps more importantly, because of increased demand from growing cities (caused by population growth in cities). So while irrigation can be made more efficient, it will be difficult to increase substantially the area of irrigated land.

It is vital that human population growth is recognized for what it has been and will continue to be: the fundamental driver of global food shortages and hence global food price rises. And it should be remembered that if China had not adopted the one–child programme, and some other Asian countries adopted less severe population policies, the world population would have grown faster and much bigger than it has, causing the crisis to develop earlier and be more extreme.

We are therefore pessimistic of the possibility that world leaders will effectively solve the world food problem.

But we have other reasons for this pessimism. The first is climate change, another of the four principle drivers of the problem that we mentioned. Attention seems for the moment to have fallen away somewhat from this in the media. But having looked at what world leaders have been trying (with little success) to achieve, we think that the problem of climate change will not be addressed in time to avert disaster.

Second, as we note in our essay “Any possible future developments in global food production, planned or unplanned, need to be viewed in the context of the terrible degradation of the agricultural land base that has already occurred”. On top of that we have the ever continuing damage to and loss of natural ecosystems, especially tropical forests, that are needed to maintain human activity (for example, forest removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, mitigating global warming)

Third, human conflict. As we say in our essay; “Sometimes discussions on food production seem to be conducted as if we were dealing with a nice experimental plot on a well controlled farm. Unfortunately global food production is not carried out under such circumstances! Consider conflict. It is not possible to implement programmes of food production in areas where society is riven by civil strife. Even low level strife or between group tensions can stymie food production”.

Consider Africa, the continent at the heart of the world food problem. Strife or open conflict has been, and remains widespread in sub-Saharan Africa. And corruption is endemic in this region. Do world leaders really believe they are going to effectively introduce and maintain food policies in Africa?

Lastly, as we say in the conclusion section of our essay, “Our culture in the industrialized world has changed so that a hedonistic attitude and the pursuit of wealth are now all pervading”. We do not think that the greater part of the electorate will voluntarily change their habits, including reducing food consumption and changing to a more vegetarian diet (it takes less land to produce a given quantity of protein with plant food production than with animal food production). And we do not believe that governments will have the courage to make them.
To come back to population growth. We pose the question: which is worse, to let x million people die of starvation now, or save these people now, contributing to the continuing global human population growth, and leading to y billion starving to death in the not too distant future, and a global crash in the human population. Perhaps to allow starvation now would be good in the long term for the environment on which we depend, and improve the likelihood of the actual survival of our species.

A vision of the future

In a fairly short time, atop a hill of commanding height, overlooking a world littered with corpses, its forests destroyed and in heat almost unbearable, with a look of steadfastness on their faces, and hand in hand, two church leaders and the chief minister of one country declaim “we stood firm by our belief in the moral imperative to relieve the poverty and hunger of the world's people”.

Humanitarianism might be the principal cause of an eventual extinction of the human species.

We now give links to some of the articles.

World food Programme. High food prices a silent tsunami

World food programme. What global price rises mean for WFP

BBC. UN food chief urges crisis action

BBC. World bank echoes food cost alarm/World Bank tackles food emergency

BBC. The cost of food: facts and figures

Telegraph. Families annual grocery bill rises by £800

The Economist. The silent tsunami

The Economist. The new face of hunger


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By stealth and deceit. Camoflaged spread of Muslim influence?. Posted November 2007.

(Corrections 26th and 27th April 2008)

The Policy Exchange report “The highjacking of British Islam. How extremist literature is subverting mosques in the UK”, details literature found in mosques and other Islamic institutions (almost a hundred sites were visited) that emphasised the idea of keeping separate from 'unbelievers' (non–Muslims), and literature about the dress and behaviour of Muslim women, about regulations that westerners would regard as very restrictive of personal liberty and that in effect make women inferior to men. Literature was found that promoted hatred and violence towards non–Muslims in general or particular groups of non–Muslims. There was literature in some UK mosques and schools that called for jihad in the UK through force if necessary, anti-Jewish literature (“You will not find any confusion in which the Jews did not play a role...Their attempt at trying to immerse nations in vice and the spread of fornication”), hate literature (“the Jews and the Christians are the enemies of the Muslim”), and literature advocating a violent response to those engaging in homosexuality.

While the Policy Exchange notes that such literature was not found at all in a majority of Mosques and Muslim schools, it admits it was found in roughly 25 per cent; and it was worrying that some of these institutions are amongst the best funded and “most dynamic” institutions of Muslim Britain, many of which have received official recognition in one form or another (e.g. visits from politicians or member of the Royal family.)

Now the Policy Institute thinks that the majority of Muslims in Britain do not hold the radical views expressed in some of the literature found, and we think the Institute is probably right. Yet the extent that such literature is to be found is deeply worrying.

And we feel uneasy about the responses of some Muslim leaders to such disclosures of radical literature — disarming responses like that of one leader who stated that the bookshop in one mosque where radical literature was found was not run by the mosque and any literature found reflects authors views, not the views of the mosque! One wonders what would happen if vehement anti–Muslim literature was ever to be found in non–Muslim institutions. There would be an outcry, an outcry splashed across the media, an outcry leading to criminal proceedings.

We have written elsewhere about the gradual spread of Muslim influence in the UK and indeed in Europe as a whole (see our essays “Undercover mosque, undercover Islamism!” and “the Muhammad cartoons controversy - the context”). We view the disclosures in the present Policy Exchange report as providing further evidence of a concerted attempt by some influential radical Muslim leaders, to spread Muslim influence, by stealth and deceit, with the aim of eventually turning the UK into a Muslim state, and indeed conquering the whole of the West for Islam.
Policy Exchange.


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Will we be able to feed the world population? Posted July 2007.

On May the 11th this year (2007) the National Farmers Union of the USA (issued the following Summary report:


SASKATOON, Sask. — Today, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its first projections of world grain supply and demand for the coming crop year: 2007/08. USDA predicts supplies will plunge to a 53-day equivalent–their lowest level in the 47–year period for which data exists.

“The USDA projects global grain supplies will drop to their lowest levels on record. Further, it is likely that, outside of wartime, global grain supplies have not been this low in a century, perhaps longer”, said NFU Director of Research Darrin Qualman.

