We must address our consumption and addiction to economic growth, but we will not succeed in this challenge without having a serious conversation about population, and unlocking the positive solutions for addressing it, argues Robin Maynard.

JUST three out of 21. That's how many of the UN's landmark environment and poverty reduction targets mankind hit this year.

This week the United Nations released to little fanfare a detailed progress update on its 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). By almost every measure – from protecting endangered species to preventing overfishing – we are falling way short. Despite an alphabet soup of international initiatives, on many critical measures we are also going backwards.

Today, more than a quarter of the world's population lack access to a secure food supply – up more than three percent since 2014. Some 4.2 billion people lack safely managed sanitation, with water scarcity set to displace some 700 million people by 2030.

Yet these issues rarely make it onto the Commons Order paper. Few politicians mention UN poverty targets on the campaign trail. To some the fact that the world's most vulnerable people are suffering from water scarcity may seem irrelevant to domestic concerns. But when the rights of people 1000s of miles away are compromised, our common humanity is diminished and indirect, unexpected consequences are set in-train.

In 2019, humanity (especially those of us in rich countries) used the equivalent of one year's worth of renewable resources in less than eight months. A million species, IUCN figures show, are at risk of extinction, largely due to human-led habitat destruction and over-exploitation.

Write for us.

We're always on the lookout for talented writers and welcome submissions. Please send your opinion piece or pitch to: editor@commentcentral.co.uk

Our current global population stands at 7.8 billion, along with our resource use, we are exceeding the Earth's capacity to feed all of us fairly and adequately. If we needed a 'canary in the coal mine' then the decline in most other species worldwide, described by ecologists as 'biological annihilation' offers a whole flock of them.

The UN projects that without ongoing and concerted positive efforts to address population growth, there will be one billion more people on earth by 2030, and two billion more by 2050 reaching a global population of 9.7 billion. It estimates there is a 75 percent chance our numbers will still be growing by the end of the century.

The 'missing cheese' in the Sustainable Development Goals brightly coloured circular logo of 17 admirable aspirations for everyone, everywhere, is clear: our growing population and the demands that brings.

The UN offers no rationale or solutions for how mankind is expected to rapidly reduce its consumption of resources in a world needing to feed 80 million additional people every year for the foreseeable future. World leaders are set the impossible task of reducing water scarcity in a world experiencing exponential growth in demand for water. The UN targets require politicians to conserve remnant wild areas while ignoring the relentless conversion of green space to urban infrastructure, intensive agriculture, and mining.

Yet positive solutions are available, ones which underpin and would accelerate the achievement of many of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals: universal access to education and the right to choice, especially for women, as to their family size.

Meeting the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals represents the greatest, noblest challenge of our age. We must address our consumption and addiction to economic growth, but we will not succeed in this challenge without having a serious conversation about population, and unlocking the positive solutions for addressing it.

37 votes

Sign-up for free to stay up to date with the latest political news, analysis and insight from the Comment Central team.

By entering your email address you are agreeing to Comment Central’s privacy policy