Announcement: The Death of John Barker
We are sorry to report that the founder of Gaia Watch John Barker has sadly passed away after a short illness, on the 19th of May 2012.
At this time the charity that John founded has been closed and the opportunity to donate has been removed from the site.
If you would be interested in continuing John's work then his widow would welcome expressions of interest to made via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
If no one comes forward to take over the websites that John founded will be closed down towards the end of 2013.
have serious consequences, globally and for the United Kingdom
Population Growth, Natural Increase and Migration
Population growth is primarily caused by natural increase, that is, the excess of births over deaths. But in any particular region, migration will cause population growth when the amount of immigration exceeds the amount of emigration. And in the United Kingdom at present, migration is a greater cause of population growth than natural increase. Both population growth and migration can affect the quality of the natural environment, the likelihood of conflict, and social cohesion between ethnic groups. In our view, the significance of both population growth and migration are often underestimated by governments and non-governmental organisations.
Population Growth and Migration: GLOBAL ASPECTS
At the global level, human population growth is one significant cause of environmental problems, for two reasons.
First, Population growth has necessitated global increase in food production. More and more land has been taken over for food production to feed the growing population, to provide housing and infrastructure for that population and now, to provide land for energy crop production. And oceanic fishing has increased in intensity.
The consequences are manifold. On land there has been a move from systems of food production dependent upon fertility maintained by natural processes governed by soil organisms, to systems dependent on an exogenous source of fertility – nitrogenous fertilisers, allowing massive albeit unsustainable increases in yield per unit area. The results have been destruction of soil structure and soil organisms, depletion of essential trace elements, poisoning of the soil, and nitrogenous substances run–off into streams and rivers with harmful effects on aquatic life there and in coastal waters. In many sub–Saharan countries and some other countries, crop yields per unit area have fallen greatly because of over–intensive agricultural practices causing decrease in soil fertility, aggravated by using cow dung as fuel, dung that should have been ploughed back into the land as fertiliser. Soil erosion and salinisation of groundwater through irrigation has greatly reduced the productivity of large areas of agricultural land. Fresh water aquifers have and continue to be depleted and groundwater levels fall in major agricultural areas. Ocean fish stocks have been seriously depleted and the ecological balance of the oceanic food chains severely damaged. There has been a steady and massive decrease in the size of tropical rainforests and other natural or semi–natural ecosystems. These systems provide services to mankind, including the absorption of the climate change inducing carbon dioxide.
Second, much attention has been given to the high per capita levels of consumption and waste production in industrial countries, leading to increased climate changing emissions. But the fact is that the massive population increase in these countries has greatly increased this harmful effect. Now in developing countries, per capita consumption is generally far less than in industrialised countries. However, massive population growth there – and most future population growth will be in these countries – has at the very least still significantly increased global emissions and will continue to do so since there will be more consuming people. Further, in China and India, the two most populous countries in the world, population growth is contributing to the massive growth of the middle class population where consumption and waste production has risen towards or to the levels in industrialised countries. And the massive growth of livestock in the developing world – partly caused by human population growth, is massively increasing emissions of climate changing gases.
Population growth has in our view, already taken the human population beyond the carrying capacity of the planet. Continued growth will only make things worse. While improving technology and reducing consumption could improve the situation, we think it is also imperative to take measures to slow down population growth and hasten the day when the global population shrinks.
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 areas because of environmental problems such as desertification). 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 decreases 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. 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 poor countries.
We believe population growth in crowded countries can contribute to political instability and conflict. And increased international migration, described above, increases the potential for demographically fuelled international conflict. Declining natural resources will probably increase the incidence and severity of 'resource wars'. And current conflicts in the Middle East could lead to even greater and more widespread conflict. In parenthesis, we believe these Middle East conflicts are not simply a matter of terrorism, but also of western hegemony and western desire to secure oil supplies; continued depletion of these supplies is likely to fuel such conflicts in the near future.
So population growth and migration are very important matters when considering the well being of the planet.
Books reviewed on our Book Reviews page and the comments on these books given in our Comment and Analysis page, show how total collapse of global human society is a very real possibility, and massive further loss of biodiversity is likely.
Population Growth and Migration: The United Kingdom
Turning from the global to the local level, we note that the United Kingdom is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe, its population, we argue, already exceeding carrying capacity.
And the latest (2008) population projection has the population, 61.8 million in 2009, rising to reach 70.9 million in 2031, an increase of 9.1 million. This increase is far greater than the size of London (7.6 million in 2007). Beyond 2031 the population is projected to continue to rise reaching 85.1 million in 2081, a massive increase of 23.3 million from 2009, an increase three times the present size of London!
As with the European Union, the main cause of population growth in the UK in recent years has been immigration, not natural increase. However in 2007-2008, a decrease in net immigration (which seems to have been caused by the recession) and a large increase in the number of births meant that, for the first time since 1999, natural increase caused slightly more of the population increase than immigration. Despite this conclusion, immigration is still currently projected, directly and indirectly, to be the main cause of future population growth.
Both UK born women and foreign born women have contributed to the recent increase in births. Factors involved here include a rise in fertility of UK born women, a large increase of foreign born women of reproductive age and the higher overall Total Fertility Rate of women born outside the UK compared with UK born women.
The growth of the UK population since the Second World War has included a massive growth of the ethnic minority population. Future population growth will continue the process already started by this ethnic minority population growth to produce a massive transformation of the ethnic composition of the UK.
Continued population growth will push the UK population even further above carrying capacity. The immigration component will, we think, increasingly threaten social cohesion. And the extent that Government relies on immigration to solve skill shortages and labour needs, will in our view, delay the development of a radical policy on participation in the workforce, adequate payment in the low–skilled job sector, further raising or abolishing of the retirement age, and pension reform, which will ultimately be required to deal effectively with employment problems including providing adequate support for the ageing population. The likely global increase in environmental and political refugees, will, in our view, maintain or increase the immigration pressure on the UK.
Clearly population growth and migration (both immigration and emigration) are very important matters for policy making in the United Kingdom.
We invite our readers to think for themselves how population growth and migration may have affected the quality of their lives.
Interaction with our readers – an invitation.
Gaia Watch. Private Limited Company registered in Cardiff, Company No. 3190710. Registered office address: 33, Bingham Park Crescent, Sheffield, South Yorkshire S11 7BH.Registered Charity (UK) No. 1060769. 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.
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