Most important, 2007/08 will mark the seventh year out of the past eight in which global grain production has fallen short of demand. This consistent shortfall has cut supplies in half — down from a 115–day supply in 1999/00 to the current level of 53 days. “The world is consistently failing to produce as much grain as it uses”, said Qualman. He continued: “The current low supply levels are not the result of a transient weather event or an isolated production problem: low supplies are the result of a persistent drawdown trend”.

In addition to falling grain supplies, global fisheries are faltering. Reports in respected journals Science and Nature state that 1/3 of ocean fisheries are in collapse, 2/3 will be in collapse by 2025, and our ocean fisheries may be virtually gone by 2048. “Aquatic food systems are collapsing, and terrestrial food systems are under tremendous stress”, said Qualman.

Demand for food is rising rapidly. There is a worldwide push to proliferate a North American style meat–based diet based on intensive livestock production — turning feedgrains into meat in this way means exchanging 3 to 7 kilos of grain protein for one kilo of meat protein. Population is rising — 2.5 billion people will join the global population in the coming decades. “Every six years, we're adding to the world the equivalent of a North American population. We're trying to feed those extra people, feed a growing livestock herd, and now, feed our cars, all from a static farmland base. No one should be surprised that food production can't keep up”, said Qualman.

Qualman said that the converging problems of natural gas and fertilizer constraints, intensifying water shortages, climate change, farmland loss and degradation, population increases, the proliferation of livestock feeding, and an increasing push to divert food supplies into biofuels means that we are in the opening phase of an intensifying food shortage.

Qualman cautioned, however, that there are no easy fixes. “If we try to do more of the same, if we try to produce, consume, and export more food while using more fertilizer, water, and chemicals, we will only intensify our problems. Instead, we need to rethink our relation to food, farmers, production, processing, and distribution. We need to create a system focused on feeding people and creating health. We need to strengthen the food production systems around the world. Diversity, resilience, and sustainability are key”, concluded Qualman”.

Access the NFU release at NFU


“Demand for food is rising rapidly. There is a worldwide push to proliferate a North American style meat–based diet based on intensive livestock production — turning feedgrains into meat in this way means exchanging 3 to 7 kilos of grain protein for one kilo of meat protein”.

A casual browse through the literature will show numerous related statements such as, for example:
“An acre of cereal produces five times more protein than an acre used for meat production: legumes such as beans, peas and lentils can produce 10 times more protein and, in the case of soya, 30 times more”.

What is the underlying reason for these differences between plant food production and animal product production? An examination of energy flow reveals the answer — energy from the sun to green plants, then from plants to herbivorous animals, and finally from herbivorous animals to carnivores. At each stage in this energy flow, energy is lost. For present purposes we can ignore the last mentioned stage in energy flow.

Plants can only use a tiny part of the energy reaching them in the sun's radiation. This energy is 'fixed' (incorporated into the plant body) by photosynthesis where carbon dioxide and water are used to build up sugars (producing oxygen in the process). How is energy subsequently lost?

First, all organisms use energy to carry out their metabolic activities (the chemical reactions in their cells). They get this energy from the process of cellular respiration where sugars are broken down to carbon dioxide and water, making use of oxygen in the process. But in respiration, some energy is lost as respiratory heat. So some of the energy initially incorporated in the bodies of plants is lost during the life of the plant in this way.

Second, the whole mass of a plant is not usually eaten by herbivores. For example, root systems are not normally eaten by mammalian grazing animals. So energy stored in the uneaten parts of plants is lost from the energy flow to herbivores.

Third, not all plant material that is ingested by herbivores is digestible; much is voided in the faeces, taking with it its contained energy. Energy is also lost in the process of urinary excretion by herbivores, and of course these herbivores during their lifetime, like green plants, lose energy as respiratory heat.

Now we come back to the first part of the quotation with which this comment section began:

“There is a worldwide push to proliferate a North American style meat–based diet based on intensive livestock production — turning feedgrains into meat”. This was recently illustrated for China when we saw on television in the UK, supermarket shelves in affluent parts of China stocked with milk and meat products, whereas in the past the shelves would have been packed with grain products. From our analysis of energy flow we can see that this change of diet causes increasing pressure on land to satisfy food demand.

But the whole situation is made much worse because the global human population continues to grow rapidly, as the NFU report notes. As we write on our Population Trends page:

“The world population is projected to increase by 2.6 billion from 2005, to reach 9.1 billion in 2050. This additional population is equivalent in size to the combined present day populations of China and India!” But we continue - and here's the rub - “During this period there will be little change in the population of the more developed regions of the world, most of the population growth taking place in developing countries”.

So while population growth in developing countries will itself cause a massive increase in food demand, without any dietary change, it is in these countries that the dietary change is taking place, not in developed countries, and this will exacerbate the global food problem.

It has been possible in the past to increase global food production to keep pace with population growth. This had been achieved through the breeding of more productive and more disease resistant crop plant strains, the massive use of fertilisers, increase in the area of land devoted to food production, and a massive increase in the harvesting of marine fish stocks. But this has been achieved at the expense of ecosystems that have been seriously degraded or reduced in area, and the concomitant great increase in species extinction rate.

As we report on our Book Reviews page, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005), conducted under the auspices of the United Nations, had 'four main findings', stated in the Synthesis Report as follows:

  • Over the past 50 years, humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively than in any comparable period of time in human history, largely to meet rapidly growing demands for food, fresh water, timber, fibre, and fuel. This has resulted in a substantial and largely irreversible loss in the diversity of life on Earth.
  • The changes that have been made to ecosystems have contributed to substantial net gains in human well-being and economic development, but these gains have been achieved at growing costs in the form of the degradation of many ecosystem services, increased risks of nonlinear changes, and the exacerbation of poverty for some groups of people. These problems, unless addressed, will substantially diminish the benefits that future generations obtain from ecosystems.
  • The degradation of ecosystem services could grow significantly worse during the first half of this century and is a barrier to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
  • The challenge of reversing the degradation of ecosystems while meeting increasing demands for their services can be partially met under some scenarios.

End of quote.

“..degradation of many ecosystem services...” — 'services', that is services these ecosystems provide for mankind such as forests sequestering carbon dioxide, “...will substantially diminish the benefits that future generations obtain from ecosystems”.
We cannot go on for ever degrading ecosystems.

