Population and the Environment: Time for a Rethink
Alan Thornett’s article Population and the Environment: Time for a Rethink, may be the most deserving piece of journalism on the Wall of Fame. In today’s media it is rare to find a piece that is so spot on and well rounded, and Thornett even helps to explain why that is true. However, the meat of the article is dedicated to exploring the connections between issues of population growth, lack of women’s empowerment, and living within a consumer society and how they have kept us on a track to ecological destruction.
“There is, however, one important aspect of the environmental crisis that the bulk of the left remains remarkably reluctant to confront. This is the issue of the human population of the planet—which is rising at an unsustainable rate,” writes Thornett.
He blames the left for not talking about this seemingly obvious issue but also rightly points to the “demonization” of the subject and acknowledges it as “an uncomfortable issue to address.” Which is another reason why we’ve chosen this article for the Wall of Fame. It takes a thoughtful, candid, and brave writer to make the correlation between population growth and the other global crises we face.
Thornett goes on to say, “The issue of population, we have to insist, is a very important and wholly legitimate issue for the left to discuss. Human beings are a part of nature and have both a need and an obligation to live in harmony with it. We share with other species an extremely fragile and interrelated biosphere.”
He makes the correlation between our growing population and our resource depletion/loss of biodiversity/waste creation. But the most egregious offender in this case, as Thornett puts it, “is the capitalist system of production and the commodification of the planet.” He is one who truly understands that the symbiosis of rampant population and economic growth is destroying the planet.
However, this incredibly well researched article is not all doomsday and complaints. He offers very true and thoughtful solutions to the issues such as increasing empowerment, education and access to birth control for women in the “Global South”. And he brings it all together by noting that this effort only works if it goes hand in hand with limiting carbon emissions in the “Global North”.
It is obvious that Thornett sees the heart of the issue as he states in his conclusion, “The left needs to get beyond the old debates and recognize that there is a serious problem to address as far as rising population is concerned and that the way forward is through the empowerment of women to control their own lives. This would repair a gaping hole in our analysis of the climate crisis.”