Let’s bust a couple of myths!
Guest post by Green Christian member, Edward Gildea
In my discussions with people about the environmental crises we face, certain arguments come up again and again:
‘The problem isn’t CO2 emissions it is population growth. The more people; the more emissions we will get. We need to reduce the world population.’
Population is indeed a problem, but it is not directly related to climate change. Indeed, for most parts of the world, the problem is population implosion, not explosion. In developing countries and acutely in China, birth rates and populations are falling while life expectancy is increasing. We already have a shortage of staff caring for the elderly; that shortage is going to become acute. That is why in China and Japan they are developing ‘Carebots’ so that the old and infirm can be cared for by robots. That doesn’t sound too appealing, does it?
Although global population has increased massively since 1950, The population growth rate has now declined to 1.1% and is set to fall further, but there are some countries with rising populations, such as Oman, Niger, the Congo and Uganda. There are three key solutions: education of girls, better health care and getting rid of corrupt dictatorships. If only! It is corruption that means that people have no spare earnings to put in a pension, or a safe, inflation-proof place to keep it if they do. Without a pension, you have to rely on children to support you in old age.
Health care would reduce rates of childhood morbidity, but until those rates are reduced, people will tend to have more children, calculating that some will die. Meanwhile empowering women would lead to a whole host of benefits to humanity!
No. The real driver of Climate Change is affluence. People who own private jets, are frequent fliers or who own SUV’s, the people who regard themselves as ‘exceptional’, have far greater carbon footprints than whole towns or villages in Africa and the global south. The affluent really should not be blaming the poor. Our role should be helping countries such as India, who quite legitimately want to reduce poverty, to do so using clean energy and clean technologies.
Tragically of course the Climate Crisis will solve any problems of overpopulation in developing countries in the most cruel and unjust way: they are the ones losing their crops, lives and livelihoods already. They are already paying the price for a problem they did not create.
‘With the rising price of gas, increased mortgage rates and people having to choose between heating and eating, we simply can’t afford sustainable lifestyles.’
It is quite frequently argued that a Green Transition would cost too much and would bankrupt us. I wonder if such people have added up the spiralling costs of not addressing the climate crisis. The hurricane damage in Florida is set to cost insurers $27-36bn and will wipe out the savings of all those without insurance. The cost of the massive floods in Pakistan are estimated at $10bn. I suspect that cost will have to be borne by the government, individuals and the poor rather than insurers. It will be crippling for a country already struggling with debt.
Here, so far, our floods are more localised and our storms rarely reach hurricane force, but harvest failures around the world are already driving up food prices making the stark choices for the poor even more difficult.
Plans to insulate homes, schools and hospitals were abandoned in the years following the banking crisis on the grounds that we couldn’t afford them. Had we done so, our homes would be warmer and our gas bills would be lower already. Every delay in addressing climate change racks up the cost of action and makes life harder for the poorest.
Somehow, we have to address ALL the tough issues that we face simultaneously; not play one off against the other as if it were a zero-sum game.
Editor: Suggestions on what we can all do can be found on St Mary’s website.
Edward Gildea writes magazine articles for his local church, St Mary’s, Saffron Walden in north west Essex, each month. He has kindly given permission to anyone to re-edit for your own parish newsletters. Please credit him and his church website.
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