Today we find that demand for land continues to rise not only for food production, but to meet other needs of mankind. The growing population maintains the demand for housing and infrastructure that will at least be partly met by taking over more land. As part of the attempt to reduce carbon emissions and ensure security of fuel supplies, increased planting of crops for fuel will take over large areas of land that previously, or could in future, be used to produce food or feed grain for livestock. For example, the increasing use of ethanol as a fuel is causing more land to be used for growing corn or sugar cane for ethanol production. As we read on the Times online 12th June 2007:

“Food price rises force a cut in biofuels. China's communist rulers announced a moratorium on the production of ethanol from corn and other food crops yesterday at the very time that Western leaders are rushing to embrace alternative food-based fuel technology.

Beijing's move underlines concerns that ethanol production is driving up rapidly the costs of corn and grain. It appears to reflect a growing reality about food-based alternative fuel: it is far more expensive both economically and environmentally, than Western politicians are likely to admit.

Calls for biofuels are politically attractive for European and US politicians, amid rising petrol prices and concerns about global warming and an over reliance on Middle Eastern oil.

Communist officials in Beijing, however, who do not have the political concerns of democratically elected leaders in the West, have reacted to a rapid rise in food prices and an intense demand on farm land that threatens to make ethanol production unsustainable.

President Bush, who with Britain wants to see a huge increase in corn-based ethanol, called in January for the annual production of 35 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol in the US.

Although that is a hugely popular rhetoric in the Mid-west wheat belt states - the heart of America's political battleground - environmentalists soon pointed out that such a goal would require an additional 129,000 square miles of farmland, an area the size of Kansas and Iowa combined.

The rush to corn-based ethanol is causing food-price inflation in the US, as it increases the cost of corn grain feedstock and the availability of the crop for such staples as cereal and corn syrup. The ethanol boom has created mass planting of corn at the expense of other crops, which helps to drive up prices, too. Futures prices for corn in the US have nearly doubled in eight months”.

So far we have treated food supply constraints almost as if we were doing field trials and we could control various variables. But the real world is not like that. In some areas there is violent conflict, and displacement of large numbers of people. Under such conditions, it is impossible for countries involved to pursue sustainable development policies. As far as food supply is concerned, we need not only to produce enough food to feed the world, but ensure its adequate distribution; conflict and population displacement make this very difficult. On top of all this we have the food production uncertainties introduced by future global climate change.

Taking into account all the considerations we have raised, our conclusion is that despite possible future advances in technology, it is very doubtful if we will be able to feed the world population in the long-term future.


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Shape of things to come — water crises. Posted 8th April 2007.

On the 7th of April, the BBC News had a report about the Yemen, which on the news website had the title “Yemen's khat habit soaks up water”.

The item was about the water shortage in Sanaa, the capital of the country. Now according to the article, the population of the Yemen is nearly 20 million, and the population doubles every 17 years. The minister for water in the Yemen said “The Sanaa basin is using water 10 times faster than Nature is replenishing it”, “and before long there won't even be enough to drink”. At the present, apparently, Yemenis have about one–fiftieth as much water per head as the world average. As the news item that was actually broadcast noted, water levels are falling in boreholes.

The BBC article points out that the country imports most of its food, yet it has land that could be used for growing food; instead it is used for growing 'Khat' from which comes sesame oil. “Khat in today's Yemen is what smoking was in Britain a generation ago. Everywhere you go you find men with cheeks bulging bizarrely as they get their fix. It is a shrub whose leaves, when you chew them, can induce mild euphoria, excitement, hallucinations and even constipation”. The chewing of khat is increasingly popular in the Yemen. And 40% of the country's water goes on irrigation of the khat crops.

Yet it seems highly likely to us that if the land presently used for khat production was used instead for food production, water reserves would still be depleted, especially as population growth continues.

The minister for water has a solution to the problem — relocating large numbers of people down at the Red Sea coast, and using renewable energy to desalinate sea water to provide fresh water.

We note that what is happening in the Yemen is happening in various other parts of the world, that is, water levels are falling, as consumption rises through population growth and especially in some areas also through rising per capita consumption. Water scarcity is now widely recognised as likely to be one of the most serious problems the world human population will face in coming years. The shape of things to come.

The BBC article may be accessed at BBC News


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Yes, we are right to give some emphasis to climate change on our web site that focuses on population growth and migration. Posted March 2007.

It must be clear to readers that one topic we give special attention to on our web site is climate change (we even have a separate section of links to climate change organisations on our links page). Our Home page explains why:
“The number of environmental refugees will be greatly inflated if, as expected, global warming causes sea levels to rise, inundating vast areas of densely populated land. In the past, abrupt climate temperature changes have occurred. If they occur in the future, agricultural systems may be unable to adapt fast enough, causing massive decrease in food production, which in turn will swell the number of environmental refugees. Environmental refugees may simply be displaced within a country, or they may by international migration move between nations or continents. Such disruptive movements can impede attempts to achieve sustainable development.

We believe population growth can contribute to political instability and conflict. And the great affluence gap between the rich and poor countries has implications for migration: it fuels the desire to emigrate from poor countries, a desire which is likely to be increased as massive population growth continues in these countries. Such migration increases the potential for demographically fuelled international conflict. And declining natural resources will probably increase 'resource wars'”.

Now a report released by Christian Aid yesterday (14th March) reinforces the importance of the linkages between climate change - environmental deterioration -increase in number of environmental refugees - increased conflict between human populations, and human population growth and migration.

The report entitled Human tide: the real migration crisis notes that a billion people may be forced from their homes between now and 2050 in a global migration crisis dwarfing the effects of the Second World War. Climate change, natural disasters, large–scale development projects and armed conflicts are leading to the world's biggest ever movement of people, mostly in poor countries.

“We believe that forced migration is now the most urgent threat facing poor people in the developing world”, said John Davison, the report's lead author. “We hear a lot about people trying to come to Europe and other rich countries but the real crisis is developing a long way away and remains largely unreported”. Most refugees will have to remain in their own country and will become “internally displaced persons” or IDPs.

The report says: “The number of IDPs is expected to rise dramatically in the coming decades. And those already displaced look likely to be joined by at least equal numbers of people forced from their homes because of climate change. The impact of climate change is the great, and frightening, unknown in this equation. Existing estimates of its potential to displace people are more than a decade old and are widely disputed. Only now is serious academic attention being devoted to calculating the scale of this new human tide”.

“The danger is that this new forced migration will fuel existing conflicts and generate new ones in the areas of the world – the poorest – where resources are most scarce. Movement on this scale has the potential to de–stabilise whole regions where increasingly desperate populations compete for dwindling food and water”.

