The Great Debate UK
– Roger Martin is a former diplomat and leading environmentalist. He is now Chairman of the Optimum Population Trust. Any views expressed are his own -
I’ve been an environmental campaigner for 20 years, and can confidently summarise all our problems as ‘too many people consuming too much stuff.’ But in all those worthy meetings about all those worthy green projects, I’ve noticed that everyone talks about the stuff, like consuming less energy rather than providing more; and no-one talks about the people, the number of consumers.
So in the last 10 years I’ve been increasingly asking colleagues, ‘Can you name a single environmental problem that would not be easier to solve with fewer people, and doesn’t get harder –- and ultimately impossible –- to solve with ever more?’ No-one can. Optimum Population Trust (OPT) Patron Sir David Attenborough recently said he too had never encountered such a problem. Have you?
Here’s an interesting fact. OPT’s YouGov poll in June found, to my surprise and delight, that 70% of us are already aware that population growth here causes serious environmental problems; half of us would like a smaller UK population (England is already the most crowded country in Europe); and only 8% of us actually want any more population growth at all. So why is everyone so nervous of mentioning the P word? Why do our politicians try to “reassure” us that they, at least, are not worried by the prospect of our population rising by 20 more Birminghams in our lifetimes? OPT speaks, seemingly, for a silent majority.