Sunday, 3 November 2013

Applied logic- population

Population growth is one of those things that only becomes an issue when it comes to somewhere near you. Till then I constantly hear reassurances from all and sundry even with a doubling of population there's room and resources for everyone.

In simple geographic terms, we already know the available land and resources for the present, the stress it may or may not be under, and the effects of a doubling or more of population. Anyone like me who has lived through a period where their own area became far denser compared to before can describe the painfully obvious consequences. Firstly there is clearly the barely inhabitable land we need to dismiss, and then we are left with reasonable climate and resources not too far from water and flat enough to build on. But then you get the inbuilt demographics. For example although there is plenty of space in Ireland which is geographically similar to the inhabited parts of England, it is an island and doubly removed from the European continent. It already lost most of its population in the potato famine which has never returned or been replaced. There is nothing stopping as many immigrants going there as to England, but they don't. Why? Because even when there is a wide choice people pick the richest areas to try and get a slice of the action, and Ireland is not one of them. You can't make people move unless you become a fascist regime.

Why it should even be necessary to explain if you only have so many doctors, dentists and a reducing number of hospitals, plus a finite system of underground pipes and wiring in the medium term, adding more people from within or outside has the same consequences, and despite the hideous and socially alienating tower blocks of the 60s, the vast influx of new arrivals has meant demolishing not slums which went after the war, but top level housing and building low rise flats. Our standard of living has fallen in a couple of decades, turning London gradually into a third world capital with its statutory shanty towns created by EU arrivals who either get jobs and then lose them or never find them, but still live in such hope of becoming millionaires like Del Boy they prefer to live like rats on the streets than return to their own national poverty.

One of the clearest examples of the results of increasing and concentrating the population came in New Orleans, with echoes across Bangladesh and the Netherlands. They are all near or below sea level. Now were the population even that of a hundred years ago, the Netherlands may not have needed to extend their land from the sea as (regardless of the endless wars over expansion for its own sake) they could have fit the numbers comfortably into the available space. Japan is the size of Britain, but like Australia most of the interior is barely habitable so people cluster round the lowland edges and pay millions to live in a small box in Tokyo as a result.

Being forced to even consider, let alone actually building entire cities on flood plains is both short sighted and reckless. Yes, you may get away with it, and build massive defences, but what happened to New Orleans can happen wherever there are hurricanes, while all you need is a once in a century tide and half the polders will return to their natural state. People still build in dangerous places without pressure, but they do not feel obliged to do so. With world population set to double possibly within our own lifetimes and the only solution, something being piloted in India and other locations, is to educate the children that it is not necessary or recommended to have more than two children, and exactly why this is. The children in India have no trouble understanding and accepting this and represent what is possible worldwide. Don't wait till you are affected before it becomes an issue.

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