Clearly then migration, increased as a result of climate change, is likely to have an increasingly adverse effect on the environment and stability of societies in the developing world. Note too the reference to migration to the developed world: “We hear a lot about people trying to come to Europe and other rich countries...”. Yes, and despite any benefits that immigrants may bring to developed countries, continued net immigration, which may well increase as a result of environmental deterioration elsewhere partly caused by climate change, is likely in our view to increase tensions between human populations in the developed world, whether these be the populations of different countries, or regions within countries, or residents and new immigrants within countries, or ethnic and religious groups within countries.

Underlying these changes is continued massive human population growth, and this is primarily taking place in those very same poor countries that Christian Aid focuses on in its report. And the report draws attention to population growth where it says:
“The latest Global Strategic Trends Programme report from the UK's Ministry of Defence (MoD) forecasts the state of the world over the next 30 years. Released earlier this year by the MoD's Defence Concepts and Doctrine Centre military think tank, the report outlines past examples of rapid climate change and speaks in no-nonsense terms about the possible extreme consequences of another one. 'The Earth's population has grown exponentially in the last century and any future event of this type would have more dramatic human consequences, resulting in societal collapse, mega–migration, intensifying competition for much–diminished resources and widespread conflict'”.

For the full Chrisitian Aid report see Report


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Student attempt to silence Oxford academic who has explored the adverse effects of immigration on society. Posted 9th March 2007.

David Coleman is the world-renowned Professor of Demography at Oxford University. His research interests include the comparative demographic trends in the industrial world; immigration trends and policies and the demography of ethnic minorities; and housing policy. He has over 90 papers and eight books to his credit.

He appears, in our view, to approach his work with the true scholastic, scientific attitude that we in Gaia Watch espouse. As we say on the “Our Approach” page of our web site:

“Now we believe the correct approach to any problem is to make an analysis of it which is as objective as possible. Once various causal factors are identified, their relative importance must be assessed. Then a strategy to resolve the problem must be faithfully developed on the basis of the analysis made.

The results should be stated clearly, without fear or favour of any likely criticism. We consider this is the only valid approach, from either the scientific or the moral point of view”.

Unfortunately for Professor Coleman, the conclusions he in our opinion correctly draws from his analyses of immigration conflict with the politically correct view that largely sees immigration as an unmixed blessing, both economically and socially. So the politically correct brigades regard him with suspicion or hostility. To make matters worse for him, he is a consultant to Migration Watch, an organisation that campaigns, not against all immigration, but against the high levels of immigration we have been experiencing in recent years. And he is also a member of the Galton Institute, a charity that promotes and supports the scientific study of human heredity.

Now, early March 2007, some students at his own university, members of the Oxford branch of Student Action for Refugees (Star) have campaigned in effect for his dismissal, submitting a petition to the university authorities asking the latter to “Consider the suitability of Coleman's continued tenure as a Professor of the University, in light of his well-known opinions and affiliations relating to immigration and eugenics”. And their petition claims that Professor Coleman is a consultant and spokesperson for Migration Watch (our bold text).

We note that these students did not make any attempt to refute the research conclusions of Coleman by presenting contrary evidence. Indeed we doubt very much if they have even casually glanced through, let alone perused Professor Coleman's publications. It is our belief, based on a careful study over the years of several key papers and books by David Coleman, that he has made a very valuable contribution to our understanding of demographic trends, including ethnic group trends, and their consequences. But we can well understand that some publications by Professor Coleman, like for example the one we give an account of on our Other Literature page ('immigration and ethnic change...'), would have an effect on politically correct persons similar to the effect of waving a red rag in front of a bull! We wonder too if the students have ever studied the many items on the Migration Watch Web site.

And on Migration Watch, Professor Coleman in his response to the whole business, notes that while he has “...acted as an honorary adviser from its beginning”, “...I never speak on behalf of Migrationwatch; I am not its spokesman. If as occasionally happens in the media or in some debate, I am introduced as its spokesman, I immediately correct the attribution”.

Professor Coleman ends his response with these words:
I put my head above the parapet with Migrationwatch because I was alarmed at what I saw as an increasing tendency by official spokesmen, political and others, to present a somewhat partial interpretation of statistics on migration, to reinvent the migration history of Britain in ways that supported the official case, and to present analyses of the advantages of the economic and demographic effects of migration which tended to ignore its drawbacks”.

We have put this paragraph in bold text because we share this succinctly expressed view.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper has published several articles on this issue, and we give links below to four of these. The 3rd of March article gives reactions to the student petition from Professor Coleman, the President of the University and College Union, and an Oxford University spokesman.
The 6th of March article notes that Star has received massive public funding from the Big Lottery Fund and the Department for Education and Skills. “Both the Big Lottery Fund and the DfES should make clear that, when they hand over these large sums of money, the recipients have certain responsibilities — such as respecting the opinions of others, no matter how much they may disagree with them”.
The 8th of March article gives the student petition, while the 9th of March article gives Professor Coleman's response.

The Telegraph has also reproduced the letters it has received from its readers in response to its articles. They are overwhelmingly in support of Professor Coleman. We end by quoting just one of these readers' comments.

“I totally support Professor Coleman. His view embarrass those who would rather the full facts surrounding immigration remain hidden from the rest of us. His views which many will inevitably brand as racist are also politically incorrect. This alone is becoming a heinous crime in the eyes of government and the soft left.
Speak up, Professor. They have yet to abolish free speech and we need those like you who have access to the true facts to keep the rest of us informed of them”.

Telegraph 3rd of March Telegraph 6th of March Telegraph 8th of March Telegraph 9th of March


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Elephant cull. And the global human population?

Once again we hear that South Africa is considering culling elephants: A BBC News item, 28th February 2007, notes South Africa's elephant population had doubled since culling was stopped in 1995. Left unchecked, the population is expected to double again by 2020. A single elephant eats hundreds of kilos of vegetation a day and the large number of elephants is damaging natural ecosystems. As one might expect, some “conservationists argue culling is cruel because it involves killing entire family groups”.

So we return to precisely the same argument that a BBC News item reported on 6th November 2005. There we read that “an animal with a large range, a long lifespan, a hugh appetite and no predators is trampling less robust creatures underfoot”. “Elephants can turn woodland into grassland...have been blamed for driving rhinos off their ranges, and threatening delicate botanical assets”. And “in Kruger National Park (where most of the elephants live), some 13,000 elephants now roam - nearly double the 7,000 that was considered the optimum number during South Africa's apartheid years, when culling took place regularly”.

And when the government then said it was considering culling elephants, there was an outcry. Opponents of culling referred to 'murder' of elephants. Readers of one South African newspaper in their letters to the paper were “overwhelmingly against culling. The idea appals them”.

The problem in 2007 remains the same as it was in 2005: Most of the elephants are found in fenced off areas, no longer able to roam freely as they used to do over vast areas of land, and they have been protected by man in these fenced areas. The result has been a population explosion. This in turn has brought about serious environmental degradation.

But many or possibly most members of the general public, and some conservationists, have 'humane' attitudes that override any possibility of thinking objectively about the situation, so culling is opposed. And this problem is not confined to elephants. It is the same problem with the world human population.

Just as South Africa's elephants have increased in numbers vastly while living in a confined space, causing environmental degradation, so mankind has increased vastly in a confined space, namely the planet, causing severe environmental degradation. What is required in both cases is a substantial reduction in population size. And the idea of controlling the human population so as to bring about population reduction is opposed by the vast majority of people, organisations and governments who/that hold the 'humane' view. The result is likely to be that the human population will be catastrophically reduced to a population living in an environment so seriously degraded that modern civilised living will be a mere memory, or mankind is utterly destroyed.


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We feel we must reiterate: Improving technology and reducing consumption will not by themselves solve our problems. We need to control population as well.

Environmental organisations, the media and governments, generally assert that the way to control emissions causing global warming and so avoid catastrophic global climate change, is to improve our technology and reduce consumption. We dispute that these measures alone will have sufficient impact to solve our climate problems and re-iterate that we need also to take action to deal with human population growth.

The basic relationship of factors causing environmental damage is given by the impact equation, I=P×A×T: Environmental impact equals population size times affluence (per capita consumption) times technology (impact of technology per unit of consumption). We need to take action on all three factors on the right hand side of the equation — see our essay on the impact equation accessed from the Analysis section of our Comment and Analysis page.

We are pleased therefore to make available to readers the review by Professor Bartlett of articles in the September 2006 edition of the Scientific American magazine that was devoted to energy provision and global warming. He points out that the articles fail to recognise the importance of the population factor.

However, mankind's contribution to climate change is only one aspect of mankind's total adverse environmental impact. To deal adequately with other aspects - the degradation of ecosystems, the acceleration of species extinction rate, etc., we also need to take action on the population front.

To go to the review by Bartlett click here:
Bartlett review.


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Royal Society Warning to the G8 on Climate Change, but there is another warning that should also be given

On the 24th of October 2005, Lord May, President of the United Kingdom's premier scientific society, the Royal Society, sent a long letter to the energy and environment ministers who would attend the G8 dialogue meeting on climate change scheduled for the first of November. Perhaps the main message this letter conveyed was that “there is the very real prospect that the increase in aid agreed at Gleneagles will be entirely consumed by the mounting cost of dealing with the added burden of adverse effects due to climate change in Africa. In effect, the Gleneagles communiqué gave hope to Africa with one hand, through a promise of more aid, but took that hope away with the other hand through its failure to address adequately the threat of climate change”.

Lord May also pointed out that the effects of climate change will not only be felt in developing countries. He considers the United States as an example. Rising greenhouse gas levels may he says have contributed to the severity of the recent storms in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. And “the scientific evidence suggests that the United States will be threatened by more severe hurricanes if greenhouse gas levels continue to rise in the atmosphere”. Obviously with the United States partly in mind, Lord May writes that countries may be unlikely to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by taking actions like reducing fossil fuel consumption, if it incurs economic cost. But he argues, “there will be a great cost to be paid if greenhouse gas levels continue to rise in the atmosphere”.

Lord May urges his readers “to consider some of the latest scientific evidence on the impact of climate change that has recently emerged and to agree further action to stop the rise in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere”. He refers his readers to a paper published the same day which, he says, concludes this climate change is “largely caused by a rise in greenhouse gas emissions from human activities”. This is the paper By James Verdin and colleagues that we give an account of on our Other Literature page.
Go to this account.

Lord May goes on to say that this paper by Verdin and colleagues is one of 17 published the same day as his letter which collectively “show that changes in weather, climate and the concentrations of gases such as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will have more severe impacts than previously thought on crop yields and quality”. And he reminds his readers that “the impacts of climate change will fall disproportionately upon developing countries and the poor persons within all countries”. This will increase “inequities in health status and access to adequate food, clean water, and other resources”.

Lord May puts the problem for Africa in context when he writes:
“Africa is now in a critical situation with respect to drought because of population increase, disease and conflicts” (our italics). However, he does not expand on the importance of population growth.

Now this continued population increase in Africa is in fact massive. Consider total population size (in thousands) in Ethiopia , the main country considered in the paper by Verdin and colleagues, and in Sub-Saharan Africa:
Ethiopia . 1950: 18,434. 2002: 66,040. 2025 (projected): 113,418.
S-S Africa . 1950:176,775. 2002: 683,782. 2025 (projected): 1,157,847.
(Source: World Resources Institute).
And in most of the countries of the whole of Africa (Ethiopia included) total fertility rate is way, way above replacement level!

In their paper Verdin and colleagues indirectly refer to the loss of soil fertility with consequent reduction of crop yield when they say:
“Stemming the loss of woody biomass while increasing fallow, manure applications and water conservation practices can increase soil organic carbon and lead to positive intensification of agriculture, instead of destructive extensification”.

And that is the problem: in many parts of Africa, population growth (more mouths to feed), has led farmers to reduce the length of fallow periods or do away with them, in order to make it possible to plant more crops. Also, the larger the population, the more firewood is needed for cooking, and the greater the need to cut down forests to provide more land for crops. Resultant reduced firewood availability has led to animal dung being used for fuel rather than for fertilizer.

The 2001 paper by Drechsel et al that we refer to in our essay “How many people can the earth support? Part 1”, which may be found in the analysis section of the present web page, deals with these matters. These authors studied soil nutrient depletion in 36 countries of sub-Saharan Africa and they state “soil fertility depletion is considered as the main biophysical factor limiting per capita food production on the majority of African small farms”. Significantly, they found a strong negative correlation between soil nitrogen balance and rural human population density.

Now fallow periods allow for natural soil regeneration. But Drechsel et al found that fallows have been increasingly encroached upon in the attempt to increase food production. And there was a positive correlation between nitrogen balance and percentage of land under fallow. Marginal lands, not really suitable for agriculture, have increasingly been used and protected areas encroached upon. Sharing farms between sons has led to reduction of farm size to the point where size is inadequate and many people become landless. The authors conclude “it appears that Malthusian mechanisms are at work”. “No amount of innovation management will lead to sustainable utilization of resources under continuous population increase and farm size reduction, i.e. without 'out-migration' or population growth limiting measures” (our bold type).

We therefore find it difficult to believe that even if the climate, agricultural and other remedial measures mentioned by Verdin and colleagues were successfully implemented in Ethiopia, food security could be secured in the face of such a massive population increase and the already incurred environmental deterioration. And even if on a global scale, effective reduction of adverse climate effects was achieved, we doubt whether Ethiopia or other countries south of the Sahara could achieve food security if the population continues to grow as projected.

While then we think Lord May is probably correct (we are not experts in climatology) in concluding that present actions and agreements to mitigate climate change are very inadequate, and so he is probably right to press for stronger action on this front, it is a pity that the Royal Society does not equally promote the introduction of pro-active policies to reduce population growth in developing countries and eventually global population reduction. Such measures would greatly increase the chances of achieving global food security for mankind, and in our view they are essential if we are to prevent further major decline in natural ecosystems and counteract the high species extinction rate.

Go to Lord May's letter.



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Many if's and but's: comments on Limits to Growth

On our Book Reviews page we have put up a review of D. H. Meadows et al. (2004) Limits to growth. The 30-year update. Go to this review. That book provides a series of possible future global scenarios. While more often than not they show overshoot (unintentionally exceeding limits imposed by the environment) and varying degrees of collapse during this century, not all the scenarios end this way.

Scenario 9 is the key scenario here. In this scenario, during the present century the global ecological footprint' after a short period of continued rise, decreases considerably (for an explanation of the concept of ecological footprints see our essay How many people can the earth support? Part 2 ecological footprints listed in the analysis section of this page). Population growth slows then levels off at less than eight billion people. Pollution peaks, then falls before it causes irreversible damage. By the end of the century there is enough food for everyone. The sustainable society has been ushered in.

This is a possible outcome, and the authors detail the various things that must be done to bring it about. But how likely is it that these conditions will be fulfilled? Here are some of the conditions. Please note the all!

All people are assured by their societies of acceptance, respect, material security, and care in their old age, no matter how few children they have.
All couples have access to effective birth control technologies.
All couples decide to limit their family size to 2 children.

Before we go any further, let us note the date by which, in the model, these conditions are supposed to be fulfilled. Well the authors say that in generating this scenario from the model, they set the average desired family size of the model population at two children and birth control effectiveness at 100 per cent after the simulated year 2002 that is nearly three years ago now! (These conditions was set for scenario 7 then retained for scenarios 8 and 9.)

But these are not the only conditions. The authors say that this scenario 9 retains the technological conditions of scenario 6. But scenario 6 has the condition that the world is developing powerful technologies for pollution abatement, land yield enhancement, land protection, and conservation of non-renewable resources all at once (our bold type). They say that they start in the simulated year 2002 a programme to reduce the amount of nonrenewable resources needed per unit of industrial output by up to four per cent per year.

Are we in fairy land? Does anyone really think all these conditions can be fulfilled in time to avoid total collapse of human society?

Now I mention a feature of the model which slips into the book's account without any fanfare, a feature that may not even be noticed by anyone not thoroughly reading through the book. It is a feature however, that is mentioned in our book review:

The model used to develop the scenarios does not take into account possible wars and labour strikes, and corruption, drug addiction, crime and terrorism!

All this must be set against a background which the book indeed provides. For example, consider climate change. The authors note that since about 1985, there has been a disturbing upward trend in measurable economic losses from weather-related disasters. And with global warming there may be disturbing positive feedback loops' as the temperature rises, the ice and snow cover of the earth decreases. So the earth will reflect away less heat from the sun, so will warm still further.

Or consider food production. The book notes that this has massively increased in the second half of the recent century. With grain (which, measured in calories, constitutes about half of the world's agricultural output), world production has more than tripled between 1950 and 2000. However, in recent decades the rate of grain production increase has slowed until it has fallen below the population growth rate. And per capita grain production, peaking around 1985, has been slowly falling ever since. It is a sobering thought to realise that in the mid 1990s, 850 million people were eating less food than their bodies really require. While for some time now the number of hungry people in the world has remained roughly constant as population size increased, there are big doubts about the future.

Consider land used for food production. The authors rehearse well known facts:

The total global cultivated area remains roughly constant, yet at the same time millions of hectares are being degraded and abandoned. The food supply for humanity is being produced by constantly moving onto new land while leaving behind exhausted, salted, eroded, or paved soils. Obviously that practice cannot go on for ever. Now the World3 model does take into account some limits, including supply of cultivable land. They assume a certain maximum area of cultivated land; and they take into account that the cost of developing new land is assumed to rise as the more accessible and favourable land is developed first. Land erosion is also incorporated in the model. Nevertheless, the basic facts of seemingly inexorable land use change just summarised above, must call in question whether or not mankind will be able to feed the world's human population indefinitely. And what if global warming submerges millions of hectares of some of the world's best agricultural land?

And what if global warming submerges numerous cities world wide (a very real possibility)? The recent devastation in the New Orleans region might well be a foretaste of even worse events to come.

All these considerations, taken together, provide legitimate grounds for thinking that it is likely mankind will completely wreck the global environment and suffer catastrophic consequences.



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Los Angeles , exemplar of the world. Reflections on Diamond's book Collapse

Jared Diamond's book Collapse is reviewed on our Book Reviews page. You can go to this review. Here we draw attention to demographic issues dealt with in that book and see how these are working out in one place the Los Angeles region in the USA .

The world human population will continue to increase for many years to come. The more people there are, the more food, space, water energy and other resources are consumed (and the more waste products are produced). So the more people there are, the greater the adverse effect of the human population on the environment. But this increased impact is not just a consequence of numbers of people. After all, as Diamond writes, if most of the world's 6 billion people were in cryogenic storage, they would not cause environmental problems; but they are not. What matters is the per capita impact on the environment. And this is much higher in the affluent First World ' than in the poorer Third World '.

Now rates of population growth vary across the world. The highest rates are in some Third World countries, the lowest in First World (industrialised) countries. And per capita impact is increasing amongst the low impact people of the world for two reasons:

First, in Third World countries, the inhabitants desire to attain to First World living standards and many are well on the way in some countries to achieve this.
Second, considerable migration is taking place from the Third to the First World , driven by political, economic and social problems at home. This migration is now the main cause of population increase in the USA and Europe. These migrants quickly adopt First World consumer habits, and so their per capita impact on the environment rises rapidly.

Summarising, Diamond writes:

the biggest problem (for environmental damage) is the increase in total human impact, as the result of rising Third World living standards, and of Third World individuals moving to the First World and adopting First World living standards.

Now we turn to what Diamond says about the environmental problems in Los Angeles in the USA. According to Diamond, the complaints of virtually everyone in Los Angeles relate directly to the growing and already large population. The terrible traffic jams, the very high housing prices caused by millions of people working in a few centres of employment where there is very limited residential space, and consequently great daily commuter distances. These are the biggest factors hurting the ability of Los Angeles employers to attract and retain employees. Diamond says no cure is even under consideration for these problems, which can only get worse.

And now for migration. Diamond writes the contribution of Southern California to the ongoing increase in the world's average per-capita human impact, as a result of transfers of people from the Third World to the First World, has for years been the most explosive issue in California politics. Diamond goes on:

California 's population growth is accelerating, due almost entirely to immigration and to the large average family sizes of the immigrants after their arrival.

Diamond looks at immigration from Central America, noting that the long border between California and Mexico is impossible to patrol effectively. Now what do Californians think about this immigration stream? Apparently they disapprove. There was a measure on the 1994 state election ballot (Proposition 187) that would have deprived illegal immigrants of most state-funded benefits. This measure was overwhelmingly approved by voters but then gutted by the courts on constitutional grounds. It is clear that there are striking parallels between Southern California, and Great Britain where immigration is the main cause of population growth, popular concern over massive immigration has increased, and where, in our view, judges and courts seem to be constantly inhibiting what we see as reasonable attempts to control immigration.

Diamond goes on to note that Los Angeles is a leading contributor to the energy crisis in the USA. And the high gas consumption combined with the physical setting of Los Angeles generates a serious smog problem. The habitat management problem that people are most conscious of is that of fires in surrounding woodland which each year destroy hundreds of homes. This situation is much worse than it was some years ago, because people have increasingly moved to live in and next to these highly flammable habitats.

There is a serious threat to California's agriculture from introduced alien species. And salinization, as a result of irrigation agriculture, is ruining large areas of agricultural land in California 's Central Valley. Rainfall is low in Southern California , so Los Angeles depends upon water supplies mainly from the Sierra Nevada mountain range and adjacent valleys of Northern California. With the growth of California's population, there has been increasing competition for those water supplies among farmers and cities. And Diamond notes that it is expected global warming will reduce the Sierra snowpack that provides most of the water. Diamond also notes the collapse of fisheries in both northern and southern Californian waters, and how biodiversity losses have affected some of California 's most distinctive species.

All these problems are the same sort of problems that are found across the world. So Southern California is an exemplar of our world.



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New United Nations Ecosystems Warning

The United Nations today (30th March 2005 ) issued a press release on the "Millennium Ecosystem Assessment" (MEA) Report. This gives the whole of mankind an urgent warning about the way the world's ecosystems on which we all depend have been, and continue to be treated.

Many people still seem to believe that everything will be alright with the world: Man's inventiveness, giving great powers to find substitutes for scarce resources and to reduce pollution, will enable mankind to achieve global sustainable development despite the continuing massive increase in population. The MEA upsets this confident view.

The Press Release begins:
"A landmark study released today reveals that approximately 60 percent of the ecosystem services that support life on Earth such as fresh water, capture fisheries, air and water regulation, and the regulation of regional climate, natural hazards and pests are being degraded or used unsustainably. Scientists warn that the harmful consequences of this degradation could grow significantly worse in the next 50 years".

Later the Press release notes:
"Although evidence remains incomplete, there is enough for the experts to warn that the ongoing degradation of 15 of the 24 ecosystem services examined is increasing the likelihood of potentially abrupt changes that will seriously affect human well-being. This includes the emergence of new diseases, sudden changes in water quality, creation of "dead zones" along the coasts, the collapse of fisheries, and shifts in regional climate".

Perhaps the most worrying thing this press release says, concerns what needs to be done now.
"The challenge of reversing the degradation of ecosystems while meeting increasing demands can be met under some scenarios involving significant policy and institutional changes. However, these changes will be large and are not currently under way" (our bold type).

"Increasing demands". It is in our view, very important to realise the magnitude of the likely increase in demands. There are two main causes of this increase. First, as we note on our Population Trends page, the world population is projected to increase by 2.6 billion from 2005, to reach 9.1 billion in 2050. This additional population is equivalent in size to the combined present day populations of China and India. All these extra people will cause an increase in total global demands.
Second, the standard of living of the vast majority of already existing people in 'developing' or 'third world' countries is way, way below that of the peoples of developed countries. It is generally agreed that the standard of living of these peoples in the developing world must be raised significantly. This will also cause a massive increase in demands.

Then as well as these considerations, mankind must try to reverse the degradation of ecosystems. A most daunting task once one realises the massive extent of this degradation!

The press release, a statement by the Millennium Assessment Board and the pre-publication final draft of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Synthesis report, may be found by going to
UNEP web site



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UK Sustainable Development strategy. The missing policy

In 1999 the Government published "A better quality of life. A strategy for sustainable development for the UK"; it also published "Quality of life counts". In March this year (2004) the UK Government issued its annual report "Sustainable development. Achieving a better quality of life. Review of progress towards sustainable development. Government annual report 2003". This document reports progress since the 1999 strategy document was published. The government also published its 2004 update of "Quality of life counts".

The government assesses progress towards sustainable development using a series of indicators which had been established in 1999 and detailed in "quality of life counts". There are 147 'core indicators', of which 15 are called the 'headline indicators'. The new "achieving a better quality of life" report just deals with the headline indicators, while the "quality of life counts" update deals with all the core indicators.

What is missing from the whole government approach to sustainable development, both in 1999 and in 2004, is any attempt to reduce future population growth and then secure a reduction of population, in our view vital ingredients of truly sustainable development. As explained in our essay "how many people can the earth support? part 2" (see bottom of this page), there are good grounds for arguing that the UK population has long since grown above carrying capacity. Whether or not one accepts this conclusion, the basic fact is that the more people there are, the more people there are to consume resources and pollute the environment. Population growth is one factor contributing to increase in the number of households, which in turn leads to more houses being built and more green land being taken over for development. The bigger our population, the more difficult it seems to be to reduce poverty and keep down crime rates.

In the main 2004 "achieving a better quality of life report" we read that the UK government has four main objectives:
Social progress which recognises the needs of everyone.
Effective protection of the environment.
Prudent use of natural resources.
Maintenance of high and stable levels of economic growth and employment.

The document then goes on (p. 16) to list the guiding principles for achieving sustainable development. One of these is "taking a long-term persepective". Now the UK population will probably grow considerably during the next few decades, putting an increasing strain on the environment. But in the paragraph enlarging on this long-term perspective, there is no reference to population growth. And none of the headline indicators concern population growth.

However, amongst all the core indicators discussed in the "quality of life counts" document, there are two indicators concerning population.

The first is in the section K "shaping our surroundings". Indicator K3 is 'population growth'. In the 1999 document the government here acknowledges that "the pressure on all resources increases as the population increases". Significantly, in the tabulation of the indicators in the 2004 update, there is a column headed 'strategy'. Against the K3 population growth indicator is written 'na', that is 'not applicable'. K3 is in fact one of the indicators which are simply used for 'contextual' purposes. The government then, accepts population growth trends as a 'given', that is, something one just has to accept.

The second population indicator is in the section "international co-operation and development". Indicator U3 is "global population". Here again, in the 1999 document, the government acknowledges the importance of population growth: "the pressure on all resources will continue to increase as the population increases". But if you read this section, in both the 1999 and 2004 documents, you will find no mention of any policy to reduce population growth globally and promote subsequent population decline. In the 2004 update, once again in the strategy column we find 'na': U3 is also only a contextual indicator.

In our view, population growth should be more than a contextual indicator, at both global and local levels. Indeed, one focus of government policy should be to develop a strategy to reduce population size.



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This section of the page provides access to various documents. These are grouped into two sub-sections, first the more recently added documents (December 2003 and later), secondly older documents.

The most recent additions to this section, each preceeded by date of posting:

9th August 2009. “Companion to Key Points” Companion. This is an article supplementing some statements made on the Home Page. The matters discussed are, first, the reasons why the adverse effects of human population growth and migration receive so little attention, and secondly, reproductive rights.

6th August 2009. “Fear masquerading as tolerance” AArticle by C. Caldwell. ©Prospect. We thank Prospect Magazine for allowing us to reproduce this article, which appeared in issue 158, May 2009, of Prospect Magazine.

30th December 2008.Two reports with different perspectives on the impact of migration on UK employment. In these reports, the A8 countries are those central and eastern European countries that joined the European Union in May 2004; the EEA is the European Economic Area, consisting of the European Union together with Norway. Iceland and Liechtenstein.

First, a report from the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform:
Migration Impacts Forum. Employment. Report reproduced under the terms of the Click-Use Licence, Office of Public Sector Information.
Department for Business Enterprise & Regulatory Reform

Second, a report from Migration Watch UK:
Impact of immigration on employment of British born. Intellectual copyright remains the property of MigrationWatch UK © 2001 MigrationWatch UK. All rights reserved.

2nd November 2007. An essay on possible failure to secure adequate future global food supply.
Population growth and environmental deterioration. Are things finally coming together for mankind's doom?

Mid-February 2007. An essay on the undercover extremist Muslim activity in the UK.
Undercover mosque, undercover Islamism!

Late April, 2006. An essay on the sociological context of the Muhammad cartoons controversy.
The Muhammad cartoons controversy - the context

Mid-September 2005, revised December 2005. An essay on the relationship of economic growth to environmental degradation.
Is Economic Growth good for the Environment? An approach to this question using the Environmental Kuznets Curve Hypothesis.

7th August 2005. An essay on the terrorist threat in the UK.
The terrorist threat in the UK. Interim assessment, early August 2005

July 2005. Organic farming works with nature. And Lawrence Woodward, a leading expert on organic farming, considers that organic farming, with important provisos, could feed the world. A paper by him on this subject is reproduced here, by kind permission of the Directors of the Elm Farm Research Centre.
Can organic farming feed the world?

June 2004. An essay on the effects of the changing population age composition during the Demographic Transition.
The Demographic Dividend

December 2003. A major debate on the pros and cons of immigration to the UK betweeen Emeritus Prof. Nigel Harris, University College London, and Professor (formerly Reader) David Coleman of Oxford University, which is attached here as a pdf file. We are grateful for their willingness to let us post this debate on our site. The debate was first published in the journal World Economics. The debate is reproduced with kind permission from World Economics Volume 4 Number 2 (April-June 2003), copyright NTC Economic and Financial Publishing, web site
The immigration debate
NB. This is a large file. Please be patient. It may take a minute or two to load up to your screen.

Older documents that can be accessed from this page

These older items, seven in number, are listed at the end of the page. Two are guest contributions for which we are very grateful.

The first of these comes from Peter Salonius of the organisation Scientists for Population Reduction (click here for the web site of the organisation). This contribution is a copy of his presentation made to the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada, in April 2002. Economic and demographic conditions are of course different in Canada to what they are in the UK. However, there are some demographic similarities between the two nations. In both, the population continues to grow; indigenous fertility rate is below replacement level, and the main cause now of population increase is net immigration. So this contribution is relevant to the situation in the UK.

The second guest contribution comes from Professor Virginia Abernethy of the Vanderbilt University Medical School, USA. Originally published, January 2001, in the journal Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics, this essay gives an ethical perspective on the concept of carrying capacity - the ability of the planet to support the growing human population. So this essay links nicely to another essay mentioned below.

The seven documents

  1. How many people can the earth support? (part 1 - Environmental deterioration and carrying capacity)
  2. How many people can the earth support? (part 2 - Ecological Footprints) (Revised, autumn 2002)
  3. I=PAT. An Introduction
  4. What policy should the UK Government adopt towards immigration?
  5. Immigration. Benefits for the UK and a note on moral obligations (this essay is followed by some critical comments)
  6. Damage Done to the Health of Canadians by Federal Population Policy and Recommended Solutions (Peter Salonius)
  7. Carrying capacity: the tradition and policy implications of limits (Virginia Abernethy)

Essays one to three focus on the impact of the human population on the environment. Essays four and five give insight into the two sides of the great immigration debate. Essays six and seven are the guest essays.